The Brookes (or Brooks) family stretches back at least a thousand years in time, to England at the time of the Norman invasion. A family with this surname was first found in Essex, where they were granted lands by William the Conqueror for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The charge on the coat of arms features a black shield with three gold Escallops: the badge of pilgrims going to the Holy Land. Escallops can be found on the shields of many families during the period of the Crusades. The Crest displays a blue beaver. The family motto translates as “By Persevering.” They have lived up to that motto through wars, religious persecution, and plenty of hard times.
All truly English surnames were invented in about 1340-1360. Until then, people usually went with one name (John, Mary, etc.), which they were baptized with. But then the British Crown decided to raise revenue by means of a Poll Tax—that is, a flat-rate tax upon every adult male. To distinguish between men of the same baptismal name in the same community, additional descriptions had to be conjured. Normally, readily understood adjectives were applied, using the subject’s job, looks, place of birth, or whatever differentiated them from the other men of the same name (John Longfellow, John Miller, John Whitehall, etc.). The name “Brookes” or “Brooks” is an English topographic surname for someone who lived by a brook or stream, from the Old English term broc.
But there is no reason to suppose that two men of the same name, but from different places, were related—if there were two men named Brooke, maybe they were just two guys living near a brook, and not relatives. (However, the different surnames of Elder and Younger, in the same village, implied a kinship of father and son.)
Our direct lineage to this family can probably be traced to a man named RICHARD BROOKES, born about 1590 in England. Richard is said to have married a woman named “Ann.” (Here’s a possibility: In Worcestershire County, England, Richard Brookes & ANN HINDE registered to marry on the 18th of August in 1622.)
Information on how Richard came to America is scarce. But there was a Richard Brookes who was a passenger aboard the English ship “Susan & Ellen,” arriving at Plymouth Plantation on April 13, 1635. The ship carried “rebels,” meaning that Richard was a Puritan—an English Reformer of the seventeenth century, frustrated by the slow progress of the Reformation in the Anglican Church. English Puritans were known at first for their extremely critical attitude regarding the religious compromises made during the reign of Elizabeth I. Many of them were graduates of Cambridge University, and they became Anglican priests to make changes in their local churches. They encouraged direct personal religious experience, sincere moral conduct, and simple worship services. Puritans disapproved of holidays like Christmas and Easter on the grounds that these holidays were invented by man and not prescribed by the Bible, and as such could not be Holy. It should be noted that the observation of Christmas in those times was not the same as today, and often featured excesses including gluttony, drunkenness, home invasions, aggressive begging (with an express or implied threat of harm), rioting, and immoral behavior. (Hey, that DOES sound a lot like our family Christmas holidays!) But the Puritans were not liked: Facing jail or worse in England, Richard and the other Puritans sailed to the American Colonies in order to live and worship as they pleased.
Plymouth Colony, America’s first permanent Puritan settlement, was established by English Separatist Puritans (Pilgrims) in December of 1620. After a period in Holland, they set sail from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620, aboard the Mayflower, its 102 passengers spending 65 days at sea. The Mayflower dropped anchor near present-day Provincetown on November 21, 1620, and 41 male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement to enact “just and equal laws for the general good of the colony.” The Pilgrims finally landed at the site of present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, on December 26, 1620. (By legend, the Pilgrims stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock; but none of their records mention this landmark.) They began erecting buildings and rough shelters for the winter, but harsh climate and illness took their toll. By the end of winter half the colonists had died.
The colonists encountered an Indian named Samoset, who surprised them by speaking English, learned from traders on the coast of Maine. Samoset introduced the colonists to Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag Indians, who signed a peace treaty with the Pilgrims. Squanto, another English-speaking Indian, acted as guide and interpreter, and with his help the colonists learned to plant corn, catch fish, and gather fruit. The Pilgrims invited the Indians to celebrate their first harvest in 1621, an event now celebrated as Thanksgiving Day.
But after Massasoit’s death, the Wampanoag joined a tribal coalition to eliminate English settlers. In the ensuing King Philip’s War the Wampanoag were nearly exterminated. The colony gradually grew in size, and the original settlement known as the Plymouth Plantation expanded as settlers built houses in the area. As the years passed still more settlers came to Plymouth until in 1630 the population was around 300.
