Was Thomasine French?

A post on the Ancestry Threadgill Message Board sent this researcher scrambling to find the answer to the question, “Was Thomasine Threlkeld French?” The message, “Threlkeld to Threadgill Misinformation”, declared that no documentation existed to support the often-repeated statement that Thomasine was born in France. The post labeled the information “rumor” and “hearsay”. 

Thomasine (c. 1620-1706) was the wife of William Threlkeld (c. 1615-1675), a member of the clergy in the village of Brancepeth, England, during the late 17th century. She was the mother of Deodatus, a renown Newcastle clockmaker. A branch of the Threadgill family is believed to have originated in America when Deodatus II emigrated to Virginia from Bermuda in the 1720s. Family genealogies have, for decades, listed France as Thomasine’s birthplace. 

The message board post traced the source of the “rumor” to the book, Threadgills in America: a Colonial Virginia family, by Janis Heidenreich Miller.

The message reads (in part):

“The rumor about the French connection seems to stem solely from a speculation in the Threadgills book that their son Deodatus was named after the church of St Deodat in France.”

“Melisbanks”, Ancestry Message Board

I accepted the friendly Message Board challenge:

“If anyone reading this has information to support or contradict what is contained herein, please let me know.”

“Melisbanks”, Ancestry Message Board

Ms. Miller, in Threadgills in America… does not say the Threlkeld connection to France is a documented fact. Rather she states, “It is said that William lived in France in 1657 or earlier, and his wife, Thomasine, was French.” [author’s emphasis] Miller provides no footnote for this statement.  

Fortunately, the Miller book is a thoroughly researched genealogy of the Threadgill family. I found a source I didn’t recognize in the references section: Archaelogia Aeliana 2nd Series, Vol. iii, pg. 101-102. A search for a copy of the article took me to an online version of the document which was published in 1859. An expanded reading of the text revealed yet another source I’d never seen before, “Inf. Mrs. Busby, 1822”. Mrs. Busby is footnoted as the source for the identification of Deodatus Threlkeld’s mother, “a French woman”.

Who was Mrs. Busby?

More research was required. 

Contained within the Archaelogia Aeliana article are lineage listings for several of the children of William and Thomasine. A brother of Deodatus, Henry Threlkeld, is listed with a son, Richard Threlkeld (b 1697-1786). And Richard (nephew of Deodatus) is shown with a daughter named Isabella Threlkeld (b. 1733).

“Isabella, wife of John Busby… She was living in Bishopwearmouth 1822, age 89, ‘quite blind, but very perfect in intellect, and in good health,’ and communicated a great portion of the Threlkeld pedigree to John Brough, Esq…”

Archaelogia Aeliana

Isabella Threlkeld Busby–Mrs. Busby–was the great-granddaughter of Thomasine Threlkeld and grandniece of Deodatus Threlkeld.

Mystery solved. Mrs. Busby, a member of the family, was the source of Thomasine Threlkeld’s birthplace in France.

Mrs. Busby reported information in 1822 about her family which was, ultimately, used in the Archaelogia Aeliana article in 1859. The information included her knowledge of her great-grandmother, Thomasine’s, birthplace in France. Mrs. Busby could not have received this information first-hand from Thomasine. Thomasine died before Mrs. Busby was born. She, likely, learned the information from her grandfather and/or father, both of whom would have known Thomasine during their lifetimes–as son and grandson.

Was Thomasine born in France? Today’s genealogical standards do not accept second-hand information from family as documented proof. The message board post on Ancestry is correct on this point. 

I suspect Thomasine was French. Her son and grandson, probably, concluded she was French, based on her language, accent or Thomasine telling them it was so.

I leave it to you, reader. Was Thomasine French?

Author’s Note: I would like to express my appreciation to “Melisbanks”, the Ancestry member who posted the 2015 message. Her points were well taken and additional research was, indeed, needed.


Ancestry Message Board: Surname-Threadgill, 8 Feb 2015, Threlkeld to Threadgill Misinformation, Melisbanks.

Longstaffe W. Hylton Dyer. (1859). Stainton in the Street. Archaeologia Aeliana Series 2. Vol. 3, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. Pg. 99-103.

Janis Heidenreich Miller and Dr. Francis Dycus Threadgill, Threadgills in America: A Colonial Virginia Family (Baltimore, MD: Deford & Co., 1971).

Wikitree Contributors, “Thomasine Threlkeld (c. 1620-1706)”, Wikitree. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Threlkeld-468 (accessed 20 Feb. 2021).

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