Francis and Thomas Kendall in New England

When did Francis and Thomas Kendall come to New England?

Francis Kendall came to Massachusetts during the Great Migration which covers the years 1620-1640. His first documented appearance in America is the orders for the town of Woburn, which was originally named Charlestown Village since the early founders came from Charlestown.[1] That record shows Francis was in Massachusetts by mid-May 1640.

The first documented appearance of his brother, Thomas, was in February 1642/3 in Reading (originally called Lynn Village).[2] That year, the birth of his eldest known child, Elizebeth (spelling preserved), was entered into the town vital records with a date of 17 Feb 1642. The transcribers for the early Reading vital records recorded dates exactly or used the double dating system, so this date was preserved as originally entered and should be considered 17 Feb 1642/43.

While it’s possible the brothers came different months or years, a more likely scenario is that they traveled together as many early immigrants did with friends or family. Both may have settled in Charlestown, as family histories theorize, and moved out to Woburn and Reading as lands became available, or Thomas may have moved to Reading from Lynn.[3]

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Who was Mabel Reed?

Some of the most descriptive information for Mabel Reed comes from the Littletown, Massachusetts town vital records book which states the following for William Reed’s family on page 529:


William Reade (same as William Reed p. 466) arrived in Boston Oct

            6 1635, m 1635 Mabel Kendall. He d. in England 1656, she

            m. 2d Henry Summers and d. June 5 1690 a. 85. Children:

George m. Aug 4 1651 Elizabeth Jennison who d. Feb 26 1664-5

a. He d. 1706 a. 77.

Ralph b. 1630 m. Mary Pierce, dau. Anthony. He d. Jan 4

            1711, she d. Feb 18 1700.

Israel m. his cousin Mary Kendall. He d. June 25 1771, she d.

Jan 17 1721.

On page 466 it states:

1st gen.         William Reed of Woburn, supposed son of Thomas, was b.

                       1587, came to America 1635, ancestor of Woburn, Lexington

                       and Bedford Reeds. He m. Mabel Kendall, b. 1605, and had children:

                       George b. in England 1629

                       Ralph b. 1636


There are differences between these entries. The first lists the marriage year for Mabel and William as 1635, yet the second has their son George’s birth in 1629.[2] It’s possible Mabel is the second wife of William or that George’s birth year is off, but there is an obvious conflict. The first entry has Ralph’s birth in 1630 (making England his birthplace) and the other is in 1636 (England and Massachusetts equally likely).[3] Each entry has its own migration year for the family. The first entry has more details on William and his children, but the second provides a Woburn connection, possible parentage, and a birth year for William.  

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The Alias in the Room

Why would anyone use an alias?

Though not quite the same as the elephant, wrapping our heads around the question of how an alias got into a person’s surname can be almost as baffling as how an elephant managed to get through a doorway and into a room, never mind the whole issue of people ignoring its existence despite the space it takes up. Like a room elephant, alias surnames have been largely ignored by academic researchers and by baffled family historians. Many, with modern sensibilities, might think an alias surname is associated with something nefarious as it can be today. In the period from the mid-1500s into the 1700s when alias surnames show up in many English and a few colonial records, the opposite was usually true.

An alias surname in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries was more likely to be an “also known as.” It was an extra layer of identification for individuals and families, revealing rather than concealing. There are quite a few reasons a person might take on an alias. This article has many of them:[1]

The most likely reasons members of the Kendall or Mylles family used an alias surname are:

  • Commemoration by descendants of a marriage into a “socially superior” family with the retention of a maiden name of a mother or grandmother.
  • Illegitimacy, which could serve the purpose of publicly proclaiming parental origins.
  • Rights of inheritance (my personal favorite), and other economic reasons. For example, in a time when deeds/leases were not always recorded, using an extra surname could show a right to land owned by a father. A good example of this might be when a widow remarried and her children took their stepfather’s surname yet retained their biological father’s name as well as proof of their right to inheritance.
  • Individuals might also add an alias to obtain an inheritance from a family line in danger of “dying out.”
  • Adoption, or marrying into a family.

The Kendall als. Mylles alias

There is no proof yet if any of these reasons apply to the family of Francis Kendall als. Mylles  and his brother, Thomas Kendall. (Note-the double or alias surname can also be reversed.) A great deal of research time could be expended without uncovering enough evidence to say which, if any, of these reasons is correct. Or a researcher might fortuitously come across definitive evidence in an archive tomorrow. The reason the Kendall als Mylles family chose an alias is far less important than the fact that they used one for a very long time.

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Finding Francis (and Thomas)

Qualifications (What should we be looking for?)

As noted in a previous post, for a birth/baptism of Francis Mylls alias Kendall or Thomas Kendall to be accepted as ancestral, it must meet certain criteria. Those qualifications are:

  • Use of the alias surname within the immediate family
  • The birth of Francis in about 1620 and Thomas a bit before that

In addition, the next two qualifications must also be met, and the third is icing on the cake:

  • No death record before 1640
  • No marriage and children’s births/baptisms in England at the same time Francis and Thomas were married and having children in New England
  • Coming from an area recognized for religious dissent (since the majority of immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay colony were puritans/dissenters)

For many years, family historians have investigated Norfolk and Cambridgeshire records in accordance with the “standard wisdom” mentioned in several Kendall histories that Francis and Thomas came from Norfolk, but no family was found in either county which met the criteria. The search needed to expand.

