The Wings of a dilemma

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe Wing family of Cape Cod has had a great amount of genealogical information published about it over the years. Beginning with Rev. Conway P. Wing’s A Historical and Genealogical Register of John Wing, of Sandwich, Mass. And his Descendants, 1632-1888, the list includes Mary Elizabeth Sinnott’s Annals of the Sinnott, Rogers, Coffin, Corlies, Reeves, Bodine and Allied Families, published in 1905, in which Wing is one of the allied families; The Owl, a serial publication of the Wing Family Association from 1901 to the present, and most recently Raymond T. Wing’s 2006 version, Wing Genealogy, Volume 1, The Reverend John Wing of Banbury, Oxfordshire, England and his wife Deborah Bachiler, Their Ancestry and Descendants through Five Generations.

Yet, in my opinion, there is still no satisfactory account of the first generations of the Wings in print. I recently discovered this while preparing the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Daniel2 Wing. As I read all of the various published accounts on the family, I ran into many areas of discrepancy and/or muddled or misinterpreted records, particularly about when the Wings came to New England. Knowing that many earnest Wing researchers have been working on the family for so long, I wondered why the results have not been better.

I came up with the theory of twin dilemmas:

1) If it is already in print, why spend more time researching? and

2) If there is a really large amount in print, it must be everything there is.

From the beginning, accounts of the Wing family have contained a lot of information corrected and re-corrected in successive accounts, but it has been done in a way that has usually added to the confusion. The Owl, the availability of which is extremely limited (issues published after 1920 are not online), has been codified as the absolute authority on the Wing family to the extent that the 2006 edition of the Wing genealogy cites almost exclusively from the periodical rather than original records, with no new exploration of sources or critical analysis.[1] In effect, it seems as though new research on the Wing family ceased nearly a century ago.

If we don’t continue to constantly explore and analyze the work of our predecessors, especially as more new resources become available, then the family story becomes stagnant. There is so much yet to be learned and discussed about the early Wing generations.

Now, before all of you Wing descendants pounce on me for picking on the Wings, let me assure everyone that this is just one example of many families who suffer from the “already in print” dilemma.


[1] See David L. Greene’s review of this work in The American Genealogist 81 [2006]: 158.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

66 thoughts on “The Wings of a dilemma

  1. I have started reading a book called Cape Odd, written by local historians about interesting & eccentric Cape Codders. Really enjoying it. Siamese twins kept in a shed? Yikes! But sure makes for interesting reading.

    1. I have on the record, corrected the mythologies concerning the Rev. Stephen Bachiler emitted from one of the Cape Cod historians — that would be Prof. Bob Allison of Suffolk Univ. He should have done better in gathering his original research !

  2. You make some excellent points about checking and re-checking, and the need to continue to look at new information and to evaluate what you are looking at.

  3. Yes, Wing Family, we Phelpses are in your same boat, in trying to prove what is written in the PHELPS FAMILY IN AMERICA. You are not alone!

    1. It’s my fate to be descended from a few Phelps lines, and also from a Hannah Wing who is said to have married Moses Barlow as his second wife. I think I have sorted out my Phelpses (differently from the way they are given in Phelps Family in America) but my Hannah Wing is still a mystery to me.

        1. Just to intercept here… do go to the website of the Wing Family of America and check out the database created by Raymond Wing…… he is the Wing family genealogist .

  4. For the Norris family of the New England area, we have found that Leonard Allison Morrison’s “Lineage and Biographies of the Norris Family in America From 1640 to 1892” serves as a jumping-off point. It is certainly helpful but far from definitive. Fact-checking never goes out of style, and the fun really begins with a deeper dive into the lives of the real people behind the pages.

  5. True, Alicia. We have run into this with the Nickerson family of Cape Cod. A Nickerson descendant did some original research 8-9 years ago in Norwich, England, birthplace of William Nickerson, compiling new and conflicting information which was recently published in TAG. The Nickerson Family Association’s published material has been based on William Emory Nickerson’s and his researcher Anna Kingsbury’s findings in the late 1800s. Now the Nickerson Family, thanks to some generous donors, has hired a genealogist to verify/dispute the findings stated in the TAG article. While research is still ongoing, we are sure that this new information will enhance and change what know we about the family prior to Nickerson’s coming to New England. Genealogy is not static!

