Barnard Capen was born 1562 in Dorchester, Dorsetshire, England to George Capen (1540-) and Mary Urdde (1539-) and died 8 November 1638 Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts of unspecified causes. He married Joan Purchase (1578-1653) 22 April 1596 in Dorchester, Dorset, England.

1633 Migration to America

Immigration Barnard Capen and wife Joan had seven known children, five who settled in New England initially at Dorchester, Mass. It is believed Barnard and Joan arrived on the unnamed ship that sailed from Weymouth, England and reached Boston, Mass. on July 24, 1633. (One recent author suggests the ship may have been the "Elizabeth Bonaventure" after a 12 week passage.) With them may have been son John and certainly youngest dau. Honour, who were both minors in 1633. They may have been accompanied by their married daughter Dorothy Upshall. The older children who married in England likely arrived prior to July 1633. This was certainly the case with son-in-law and dau. William and Susanna (Capen) Rockwell, who arrived May 30, 1630 at present-day Hull, Mass. aboard the celebrated "Mary and John."

New World arrival speculation (all without sources as of Oct. 4, 2016):

  1. Mary and John, arriving in New England on July 24, 1633 - the Mary and John had departed Plymouth, England, on March 20, 1630, and arrived on May 30 that same year at Nantasket, a mere two weeks before the Winthrop Fleet arrived near Boston. The colonists, which included Bernard's daughter Susanna (and her husband William Rockwell), were led by Roger Ludlow, who selected the location for Dorchester (Bernard would eventually become a landowner in this town, now located in South Boston). The ship didn't return to the New World after this voyage until March 24, 1633/4 (or rather, just March 24, 1634), some eight months after this arrival date. Likely the assertion involving the name of the ship is off.
  2. Unnamed ship arriving in Boston from Weymouth, England, on July 24, 1633 (Bernard would purchase land some two weeks later on Aug. 4, in Dorchester)
  3. Elizabeth Bonaventure (arrived in Boston with 80 passengers after a 12-week voyage, the ship name proposed by an author), proposed to have arrived on the same date.
  4. Discovery of London (source unknown), proposed to have arrived on the same date.

Oldest Gravestone in America?

Gravestone of Barnard Capen (1562-1638) interred at Dorchester North Burying Ground in Suffolk County, Massachusetts believed to be the oldest legible gravestone in America.

The gravestone of Bernard Capen (1562-1638) interred at Dorchester North Burying Ground in Suffolk County, Massachusetts might be the oldest legible gravestone in America. Located in Boston at Columbia Road & Stoughton Street, this cemetery was First laid out in 1634, it's Dorchester's oldest surviving landmark. It contains the remains, too, of as many as 40 unknown Revolutionary War veterans.[1]

Today the fragments of the original gravestone rests in the archives of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. Barnard died in 1638, and it was believed his gravesite was first marked with a wooden placard until the 1670's when it was replaced with its first stone marker. [2]

Tombstone inscription:

Here lies the bodies of Mr Barnard Capen & Mrs Joan Capen his wife; He died Nov 8, 1638 Aged 76 years & She died March 26 [sic], 1653: Aged 75 years.

On the day Barnard died he was 75 years old and Ætatis suæ (i.e., Æ, "Aged," in the XX year of his Age) 76. This infers he was born AFTER Nov. 8, 1562.


The children of Bernard Capen and Joan Purchase, all b. in England presumably at Dorchester in Dorset, are:

  1. James Capen, b. circa 1598, d. testate on or after Sept. 3, 1628 presumably at Holborn, a parish just outside the western limits of the City of London, England. See his memorial for more detail.
  2. Ruth Capen, b. Aug. 7, 1600; no further record.
  3. Susanna Capen, b. Apr. 11, 1602, d. Nov. 14, 1666 at Windsor, Conn., Æ 65; m. 1) Apr. 14, 1624 at Dorchester, England, William Rockwell, s. of John Rockwell & Honour Newton, bapt. Feb. 6, 1589/90 at Fitzhead in Somerset, England. William was one of the founding settlers of Windsor, Conn. where he was buried on May 15, 1640, Æ 51. They had five children, of whom dau. Ruth and husband Christopher Huntington are ancestors of one branch of the prominent Huntington family of Conn. and are ancestors of Civil War Gen. Ulysses Simpson Grant, later President of the United States. On May 29, 1645 at Windsor, Susanna m. 2) as his 2nd wife, Matthew Grant, formerly of Dorchester, Mass., b. Oct. 27, 1601 in England and d. at Windsor, Conn. on Dec. 16, 1681. There were no children of this second marriage. Matthew Grant and first wife Priscilla are also the ancestors of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (Matthew's great gr.son Noah Grant m. Susanna (Capen) Rockwell's great gr.dau. Martha Huntington). Matthew Grant's dau., Priscilla (Grant) Humphrey, is a separate ancestor of the memorialist.
  4. Dorothy Capen, b. circa 1603-1604, d. Sept. 18, 1675 at Boston, Mass., Æ 73; m. Jan. 17, 1629/30 at Dorchester, England, Nicholas Upshall {q.v. Upsall} b. circa 1597 and d. Aug. 20, 1666, Æ 70, while confined in lieu of prison by the Mass. Court to the Dorchester residence of his brother-in-law, Capt. John Capen. Considerable turmoil was involved with this family due to Nicholas' favorable views toward Quakers in early New England. Dorothy and husband Nicholas Upshall had five known children; two died in their youth while a third child probably died young.
  5. Elizabeth Capen, b. circa 1611-1612, d. Jan 26, 1677/8 at Dorchester, Mass., Æ 67; m. Oct. 18, 1630 at Dorchester, England, Thomas Swift, b. circa 1599-1600 and d. at Dorchester, Mass. on May 4, 1675, Æ 76. Nine children of the family.
  6. [[Capt. & Dea. John Capen (1612-1692), Æ 80; m. 1) Oct. 20, 1637 Redegon Clap {q.v. Clapp}, dau. of Nicholas Clap & wife Elizabeth, bapt. May 7, 1609 at Sidbury in Devonshire, England and d. at Dorchester, Mass. on Dec. 10, 1645, Æ 37. They had two known children. He m. 2) Sept. 20, 1647 at Braintree, Mass., Mary Bass, dau. of Dea. Samuel Bass & Ann Saville, b. circa 1632 and d. at Dorchester, Mass. on June 29, 1704, Æ 73. They had eight children and are the ancestors of U.S. President John Calvin Coolidge.
  7. Honour Capen, b. circa 1616; m. circa 1635 at Dorchester, Mass., William Hannum, who d. at Northampton, Mass. on June 1, 1677. Honour is claimed to have d. at Westfield, on the west side of Springfield, Mass., in circa 1680. They resided first at Dorchester, then at Windsor, Conn. where Hannum was a founding settler of Windsor, and finally at Northampton, Mass. Five children of the family.


Offspring of Barnard Capen and Joan Purchase (1578-1653)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thomas Capen (1695-1656)
Bernard Capen (1597-1628)
James Capen (1599-1628)
Ruth Capen (1600-1628)
Susan Capen (1602-1666) 11 April 1602 Dorchester, Dorset, England, United Kingdom 13 November 1666 Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, United States William Rockwell (1590-1640) William Rockwell (1590-1640) Matthew Grant (1601-1681)
Dorothy Capen (1604-1675)
Hannah Capen (1607-)
Elizabeth Capen (1610-1678)
John Capen (1612-1692) 26 January 1612 Dorchester, Dorsetshire, E, England 6 April 1692 Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Redegon Clap (1616-1645) Redegon Clap (1616-1645) Mary Bass (1631-1704)
Honor Capen (1616-1680)
Samuel Capen (1624-)



See Also


Footnotes (including sources)