Mary Geer's Ancestors

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Note: Before 1752 the year began on March 25th. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year, not the beginning.

Thomas Geer was born about 1623 in Heavitree, Devonshire, England, to Jonathan and possibly Eleanor Geer. His parents died when he was about two years old and an unnamed uncle raised him and his four-year-old brother George. According to a statement printed in James Geer’s book Genealogy of the Geer Family in America from 1635 to 1914, signed by Jephthah Geer, a fifth generation descendant, these little boys were the heirs to their parents vast estate. Their uncle raised them, until they were old enough, about 12 and 14 years old, to fend for themselves, waiting to get his hands on their estate. “. . he wrote to the captain of a ship about to sail to America, requesting him to take the lads with him.” The boys “were sent with the letter, with orders to remain on board until they received an answer.” The did as they were told, and “while waiting, found themselves victims of deception and already on their passage without the possibility of returning.” This story has been handed down through the generations by George’s grandson Joseph and by Jephthah’s father Thomas Geer. James Geer goes on to say “The ship above referred to arrived in Boston in 1635 and the boys were then put on shore in a new country without money and without friends. For quite a number of years after their arrival in Boston we find no history of their lives, and how long they remained in Boston and vicinity cannot be determined with absolute certainty. The first reliable record we find of them is that George was one of the early settlers of New London about 1651, and Thomas of Enfield in 1682. It is probable, however, that George came to New London in company with Robert Allyn and others as early as 1651, and that Thomas remained in Salem, Mass., until after the death of King Philip in 1676.” Some researchers say Thomas lived in Beverly, Essex County and Wareham, Plymouth County, both towns in Massachusetts.

Forty-five year old Thomas met and married 22-year-old Deborah Davis, a Yarmouth, Barnstable County resident, about 1668. They lived in Massachusetts where their first three children were born. They moved to Enfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, about 1682, where they had another daughter who died young. Some researchers believe it is possible that they had more children than the four recorded, but his history before settling in Enfield is very uncertain.

Thomas was one of the early settlers of Enfield. R.R. Hinman in his book A catalogue of the Names of the first Puritan Settlers of the Colony of Connecticut wrote “Geer, Thomas a first settler in the south part of the town . . .” In 1682 Thomas received a grant of a house lot and thirty acres of meadow land in Enfield, Massachuetts, before the town was included in Connecticut. According to town records, he was a tanner and an extensive landowner. His name appears several times in the Early Enfield Deed records, in which many acres were deeded to his son. James Geer writes “Of the extent or value of Thomas Geer's property, nothing additional is known, except what may be gathered from a deed of gift which he and his wife made to their son Shubael, and signed by their x mark. This deed is dated 22 February, 1694-5, and is recorded in the Registrar's office, 16 January, 1698-9. Also Thomas and Deborah, his wife, gave a deed to their son Shubael of all their right and title to all their lands in the town of Enfield. This deed is dated 23 August, 1717, and signed by their x mark, (the name written Geer) and is recorded on Page 342, Book No. C. in the Registrar's office in Springfield, Mass.

Of the declining life of Thomas we know but little. His good old age, however, would indicate that he was a steady and worthy inhabitant. The property of Thomas remained in the same name until 1796 when, as appears from record, Elihu Geer disposed of his house and lands and removed, since which time there is no record of any descendants residing in Enfield.

Thomas Geer died in Enfield on January 14, 1721/2, aged 99 years old. (Mouse over and click on his death record image right to enlarge in a new window/tab.) His widow Deborah lived another fourteen years.

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Deborah Davis was born in January of 1645/6 in Barnstable, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, the eldest of five children born to parents Robert Davis Sr and his wife, possibly named Ann. (See her parents bios for more on this.) Most researchers believe she was actually born in Yarmouth, the next town east of Barnstable. Although the vital record is listed as Barnstable, the original town of Yarmouth included a region of about a mile from east to west, of what is now part of the town of Barnstable. By an order of the general court held in Yarmouth on June 17, 1641, the line between the two towns was established substantially as it now exists. So those who once lived in Yarmouth were now living in Barnstable.

It is believed that Deborah’s mother died when she was about 10 years old. Her father remarried, and it is assumed that the new wife raised his existing children. What the affect was on Deborah, we will never know.

