Search This Blog

Monday, November 21, 2016

Obituaries on the Bunnell Family Website

Charlie Bunnell is the creator and keeper of the Bunnell-Bonnell Family website. He keeps us up to date on his activities on our behalf. Here's his latest:

Starting in 2013 I collected every Bunnell/Bonnell obituary I could find and copied each one. In some cases, I did shorten them and just kept the information of value to genealogists. I believe that was done primarily with the 2013 obits. 

I have now added the obituaries for 2013, 2014 and 2015 to the members’ page which all of you have access to.  I do not have all that data entered into Claude’s database, but I am plugging away at it. 

So take a look at the member’s page and let me know if you have any problems accessing the obituaries.

Happy Thanksgiving,


There's always a link to his site on the right, but here it is again Bunnell-Bonnell Family website.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us Bunnell-Bonnell researchers.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Resources Available at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey

Ronald L. Becker Head of Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University Libraries, has replied to queries about information available at Rutgers:

Information on their genealogical resources guide is available online at
Rutgers Genealogical Resources. Also available is pdf document 

He did a search of their online catalog under "Bonnell family," with the following results

I did a search for "Bonnel" and "Bunnell" and found, in addition to the above:

People with Bonnell/Bunnell in their names have written many books on a variety of subjects.

Mr. Becker also reported the Middlesex County records at Rutgers consist generally of:

Marriage registers and indexes, 1795-1928
Public road surveys, 1705-1828
Deeds and land conveyances, 1714-1722
Official oaths, 1779-1831
Sheriff bonds, 1807-1929
Slave manumissions, 1800-1825
Court of Common Pleas minutes, 1683-1736, 1755-1771, 1783-1793, 1798, 1802-1871
Court of Common Pleas judgements, 1799-1858
Court of General Quarter Sessions minutes, 1683-1736, 1755-1771, 1783-1793, 1798, 1802-1871
Court of Oyer and Terminer minutes, 1799, 1805-1835, 1842-1869,
Circuit Court docket, 1839-1873
Circuit Court minutes, 1799, 1805-1826, 1838-1857
Circuit Court judgements, 1838-1855, 1858-1861

Saturday, September 17, 2016

More on Hightstown and the Bonnells Who Lived There

More from Bob Craig of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society (written to George Farris):
I do need to go further on some points, however.  You are right that few Windsor Township records exist.  In fact, the only ones that I've been able to find in very, very extensive searching are the minutes of the annual meetings for 1761, 1762, 1763, and 1764, and 1772, 1773, and 1774.  These, themselves, were not originals, but rather contemporary manuscript copies submitted to the Middlesex County court.  I have found no Windsor Township minutes for other years.  The township appointed only two constables each year, and of the fourteen names in those seven years, only one, John Updike Jr., was represented more than once.  

It is possible that Bonnell may have been incidentally identified in one or another surviving Middlesex County record, but given the clear pattern among surviving records, I would ask you to identify the earlier documents that list Bonnell as a constable.  When he was named a constable in 1762, he did not succeed himself.

(for other reasons, I would also ask that you let me know what documents or other sources identify him as a blacksmith.)  The tavern that he occupied and ran stood across the road (Main Street) from a blacksmith shop.

Hoagland's gristmill was actually on the north side of Rocky Brook, not the south side (several secondary sources have gotten this point wrong, but the original manuscript sources are very clear on this point.  Even so, you are right that the tavern and the mill were only a few hundred feet apart.

Some other questions for you.
Do you know when Samuel Bonnell first appeared in Windsor, and was it in the Penns Neck area?  When did he first appear in the Hightstown area?

The movement of Hightstown-area families to Loudoun County, VA is something that the Society has not carefully studied, but we are aware of members of several families who made that move between 1760 and 1775.  One of them was Richard Major, the blacksmith who operated the blacksmith shop across from Bonnell's tavern, who left Hightstown ca.1766, and one of John Hight's sons, Thomas Hight, who left for Virginia prob. in 1770.  There were others.

From George Farris to Bob Craig:
Most of the references to Samuel Bonnell as a Constable are within the context of several court documents over a period of many years, not in documents addressing his appointments as constable.  Some of the court documents show both Samuel and Samuel, Jr. as being blacksmiths. 

Regarding the location of the mill, thanks for the correction.  I had misinterpreted the reference to it being on the southeasterly side of the road at Rocky Brook when he bought it from James English, Jr. in 1758.

We have copies of a few pages from Loudoun VA tax lists for 1768 - 1771 - but only the pages listing Samuel and William Bonnell.  However, fortunately, the 1770 list was not sorted alphabetically so it's possible to see who lived near each other.  There are no Majors or Hights showing up on the page with the Bonnells.  However there are a Daniel and William Hutchinson.  Were these a part of the Hutchinson clan from that area?
From Bob Craig:
One further clarification, if you will permit me.  The constable was a local office, appointed by the township at the annual meeting on the second Tuesday in March.  Tavern licenses were issued by the county court of special quarter sessions of the peace during court sessions that were held quarterly, in January, April, July, and October.  So the use of the word "simultaneously" would seem to be slightly amiss.  Does the court minute in January 1763 specifically address whether Bonnell yielded his tavern license and his position as constable at the same time?  (if so, that would further strengthen the circumstantial evidence of a link between those positions.)

The constables worked closely with the justices of the peace, and delivered writs, arrested charged persons, and so forth.  This would help explain their names appearing in the county court minutes. 

From John Bunnell to Bob Craig;

You are correct that “simultaneously” was my interpretation.  There is no direct link between the change in tavern proprietorship and change in constable appointment in the Minute Books for the Court of Common Pleas.  They just appear to happen coincidentally.  Of note, Samuel Bonnell appeared to become less diligent with his constabulary duties in the 1760s, as he was fined several times for “default,” which seems to mean that he did not appear in the quarterly court session when the constables were called.  So, either his mounting debts, poor health, or a combination of the two may have led to an inability to carry out his public duties, thus necessitating the change in appointment to Benjamin Ward.  

