Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Information on Hearne Family Origin

In 1907 William T. Hearne published his "Brief History and Genealogy of the Hearne Family"  A classic for people looking for information on the Hearne family. The beginning of the book is heavy on Hearnes on the Eastern shore including the Delmar area. While visiting and gathering information on the Hearne family he also hit them up for a contribution to a memorial he intended to put in Delmar for the Hearne family.  It is felt those who did not contribute were left out of the book.  A version of the book is on the internet at

At the Freeney -Hearne cemetery outside of Delmar is the monument.  Dedicated to William Hearne the merchant

James (Jay) Batson Hearne has had the chance to do additional research on William Hearne.  He wrote the Delmar Historical and Arts Society the following message.  We hope to have Mr. Hearne speak to DHAS in the upcoming months about his research.  Below is what he wrote;

During the last year (winter 2014 & spring 2015) I have made several “discoveries” about the above William Hearne, his wife Mary and their parents and relatives in England.  This was made possible by collaborating with the book “Brief History & Genealogy of the Hearne Family,” written by Wm. T. Hearne in 1895 & updated in 1907, plus the old Ledger & Daybook belonging to William Hearne, Merchant (1684-1688).  In comparing these two volumes with a recent work published in 2002 by the London Record Society entitled “The Letters of William Freeman, London Merchant 1678-1685,” edited by David Hancock, currently Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. many missing pieces of his life have fallen into place!  To me this is very exciting, especially after nearly 40 some years of genealogical research into his family and those of the various Hearn(e)s of the Eastern Shore!

In brief, speculation over the years since W.T. Hearne wrote his treatise on the Hearne family have been that Nicholas Hearne (Hern) was the father of William Hearne, London Merchant, although no proof was ever given or available to attest to this fact!   Further none of the children or grandchildren of William Hearne were ever named Nicholas…  Then there is the fact that William Hearne (London Merchant) was supposedly born in London in 1627.  This information was a supposed fact by W.T. Hearne who wrote “Brief History…” because he believed he could read the date 1627 on the back page of the old Ledger, although that date he stated was very faded!  This would make William 61 years of age when his first son was born in Delmar!  It has also been speculated that William Hearne married twice, both times to a Mary and supposedly one of these was a Mary Cuthbert, because records have been found in London of the marriage of a William Hearne to a Mary Cuthbert during the 1680’s time period!!!  However, there are various William Hearnes in London during that time!

However, using the various names of the merchants and their associates listed in both the Old Ledger and the volume “Brief History…” who were in London & the West Indies during the 1680’s and finding various corresponding letters from the Ledger entry dates in the book “Letters of Wm. Freeman,” we find that William Hearne was not yet 21 years of age in 1680.  We further find that he was not the wealthy Merchant that has been portrayed through the years but the young scribe and book keeper of the somewhat well-off London Merchant, William Freeman.  We also learn that he is a young upstart longing to return home to England and ungrateful for being left in the care of Wm. Freeman following his father’s death.

It was through the London Public Records Office that we have discovered William Hearne’s father will, who not surprisingly also a William Hearne!  He lists himself in the opening statements of his last will as “Citizen & Founder of London.”  We have also been able to trace his parentage through the London Founders Company to Buckinghamshire Co., the son of a Thomas Hearne of Sherington.  The father’s will lists our William’s brother (who remained in