The date of her marriage to the much older Thomas Geer is estimated as between 1666 and 1668. Marriage records for Barnstable do not exist that early, and their marriage is not mentioned in the Enfield, Connecticut, records. So it is very probable that they were married in Barnstable County, where Deborah grew up. They moved sometime before their third child was born to Enfield, Hartford, Connecticut. They had at least four children together — ancestor Mary who was probably born in Barnstable County; son Shuball born on March 19, 1675/76, in Wenham, Essex County, Massachusetts; Anna born on June 17, 1682, in Beverly, Essex County, Massachusetts; and Elizabeth born on May 4, 1684 in Enfield, and died there almost 4 years old on April 1, 1688.

The History of Enfield Volume II by Francis Olcott Allen states that “Deborah Geer died January 1735/6 about ye 95th year of her age.” Although it says she was 95, she actually was 90 years old. (Mouse over and click on her death record image right to enlarge in a new window/tab.) It is noted in all the genealogy books that she outlived her husband by 14 years. It is not certain where she is buried. Some researchers say she was buried in Barnstable at the family home, because there is no mention of her burial in the Enfield records, only her death is recorded. The distance between these two towns seems to be much too far to move a body. All of her children remained in Enfield, so there is no reason for her to be buried in Barnstable.


Jonathan Geer was born in Heavitree, Devon, England, to George and Mary Geer sometime between 1586 and 1600. Walter Greer in his book Genealogy of the Geer Family in America from 1635 to 1914 writes, “The immediate ancestor of the family in England was Jonathan Geere, of Heavitree. But little is known about Jonathan. No record has been found of his baptism, or of the baptism of his sons, as the Parish Register of Heavitree does not begin early enough to contain these records, the earliest entry being dated 1653.

Jonathan married Eleanor, who was born about 1605, and had at least two sons in Heavitree – George, born on January 14, 1621; and ancestor Thomas.

The death dates of both Jonathan and his wife are uncertain, but all agree that Jonathan died shortly after his wife’s death. Walter Geer goes on to write “Nor has any record been found of the will of Jonathan, after a careful search for wills of testators of that name proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. He seems, however, to have been a man of considerable property. His wife died at an early age, and he soon followed her, leaving two young sons, George and Thomas, under the guardianship of an uncle.” Some researchers say that it is possible that he did not live in Devonshire the later years of his life. Others say the unscrupulous nature of the uncle who took in the boys, could imply that he destroyed the will for selfish reasons, while Jonathan was dying.

In an essay on The History of George & Thomas Geer Our Immigrant Ancestors, Julie Milan writes “I estimate that Jonathan and Eleanor Geer died around 1625. This is of course only a guess as to my knowledge, the exact year they died has never been ascertained. Their dates of death are normally recorded as "Bef. 1635" but I have chosen to place their deaths closer to 1625, give or take a year or two. My reason for this is simple; Despite having wealthy parents neither George nor Thomas learned to write - not so much as their own names. Given the financial, and I presume social prestige, of Jonathan Geer, presumed because people with money seem to always be held in regard, it would follow suit that had he lived long enough his sons would have received some kind of formal or informal education beginning at an early and appropriate age. Again, because they were a prosperous family the boys probably would have attended a prestigious school. Even if they were too young to attend a school it would seem, at the very least, they would have been tutored at home and taught how to spell their own names. If Jonathan Geer died closer to 1635 George would have been nearly 14 and Thomas 12, long past the ages of learning to spell their own names. Even if a child was not taught to spell before the age of 7 or 8 that would still place Jonathan and Eleanor's deaths closer to 1628 or 1629.” Milan’s logic makes perfect sense, so both Jonathan and Eleanor are recorded in this tree as dying about 1625 in Heavitree.

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Robert Davis was born to unknown parents about 1620 probably in England. Amos Otis tells us in his book Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, that there were two men with the name Robert Davis in the Barnstable, Massachusetts area, and Otis clearly distinguishes between them. Otis says that our Robert was not among “the first who settled in that part of Barnstable known from early times as Oldtown.” It is believed he came to America about 1638. Otis continues with “Robert Davis’ name appears on the list of those who were able to bear arms in Yarmouth in August, 1643.”

