Answers to Questions


SAMM (and Quakers), Hitchin Area, circa 1700

July, 2010




Parker C. Sams (parkersams @t of  Findlay, Ohio USA, writes I have a genealogical problem involving a non-conformist family I hope you can help me with. The Quaker records that could be key in solving the problem are held by Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies, but the family itself lived in Clophill parish in Bedfordshire.

Quaker records from the LDS library show that John and Amy Samm had Hannah (1691), John (1692), Nathaniel (1693) and Mary (1693). The mother, Amy, died in 1700. No marriage record has been found. This family were part of the Hitchin Monthly Meeting (MM). In what's available to me I have been unable to find any other record in England of this family, non-conformist and otherwise.

I working on a theory that either John Sr. or John Jr. was the John Samm who emigrated to Philadelphia in 1711 and who is also a promising candidate to be my ancestor. Some circumstantial evidence suggests that he could be, but that is still a big "could be."  What would be helpful is any information about this family in the minutes of  the Hitchin MM from say 1700 through 1712. The Hitchin MM  records I've seen only include births, marriages and deaths. What I would be especially keen on, in the minutes are any disownments and certificates of removal, either to somewhere else in England or best of all to America.

According to information online the Hitchin MM minutes from 1668 to 1761 are held by the Hertfordshire Archives. They don't seem to be available over here and they don't seem to have been published. What would be the best way for me to have these minutes checked from 1700 to 1712? 

I am afraid I cannot help on your immediate question, as I don't do searches in records offices, and I don't have any special recommendations as to who you may employ - apart from saying that HALS does provides a research service. What I can do is supply some possibly useful background.

General Advice

First there are a number of advice pages on my site which you may find helpful, if you are not already aware to the issues they address. My Ancestors Emigrated from Hertfordshire provides some ideas in linking an ancestor back to Hertfordshire. Right Name, Wrong Body is a warning that it was quite common from there to be several people living in an area at the same time who had the same name and similar ages. Amateurs often fail to check this out - grabbing the first one they find and assuming (sometimes wrongly) that it must be their ancestor. It is also clear, when viewed from this side of the Atlantic, that much of the research on the English origins of the early American settlers is seriously flawed. This is discussed in The Myth of Stanstead Abbey, Hertfordshire which shows that virtually all the references to the place arise from one minor clerical slip in a document of 1635. My research showed that 99% of the references on the World Wide Web are at least misleading or completely wrong., and it seems that initially a small number of people failed to spot the clerical error and everyone else copied what they had done without checking.

Book Survey of Hitchin Quakers

While I don't have access to the Hitchin Monthly Meeting minutes I do have access to some printed sources relating to Hertfordshire Quakers:

The Samm Family

I have checked a few sources which may not be available to you.

I have checked the indexes for Chauncy and the Victoria County History and there were no relevant references.

I checked the relevant volumes of the Herts County Records and the only relevant entry I could see was that on 24th April, 1693, at the Hertfordshire County Sessions held at Hertford, John Samm was sworn petty constable of Meppershall in place of William Fowler. Meppershall is actually in Bedfordshire, close to the Hertfordshire boundry, about halfway between Hitchin and Clophill.

I checked the Herts Family History Society book of Settlement Certificates and the most relevant to your period relates to a weaver,  Abraham Sam, of Henlow, Bedfordshire, who moved to Hitchin in 1715 (HALS reference D/P53/13/2/090)

The book Wills at Hertford, 1415-1858 contains a full page of entries for Samm (various spellings) most of which are from the Hitchin area (it would be interesting to know if there is a similar cluster just over the county boundary in Bedfordshire). Three are of obvious relevance if you want to know which John Samm did not go to America. They were John Samm senior, grocer of Hitchin, (Inventory 1715/6, HALS ref 122HW54 11HR89), John Samm, grocer of Hitchin (Administration 1722/3. HALS reference H23/2213) and John Samm, grocer of Hitchin (1731, HALS reference 125HW12 12HR65). There is also a will for Abraham Samms, weaver of Hitchin (1730, HALS reference 125HW9 13HR42). There may also be other wills accessible on the National Archives web site - and I believe these might contain any will for someone dying in America leaving property in England. However I suspect that your John Samm did not leave any assets behind in England.

Are you aware of the Access to Archives web site - A quick check showed me that the Bedford and Luton Archives had a certificate to make the grave in the Friends Burying Ground at Pulloxhill for Philip Samm of Clophill, who died 2nd Jan 1781 age 80, and that a Joseph Samm, was a turner of Clophill in 1720/1, and there may be more relating to both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Old Meeting House, Tilehouse St., Hitchin.

Real photograph post card by Latchmore

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

July 2010   Page created