When tracing ancestors across the centuries, kin are often clustered together in a similar locations, an economic situation, or an ethnic identity. A gateway ancestor is anyone with known or traceable ancestry from one specific group who marries into another group. Each immigrant from one country to another is a potential gateway, if his/her descendants can then trace his/her ancestry to the original country. Gateways can also occur when someone moves from one distinct social group into another or across distinct religious, economic, or racial barriers.
In the United States, however, the term “gateway ancestor” most commonly is used to refer to colonial immigrants whose ancestry can be traced in the Old World—specifically to gentry, nobility, or royalty.
According to Gary Boyd Roberts, author of the book, Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the United States, most Americans with significant New England, Quaker, or Southern plantation ancestry are descended from English, Scottish, Welsh, and French royalty, nobility, or gentry.
Why is that?, you might ask. The reason is primogeniture: the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child, typically the eldest son. Many colonists of high social status were the daughters or younger sons of aristocratic families who came to the New World looking for land because, given their gender or birth order, they could not inherit. At least 650 colonists are known to have traceable royal and noble ancestry; approximately 387 of them had descendants.
Both my family and my spouse’s family have several gateway ancestors. In the first installment, I gave an overview of Edward Foulke, my spouse’s 8th great-grandfather through his mother’s maternal line.
The second gateway ancestor whom I will introduce is Peter Worden, my 12th great-grandfather through my mother’s maternal line. Through his maternal great-great grandfather, Nicholas Rishton, Peter has been proven to descend several times from Charlemagne, Magna Carta barons, and a couple of saints.
Circa 1569, Peter Worden was born in Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire, England to Robert Worden (1534–1580) and Isabel Worthington (1547–1580).
Circa 1604, Peter Worden married Margaret (Grice) Wall. She was the widow of Anthony Wall of Chingle Hall, who died sometime between February 1603 and March 1604, according to a 1607 Palatine Chancery Court action. Margaret, born sometime between 1568 and 1572, was the daughter of Thomas Grice and Alice, of Warrington, Lancashire, England.
Together, Peter and Margaret had three children: Elizabeth (born circa 1605); Bridget (born circa 1607); and Peter, my 11th great-grandfather (born circa 1609).
Between 1609 to 1613, Peter Worden (recorded as Peter Werden, gent.) appeared as a juror for nine inquisitions.
In 1612, after only nine years of marriage, Peter Worden’s wife Margaret died. He was left with five stepchildren from Margaret’s previous marriage and three of his own children, with the youngest, Peter, being only about three years old.
Although he was a gentleman, Peter Worden was also a merchant of textiles. His ancestors had acquired Burgess rights, and these rights had been passed down to their progeny. Burgess rights were a valuable asset, necessary for trading purposes. Peter Worden’s name appears in the Preston Guild Roll for 1622. He was listed as being a Foreign Burgess in the records of the town of Preston, just five miles from Clayton. Foreign referred to the fact that he was not a native of the town but an outsider.
Peter Worden held a lease on a shop in Preston’s Moothall, a two-story building approximately 35 feet by 70 feet, housing the town Council chamber and offices on the second floor and businesses on the first. Peter’s shop was next to the stairs at the north end of the building. Early archives list the following mention of Peter’s lease:
Item of Elizabeth Weren widdowe for on shop on the east side of moothall next adjoyning to the staires at the north end of the hall with a standing (open stall) at the south end of the hall formerly demised to Peter Werden by lease dated Primo Oct XVth Jac ye improved yearly rent of L01-15s-00d.
This date would indicate that Peter Worden held a lease on his shop and stand in October 1617.
In 1625, Peter Worden’s daughter Elizabeth bore an illegitimate child, whom she named John Lewis. The child was the product of an adulterous affair she had with John Lewis, a married vicar who was defrocked and debarred either because of this adulterous affair or for some other shenanigans—it seems he was rather good at being bad. A few years later, Elizabeth married Hugh Swansey and had another son, Robert.
On 19 November 1628, Peter Worden’s younger daughter Bridget died. She never married.
About 1628, Peter accepted the office of County Aulnager (or Alnager), “an officer in a port or market town responsible for ensuring that all cloth sold was woven in the correct length and width laid down by statute (standards).” He also was a member of the town council of Preston, Lancashire, England.
Peter Worden was last recorded in Preston on 21 January 1629, when, according to the early archives of Preston Borough, he loaned eight shillings to the Borough for a project concerning common lands.
In 1630, the town of Preston was ravaged by the plague. Prior to the outbreak, the town of Preston had a population of nearly 3,000; however, due of this pandemic, 1,069 residents perished.
In July 1635 in Kirkham, Lancashire, Peter Worden’s elder daughter Elizabeth died.
Circa 1636, Peter Worden, his son Peter, and his grandson John Lewis immigrated to the Colony of Massachusetts.
On 7 January 1638, Peter Worden was listed as “Old Worden” in a list of inhabitants of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. At the time, there were only four men in Yarmouth to whom land grants had been made.
On 5 March 1638, the last will and testament of Peter Worden was proved:
The Last Will and Testament of Peter WORDEN of Yarmouth ye elder, deceased, proved at ye General Court held at Plymouth, the fifth day of March in ye XIIIth year of ye reign of our sovereign Lord Charles, King of England AC1638, by ye oathes of Mr. Nicholas Sympkins, Hugh Tillie & Giles Hopkins as followith, viz “Be it known unto all men to whome this doth or may concern, that I, Peter Worden, of Yarmouth in New England, in Plymouth Patten, being very sick, in this Year of Our Lord 1638 and on ye ninth day of February, do make my last will to testify unto all that I Peter Worden, do give and bequeath unto Peter Worden, my only sonne and heir, and in the presense of Nicholas Sympkins Hugh Tillie and Giles Hopkins, I do make him my whole executor to whom I do give all my lands, leases & tenaments with goods movable and unmovable in the Town of Clayton in the County of Lankcester. Likewise I do give unto Peter my son all my goods which I have at this present in New England. My will is my son is to give John Lewis one nate goat, also my will is my son is to give my grandchild such money as is due for the keeping of goats and calves until this day and that my son is with the money to buy a kid or dispose it otherwise for his use. Also one bed or bolster, three blankets, also my son is to have the tuition of my grandchild until he be at the age of one and twenty years of age, also my will is he shall find him with meat, drink, and clothes and at the three last years of the twenty-one years also to have forty shillings the years after and above, for to add to his stock with the sow pig when the sow pigs — s/Peter WORDEN 1/s.
In March 1639, Peter Worden died in Yarmouth and was buried in Worden Cemetery in Dennis, Massachusetts. And, on 5 March 1639, Peter Worden’s will was probated. (It is interesting to note that Peter Worden’s will was the first one printed in the Plymouth Court Records. A copy of his will is on file in the Barnstable Probate Court.)