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Condits and Cousins

Volume 1 History and Biography

Chapter 7, Religion and Country of Origin of the Ancestor

The first suggestion that "John Cundict, the Ancestor, emigrated from Wales to America," as recorded in the Condit Family history probably came from Hon. Silas Condit 1312, who was born in 1778 in Orange, but as a young adult moved back to Newark where he died in 1861. Silas had access to the Newark town records, and undoubtedly used them when he compiled the first, sketchy genealogy of the Condit family in 1850.

The Records of the Town of Newark contain many references to Silas Condit between 1810 and 1830, and only he and Joel Wheeler Condit 1154, who was a prominent merchant of Newark, are mentioned in those records after 1806, which is the year in which Orange became a separate township. Many other Condits are named in the Newark town records from 1744 through 1806, when their names abruptly disappear, to appear again in the Early Records of the township of Orange, beginning in 1807. Evidently, most of the Condit's who were active in local government in the town of Newark were already located in Orange in 1806.

It is time to consider the indirect, or negative evidence conveyed by the complete absence of the names of John and Peter Cundict from those records, considering the fact that both lived in that community as long as 35 years. The Congregationalists settled and governed the affairs of the Town of Newark. They made provisions for attracting tradesmen with certain necessary skills by setting property aside for them. Thomas Pierson came with the original settlers in 1666, and Benjamin Baldwin not more than two years later, and both were weavers. In 1672, "Sam'l Lyon is admitted a Planter in our Town, and hat the Taylor's Allotment Granted him." There is no similar record that John Cundict was recruited as a weaver, nor Peter as a clothier.

All the freeholders of the town were expected to attend the annual meetings, under penalty of a fine, at which meetings elections were held for various offices for the next year. Most of the known freeholders can be found in the records as elected to some major or minor office, since all were expected to serve their community. At no time is the name of John or Peter Cundict mentioned in connection with even the most minor office; and neither is that of Matthew Williams, who was admitted as a planter on 29 November 1680.

This negative evidence suggests that John and Peter were not freeholders, and therefore not Congregationalists. The same might apply to Matthew Williams, because the Fundamental Agreement made allowance for "all others" to be "admitted to Be planters," except that one Matthew later was one of four trustees of the Society at the Mountain to whom, in 1719, a grant was made for twenty acres for a glebe (area of land) for the new (Congregational) Society at the Mountain. On the other hand, that trustee could have been a son of Matthew, also named Matthew, born in 1694, who later contributed to the construction of the second meeting-house in 1754 and, as a mason, superintended the mason work.

If John Cundict were a communicant of some other Christian church of his day, that church probably would have been Presbyterian, Quaker, Church of England or Catholic.

It has been learned that between 1652 and 1683, ten Conduits were christened in three Catholic parish churches in the town of Dublin, Ireland, none were named John or Peter. The purpose of injecting this item here is to recall the supposition that John Cundict came from England or Wales because "there are those now living there bearing the name 'Conduit.'" Using the sme logic, based only on the spelling "Conduit," Ireland also must be considered as a possible land of origin of the Ancestor.

The year of arrival of John Cundict in Newark, if such could be determined, would help to narrow down the possibilities concerning his origins. That he arrived in 1678 has been alleged but not proved, and the earliest date of his presence there that can be corroborated is January 1688.

West Jersey was sold to members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) about 1676, much of it purchased by William Penn and other wealthy Quakers. In 1681, East Jersey was sold to William Penn and eleven associates, who conveyed a half part of their interest to twelve others in the same year, and they became the twenty-four "Proprietors of the Province of East Jersey." Half of the new proprietors were Scotch and "Scottish Presbyterians…hurried to East New Jersey between the years 1682 and 1687 in …numbers."

It is true that many in the American colonies were Puritans, or Dissenters or Separatists from the Church of England, nevertheless virtually all were subjects of the British Crown, and some of the colonials were loyal to the Church of England, which was the state church in Virginia until 1786, three years after the end of the Revolutionary War.

These considerations of the possible religious affiliations of John Cundict have been reviewed here to suggest that some answer may be found in early church records, if such survived and can be reviewed. There is no question that many of his descendents became staunch Presbyterians, as early as his grandchildren, but it seemed advisable to point out that most of his townspeople in Newark were not of the same sectarian persuasion during his residence there. As Dr. Stephen Wickes wrote of the Congregationalists' experiment in Newark: "It was the last effort made in America to build a civil state upon the narrow basis of the old Puritan ideas."

Many in Newark who continued to prefer the Congregational basis, moved to the Mountain and there formed their own congregation in 1718. No matter what the religious tenets of John and Peter Cundict may have been, it seems logical to assume that Peter's widow, Mary, may have followed the Congregational bias of her grandfather and father, and also followed her friends and relatives of like mind to the Mountain, not many years after the deaths of her father-in-law and husband in 1713 and 1714 respectively. Four of her children are known to have lived in that part of Newark that later became known as Orange, and at least two of them, Samuel and Isaac, were members and supporters of the church in that later district. Ironically, sometime between 1729 and 1748 that church also became Presbyterian although organized as Congregational. Mary's other sons, Peter and Philip, moved to Morris County, then part of Hunterdon County, as early as 1730, and were members of the Presbyterian Church at Hanover in 1733, and of the Morristown Presbyterian Church at its organization a few years later.