It is believed that Robert was married twice. This belief came about because Ann Davis, the wife Robert named in his will, named only the younger children in her will, calling them my son, my daughter. Robert’s first wife’s name is unknown. It is believed this first wife and ancestor was born about 1623 in Yarmouth and married Robert there before 1645. (Mouse over and click on the Davis family record image left to enlarge in a new window/tab.) They had five children together, all born in Barnstable County, the first two in Yarmouth – ancestor Deborah; Mary on April 28, 1648; Andrew in May 1650; John on March 1, 1652, who probably died young, as he is not mentioned in his father’s will; and Robert in August of 1654. The Barnstable Vital Records show all of these children as a family having a father named Robert Davis, but unfortunately a mother’s name is not entered. It is not known when Robert’s first wife died, but it must have been between August of 1654, the date of the birth of her last child and January of 1655/56, the most likely date of Robert’s second marriage to Ann (some researchers say her last name may be Kingman). It is believed that she was born about 1626 in Frome, Somerset County, England. They had five additional children together all born in Barnstable – Josiah in September of 1656; Hannah in September of 1658; Sarah in October of 1660; Joseph about 1661; and Mercy about 1663. It is assumed that Ann raised Robert’s children by his first wife as well as her own, but oddly enough, she didn’t mention them in her will. In Otis’ book it states: “His widow Ann died in 1701. Her will is dated May 5, 1699 and was proved April 1, 1701. She named Robert Davis, my son Joseph's son, daughter Hannah Dexter, grandchild Sarah Dexter, son Josiah's wife, and daughters Sarah Young and Mercy Young. The fact that she names only the younger children, indicates that she was the second wife of Robert Davis . . . . His last wife, whom he probably married in 1657, was named Ann.

Otis says that Robert and his first wife moved from Yarmouth to Barnstable prior to the birth of Andrew, their third child because birth records indicate he was born in the town of Barnstable. But, they may not have moved anywhere, as the boundaries of the two towns changed legally on June 17, 1641, and maybe the record keeping finally caught up to the court order. Whatever the case, they were in Barnstable in May of 1650. Otis says, “His lands were not recorded in 1654. His farm in 1639, was included within the bounds of Yarmouth, and with the exception of a small lot owned by Robert Shelley, was bounded on the west by Indian Lane--the original boundary between the towns--on the east, his farm was bounded by the lands of Joseph Hallett, and on the south by Dead Swamp, including the narrow strip between the present road and that swamp. The easterly part of his farm was a part of the William Chase farm. The westerly part he bought from the town, of the Indians, and of James Gorham, and the south was a part of the great lot of Thomas Lumham.

The first documented record of him in Barnstable “is 12 May, 1657, when a grant of ‘a parcel of common land’ in the New Common Field was made to him, lying between the lands of Goodman Cobb and Goodman Gorham. He was admitted a freeman of the colony in 1659. . . . His house, in 1686, was not on the present county road but on the higher ground north of the swamp where the first road, probably passed. In 1686, the house of Robert Shelly was the next west of that of Robert Davis, and both appear to have been on the north of the swamp. In that year the town granted Goodman Sheely a part of the swamp, and Robert Davis sold him ‘a small gore of land,’ so that Shelly's lands was afterwards bounded south by the present highway. This addition was made where the late Capt. John Easterbrooks' old house now stands. Fifty years ago John, Abner, and Elisha T. Davis, sons of Joseph, owned all Robert Davis' lands on the north of the highway.

Otis tells us of Robert’s character through three statements, the second was printed somewhat like a tombstone inscription:

He was not a man of wealth, nor was he distinguished in political life, nor was he ever entitled to the then honorable appellation of ‘Mister;’ he was
---------‘An honest good man,
And got his living by his labor,
And Goodman Shelly was his neighbor.’
His character for honesty and industry he transmitted to his posterity.
” In a footnote on this statement Otis says, “All the descendants of Robert Davis for eight successive generations, have been noted for their honest dealings and industrious habits.