  6. Overcoming the “in-print dilemma” in particular, and more importantly as a way to organize primary sourced information for ANY individual, is what makes Anderson’s methodological approach in Great Migration so potent.

    Looking at the blank white spaces for “Preserved Puritan” and the even more white spaces for “Patience Puritan” can be daunting: is that a fact or an opinion? and “well how does the original document actually read”. The white spaces consciously confirm the “No, I don’t have that information” leading to “Where could I find it?” And if not findable (yet), then it is okay to say “unknown” and move on to the next category.

    And, though each gen-sketch has a formal ending with Comments and Bibliography in Anderson’s format, each category utilizes C&B too. And sometimes quite explicitly as when Anderson writes [paraphrased] “birth dates in print are consistent with birth order in their father’s will, but those dates’ source has not been found; likely an unknown bible record copied out for the compiler.” And a researcher using Anderson’s format needs to think in those terms for each category/fact–an ongoing self-critique–and be explicit about it.

    All so, in 2115, a genealogy researcher/writer won’t be in Alicia’s sneakers, chasing after WINGed creatures.

    1. Since the Wing’s were not only supporters of the Quakers in Cape Cod but many such as my own g- grandfather (10th ) Daniel Wing identified himself as a Quaker — I doubt that you shall find any confusion of the Cape Cod Wings with ” Preserved Puritan” and “Patience Puritan”. Just a thought…. as enemies of the Mass. Bay Puritans would it have been to their benefit for this family to limit “print materials” ?

      1. “Preserved Puritan” is the title Anderson gave to the FORMAT by which he decided to organize all the originally sourced material he developed for individuals researched for the Great Migration project. He went with an alliterative phrase like that because it alludes to the major sect of non-conformist migrants who settled Plymouth and Mass Bay, and because it is memorable.

        He could have called the FORMAT “Nathan Non-conformist”, which would encompass all types of nonconformists, including the Quakers, but that explosive P-P sound is really just so much more FUN to say!

        1. Alice … I doubt very much that these non-conformists to the Puritanical “world order” would have shared in your humor. The extreme Puritan oligarchy landing on the shores of New England should be considered to be one of the more extremist terrorist groups to land in the new world— then and now —and like such groups using theology to absolutely control the masses.

      2. Viola, Clearly the Quaker supporters were not included in many of the records we normally depend on in this time period, but I don’t think they were avoiding record. Certainly when it came time to refuse to take the Oath, they got recorded often! They outlasted the opposition, though, to their credit.

        1. My own great- great grandfather (9th) in order to avoid the Puritan don’s and to finally get them off his back appeared in the Boston Court and using an obscure law – got himself when in his forties – declared legally dead. Now that is getting off the record !

          1. This would be Daniel Wing ….. so proud of him since like his grandfather, the Rev. Stephen, saw the “light” and distant themselves as far as they could from the Extreme Puritan don’s — even if that meant, to declare yourself “dead” !

      3. Viola, I am from Daniel’s lineage as well.I have 1 of 2 books written about the Wings Voyage and early life on Cape Cod have you seen them?

        1. No I do not recognize them … but I have a copy of “Goody Wing, An American Foremother” by Beverly Smith Vorpahl (bibliography with fictional history on Deborah Bachiler Wing) ….send your information on to the “Wing Family of America” and they shall get this information out to all the kin… you perhaps know your further Wing lineage ? Mine is Daniel then Joseph, John and the Willliam’s (all three) and their settlement into Vassalboro, ME.

          1. Yes Daniel, Daniel, Zaccheus, Benjamin, Adam, Zaccheus, James Henry Wing. I have the lineage from john, his 3 sons down to my father and his siblings and families. I am working on extending what I have to include my children and grand children. have you heard of the book by Rev Conway P Wing titled John Wing of Sandwich Mass 1881?

