CORBETT OF MASSACHUSETTS DIED 1695
ROBERT CORBETT OF MASSACHUSETTS &
ROBERT CORBET OF ADDERLEY BORN 1640 THE SAME MAN?
Robert Corbett of Massachusetts has been
a thorn in my side for several years and perhaps the
following will sound as though I am nailing my colours to
the mast. This is not intended but one has to ask 'where
is the proof that the two men mentioned above are the same man?' I have
asked this question of researchers, who claim this descent, many times, and still await a
So many family researchers in the US (I
have lost count of exactly how many) have contacted me
over more than 20 years asking if, or stating that,
Robert is the son of Sir John (created a baronet on 19
Sept 1627) and Anne (Mainwaring) Corbett of Moreton Corbet.
How I wish I had the proof they so
dearly want. It is one of the tenets of genealogy that
one proves every connection one shows in ones family and
if possible, more than once! Finding entries on the IGI
is not proof - although many take it to be so! Even that
most worthy organisation, the Latter Day Saints, who have
done us such a great service by collecting and publishing
records, advises us to check the original source before
accepting them. How many present day researchers do so?
This description given by almost
everyone , of Moreton Corbet, is incorrect as
will be shown now.
The Moreton Corbet connection of Sir
John occurred 3 generations earlier with his great
grandfather, Sir Robert of Moreton Corbet 1477-1513 (who
married Elizabeth Vernon of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire) and
the description of Moreton Corbet is not and
never was a valid description for the Stoke and Adderley
line of which Sir John became the heir on the death of
his father in 1601.
The title of Moreton Corbet
was passed by the above Sir Robert of Moreton Corbet (1477-1513) to
his son Roger circa 1501-38 who married Anna Windsor.
Rogers younger brother, Reginald (circa 1512-66) (who
married Alice Gratewood) became of Stoke,
Adderley and Edgmond and his son Richard
1564-1601 (who married Ann Bromley) inherited the title
of Stoke and was Sir Johns father.
(Visitation of Shropshire 1623)
Many people have written to the
Shropshire CRO asking for proof of the connection (so
many that I guess they must be getting tired of receiving
enquiries on the subject) between this Robert of Stoke
and Adderley, the latter being the place he was baptised,
and Robert of Massachusetts. All have been disappointed
by the reply they received for no proof has surfaced yet
either in England or the United States. Robert of
Adderley, as with some of his older brothers, disappears
after his baptism.
Because there were so many children in
Sir Johns family the story becomes a little
complicated at times but I trust that you will stay with
me to the end because your views on the matter are most
Sir John and Anne (Mainwaring) Corbet of
Stoke & Adderley were said to have had 10 sons and 10
daughters and this is shown on Annes tomb at Market
Drayton. She died in 1682.
It does not change the situation a great
deal but I have found another child who appears to have
been overlooked. Michael appears on the Oxford University
Roll (see note at end) along with his brother, later
known also as Sir John of Stoke and Adderley (who married
Letitia Knollys). If he was another child of the family
then there were 21 children altogether and not 20.
Michael, so far as I am aware, has never appeared as a
child of this family before. (Unless, of course, you know
The inscription on Anne's (Mainwaring)
tomb states that 17 children grew to be men and
women and 3 died before adulthood. These 3 children were not
named. Was another
deceased child overlooked at the time the inscription was
written? After all both she and her husband were dead by
then. I suggest the (unproved) possibility that 4 not 3
children died before becoming adults. It is much easier
to overlook children who died close to birth than it is
those who lived into adulthood. However whichever is
correct it makes little difference to the final position
of who lived and who died.
It is known that all ten daughters (each
of whom married) and seven sons survived into adulthood.
The names of the known six sons who survived were Michael, John,
Vincent, Arthur, George and Henry. They either
married, lived to at least 16 years of age (and yes, I
know that in Michael's case living to age 16 is not proof
he survived to adulthood but it implies the possibility
and is stronger proof than just a baptism date), or are
known to have been alive after 1663. Arthur was living in
1663 according to the probate of a brothers will.
The other four lived long enough to marry.
This leaves Richard, Reginald, Humphrey,
Rowland and Robert with Humphrey and Rowland, known to
have died within a few years of birth.
The three remaining who are unaccounted
for then are Richard bap 17 September 1622 Childs Ercall,
Reginald bap 1632 Adderley and Robert Corbett bap on 21
Feb 1640 also at Adderley. Two of these sons therefore
died before reaching adulthood. But which of them? Any
help in this direction would be most welcome.
A E Corbett, (who is not always to be
relied on) in her book The Family of Corbet shows that
Robert of Adderley baptised in 1640 died without issue.
