The hunt for William Thrall's ancestors, Sandridge

  • Posted on: 17 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

We know that the first US Thrall was William Thrall. He was born in 1605 - apparently in Sandridge, Hertfordshire. The problem is that no one can directly link the English Thrales or Thrall family tree to the US Thrall family tree! The closest possibility from the known pedigree for the English Thrale family is William Thrale who was born in 1607. However this is very unlikely to be the same William that sailed to America in 1630, as the 1607 William married Margaret Smith in 1632 at Redbourn, Hertfordshire, in England.

According to an unconfirmed entry on the IGI, William Thrall's father was Sir William Thrall senior, who was born in 1559 or 1579 at Slope Hill, Netherbury, Dorsetshire, England and died in the same place. Frustratingly this teasing little clue is not verifiable as both the researcher who found this and the source document from which it was obtained, is unknown.

Jim Thrall's analysis

An attempt to trace the source of this information was made by Jim Thrall of Indiana1. with apparently no success. In March 2000 Jim posted the following message…2

I joined the Dorset list in September of 1999 and have contributed and received help and direction from others, but still have not accomplished my objective, which is, to confirm definitively, that my ancestor came from Dorsetshire. Details of my objective and results to date, since joining the Dorset list, are as follows:

I'm trying to confirm recent LDS information that states William Thrall 1579 born in Slope Hills Netherbury, Dorsetshire and his son William Thrall born in 1605. Prior LDS information only had reference to William Thrall 1605 and showed him coming from Sandridge Parish, Hertfordshire. This is the same information, my family and others, have carried for many years.

We understand that William Thrall 1605 sailed in the Mary and John in 1630 from Plymouth, while originating in Weymouth. The passengers were primarily from Dorsetshire and other west country areas. My Thrall was a quarryman and stone cutter, which maybe more in keeping with Dorsetshire than Hertfordshire. The LDS were able to supply the name of the submitter, stating Netherbury, Dorsetshire, but could not provide any address information and so I am trying to confirm the submitters findings.

Any information and direction to other sources in helping me to resolve these matters would be greatly appreciated.

Search results, to date:
1. Society of Genealogists catalog, inquiries and name searches, were of no help.
2. Name search by Rob Wilkins gave it a good try, but no luck.
3. Jim Polson suggested Bishop's transcripts and I worked with local LDS Family History Center on this and other areas, with no results.
4. Dorset County Council archivist just advised their search of Netherbury christening register and burials were to no avail, also they had checked Netherbury marriages, to no avail.
5. Jerry Willmott provided helpful direction.

Last chance, yet to be explored, that I know of, is the Dorset marriage index, which will be checked when Mr. Andrew is available. Once again, I respectfully request any and all help that list members may be able to supply.

Joe Neilson's analysis

A more recent attempt to trace the source of William Thrall information was made by Joe Neilson. In January 2005 Joe sent the following update to…

Hi, We mused some time ago over how William Thrall earned an exact birth date, in Sandridge, Hertfordshire without having any parents identified. I think it is guess work.

I spent a little time looking at this while at the Mormon Family History Center in Salt Lake, USA. They have on film3 the Church of England Bishop's transcripts for Sandridge parish. The records contain baptisms, marriages, and deaths. They begin in 1575, cover only a few intermittent years up to 1595, and then jump to 1686. So there are about 90 years of missing records. They are in Latin mixed with a little of old English and are very hard to read. So, William Thrall's 1605 birth (or Baptism) did not come from those records.

I looked very closely at the 1595 entries and could find no Thrall or Thrale.

On another film4 are baptism, marriage, and death records in Sandridge for the year 1639/40. Those records are very legible and again, no Thralls.

So, there you have it. On one of the web sites someone has claimed William Thrall's father was William Thrall Senior, born 1579, Netherbury, Dorsetshire. The Mormons have filmed Netherbury bishop transcripts that begin in 1585, again baptism, marriages, and burials. I found no Thralls there from 1585 to 1635 so I folded-up shop.

I don't know how all this information surfaces. Perhaps some institution has more complete records than the Mormons do. But on the face of things, if 1605 is the correct birth date, then it must have come from a headstone or a bible record or something other than a birth or baptism record.

Cheers, Joe Neilson.

In response to a follow-up enquiry, Joe Neilson provided the following helpful analysis to…

Hi David, Spent some time on your website… nice, very nice job. Congratulations. I spent the last several years working on my Danish line, thus have spent very little time on the Thrall line or other New England lines for that matter.

I am descended through William Thrall's daughter Phillipa and John Horsforde who probably did came from Netherbury. That may be the reason someone has marked Dorset as the origin of the New England Thralls since William Thrall and John Horsforde's father William were neighbors in Windsor, CT.

The founders of the Mormon or LDS Church were from New England. Almost all Mormons, up until about 1845, came from New England so many past and present Mormons have New England roots. The Mormons took an interest in genealogy 100 years ago or so and asked their members to submit their family history. The members obliged and they still do to this day. Volumes of family history, and much of it from New England, have ended up in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and the Ancestral File (AF), two databases maintained by the LDS FHC.

Unfortunately, the swarm of LDS members who submitted their family history into those data bases were in large part unqualified for the task. The result is much of the information is not correct. And the real tragedy is, once some family history is written down, even if it is later shown to be incorrect, it is very difficult to erase because it is, by then, written down in hundreds of places. It later becomes "family tradition" or "bible record" or some such thing.