Plymouth did not, however, have the essentials for growth that other colonies would have. Its farm land was not good and the colony was poorly located for the fur trade and fishing. It remained small, and was soon overshadowed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which it had inspired. Plymouth Colony retained its independence for over 70 years, and by 1691 its population exceeded 7,000. It was integrated with the Massachusetts Bay Company’s much larger colony to establish the royal colony of Massachusetts — now the state of the same name.
CHILDREN OF RICHARD AND ANNE BROOKES
|JOHN BROOKS was born in England. Death: 30 December 1688 in Deerfield, Franklin Co., Massachusetts. Burial: December 1688 Deerfield, Franklin Co., Massachusetts|
|WILLIAM BROOKS was born in 1610 in Harberton, Devonshire, England. He married Mary Burt ( 1632 – 1689) on 18 October 1654 in Springfield, Mass. Children listed below.|
Now, the Puritans and Pilgrims were a pretty tame bunch in the 1650’s. Outside of slaughtering the Indian race, they were pretty conservative. They forbade the performance of plays and outlawed singing (even singing church hymns), and they didn’t start burning witches for another fifty years. But that all changed in the Brookes family when William married MARY BURT (1632 – 1689), on the 18th of October in 1654, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Mary had quite the reputation.
Mary had just been given 12 lashes, naked, in the public square for having an illegitimate child with her brother-in-law, Samuel Wright Jr., who had married her sister the year before—then on top of that, Mary paid a fine to redeemanother twelve lashes that she was sentenced to get for ‘Comitting wickedness with Joseph Bonde.”
A marriage between a Puritan like William and a Scarlet Letter candidate like Mary would seem doomed from the start, but in fact, it was a long, prosperous union. William and Mary settled in Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts. According to Springfield Town Records, on February 8, 1654 “thease parsells of meddow comonly called by the name of Wattchuett was granted these inhabitants as ffollowethe vid – … will Brooks 4 acres.”
William stayed in Springfield for another ten years, but with some of his best land now gone, he eventually needed a fresh start. In 1686, he moved to Deerfield, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, where the land was cheaper. But he died on the 30th of December, 1688. Mary died a few months later, on the 30th of August in 1689 in Northampton, Franklin County, Massachusetts. But fortunately for us and thousands of other descendents, she and William had a LOT of kids before that day:
CHILDREN OF WILLIAM BROOKS AND MARY BURT
|REMEMBERANCE BROOKS b: in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|WILLIAM BROOKS b: 18 August 1655 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Killed by Indians on the 27th of October, 1675, during King Philip’s War.|
|JOHN BROOKS b: 13 February 1656/1657 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Killed by Indians on the 27th of October, 1675, during King Philip’s War.|
|SARAH BROOKS b: 4 May 1658 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|MARY BROOKS b: 21 December 1659 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|PATIENCE BROOKS b: 5 July 1661 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|EBENEZER BROOKS b: 21 December 1662 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Married ELIZABETH BELDING. He died in 1720.|
|NATHANIEL BROOKS b: 9 May 1664 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Married (1) MARY WILLIAMS; (2) MARY ALLIS. His son, William, was captured by Indians in 1704 (fate unknown).|
|ABIGAIL BROOKS b: 25 Jan 1664/1665 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|JOSEPH BROOKS b: 7 October 1667 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Married LYDIA WARNER. He died in 1748.|
|MERCY BROOKS b: 25 August 1669 in Springfield, Hampden Co., Massachusetts.|
|DELIVERANCE BROOKS b: 28 February 1671/1672.|
|THANKFUL BROOKS b: 28 February 1671/1672.|
|JONATHON BROOKS b: 13 October 1674.|
|MARY BROOKS b: 11 July 1677 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Married BARRETT STEELE on 30 Dec 1697 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts .|
|THANKFUL BROOKS b: 19 September 1679.|
MARY BROOKS was born on the 11th of July, 1677, in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.
This Mary was a lot less controversial than her mother. She was never whipped naked in the public square, as far as we know, and she stuck to one husband. But she still had plenty to deal with on the frontier. Colonial America was based on a hierarchical society in which, by custom and law, women were subordinate to men. Women were not expected to run businesses or to follow professions. They could not vote or hold public office or sit on a jury. They were, for the most part, denied education beyond the skills they would need in their own households. Married women could not own property in their own names; even their earnings were automatically deemed the property of their husbands.
On the 30th of December, 1697, Mary married a man namedBARRETT STEELE, born in 1676, also in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Barrett died on the fourth of December in 1713, in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. (He’s buried at Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.) She died the same year, about the time she gave birth to her last child.