Because the earliest known affiliations of Condit's have been with the Presbyterian Church, and were so reported in the 1885 family history by its compilers, who were of the same Presbyterian background, it was presumed by them, and apparently has been accepted by most family members subsequently, that John and Peter Cundict likewise were Presbyterians. One purpose of the preceding discourse has been to review the known facts in the light of the religious origin and evolution of the Newark communities and to let the readers evaluate the probabilities for themselves.

The other purpose is to suggest that knowledge of John Cundict's religious preference could be a clue to the land of his origin.

Possible Origins of the Ancestor

If Catholic, John Cundict or his ancestors could have come from Ireland, or elsewhere. Several years ago, one of his descendants reported in a telephone conversation his understanding that John came from Italy, but did not mention the source of that intelligence. John Cundict may have been a loyal adherent to the Church of England, or a Presbyterian Scotsman, or a Dutch Calvinist, or a Quaker transplanted from William Penn's colony, or even perhaps a Lutheran from Germay.

It seems unlikely that he was a Congregationalist from the New Haven Colony like many of the early settlers of Newark. The compilers of the 1885 edition of the Condit family history explored that avenue, and virtually exhausted all leads in trying to trace his path from Connecticut or Long Island, whence most of the other settlers came to Newark.

The next question is whether the ancestor came to Newark directly from another country across the Atlantic Ocean, or from another American colony or offshore island? The family history avers, without equivocation or substantiation, that "John Cunditt, of Norman descent, was married first in Great Britain, where his wife died. He came to America in 1678, with his son Peter, and settled at Newark, N. J." That statement was more authoritarian than authentic, and more autocratic than authoritarian, but was not untypical of the dogmatic publications of its day.

It is estimated that the American colonial population was about 151,500 in 1680, and 210,400 in 1690. Immigration from other countries accounted for the majority of the increase in population, but there also was some migration within the colonies, and local birth rates were on the increase, so it should not be forgotten that John Cundict could have married first in America, and Peter could have been born here.

Many Americans are interested in tracing the origins of their ancestors, and when the 1885 Condit genealogy book was prepared, already a number of ship passenger lists had been published in books and genealogy magazines to aid them in their search. Many more such lists have been published subsequently, and recently most of them have been consolidated and re-published in books that are readily available or published on the Web. Almost all are now indexed and readily searchable.

The editors of Condits and Cousins have reviewed virtually all of such indexes available before the year 2000 and have found no mention of John Cundict. Probably more ship passenger lists have been lost or destroyed than have survived from the seventeenth century. In 1874, John Camden Hotten wrote, concerning the 17th century: "We learn incidentally that ships left England almost daily for America, but no records of them, or their passengers, remain." "Further, it should be borne in mind that only the names of those were taken who legally left the shores of England." Many others "must have left secretly, and of such, no record would exist."

Hotten's book contains mentions of three names that should give us pause for consideration: Williams, Connett and Hoare.

On 4 January 1679, tickets were granted to Matthew Williams and his servant, James Maynard, for departure from Barbados, in the ship Old Head of Kingsale, bound for Leward (presumably meaning the Leeward Islands). It has been assumed by others that this is the same Matthew Williams whom John Cundict named in his will, whose father, also named Matthew, was aged 73 and not as likely to be traveling at that age. The younger Matthew was then 27 years old, and on 29 November 1680 was admitted as a Planter in the Town of Newark. (Gale Research. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed.. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2006.)

The names of one John CONNETT/CONNET/CUNNET and one Richard/Edward HOARE appear together in a series of lists in the same book. On 20 September 1685 they were prisoners in Dorchester Goale awaiting transportation to Barbados. They remained in that jail on 21 October, and on an unspecified date were "put on board the Betty of London at the Port of Waymouth in the County of Dorsett… the ship Betty arrived at Barbados in or before January 1686. 1 February 1686 was the date of a certificate that 71 rebels were "Sold and disposed of here," John Connett being sold to William Marchant, and Richard Hoare to Mathew Chapman.

It is of interest that the names of those two rebels appeared on the same lists because three or four years later, on 27 February 1689 or 1690, one Richard Hore granted to one John Condict eight acres of upland in the town of Newark "in consideration of thirteen months' board and fifty shillings…" Whether there were any connection between the two men of similar names on the island of Barbados and in the Town of Newark is not known.

