Learned Larneds

Geraldine, Queen of the Albanians

Years ago, Jeff Record sent me an ahnentafel report on his ancestry, curious to see if we had any connections back in Kansas. While we identified several common ancestors in New England, I was curious about his great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Neff) Young (1864-1898) of El Dorado, Kansas. Neff is not in my own ancestry, but it is the surname of some distant cousins I remembered from my childhood. I frequently went to Kansas over the holidays as a child and would stay at my grandparents’ farm in Sedgwick, Kansas. Most often my mother’s siblings and their children would also be there; sometimes there were more distant cousins present, and at the time I had no idea how they were related to me. The Neffs were some such cousins that would occasionally visit as two of their boys were the same age as myself and a few of my first cousins. Later, as I got interested in genealogy, I learned that they were my third cousins: their mother’s father’s sister Carrie Etta (Wright) Learned was a sister of my matrilineal great-grandmother Daisy Alice (Wright) Horton.

Seeing the Neff surname in Jeff’s ancestry made me remember these third cousins whom I had not seen in many years. Unfortunately, Jeff’s Neff ancestry went back to a Swiss immigrant – Jacob Neff (1697-1751), who settled in Frederick, Maryland – while my cousins’ patrilineal ancestry went back to a different Swiss immigrant, Ulrich Neff (1709-1778) of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Always possible there is a connection back in Switzerland, but now we are talking about a much more distant kinship, and the connection to Kansas was merely a coincidence.

However, with my recent post on my ancestor Morris Larned, Jeff commented that his daughter-in-law also descended from this New England family, who are also ancestors of my Neff cousins through their great-grandfather Elmer Ellsworth Learned! The Learned family in New England and much of the United States descend from William Learned (c. 1590-1645/46) and his wife Goodith [not Judith] Gilman, who married at St. Olave, Southwark in 1606 and settled in Woburn, Massachusetts.

The Learned family in New England and much of the United States descend from William Learned…

While the surname was written Learned, it was traditionally pronounced Lar-ned, and by the late eighteenth century my ancestors were spelling it that way. This “change” is like some place names in America like Darby, Pennsylvania, named after Derby in England, which was pronounced Dar-bee. Other places change their pronunciation to how it is written, such as Norwich and Greenwich, which in England have a silent w, while the respective place names in Connecticut and New York now pronounce the w. I’m sure there are some Learned families who now pronounce their surname Ler-ned.

Descendants of William and Goodith Learned include Geraldine, Queen of the Albanians (who was half American), and the two Bush presidents, see chart below, along with Jeff’s and my own connections. The infamous quote by President George W. Bush – Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning? –  is now stuck in my head in consideration of his Learned ancestors!

Click on image to expand it.

Sources for Chart: Ancestors of American Presidents, 455; William Addams Reitwiesner, “A Hitherto Unnoted Descendant of Henry Adams of Braintree – Leka I, King (Claimant) of Albania,” The American Genealogist 53 (1977): 18-20; Eugenia Learned James, The Learned Family in America, 176 (line to Thomas Morris Larned), 240 (line to Elmer Ellsworth Learnd), 137 (line to Josiah Learned), 34 (line to Edward Learned, Jr.);  Jeff Record, “The Descendants.”

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

23 thoughts on “Learned Larneds

  1. Interested in your PA Neffs as I have them married into my Harriger line in Clarion, & Jefferson Counties plus surrounding counties. Married to Blancehh Harriger, Herbert Neff son of John Raymond Neff and Elizabeth Shalabach. Any connection to your Neffs? Herbert bprn 1910 Colorado & died 2002 in North Freedom, PA,.
    Mary Maher Boehnlein, Ph.D.
    Professor Emerita
    Cleveland State university

  2. This was great fun to see Chris. I can’t wait to show my grand daughters our connections here! I will always wonder about those darn Kansas Neffs in our family trees, and maybe, just maybe another connection (albeit a most distant) one in common!