A correction to me email before. The three tavern licenses I described were split between the January and April 1761 terms of the court.  (I mixed up the pages, serves me right for trying to do this in a hurry last night…) Here is the corrected description:

Regarding the Taverns, Samuel Bonnell is first connected with a tavern in April 1757, when he performs as a surety for John Height’s application for a tavern license.  Regarding the tavern that Samuel Bonnell eventually ran, the previous proprietor, James English (a fellow constable) received his last license in January 1761 for the “the house where he now lives in Windsor.” Three months later (April 1761), proprietorship shifts to Samuel Bonnell, for the house “where James English lately kept tavern in Windsor” (John Silver and John Smith suretys).  Several entries above that in the Minute Book, John Hight, for whom Samuel Bonnell previously served as surety, is granted another license for “the house where he lives in Windsor,” with the same two individuals, John Smith and John Silver, acting as suretys.  In April 1762, Samuel Bonnell’s tavern license is renewed, but he also serves as the surety, along with James Brooks, for John Smith’s tavern “at Cattail Brook in the South west part of the County.”   In January 1763, as has been mentioned, Benjamin Ward is awarded a tavern license “in the house where Samuel Bonnell lately lived in Windsor.” Benjamin Ward also assumed Samuel Bonnell’s constabulary position in March 1763.  

Your question below regarding sources is key.  I followed your footsteps exactly, finding the appointment of officers documents from 1761 forward in the loose papers of the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas kept in the State Archives in Trenton.  That is where we were stuck until two weeks ago, frustrated that the officer selection documents for Windsor do not exist prior to this date.  The ground-breaking new source is the Minute Books from the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas just now available to the public after the archival work at Rutgers.  These books record the officer appointment results for Windsor each April session, not only confirming the information we already have, but now providing the officer information for previous years.  I only copied the ones that applied to me, but I have the officer lists for 1736 (John Clarke, Constable), 1756 (Samuel Bonnel and William Mounteer, constables), 1758 (it says to continue the same officers as the previous year), and 1760 (Samuel Bonnel and James English, constables).  Officer listings for 1757 and 1759 may be there as well, I may have just missed them.

This brings up a point where we could certainly use help from our new friends in New Jersey.  We’ve discovered that navigating the Byzantine world of New Jersey documents is tremendously difficult.  Just to take the Middlesex Court documents as an example.  The Court of Common Pleas Minute Books are at Rutgers (only now available to the public via microfilm), the Court of the Oyer and Terminer Minute Books (debtors court) are at Princeton (may not be available to the public), the loose papers (writs, etc) emanating from both of these courts  are what we have been sifting through at the State Archives at Trenton (only being indexed for the earlier years).  It absolutely baffles me why all these documents that were produced by the same organization (the County Court at Perth Amboy with the same Justices, Sheriffs, and Constables throughout) should be spread amongst these disparate agencies.  We will certainly need your help and advice to answer questions such as:  how do we get access to the Oyer and Terminer Minute Books?  What else is available in the Special collections at Rutgers and Princeton for which we are not smart enough to ask?  What other records exist for local governments, churches, etc, that may supplement what we are finding at the larger establishments?

We have been working this remotely (I live in Colorado, George lives in Tennessee, John Grady lives in Houston, etc.), so we have wasted much of our very limited on-site research time by not having a good understanding of the available documentation and the potential value of each source.  We would greatly value your input to make us more productive in the future.          

Samuel Bonnell (1), Samuel Bonnell (2) and Edward Bonnell in Middlesex County, New Jersey

John Bunnell's latest report on the Samuel Bonnell sorting:

As George (Farris) stated, the documentation seems to indicate that Samuel Bonnell was a Constable of Windsor from at least 1744 until 1762.  There are significant gaps in the Middlesex Court records during this period, but Samuel seems to be there whenever the records exist for his adult life.  A newly produced microfilm in the New Jersey State Archives (courtesy of recent archival work by Rutgers University) shows the a fairly complete set of Minute Books for Middlesex County through 1736.  The only mention of the Bonnells I’ve found in this time is for the father of the individual we are investigating here (also called Samuel Bonnell (1)), who is mentioned in a series of actions involving an adultery case that eventually leads to his conviction and an assessment of a fine in 1715.  Of note, Samuel Bonnell (2) is not a constable of Windsor in 1736 (the last year before the record gap), as that position is occupied by John Clarke.  George and I assess that the adultery case probably led the family to relocate to Somerset County during that period, thus explaining several of the court documents that emanate from that county during this time.

There is a gap in the Middlesex County Minute Books from 1737-1754, denying us the ability to do the year-by-year tracing that we can do earlier and later.  Nonetheless, the items we have found in the loose papers indicate that Samuel Bonnell (2) returned to Middlesex County and assumed the position of the Constable of Windsor during this time.  The first mention of this we’ve found so far is from 1744.  This is actually a fairly entertaining case where Samuel was ordered to legal action against an individual who was a law officer in another jurisdiction (New Brunswick).  Samuel, in turn, was arrested as he attempted to execute this order, leading to an argument between the officials in the two townships.  The next case, also from the free court papers, is in March 1755, when Samuel is deposed to deliver a letter from the court to William Walker concerning a land dispute.