Mrs. Marie Christensen Anderson, one of the associate editors of Condits and Cousins, during a brief visit to Barbados in March 1978, visited the Barbados Historical Society and the Archives, but found that many records were missing or destroyed with no record of John Connett or Richard Hoare or their subsequent fates. On 13 March 1978 she wrote that she "was told that these prisoners were allowed to buy their freedom and many did, or were bought by family or friends. They could be taken to other islands…but could not return to England." Another Condit relative, Mrs. Edwin A. Headland 6215:721, during eight monts in England, wrote on 3 March 1980 that she could find no record of those two men among many original records that she searched in London, but that additional records continue to be discovered. The jails in which the rebels were held awaiting transportation were within a radius of about thirty miles, in three shires or counties of southwestern England: Somerset, Devon and Dorset, with the town of Taunton in the center of that area.

The rebels had been sentenced to death for supporting the Duke of Monmouth in his unsuccessful attempt to seize the crown of England from the pro-Catholic King, James II, but had been pardoned their lives on condition of being transported to Barbados to be sold for ten years of labor. One history book described Monmouth's effort as follows: "With a few companions he landed at Lyme Regis (June 1685) in the South-West, where the Puritan peasantry and clothiers felt for their 'King Monmouth' a romantic and fatal passion…some 6,000 of the humbler classes in Somerset and Devon, especially in the Taunton clothing district, flocked to Monmouth's standard. The object was to overthrow not only the Popish King but the Anglican Church. There was no smallest chance of success. Monmouth's brave followers were a mob, almost unofficered and imperfectly armed… The execution of Monmouth on Tower Hill was a punishment richly deserved. Of his followers, several hundreds were executed either by the soldiers after the battle or by the process of law at the 'Bloody Assize,' and about 800 more were sold as slaves to the Barbados."

The fact that John Cundict was a weaver, and Peter, his son, was a clothier, further tempts speculation that John Cundict may have been the rebel John Connett, who apparently comes from "the Taunton clothing district."

If Matthew Williams played a part in securing the liberty of John Connett and Richard Hoare and transporting them to Newark, that might be reason enough for John Condict, if indeed he were the same as John Connett, to call Mathew a "loving friend and brother" in his will. But it must be kept in mind that this is merely speculative, and an unproven, working hypotheses that needs much more attention and conscientious effort to prove or disprove. If it can be shown that John Cundict actually wee present in Newark in 1678, then he could NOT have been the same as John Connett.

In an address before the first annual meeting of the Condit Family Association on 8 September 1906, its Historian, Jotham H. Condit, said: "Family tradition says that he (John Condict) was of Norman or Welsh descent. The latter seems more probable from the fact that Matthew Williams, who is conceded to have been of Welsh origin, was a close and trusted friend." That sounds suspiciously like grasping at straws, and yet, Matthew Williams' father, the elder Matthew, is reported to have been born in Glamorganshire, Wales, which is the southernmost Welsh shire or county, directly across the Bristol Channel from Somersetshire in England, and only thirty miles as the crow flies from Taunton! Now who is grasping at straws?

However, not only is the question of the origin of John Condict not settled by such speculations, it is more accurate to state that efforts to search for the land of his origin have virtually slumbered for a century or more, since the compilers of the 1885 edition of the genealogy put them to rest with the following sour-grapes paragraph in the book's introduction:

"No attempt has been made to trace the family name beyond the seas; as citizens of the United States we content ourselves with an expression of gratitude to the mother country for her production of our worthy Christian ancestor."

Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations, 1650-1775, by David Dobson, was published by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. in 1983. The following is one entry on page 34 of that book: "Cumin, John, weaver. Bridgend of Glasgow. Coventer. Prisoner in Canonate Tolbooth. Banished to the Plantations 1 August 1678. Transported from Leith on the St. Michael of Scarborough, waster Edward Johnston, 12 December 1678."

Although "Cumin" does not look like "Condict," the scribe may have understood that the prisoner was member of clan Cumin/Cummin/Cumming, and may have written the name accordingly; in any event, we now are dealing with a printed name that could have undergone change during transcription. The entry does not show the prisoner's destination in America, but shows that John was a weaver, was transported in the mystical year of 1678, and was a Covenanter, a Presbyterian who resisted attending services in the Anglican Church even to the extent of rising in arms against the British King. "The Covenanter Risings of the later seventeenth century led to around 1,700 Scots men and women being banished to the plantations."

The mere suggestion that either "John Connett" or "John Cumin," both prisoners, may possibly be the same as "John Condict," should not cause dismay, nor dissuade further research. Many Americans are discouraged to find that to few ship's passenger lists have survived bearing the names of their ancestors as paying passengers rather than as indentured servants, or as prisoners convicted of various crimes, many of which would be considered petty today. As David Dobson expressed it in the Introduction to his book cited earlier, "…although data referring to the immigration & voluntary emigrants is virtually non-existent, bureaucratic necessity has resulted in records of many involuntary emigrants surviving."

In 1830, banishment and transportation to the British Colonies was declared illegal, but among Americans seeking records of their ancestors' transportation either during the Colonial period it appears logical that many of the successful searchers will find their ancestors listed as prisoners, in which case they may consider themselves among the fortunate if not grateful majority.

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