The Babson brood

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe Babson Historical Association is preparing an updated Babson Genealogy for publication in 2017. The Babsons are unique in several ways.

First, they are one of the few families descended from a Great Migration matriarch who came to New England without a husband. Isabel Babson came to Salem in 1637 with her sons Richard and James. Her husband, Thomas Babson, had died in England. A married daughter – Joan, wife of John Collins – came with her husband shortly thereafter. Son Richard returned to England permanently and had four children we know of, but we have not traced any of the English descendants.

Second, the family is small and has a unique name. With the exception of a very few nineteenth- and twentieth-century immigrants, all “Babsons” in the United States descend from Isabel through her son James Babson. James had four sons who left progeny, but the eldest, another James, went to England and we have not traced descendants of his two known children. In the third generation, only three Babson men in New England carried on the name.

Third, the 2017 edition of the Babson Genealogy will be the fourth published on this family. The first was produced in 1934 by the Babson Institute in Wellesley, Massachusetts, under the direction of the family’s best-known descendant, Roger Ward Babson, American entrepreneur, economist, and business theorist of the first half of the 20th century, who founded the Babson Historical Association as well as Babson College. That first edition was 104 pages long. In 1977, an update was published with 387 pages, and in 1997 the third edition was published with 453 pages. The 2017 edition will need two volumes of about 500 pages each.

We are still in the collection stage for later generations, but the first nine generations are complete enough to gather some statistics. This work traces all Babson-named descendants and follows all male lines as far as possible, plus all Babson-named daughters, their children, and grandchildren.

The number of males carrying the surname who are subjects in each generation as compared to the Alden family is rather interesting:

Generation Babson Alden
2 2 4
3 6 12
4 3 29
5 8 60
6 19 Est. 155
7 32
8 53
9 78


The Babsons have a mailing list of 420 living adults with the surname Babson, the majority of whom are descended from Captain Charles7 Babson, who set sail from his native Gloucester, Massachusetts, around 1818 and is supposed to have been shipwrecked off North Carolina, where he met a lovely lady who became his second wife (consecutive, not concurrent), with whom he established a large colony of Babson descendants in the South.

If you were born with the surname Babson, or are a child or grandchild of a Babson-named woman, and you would like to participate in the 2017 update to the Babson Genealogy, e-mail me at

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.

11 thoughts on “The Babson brood

  1. An interesting post about the continuation of the Babson surname in so few early generations. We often focus on the surname, but that about the given name? Isabella has reached far beyond the 1600s.

    My ancestor Isabella Babson6 b. 1752 (Solomon5 John4 Richard3 James2 Thomas1) m. 1773 John Collins, thereby ending the surname for her descendants, but many were named Isabella. She had a daughter Isabella Babson Collins7 who m. Jonathan Pratt; they had a daughter named Isabella C. Pratt8. She m. 1822 Abel Holt of Weld, ME. They had a daughter Isabella Holt9 m. Wallace Clark. Abel Holt and Isabella Pratt also had a granddaughter named Sarah Isabella Holt10, and several other descendants carried the same Isabel, Isabella or Belle. I wonder how many of them knew of the original Isabella Babson, or only their mother or grandmother named Isabella?

    1. Interesting you have Pratt in your line and a Pratt is middle name of my Grandfather, however back then it may have been a more common surname to start using for descendant middle names. I’m Beth Anne Babson, daughter of John Everett Babson, son of David Pratt Babson, son of Charles Carlnett Babson, son of George, son of Captain Charles who has the infamous shipwreck and fell in love again in Carolinas story. Betty Jane Wasson Babson, my Mom, met with Roger Ward Babson, who was very interested in genealogy, when pregnant with me about a year before he passed and she was working on helping perhaps a Susan Babson connect MA to many of the Babsons in Carolinas for the 1977 book years later.

  2. I noticed that for this particular family association, the relationship ends after 2 generations for offspring of females born Babson, but goes on perpetually for Babson-named males. I wish we could get past defining descent in such narrow ways. The Y chromosome is only part of a male’s inheritance. He has a great deal of the same genetic material as his sisters. (And what of the children who for whatever reason, carry their mother’s surname? I presume there is some sort of exception that applies to the males, but not the females?) But it’s their club, so their rules.

    And thank you, Ed, for the reminder that female forenames are frequently treasures handed down from generation to generation as well- and often across generations, as favored sisters and aunts are honored. My family is like that. But, as you say, in a society that still values the male surname over either of the female names, how many really know what that name represents?

    1. Annie, The Babsons are having an energetic discussion about this subject. The limitation is what any group can afford to print in hard copy books. Using the Surname-male-descendant system they will have two full volumes of 500 pages each to print. Adding female descendants certainly means a third volume, if not a fourth. Not too many people can afford to buy a 4-volume genealogy!
      Then add the research of families whose surname change every generation. It would be interesting for someone to publish a female descendant genealogy! But in the end, the solution is electronic publishing that can encompass everyone.

      1. Alicia, thank you for your thoughtful reply. It is good to know that the Babsons are discussing this. My intent was not to poke specifically at them, but to raise the issue generally referencing their example. We’ve at least come a long way since the male-line only genealogies that at least some NEHGS members submitted in early days. It’s sad that the economics of publishing holds equity hostage, though. I’m not sure that is a valid argument for preventing a large segment from being recognized due to gender.

    2. I love this point of view. I descend from Abigail Babson, daughter of James (Elinor Hill), son of Isabel. For that matter, no one (that I know of) has actually figured out Isabel’s maiden name.

    1. Not sure how far back it goes for me. My father was a Babson. I always know when someone has this name the are my kin. The name just isn’t known and so unique. How awesome to hear from you. I’m sure some how the name Betty came from the original Babson herself.

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