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back: Amanda V. (Rose) Inabnit, Ernest O. Betterley, Mary P. (Bishop) Blair, Alfred H. Betterley, Lucy E. Longsdorf, Elmer G. Betterley, Benjamin J. Betterley
front: Frank S. Betterley, Lucy M. (Green) Betterley, Frank O. Betterley, Otis V. Betterley
[photo courtesy of Geneva Thoner]
Betterley or Betterly?
The Dictionary of American Family Names from Oxford University Press defines Betterley as "English: probably a variant of Betteley, from a place called Betley, of which there is one in Staffordshire and another in Sussex, the former being named from an Old English female personal name Bette + leah ‘woodland clearing’." An entry in the New Dictionary of American Family Names by Elsdon C. Smith defines it as "one who comes from Bitterley (glade where butter was made), in Shropshire". Ric Betterly told me that the Betterleys came from the village of Betters that was located on the outskirts of London. The name Betters Ley would mean the village of Betters.
Betterley or Betterly? Take your pick. Early American references used both spellings, and subsequent generations appear to sometimes have used the spelling alternate to that used by their forebears. A grave marker might have the spelling alternate to that used by the person in life. Documents written in one's own hand can show how that person spelled his/her own name, but documents written by scribes or officials may use their own spelling choice. One rule genealogists should get used to is that there is no "correct" spelling. However, both spelling and pronunciation become very personal issues. For example, when a road near the Betterley homestead in Vermont is named Betterly Road, even though that family used the "Betterley" spelling for many generations.
Occurrences of the name in England
World Family Tree by Brøderbund shows Richard Betterley being married to Cecilia Seymour, who was born about 1337 and died in 1369 at Burford, Shropshire. The Agincourt Honor Roll shows that John Bitterlee and two men named Richard Bytterley fought for the English as they defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in France in 1415. This was during the Hundred Years' War, some fourteen years before the rise of Joan of Arc.
There are several entries for the name in the British Isles IGI. There is also a bible transcription that was apparently found for an 18th century English family. We have not yet determined where our immigrant forefather came from in England, or even exactly who our immigrant forefather was.
In early America
There are numerous theories as to the arrival of the family in America. I have no proof to enhance any of them:
The History of Brookline, New Hampshire indicates that the early Betterley family history is sketchy but states that "three brothers arrived in America in the early 18th century". [The "three brothers" story is one of the most common themes in genealogy and is most probably a myth.]
Jack Betterly of Troy, NY heard that "Thomas Betterley arrived at about the age of eighteen months with his mother, Elizabeth." This could very well have been before 1700. [This is the version least contradicted by my research.]
Ric Betterly's grandparents and the Plain Speaker of Hazleton, PA say that "there were two brothers who were advisors to the King and left his service to emigrate to America. Where they landed is not recorded. Eventually one brother settled in the area of Cartersville (St. John's), PA. The other settled in the Michigan area." [I'm guessing that these brothers were actually a later generation descended from William Betterley of Pennsylvania, though there could very well have been two earlier brothers that emigrated.]
Elizabeth Betterley heard this more detailed version of the above after it was passed down from her great-granduncle. "Thomas Betterley, born 17 Nov 1723 died 28 Jul 1775 in Boston, and his brother William, who went to Pennsylvania and settled there, came over from England in 1772 on a cattle ship. On the way the ship began to leak and for fear it might sink they killed some of the cattle and these boys then about 16 years old tried? out the (tallow?) for 1/2 of its value and threw the meat overboard, but not a (divil?) of a bit did they get." [I believe this Thomas to actually have been the father of this William. There were also sons Thomas in Vermont and George in New Hampshire.]
