Researcher’s Corner
(Frequently Asked Questions)


  • What is the origin of the Hastings name?

  • Was Thomas Hastings of noble descent?

  • What was his first wife’s surname?

  • Where was he from in England?

  • Did he ever live in Dedham, Mass.?

  • What about the Website?


Origin of Name?  There is no single answer to this question.  The scholars who study such things even contradict themselves.  Even so, Wikipedia displays a reasonable synthesis of opinion.

“As a surname Hastings may sometimes be a patronymic surname from the Anglo-Norman personal name Hasting (also Hastain), but is usually a toponymic surname from Hastings in Sussex.”

Descent?  The story of his noble birth can be found in many sources (not the least of which is the The Hastings Memorial).  It is not clear where this story started but there is no evidence that Thomas ever made this claim for himself.  The specific assertion that he descended from the Earl of Huntingdon branch of the Hastings family is not supported by any of the available evidence (and there is quite a bit on this well documented noble family).  Looking at geography alone, it is highly unlikely that he would have come from central England (the Huntingdon branch was seated in and around Ashby-de-la-Zouche) when the vast majority of his fellow immigrants were from East Anglia.  It is highly probable that he was also from East Anglia and probably of the artisan class.  For more details read “The Supposed Noble Ancestry of Thomas Hastings” (Article).

First Wife?  The family origins of his first wife Susan have not been ascertained.  When or if they are this may be the critical clue in establishing his own place of origin.  The problem affecting 17th century (and earlier) researchers is that records on all but the most prominent families are sketchy at best.  They weren’t great (or highly legible) to start with and during subsequent centuries many have been lost, damaged or just subject to general decay.

Origins in England?  This question is obviously tied to the unresolved ancestry question above.  However, insofar as we can be informed by his fellow travelers on The Elizabeth and fellow settlers in Watertown, it is quite likely that he was a Suffolk man.  Specifically, it is reasonable to speculate that he may have been from the area around Rattlesden.  Having said that, there is no known documentary evidence that would so link him.  Moreover, the available records of Suffolk have been thoroughly searched and have provided no revelations.  Norfolk is also a strong candidate.

Family Associations (i.e., Do the families he travelled with to America or associated with during his life here provide any clues of value)?  Perhaps; they certainly should.  So far though, they just tend to raise more questions.  For instance, his marriage to Margaret Cheney is curious.  The origin of the Cheney family in England is unknow but they are not thought to be from East Anglia.  Furthermore, they had no obvious contact with TH in Massachusetts.  Thomas had no connection to Roxbury and likewise the Cheneys (besides Margaret) don’t appear in any reference to or from Watertown.

Dedham Connection? Thomas did own property in Dedham during the mid and late 1630s but sold it when that town established a residency requirement.   There is no evidence that he ever lived on his lands in Dedham.

Can advances in genetics research be of use?  Absolutely, in the absence of relevant records, this could be our last best hope in determining the ancestry of TH.  Companies such as 23andMe, www.ancestry.com and www.familytreedna.com  provide low cost genetic testing and we highly encourage male line descendants to have their DNA tested and share what they find out.

What about the Website?

Who are the people in the homepage banner?

1-3   John Hastings; Hon. George Hastings; Hon. Ezra Hastings Flagg

4-6  Susannah (Willard) (Johnson) Hastings; Catherine Hastings (1825-1849); Prof. William Thompson Hastings

7-9  Carole Lombard; Anne (Morrow) Lindbergh; Rev. Theodore Parker

… and places?

10-11  Ipswich, Suffolk, England; Watertown, Mass.

12   Battle of Lexington-Concord

13   Connecticut River Valley