Genealogy of the Drake Family
Mary Swansborough (1855-1941) writes in The History of Evelyn's and Helen's Maternal Grandmothers that her grandmother Nancy Smith (neé Drake) was the daughter of "a man named John Francis Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake" (c.1540-1596) - the famous sea captain and explorer. The problem here is that Sir Francis Drake did not have any children of his own, legitimate or otherwise. Despite this, many family trees that descend from one of the Drake families of New England claim Sir Francis Drake as their immigrant ancestor.
To get around the above problem, a few family trees attempt claim descent instead from Sir Thomas Drake of Buckland Abbey (1556-1606), the younger brother of Sir Francis Drake. However, extensive research by the Drake Exploration Society has yet to turn up any documentary evidence to support claims of descent in the paternal line from either Sir Francis Drake or his brother Sir Thomas. Suffice it to say that the only evidence these trees can provide to claim one of the famous Drake brothers as an ancestor are unproven stories of unknown origin. Thus, despite all claims to the contrary, the evidence is lacking, and we probably need to look elsewhere to find the true ancestors of Nancy Drake.
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Speculations on the Ancestry of Nancy Drake Smith - Although Nancy Drake cannot possibly descend from the famous Sir Francis Drake, an alternate possibility is that she descends from a Capt. Francis Drake, who was not a sea captain at all, and probably bears no relation to the famous Sir Francis. This lesser-known Francis Drake appears in the mid-1600s in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where for a time he was a land holder. He is thought by some to have been the son of a Robert Drake of Devonshire, whose son Nathaniel owned land next to Francis in Portsmouth. However, there is no mention of Francis in the will of Robert, which makes a strong case that they are not related. Francis ultimately settled in the New Jersey Colony, where he died on Sept. 24, 1687 in the Piscataway settlement that today is part of Middlesex County. He had several children, and many members of the Drake family believe they descend from him.
Although the evidence is lacking, a number of family trees show Dutch immigrant Josias Jansen Dratz of New York (d. c.1701) to be either a son or grandson of the aforementioned Capt. Francis Drake. However, it is much more likely that the ancestry of Josias is entirely Dutch, and that he bears no relationship at all to Capt. Francis Drake. Irregardless of his parentage or ancestry, Josias had a son named John, who was born and baptized in what back then was the city of New Amsterdam in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. This corresponds today to Brooklyn (Flatbush) in Kings County, New York. This John relocated in 1733 or 1734 from Brooklyn to Goshen in Orange County, New York, where his son Benjamin Drake (1734-1817) was born, married and died. Benjamin and his first wife Sarah Smith (d. 1775) raised a large family in Goshen, most of whom lived out their lives there, but some of whom moved on to other parts of the country.
The Orange County Drakes: One of Benjamin Drake's sons is William Drake (1761-1842), who about 1788 married Margaret Dowdle (1768-1848) in Goshen, Orange County, New York. William, and perhaps a brother, served as loyalists during the American Revolution, probably in the King's Royal Regiment of New York commanded by General Sir John Johnson. He remained in New York following the 1784 disbanding of this regiment, but no doubt found himself at odds with neighbors who had supported the American cause. This may have led him to seek redress from the British government of Canada, and William in 1794, with members of his wife's family (the Dowdles), occupied land near the modern town of Cheapside, west of Niagara Falls on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. Two years later, they petitioned for and received 200-acre plots in this area after presenting themselves at Fort George, Canada, where the outlet of the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. His wife's family ultimately settled on the northwest side of Niagara Falls, where for a time they were members of the Canadian community there, whereas William and family relocated to St. Thomas, Ontario many miles to the west of Cheapside.
Frances Drake, the wife of Capt. Francis McCumber, and a probable sister of Nancy Drake, was born on July 14, 1810 in Queenston, which is on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. John Drake and his wife Tamar, the parents of Nancy Drake, and likely parents of Frances, ran a hostelry at the time somewhere near the Falls. Also, William Drake's in-laws the Dowdles were prominent members about this time of the Niagara Falls community. Because of Nancy Drake's close association with Niagara Falls, and the close association of William Drake's family to the same, it is possible that Frances and Nancy Drake are relatives of said William Drake. If so, they, like William, descend from early Dutch-born immigrant Josias Jansen Dratz.