Once the Middlesex Court Minute Books pick up again in 1755, Samuel is consistently noted performing constabulary duties.  The annotations are there for the Court Terms of October 1755, April 1756, July 1756, July 1757, April 1758 (by implication), January 1759, April 1759, April 1760, October 1760, April 1762, and October 1762

Regarding the Taverns, Samuel Bonnell is first connected with a tavern in April 1757, when he performs as a surety for John Height’s application for a tavern license.  January 1761 seems to be the big transition point for the Windsor Township Taverns, with licenses simultaneously issued for James English (“in the house where he now lives in Windsor,” John Hight and Vincent Dye his recognizance, Timothy Frazee and David Stewart his suretys), John Hight (“in the house where he lives in Windsor,” John Smith and John Silver suretys), and  Samuel Bonnel (“in the house where James English lately kept tavern in Windsor,” John Silver and John Smith suretys).  In April 1762, Samuel Bonnell’s tavern license is renewed, but he also serves as the surety, along with James Brooks, for John Smith’s tavern “at Cattail Brook in the South west part of the County.”   In January 1763, as has been mentioned, Benjamin Ward is awarded a tavern license “in the house where Samuel Bonnell lately lived in Windsor” and simultaneously assumed his role as constable.

I know I need to scan and transcribe these more recent discoveries and get them out to everyone.  (I’m a single point of failure here…)

I think I have mostly exhausted the resources in the NJ State Archives, so George is on the right track to look for data sources beyond Trenton.  The archivist at Trenton recommended I contact the administrator for the Rutgers Special Collections.  I sent the email but not yet received a response.  I did sort through the fragmented annotations (marriages and births) for the Cranberry Presbyterian Church (just north of Hightstown) located in the State Archives, but did not get any hits within these clearly incomplete listings.

Bob Craig of the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society added:

Thanks for all of this information.  One further clarification, if you will permit me.  The constable was a local office, appointed by the township at the annual meeting on the second Tuesday in March.  Tavern licenses were issued by the county court of special quarter sessions of the peace during court sessions that were held quarterly, in January, April, July, and October.  So the use of the word "simultaneously" would seem to be slightly amiss.  Does the court minute in January 1763 specifically address whether Bonnell yielded his tavern license and his position as constable at the same time?  (if so, that would further strengthen the circumstantial evidence of a link between those positions.)

The constables worked closely with the justices of the peace, and delivered writs, arrested charged persons, and so forth.  This would help explain their names appearing in the county court minutes.

BTW, there is a reference to an Edward Bonnel having been a blacksmith in Somerset County in 1740.  Is this part of the story also?

Another interesting pattern in the tavern license material is the frequency with which tavern keepers served as sureties for one another.  

I'm not sure what to make of this tidbit, but when Bonnell was first licensed, his sureties, Silver and Smith, were not from the Hightstown area, but rather from the area now encompassed within Robbinsville Township.  Likewise, when Smith was licensed in 1762, his tavern was at "Cattail" (New Sharon on the Old York Road), but a year later Bonnell reciprocated for Smith.  It turns out that Smith died not long afterward, so neither man was a local tavern keeper very long.

George Farris on Edward Bonnell:

I don't think Edward Bonnell has been identified among the related Bonnell lines of NJ.  Yes, we've seen the article about him breaking out of goal in 1740 in Somerset. There was later an Edward in Monmouth Co. - and several other Edwards over the years.  Charlie Bunnell is the keeper of the Bonnell/Bunnell database and I will let him comment if he knows more about this Edward.  He wasn't part of the Samuel Bonnell family as far as I know.

Help from the Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society

George Farris reported:
Since John’s research at the NJ Archives had pinpointed Hightstown, NJ as one of the specific places where Samuel Bonnell had lived, I contacted the Hightstown - East Windsor Historical Society to see if there might be any local information remaining regarding him or other members of the family there.  Cappy Stults is the current President of the Society and he did quite a bit of searching of the available records with very limited success.  

The one specific that came out of this is the exact location of the Inn and the fact that Samuel Bonnell lived there for a short time. 

Mr. Stults responded: 
Although I have not totally given up, everything has been a dead end. I have not found any Bonnell’s. Hightstown was a very small hamlet prior to the railroad in the 1830s. Although we had a mill and inn, there was not even a church until the 1780s. Years later many may have referred to Hightstown even though they may have been in Millstone or Cranbury Townships, or even what are now West Windsor or Plainsboro Townships, all within 5 miles of Hightstown.

Mr. Stults asked “the real expert,” Bob Craig, for help. Mr. Craig wrote 

On Samuel Bonnell, I have only one record of him as constable.  He was appointed constable for the year 1762-3 at the annual Windsor Township meeting in March 1762.  The surviving records on constables show that they were typically one-year assignments with almost no succession.  They often included a tavern keeper, usually in the first year of his license (evidence of a quid pro quo ?).  Thus John Hight was appointed constable in 1751, the first year of which there is record of him as tavern keeper.   Samuel Bonnell was first licensed as a tavern keeper in April 1761; before his first year of licensure was completed, he was appointed constable in 1762.  Bonnell was re-licensed in April 1762, while still constable.  In January 1763, before his year was out, he was succeeded as tavern keeper by Benjamin Ward in 1763.  Ward, in turn, was appointed constable in March 1763, in the first year he was licensed.  This pattern is strong enough that there was clearly something unstated going on.  

In the court minute when Benjamin Ward was licensed in January 1763, it was noted that the tavern was kept "in the house where Samuel Bonnel [sic] lately lived in Windsor ..."  Note the past tense, "lived."  This tavern stood on the site of Cunningham's pharmacy, the southwest corner of Main and Stockton streets, Hightstown.  The tavern was built about 1755, and stood (I think) until the late 1850s when it was demolished.

So I can only place Samuel Bonnell in Hightstown for this brief interval in the early 1760s.  These are the only references that I've found to Bonnell in my notes.

