GILLSON AND JILLSON FAMILY
Collected and Compiled by
SOUTH ATTLEBORO, MA
Central Falls: E.L. Freeman & Co., Book and Job Printers, Union Block. 1876.
Crest -- A Leapard's head erased, erm. Ducally gorged, az.
According to the best authority, the name Gillson, or Gilson, is derived from Gill and Giles. Archbishop French, in his book on words, remarks concerning the Gillsons, that some pronounced the G hard and others soft, and he accounts for it by saying the former were the sons of Gilbert, and the latter the sons of Giles.
Family surnames were not commonly in use previous to the tenth century. They were first used in France, particularly in Normandy. Previous to the Norman conquest the people in England had generally but one name.
The Gillson name is not found in England previous to the Norman conquest. The ancestor is said to have come over from Normandy with William the Conquerer, A.D. 1066, and from the name of Gillson being found in France, gives countenance to this.
Many of the name were located in Baresby County, Leicestershire, where some of the name now reside. The writer has a coat of arms sent him by a clergyman of the name, who says that his ancestors have been located in Leicestershire and Rutland for many generations. Unfortunately the parish records where most of them resided do not date back prior to 1653. It is said that the Leicestershire property was originally a park of the ancestor who came over with the conqueror.
The first of the name who emigrated to New England was William Gillson. he came from County Kent, England, (probably from the town of Feering, as many of the name were living there) with his wife Frances and two of his sister's children, Frank and hannah Damon. He settled in Scituate, Mass., in 1631, (the history of S. says 1633). He probably came over in Winthrop's fleet in 1630. He was one of the founders of the church in Scituate, (January 8, 1635), a man of good powers of mind and property, only four in the colony paying a higher tax in 1633. He built, (says Dean in his history of Scituate,) the first windmill in the colony for grinding corn, whichbefore was pounded. There is an act of court respecting his mill in 1637. "It is enacted that ye miller of Scituate shall not take above the twelvth part for ye toul for grinding corn."
He was an assistant in the government of Plymouth colony from 1633 to 1638, (with the exception of 1635). In 1633 Edward Winslow was chosen Governor, William Bradford Deputy Governor, and William Gillson one of six assistants. (See Bailie's Memoirs of Plymouth Colony, p. 209).
In the first tax list of Plymouth Colony extant, January 2, 1632-3, William Gillson is assessed 12 shillings. Second tax, January 2, 1633-4, 1 pound and 7 shillings, paid in corn, at 6 shillings per bushel.
His will is dated January 27, 1639, dying five days after, viz., February 1, 1639. Inventory of his estate taken by Anthony Annable, Henry Cobb and Edward Foster. Amount of the estate, 229 pounds 3 shillings and 2 pence. he left his estate to his wife Frances, (no child), and bequests to his nephew and niece, Frank and Hannah Damon, and kinsman Daniel Romball. After the decease of his widow, in 1649, John and Hannah Damon were sole heirs of his estate. They were very young when they came from England under the guardianship of their uncle William. The writer has interviewed several of the descendants of John Damon, now living in Scituate, but could not obtain any information leading to connect the family of William Gillson in England with the ancestors of James Gilson of Rehoboth, or Joseph Gilson of Groton, Mass.
John Damon married Catharine Merritt, June, 1644. There is an order of court relating to the estate of William Gillson after the death of his widow.
"June 8, 1649, at this court, John Damon required yt he might enjoy his rights in ye lands of William Gillson, of Scituate. To clear up the aforesaid rights, papers were read and approved. Whereas, William Gillson did in his life time earnestly several parcels of land for his accomodation, but being required of him by us the reason of his desire for so much land, being ancient, and having no issue of his body to inherit the same after him, his answer was, yt he had brought over with him into New England two of his sister's children from their parents, and was bound in conscience to provide for them as if they were his own. Further, I, Humprey Turner, of Scituate, do testify that William Gillson did say to me, I ask this land yt my kinsfolk may enjoy it when I am dead."
The following is taken from the New England Genealogical and Historical Register for 1860, vol. 14.
"In a large volume bound in vellum, now in the Rolls office, Chancery Lane, London, containing the names of persons who left London, emigrating to New England and other places between 1630 and 1635, are found two fo the name of Gilson, viz.: April 8, 1635, theis under written names are to be transported to New England, embarked in the Susan and Ellen, Edward Payne, master. The p,,ties have brought certificates from ye ministers and justices of ye peace that they are no subsidy men, and are conformable to ye orders and discipline of ye church of England. Among the names occurs that of Ann Gilson, (servant) aged 34."
The other is dated May 2, 1635, and reads as follows:
"Theis under written names are to be transported to ye Barbadoes, embarked in ye Alexander, Capt. Burch, master, certificate of Gilbert Grimes, Mr. of Parliament, and certificates from ye ministers where they late dwelt. The men took the oath of allegiance and supremacie. Die et A pred."
Among the names is Thomas Gilson, aged 21.
The Island of Barbadoes, one of the Caribbean group, was settled by the English at the time New England was colonized, but the records there are silent in regard to Thomas Gilson or his descendants.
After 1638 a different system prevailed in relation to emigrants from England. Not much more trouble was taken about them than the rest of the cargo of vessels. The number would be entered but not the names. Doubtless (the register states) many of the emigrants to the Island of Barbadoes, Virginia and other places, eventually made their way to New England.