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An Alternate Ancestry - Another possibility is that Nancy and Frances Drake share a common ancestor with members of the Drake family found in Jefferson and Oswego Counties, New York, around and near Sackets Harbor, which is where Nancy Drake was born, and probably married. The immigrant ancestor of these Drake families is a John Drake Sr. of Windsor (d. 1659), who was born in the early 1600s in England, possibly in the parish of Wiscombe, Devonshire, but more likely born in the parish of Arden, Warwickshire (Frederick L. Weis, Ancestral Roots ..., 7th edition, Baltimore, 1992, p. 197). He left England prior to Jan. 26, 1640 with his wife and their three teenage sons to come to America, where they settled in the “Massacoh Valley” of the Farmington River. This area is on the outskirts of Windsor (previously called Dorchester), the first English settlement in the Connecticut Colony, and it corresponds today to the town of Simsbury.
John Drake's name first appears in the Windsor, Connecticut town records in 1640, when he was granted a home lot of 14 acres. The records next list the 1646, 1648 and 1649 marriages of his sons Job, John Junior, and Jacob. The elder John Drake was killed in a tragic accident on Aug. 17, 1659 when he fell beneath the wheels of his ox cart and was crushed. His widow survived him by another 22 years, and he was also survived by their three sons. His son Jacob died in 1689 without any children, and his other sons Job and John Junior died in 1689, both survived by several children all born in Windsor. (Stiles, 1859, p. 583-584; Gay, 1933, p. 1-3). Two groups of descendants of John Drake of Windsor eventually settled in upstate New York. One group centered around Antwerp in Jefferson County, just 8 miles east of Sackets Harbor where Nancy Drake was born and married; the other group centered around Redfield in Oswego County, which is about 30 miles to southwest of Sackets Harbor.
The Redfield, Oswego County Drakes: Reuben Drake (1741-1825), a great-great-grandson of John Drake Jr. (d. 1689), was born in Windsor, and married there about 1766 to Elizabeth Rockwell. This Reuben, his wife and their two grown sons Rodolphus (1767-1847) and James (1769-1855), and possibly others, came about 1800 to the town Redfield in Oswego County, New York. Redfield sits only 30 miles south of Sackets Harbor, where Nancy Drake of the above narrative was born, and probably married. Her association with Sackets Harbor, and the proximity of Sackets Harbor to Redfield makes it possible that Nancy's father John Drake was a close relative of Reuben Drake. Also, Reuben's great grandson Andrew Jackson Drake (1816-1838) resided in Sackets Harbor some years after Nancy's mother Tamar Drake was there. Unfortunately, Gay's (1933) study on the Descendants of John Drake of Windsor, a very throrough, well-done treatment on the family, makes absolutely no mention of Nancy Drake's family. This casts doubt on a close connection between Nancy Drake and Reuben Drake, but does not rule it out.
The Antwerp, Jefferson County Drakes: Another possibility, and perhaps a more likely one than the preceding, is that Nancy and Frances Drake are close relatives of Josiah Drake III (1762-1846) of Antwerp, which is in Jefferson County only 8 miles east of Sacket's Harbor. This Josiah was a great nephew of the above-named Reuben Drake, which means that Josiah also descends from John Drake Sr. of Windsor. Josiah's son Ziba Drake (1784-1852) settled about 1808 in Antwerp, and about 1814 Josiah makes his home there as well. The 1810, 1820 and 1830 U.S. Census places Tamar Drake, the mother of Nancy and Frances, at Brownville and Hounsfield, which means she lived only a couple of hours ride by horse or carriage from Josiah and Ziba. This make it very likely that Tamar's daughters are closely related to the Drakes of Antwerp, Tamar's husband possibly being Ziba's brother? But, as with before, Gay's (1933) thorough study on the Descendants of John Drake of Windsor makes no mention of Nancy Drake's family
The Westchester County Drakes: It is also quite possible that Nancy and Frances Drake descend from a Samuel Drake of Westchester (d. 1686) who is first mentioned on Sept. 13, 1650 in the town of Fairfield in the Connecticut Colony. Most family trees show this Samuel to be the son of the previously discussed John Drake, Sr. of Windsor. However, this is an unfounded assumption, as no document of the time has ever been found, despite many decades of searching, that names a Samuel as one of John Drake's sons. Irrespective of his parentage, this Samuel sometime in the mid-1680s relocated to the western part of Westchester County in New York. This county, which today is part of the New York City metropolitan area, is on the north side of the old Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam that had only recently come under English control. The Giraud (Gerow) family, about this same time, immigrated from France to become one of the founding Huguenot families of the settlement of New Rochelle in the eastern part of the county. Land transactions and shared marriages between the Westchester Drake and Rochelle families prove that they knew each other, which makes it possible that the ancestors of Nancy and Frances Drake, and of their parents John Drake and Tamar Geraud, might be found here.
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by Janet & Michael Clark
This history is an evolving document.
Despite our best intentions it probably contains mistakes.
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