William Bonnell of Mercer County, Kentucky Had a Brother Samuel Bonnell Who Stayed in New Jersey

Marjorie Gibbs asked:
I have been following all this with great interest. It must take some kind of record for the depth and breadth of the research you have done, and the careful sorting and analyzing. it’s fascinating. 

Would you retrace a little to help me follow the descent from the original William? I assume the evidence now shows Samuel Bonnell (3) the more likely father of our “Kentucky Bonnells.” Is that right? William Austin suggested that Isaac4 was William’s father. That no longer seems to be the case — Samuel was William’s father, instead of Isaac. Does this mean Isaac4. (Nathaniel3,2, was not our William’s ancestor? Or was it Isaac4’s brother, Samuel4? Or was our William’s progenitor Samuel3, and not Nathaniel at all? Would you line this out for me, please? It looks to me as though you have found three generations of Samuels that weren’t even on Bill Austin’s radar. Is that right? Sorry if I appear rather dense on following this. It’s not your fault.

John’s reply:
Thanks for the note, I know all of this can get quite confusing, especially with the duplicate names.  

I think we’ve now established with reasonable confidence that William Bonnell of Mercer County Kentucky was the son of Samuel Bonnell [2] who was born in Woodbridge New Jersey (26 May 1707), reached maturity in Somerset County New Jersey, spent most of his adult life as the Constable of Windsor, New Jersey, and was an elderly companion of William during his first several moves in Virginia.  

The body of evidence indicates that Samuel (2) had at least one other son, also named Samuel [3], who would have been William’s brother, probably born about five to eight years before William.  Samuel (3) appears to have stayed in New Jersey after the rest of the family moved to Virginia, at least through the Revolutionary War.  

William and Samuel (3)’s paternal grandfather and Samuel (2) father was Samuel Bonnell (1) who is listed on page 57 and 58 of William Austin’s book.  We now know that Austin’s write up is incomplete.  Samuel (1) did not die in 1715 (that was a different Samuel).  Instead, he remained in the public record until at least 1728 and probably 1739.  

Our discoveries reinforce  Austin’s assessment that Samuel (1) split with his wife Abigail and son Benjamin.  It now appears that he took up a relationship with a Susannah (Randolph?) which resulted in the birth of Samuel (2).  The genealogy from here is straightforward and in accordance with William Austin and Claude Bunnell’s work:  Samuel (1) was the son of Nathaniel, who was the third child of the original immigrant William Bonnell.  So, our direct line to the original immigrant was:

-William (of Mercer KY, b. ~1742 in Somerset or Middlesex County, New Jersey)
    - Samuel Bonnell (2) (b. 26 May 1707 in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, NJ; d. probably in late 1770s  in Virginia)
         - Samuel Bonnell (1) (b. ~1675 in Elizabethtown, NJ, d. probably 1740s in Somerset County, NJ)
                 - Nathaniel Bonnell (b ~1640-1642, probably in Massachusetts)
                        - William Bonnell – the original immigrant.

Bonnells and Bunnells in Hightstown, New Jersey

George Farris adds to the discussion of Samuel Bunnells, Middlesex County, New Jersey:

I agree that the 3 generations of Samuels scenario is about the only way to explain all of the references over a period of many decades. As we put together more pieces of this mosaic the picture is beginning to emerge and make sense.   

One of the key things that some of the later records clarify is a second specific location where the Samuel(2) Bonnell family lived.  While they apparently lived in the Penn's Neck area near Princeton and near the western boundary of Windsor Township for many years it's now clear that they later relocated to Hightstown - which is near the eastern boundary of Windsor Township.  

The questions regarding James English and Benjamin Ward are pertinent and help pinpoint the location of the Inn that Samuel Bonnell operated for several years.  James English was the Inn Keeper prior to Samuel Bonnell and Benjamin Ward after Samuel. The brief references that I've found to them describe both as Inn Keepers at Hightstown. James English was later a miller and a blacksmith at Hightstown. 

Hightstown was small and centered on the point where the Kings Highway crossed Rocky Brook - which is where Christopher Hoagland operated a mill from 1758 until his death in 1763.  Since Hoagland owed William Bonnell a small amount of money at his death it appears very likely that William worked for him at the mill.  So we can put a pin on the map at Hightstown, NJ as the earliest specific location where we have identified William Bonnell as living - at least from 1761 - 1763.

That location also helps explain some of the Bonnell records that involve people who lived in Monmouth County.  Hightstown is just a few miles from Monmouth County.

It seems quite possible that Samuel Bonnell(3) served with the 3rd NJ Regiment (the New Jersey Greys).  While the officers were mostly from northern NJ most of the foot soldiers were recruited from southern NJ.   

John Bunnell adds:

That a Samuel Bonnell served in the Third New Jersey is beyond doubt.  I have extensive references to pay, as well as the final pay settlement from 1785 signed by Jonathan Dalton (the youngest signer if the Declaration of Independence).  The only question is whether this is for Samuel (3) or an unrelated individual.  Interestingly, there is also a Revolutionary record for a Samuel Bonnell who skippered a schooner from Elizabethtown to deliver firewood to American forces.

Sorting Out the Samuel Bunnells of Middlesex County, New Jersey

John Bunnell reports:

I apologize for the delay in correspondence, as things have been very busy at home and work.  While I was able to find several more pertinent documents during my last trip to the New Jersey State Archives, I have not been able to scan and transcribe them as I did with the first bunch.  Since I don't know when I will get to that, I'll provide an interim summary of my conclusions.  

The more documents I find, the more I become convinced that we are actually dealing with three generations of Samuel Bonnells in Middlesex County New Jersey.  

To explore this theory, please refer to the attached spreadsheet,(see below) in which I have reorganized the New Jersey documents into chronological order.  

