Thursday, January 21, 2016

Peter Mathews – Searching for Ancestors

Peter Mathews’ ancestry remains a mystery for me!  I’ve had some success in piecing together the story of his lifetime, but, despite a hot pursuit, his parents and grandparents have remained out of sight.  Or, if they are in my research pages, I don’t recognize them yet. 

Dublin as published by John Speed in 1610

Peter Mathews was probably born between 1660 and 1670, perhaps in Ireland or England.  He first appears in military records in 1691, when he is assigned as quartermaster in Benjamin Fletcher’s regiment of foot, serving in Ireland.  Shortly after, in 1692, Peter accompanies Fletcher to New York.  Benjamin Fletcher acted as New York colonial governor and chief commander of the military from 1692, until 1696. During the Fletcher tenure, Peter Mathews served as Fletcher’s personal secretary, and as a Captain of the British troops at Fort William Henry (later Fort George).   There is evidence that Peter Mathews was related to Benjamin Fletcher, possibly being his nephew or younger cousin. 

Considerable effort has been expended to try to identify the ancestors of Peter Mathews.  A number of Mathew, Mathews, Matthews individuals and families have been examined.  To better define that research, various individuals have been placed in the Markham of Chesterfield database under a collective entry - "Mathews Ancestors ZCollector".   At present there are fifteen candidates vying for the position of Peter Mathews’ ancestors.  A list of these candidates, with links, appears in the sketch titled Peter Mathews – Ancestral Possibilities.

This blog post introduces a few of the more interesting “ancestral possibilities”.  More detail can be found in their individual entries in the database. 

Irish Commemorative Stamp, 1991
The first, and most promising, of the candidates is Benfletcher Mathews, who appears in a 1691 burial record at St Michan Church in Dublin, Ireland.  A check, and recheck of this name suggests that it is spelled correctly.  The burial information gives an intriguing clue:  Benfletcher Mathews, who was driven out of Athlone; buried 7 Apr 1691.  Comments on what was happening in Athlone in the winter and spring of 1691 can be found in the sketch titled Athlone Ireland 1690-1691.  It is also intriguing to note another burial in Dublin’s St Michan Church five years later in 1696 – Elizabeth, wife of Vincent Mathews.

John Mathews, quartermaster of Dublin, might also prove of interest.  In records he is styled as a gentleman, and he and his wife Margaret reside on Francis street in Dublin.  John and Margaret Mathews both die in 1660, making them questionable as parents for our Peter Mathews.

Other Dubliners caught my eye - John Mathews and his brother Henry.  They appear among the masters and wardens of Dublin’s Goldsmith’s Guild in the early 1700s.  Several things suggest that they might be descendants of the Dublin quartermaster mentioned above.  The Christian names used in this family do not hint at a connection for our Peter Mathews.  But, for several reasons, they continue to be of interest.

It is likely that Peter Mathews’ family came to Ireland from England in the mid-17th century.  Benjamin Fletcher was born in London in 1640; his father and grandfathers being local and international merchants.  Did the Mathews family also belong to the London merchant class?  I have come across a very interesting Peter Mathews (1617-1677) in London.  He was the son of Baldwin Mathews, a London cloth merchant, and his wife Anna Regoot.  The Regoot family came from the Netherlands to London in the 16th century, and had extensive family and business connections across the English Channel, and also in New Netherlands (New York).  Their family story is interesting!

The search for Peter Mathews’ ancestors will continue.  All clues are welcome.  For more details on Peter Mathews, visit his page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Finally – the Mathews Family!

After nearly eight months of hard work, I am finally ready to share my research on the Mathews family at my Markham of Chesterfield database website.   John Markham, my immigrant ancestor, married Catherine Mathews around the year 1740 in Orange county New York.   

The City's First Exchange - from a Souvenir Postal Card
To date, I remain uncertain as to whether Catherine Mathews is the daughter or granddaughter of Peter Mathews, a captain of His Majesties troops at New York.  This question is discussed at several points in the database, and it will be the topic of an upcoming blog post.  For now, try the sketch titled – A Wife for John Markham.

Catherine Mathews’ family is an interesting group.  Her aunts, uncles, and siblings are involved in some of colonial America’s most fascinating stories – Indian treaties, pirates, the Leisler Rebellion, merchant doings of New York City, establishment of the English church at Albany, and Tory intrigue. 

Identifying Catherine Mathews’ ancestors has been a struggle!  I have gathered a long list of clues, but no firm evidence.  Further discussion can be found in the sketch titled – Peter Mathews: Ancestral Possibilities.  The strongest clue lies in Peter Mathews’ relationship to Benjamin Fletcher.  Fletcher served as Colonial Governor of New York from 1692 – 1698.  Peter Mathews was probably a nephew or cousin of some sort to Benjamin Fletcher, but proof of the exact relationship is still lacking.  Fletcher’s ancestral line has also been added to the online database, with the hope that it will eventually provide answers for the Mathews search.  It includes such interesting characters as William Fletcher (father), Henry Vincent (grandfather), and Dorcus Charke (grandmother).  To read more about the possible relationship between Mathews and Fletcher try - Peter Mathews and Benjamin Fletcher: What’s the Connection?

Some branches of the Markham family hold to the theory that Catherine Mathews was a daughter, or granddaughter of Richard Coote, Lord Bellomont, who served as Colonial Governor of New York following Benjamin Fletcher.  My research draws this idea into question, and is discussed in the sketch titled - Our Colonial Governor: Three Theories.

It is my hope that the introduction of the Mathews family to the Markham database will prompt discussion, and eventually lead to answers to the questions surrounding Catherine Mathews.  I would enjoy hearing from others who are interested in their stories.

For more details on Catherine Mathews, Peter Mathews, or Benjamin Fletcher, visit their individual pages at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Theatres -- U.S. -- N.Y. -- New Amsterdam" The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
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