Robert wrote his will on April 14, 1688, in Barnstable and it was probated on June 29, 1693, the same day the inventory of his estate was taken. In a statement on the top of the inventory of Robert’s estate it states “Robert Davis deceased ye 9 day of April 1693,” almost five full years after writing his will. (Mouse over and click on his will/Inventory image right to enlarge in a new window/tab). An abstract of his will, written by George Ernest Bowman, is printed in Volume 18 of The Mayflower Descendant, and reads as follows:

[p. 81] Robert Davis of Barnstable made his will 14 April, 1688. His residence is not stated in the will, but he was ‘Late of Barnestable' when the inventory was sworn to. Bequests were as follows:
To ‘wife Ann all my houshold goods of Iron and brass and pewter and all wooden ware and Linnen and Beding except it be ye bed that my son Joseph Lyieth on which I . . . . bequeath to him with ye Beding belonging to it’
To ‘my son Joseph Davis my Land that I bought of ye Indians Lying in ye Comon field’ ‘I will . . . . to my Son Josiah Davis and do also confirm to him a parcel of Land and swamp within ye Comon field fence nere about two acres butting on Samuel Cobs Land on ye North side and on James Gorehams Land that was on ye east sid and butting westerly against my Improved Land and a parcel of Land that his house Stands up on of four Rod Squear lying on ye back side of his house and easter end faceing to ye highway not to come westerly above half a Rod of ye west end of his house with what he formerly had’
To ‘my son Joseph Davis all ye Rest of my Lands and ye housing Standing up on it . . . . he paying to his mother twenty shillings a year in Corne at Currant prise if shee hath need of it and his mother to have ye use of ye dwelling house during her Natural Life’
‘I do confirm to my Daughter Deborah Geere what she hath alredy had’
‘I do confirm to my two Daughters Sarah and marcy what they have alredy had’
To ‘my son Andrew Daves five shillings in currant pay’
To ‘my Daughter mary five shillings in currant pay’
To ‘my Daughter Hannah Dexter ten Shillings in currant Pay’
To ‘my Son Robert Davis five shillings in Currant pay’
‘after my Just Debts be paid I do give all my Stock of Cattel and Swine to my wife and Son Joseph to be equally devided between them two Except my Sheep them I . . . .bequeath to my wife’

‘my Loving wife Ann and my Son Joseph Davis to be my executors’

The will was signed by a mark. The witnesses were James Gorham and John Gorham. On 29 June, 1693, both witnesses made oath to the will, before Barnabas Lothrop, Judge of Probate. [p. 82] ‘An Invintory of ye Estate of Robert Davis deceased ye 9 day of April 1693: taken ye 29 day of June 1693’ by James Gorham and Jabez Lumburt. The total amount was £75, 13s. The only real estate was: ‘his house and Land’ £30.

‘Ann Davis vid Relict of Robirt Davis Late of Barnestable deceased and Joseph Daves Son of ye said deceased’ made oath to the inventory, before Barnabas Lothrop, Judge of Probate, on 29 June, 1693.

The will and inventory were recorded 3 July, 1693, by Joseph Lothrop, Register."

The exact dates and burials of Robert and his wives are unknown. It is assumed they are all buried in Barnstable.


George Geer was born between 1548 and 1552 in Heavitree, Devonshire, England, the youngest of four children born to Jonathan Geer and Beatrice Jermyn. Some researchers say he was baptized on September 6, 1548. There is a baptismal record in the England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 collection for a George, whose father’s name was John Geere, baptized on this date in Kenn, Devonshire, England (Heavitree is about 6.5 miles North and slightly East of Kenn). This would have made him 100 when he died. Not impossible, his two great grandsons Thomas and George lived to be 99 and 105 respectively. His surname and those of previous generations have been recorded as Gear, Geare, Geere as well as Geer. See the paragraph below about the origins of the name.

George married Mary A. (born about 1550 in Heavitree, only last name initial known) in England, probably in Heavitree and they had at least four sons together. Ancestor Jonathan’s is the only known named son. The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Herald's Visitations of 1531, 1564, and 1620 has him listed as having four sons without naming them. George purchased the farm of Robert Isbell, in the northeast part of the present town of Ledyard, adjoining the farm of Peter Spicer.

George Geer’s death and burial is recorded as September 6, 1648 in Devon, but documentation does not exist to support this. When and where Mary died is unknown.

