Billings genealogy issues
Issues and problems with the Billings genealogy

  The Fraudulent Ancestry of Roger and William Billing(s) by Paul C. Reed

  Questions on the family of Joseph Billings (1690-1763) by Mary Montagu French Moore

  William Billings wife, Mary (Atherton) by Mary Montagu French Moore

The Fraudulent Ancestry of Roger and William Billing(s)

A Billings genealogy compiled by Horatio Gates Somerby (1805-1872) has, in the past, provided information on the ancestry of William Billing(s), progenitor of this line. That published ancestry has since been disproven. The following is excerpted from an article written by Paul C. Reed which provides details of the investigation disproving the Somersby work. The article was published in The American Genealogist, Vol. 74, No. 1 (January 1999).


Somerby is noted more and more for the frauds he perpetrated on the genealogical public in the last century.
In Search for the Passengers of the Mary & John 1630, volume 25 (1996), Robin Bush, former Assistant Archivist of the Somerset Record Office, stated that the ancestry for Roger and William Billing(s) in previous volumes of this series was apparently false and that �research has failed to supply any information� that would support the claimed connection between the immigrants and the family of Taunton, Somerset. Bush then briefly provides information about the Taunton Billing(s) family. We can take this further and show that the claimed origin of the Dorchester, Massachusetts, family is another forgery by Horatio Gates Somerby.
In 1927 the Rev. Creighton Spencer�Mounsey presented the greatest amount of detail about this alleged ancestry, taken from Somerby�s notes. Spencer-Mounsey said that he used Somerby�s original manuscripts to correct errors published in the other accounts. He stated that �William Billing was descended from the Billing family of Northamptonshire, one branch of which removed in the six- teenth century to Somersetshire.�
This line and purported evidences for it are still appearing in print. The most obvious part of the Billings fraud is the will Somerby presents as proof of the connection to New England. The family was supposed to have come from Taunton, Somerset, and to have owned a tenement there called Deanes. The immigrant, William Billing, is supposed to have sold it to his brother Ebenezer prior to his embarkation. Ebenezer is supposed to have left a will, dated 23 January 1649, by which he made William a legatee, �if he comes back to England within two years after my decease.� The will is supposed to have continued, �Whereas my brother William Billing by virtue of an obligation unto me made before his departure for New England whereby he relinquished and made over to me for certain considerations therein contained his part and interest in the house and lands called Deanes situated in Taunton in said county of Somerset formerly belonging to our late father William Billing deceased, I do hereby give and bequeath the whole undivided aforesaid estate called Deanes together with the appurtenncs unto my nephew and godson Ebenezer Billing, son of my late brother Joseph, deceased, to enter upon when he shall arrive at the age of one and twenty years.�
Two things immediately strike the knowledgeable reader. The information is too explicit and the wording is not typical of the time. It is clearly supposed to be representative of an original will, including abbreviations, but on the whole, it is unlike wills of this period. As to the existence of the document itself, any will of this period should have been proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, as all the local courts were then suppressed until 1660. The will does not exist.
If William Billing was in his 85th year when he died at Stonington, Connecticut, on 16 March 1712/3, he would have been born about 1629. If he was already in New England when the supposed Ebenezer made his will in 1649, William would have had to have immigrated at a very young age. The interesting thing here is that William would have had to sell Deanes to Ebenezer while William was still a minor! It follows, obviously, that if William were eldest son, Ebenezer would have also been a minor acting as an adult in 1649. If William were the younger son, it would be odd that he inherited before Ebenezer. Somerby clearly did not think this through carefully before inventing the facts.
There was a Billing family in Somerset, but there is no reason to believe it had any connection to the family in Northamptonshire. An Agnes Billynge of St. Andrew, Pitminster, Somerset, left a will dated 19 May 1532, long preceding the alleged connection outside the shire. There was a Billing family of Baltonsbough, Somerset, but there is no evidence of any connection with Taunton. The will of Roger Billing of Baltonsborough, dated 14 December 1596, no longer survives, if it ever existed. Somerby claimed that Roger had two sons named Richard who survived to adulthood. Even though the parish registers there survive from 1538, Somerby found no entry for this alleged eldest child, Richard, who was supposed to have eventually moved to Taunton. The seven baptisms for the other children of this family were recorded in the parish register. An abstract of the will of Roger�s wife, Edith, does survive, and was dated 29 June 1605 (Somerby missed or ignored it), but she mentioned only three surviving daughters (the others died young), and one son named Richard, not two. No other Billings wills survive in the county.
Somerby did not make any claim of baptisms or burials for the Billings at Taunton, even for the supposed Ebenezer. He said that Richard left a will, but gave no date or court it would have been proved in. And we have already seen that the will of Ebenezer Billing, which contains the only evidence for any connection to New England, does not exist. The origin of the Billing(s) family of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and Stonington, Connecticut, is unknown.
It is interesting to note that though the immigrant William Billing�s will mentions Beriah Grant, the illegitimate son of his daughter Mercy Billing, he is overlooked in her account in the Creighton�Mounsey article, and all of her Grant descendants have been completely omitted from the published accounts of the Billings and Grant families, even though they lived in the same communities in Connecticut and New York.