With this, we can see that the differentiation between a Samuel Senior and Samuel Junior happens at two points. 

  1. The first is in Somerset County in 1732.  
  2. The next is a generation later, 1755-1761 in Middlesex County.  
Looking at the ages of the two Samuels we have identified to date (Nathaniel's son, b. ~1675, and grandson, b. 1707), they would have had to have been both very long lived and very active into their elder years to account for all these references.  Indeed, the last reference of them together, in 1761, would require the older Samuel to be still active at 86 years of age.  

I think a more likely scenario is that the Samuel born in 1707 had a son likewise named Samuel in, I propose, about 1738.  This individual would have been the older brother of William Bonnell of Mercer County Kentucky.  The birth year is based on the fact that he first begins to appear in the public record in 1755, at which time he must have reached the age of majority.  I believe he was still connected to Samuel (2) at least through 1761 (same house and business, perhaps).  

Although writs are written against both of them, the court minute books list only the suit against one of them, presumably the father.  

The other argument for this theory is that it explains the continuing presence of a Samuel Bonnell in New Jersey after 1707-born Samuel is already established with William in Virginia.  The spreadsheet is color coded to show what I believe to be the most likely "owner" of each of the documents we've collected.  

Based on the above, I would offer the following as "provisional biographies" of the three generations:

Samuel Bonnell (1):  This was the individual that we already know of from William Austin's work.  He is the son of Nathaniel, born in Elizabeth Town, Essex county, in approximately 1675.  As we have discussed in the past, he appears to have divorced his first wife with whom he perhaps had a son Benjamin.  He then appears to have married Susannah, with whom he parented son Samuel (2) in 1707 after relocating to Woodbridge in Middlesex County.  The family appears to have relocated to Somerset County sometime before 1728.  The last document that probably relates to this individual is the will of John Balm in 1739, when he would have been approximately 64 years old.  Unfortunately, all records of this time from Somerset County were destroyed in a courthouse fire, which is probably why this search is so difficult.  (The Somerset court documents we've found only exist because they were later prosecuted in other counties.)  It is possible, therefore, that Samuel (1) died in Somerset, with the record now lost.

Samuel Bonnell (2):  According to the document found by Margaret, Samuel (2) was born on 26 May 1707 in Woodbridge, NJ.  The first adult mention of Samuel (2) is in the 1732 bond to Richard Carman (he would have been 25 years old), in which he is listed as a blacksmith.  Probably through family connections, Samuel (2) was appointed one of the Constables of the Township of Windsor not later than 1744, holding this post for nearly two decades until 1762.  (Remember that Joseph Bonnell was a judge on the New Jersey Supreme Court and Isaac Bonnell later became the Sheriff of Middlesex County, so the enforcement of the law appears to have been Bonnell family business.)  

Samuel (2) lived in Windsor Township near Penns Neck and had at least two sons, Samuel (3) and William, when he was in his thirties.  In 1761, he purchased an inn and public house from James English, a fellow constable.  By 1763, he sold the inn and public house to Benjamin Ward, who also assumed his position as constable.  Increasingly in debt, all his possessions were confiscated by 1767, causing him to relocate to Virginia with his son William and family friends Jacob Wright (also penniless) and Peter Rossell.  The last document relating to this individual is the letter for the administration of the Estate of Jacob Wright in 1777, when he would have been 70 years old.  He probably passed away in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

Samuel Bonnell (3):  Samuel (3) should have been born in ~1738 to start appearing in the public record as a legal adult in 1755.  He became a blacksmith like his father.  Although his father relocated to Virginia in approximately 1767, Samuel (3) stayed in New Jersey, being placed in debtors prison in 1770, when he would have been 32 years old.  This may be the individual that was in the Third New Jersey Regiment, raised in Elizabethtown and officered by Jonathan Dalton of Princeton.  (Neither Samuel (1) or Samuel (2) would have been young enough age for military service in the Revolutionary War.)  Samuel (3) appears in New Jersey legal documents as late as 1785, when he would have been 47 years old.    

I welcome your comments and criticisms on the above.  There is still much work that can be done to prove or disprove this this theory and/or flesh out the details.  I'm sure at least some of this is wrong.  Some of specific the "like to knows" are as follows:

  • Who was the Susannah Randolph that was the co-witness, with Samuel Bonnell (1?), on the 1728 bond between Isaac Fitzrandolph and William Beaks?  Was this the mother of Samuel (2) either out of wedlock or using her maiden name?  
  • Who was the Ann Johnson who was the co-witness, with Jacob Wright, on the bond between Joseph Cox and Isaac Ivins in 1763?  Did she become the Ann Wright that we know was his wife (debunking the theory that Ann Wright was a Bonnell)?    
  • Who was James English, fellow constable with Samuel (2), and from whom Samuel purchased the inn and public house?
  • Who were John Smith and John Silver, who were the sureties for Samuel (2) in his application for a liquor license?
  • Who was Benjamin Ward, who both purchased the inn from Samuel (2) and assumed his position of constable in ~1763?
  • Did the witness of the sale of lands from the estate of Charles Wright in 1773 by Samuel (3?) have any connection to Jacob Wright?
  •  Does it make sense that Samuel (3) was the Samuel Bonnell in the Third New Jersey Regiment who was officered by Jonathan Dalton, or has this record been connected to some other Samuel?
Thanks ahead of time for any help you can provide in answering these questions.  I'll try to transcribe and forward the most pertinent documents as time allows.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bunnells in the Christopher Hoogeland of Windsor, New Jersey, Estate Records, 1763

Here's the latest from John Bunnell on his research in the New Jersey State Archives–

I was able to spend several more hours in the New Jersey State Archives last month.  Overall, I found a number of other documents related to the Samuel Sr./Samuel Jr./William Bonnell family.
Unfortunately, those document do not, at first review, shed any more light on untangling Samuel Sr. from Samuel Jr., which was my primary purpose. However, there are some important pieces of information. 