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Origin Of The Geer Name

as printed in The Genealogy of the Geer Family in America from 1635 to 1914

Surnames as family names were practically unknown before the middle of the eleventh century and their use was not firmly established until after the thirteenth. In all countries, the adoption of surnames has generally marked the arrival of the people at a certain mark in civilization. All names were originally significant. They designated occupation, estate, place of residence or some particular thing that related to the person. The origin of the name of Geer is quite interesting. Ferguson, in “The Teutonic Name-System,” says that in an age when war was the main business of man, names taken from the weapons in which he trusted, were as natural as they were common; and directly or indirectly from this source are derived more names than from all other sources put together. One of the most common weapons in those days was the Spear, and naturally one of the most common of all roots was the Anglo-Saxon gar, and the Old Saxon ger. Spear, from which is derived the English surname Geere. Barber, in “British Family Names,” also gives the same origin of the name. Another authority, Lower, in “English Surnames,” gives a somewhat fantastic explanation of the origin of the name. He says:—“The origin of the name Gear is curious. In the olden tyme (sic) great men employed an officer to superintend the equipment of their armed retainers, and as all sorts of arms were called gere or gear this person would very naturally acquire the name of John-of-the-Gear, or John-o-Gear, and at length John Gear.” Gentry, in “Family Names,” gives still another derivation. He says: “Gear=riches, goods of any kind.”

The Geer Coat of Arms

from The Genealogy of the Geer Family in America from 1635 to 1914

The arms of the several branches of the family in England are strikingly alike and would seem to indicate a common origin. There are four known varieties, all practically in the same form, the main difference being in the coloring:

1. The arms of Jonathan Geere, of Heavitree, as shown left, was used in the frontispiece of Walter Geer's book. The description is as follows:
ARMS:—Gules, two bars argent, each charged with three mascles of the first, on a canton or, a leopard's face azure.
CREST:—A leopard's head erased proper, ducally gorged or, langued gules, between two wings gules.
MOTTO—Non sans cause, which translates to Not without reason.

2. The arms of John Geer of Heavitree, Devon, shown by James Geer in his Genealogy as a frontispiece to the book, described as follows:
ARMS:—Gules, two bars or, each charged with three mascles azure, on a canton of the second (or) a leopard's face of the third (azure).
CREST:—A leopard's head or, langued gules (no wings).
MOTTO:—In the Name of Geer.

3. The arms of John Geere, Kent, Devon, as given in Burke's “General Armoury” and Fairbairn's “Crests,” which is shown on right.
ARMS—Gules, two bars or, each charged with three mascles azure, on a canton or, a leopard's face gules.
CREST:—A leopard's head azure, ducally gorged or, between two wings gules.
MOTTO:—Not given.

4. The arms of Geare or Geere of Heavitree, Devon, as given in the Harleian Society's “Visitation of Devonshire,” 1620:
ARMS:—Gules, two bars or, each charged with three mascles azure, on a canton or, a leopard's face azure.
CREST:-—Not given.
MOTTO:—Not given..

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Heavitree is a district of the city of Exeter in Devon, England. It lies to the east of the city centre, and was formerly the first significant village outside the city on the road to London. It was a small town before the 1800's with just over 800 people living there at the time.

The town's name appears in the Domesday Book as Hevetrowa in the Exon Domesday; Hevetrove, in the Exchequer Domesday copy; and in a document written about 1130 as Hefatriwe. Its derivation is uncertain, but because of the known execution site at Livery Dole, it is thought most likely to derive from heafod–treow (old English for head tree), which according to the book The Place-Names of Devon, refers to a tree on which the heads of criminals were placed. Trevor Falla says in his book Discovering Exeter 3: Heavitree that W. G. Hoskins says the name comes from the fact that it was a meeting place for the hundred court. The last executions for witchcraft in England took place at Heavitree in 1682, when the Bideford Witches Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, and Susanna Edwards were executed. Some say that local folklore used to associate the name with the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, when Judge Jeffreys supposedly ran out of gibbets. David Cornforth, in his book Exeter's Executed tells us that the last execution to take place in Heavitree was in 1818, when Samuel Holmyard was hanged at the Magdalen Drop for passing a forged one pound note.

Richard Hooker was born in Heavitree, in 1554. His writings were very influential in the Church of England in his own time and later. There is a statue of Hooker in the grounds of Exeter Cathedral.

Heavitree stone is a type of red sandstone that was formerly quarried in the area and was used to construct many of Exeter's older buildings, including Exeter Guildhall.