Saturday, May 9, 2020

Genetic Antecedents of Captain John Whipple

By Charles M. Whipple, Ph.D., Ed.D.
It is the assertion of this abstract that the immediate genetic antecessors of Captain John Whipple of Dorchester, Massachusetts, later of Providence Rhode Island, were John Whaple/Whaples and Mary Collett. Records reveal that he was baptized under the above family name on 13 December 1618 in the St. Mary and St. Lawrence Church of Great Waltham, Essex County, UK. 


Based on tombstone information provided by the John Whipple burial site in the North Burial Grounds of Providence, Rhode Island, it was evidenced that he had been born at an unknown England location, perhaps sometime between the years 1617 and 1618. Pursuant to a request made to address this conundrum, I received replies in 1988 and 1990 that the British firm of Debrett Ancestry had uncovered only one individual whose christening was close to that date—the above named John Whaples. Debrett Ancestry Research Limited (Gordon Rd, Winchester, SO23 7DD, England, March, 1988) pgs. B-C.

This was shortly thereafter made known to whipple.org, as well as reiterated throughout the ensuing thirty years. Most family and professional genealogists are painfully aware that spelling was until recently not standardized. In particular, during the seventeenth century names were spelled inconsistently, "even the educated spelled their names in a variety of ways."

The Honorable Blaine Whipple in his treatises on the Ipswich/Bocking family line, uncovered close to 100 such variant spellings, including over a dozen ending in the letter "s." An additional dozen are enumerated in my books on the Rhode Island Whipple family. It may well be that John was encouraged or coerced to ever so slightly transpose his surname to align it to the regnant and customarily accepted method of  identification traditionally employed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Blaine Whipple noted that the Whaple/Whaples name is not seen in official Dorchester records of the time. One should not be at all surprised to learn that John’s first ever recorded, 3 October 1632, surname at Dorchester was spelled "Wipple." (John O. Austin, Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, reprint edition, Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1969) pg. 221. Such a non-standardized method of naming, as well as widely utilized unsystematized  procedure for instituting later alterations, has long been recognized to be universally normative, and "not at all disquieting to most experienced antiquarian researchers."

As made apparent by continual submissions to the Whipple website, descendants of Captain John Whipple had long puzzled in vain as to the identity of the teenager John Wipple, who arrived at the Dorchester harbor of 1632 aboard the Lyon, might be.  An unidentified typical respondent to a Whipple blog of April 23, 2016, asked, "But why did he change his name?" i.e., from Whaples to Wipple/Whipple. In that connection, a 2006 article written by William Fiske shed much needed insight on a more than probable relationship between the near kinsman Robert Whaple of the Braintree/Bocking, Great Waltham lines, and Rhode Island families. Robert Whaple was listed as a clothier from Bocking. This shows that the Whaple/Whipple surname was utilized interchangeably. (William Wyman Fiske, "The Whipple family of Bishops Stortford, Herftordshire: Proposed Ancestral Origin of Mathew Whipple of Bocking, Essex, UK")

Subsequently, independent October of 2018 posts from Dr. Al Church reiterated much of the above Debrett/Fiske observations (Emails from Dr. Al Church to the Whipple website, October 3 &10, 2018), including findings on the newly understood disparate spellings seen across the Great Waltham and Braintree/Bocking branches of the Whipple family tree. In-depth data on Great Waltham proposed family interrelationships and church issues were helpful. Dr. Church speculated that his ancestor, Nathanial Whipple Church, may have been a fellow passenger on the 1632 Lyon.

Equally important was Dr. Church’s provocative question as to John’s potential/actual interaction with the Earl of Warwick, a known Puritan sympathizer, friend of the Whaple/Whiple families, and part owner of the Lyon.  Warwick owned a major residence just north of Great Waltham (Bocking is about 10 niles north of Great Waltham), which inspired an issue as to whether he might have had played some role in assisting the teenager John Whaple/Wipple/Whipple on his voyage to the new world. "Warwick was subsequently appointed to the position of Lord High Admiral of the British fleet." A relationship of such magnitude could have been to John’s immediate social advantage.

In summary, by virtue of the above clarification of an attendant coalescing of several traditional disparate spelling lines among worldwide Whipple family tree members during the early decades of the twenty-first century, the several above contributors to the Whipple website have provided evidentiary proof, within a reasonable degree of unquantified statistical certitude, that the John Whipple of colonial Rhode Island is the same individual baptized in the Great Waltham ceremony of December 1618.

It is realized that antiquarian researchers, in some distant future, may even yet discover a more broadly agreed upon candidate to fill the status and positioning of long unidentified Captain John Whipple ancestors and personal identity. However, at least three centuries of anecdotal studies have until now failed to do so. Until such an eventuality finds its way into undisputed historical literature, the present researcher and whipple.org, Weldon Whipple webmaster, assert that the above putative Whaple/Wipple/Whipple evolution of his surname is the most credibly evidenced solution so far proposed to the query: “Who was Captain John Whipple?” Comments are solicited.

Charles M. Whipple, Ph.D., Ed.D.
Emeritus Professor
University of Central Oklahoma

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