  7. Indeed, we are all in this same boat – “wash, rinse, and repeat” when it comes to our research – there is (‘usually’) only one way out of any labyrinth, but it is up to each of us to find it, not the poor beleaguered researchers who may have come before us. They can rest easy that even if misguided, their efforts were not in vain.

    Alicia, thanks for all you do for so many of us! ~ Best wishes for a great New Year!!!

    J. Record

  8. To reply to…. “Yet, in my opinion, there is still no satisfactory account of the first generations of the Wings in print”. The early beginnings of this family have in fact been proven by the “Order of the First Families of Maine” ( ). That is; my own early Wing lineage has proof , in order; the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, Deborah Bachiler Wing, Daniel Wing (ca 1590- 1653/1680), John Wing ( ca 1616- 1697/98 ) and Joseph Wing (1656- 1717). While there are issues with my more recent William Wing’s, that is I, II, III, I am fortunate in that the family bible record kept by the last William (who bought the family into Vassalboro, Maine) was recorded by my cousin, Ruby Wood Russell. And this is “printed” in the OWL. You may wish to check your sources.

  9. The original records are of little help in terms of answering the question about when the Wing family emigrated. The first New England record mentioning a member of the family is a will dated March 1637[/8]. This is almost certainly due to the fact the patriarch, Rev. John Winge, died in England, and the widow came to New England with her famously non-conformist father, Rev. Stephen Bachiler. While much has been written about Rev. Bachiler, the records are silent about the Wings.

    Part of the controversy surrounding Rev. Bachiler was that it was claimed he started his church at Saugus improperly. While the existing records have curiously omitted his response, one likely explanation he used was that he simply relocated his congregation (in a manner similar to how the Pilgrims relocated their congregation to Plymouth in 1620). It is known Rev. Bachiler kept many of his congregation’s original records as he moved from England to Saugus, to Newbury to Hampton, and it is likely much was lost when his library was destroyed in a fire late in his life.

    We do see hints about the Wing family being with Rev. Bachiler, but nothing directly. Gov. Winthrop’s History of New England (I:93) states “… old Mr. Batchelor (being aged 71)… [came to New England] with [his] famil[y] ….” In addition, a Deed dated March 8, 1653/4 shows where Roger & Susanna Shaw (she being the widow of William Tilton) sold land in Lynn Tilton had purchased from John Wing (Walter Goodwin Davis’ “Ancestry of Phoebe Tilton” III:445-6 from Essex Co. Deeds, vol. 6) The property description of this deed matches the property granted to Rev. Stephen Bachiler when he began his ministry at Saugus.

    It is also unfair to describe the 2006 Wing Genealogy as citing “almost exclusively” from our family magazine to the exclusion of doing other research. The “Key to Titles” is 11 pages long, giving a full bibliography of the sources utilized. The nature of the family magazine (as well as its inaccessibility) plus the fact the family is not documented well in original records forced the Wing family to extensively cite our previous work.

    1. Hi Raymond, Thanks for responding. One of the problems in determining when the Wings came to New England is the old idea that they came with Rev. Bachiler. But Bob Anderson suggests Deborah came with her sons in the “late 1630s.” John was here by 1637/8 as you say and Daniel was here by 1640 when he bought land. It seems highly likely with all of the new access to records in England may help. Have the Wings been doing any new research in that area?

      The will for Daniel Wing, which is only abstracted in the book is cited to the transcription in The Owl, but that transcription is problematic because it includes the error that interpreted the appointment of overseers for the whole will as if they were overseers only for Lydia Abott. Also cited is George Ernest Bowman’s abstract in MD, but that is the one that causes confusion by calling her Lydia Mott. A fresh and complete transcription from the microfilm of the Barnstable Co. Probate and a discussion of these discrepancies are among the types of analysis that I think need to be written.