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A Death in 1666

Francis Kendall

Though no record of death was found for Francis Kendall als. Miles prior to his departure to New England approximately 1640, a burial record was found for a Francis Kendall in Newport Pagnell in 1666. Because the record exists in a parish where Francis may have lived, this record cannot be ignored, and logical reasoning is needed to discount it as the burial record of Francis Kendall alias Miles.

England, Buckinghamshire, Newport Pagnell, Parish Register for Newport Pagnell, 1558-1881, FHL microfilm 1,042,392, items 14-16; digitized images, Family Search ( : accessed 13 April 2023). 18 and 19 Aug 1666

Death in a time of plague

The years 1665 and 1666 were nothing short of horrific for London and in many other areas of England.[1] It was called the Great Plague for a reason. Although there had been periodic outbreaks since the bubonic pandemic of the 1340s (which killed as much as half the English population), none since then had taken as high a toll as the 1665-6 plague years did. It’s been estimated that nearly 100,000 died in London alone.

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Analysis on the will of Ralph Kendall, carpenter of Middlesex

Will of Ralph Kendall, carpenter of Middlesex, image 1
“Wills” database, Buckinghamshire Council Archives (https:// : accessed 25 April 2023), pdf of Rafe Mels, 1661, D/A/Wi/41/147.

Will of Rafe Mels, carpenter of Middlesex, image 2

Transcription by Celia Renshaw:

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Anabaptism, a court case, and the death of Thomas Kendall

Many family historians have covered information on Francis Kendall in Woburn and Thomas Kendall in Reading, Massachusetts. I won’t be re-writing, re-analyzing, or refuting those, rather I want to highlight some seldom-seen documents for the Kendalls in New England.


The first is a 1671 court record for Francis.[1] In December that year, thirteen citizens of Woburn were named in a Middlesex County court record for publicly manifesting contempt for the ordinance of infant baptism. They were also admonished for attending the assemblies of the anabaptists, which is what those who espoused “believers’ baptism,” were called. Believers’ baptism is the practice of baptizing only those who are old enough to understand and accept the tenets of church doctrine, which infants cannot. Two faiths had arisen in England which rejected the practice of infant baptism, the Baptists and Quakers (who did not practice baptism at all). Both had adherents in the colonies by the mid-1600s. Others agreed with or leaned towards anabaptism but did not join either sect. They simply held the belief while continuing to attend the predominant Congregational congregations.

Early transcript of the original court record (which was difficult to read)
Printed transcription of most of the record from History of Woburn
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Thomas Mylls als. Kendall 1605

This will is the earliest finding (so far) of the Kendall als. Mills (or Mylles als. Kendall) surname.[1] More may surface later, but as the excellent analysis by Celia states, Thomas may be the first individual to use the alias surname. Here, in order, are the will, the transcription, and Celia’s analysis of the will. No additional information is needed as the analysis covers everything that can be taken from the will.

Original Will of Thomas Kendall written and proved in 1605

Here is the transcription of the will by Celia Renshaw:

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The Early Kendall and Mylls Families of Newport Pagnell

Celia has composed several early Newport Pagnell families with the surnames Kendall, Mills, and Kendall als. Mylls. The primary source for them is the parish register but other records were also used. This covers up through the early 1600s in Newport Pagnell and they figure in to the 1605 will of Thomas Mylls als. Kendall. More Newport Pagnell families and others in parishes nearby may eventually be extracted as we try to expand on the family network of Thomas and Francis Kendall als. Miles.



8 Dec 1560 Joan daughter of Hewgh KENDALL baptized, buried 11 Dec 1560

15 Jan 1561/2 Andrew son of Hewgh KENDALL buried

15 Jan 1561/2 Ann dau of Hewgh KENDALL buried

2 May 1566 John KENDALL baptized (no father named, but as the surname is KENDALL he is more likely to be a son of Hewgh)

1570 Agnes daughter of Hewgh KENDALL baptized, possibly buried 7 May 1594

4 Jan. 1595/6 Hewgh KENDALL buried

27 Oct 1604 Margery KENDALL wydow buried (possible spouse of Hewgh)

Note: It seems likely that Hewgh had a son, Anthony KENDALL, born ca. 1563 who was having babies from 1585. He may also have had a daughter, Elizabeth KENDALL, born ca. 1565, who married John KYGHT on 5 Dec 1586, and maybe a another daughter Isabell KENDALL, buried as a young adult on 29 Sep 1584.


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Timeline of Events in the Lives of the Kendall als. Mills family

This timeline follows national events, Buckinghamshire events, Kendall als. Mills family events, and some from the lives of John Bunyan and John Gibbs, as examples of what other dissenters experienced during our period of interest. There is no doubt the Kendall als. Mills family lived in turbulent times, which could have impacted the decision of Francis and Thomas to immigrate and certainly affected the lives of family members who stayed in England.

Conclusions that can be drawn from the events in the timeline:

  • The Kendall als Mills family lived in a place of significant dissent in England and of religious strife that led up to the Civil Wars.
  • Francis and Thomas Kendall left for Massachusetts in 1640, but family who remained in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire and Enfield, Middlesex would likely have seen general unrest and persecution of dissenters.
  • The Civil Wars (1642-51) came to Newport Pagnell through control by Royalist and then Parliamentary Armies and a Parliamentary garrison stationed in Newport Pagnell. Frederick Bull’s History of Newport Pagnell stated the garrison was commanded by Sir Samuel Luke, who had an unusual surname which turned up again with Rodney Luke, who witnessed Ralph Kendall als Mills will written in Middlesex in 1657.
  • The Restoration of the Monarchy (1660) brought some political stability, reverse immigration, and the return of pre-1642 political and religious policies, including those against dissenters.

To see the timeline itself, click here.