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A Proof Argument to correct an error made in the Grout genealogy written in 1857

In 1857 the famed Genealogist Rev. Abner Morse published the work The Genealogy of the Descendants of Several Ancient Puritans [1] in which was a chapter on the Grout family of Massachusetts. According to Morse the Grouts trace their American ancestry to Capt. John Grout who arrived in Boston in the mid 1630`s apparently still in his teens. The father who brought John to Boston reportedly died soon after arriving.

According to Morse John Grout first married ``Mary ---`` before 1641 and had a son, John, with her in Watertown. He next married ``Sarah (Busby) Cakebread`` (widow of Thomas Cakebread) and had a daughter with her in Watertown in 1643. They then moved to Sudbury where John took over Thomas` Grist Mill. John and Sarah had 6 more children and remained in Sudbury until their deaths in the 1690`s.

However, the careful examination of the lineages of the Grout, Cakebread and Busby families in the early 1600`s as calculated by Morse has long drawn a great deal of confusion. The marriages, parents and children described by Morse conflicted with some descriptions in the record. Things simply didn`t add up in the Grout family tree. Illustrating the confusion Robert Anderson wrote, ``Savage had these marriages completely wrong, as did many other writers``. [2] The principal problem surrounds Sarah Busby: who she married and what children she had. Morse said Sarah was the widow of Thomas Cakebread though much later Sudbury town documents speak of a ``Sarah Cakebread, widow``. [3] Since it`s unlikely the record would refer to Mrs. Sarah Grout this way this has led to a lot of speculation. Was there perhaps a daughter of Thomas named Sarah? Several different theories, by amateur and professional Genealogists, have been proposed to sort out the relationships but all with some serious problems. The Internet has only exacerbated the problem. On several internet sites Sarah Busby is John`s former mother-in-law. On another Sarah (Busby) Cakebread is married to a Philemon Whale, not John Grout. Still others create without evidence various children of Thomas Cakebread including a Sarah and Thomas Jr. to explain the confusion. James Savage had John with 2 sons named John [4] , Henry Bond has John and Mary having a daughter Sarah. [5] A fresh examination had to be made. This paper demonstrates that Morse did not have two critical facts at his disposal and drew a conclusion about the Grout lineage which has confused family researchers for over a century.

A Watertown Birth record in 1641 states: ``John the son of John & Mary GROUT borne 8 (6) 1641``.[6] Morse no doubt was mindful of this record when he wrote that Capt. Grout first married ``Mary ---``. The second record of note was in 1643 when the Watertown record states: ``Sarah the daught of John & Sarah GROUT borne 11 (10) 1643``.[6] It seems that between 1641 and 1643 Mary had died and John remarried. Morse writes that John`s second wife was ``Sarah (Busby)``, widow of Thomas Cakebread. Unfortunately half of this is not true.

John Grout`s second wife was indeed Sarah Busby as proved through her mother and her father`s wills and Suffolk County court records. In his Will, Nicholas Busby leaves money to his ``Sonne... John Grout`` and his daughter Sarah and granddaughter Sarah Grout. [7] In the Suffolk County court records John Grout acknowledges receipt of cash from ``my deceased father in law Nicholas Busby.... and discharge my said mother in law Bridget Busbey``.[8] In Bridget Busbey`s Will she directly calls John Grout her ``sonne(s)-in-law``.

However Morse`s claim that Sarah Busby was the widow of Thomas Cakebread is incorrect as we shall see. Thomas Cakebread did indeed arrive in Boston with a wife named Sarah aboard the Winthop Fleet in 1630. [9] However it was not Sarah Busby. Sarah Busby arrived 7 years later with her parents and siblings with the Rose / John and Dorothy expedition of 1637. [10] Other documents point to the fact these were two separate women. In 1646 a Sudbury town document states ``Richard Sanger bought of Sara Cakebread widdow a parcel of upland... being part of the forty acres of upland formerly granted to Thomas Cakebread in consideration of building a mill in Sudbury which said parcell of land lyes... at the corner of the lands of the said Richard... to the maadowe of the said Sara Cakebread``.[3] This document clearly demonstrates that in 1646 the widow of Thomas Cakebread was going by the name Sarah Cakebread well after John and Sarah Busby would have wed, had a child together, and moved to Sudbury.

Morse seems to have drawn the conclusion Sarah Busby was previously wed to Thomas Cakebread by the fact John Grout acquired Thomas`s Grist Mill in Sudbury and lots in Watertown after his death. [1] However, there are at least two other reasons why John may have acquired the estate. This also leads us to the identity of John`s fist wife Mary.

First we know John and Thomas were very close. John bought lots from Thomas in Watertown and they apparently lived as neighbors for a time. John later acquired more lots in Watertown after Thomas` death along with the mill in Sudbury. [1] It seems that most researchers have assumed John and Thomas were peers in age since John married Thomas` widow. However we now know John did not. A couple more clues lead us to believe Thomas was much older, old enough in fact to be John`s Guardian.