And next on the list of Gilsons are Joseph Gilson, of Chelmsford, and James Gilson, of Rehoboth, Mass. The genealogy of the descendants of Joseph Gilson, for five generations, will be found in the last pages of the book. The descendants of Joseph all write the name Gilson, the descendants of James, (with a few exceptions) Jillson.
The writer has not been able to find any record to prove that Joseph and James Gilson were or were not of the same family.
The tradition handed down from generation to generation among the descendants of James Gilson, is the old story of the three brothers who came over from England, and that they were of Scotch descent.
The writer has spent much time and means in searching town and county records, and all other sources of infrmation in New England, in person or through the medium of town clerks, and also by an expert in London, in the hope of finding some previous record of our ancestor, but without success. All records were poorly kept in England as well as here. At the close of the book will be found abstracts from Gillson wills, copied from the English Court Probate records.
Below will be found all that can be ascertained in relation to James Gilson of Rehoboth.
Rehoboth was settled in 1644, by a company formed at Weymouth, Mass., and in 1661, Captain Thomas Willett was employed by Rehoboth to purchase of Wamsitta (afterwards Alexander), elder brother of King Phillip and son of Massasoit, another tract of land, which was called the Rehoboth North Purchase. This purchase included what is now Attleboro, Mass., Cumberland, R.I., and a part of Mansfield and Norton. April 10, 1666, Thomas Willett resigned and made over the above purchase to Thomas Prence, Joshiah Winslow and Thomas Southworth. And they sold the same date, viz., April 10, 1666, to the proprietors of Rehoboth that hold there a fifty pound estate and upwards, to be equally divided to the purchasers.
There were seventy-nine whole shares and a half. James Gilson's name first appears as one of the purchasers -- one share -- (bought of Samuel Sabin).
There is no record prior to this date of James Gilson in the Rehoboth town books. Unfortunately, the oldest records of the first church were destroyed by the Indians in King Philip's war, at the time they burnt the house of Rev. Noah Newman, (the second minister of the town). The town records, however, of births, marriages &c., go back to the first settlement. His name does not appear in the proprietors' land records of Rehoboth. The purchase gave him an equal right with the rest of the proprietors. The whole amount paid by the purchasers was four hundred and eighty-four pounds five shillings and five pence.
The deed from Samuel Sabin to James Gilson is dated March 20, 1667, and acknowledged the 27th of February, 1673. Recorded in Plymouth Lnad Records, book third, page 333. Witness, Nathaniel Paine and William Carpenter.
The first division of land to the proprietors, of fifty acres to a share, was made March 18, 1668-9. The second division of fifty acres, February 18, 1684. Third division of fifty acres, October 31, 1699. Fourth division of fity acres, in 1703. Fifth division of fifty acres, June 10, 1707. Sixth division of fifty acres, July 21, 1714. Seventh division of twenty acres, February 21, 1726-7. Eight division of ten acres, April 14, 1735.
This land was on the north and west of what was called Hunting Hill. This hill is located near land now owned by James Wetherhead, George W. Clark, and heirs of Nathan Sprague. He also took up land on the east side of Abbott's Run, near where Orrin Mowry now resides. His lands near Hunting Hill were sold by his sons (Nathaniel and James) to Jonathan Sprague, as the proprietors' books show.
Below will be found a few extracts from the proprietor's records.
"First book of Rehoboth North Purchase lands, page 53. Bounds of the lands of James Gilson and his son Nathaniel. Likewise, 50 acres of land laid out to James Gilson and Nathaniel Gilson, his son, surrounding his first 50 acres, where his house stands, laid out March 8, 1705-6." (The bounds are omitted here.)
And immediately following, same book and page, November 13, 1712, it reads,
"Nathaniel Gilson and James Gilson (his brother) divided the above said 100 acres of land between them, and is butted and bounded as in the record above mentioned. And Nathaniel Gilson's part is the east part, (bounds given) and James Gilson's part is the west part. Recorded by Daniel Smith, Proprietor's Clerk."
There are other entries of land in the proprietors' books, laid out to James Gilson, sen., as also to his son James after his father's death, which occurred in 1712. It would be superfluous to insert them here.
Now, a word about the change from Gillson to Jillson. It happened no doubt, in this way. The majority of the early settlers here were of the middle and lower classes in England, and at that day very many could not read or write. James Gilson, sen., left no papers of any kind, and his son James, in all deeds, &c., left by him, the originals of which are in the possession of the writer, were written by others, which he signed, or witnessed by making his mark.
In the proprietors' land records the name is written Gilson invariably. The FIRST change is found in the Attleboro town record of births of the children of James, in 1709. It is written Jelson, a mistake of the clerk without a doubt. Daniel write his name Jelson after the pattern set by the town clerk (or some one else) for some years, and then changed to Jillson.
Nathaniel and his wife, in their deed of his share of the homestead to Benjamin Day, dated December 18, 1712, signed their name Gilson, but in the proprietors' land records of Dedham Gore (now Bellingham), when Nathaniel drew in the first division of land, May 19, 1714, the clerk enters his name Jillson, and it is continued so to be wirtten by all the descendants of Nathaniel and James (with the exception of some of the descendants of James,) to the present time.
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