    1. Hi Mike. Yes she is!

      1. William Learned m. Goodith Gilman
      2. Isaac Learned m. Mary Stearns
      3. Benoni Learned m. Mary Fanning
      4. Thomas Learned m. Mary Mason
      5. Jonathan Learned m. Hannah White
      6. Jedediah Learned m. Mary Grant
      7. Grant Learned m.Martha Gearfield
      8. Gearfield Learned m. Mary Jane French
      9. George Grant Learned m. Elizabeth Tent
      10. Arthur Gearfield Learned m. Leila Helen Sprague
      11. Bruce Learned m. Elizabeth Duane Hooper
      12. Michael Learned (born 1939)

  3. I believe your Jacob NEFF was an ancestor of one of my dad’s 4th cousins thru the cousin’s PENTICOs. YOUNG also appears in the earliest branch of that cousin’s NEFFs. I haven’t worked on those families for at least a decade, so seeing NEFF and YOUNG again in your post was a real blast from the past. LARNED was also familiar, but only as the name of the town in western Kansas where several of my dad’s SACKs were barbers and later gens lived off and on. Thanks for the history of the name, which locals usually pronounce “LarNERD”.

  4. Very interesting to see how families can scatter around the country and world. Three other thoughts: the Queen of the Albanians is a real beauty; perhaps the hanging judge, Larned Hand was also of this family;and perhaps the parish in Southwark is St. OLAVE rather than St. Olive.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! Yes it is St. Olave and is now fixed above. Larned Hand is indeed from this family, him and I share the first four American generations:

      1. William Learned m. Goodith Gilman
      2. Isaac Learned m. Mary Stearns
      3. Isaac Learned m. Sarah Bigelow
      4. William Learned/Larned m. Hannah Bryant
      5. Ebenezer Learned m. Keziah Leavens
      6. Amasa Learned m. Grace Hellam
      7. Ebenezer Learned m. Charlotte Peck
      8. Billings Peck Learned m. Mary Ann Noyes
      9. Lydia Colt Learned m. Samuel Hand
      10. Billings Learned Hand (1872-1961)

      1. John Learned married Mary White. I have zero luck identifying her ancestry. Can you offer any help? Barry Schwoerer, great grandson of Laura Inks and Fred Schwoerer. Also just found interesting info regarding Nancy Jenette Learned you would enjoy

  5. Great post, Chris! In a curious twist, I have more collateral relationships to Queen Geraldine through her father’s Apponyi de Nagy-Appony side (her two paternal von Netz lines descend from my Adam Boguslav Sandretzki von Sandraschutz & Barbara von Gellhorn; also there are shared lines in the von Lobkowicz, von Zinzendorf u. Pottendorf, and von Liechtenstein-Nikolsburg families). As for Geraldine’s mother’s side, both my wife and I share descent from William Learned though Sarah (Learned) Lathrop, mine in the Hinckley family, hers going through Hannah Child & John Fay. (My wife has one Child line through the Fay’s and another from Prudence Child [Joshua C. & Eliz. Morris] & Jonathan Farrington. There are Child’s everywhere!)

    1. Thanks Tom! As I think you have seen from the (second) chart here – https://vitabrevis.americanancestors.org/2015/08/the-names-the-same/ – I descend from Joshua and Elizabeth (Morris) Child once, and then have eight other descents from three of Joshua’s siblings (three through Elizabeth’s sister Grace [Morris] Child), and then two additional Bowen descents through two of Joshua’s first cousins. The Morris-Heath-Johnson cluster is another double digit descent, besides the four descents from the Morris Child sisters, I have two more descents from their brother Samuel Morris [for whom Col. Morris Larned descends], one descent from their great-uncle William Heath of Roxbury, and four descents from William’s sister Mary Heath and her husband John Johnson of Roxbury, for eleven descents from that family cluster.