There's a Thomas Betterley that appears in Chowan Co, NC colonial census records in 1717 and 1721. North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Review Volume 1 shows John Ballard, with the consent of his former master, Henry Whittens of Boston in New England, agreeing to serve Thomas Betterley for 5 years and one month from the date 3 Jan 1717. This led Betterley researcher Esther Mott to search the North Carolina colonial court records. They showed that Thomas Betterley, as Justice of the Peace for Chowan precinct, was assaulted and had his life threatened by a Thomas Bray on 16 Mar 1720. These records also indicate that Thomas Betterley was among those rioting at the house of the governor on 2 Jul 1728, when the crowd attacked a servant of the governor and "broke his head". There were many other references as well to him in land and court records from 1716 until he died in June of 1729. His will was found, as were proceedings concerning a land dispute between his estate and the Alden family. We knew that this was our Thomas Betterley, listed as both feltmaker and haberdasher in Edenton, Chowan County, North Carolina.
Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants Volume Three 1695-1732 by Neil Marion Nugent shows Fran Betterly mentioned in Virginia in 1698. Esther Mott uncovered a link to the document. "ffran Betterly" is written way at the bottom. I guess that's how they wrote a capital "F". We assume there is a link to Thomas Betterley in nearby North Carolina. We are very interested in learning what that link is.
The Marriage Index: Massachusetts, 1633-1850 (FTM CD 231) shows that this first Thomas Betterley married Elizabeth Alden (great granddaughter of John and Priscilla Alden) on 26 Jul 1720 at King's Chapel in Boston, MA. Mayflower Deeds and Probates shows an Elizabeth Betterley as heir and descendant of John Alden, Jr. I've found thus far that all Betterleys that can trace their family to colonial America can trace it to Thomas Betterley and Elizabeth Alden. We don't know if Elizabeth ever left Boston, or if perhaps she returned to Boston to have her son and then for good after Thomas died. We assume that Thomas was buried in Edenton, NC.
Mayflower Births and Deaths, Vol. 1 shows Thomas  Betterly, b. 17 Nov 1723 in Boston, MA, as the son of Thomas  and Elizabeth Betterly. The Suffolk VR CD-ROM from Search and ReSearch lists his marriage to Elizabeth Carson on 6 Apr 1749 in Boston, MA. The published inscription from the Thomas Betterley bible in Vermont indicates that the father of Thomas  was really named William, but that might be a mistake due to Thomas  being only five years old when his father died in North Carolina. Thomas  is said to have died on 28 Jul 1775, followed by his wife on 7 Aug 1775, both being buried the same day. One is, of course, struck with the unlikeliness of a delay of over eleven days from death to burial in the height of summer before the days of embalming or a refrigerated morgue. The Thomas Betterley bible transcription does seem to indicate that the year of Thomas'  death was hard to read and seemed to actually be 1774.
Thomas  was the father of two daughters named Elizabeth. The first that died young was perhaps by an earlier woman named Elizabeth Mecaslan that some speculate was his betrothed but not his wife. I have seen birth years of 1749 and 1750 for this daughter. Thomas  then married Elizabeth Carson from Scotland in 1749, indicating that she was instead the mother of the first daughter. Two sons served from Worcester, MA during the Revolutionary War. They were Thomas , who moved to Newfane Twp, Windham Co, VT, and William, who moved to Sugarloaf/Butler Twp, Luzerne Co, PA. Another son, George, moved to Woodstock, VT and then Brookline, NH. These children are documented in family bibles owned by Mrs. Robert Dunklee, late of Brattleboro, VT.
Geoffrey and Patrick Dahling at graves of 6th gr-grandparents, Thomas Betterley 1751-1836 and Lydia (Warren) Betterley 1752-1839. Betterley Cemetery near Newfane, Vermont.
[photo by Loren Dahling]
See who is buried at the Betterley Cemetery on Lost Mile Rd in Newfane Twp, Windham Co, VT.
See the Betterleys and relatives buried at Porcupine Cemetery, Frankfort Twp, Pepin Co, WI.
Read about Revolutionary War wagoner Thomas Betterley and his Vermont family. Take a look at our photos of the Betterley Homestead. Are you interested in seeing a video about it? The Robb Family Farm is still owned by descendants of their grandson.