      Raymond, You are the Wing expert and thank you for all the years that you have been working on the family, but I am looking at the whole as an outsider, unfamiliar with the family, and as I look at these records with a fresh perspective, I cannot tell which to trust, so I have to go back to the beginning and rebuild — just as I have to do with most of the families being treated in my project.

      1. Most interesting in that many excellent original documents of the Wing family on Cape Cod are archived by the assorted town vital records. And these records are contained within the database of the NEHGS ! I assume that this association does trust their own archival record ?

      2. To answer your question, “Have the Wings been doing any new research in that area?” I would suggest that if you assess the Lane Memorial Library, Hampton, NH… … you would find that excellent historical research and solid documentation has commenced on the Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his assorted family lines; such as the Sanborn’s.

          1. Fictional history but in the vein of Kenneth Roberts a peak into the life of the early Wing’s of Cape Cod can be read by the gem written by Beverly Smith Vorpahl, “Goody Wing, An American Foremother” (2001). But unlike Roberts, it does not embellish the essentials of her remarkable life.

  10. I had a similar problem with the patriarch of “my” Perrys in Owls Head, ME. According to Cyrus Eaton’s 1865 History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston, he was supposedly a Job Perry from Marshfield [MA] who had married as his third wife, Abigail Ford. Research on descendants always seems to lead back to Eaton and to this “Job Perry”; the name of one of his sons was even inscribed as “Job II” on a local memorial to soldiers of the Revolution. However, I could never find any Massachusetts record for this “Job Perry,” and, on the contrary, found that all the events ascribed to him could be found in records pertaining to a JOSEPH Perry. The clincher was found in Plymouth County Deeds 180:136, which directly links Abigail Perry to her parents, William and Hannah Foord of Marshfield, and to her husband, JOSEPH Perry of Owls Head. When I later discussed this matter with the president of a local historical society (the dear, late Malcolm Jackson), he told me that the erectors of the Owls Head monument had consulted Eaton’s History. Apparently Eaton made a simple error that was accepted as fact for more than a century.

    1. CONGRATS for working that issue out. Hope you can get it “published” somewhere to perhaps save another person from re-researching it. Alas, new corrections never catch up to old errors in the broad sense. Maybe with the work of Anderson and Alicia, some of them will fade away over time.

  11. I am convinced that many of our original immigrants congregated around Middlesex just prior to leaving for the New World. In the following Middlesex co., England court records is an extensive list of recusants who were fined/harassed for failing to attend services according to the Book of Common Prayer, about the time of Charles I and later. Many of these people were not from Middlesex, and had only recently arrived from other shires such as Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk. On p. 341 an apprentice of Samuel Wing of Milk Street, Ironmonger, is hauled before the court for attending a “private conventicle” – an illegal religious worship service. Though Wing is a very, very common name in Wales, I have also run across another record of Giles Wing in the London/Middlesex area about the same time. There were also some Wings very, very early in Hampshire Co., MA as I recall. I’ll check my notes.

      1. 4. Rev. JOHN WING (s. Matthew¹) b. 1585 at Banbury, Oxfordshire, England d. 1629 of 1630 at London, England m. ~1610: Deborah BACHELOR b. 1592 at Wherwell, Hants, England d. UNK, daughter of the Rev. Stephen Bachelor, who later came to New England in 1632.
        Notes: Entered Oxford University in England at the age of 14 (“John Wynge of Oxon, pleb, St. Alban’s Hall, 15 October 1599, aged 14” ) and later received the degree of Bachelor of Arts on 12 FEB 1603 from Queen’s College; Lived for a time in Sandwich, England; Removed to Hamburg, Germany where he Chaplain to the Merchant Adventurers of England there; 19 JUN 1620 he was ordained in Holland by Mr. John Paget of Amsterdam where he was made Pastor of the English Churches at Flushing and Amsterdam, Holland; On 11 MAY 1627 he was installed as Pastor of The Hague in Holland; on 18 MAY 1624 he preached before “the Most High and Mighty Princesse, Elizabeth, By the Grace of God Queene of Bohemia, Countesse Palatine of the Rhene, Dutchess of Bavaria, &c. And onely Daughter of our Soveraigne Lord King James”; His sermon on that day was printed at London in 1624, and a copy was retained by Rev. Thomas Prince, the New England Annalist who noted on the cover, “This Wing was Pastor at the English Puritan Church at Middleborough in Zeeland, whose widow brought her three children to Sandwich in New England, who afterwards turned Quakers, and from whom the Wings of Sandwich, Wareham, Dorchester, and Dartmouth are descended.” This copy is still housed in the John Adams Collection at the Boston Public Library; After the death of her husband, Rev. John Wing, his widow Deborah Wing brought her three children to New England arriving in Boston Harbor on 5 JUN 1632. Shortly after her arrival, she settled with her father, Rev. Stephen Bachelor at Lynn, MA; in 1637 she removed with her father to start the settlement at Sandwich, MA.