  6. Hi Cousin! (specifically, 9th cousin, once removed) I also descend from Isaac & Mary (Stearns) Learned through daughter Sarah (m. Jonathan Barrett). Oddly enough (or maybe not when going that far back in New England), I can trace another TWO lines back to William & Goodith (Gilman) Learned through their daughter Sarah and subsequent William French daughters Sarah & Mary from two different wives. All the crossover makes for very confusing-looking trees!

  7. This is my second relation to you, Chris (and my first to Jeff). In addition to descending from Benjamin Child (1631-1678), I am also descended from William and Goodith, through Isaac’s and Mary’s daughter Hannah, who married Joseph Farwell (which, of course, takes me back to my gateway ancestor, Olive Farwell nee Welby). This makes me think of a variation on Scott’s famous poetic lines, namely “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to CONCEIVE”!

  8. Your article brings to mind Ellen Douglas Larned, 1825 – 1912. While a Larned by marriage, she was, at heart, a very learned lady. A noted regional historian, she wrote “The History of Windham County, Volumes I and II”, which were published in 1874 and 1880. She was the first woman admitted to the Connecticut Historical Society. Her books remain an important resource for those interested in the history of Windham County today.

    1. Hi Marjorie. Yes I have used Ms. Larned’s history many times. Ellen was actually a Larned by birth as she never married, and was the daughter of George and Anna Spalding (Gay) Larned. George was the great-grandson of William and Hannah (Bryant) Learned/Larned on the chart above through their son Samuel, so Ellen Douglas Larned was my third cousin five times removed. She’s buried at West Thompson Cemetery – https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/43773043/ellen-douglas-larned

  9. Did Benton Inks have a son named Merle? From Missouri. I have a lot of information on him and his wife who is a distant relative of mine.

  10. Greetings Newly Found Cousin!

    I am a direct descendant of William & Goodith Learned via their daughter, Sarah Learned.

    She married 1st Thomas Ewer, Sr. (bp. 1593, Strood, Kent, ENG; d. 1638, Charlestown, MA).
    They had a daughter, Sarah Ewer (bp. 10 May 1629, Strood, ENG; d. 2 Mar 1692, Bristol, RI).

    Sarah Ewer was a strong, caring woman, having survived four husbands and raising “a great family” of 7 children, according to documents written by Quaker founder George Fox.

    I descend from her 2nd husband, Nicholas Davis (b. say 1620, ENG; d. 1672, Newport, RI), who was the first Quaker convert in Barnstable, Plymouth Colony in 1659, and he was the first landowner in Hyannis, MA in 1660. Sarah had 6 children with Nicholas, all of whom lived out their adult lives in Newport and in Bristol, RI, and were connected to merchant mariners.

    Sarah Ewer’s first husband, Thomas Blossom, Jr., son of Thomas Blossom, English Pilgrim of Leiden, Holland, The Netherlands. They had a daughter, Sarah Blossom, born in Barnstable between 1646 and 1650.

    Her third husband was Dr. John Clarke, Baptist minister and one of the founders and “Charter securer” of Rhode Island, who took good care of Sarah’s 5 minor children.

    Sarah (Ewer) Blossom Davis Clarke’s last husband was Rev. Thomas Walley, who had succeeded Rev. John Lothrop of Barnstable’s Congregational church. Thomas Walley’s son, John Walley, a prominent Boston lawyer and co-founder of Bristol, RI, married Sarah’s daughter, Sarah Blossom, in 1672.

    As you can see, Sarah Ewer, granddaughter of William & Goodith Learned, exhibited a great deal of “theological flexibility”, having been married to a Quaker, Baptist, and two Puritans!

    I GREATLY appreciate you taking time to publish William LEARNED’s descendancy.

    Kind Regards,

    Dr. Frank Mike Davis

    PS. In case you are interested, I have recently published genealogy research papers, with new discoveries and copious source notes, regarding Sarah Ewer, Nicholas Davis, and their relatives, Dolor & Margery (Willard) Davis. Please email me if you are interested in accessing these papers/ebooks.

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