Did William Carson Betterley, later of Pennsylvania, serve under George Washington at Valley Forge, or did he again serve during the War of 1812? Was his wife also an "enlisted man", and did she cook for General Washington? Pension records make no mention of these things. Do you know?
George Betterley was too young to serve during the Revolution, but he later moved to Vermont and then New Hampshire.
Read about the three wives of Alfred W. Betterley of New York, and later of Minnesota and Wisconsin. He was a grandson of Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Betterley.
The obituary of Charles C. Betterly, witness to the murder of Abraham Lincoln and member of his honor guard. He was a great grandson of Revolutionary War soldier William Carson Betterley.
In Memory of...
Timothy D. Betterly lost his life when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York on 11 Sep 2001. A resident of Little Silver, NJ and a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, he was 42 years old and the son of Donald A. Betterly. He is survived by wife Joanne and daughters Samantha and Christine. Back in high school, Timothy invited a mentally handicapped girl who always ate alone to eat with the football players, something she did for the next two years. This is only one of many tributes to this fine man. We are proud that he bore the Betterly name.
Was a fictional Betterley ever the subject of a TV program?
I don't know if any of you remember the 1959 crime drama, Lock-Up, starring Macdonald Carey and featuring the talents of guests like Mary Tyler Moore, Lon Chaney, Leonard Nimoy, and Burt Reynolds. One episode was called The Case of Willie Betterly. I was surprised to find this video advertised on the Internet.
View the GEDCOM.
Got a Betterley question? Visit the Betterley Surname Board.
Fact or Fiction? Can you disprove these assumptions?
Marge Howe found a list of the children of Thomas and Lydia (Warren) Betterley of Newfane, VT at the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. It stated that daughter Lucy married Rhodes Gardner and that daughter Betsey married his brother, Philip Gardner. I found son George Betterley in the Otsego Co, NY census living in Laurens in 1840 and Milford in 1850. I then found what seems to indicate that Lucy, Betsey, and their husbands also lived in Otsego County.
The 1850 census for Laurens lists Philip (born about 1777 in Rhode Island) and Elizabeth (born about 1780 in Massachusetts) Gardner. The Betterley family moved from Massachusetts to Vermont in about 1780, so this could be our Betsey who fills in a gap in the Betterley children birth years. The 1860 census for New Lisbon lists Rhodes (born about 1784 in Vermont) and Lucy (born about 1785 in New York) Gardner. Perhaps the birth place for Lucy is listed incorrectly. She also fills in a gap in the Betterley children birth years. Also, several of the children I later discovered have names found amongst the children of Thomas and Lydia Betterley.
Joan Emery then informed me that Rhodes Gardner of Otsego County was married to Lucy Butterley. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I then found Rhodes (died 1866 age 81), Lucy (died 1869 age 84), Philip (died 1858 age 80), and Betsey (died 1860 age 81) Gardner listed on NYGenWeb as being buried in Mt. Vision Cemetery of Laurens Twp. Phillip (28 May 1777) and Rhoads (2 Apr 1784) are listed in the IGI as sons of Joseph and Judith Gardner of Pownal Twp, Bennington Co, VT. That is very close to Newfane Twp, Windham Co, VT. There is also a Rhodes Gardner of Seneca, NY listed in the IGI as born 12 Mar 1784 and married to Lucy abt 1807. It appears to be the same Rhodes, so there is some confusion about his birth date.
I am convinced that I have found my Betterley/Gardner connection, though you should rightfully consider these as very strong clues rather than hard fact. The name combinations, birth years, and birth places seem more than coincidental. So does the fact that George Betterley moved to the same county. Perhaps the Betterley girls married the Gardner boys in Vermont before moving to New York. Younger brother George later followed them to New York after his marriage in Vermont.
Another investigation revealed that George Betterley (1790-1858) and Dimmis Whipple (1792-1864) of Windham Co, VT and then Otsego Co, NY had at least ten children if census records are to be believed:
- George Warren Betterley (abt1815 - 1886)
- John Whipple Betterley (abt1818 - bef1857)
- son Betterley (b. 1816-1820 - Samuel in Ontario? See below.)
