Too young

Clarence Almon Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700 is a wonderful guide to material in published genealogies and articles at the NEHGS library. Often the entries have dozens of citations to sources. There are other entries, however, that are really short, such as:[1]

CUTTING, John Jr. & _____ _____ (had dau Mary); bef 1642

This type of entry can derive from a birth record for a child, but the citation to the child’s birth should be included. Where did Torrey find information on a John Cutting Jr. who married an unknown woman before 1642 and had a daughter Mary. And “grrrr”: why didn’t Torrey give a citation?

One clue is that John is a “Jr.,” although, of course, “Jr.” did not necessarily mean that his father was also “John.” (The term can refer to an unrelated, younger person of the same name in the same town.) No town of residence is given, which is not helpful. Torrey’s Marriages has only two other John Cuttings, one who married as early as 1620 to Mary [?Ward] and settled in Charlestown, and the other of Watertown, who did not marry until 1671/72 and is clearly too young to be the John who had a daughter born in 1642.

No town of residence is given, which is not helpful.

Bob Anderson’s Great Migration Directory lists only one John Cutting, who came to Watertown [no mention of Charlestown] in 1636, and was the husband of Mary [blank]. Anderson’s citations take me to Walter Goodwin Davis,[2] who did a detailed sketch on this John Cutting – including the reasons why it has been suggested that his wife’s maiden name might have been Ward – and solves the mystery about John Jr. Both Sr. and Jr. were ship masters and only a couple of records exist for Jr., the last being in 1642; but the wills of John Sr. and his widow Mary, both made in the 1660s, name granddaughter Mary Moody, wife of Samuel Moody. From the context of the wills Davis surmised that John Cutting Jr. had died leaving a young daughter, who was raised by her grandparents. Mary married first to Moody in Newbury in 1657 and second to Daniel Lunt in 1679.

The reason why Torrey did not give a source citation for this marriage is probably because it was one of his very last entries in the manuscript. Torrey died at the age of 93 in 1962, the year that Abel Lunt was published.

So, is John Cutting Jr. going to have a sketch in the Early New England Families Study Project? No. What little is known about Jr. is well covered by Davis. His father, John Sr., will be treated in the next section of Great Migration, and when the time comes to do the sketch on Samuel Moody and his wife Mary Cutting for Early New England Families, we will include information for her father.

Cross one off the list.


[1] Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston: NEHGS, 2011), Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700. (Online database. NEHGS, 2008).

[2] The Ancestry of Abel Lunt, 1769–1806, of Newbury, Massachusetts (Portland, Me., 1963), 81–87.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

15 thoughts on “Too young

  1. Could a junior have been applied when a second child was given the same first name of an earlier, now deceased, sibling?

    1. I am not aware of that situation. Another child could have been given the same name, but I haven’t seen it with the Jr. in the 17th century.

  2. Oh, Alicia! Now you’ve given us amateur genealogists one more thing to worry about ! You state, the term “Jr.” can refer to an unrelated, younger person of the same name in the same town. Thanks goodness you pros are available when the going gets rough.

      1. Hi Chris,
        I’m curious, is there any research as to when this “random” usage of “Junior” (2nd, 3rd, etc.) began to be exclusively applied to the naming of one’s own child (and what might be the reasons for this change)? For example, was it due to documenting for the purposes of taxation? And was this something that was seen in non-English speaking countries as well? I am familiar with the naming scheme of “the Older” versus “the Younger” in families where younger children are named after an older sibling (or even a deceased one). I have seen this often in French families (L’aîné vs Lejeune) as late as the 19th century. It seems that the “random” application is more common in the 17th century (and perhaps much earlier), while the 19th century shows it to be almost exclusively applied to one’s own child. This leaves the transitional period somewhere in the 18th century. Any insights about this?

  3. This morning I ran across a post about Nicholas Noyes. That name was familiar so I looked it up on my tree on my computer. I found a Nicholas Noyes but he wasn’t an ancestor but did notice that he was married to Mary Cutting. Of course this is when I was being sloppy and didn’t note where it came from. This Mary’s father is John Cutting whose wife Mary ___ died in Newbury 20 Nov 1659. The daughter Mary Cutting Noyes is the mother-in law of my 1st cousin 9 X removed. My going back and forth I found Bathsheba Ingersoll born Abt. 1630 in Salem, MA. I site a reference for her it was from the book “A New England Family” by Pettingell she and John Knight are the parents of Mary Knight my 9th cousin who married Timothy Noyes. Timothy is the son of Nicholas Noyes and Mary Cutting. That is my Mary Cutting daughter of John Cutting from Essex County MA in the 17th century. It would have been nice if half of the people didn’t have a John and Mary in their family.

    1. and the other half weren’t all called William and Elizabeth.

      But this blog included several of my “relatives” that I happen to be working on right now. Big mess, Loyalists, New Jersey, Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick, disinherited son, recycled names for 4 generations without a Jr. to go with them. You name it, it happened to this family. I get so confused sometimes I draw pictures for myself!

  4. In the late 1700s I have a father and son in a small village in New Hampshire who were named John Elliot. The son added an extra T at the end Elliott to differentiate him from his father.

  5. John Cutting is one of my “former ancestors.” TAG 83 (2008):13-18 (by Leslie Mahler) also discusses the kinship network of siblings Nathaniel Ward of Hartford and Hadley, Mary (Ward) Cutting, Rebecca (Ward) Allen of Newbury and their nephew William Markham of Hadley, with their English origins. Their royal line is in Gary Boyd Roberts’s new Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants.

  6. Hi Alicia, Master John Cutting brought my Sherwood ancestors on the Francis of Ipswich in 1634. Would your research indicate that he stayed and the ship did not return to England?

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