Most significantly, I was able to find the young William Bunnell in records relating to the same location on which we've been focused, Windsor, Middlesex County, New Jersey.  The document is the accounts of the estate of Christopher Hoogeland from 20 September 1763.  This is a very large document, so I've just copied the relevant pages.  These include the title pages for the two main sections, followed by the page listing William Bunnell as a creditor to the estate (near the top of the page).  This is followed by the page on which Samuel Bunnell and Jacob Wright are listed as debtors to the estate (middle of the page).  If there were any lingering doubts as to whether these New Jersey Bunnell/Bonnells were the same as appeared in Virginia several years later, they must certainly be dispelled by finding all three on the same document together in Windsor.

I admit that the quality of these copies is poor.  This is mainly a function of the microfilm reader I was working on.  I have much cleaner copies from another machine, but these are printed on 11x14 paper, so I can't fit them in my scanner.  I think there is little need, however, as I have also attached a transcription of the complete document from the New Jersey Genealogical Magazine that captures  their names as well as providing the context.

I think we will discover the relationship between Christopher Hoogeland and the Bonnell/Bunnells was geographic, at a minimum.  In a document I'll forward later, Christopher Hoogeland is a signatory to a request for a liquor license where they state that the public house run by Samuel Bonnell is, in effect, their local pub.
Finding William Bunnell on this document also provides some clue as to his age.  We've seen guesses between 1740 and 1750.  I think this document shows us that the 1750 date must be too late.  I think his latest date of birth is probably 1745, which would have made him of age (18) at the time of this document.  1740 is likely the early limit, as this is the first appearance we see of him in the record, which contains voluminous mention of Samuel Sr., Samuel, Jr., and Isaac.    
The article John refers to is "Accounts of the Estate of Cristopher Hoogeland of Windsor, 1763," by Thomas B. Wilson, published in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey 82-59-69 May 2007, pages 59-69. I can't post the copy that John included in his e-mail because of copyright laws and regulations. I can quote from it, however.

"Administration on the estate of Christopher Hoogeland of Windwor, Middlesex County, was granted 14 September 1763 to his brother Jacob Hoogeland and Peter Schenk, both of Somerset County. …The original estate file can be found in the New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, N.J., in the series Department of State, Secretary of State's Office, Wills and Inventories, ca. 1670-1900, #3935-68L. The packet includes three inventories drawn up by the administrators, all dated 20 September 1763."

page 67:"…William Bunnell, credit  Balance £8.6.10 outstanding 7 mo." (found on page 3959 in the original file, see below, copy courtesy of John Bunnell).

page 69: "…Samuel Bunnell amounnt £10.0.11  paid £9.94  balance £0.11.7  outstanding 3 mo." (shown on page 3962 of the court file)

George Farris added:

As a location reference, this Christopher Hoagland (who was fairly young - 1732-1763) bought the mill property in November 1758.  It included a grist mill, bolting mills (used to separate flour from the larger particles), a dwelling house and "other improvements."  It was located on the SE side of the Perth Amboy - Burlington Road where it crossed Rocky Brook.  This is now the center of Hightstown, NJ - Main Street of Hightstown is on part of the old Kings Highway. Peddie Lake in Hightstown was the original mill pond.  The old mill site itself is now a city park.   

The Hoagland families owned considerable property along the Brunswick - Princeton Road and this Christopher (there were several Christopher Hoaglands) was born in 1732 near Harlingen in Somerset County.   This particular mill must have served a very wide area when Christopher Hoagland owned it since his customers seem to span an area from Penns Neck at the western end of Windsor Township all the way to Freehold in Monmouth County and south to Bordentown as well as north to Cranberry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Virginia Revolutionary War record for a William Bonnell

John Bunnell gave an update to his research:
I''ve been heavily occupied at work recently, so I've not been able to think much about Bunnell/Bonnel geneology.  However, questions regarding the Virginia Revolutionary War record for a William Bonnell are still churning through my mind.  As a reminder, it was a salary payment made on 28 April 1785 for naval service that I sent earlier (Virginia Auditors Accounts, volume XXXI, page 31).  I've examined the document again and determined that all the payments on that page were for service in the Virginia State Navy (as opposed to the US Navy) in the Revolutionary War.  In the attached spreadsheet, I've cross referenced the names versus the extremely incomplete set of muster rolls I've found online.  I was actually surprised at the number of individuals I was able to match against their ships of service.  Unfortunately, this did not include William Bonnell.  Also, I was not able to identify any trends that would tie William to any other person on the page.  As you can see from the spreadsheet, officers and crew from all of the Virginia ships are mixed together. 
I have discovered that a "Master" in the navies of the day was not the captain, but instead a relatively low-ranking warrant officer who was responsible for navigation and the fitting of the ship.  This level of responsibility is confirmed on the William Bonnell pay sheet, as his line has no "No XXX" annotation associated with the payment, unlike the commissioned officers (Lieutenants, Captains, and the Commodore).  
I know that we have no other indication that William Bonnell had any connection with the sea.  I find it intriguing, however, that at least two ships of the Virginia line, the Dragon and the Pocahontas, were built and outfitted on the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg.  This area is the northern border of Spotsylvania County, where the Bonnell, Wright, and Rossell families were living at the time.  The crews for these two ships were recruited from that area from 1777 until 1778.
Some other points to ponder: 
  • This Bonnell family appears to have been tradesmen rather than farmers.  We know that Samuel, Sr. and Samuel, Jr. were both blacksmiths.  We've not found that William Bonnell owned land at any place he lived, so I think it is reasonable to assume he was also involved in a trade.  Tradesmen would seem to be sought after in the initial outfitting of a ship.  
  • It is seems clear that although the William Bonnell in this record served honorably enough to receive pay in 1785, this service did not result in a land grant.  Land grants were only awarded if the service member completed three years of service, so this individual must have served less than this period.
  • We've not found that anyone has claimed connection to this naval William Bonnell with the DAR or SAR.  Unlike most of these records, where there is a stamped of people trying to prove their Revolutionary War connection, the familial connection to this record seems lost.
  • We still don't know why Jacob Wright died, but that event occurred while these ships were outfitting and recruiting at Fredericksburg.  Was there any connection?
  • There were other Bonnells and Burnells involved in shipping further north during this period.  Is there any connection? (see attached photos).
 In summary, we still don't have enough information to say what this record means, but I think the coincidences are strong enough to justify a deep research dive to determine if this naval Bonnell is the same as our ancestor.  I'll include a couple of websites I found useful so far...