Their children are:
CHILDREN OF BARRETT STEELE AND MARY BROOKS
|MARY STEELE, b: 27 October 1698 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Married to John HODGE on 5 April 1717.|
|HANNAH STEELE, b: 24 February 1699 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
|HANNAH STEELE, b: 14 Mar 1701 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
|Mercy STEELE b: 6 Mar 1703 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Married Nathaniel OLD, b: 2 Mar 1701/1702 in Suffield, Hartford, CT. Married: 18 July 1722 in Suffield, Hartford, Connecticut. Children: Mercy OLD b: 30 April 1724 in Suffield, Hartford, Connecticut; Azuba OULD b: 22 October 1727 in Suffield, CT; Abiah OULD b: 26 September 1729 in Suffield, Hartford, Connecticut.|
|JOHN STEELE, born on the 09 May 1707 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Death: 21 February 1793 in Longmeadow, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
|THANKFUL STEELE b: 28 September 1708 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
|ABIGAIL STEELE b: 3 November 1710 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
|SAMUELL STEELE b: 21 October 1713 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts.|
CHILDREN OF JOHN STEELE AND ABIGAIL BROOKS
|JOHN STEELE b: 1729 in Springfield, Hampden, MA.|
|ABIGAIL STEELE b: 4 December 1731 in Springfield, Hampden, MA.|
|RHODA STEEL b: 22 June 1735 in Springfield, Hampden, MA.(christened on the 22nd of June in 1735) married ROBERT SANDERSON (b. 13 July 1734) on the eighth of March in 1754, in Springfield.|
|AARON STEELE b: 13 July 1739 in Springfield, Hampden, MA.|
|SETH STEELE b: 20 December 1741 in Springfield, Hampden, MA.|
|RUBEN STEELE b: 14 September 1746 in Springfield, Hampden, Ma|
|JUSTUS STEELE b: 13 August 1749 in Springfield, Hampden, Ma|
|SQUIRE STEELE b: 26 August 1752 in Springfield, Hampden, Ma.|
RICHARD BROOKES (b. 1590) married ANN (HINDE?) and begat…
“Brooks Family Records,” by J. Montgomery Seaver. American Historical-Genealogical Society, 2000 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Pages 16, 26.Worcestershire: – Registers of Marriages (Various Parishes), 1538-1836; Second Register Burials; Marriages at Shipston-on-Stour, 1572 to 1812.A GENEALOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST SETTLERS OF NEW ENGLAND, BEFORE 1692 – Vol. 1 – Savage, James – 1860-62: “BROOKS, WILLIAM, Springfield, m. 1654, Mary, d. of Henry Burt, had 8 s. and 8 ds. 1655-79. The s. were William, John, Ebenezer, Nathaniel, Joseph, Benjamin, Deliverance, and Jonathan, of wh. the two first nam. were k. by the Ind. 27 Oct. 1675, at Westfield. He rem. to Deerfield, there d. 1688, and his wid. d. next yr.”In 1686 William Brooks moved to Deerfield, Franklin Co., Massachusetts where he died on December 30, 1688. William Brooks of Springfield is referred to in “NEHGS Register” Vol 72, page 142.General: Information taken from a family group record in possession of Ernel L. Anderson. Source of information listed on the record reads, “First Century of Springfield, Massachusetts, Vol. 2 p. 640”. Record submitted by Lucy Burns, 776 East 33rd South, Salt Lake City, UT.
Abbrev: 1st Century of Springfield Author: Henry M. Burt. Publication: Springfield, MA
Leicestershire & Rutland: – Index to the Wills and Administrations proved and granted in the Archdeaconry Court of Leicester 1660-1750, and in the peculiars of St. Margaret, Leicester, and Rotblen and the Rutland Peculiars of Caldecott, Retton and Tirover
Calendar of Wills Proved and of Administrations Granted in the Commissary Court of the Peculiar and Exempt Jurisdiction of Groby, 1580-1800.
Index to Wills and Eldministrations Proved and Granted in The Elrchdeaconry Court of Leicester 1660-1750The following wills belong to Book X, 1602, 3, 9, 10, First Series, and follow immediately after the will of Thomas Traslour on page 96. County: Rutland Country: England 1694 Brookes, Richard, Glen Parva Adm. 53