Another early Watertown settler was James Cutler. In 1634 he married Anne Cakebread [11] who came to the New Colonies with her unnamed sister ``unescorted by parents, husbands or lovers``.[12] This indicates they were both of adult age and indeed the Cutler Family History states Anne`s birth year as 1610 making her 24 at the time. [11] The Cutler Family History also states ``Anne`s sister married Ensign Grout``.[11] These facts were apparently not known to Morse and lead us to the conclusion John Grout`s first wife was Mary Cakebread, born sometime close to John`s estimated birth year of 1616. [13] (Since James was born in 1606, Anne 1610 and John in 1616 it`s reasonable to assume Mary was the younger sibling.) But was Mary related to Thomas Cakebread and how? Some have claimed Mary was a sister of Thomas and all close to the same age cohort. However, weighing the following facts leads to the conclusion Mary was Thomas` daughter. In a legal claim brought many years later by a John Grout a property is described as belonging to John`s ``former father-in-law, Tho. Cakebread.`` [3] Morse reports this case but attributes it to John`s eldest son, John, and infers the young John must have briefly married his step-sister Sarah Cakebread. [1] This theory is unsubstantiated by any evidence a young Sarah Cakebread even existed. Yet this reference makes perfect sense if the plaintiff John Grout is the Senior, not Jr., and his first wife Mary Cakebread was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah ---. The writers Dawes-Gates also drew this conclusion. [14] From here it then makes sense John acquired Thomas` Estate although one question lingers: If John acquired the mill because he was Thomas` son-in-law why didn`t James Cutler, also a son-in-law of Thomas, not acquire half the estate?

One possible explanation stems from Sudbury town documents. In a couple documents in 1652 Thomas Cakebread is referred to as John Grout`s `father` such as: ``formerly granted to his Father Cakebread``.[2] This makes some sense if Thomas is perhaps somewhat older but why the use of the term ``father`` and not, say, `father-in-law`? Morse provides us with a clue to this mystery. Morse states that when John and his brother arrived in Boston they were minors and left orphaned in the New Colonies. Morse speculates they may have been taken in by Governor Winthrop himself but there is no evidence for it. Morse also allows it may also have been a ``neighbor``. [1] Suppose the boys were taken in by Thomas Cakebread? While no document is presumed to exist to confirm it this would go far to explain the intertwined relationship between the Grouts and Cakebreads at this time. It would also explain why John solely acquired Thomas` estate and Mill in Sudbury.


It is clear from the passenger lists and Sudbury town documents there were two separate Sarah`s married to John Grout and Thomas Cakebread in the New Colonies and not one as Morse reported in 1857. It is also safe to say John Grout first married Mary Cakebread and that strong evidence points to her being the daughter of Thomas. Sorting these two facts out clears up all the rest of the confusion over the lineage of the Grout family at this time. All the children and their parents are accounted for and various references to relationships in Watertown and Sudbury documents sorted out.

The Grout family lineage then goes like this: Capt. John Grout first marries in Watertown the daughter of his Guardian, Mary Cakebread, who dies sometime shortly after giving birth to a son John in 1641. Within two years John remarries to Sarah Busby and has a daughter Sarah in 1643 in Watertown and 6 more children in Sudbury.

As to the Cakebread`s, Thomas comes to the New Colonies in 1630 with a wife Sarah ---- and is joined about 1634 by his two daughters, Anne and Mary. Sadly, Mary, Anne and Thomas will all perish by 1644. However, Thomas` widow, Sarah, will remarry to Philemon Whale in Sudbury in 1649.

© 2013 Robert Milton Grout

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this argument. Please email me at:

[1] Rev. Abner Morse, A.M., The Genealogy of the Descendants of Several Ancient Puritans, Boston, Dutton and Sons, 1857, chapter: Grout
[2] Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 3 vols., Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.
[3] The Sudbury town documents can be accessed HERE, click Search Archive Database, and type Grout, John under `Person`s Name`. Other related documents can be located by searching `Cakebread`.
[4] James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 1860-1862 (reprinted at Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1998).
[5] Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, 2nd. ed., Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1860.
[6] Watertown Birth record Extracted from: New England Historical & Genealogical Register Vol 2, Jan 1848, p 76
[7] The Will of Nicholas Busby From Office of Suffolk Registry of Probate, Boston, the will of Nicholas Busby dated 25 Jul 1657, presented, 10 Sep 1657 and recorded 14 Oct 1657
[8] The Suffolk County court records Suffolk deeds: liber -I-XIV [1629-87]. By Suffolk County (Mass.), William Blake Trask, Frank Eliot Bradish, Charles A. Drew, A. Grace Small, John Tyler Hassan Pg. 429-430
[9] The Winthop Fleet passenger lists The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 by Charles Edward Banks published Boston 1930
[10] Leonard H. Smith Cape Cod Library of Local History and Genealogy: A Facsimile Edition of 108 Pamphlets Published in the Early 20th Century, Volume 1 Genealogical Publishing Com, 1992. Pg. 1538
[11] The Cutler Family History AN AMERICAN STORY - THE CUTLER FAMILY 1634-1960 By Kenneth Ross Cutler, Library of Congress Catalog Number CS71 .C989, 1961
[12] Gilbert Oliver Bent, Who Begot Thee?: Some Genealogical and Historical Notes Made in an Effort to Trace the American Progenitors of One Individual Living in America in 1903 , D. Clapp & Son, 1903, Pg. 20
[13] John Grout`s birth year is calculated from a testimony he gave in 1684 in which he states his age as ``about sixty-eight``, thus his birth year would be 1616. Suffolk Co. Deeds Suffolk deeds: liber -I-XIV [1629-87]. By Suffolk County (Mass.), William Blake Trask, Frank Eliot Bradish, Charles A. Drew, A. Grace Small, John Tyler Hassan, L. 13, p. 344
[14] Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Rufus R. Dawes; and A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Mary Beman (Gates) Dawes. (Milwaukee, WI: Cuneo Press, 1931-1943), Page 1:663-64, 1931/0043.

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