George Farris responded:

Thanks for this information and analysis.  I had also been searching through the RW records available on this week for any Bonnell records that might apply to the William Bonnell of Spotsylvania VA.  There were none that I could find there.  The Brumbaugh compilation from 1936 that you reference is probably as complete a  list as exists anywhere for the VA naval vessels and their crews.  But, again, no William Bonnell is listed so these rolls must not be complete since the one VA pay record that you found does show William Bonnell as a VA ship's master.  Given the timeframe and location refernces that you cite involving the VA naval vessels it seems likely that this was our William Bonnell.  But there may not be any way to verify that from existing records.  I've encountered a similar situation regarding John Farris's RW service.  There seem to be no muster or pay rolls or other direct evidence of his service other than his own account in his pension application that is consistent with historical records.

When you make it back to do more research in the VA Archives some time in the future perhaps you can find more about this William Bonnell.  I think we have already identified enough other areas requiring more research there to occupy many days.  Perhaps your military career will take you back to that area and allow some research time in the future.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

More Family Bible Records at the DAR Library

One June 8, 2015 I wrote a post about Bible records at the DAR. They keep adding to them.

I checked them this morning and found one for a branch of my family that didn't come up when I searched a year ago.

So I did some searches today for Bonnell and name variations. Each "record" found may have several generations or even expanded families. My Meeker one did. You can click on each record to see the list of names it contains, and order copies directly from the DAR.

Here's what I found:

Bonnell–18 records
Bunnell–15 records
Bunnel–6 records
Bonnel–3 records

Try it out for yourself. You just might find a treasure, like I did.

DAR Bible Record Search

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bonnell DNA Surname Project

BNL_DNA Surname Project .. 10 Years and 37 Y-DNA Members: 
. . Some questions have been answered, 
with a Few surprises along the way !!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Update on the Woodbridge New Jersey Town Records

Our readers know how bad the images were on the microfilmed Woodbridge Town Records. Genealogical serendipity made the Samuel Bunnell Jr. birth record jump out.

George Farris has worked through the nearly 200 images but found no other references to Samuel Bonnell.  There was one record in 1690 that looked sort of like Sam Bonnel but on closer examination I think it was actually Sam Dennes, an earlier Woodbridge settler.  1690 seemed rather early for Samuel Bonnel to be in Woodbridge records anyway.  John Bunnell is also taking a look at that page to be sure.  About 100 pages of the images were for records in the 1600s.  I did not find the records that we were looking for for Samuel Bonnel in 1710 and 1715.  It's clear that the record in 1707 that you pointed out is definitely a birth record for Samuel, Jr.  There were no Burrells in that area at that time so this record has to be for the Samuel Bunnell family.

Helpful Maps at the Princeton University's Nova Cæsarea: A Cartographic Record of the Garden State, 1666-1888

This came from George Farris:

There are a couple of maps that are helpful in determining the locations of the FitzRandolph lands in these transactions at  Maps at Princeton University Library

One of these shows the owners of the land along the Post Road from Amboy to Trenton as of 1766.  There are no FitzRandolphs listed at that time, but there are several properties listed for Thomas Leonard who was a major landholder around Prince Town.  Another set of maps on the same page documents the Middlesex/Somerset County line.  From this it's clear that Prince Town was split between the two counties so that land west of the main road was part of Somerset.  So the two tracts were not very far apart and the larger one was partially bounded by Stony Brook and would now be part of Princeton University.  This would seem to indicate that at least one of the Samuel Bonnells was in the Prince Town area by 1731 and is consistent with the later references to the Bonnells being near Penns Neck - just across Stony Brook from Princeton..

The FitzRandolphs seem to have spread from Woodbridge throughout the region.  There were some around Brunswick and Perth Amboy as well as further south along all of the major roads.  Note that the references to the Kings Road in the 1734 FitzRandolph deeds refer to the post road from Brunswick to Princeton while the previous reference involving the bridge over the South River at what is now Old Bridge, NJ refers to the Amboy-Burlington Road.  These were different branches of the Kings Road through NJ.  Members of the FitzRandolph clan owned land along both of these roads.  Since there were references to Samuel Bonnell involving both of these roads I've wondered whether Samuel, Jr. and Samuel,Sr. might have migrated at different times along different routes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Samuel Burrell, Son of Samuell Burrell and Susanna his wife was born May ye 26 1707 in Woodbridge Town Records

Followers of this blog know of the efforts to sort out Samuel Bunnell records. I haven't been active in this, only posting the work of others. It became clear the original records need to be consulted, or rather the microfilmed version. I was therefore thrilled to find via the FamilySearch catalog that my local family history library (in Orange, California) had a copy of microfilm 16,596, Early Vital Statistics of Woodbridge Township Liber A, filmed by Bibliofilm, Corp. in 1938. No one had to go to Salt Lake City! 

