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Rev. Sydney Breese

"Wishful Thinking ?"


On August 2, 1996, Mr. Weeden Rockwell Nichols wrote a memo regarding  his trip to Shrewsbury, England and the results of his research on the connection between Sydney Breese and John, Henry and Cornelius as described in the Ancestry of the Breese Family.  The  memo is reproduced  here with Mr. Nichols permission.


In the original Ancestry of the Breese Family published on an undetermined date, probably in the mid-1800’s, by Steuben Jenkins and unknown others, which was republished in expanded form for the 75th Annual Breese Reunion, 28 June 1964, it was claimed that a Rev. Sydney Breese at Shrewsbury, Shropshire had four sons: Sydney, John, Henry, and Cornelius.  It was claimed that sons John, Henry and Cornelius came to North America about 1735, and that Sydney arrived about 1756.  There were also the usual “wishful thinking genealogy” claims of relationship to wealth and title, as well as assertions of connection to William the Conqueror, The Saxon Kings of All England, and even Charlemagne.

 On 24 July 1996, we checked the actual records on microfiche and transcription at the Shropshire Information Service, co-located with the Shrewsbury Library at Castle Gates, Shrewsbury.  We did find, in the records of St. Julian Parish, Shrewsbury, the record of the baptism on 22 September 1709 of  “Seednay Brees”, son of  “Samuall Brees” and wife “Seedny”.  By date and name, this would almost certainly be “Sydney Breese, ” the purported brother of John, Henry and Cornelius.  If so, this dispenses with the family tradition or fiction of a “Rev. Sydney Breese”.  (It was Sydney’s mother, not his father, whose name was a form of  “Sydney.”)  We also found record of a sibling of Sydney the emigrant having been baptized.  This was “Robert ye son of Samuel Brees Glover (glove-maker) and Sidney his wife.”  We found no record of siblings named John, Henry or Cornelius, nor even of anyone identifiable as “our” John, or Henry or Cornelius having been born at Shrewsbury. 

 I have used the term “wishful thinking genealogy” for want of a better term.  I find it a recurrent pattern within families among those who are interested in illustrious family histories.  (I think I was guilty of a little of it when I started into all this.)  It would have been understandable that the descendants of John II, Henry, and Samuel, sons of John I, Revolutionary soldiers, and pioneers in the Wyoming and Chemung valleys, would “stretch” for a relationship with the “Sydney” line, which included Samuel Finley Breese Morse and Rear Admiral Samuel Sydney Breese.  I personally see no evidence of contact between  Sydney and purported brothers John, Henry, and Cornelius; no indication that they were even the same sort or “class” of people; and no discernible “echoing” of the given name “Sydney” down the “John line” (the echoing of sibling names down sibling lines is a pattern in most families, and particularly characteristic within the “John line”).  For this reason, I am “disconnecting” John I from Sydney in my records system, and will leave him disconnected until and unless one of you or someone else makes a good case for reconnection.


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