- daughter Betterley (b. 1816-1820, d. unk)
- Alfred W. Betterley (1824 - 1880)
- son Betterley (b. 1821-1825, d. unk)
- Laura C. Betterley (1827 - 1860) married Timothy Crandall
- Lydia Rozetta Betterley(abt1828 - 1867) married William Oles
- Lucy M. Betterley (abt1833 - unk) married John Youmans
- William Ward Betterley (1835 - bef1899)
George Warren Betterley is listed in cemetery records as a son of George and Dimmis. He was living near his father in Laurens in 1840. His third child was listed as being born in Stockbridge, NY in 1842. By 1850 he was living with his uncle, Thomas Betterley, in Vermont.
John Whipple Betterley was farming in Otsego in 1850. By 1857 his wife, Matilda, was listed alone in land records. Alfred has long been considered a son. He was farming in Milford in 1850 and named his first two children George and Dimmis. The two unnamed sons are indicated in pre-1850 census records.
A Crandall history lists Laura as having married Timothy Crandall, brother of the first two wives of Alfred Betterley. They were farming in Milford in 1850. I assume she is a daughter, because Dimmis Betterley was living with them in 1860 after George died.
The IGI lists Lydia Rozetta Betterley as a relative of Emeline Whipple, youngest sister of Dimmis Whipple. I assume she was a daughter and married William Oles. Myron, a son of William and Lydia Oles, is buried right next to Mary (Crandall) Betterley, first wife of Alfred, and very near George Betterley in the Milford, NY churchyard. William and Lydia Oles and their family moved to Wisconsin, and Lydia died in 1868 and is buried at the First Belmont (or Kent) Cemetery in Belmont Twp, Portage Co, WI on County-D about two miles south of Blaine Corners.
Lucy and William were children living with George and Dimmis Betterley in 1850. I assume Lucy married John Youmans. First, George Betterley was owed money by Alfred Betterley and John Youmans when he died. There was a John Youmans of about the right age in the 1850 census. Lucy Youmans was living with Dimmis Betterley and Timothy and Laura Crandall in 1860, so her husband may have died by then.
I've been working on a Canadian connection, and my Canadian sources have been limited to what I can find online. There is a Betterley presence in Elgin, Ontario, Canada. I speculate that the first Betterley there was the 3rd son of George and Dimmis Betterley of Newfane, born about 1821. The LDS site indicates a Samuel Betterley born about 1818 Newfane, Windham, VT. At least the oldest son above was born in Newfane before the move to New York, and we can disregard a couple of other well-documented people in Newfane named Samuel Betterley. They were George's uncle and cousin. There was a Samuel Betterley in the 1850 census, age 29 and living with a Robinson family, in Hardwick, Worcester, MA. Then the following Samuel in the 1860 census for Ashtabula, Ashtabula, OH:
- Betterly, Samuel 40 M mason b.VT
- Christianna 27 F NY
- Fanny J. 7 F NY
- William 5 M NY
- Mary 1 F NY
The age for the 1860 OH entry coincides with the age for the 1850 MA entry. I found no US census entries after that for a Samuel of the right age. Phylicia Salisbury found this entry:
- Convicted at Elgin Co, ON of Receiving Surgeon's Report Facts
- BETTERLEY Samuel
- Died 6 Dec 1882 of Dysentery at age 70
- Birth Place: CAN
I believe that his birthplace of Canada is suspect. This is what got me going on the Canadian link, and I did verify Samuel's death record online. I found this 1871 census for Malahide, East Elgin, Ontario. All were born in the US, and their origin is German:
- Betterly, Samuell 44 M Carpenter
- Hannah 38 F
- Fanny 18 F
- Willie 16 M
- Mary 14 F
- John 11 M
- Simeon 6 M
- George 2 M
- Sarah 7m F
This is the family from Ohio. This time the mistake is with the family being of German origin as well as with Samuel's age. We will see later why Christianne could be Hannah. Then an 1881 Canadian census entry for Yarmouth, Elgin East, Ontario. This indicates the same age as the 1860 Ohio census, and this time the family is of English origin. All were born in the US except children George and Laura in Ontario:
- Samuel Betterley 60 M farm labourer married
- Hannah Betterley 49 F married
- Simeon Betterley 16 M
- George Betterley 14 M
- Laura Betterley 8 F
This would be one year before the death of Samuel Betterley at Kingston Penetentiary. Hannah was living with just daughter Laura in Malahide in 1891 and then in Windsor with daughter Fanny and husband in 1901. Here is the complete list of children that I've found for Samuel and Hannah:
- Fanny J. Betterley b. abt 1853 mar. Jacob Henry Wismer (mar. to Peter Mettler by 1901)
- William Betterley b. abt 1855 mar. Mary Caswell
- Mary Betterley b. abt 1859 mar. Melvin Matthews
- John Betterley b. abt 1860 mar. Augusta A. Strong
- Simeon Betterley b. abt 1865
- George Betterley b. abt 1869 mar. Annie Taylor
- Sarah Betterley b. abt 1871 (died by 1881?)