George Farris told me exactly what to look for so this morning I made the effort. I’ve looked at a lot of New England town records and naively expected them to be similar. Boy was I wrong. I completely understand why there’s disagreement about their contents because they are a mess.

The images on film are dark and often illegible because of blotches that may be stains on the pages or merely shadows. Can’t tell. The lighting wasn’t right when they were filmed 80 years ago. Scraps of paper were put on top of pages when they were scanned, concealing part of the page underneath. Sometimes the light beneath a page was so bright the writing on the back bled through into the image.

The records themselves are a mess. Loose pages. Indecipherable handwriting. Torn edges. Blotches and stains. Worse yet, they aren’t in any kind of order that I could find. One set of pages has marriages in alphabetical order, but anything after R is illegible, and it only covers a narrow period of time. Another set of vital records seems to be organized by family.

Bless the LDS volunteers because they helped me figure out how their one scanner-microfilm reader hookup worked. I captured 190 images as best I could. I took images of every page that seemed to have a marriage or other vital record. Some of them didn’t come out very well as the black around every page influenced the scanner adjustments. If I could have cropped the image before scanning it, the scans would have turned out better. I couldn’t. I felt lucky to be able to scan them at all. The volunteers suggested I take a photo of the image on the microfilm reader, but I don’t have a smartphone (I know, I'm a Luddite) and wasn’t smart enough to bring a camera or my iPad. Plus the images on the microfilm reader were awful. 

I wrote all this up in an e-mail to the Samuel Bunnell team and attached an image as a sample, the one page that had records for last names starting with B. The attachment came on my screen really big, and one of those serendipitous things happened. Right in the middle, huge and clear where I couldn't possibly miss it, was one of the items they were looking for. “Samuel Burrell, Son of Samuell Burrell and Susanna his wife was born May ye 26 1707.” Unbelievable!

This image confirms the accuracy of Rev. Joseph W. Dally's transcription in Appendix E, "The Story of a New Jersey Township" (available free at this link:  The Story of a New Jersey Township

I just hope we can find everything else they're looking for in the images I made.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Increment 20: Will of John Severns and Land Sale to Nathaniel Fitz Randolph

From John Bunnell:

Here is the last increment of documents procured from my quick, wave-top-level search of the New Jersey State Archives.  They are two secondary source documents.  

The first is the will of John Severns of Trenton, New Jersey.  It mentions Samuel Bunnel as an individual to which the estate was indebted.  It looks like Severns was indebted to just about everyone in the county.  That is, however, except for Jacob Wright and Peter Rossell, who are not listed on the following pages. 

The second document captures a land sale to Nathaniel Fitz Randolph from his father.  The witness is listed as “Samll Bumill (?).”  I am convinced that this was one of the Samuel Bonnells.  First, the spelling with an “i” and the contraction that looks like “Sam’ll” is what we have seen on almost all of the other signatures.  Second, Samuel Bonnell and Nathaniel Fitz Randolph were co-jurors in the 1764 inquisition.  Third, Samuel Bonnell provided evidence for the King in the road and bridge maintenance case along the King’s Road that eventually resulted in the writ against two other Fitz Randolphs, Richard and Eseek.  The fact that this document also alludes to the Randolph property being along the King’s Road reinforces the fact that all of these are related.  

The two entries for the Randolphs, which appear to address the same property several years apart, provide quite a few clues as to the location.  The position adjacent to “Prince Town” aligns nicely with our knowledge that the Bonnells were living near Penn’s Neck in the 1750s.  The other property that straddles the Middlesex-Somerset line along the King’s Road may indicate that both families lived very close to the line and provides a clue as to why the Randolphs were responsible for the maintenance of a section of this road.  If both families were relatively close to the county line, this may provide some insight as to why the debt document in which Samuel Bonnell, Jr. was the codefendant during this same timeframe (1730-1732) was prosecuted in Somerset County.

I think this will be all from the Middlesex chapter until one of us can get back to New Jersey for a closer look.  We have made tremendous progress and I am fairly certain we have properly reconnected the Kentucky Bunnells (an amazing achievement, although we will still need to look for more confirmatory evidence).  Nonetheless, there are still many unclear questions from the New Jersey chapter.  In particular, we have not untangled Samuel Bonnell Sr. from Samuel Bonnell, Jr. on many of the documents in the 1740s, 1750s, and 1760s.  After this, it still seems that there are not enough Samuels to account for the length of activity around the Windsor / Trenton area, particularly the appearances that extend well into the 1800s (maybe there was a Samuel III, brother to William?).  Also, we still need to sort out the Isaac Bonnell from Perth Amboy who was the Sheriff of Middlesex County during the 1760s and 1770s.  Finally, we are all waiting expectantly to see what Margaret has to report from the Woodbridge document regarding Samuel and Sasanna from 1707.  I imagine all of this is discoverable, as the harvest from my hurried and undoubtedly incomplete search illustrates that Middlesex, Somerset, and Hunterdon Counties have not been thoroughly researched.

Until such time as we get new information from New Jersey, I’ll start working back through the William Bunnell story from end to beginning in an effort to clean up loose ends and ensure the documents are available for wider collaboration via

All the best…

From George Farris:

Regarding the John Severns will, while the wording is not definitive, I think this is a list of debts owed to him rather than the other way around.  Severns was a fairly wealthy merchant in Trenton and also apparently a money lender according to descendants of other people on this long list of accounts.  The list extends for another 1-1/2 pages.  Pages 426 and 427 are attached.  It's interesting in that many of the people are listed by their occupations, locations or other descriptors such as "the lame man", "Jasper's son", "widow's son", "great", "small", "old", "baker's son", etc.