She also shows the following children as ob.
s.p. (died without issue) Vincent, Richard, George,
Reginald, Humphrey, Roland, Arthur. She cites no
authority for classifying them thus. One cannot
absolutely rely on her words - she also shows 21 children
for this family amongst whom two are Annes and one
a Jane but no mention is made of Michael. There was in
fact only one Anne (who married Nathaniel Desborough) and
one Jane (who married Robert Anstruther). AEC shows the
second Anne marrying Robert Anstruther which is
incorrect. All ten daughters of Sir John and Anne reached
adulthood and married.
Returning to Robert of Massachusetts a
researcher wrote to me recently In The Corbett
Family in England and America by Henry R Corbett: it
says Little is known about Robert Corbett except
that he fought bravely in King Philip's War (Savage's Dictionary
of the Early Settlers in New England, Vol. I. Page
457) This war ended in 1676. He continues A
quote from "History of the Town of Milford"
(Mass) says: Corbett, Robert is the first of this
name known in these parts.
'Robert became interested in the settlement at Woodstock,
now in Connecticutt, but then in Massachusetts. The town
was originally known as New Roxbury because many of its
early settlers were from Roxbury, Mass. Sometime before
1691 Robert went to live there and he is recorded as
having purchased a homestead.
As I have said whenever anyone contacts
me about Robert of Massachusetts they always identify him
as Robert of Moreton Corbet and I have explained why this
designation for him is incorrect. However whatever
identity one gives him this does not alter the fact that
there is no proof of a connection between the two.
I should add that I have made an
extensive search of all my records and have found nothing
to suggest that Robert baptised 1640 at Adderley (not
Moreton Corbet) is the same Robert of Massachusetts.
Despite this I have seen it recorded on
many family trees as though it has been proved the two
men are the same person and this unproved connection is
also shown on many records I have come across on the
Internet including some deposited with the Latter Day
I have been informed it originated with a genealogist in
London who sent it to Melvyn Corbett in the States in
1955. Melvyn Corbett published it in a small monograph he
wrote about the descendants of Robert. He sent a copy to
the Family History Library - and from there it has
spread, and been asserted, with no known proof.
The LDS is not responsible for the
claims made by researchers who deposit details of their
ancestry with them however just appearing in their
records etc. gives the information some gravity. Because
someone has said it is so, however, does not make it so
but many researchers appear to take anything written down
or published on the net as the absolute proven,
documented truth and do not make any attempt to prove a
It would be interesting to discover how
this connection between Robert of Massachusetts and
Robert of Moreton Corbet (or to be correct of
Adderley) came about because no-one I have asked
has ever been able to tell me.
One of the researchers mentioned earlier
wrote Are you familiar with a Mr. Charles Gleason
of California? He lists my Robert Corbett as being born
in England abt 1640 and death September 18 1695 in
Weymouth, Massachusetts, his parents [are shown] as John
Corbet and Anne Mainwaring, his spouses as Abigail Lovet
(abt.1690) and Priscilla Rockwood in Weymouth on Feb. 23,
1684/85. The file lists 'notes and sources' as being
available on cd-rom. This is the LDS site and I will have
to send them $8 USD to purchase the cd. I have tried to
contact Mr.Gleason via email to find out his sources, but
no luck. It would be interesting to know exactly
what authority Mr Gleason quotes on the cd which proves
them to be the same person. If the proof was there surely
no one would be continuing to ask for proof.
Whenever I find a website on the
Internet which claims a connection between the two
Roberts I send a polite email asking for proof of the
connection. I have received very few replies and I have
no doubt this is because most have not asked for proof
but have taken someone elses word for it and only
when asked do they study the statement and find they
stand (frimly unfortunately) on a bed of clay.
Many, when asked, say they have seen it
on the Ancestral file on the LDS website. Typical of the
replies are What I have in my website on Rootsweb
(or some other genealogical host) on the Corbett line is
from the Ancestral File. In all probability there were
notes attached to these persons when the data was
submitted, however when it is entered into Ancestral
File, all notes are stripped from the gedcom that are
submitted. If you find any proof, could you let me know?
I just got the Pedigree Resource CD's, I hope that the
family group sheet for this family will be there along
with the notes. I have yet to look at it and
another I have found info connecting Robert to
previous Corbetts back through to Hugh Corbeau/Corbet,
but have not been able to verify any of this yet. ....
Robert Corbet ... was born about 1640 in Moreton Corbet,
Shropshire ... whereupon the line is then shown
from Robert of Massachusetts back to the earliest Norman
Corbet. This, I am sure you will agree, is totally
unsatisfactory! If not then why are we wasting our time
searching for authentication of our own research?
Perhaps, by this method, I can claim a descent from a
variety of notable people!!
