Windsor founder John Hoskins’s great-grandson, also named John Hoskins, built this house at 560 Palisado Avenue in 1750. It sits on the same land originally granted to John the founder. WHS collections 2017.34.8. Photo by Michelle Tom, 2018.
When John Hoskins sailed from England to the New World, he was about 42 years old, a middle-aged family man. He is thought to have sailed with his wife Ann and their adult children Thomas and Katherine. It is possible that the couple had an elder son, also John, who stayed behind in England.1 The consensus on the origin of Windsor founder John Hoskins is that he came from the West Country of England, perhaps near Beaminster, Dorset, and was likely a passenger on the Mary & John, arriving in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630 (see a summary of the inferences used in compiling Hoskins’s background and family make-up in The Great Migration Begins2). The paper trail that establishes Hoskins’s background is shaky, but has recently been fleshed out using advancements in DNA technology. Hoskins’s story is of interest not only to descendants, but also to those whose family research might benefit from similar genetic study.
The Paper Trail
Not much is known about John’s occupation, but it is likely that he was a farmer as his will shows that various individuals owed him money, which was expressed in bushels of wheat, “pease”, etc. At his death in 1648 his estate was valued at £338. Of this, £133 was in three pieces of property, £33 in crops, and £93 in livestock, all supporting the idea that he was a farmer. The rest of the estate was primarily household items and farming implements.
John and his wife Ann were likely considered middle-class. In various records they were called Goodman and Goodie Hoskins, respectively, which were titles used for well-respected but middle-class individuals. John’s will made provisions for his man servant, Samuel Rockwell, and Ann’s will listed various items like brass pans, platters, skillets, and candle sticks (as well as an unexpected entry, “two alcemy sponns”3) suggesting that they were likely at the upper end of the middle class.
John had been granted four acres of meadow in Dorchester in 1634, but along with many others he migrated to Windsor in 1635 with Ann and their son Thomas. In 1640, the Plantation gave John and Thomas a joint land grant with the home lot being around what is now 560 Palisado Avenue. This property was handed down to succeeding generations and remained in the family until it was sold to Deacon Jasper Morgan in 1822. The house that stands on this lot today was built in 1750 by a later John Hoskins.
One mystery surrounding emigrant John has been his relationship to Anthony Hoskins, who was also a resident of Windsor from the mid-1600s until his death in 1706. Some, including Henry Stiles in The History of Ancient Windsor, concluded that Anthony and his sister Rebecca were John and Ann’s children, born after John arrived in Dorchester. However, Genevieve Kiepura, in her 1962 article in The American Genealogist, has argued that this could not be true, pointing out that neither John’s nor Ann’s wills mentions a son Anthony or a daughter Rebecca.4 While daughters were sometimes ignored in wills of this era, it would be highly unlikely that a son would not be mentioned. Kiepura and others have speculated that Anthony might have been the nephew of John but have provided little proof to support this.
So, if paper records cannot solve this mystery, might modern DNA evidence provide a clue? With the proliferation of DNA testing by individuals hoping to discover their origins, many “DNA Projects” have arisen to help people share their information and link up with their DNA relatives.
In 2007 Robert J. Haskins started a website called the Anthony Hoskins Project. Bob is a descendant of Anthony Hoskins and was interested in linking up with other descendants of Anthony to explore their common genealogy. As Bob did more extensive testing and other descendants joined the project, he eventually expanded the project to include descendants of any Hoskins. The project was then migrated to a Group Project site at the testing company, FamilyTreeDNA. According to FamilyTreeDNA, “Group Projects are an opportunity to work with others to explore your genetic heritage. They are usually focused on a common geographic origin, surname, or ethnic heritage. They may also be based on some other aspect of a paternal or maternal lineage.” The Hoskins Project was originally started as a paternal lineage site. The project currently has 161 members, some of whom have done very extensive testing and analysis of their Y-DNA. The author of this article is currently the co-administrator of the project.
How DNA Helps Identify Common Ancestors
While it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the DNA results in depth, the most helpful genealogical information is contained in what is known as SNP analysis on the Y chromosome. A SNP is a single nucleotide polymorphism (i.e. a single amino acid at a specific location on the Y-DNA chain that has morphed to a different amino acid). These types of morphisms on the Y-DNA are passed on from father to son and, according to Family Tree DNA, happen about every 140 years or so. Therefore, they can hint at how long ago a particular morphism (SNP) occurred.
