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Henry LYON (1623/4 - 1707/8)
of Milford and Fairfield, CT, then Elizabethtown [now Newark], NJ
 
UPDATE (25 May 2010):  Y-DNA testing has proven that Richard LYON and Henry LYON were closely related.  Rather surprisingly, it also appears William LYON of Roxbury is closely related to them, while Thomas LYON of Rye is not.  At last, some solid evidence on the relationships of these four men!

A new LYON-DNA mailing list has been created at RootsWeb for discussion of DNA testing with regard to the genealogy of surname LYON (and any of its spelling variations).  You do not have to be a member of the Lyon(s) DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA or the Lyon Group at Ancestry-DNA to belong to the mailing list.  Anyone interested in the topic is welcome to join:

LYON-DNA Mailing List

Family Group Sheet of Henry LYON & Elizabeth BATEMAN

Annotated Bibliography of General Sources for LYON Genealogy

Every-Name Indices to LYON Family Group Sheets

Historical Timeline of Early LYON Immigrants to the United States

The scope of this section of my web site will be limited to:
  • Everything about Henry LYON (1623/4-1707/8), his ancestors, his wife, and one generation of his children. 
  • Everything about Henry's alleged siblings (Richard, Thomas, and ?), to one generation of their children. 
  • Proving or disproving supposed lines to "interesting" cousins (e.g., the Queen Mum). 
  • Everything about my LYON line, which is:  Henry > Ebenezer > Elizabeth.
Please note that the above limitations mean I have nothing on LYON after 1800.  Everything I do have is on this web site and can be accessed using the Every-Name Indices (see link above). I have no information beyond what is here.

My motivation in creating this site stems from the fact that there is so much unsupported secondary information in circulation about the genealogy of Henry LYON and his supposed siblings, yet very little in the way of published documentation.  It is my intention to supply here as much documented evidence as I can gather to support or in some cases disprove the "legends" surrounding this family.

And if it sounds arrogant of me to propose that I be the one to embark on such a task, especially considering that the genealogy of this family has been actively researched for at least a century, it is only that I am able to begin where earlier workers left off and that I have a computer, a large personal library, and all the other modern resources at my disposal, along with the research skills of a graduate level education.  I would never have had the fortitude and dedication required to have done genealogy "the old-fashioned way," so gratitude and a commendation for the efforts of past workers is certainly due.  On the other hand, I do wish some of them had held themselves to a more rigorous standard of scholarship because, once an error or "tall tale" is in print, it never dies.

Please note that the following discussions are preliminary and are based on what sources I could find on the web (as of this writing, in 1998) and in my (extensive) collection of genealogical books, microfilms, and CDs.  With regard to historical items, I need to borrow/buy books that are more scholarly and dependable sources, which will take time; I will update these entries as I do.

I post these preliminary discussions mainly as a cautionary to expose the weaknesses of the currently accepted "legends" in the hopes that others will not continue to blindly accept and promulgate them and that you might want to assist in the search for the truth.  Any documentation you wish to share will be posted for the use of all, with your contribution fully credited.

I might as well state, upfront, that I believe many of our problems with the genealogy of Henry Lyon stem from the uncritical scholarship and wishful romanticizing of Sidney Elizabeth Lyon in her 1907 Lyon Memorial.  And in support of this contention, I quote Sidney, herself:

...Oral testimony, after two centuries of reminiscential mention, has lost accuracy.  Still there is a likelihood of discovering documental foundations for many of these handed- down recollections.  Errors may have been grafted on the vine of any tradition, but it sprang from the root of truth... Bare facts with appurtenant dates do not appeal to the human mind.  Out of countless fragments the imagination must reconstruct and visualize the past...
Which, to my mind, is just about the most appalling thing I've ever heard a researcher say.  No wonder the publisher, Albert Brown Lyon, absolved himself of any responsibility for the content of the book in his "Publisher's Note":
The editor [Sidney Lyon] of this volume [Lyon Memorial II] accepts as historical facts certain family traditions for which documentary evidence has not yet been found.  For this she assumes individual responsibility.
It may be difficult for us, in our time, to put ourselves in the cultural milieu of 1907, but we have to remember that during the height of the "vanity" family history publishing craze (ca. 1880s-1910s), the social pressure to have illustrious ancestors was enormous and the ability for others to disprove someone's unsubstantiated claims almost nil.  In other words, you were pretty much free to manufacture a family history, provided you didn't assert a close relationship to someone famous who was still living.  But just because we can sympathize with their sometimes desperate need for social status doesn't mean we shouldn't correct the errors they made.

