Return to John Field 1527

A very cynical letter about the book, "Field Genealogy" by Frederick Clifton Pierce
as submitted to the Genealogical columns of The Boston Evening Transcript.
May 1, 1905, page 12

For the Google web-source of this transcription please go to the foot of this page.


Start of transcript :----

* 7590.5 Manley, Field  H.W.H. April 3, 1905

I disclaim championship of Mr F C Pierce's "Field 
Genealogy" but claim to be a lover of truth and fair play.  Less than two years ago Mr H G

Somerby's numerous inaccuracies in Genealogical work came to my notice.  In 1868 Mr Osgood Field writing for the New England Historical and

Genealogical Register, refers to him as "my friend Mr Somerby"; and the Register several years later, speaks of his English researches with

praise. I now believe that his work should be carefully traversed before acceptance as authority, but am not ready to condemn it as 'spoiled


Genealogy is not a science.  Public records are defective and too often entirely wanting.  Private records and cemetery inscriptions are far from

infallible.  Family traditions are liable to addition and subtraction at every step.  Besides, the "Father of Lies" has an unknown number of  

representatives dead and living.

I was not aware until a few weeks ago that Mr Pierce had adopted Mr Somerby's English researches in his "Field Genealogy" but had previously

observed its weaknesses where the pedigrees of most American families begin; that is, with the immigrant ancestor.  There is some 

internal evidence that Mr Pierce was aware of Mr Somerby's shortcomings; and it is conspicuous that he quotes from several

American members of the Field
family in support of a pedigree of Flushing, L.I. and New Jersey branch, which is quite at variance with that

incorporated into the text of his book on the authority of Somerby.  Some of this will be given later on.

Mr Pierce is dead and cannot defend himself.  Why offer the trite proverb, De mortis nil nisi bonum [say nothing but good of the dead] ?  He

was a newspaper man, and presumably made his living as such.  There was work enough for one man, and probably he had to give it better

attention  than his genealogical performance received.  Mind has its limitations as well as matter.  Men are prone to attempt more than they

can do well.  

I have been informed that the details of his genealogical work were executed by cheap assistants.  I know it was difficult to  get an answer to

a  letter from him.  As he was born in 1859, he ought to have lived much longer.  It is unfortunate for the Field family that its history should

be published under such conditions.

I am asked for additional evidence between the English and American branches, and can only quote from Mr. Pierce's book.

Beginning of quotations from pages 104, 112 and 113 of the book (ed.)  

First on page 104, vol.i

[ on authority of ] Mrs Brownell: "William was the son of William, who was born in 1571.

"William was the son of Sir John [the astronomer], who died in 1587.  

"John was the son of Richard who died in 1542.  

"Richard was grandson of William who died in 1480."  

The first William above named  was an immigrant, of Providence, who died in 1665, without issue, leaving as principal heir by will his nephew

Thomas (called in the will "said Cousen Thomas ffield").  

Unfortunately we are not told who Mrs Brownell was.

Secondly, page 112,vol.i :

"Statement of George Corliss in relation to information obtained from an old lady of the Field family, a resident of  Newton, L.I. in the year

1842, at which time she was over 90 years old.  Her name was Margaret Smith, formerly Field.  She was the widow of Isaac Smith and a

granddaughter of Elnathan Field who was son of Robert Field Jr. of Newton, L.I. and a grandson of Robert Field of Flushing.  The information

was obtained from  replies to written queries furnished (to) Mr Corliss by Richard Field, principally in relation to his lineal ancestors, but with

little regard to their  collateral branches.

"The information was taken down at the time by Mr Corliss in writing.  She said she was born in Flushing, and that her grandfather was a

grandson of Robert Field, one of the first proprietors of that town.  That in early life she spent much time at her grandfather's, who was

excessively fond of talking about his ancestors, and she heard him so frequently repeat accounts of their early history that she could

remember with great distinctness many items of information which he said he obtained directly from his grandfather Robert Field.  Among

these are the following : 

That this (Robert Field's) father's name was James Field and that his grandfather's name was Matthew Field, and that Matthew had no less

than seven  brothers; that these brothers became widely scattered, many having left Ardsley previously to Robert Field's coming to America;

that Matthew and all his brothers were born in Ardsley, to which their father John Field, had removed about the time of his marriage, having

previously been a resident of London, where he was born about the year 1525, and where he resided between thirty and forty years, and it was

there that he  published his astronomical works.  She further stated that she remembered distinctly that Matthew Field had a son John whose

son Zaccheus - doubtless - Zachariah - emigrated to this country, according to the statement of Robert Field about a dozen years before he

did, and that he came out of the Bay State where he remained but a short time.  At the time of arrival of Robert Field he was residing

somewhere in the Colony of Connecticut. She also stated that Matthew's brother William had two sons, who came to this country after their

cousin Zaccheus; that they came to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; that was named after his father ( and William) and the other

after his grandfather John.  She related many anecdotes of little interest at this time.  George Corlies died about 1847, at about the age of

ninety three."

Thirdly, p.113: "Slight facts sometimes lend strong confirmation to what has been established by presumptive evidence.

Such is the following :

Conversing some years ago with the late Hon. Richard Field of Princeton, N.J., at one time United States senator from that State, and

afterwards  judge of the United States District Court, on being shown the arms printed elsewhere, he was at once struck with the resemblance

to a seal which had been in his family for generations.  Both the arms and the crest were exactly the same in every particular.  On one side of

the seal were the initials R.F., which were undoubtedly those of Robert Field of Flushing from whom the New Jersey Fields are descended.

How came Robert Field in possession of this very particular crest ?  Plainly because he was a direct descendant."

End of quotations from pages 104, 112 and 113 of the book (ed.)

The above quotations show that Mr Pierce made investigations supplementary to Somerby's English pedigree, and his comments, not included

here indicate that he trusted his own work rather than that of Somerby where they are at variance.  S.S.H.

End of transcript of Boston E.T. column.

Transcribed by Geoff Royle, 21 April 2013 (webmaster), from the following Google 'News' page (glady discovered) :,108508

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