Three of the members of the Hoskins DNA project, who we know from the paper trail are descendants of Anthony (including this author), have all been identified as sharing a unique SNP that had to have come from Anthony. Three other individuals (two from England) do not share this SNP but do share other SNPs with the three individuals related to Anthony, so all six individuals therefore share a common ancestor who lived before Anthony. The number of morphisms that have occurred since the common ancestor indicates that this common ancestor existed perhaps 400 years ago, placing him in the 1500-1600s.
So, back to the paper trail. One of the English individuals mentioned above is Angela Hoskins Marks who had her brother’s Y-DNA tested. For her family there is a significant amount of documentary evidence going back to the 1500s. Angela has been continuing research published by her uncle, William George Hoskins in 1939, with subsequent additions in the 1950s, as The History of the Hoskins Family of Devon and Dorset. Angela’s updated research incorporates some of the clues provided by the recent DNA testing.5
The conclusions Angela and her uncle both draw from their respective research is that the common ancestor of John and Anthony is likely Thomas Hoskins (1524-1593). Thomas lived in Stoke Abbott, England which is only a couple of miles from Beaminster and is consistent with what both The Great Migration Begins and other researchers assume about the origins of John. Thomas Hoskins had multiple sons, including George (1563-1625) (an ancestor of Angela Hoskins Marks) and Roger, born in 1550. Their research indicates that Roger had a son John, who they speculate was emigrant John, a founder of Windsor. The timing is plausible seeing as emigrant John is assumed to have been born around 1588, based on his estimated marriage date.
To this we can add DNA evidence to reinforce the genealogical connections. Given that shared SNPs suggest that George’s and Anthony’s descendants—including Angela Hoskins Marks and this author—share a common ancestor, it is speculated that Roger had a second son who was the father of Anthony, which also then makes John Anthony’s uncle. Anthony has a marriage record from 1656, so we can estimate his birth year to be around 1636. Anthony’s age relative to John shows that they were from different generations, making the relationship of nephew and uncle plausible. The timing of Thomas as their common ancestor is also consistent with what we know from the DNA information indicating that the morphism occurred around 400 years ago.
In the absence of paper trail proof, which may never be found, we have to rely on circumstantial clues to piece together a family tree connecting John and Anthony Hoskins. The DNA data will probably also never confirm exactly who the common ancestor was, but it will provide significant leads about the timing to a common ancestor. As more descendants do the DNA testing the picture will become more complete. To this end, there is currently a search on to find a direct male descendant of John to provide further DNA evidence that would confirm this relationship. As they say, time will tell!
If you are interested in learning more about the Hoskins DNA Project please contact Rob Hoskin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rob Hoskin, volunteer, 2019
Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Vol. II. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995, p. 999-1002
Hoskins, W. G. The History of the Hoskins Family of Devon and Dorset, privately published, copy at Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Exeter, 1939
Marks, Angela Hoskins. The Hoskins Tribe, working paper, 2019
Thistlethwaite, Frank. Dorset Pilgrims: The Story of West Country Pilgrims Who Went to New England in the 17th Century, London : Barrie & Jenkins, 1989
- Emigrant John is referred to in Dorchester documents as “John Hoskeins seinor” indicating that there must be a “junior.” However, there is no actual mention of a John Hoskins Jr. in the Dorchester records, leading researchers to believe that perhaps he stayed in or returned to England. Some propose that John Hoskins had a first wife who died before the trip to America, because Ann Hoskins’s will refers to “my sonn Thomas” and “my son David Wilton”, but does not mention a son John. Ann’s daughter Katherine Hoskins married David Wilton.
- The Great Migration Begins Vol. 2, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995. p. 999-1002
- Alchemy in this case probably referred to the metal alloy the spoons were made of and not alchemy as we think of it, but they are intriguing nonetheless. (see The Standard Reference Work, for the Home, School, and Library, Volume 8, edited by Harold Melvin Stanford, 1922, page 253)
- Volume 38, No. 1
- The Hoskins Tribe, working paper 2019