The great irony is that, if you can trace your ancestry back far enough, we all have interesting, illustrious ancestors along with a few black sheep.  And more often than not, the truth turns out to be far more interesting than the fiction.

To quote the tearful young Tonya Komorov, whom General Yevgraf had asked if she didn't want to believe she was the lost daughter of Dr. Zhivago:

"Yes, of course I do, but not if it isn't true."

Quoting further the words of Albert Brown Lyon, in this case from the Preface of Lyon Memorial I: Massachusetts Families (1905):
The origin and explanation of family traditions have been sought, with the general conclusion, on the part of the writer of these lines, that very little weight can be attached to any tradition however persistent or widespread which is unsupported by independent historical evidence.  It is necessary only for some imaginative person to make a plausible conjecture; on the morrow it will be repeated as his belief; the third day it will be quoted as matter of common hearsay.  The conjecture need not be even plausible, so [long as] it is flattering to family pride.
To this statement I can only add, "Well said!"
The first legend to be examined is the one naming Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland, as the birthplace of Henry and his supposed siblings.  It is absolutely critical to know whether this assertion is true because, if it isn't, we are looking in the wrong place for their parents.  And, to begin with, as far as I can tell, there is not one piece of documentation to support any birthplace for Henry, Richard, or Thomas LYON, nor is their any evidence to document that they were, in fact, brothers.   We simply do not know where they were born.  Nor do we know, for a fact, that they were brothers or even that they were related. 

Update (25 May 2010):  Y-DNA testing now conclusively demonstrates that Richard, Henry, and William of Roxbury (originally of Heston, Middlesex, England not Scotland) are closely related genetically, while Thomas of Rye is not remotely related to them, but rather to a Lyon with roots in France.

The three "brothers" are said by some sources to be of the line of LYONs that was ancestral to the Queen Mother of Britain, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite BOWES-LYON.  It is not surprising that her LYON ancestry is well documented and well known.  However, as the parents of the three "brothers" are unknown, it is premature to suggest a link to the Queen Mum's LYON line. 

Based on reliable sources, I have so far been able to trace the ancestry of the Queen Mum only as far as Sir John LYON (-1382) of Glamis, Forfarshire, the husband of Lady Jean STUART (c1350-), granddaughter of Robert "The Bruce," King of Scotland.  There are other sources, of unknown reliability, tracing this line as far back as Ingelram DE LIONS / DE LIOUNS, said to have come to England with William the Conqueror in 1066, an unproven claim.  It's amazing how tenacious is the desire to have ancestors who arrived with the Conqueror and how many have made the claim with no foundation.  For an authoritative list of "companions of the Conqueror," please see this page

It is usually claimed that the three "brothers" immigrated from the Old World to Connecticut in 1648 or 1649.  This assertion is almost certainly untrue.  These dates are not from ships' passenger lists; these are dates of first appearance of their names in the records of New Haven Colony.  We simply do not know when they made the crossing, where they arrived, or from whence they came.  And there is nothing to establish that they came together.
In 1662, the King made New Haven Colony part of the more liberal Connecticut Colony, much against the will of the New Haven colonists.  In response, many ardent Puritans began making plans to leave Connecticut.

In 1667, a contingent of families from Milford, CT, including Henry LYON and his family, arrived at and founded a town on the Passaic River in the Province of New Jersey, which town they named New Milford.  The name was shortly changed to New Ark (now Newark).  Henry LYON was first Treasurer of the city of Newark, NJ, and thus one of its founders.

