I've spent a considerable amount of time searching ships manifests and historical records trying to determine exactly when and on what ship William Hallett, Sr. (b.1616) made his way to the colonies, with no success. The most common "fact" often cited on the internet is from Anya Seton's historical novel, The Winthrop Woman, which would have it that a 15 year old William arrived on the The Lyon, but even cursory research yields no clear evidence of support to this.
So how did young William get here? Turns out I'm not the only Hallett descendant who has pondered and researched this question. William C. (Bill) Hallett of Florida, who's Hallett ancestry splits from mine at generation 4, has done some incredible research on this topic! Bill has graciously granted permission for me to share it here:
When, where and how did William Hallett arrive in the “New World”?, by Bill Hallett
1. 1630 on the “Mary and John”
One Hallett cousin from Long Island, currently living in Bridport, Dorset County, England believes William Hallett sailed with followers of the Reverend John White of Dorchester, the county town of Dorset County, England. This vessel was filled with 140 people from Dorset, Devon and Somerset Counties. They sailed the same year as John Winthrop’s fleet, but sailed separately from Weymouth and Plymouth, England and settled on land they named Dorchester in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many of these people founded a new town, that they also named Dorchester, on the Connecticut River in 1635. This town later became Windsor, Connecticut.
The passenger list has never been found. The Mary & John Clearing House put together reconstructed lists of probable and possible passengers based on earlier lists compiled by Charles Banks and others, followed by extensive research. They later expanded their research to include all West Country immigrants to New England. William Hallett is included as a Planter from Dorsetshire, based on his land at Hell Gate. He is not included on any of the reconstructed passenger lists. Mary Kay Cresswell probably confused the information she got from the Bridport Local History Centre concerning the research compiled by the Mary & John Clearing House and assumed all the people listed from the West Country sailed on the Mary & John.
“Dorset Pilgrims” by Frank Thistlewaite
“Bridport News” July 21, 2006
2. 1631 on the “Lyon”
Anya Seton in her Historical Novel “The Winthrop Woman” says he travelled on the “Lyon”, departing from the London area and arriving at Boston in 1631, with Elizabeth (Fones) Winthrop. Elizabeth married Robert Feake and settled at Watertown in 1632. William Hallett is not on the passenger list.
Anya Seton also has William Hallett returning to England to support his supposed childhood friend, George Digby, during the English Civil War. The English Civil War occurred in three phases. Phase I was January 1642 – May 1646, Phase II from 1648 – 1649 and Phase III from 1649 – 1651. We can document the presence of William Hallett in Greenwich as early as 1643, when he was appointed Military Commander by the Dutch after the death of Captain Daniel Patrick. George Digby graduated from Oxford in 1636 and continued his study and travels through at least 1639, before joining the House of Commons in 1640 from Dorset. He became a Royalist supporter in the House of Lords in 1641 and later served in several official capacities. It does not appear on the surface that George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol, was in need of any support from William Hallett. We have no source documents to prove or disprove any connection with the Digby Family of Sherborne Castle.
“The Winthrop Woman” by Anya Seton
“Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich” by Spencer Percival Mead
“Greenwich Old & New” by Lydia Holland and Margaret Leaf
“Elizabeth Winthrop – All the Days of Her Life” History companion by Miram Renwick Buckland and John Alexander Buckland
3. 1635 on the “Marygould”
Andrew Hallett travelled to the “New World” from Weymouth to Dorchester aboard the “Marygould” in 1635 as a servant to Richard Wade. As Andrew was a probable cousin of William, there is a possibility that William travelled with him under another name or was unaccounted for. The passenger list for this voyage is well documented, however, and he is not on it. The clerk at Weymouth seems to have done his job properly, although Andrew Hallett and some others did not pay the ship subsidy tax. Andrew returned to England in 1642, presumably to bring the remainder of his family back to the “New World” in 1643. This Hallett Family put down roots on Cape Cod, where their descendants may still be found. The information surrounding Andrew’s second voyage is not available.
“Passengers to America” Lists from NEHGR Edited by Michael Tepper
4. 1637 or 1639 with Osmond Douch or his family
Probably the best evidence we have concerning the date of arrival of young William Hallett in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is connected with the Osmond Douch family of Bridport. Osmond travelled to the New World from Weymouth in 1637/38, leaving his family and property in the trust of John Bishop and Richard Hallet, Carpenter of Bridport, William’s father. Osmond wrote Richard in 1639 to sell his property and send his family to him in Massachusetts Bay. Osmond Douch is later recorded as a Mariner of Gloucester. William Hallett could have travelled with Osmond Douch in 1637/38 or escorted the Douch family from Bridport to the “New World” in 1639/40. (Lechford’s Notebook, pg. 109-110) These voyages are undocumented.
Weymouth was the port town for Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, 15 miles East of Bridport. Fishing boats from Weymouth and other West Country ports had fished the waters off New England and the Canadian Maritimes for 100 years before the first settlements were attempted in the New World.
Four ships departed for the New World from Weymouth in 1635. The Hopewell and Unity are recorded, as well as the Marygould that Andrew Hallett sailed on. One ship is unknown.
Two unknown ships departed for the New World from Weymouth in 1637, one of them carrying Osmond Douch, and perhaps, William Hallett?
Many ships and passengers went undocumented to the “New World” and many documents were probably lost at the time or later. Some documents were found at later dates and added to the archives. We will probably never know, with certainty, when and which vessel William Hallett sailed on.
Some historians indicate that William knew the Feake Family in Watertown before 1640. The first mention of William is his appointment to Captain of Greenwich by the Dutch after the death of Captain Daniel Patrick in 1643. It makes sense that he was in Greenwich well before his selection to represent the Greenwich Settlers on behalf of the Dutch West India Company. It also makes sense that he knew the Feake Family in Watertown before becoming so closely associated with them in Greenwich. All the documented early English settlers of Connecticut came from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. About 20,000 English settlers arrived in the New World from 1620 – 1640. Migration from England slowed considerably during the English Civil War 1642 – 1651.
References: Above plus:
“The Winthrop Papers” Massachusetts Historical Society
“Lechford’s Notebook” by Thomas Lechford, Esq.
“History of Stamford, Connecticut” by Elijah Baldwin Huntington
“The Great Migration” series by Robert Charles Anderson
This is the first time I have cited Bill's work on this site, but I can promise you it will be far from the last – he has compiled a wonderful series of articles on our ancestors, and over time I will excerpt them and share them here. I am deeply grateful for Bill's willingness to share his years of work and research!