        1. The beautiful thing about the Rev. Stephen Bachiler is that he refused to conform to the deviant Puritan ideology that he found in the British Colony of Mass. Bay ….. even supporting the efforts of Salem’s, Rev. Roger Williams …likewise his Wing grandchildren who befriended the Quakers coming into the Bay Colony. This is an ancestry to really be proud of …. to the contrary of those who are still attempting to glorify their own Mass. Puritanical one…… THOSE TOTALLY embracing the sanitizing of their ancestry by questionable Don’s like Harvard’s Atheist late professor, Perry Miller !

        2. Justin,
          While the Wing Family of America, Inc. [WFA] does believe Deborah and her children came to New England with her father in 1632, what Alicia is referring to is there is little to no documentary evidence to support this claim. The first direct mention of any of the Wing family in New England was in the will of Thomas Hampton of Sandwich, dated Mar 1637/8.
          This is not the proper forum to go into all of the details. Please feel free to contact me (wing_genealogist AT yahoo DOT com) if you want more information.

          1. Thanks Raymond for your due diligence here. And definitely “messing around with the wrong family”…… it is very unlikely that any “apology” or retraction shall come about. That is not the Puritan way !

          2. Raymond, many thanks for your correspondence and guidance about where to find information about the Wings. My next few posts will continue with the topic of dilemmas not only about how to keep our family genealogies up-to-date, but how to make certain researchers can find the information. Soon I’ll be picking on the Aldens who are the opposite of the Wings, we’ve pretty much done nothing!

    1. When you note that “an extensive list of recusants who were fined/harassed for failing to attend services according to the Book of Common Prayer, about the time of Charles I ” …. your ancestors however got even when they did the same thing in the New England colonies but your harrassing was directly toward those ministers and individuals that dared to question the beliefs of the extreme Puritan theology forced on every settler whether they wanted to believe in your Calvinistic “world order ” or not ! And the Bachilers and Wings were caught in your malfeasance to the extent that some such as the Rev. Stephen Bachiler finally gave up and went back to England ….where he was finally able to enjoy his old age in peace and quiet !

  12. Hopefully when Ms. Crane picks on the “Alden’s” it is not only based on factual information but with much more due diligence and scholarship than was her case with the Wing’s !

    1. Hi VIola, It’s actually Ms. Williams. Thanks for your input. When we get to the Aldens, I’ll have no one to blame but myself, since I was Genealogist there for 30 years!

      1. I am aware of this …. but surely in the case of the Alden’s there has been more input here than yourself ?

        1. Viola, actually no. Since I was the editor of the Alden Five Generations project for the Mayflower Society everything “Alden” has been funneled to me one way or another for decades and I was not able to keep up. In hindsight, I see a lot that I could have done better. I think these “dilemmas” for all of us are a matter of acknowledging we could have done better, but remembering that we are all human and tried the best we could under the circumstances. Now, let’s see where we can improve.

          Best, Alicia

  13. Alicia – thanks for all your great work and good comments!! It looks like you have some good friends here at “Vita Brevis.” I would like to count myself among them. Many kudos to you for how you handle the oft petulant comments of our precocious brethren here. Well done, well done! (And thanks to Justin Pettis for going the extra mile to help ‘proof out’ and verify for us all – his notes and style reflect his civilized tone and good manners – intrinsic to the ‘truth’ in any form of study).