That is why, on hundreds of family group sheets, the name of William Thrall's wife is shown as "Goode". "Goodwife" was an early New England Puritan term applied to the wife of a church member who was in good standing. Often shortened to "goode", it had nothing to do with the wife's Christian name. Near trollops, if not previously stoned to death, were never called goode, only "decent" wives. Even so, I bet one could still get an argument from most American Thrall descendants over the name of William's wife. Goode or Elizabeth Goode shows up over and over again as the name of his wife.

Staff members at the LDS FHC will themselves tell you to be very cautious when using data submitted by members. All of the Ancestral File is member-submitted. Most of the IGI is member-submitted. A small percentage of the IGI can be trusted The Mormons have filmed church and civil records from all over the world. The FHC is the repository for all those films. Each film is assigned a number. The FHC staff is very qualified and some staff members extract data from those films. Those extractions are put into the IGI along with member-submitted data. When a record has been extracted and entered into the IGI by a staff member, the number of the film from which the data came is included as the source for that record. That particular record can be trusted. All others, beware.

So, the IGI submittal showing Wm Thrall's father as born about 1579 in Netherbury would be suspect right off. And, the fact the entry says 'about' means no real record was found by the submitter, only that he had some reason to believe Wm Thrall hailed from Netherbury. It was simply a guess. A good one perhaps, but still a guess. Perhaps something will show up if enough people keep looking.

I think there are still many records not yet examined that might shed some light on the early Thralls. Thanks, and again, your website is well done. Best wishes, Joe Neilson. 5

Next steps

Possibly a good place to start looking, might be the Church of England churches at which Rev. John Wareham (a nonconformist) and Rev. John Meverick (a conformist) were ministers, as William Thrall may of worshipped there? Wareham was minister at Crewkerne in Somerset and at Exeter in Devonshire; Maverick had been Rector at Beaworthy in Devonshire.


I've been wondering about tracking ancestry across the pond through DNA testing? All of us Thrall/Thralls on the USA side have never found the link past William Thrall, so can we do it with DNA?? I am a 12th generation past William.

There are commercial enterprises that do this, such as, or perhaps others.

I'm ready to try this, if I can find someone on the UK side who will participate.

Tom Thrall
Richfield Kansas USA

I keep seeing an exact 1605 birth/bapt. date for William, born in Sandridge. How has one come by that date? Is there such a record? If so, why isn't a parent identified?

Joe Neilson

David Thrale's picture

Hi Joe
The two most authoritative published sources of US Thrall history (of which I am aware) are:

  1. the 1862 Genealogy of Walter G Thrall; and
  2. the Thrall Genealogy 1630 - 1965, compiled by D Stephen Thrall

Both these documents give the 1605 date without stating their source for this data. I am afraid that I don't know more than that. It would be great if we could crack this! owner: David Thrale | My blog | Family motto: In cruce confido

I am trying to locate where William Thrall originated in England, but the family tree on the English side of the ocean doesn't show where he originates as a "Thrale". Where is this information?

The home page states that is where the Thrall name originated, but I see no actual connection. Does anyone have this information?

Tom Thrall of Kansas USA

I came across a possible thread for my ancestor, William Thrall today, and am trying to verify. The link was to one John Threl of England, date 1310.

Any information???

Elizabeth Thrall Sims

I know many, particularly here in the USA, will appreciate your putting the previous edition of Historic Sandridge on line. I also know that the USA Thralls are looking for any hint as to the origin of our ancestor, the ur-Thrall, William, who supposedly sailed on the Mary and John in 1630. Not! At least, no reference has been found that I'm aware of. Also, his origin has been given as Sandridge. Again, no specific reference is available. Perhaps your site will be a Thrale/Thrall magnet and draw the searchers together. By the way - Craig Thrall, on your links page, is my son.

David Thrall, Marion, Massachusetts, US

Visitors to this site may enjoy reading Dorset Pilgrims, by Frank Thistlethwaite. The book describes the origin and early years of Windsor, Connecticut, USA; William Thrall appears in the index four times. The book gives the origin of William as Sandridge.

I wrote to Professor Thistlethwaite to ask the source of that statement, and he replied, giving his source as C.E. Banks, Topigraphical Dictionary of 2,8885 English Emigrants to New England, 1620 - 1650. He said he had found Banks to be reliable. I found C. E. Banks' original manuscript in the NEHGS library; it did not give a reference for the assertion. When I later visited the Windsor Historical Library I saw Professor Thistlethwaite's notes for Dorset Pilgrims, which he had given to the library after writing the book.

In his letter, Professor Thistlethwaite said he wrote the book when he became interested in the subject while researching his American wife's genealogy. Jane was a descendant of John Hosford and Phillipa Thrall, William's daughter.

Professor Thistlethwaite was an expert in American history, having written The Great Experiment, a classic work in the field, in 1955. It shows in Dorset Pilgrims. I recommend it highly, even though it does refer to William as "unlettered and obscure"!

D Thrall

Do you have any information or images that would help to improve this article? Perhaps you have a little spare time to research this in the archives? If so, do please get in touch. All articles requiring help and information ».

This article could be improved by adding a new - or more relevant - image. All articles that need images »