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Questions on the family of Joseph Billings (1690-1763) by Mary Montagu French Moore
1. William Billing (1629 - 1712/3]
    & Mary ?[not Atherton] [ - 1718]

2. William Billing [1660 - 1738]
    & Hannah Sterry [1672-1751]

3. Joseph Billings    [1691/2 - 1763]
    & Comfort [?Denison] [abt 1691 - 1740]
      b. abt 1691
      d. 6 Jul 1740
      m. 1711, Stonington, CT

4.Ami b. 1712
4.Sarah b. 1714
4.Joseph b. 1716
4.?  Samuel Billings b. abt 1718, Preston CT
        d. 6 Sep 1781, killed at Fort Griswold
        bp. 15 Jun 1728
      & Grace Mynard
        m. 14 Oct 1744, North Parish, New London, CT

There appears to be no evidence that Comfort (Joseph's wife) had a surname of Denison. At least I can't find any. I wrote the Denison Family association and they had no record of a Comfort Denison who married Joseph Billings. I can find no marriage record. Joseph's wife is identified as Comfort Billings in several church records after their marriage.

Joseph is buried next to Comfort in the Rixtown Cemetery, Griswold. There is no stone for Sarah Billings. Sarah is mentioned 7th in Joseph's will.

As far as I have been able to find there is also no evidence that Samuel is Joseph's son. There is no birth record for Samuel, although Joseph & Comfort's three children b. in 1712, 1714, and 1716 are registered. Samuel is not in Joseph's will, although this will names his beneficiaries in detail: the will, dated 23 Jun 1762 and proved May 10 1763, mentions grandchildren Simeon, James, Ame, Sarah. and Mary Rouse; his grandchildren Sarah, Comfort, Ame, Nathaniel and Reuben Babcock; his grandson Nathan Billings; his wife Sarah; and his son Joseph, executor. (Samuel's children John, Benjamin, and perhaps Matthew, and probably others were likely all born by 1762; Samuel married in 1744 and John was b. in 1750. I have no dates for any other children.)

Samuel was apparently killed in the battle of Fort Griswold in 1781. A John and a Stephen Billings died there also. I can find no graves for Samuel, Grace, or Mary Foote, Samuel's second wife.

Samuel was apparently raised by the Joshua Raymond family. Sarah Larrabee cannot have been his mother. There is evidence that Joseph married Sarah (Lamb) Larrabee after her husband's death in 1740. Comfort died 6 Jul 1740. Since Samuel married in 1744, he would not be Sarah's son. I cannot connect Samuel with any family, though by tradition he has been linked to the Joseph Billings family . He did have a son John (my ancestor) though John's children, in correspondence many years later, suggest his name may have been Matthew, or John.

Somerby says that Samuel married Grace Minor, daughter of Joseph Minor of Montville. I have a letter from Somerby to my great great grandfather which says that he knows that Samuel married Grace Minard, and the record of this 1744 marriage was in the papers if Joshua Hempstead. There was a family of Minard/Mynard in Montville and I believe I have identified which Grace was the one who married Samuel. Yet Somerby published Grace Minor as Samuel's wife - despite the fact that this Grace would have been twelve years old at the time of the marriage. I can see no reason for this.

Editor's note: Inasmuch as this project is the work of several people, I have chosen to leave the relationships as shown by earlier data for now, even though Mary Moore's research raises doubts about the accuracy of the information contained in this database. Once a consensus is reached among the people contributing to this project appropriate changes will be made.

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William Billings wife, Mary (Atherton) by Mary Montagu French Moore

I think it has become pretty well established (at least for now) that William Billing's wife Mary was not Mary Atherton. The record reads that William Billing m. Mary [surname blank] 5 Feb 1657/58.

Mary Atherton, daughter of Major Humphrey Atherton, married Joseph Weeks 9 Apr. 1667. Reference "An Index to Vital Records of Dorchester, Massachusetts, through 1825," by Sanford Charles Gladden. William Billing d. 16 Mar 1712/13 and Mary, his wife, d. 27 Feb. 1717/18, both in Stonington, New London Co., CT. By 1682, Mary and William had 11 children.

Also reference "Records of the Proprietors of the Narragansett, otherwise called The Fones Record, Rhode Island Colonial Gleanings," by James N. Arnold, ed. of the Narragansett Historical Register, Compiled Vital Records of Rhode Island, etc., in which the various land dealings (also known as the Atherton Purchase) by Major Humphrey Atherton, et. al, are detailed. Major Atherton's sons and sons-in-law are named, but William Billing is not mentioned.

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