The Sacketts of America and their origins

The Sacketts were among the first colonists of America, with Simon Sackett arriving at the Massachusetts Bay Colony a few months after the Winthrop Fleet of 1630, just ten years after the Pilgrim Fathers sailed in the Mayflower, and John Sackett, possibly a nephew of Simon, arriving in New Haven sometime before 1641.

In his magnum opus, The Sacketts of America, Charles Weygant concluded that this John Sackett, of New Haven, was the son of another John who was the brother of Simon Sackett the colonist. Present day researchers have been unable to confirm these relationships.

Weygant wrote:

About ten years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth, Simon and John Sackett, brothers, came from England to Massachusetts, in company with Roger Williams. John Sackett followed Mr Williams to Rhode Island and finally settled at New Haven, becoming the founder of the New Haven branch of the family. Simon Sackett remained in Massachusetts, was one of the founders of the City of Cambridge, and is the progenitor of the Massachusetts and Long Island, NY, branches.
No authentic records have as yet been discovered which establish beyond question the name of the father of Simon and John Sackett, the colonist founders of the Sackett clan in America. The generally accepted tradition is that they came to Massachusetts Bay Colony, from the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. But was their ancestral home located there? It is established by official records that Simon Sackett was one of the founders of Newtown, Mass., which became the City of Cambridge, and is now an integral part of Greater Boston, and that his brother, John Sackett, became a resident of New Haven, Conn.

Some progress has been made in the quest for Simon's and John's ancestors since Weygant published his work in 1907. But establishing detailed and substantiated information remains a tantalizing problem for Sackett family researchers.

Alfred Barrett Sackett dealt but briefly with the subject and his researches, which were predominantly into the English family records, took him back only to 1710, some eighty years later than the brothers' emigration.

Later research, although not proven, suggests that the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, proposed as Simon's and John's origin, is in error. All early Sacketts were to be found in the Isle of Thanet, Kent. It would appear likely that the "Ely theory" arose through the handing down in early generations of the notion that the colonists came from the Isle of "something".

Research into English records, not available to Weygant, has revealed data on Simon's birth, his parents and grandparents, and his marriages.

The identity of John remains an enigma. Weygant's claim that he was Simon's brother has not been proved, nor disproved. Research into English records has ranged wider to allow the possibility that he was a cousin of Simon's.

It has even been proposed that John the colonist did not exist, Robert Anderson in his The Great Migration Begins suggesting that this John was "an imaginary construct" on Weygant's part. Understandably, this has been received with some consternation by John's descendants. Although Anderson noted records of "a servant by the name of John "Seckett" in New Haven by 1641, who is probably the same as the man who married in 1652", he made no further attempt to explain the origin of John Sackett of New Haven.

Weygant's main evidence for the existence of a John Sackett who would be a brother to Simon Sackett the colonist was the handing down to him by his father-in-law, Samuel Bailey Sackett, of a family 'tradition' about the colonist brothers. Weygant's only specific evidence would seem to have been the content of a 1684 inventory of the estate of John Sackett, details of which were reported to Weygant by the Hon L B Sackett (# 4361). The report that the inventory concerned the estate of John Sackett Junior led Weygant to conclude that a John Sackett Senior outlived his son and that this would be the brother of Simon. Further study of the original document shows it to be the estate of John Sackett Senior (this John by then himself having a son John). While this disproves that the John Sackett who was the subject of the inventory was outlived by a father John it does not of course disprove the supposed identity of his father.

Research continues. See biographical sketch of John Sackett of New Haven.