On the family trees these researchers
show the connection as being definite (nowhere does the
word possibly or unproved appear)
and many who are researching the same family take the
connection as certain. So that which in reality has no
substance is passed on as proof and now people are
believing and accepting it.
There are hundreds of Robert of
Massachusetts descendants living today who are convinced
they are descended from Corbet of Boitron, Pays d'Auge,
the Norman Corbet who died about 1076.Wishful thinking
Im afraid. It is so easy to accept something
written down as proof positive. I would be very pleased
to see the proof because it would end this search which
has occasioned much correspondence over several years. I
would really like to be able to reply to those who
contact me with Yes, they are the same man and here
is proof positive. In truth, I cannot.
At last though I can see a little light
at the end of the tunnel because the same investigative
and most helpful researcher mentioned earlier has written
this week I've run across a couple of pages which
claim that Robert Corbett was born in Woodstock, Ct. USA
and married Priscilla Rockwood, source 'The
Descendants of Philander Chase' by Richard Flinn in
1991. This is the only one I've found and states a birth
place other than Moreton Corbet, no parents are listed.
Another page lists Robert C marriage to Priscilla
Rockwood, source 'Interconnecting Bloodlines and Genetic
Inbreeding in a Colonial Puritan Community: Eastern
Hm! Curiouser and curiouser. In all the correspondence I
have received I have never heard a mention of Richard
Flinn, his book or the suggestion that Robert was born in
Woodstock, which is very strange with so many searching
for the truth of the matter. Is this because some choose
to ignore that which does not agree with what they want
to believe? It may be that Richard Flinn also has no
proof but why place the value of one persons word above
the other? Is this the way genealogical research should
be carried out?
I have found at least 3 Robert Corbetts
born in England during the 1640s who could equally
be considered as a suitable fit for Robert of
Massachusetts who died in 1695 possibly aged 55. (I have
no knowledge of where his age at death is shown because
no one has supplied me with the details!). As
genealogists well know the age at death can not always be
relied on since the person concerned cannot verify it.
Proof of age during their life is needed.
I have not heard of anyone carrying out
any research on any of the following three Roberts or any
suggestion that any of them could be Robert of
Massachusetts. Indeed when I put forward these names the
correspondence goes strangely quiet!
1: Robert bap 6 Jan 1641 at Sibdon Carwood, Shropshire
son of William and Mary
2: Robert bap 23 Dec 1645 probably at Shepshed,
Leicestershire, son of Francis and Joan or Jane
3: Robert bap 13 Jan 1644 at Oddington, Oxfordshire son
of John and Elizabeth.
Brother Vincents Will of
Roberts brother, Vincent (a Captain of a troop of
Horse in 5th West India Regiment under the command of
General Venables and Colonel Anthony Buller) wrote a will
in 1654 and died in parts beyond the seas in
the same year. It was not probated at that time but in
the year following the death of Sir John, his father (and
the father of Robert of 1640), in 1662.
Probate of his will was challenged by
some of his siblings in 1663. These were Ann bap 1626 and
unmarried, Alice bap 1628 and unmarried, Magdalene bap
1630 and unmarried, Dorothy born bef 1635 and unmarried,
Arthur born circa 1636, Henry bap 1637. Robert bap 1640
is not mentioned. This, to me, seems quite significant!
One has to ask why these 6 children
challenged probate. It is noticeable that none of the
females who did so were married at the time which
suggests that those who were still dependants of their
father felt they had some interest in Vincents
portion of his father's estate.
Many eminent genealogists have studied
the records of the various Norman/Corbet lines and none
have ever suggested the possibility of Robert having
survived to childhood.
There are several books which contain
genealogical information about Shropshire families in the
British Museum which might throw a little light on this
subject. Due to the excessive charges made by Cornwall
County Council for ordering books through the library
service I am unable to afford to order them. Perhaps one
day someone will make a study of the manuscripts (if this
has not already been done) deposited to try to discover
whether they mention about the children of this
Corbet/Mainwaring family and if the give a hint that
Robert baptised in Adderley in 1640 lived beyond
However until I am shown proof that he
did survive I shall remain a sceptic and the parentage of
Robert of Massachusetts, in my records, will still be
identified as unknown. Of course if you know differently
Oxford University Roll 1500-1714: Michael Corbett, son of
John, of Adderley, SAL, baronet, Magdalene Hall, matric.
4 Nov 1636 aged 16; brother of John of same date.
Oxford University Roll 1500-1714:
Corbett (Sir) John, s. of John of Adderley, Salop,
baronet. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 25 Nov 1636 aged 16; and
baronet, M.P. Bishops Castle circa Dec 1645 till 1653
(L.P.), a Rumper 1659, one of the commissioners on the
trial of the king, but did not act, buried 22 Feb 1664-5,
brother of Michael of same date. See Foster's
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