This part of the legend is true and documented.

It is interesting to note that there is evidence of a Richard LYON in Cambridge, MA, as early as 1640.  He assisted Henry DUNSTER, President of Harvard College, in his editing of a second, 1647 edition of a translation of the psalms commonly referred to as the "Bay Psalm Book," the first book printed in North America (1640, Cambridge).  Given the classical education required to edit a translation of the psalms, we can surmise that this Richard was not only of a social class that would allow for such an education, but that he was most likely a generation older than the three "brothers," which means he could have been their father or uncle.  However, no connection has been proven. 

The close association between Henry DUNSTER and John WINTHROP, Governor of Massachusetts, suggests that this Richard LYON might be somehow related to Thomas LYON, who married a granddaughter of Gov. WINTHROP, which means they had to have been moving in the same social circles. 

On the other hand, this Richard LYON is said to have returned to England, so he may have no genealogical connection to any American LYON.

If Henry LYON and his "brothers" were in Massachusetts Colony before 1640, then they came to America as teenagers, most likely in the company of their parents.  If we want to find their parents, we should begin by looking in Massachusetts, not Britain.
With regard to the legend that the three "brothers" were soldiers in Cromwell's army and witnessed the execution of Charles I outside Whitehall Palace, London, on 30 Jan 1648/9...

There is no way to prove this legend.  Official government records were kept only of officers; there are no lists of common soldiers.  Short of the existence of a first-hand account of the event written by one of the "brothers" (e.g., in a letter or diary) which record no one has ever even suggested exists there is nothing to substantiate the tale. 

The fact that Richard LYON left a backsword* in his will has been taken to mean he had seen military service, but it is not proof of when or where, or even if, he served.  He may have inherited the sword from his father or some other relative or may simply have purchased it.  They were, after all, living in the wilderness surrounded by Amerindians; it would have been prudent to have weapons.

However, there are ways to disprove the legend...

If the record that Henry LYON received three acres of land in 1639 in Milford, CT, is correct, then Henry had left England at least ten years before the execution.

Martha WINTHROP came to New England as an infant with her widowed mother ca. 1630; therefore, Thomas LYON had to have married Martha WINTHROP in America.  If the record showing their second child to have been born in Aug 1649 is correct, then they had to have been married no later than Jan 1648, which means Thomas, too, had left England before the execution. 



*My Webster's unabridged gives these applicable definitions for "backsword":
1.  a sword with one sharp edge; broadsword.
2.  in England, a stick with a basket handle used in fencing...
Webster defines "broadsword" as:
a sword with a broad blade and a cutting edge.

Richard's sword has been called a "rapier" by some, but Webster's definition of rapier shows it not to be equivalent to a backsword:
1. originally, a slender, two-edged sword with a large cup hilt, used chiefly for thrusting.
2. later, a light, sharp-pointed sword used only for thrusting.

If Richard's sword was a fencing weapon, then it is more indicative that he was a gentleman than that he was a soldier.  I'm inclined to think "backsword" was meant in the sense of "broadsword," not "rapier," but unless that sword was passed down in the family and someone still has it, we'll never know.

WARNING:  Bogus LYON Pedigree!

There is a LYON pedigree circulating that is, in my opinion, totally bogus.  Please do not accept or circulate this pedigree without at least first reading my discussion of the reasons I believe it to be false. 

In the trivia department, Barbara (PIERCE) BUSH, wife of President George Herbert Walker BUSH, is a descendant of Henry LYON, on this line:
Henry LYON & Elizabeth BATEMAN
_Benjamin LYON & Bethia CONDIT
__Joseph PRUDEN & Joanna LYON
___Benjamin COE & Rachel PRUDDEN
____Moses COE & Sarah HOWELL
_____Daniel COE & Mary GLADDEN
______John William ROBINSON & Sarah COE
_______James Edgar ROBINSON & Lulu Dell FLICKINGER
________Marvin PIERCE & Pauline ROBINSON
_________Barbara PIERCE

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