E-mail from Richard Warren Davis of Provo, Utah to his cousin James Robert Driggs Jr. of Provo, Utah September 6, 2010
Following is information that, I believe will help you better understand why I feel confident that Joseph Driggs (1686-1748) of Middleton, Connecticut was born Jose Rodrigues and was from Portugal, possibly from the Azore Islands.
There are four questions that we need to address:
1. Are we Dutch and descended from Josias Dratz of Brooklyn as our Driggs Family in America book leads us to believe?
2. What is the origin of the tradition that says our Driggs family came from England?
3. Is there a tradition that the Driggs family came from any place other than England?
4. Is the Driggs name English or Portuguese?
My research on the above leads me to the following conclusions:
Are we Dutch and descended from Josias Dratz of Brooklyn as our Driggs Family in America book leads us to believe?
No, we do not descend from Josias Dratz of Brooklyn. I and others have researched the records of Brooklyn and there is nothing in them that would indicate that our Joseph Driggs was from that family. Moreover, the Dratz family was never known as DeRaet as indicated in the Driggs Book. Josias Dratz and his two known sons that lived to maturity (John and Cornelius) could all read and write and took the name Drake. All of Josias’ children were born British citizens and could speak, read and write English. Our Joseph Driggs could not read nor write and supposedly according to tradition could barely speak English when he first arrived in America.
There is no genealogical paper trail that would lead any genealogist to believe that Josias Dratz Jr. of Brooklyn could be our Joseph Driggs of Connecticut. Of course the best evidence that these two are not the same person is the Y-DNA test that your father took almost two years ago which when compared to the Y-DNA test of known Josias Drake descendants, clearly demonstrates that these two men are not a close match at all. The test was conclusive evidence that the Driggs and the Dratz families were two separate families and not related as all.
What is the origin of the tradition that our Driggs family came from England?
Years ago when I believed that the Dutch boy story (Dratz) was incorrect, I set about to find the origins of Joseph Driggs. Since he was living in New England in the early 1700s you would suppose that he was from Great Britain. Also the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the LDS website shows that at least 50 Driggs family members can be found in early English church records, including baptisms and marriages. There are also some American biographies and obituaries that show that the Driggs family originated in England.
So of course it must be so that we are English. Not so. I searched the Driggs names found in the IGI and in every case in which I was able to find the original record, that record was transcribed incorrectly. In most cases the name was actually written, Briggs, Diggs or some other variation of the name, but never Driggs.
Here is an example from the IGI: You will find a Dudley Driggs, a Knight baptizing his children at Chilham, Kent County, England from 1620 to 1631. When the original records were checked the name was actually Dudley Diggs!
Here is another example from the IGI: At Austerfield, Yorkshire Robert Driggs married Alice Hansen on 23 Sep 1593. When the original record was checked the names were actually Robert Briggs and Alice Bradfourth! Both last names were incorrect. I am afraid that a number of the Mormon extractors of these records were not very good at deciphering the old English script. The IGI simply cannot be trusted as a source of a Driggs-English connection.
I have numerous other examples. Here is one from a census record: In the 1841 census you will find Robert Driggs age 70, with his wife and daughter living at Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. I checked the original record and the last name appears to be Driggs. However, neither he nor his wife is found in any other census record or church records as “Driggs” in Kirkbrightshire. A search of the 1851 census record shows his name to be Briggs and his baptismal record shows him as Brigg/Briggs. This man is clearly a Briggs not a Driggs. Everywhere I look in British records I find the same problem. In fact, in all my research I have not found any extended “Driggs” family in early England, Scotland and Wales. Driggs is not an English name.
As to the biographies and obituaries, they too are not good sources of a Driggs-English connection.
In 1856, Seth Beach Driggs wrote a book called “The Driggs Family in England” in which he claims to have traced the Driggs family back to the year 735 (1300 years ago!). He wrote the book while living in Carcaras, Venezuela. When Shadrach F. Driggs of Pleasant Grove, Utah (our ancestor) died in 1898 his grandson Benjamin W. Driggs Jr. included this genealogy from this book in Shadrach’s obituary. The problem was that the genealogy was completely fictitious. This “fake” genealogy shows Thomas Driggs and wife Hannah Sterling’s family beginning with son Stephen Driggs, born 22 Jun 821 in London and the family living in London until “on April 16th, 1512 when their descendant George Driggs, watchmaker went from London to Sheffield”. The book continues by asserting that on 4 Feb 1703 Joseph Driggs left Liverpool with his two children and arrived in Boston on 7 Apr 1703.
The problem with Seth B. Driggs’ genealogy is that surnames have not been carried down for 1300 year in England. Englishmen did not start passing on their surnames to their children until about the 1200s and in most cases much later. Also it would have been a miracle for Seth Beach Driggs to be able to find birth dates for people dating back 1300 years ago. We would be the only family in the world to be so lucky to have such information. Surviving church records at the oldest, typically go back to about the 1500s. Seth Beach Driggs’ genealogy also shows that Joseph arrived in Boston, Massachusetts from England on 7 Apr 1703 with his two children, yet Joseph did not marry until 1716 in Connecticut and his two sons who lived to maturity, Joseph born in 1718 and Daniel born in 1721, were both born in Connecticut. I would think that any respected genealogist who examined this supposed Driggs family genealogy would call it a hoax, pure fabrication.