- Laura Betterley b. abt 1873 (died after 1891)
Fanny's marriage record shows parents as Samuel James Betterley and Hannah Betterley. George's shows Nathaniel and Hannah, so that was wrong. John's shows Samuel J. Batterley and Hannah J. Richmond. I did find Hannah Richmond in Maryland Twp, Otsego Co, NY in 1850:
- Richmond, Ethan 67 M pauper
- Nancy 55 F
- Hannah C. 17 F
I found a family tree that points to this being Ethan Allen Richmond b. 1786 and second wife Nancy Ross Wright. His first wife was Martha Catlin. Ethan was the son of Sylvester Richmond and Harriet Covell/Covill. Those trees that list his second marriage list the daughter born in 1833 as Christina. Finding Hannah C. in 1850, Christianne in 1860, and then Hannah from then on makes a lot of sense. D. Wakeling, whom I've been unable to contact, wrote:
"We have Betterley's in our tree. Came to Canada late 1800. settled in Elgin County, Ontario. We have a George who married a Anna Taylor. George's parents were Sam Betterley married to Hannah Adams. The above info was in my Grandmotbhers bible. Sam died in Kingston Penetury have not found why he was there. It seems like Geo disowned his father if that is who he was. Any info appreciated"
I think "late 1800s" is what was meant. I had seen this early on, and "Adams" threw me off for a while until I later ran across Richmond. I could find no Hannah Adams b. abt 1833 in Otsego Co, NY. Lots of interesting clues, and you may agree that my speculation is logical. I think I am on the right track. Is there anything more anybody can add? I'd love to hear from any descendants of this family that read this. There are actually two descendants of the Canadian Betterley family that I have found on the Internet and been unable to contact.
One more mystery for now. Who was Abijah W. Betterley? He was a single laborer from Newfane that was listed in the census for the Vermont Asylum for the Insane (aka Brattleboro Retreat) in Brattleboro from 1850 until his death there 29 Sep 1892 at age 82. The asylum had been started in 1834 and instituted a more humane program than what was predominant in those days. Abijah is buried in the asylum cemetery. Rumor has it that a great many of the deceased residents were buried together in single graves without markers. There is also a Hannah Betterley that was at the asylum in the 1850 census, a year younger than Abijah. I am guessing that Abijah was perhaps a child of Thomas Betterley, Jr. and Hannah Rogers. Perhaps the same for Hannah. Have you seen anything that can pinpoint their parents?
I am always looking for corrections and new Betterley info. If you're a Betterley or Betterly without an ancestor in my database, please send me your info to keep on file. Chances are we'll work it out sooner or later.
The Alsace Emigration Book Vol 1 by Cornelia Schrader-Muggenthaler shows Joseph Betterly, wife, and family in Texas in 1854. Does anybody know who this is?
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