London) as a Thomas Hearne; also an elder sister(also remaining in London) a Jemima Hearne , wife of William Baxter (London Merchant) an associate of Wm. Freeman.  This Wm. Baxter is also mentioned in the old Ledger as well as this will.  There is also a sister mentioned in the will, Elizabeth Hearne.  It now becomes of further interest that William Hearne (d. 1691) had a grand daughter named Jemima Hearne, as some family names were passed down.  Through further research we discovered clearly that William Hearne, Sr. (d. 1679 in London) was married twice, once to Elizabeth Warner who died in 1672 (the mother of our Wm. Hearne, merchant)& second to Sarah Barcocke Oatridge.  According to church records, William (d.1679) & wife, Elizabeth (d. 1672) were members of the Church of England “St. Benet Fink” in London.  They were married there in 1654 and their children were born/baptized there in the parish as well as some who died there.  The second marriage of Wm. Hearne (d.1679) to Sarah Barcocke Oatridge, widow, took place in the Anglican church of St. Michael Queenhith London.  Our William Hearne (merchant d. 1691) was born & baptised there in 1659.  This is much more plausible than his birth being in 1627.  However, this makes his passing in Maryland at the young age of 32!
Assuming that his wife, Mary Hearne, would not be much older than he, I began searching to find if she could have remarried!?!?  On the website I came across several family trees which list Mary Hearne as being the second wife of Joseph Gray of Somerset County, MD. married in 1692.  After various inquiries I found no one could provide substantial evidence to that fact among those who listed her on their trees.  However, it was of great interest that in the Maryland Archive records and those of Somerset Co., MD. that a Joseph Gray was a co administrator with Mary Hearne for her husband, William Hearne in 1691-2.  It also becomes interesting that the two Hearne sons of William Hearne & wife Mary are listed in the birth records between those of the Gray children in the Somerset Maryland Birth registry
book and not among the H’s as one would suppose.  However, this was all circumstantial evidence!  According to the book, “Letters of Wm. Freeman…,” William Hearne (d.1691) close associate in St. Kitts & Nevis was a Thomas Westcott.  It appears that Wm. & Thomas quite closely worked together in the islands through the years.  The “Letters…” also state that Thomas Westcott had a brother in London associated with the merchant William Freeman.  His name was John Westcott.  Upon finding and inspection of the London will of John Westcott we see he lists his brother Thomas Westcott in Nevis and lists his sister Mary Gray.  The will states “Whereas I have a bond of William Hearne deceased of an hundred and forty four pounds principal money bearing date of 16th of December 1684 my will and pleasure is that my executor do not put it in suit against my sister Mary Gray of Maryland in Virginia except God bless her with a plentiful fortune ---“   This additional bit of information seems to completely verify that fact that Mary Westcott of London, England married William Hearne, presumably in Nevis or St. Kitts, as no London records exist and those of Nevis & St. Kitts were lost through either hurricanes or French invasion.

So there is the information he provided We hope it is of some value to Hearne family members.


  1. Greetings Howard,
    I'm glad I could be of assistance to the Delmar Society & look forward to sharing there during one of the upcoming months!
    Many thanks for the posting!
    Jay Hearn

  2. Thank you so much!! I have been beating my head against a wall trying to find the connection to Nicholas Herne and "our" William Hearne, not finding anything connecting the two. I'll take this information and see what else I can find.

  3. Thank you so much! This looks like more proof than I have found for the name of William's wife. I have been trying to trace down some Hearn obituaries that I find in North Mississippi and West Tennessee that have no close connection to my family. The name Grey and Gray appear often. Some I have traced back to William Hearne " The Merchant, others I have not been able to get back that far. Thank you, Margaret

  4. L. Hearne June 28, 2020

    I add my thanks to the others. You're much more of a fanatic that I am and I really appreciate it. I absolutely knew there was more to the story I could find on Ancestry and in the T. Hearne genealogy. I'm still wondering if the slave trade and/or sugar plantations weren't the real source of income for (it turns out) the Freeman family. William (d. 1691) seems to have done alright in Delmar. At least I get that impression from looking at William's (d. 1691) son Thomas's will to his children including Nehemiah who is my direct ancestor. But, there's probably a story there, too. Thanks again.

  5. Thanks so much for posting this information! My DNA connects me to the Hearne's of Somerset County, but my brick wall is a James Hearn (1783-1856) who married Elizabeth Knipshilt (1795-1872) in 1810 in Stepney Parish (Green Hill Church) near Salisbury, MD. -Joan Hostetler,