    Best regards,

    J. Record

    1. Jeff, thanks. We had a momentary bump in the road, but I think all well now. I will be finishing my sketch on Daniel Wing soon. He’s been waiting in the pile long enough.

  14. Dear Ms Williams, does anyone living know how Conway P. Wing went about collecting the
    Information in his tome on the history of the Wing Family?
    Ray Wing seems to be off the reservation and all the other genealogists I’ve worked with are
    in heaven. Thank you so very much for any information you can give me.
    Wing, The Last of My Line

    1. As far as I know Ray is “still on the reservation” and his brilliantly composed family tree is again up and running at the website of the Wing Family of America…… just a google away from any and all info on us. We are so excited to claim a distance cousin in the way of the new Royal to -be . But none of us have received an official invite.

  15. May I cut to the chase? Is there anyone out there with primary information on Thomas Wing being the father of Warren Perry Wing? Thomas was the son of Simeon Wing who has the center plinth in the Wing Ring Cemetery.

  16. You should attend one of the family reunions, where Ray is always available. I was able to re-unite with him and his so lovely daughter, Liz, last June in Sandwich as the new home across the road was dedicated as our official “Historical Building “. Fingers crossed now as to their fate since East Sandwich bore the blunt of our latest nor-ester. Again google the home page for more info — reunions are now held all over the USA and hopefully shall eventually include a meeting in Canada.

    1. Hi Viola! So nice to meet you. I am a descendant of Stephen’s and my brother was named for him. I have gone to several Wing Reunions. Our ancestors were something.
      Both Stephen Bachiler and John Wing are on Wickipedia now. I think the comparison
      between Stephen and the preacher in “The Scarlet Letter” is unfair, but it put our family on the World Wide Web at last!
      I am trying to find ANYONE who can tell me how Conway P. Wing gathered our information for his book. Good luck – huh!
      Your ancestor Daniel was ably represented at a Wing Reunion Re-enactment by Judge Perry. We all fell in love with him – the Judge that is! And who knew you could be declared legally dead and still be alive.
      Wing – The Last of My Line

      1. You may want to try the Lane Library in Hampton NH or just wait and come to another reunion ! A lot of horrible misinformation is out their on the Rev. Stephen Bachiler. The University of NH History Department has spent a lot of time attempting to correct the “record”. And as well his Sanborne descendants in NH/ Maine.

      2. Conway P. Wing’s work can be down loaded and he disclosures in detail in the preface / foot notes his method of getting his resources. A fascinating and generally accurate read but he does mix up “John the father ” and “John the son”.

  17. Dear Viola – I found out who Gancelo Jefferson Wing is…If you want to see his article in 1922
    (He died the next year) just type in History of the Wayne Family of Wings and Their Ancestors
    by Gancelo Wing 1922 and it will pop right up! The last part is so much like Conway, I know they worked together.
    The Lane Library is really nice. They suggested I use a series (can’t remember name) and I
    asked if they had read Waters and they were like, “Who?” I believe it was Waters and Withington who figured out the John-John connection explained in Waters “Gleanings in England”. When I found their series, it credited Waters for each source.
    I don’t know how this will fall out. I have a brillant friend who is researching the Wayne genealogies and trying to find a connection.
    Thank you for your help,

  18. All the Wings in central Maine followed a very similar path. Coming up from the Cape Cod, coastal MA areas to seek out better opportunities. At my first Wing reunion, delightful Wayne was centered and it has such an interesting history. Some transplanted their own Quakerism, some did not to Maine. My Maine Wings centered themselves in the Vassalboro area. It was the brothers William (who stayed) and Gideon who bought the family name into Vassalboro. I have seen no better family historians than our present one’s and the Wing family history account on the WFA site is so rich in detail and reveals the talent of Ray Wing and others. Have you been to the Heritage Gardens in Sandwich ? A gem of Wing heritage !

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