I searched the records of Sheffield and London and found no sign of a Driggs in any church records in either area. I also searched the birth, marriage and death indexes for all of England and found no Driggs listed in any of them. If the Driggs family really did live in England for 1300 years one would think that they would have left a couple of offspring with the name living there!
Incidentally, I did some research on Seth Beach Driggs the author in question, and found the following information about him on the internet:
From “Modern American Spiritualism: a twenty years record of the communion” by Emma Hardinge Britten page 474 (on Google)
Seth Driggs held séances in Caracas, Venezuela and in Trinidad in 1856 and 1857. By his letters dated 1857 he had been in Laguayra, Trinidad, 27 years previous where he knew Buenaventura Dominguez. He considered himself a medium between this world and the spirit world. He was in Caracas, Venezuela in 1865.
During his séances, Seth wrote that the movements of a table that he would sit at would indicate a yes or no answer to his questions which he would ask of deceased people who were present but unseen in the room.
From “Venezuela and the United States; from Monroe‘s hemisphere to petroleum’s empire” by Judith Ewell (on Google) page 59
“Occasionally, claims patently trivial or fraudulent that diplomats hesitated to act on them even unofficially. One scoundrel, Seth Driggs, was imprisoned for falsifying an affidavit he had registered in support of a claim.” He then sued the government of Venezuela over his imprisonment and treatment. “Driggs’ antics were too much for Charge Vespasian Ellis, who wrote that in June 1845 that Driggs was “probably the most artful reckless villain who has ever come to this country, from the United States”.
From Driggs Family in America, on page 23 we learn that Seth Beach Driggs was born 14 Dec 1792 at Middleton, Middlesex, Connecticut and died 20 Jan 1884 at New Haven, Connecticut. He lived in Trinidad, Venezuela, New York City and then back to Connecticut. “In 1856 he published his Driggs Family in England book at Caracas, Venezuela, and directs that records may be sent to him, or left with Chester Driggs in New York City. He was evidently living in Venezuela at the time”.
Perhaps Seth received all of his genealogical information on the Driggs family during one of his séances!
I believe that the idea of Joseph Driggs being English was born of the fictitious genealogy found in Seth Beach Driggs’ 1856 book. Benjamin Woodbury Driggs Jr., one of the three Driggs family members who, sometime between 1899 and 1909, spearheaded the project of collecting data on all Driggs families in America, apparently believed Seth Beach Driggs’ book and the information in the book continued to be noted in letters written in the early 1900s by Driggs family members.
There are two biographies written on the Driggs family after 1900 as follows:
From “Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut”, 1911 New York, Lewis Historical Publishing company
“Joseph Driggs, immigrant ancestor, was born in 1686 in England died November 1748 at East Haddam, Connecticut. He came to America in 1712 and settled in Saybrook, then to Middleton and in 1746 to East Haddam”.
“New England Families, genealogical and memorial: a record of the ...., Volume 3, edited by William Richard Cutter. 1913
“Joseph Driggs emigrant ancestor, was born in 1686 in England, died November 1748, at East Haddam, Connecticut. He came to America in 1712 and settled first at Saybrook, Connecticut: from there he removed to Middleton, and in 1746 to East Haddam. He married first September 13, 1716 at Middletown, Mrs. Elizabeth (Martin) Boarne, of Middletown, widow of Joseph Bourne. She was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Martin, of Middletown and was born September 24, 1689, died there March 3, 1725-1726".
The two bios are identical, and I believe that the information was ascertained from letters that were sent out in 1909 by three Driggs researchers, one of which was Benjamin Woodbury Driggs Jr. The letters they sent out stated that they were collecting for publication, family information on Joseph Driggs who arrived from England in 1712 and who first settled at Saybrook, Connecticut.
There was also a biography written in 1909 on the life of Marshall S. Driggs who lived in Brooklyn, New York and the bio stated that his immigrant ancestor was Joseph Driggs who was born in London, England. A search of the letters on LDS microfiche #399 shows that in 1870, Benjamin Woodbury Driggs Sr. (our ancestor) stopped to visit with Marshall S. Driggs in New York City on his way to Europe as a missionary. Benjamin Woodbury Jr. was corresponding with Marshall 29 years later, in 1899. The information on the origin of the Driggs family from Marshall S. Driggs’ bio could easily have come from Benjamin W. Driggs Jr.
In my estimation, there is no legitimate source or tradition that shows that Joseph Driggs came from England. It appears that well meaning Driggs researchers were spreading incorrect family information found in the Seth Beach Driggs book printed in 1856.
In 1909 three Driggs researchers, Laurence L. Driggs, an attorney of New York City, Dr. James Monroe Cooper, MD of Detroit and Benjamin Woodbury Driggs Jr., an attorney of Salt Lake City sent out letters to every Driggs that they could find in America, asking them for information on their families and if they knew the origin of Joseph Driggs who came from England to Saybrook, Connecticut in 1712. They received a number of replies and some of those letters can be found on microfilm #399 at the LDS Salt Lake City Family History Library. Most of the replies contained only a generation or two of the respondent’s family. However, there were four letters that I found that mentioned the origin of Joseph Driggs and in all four letters, Portugal was mentioned.
Did Joseph Driggs (1686-1748) come from England? There is no credible oral tradition supporting such an assertion, nor are there records to that effect of any extended Driggs family in England. At best, I would say that it is highly doubtful that Joseph was an Englishman.
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