Dobbs Family Genealogy By Margaret Lane

Below is a link to the Lane Genealogy of the Dobbs family of Dobbs Ferry.     Please note that she incorrectly starts the story at Barren Island Brooklyn.  The family was never there.   The family first shows up in the historic record in Manhattan in 1680, applying for a liquor license and leasing a salt marsh on the East River near William Merritt’s farm.  Merritt was Mary Dobbs’s brother.   The Dobbses probably operated a tavern at his farm, since it was on the main road north out of lower Manhattan and since that’s what you do with a liquor license.  Merritt himself did not live there, but bought the farm around the time of the liquor license application.  He had his “great house” on Broad Street and was a major player in the city’s political and economic life.  The farm was near today’s China Town, north and a little east of today’s City Hall, near Collect Pond.

Lane also was unaware of the family’s connection to Great Barent Island (today’s Wards Island) in the East River.   Confusion between the “Great Barent” name and the “Barren Island” name led to the myth that the family came from Barren Island.   The “Great” was often dropped and “Barent” morphed into “Barn” as it passed from ear to mouth in a time of much less written communication, non-standardized spelling, great language diversity (Dutch and English) and bad handwriting.  And the bad handwriting in old records written by Dutchmen made “Barren,”  “Barent,” and “Barn” indistinguishable.   Making matters even more confusing, Barren Island was sometimes called “Barn Island” also, for all the same reasons.

What actually happened is that two of Mary Dobbs’s sons (Walter and William) married two of the Parcell family daughters.   The Parcell family owned Great Barent Island.   The marriage records misled historians.   And the fact that William’s wife was identified as Catherine Slot, not Catherine Parcell (or Parsell), also helped to hide the connection.   “Slot” must have been a married name and she must have been a widow.   But, I found a deed for land in lower Manhattan from daddy Parsell to William and Catherine where he identifies her as his daughter.

In her old age, Mary Dobbs moved to “Barn” Island in the East River with Walter and his wife and that’s where she was identified as having lived when her death notice reached the newspaper.  Historians leaped to the wrong conclusion about which island was referred to.  They probably didn’t even know Wards Island had been called Barn Island.

But the whole Barn Island thing, even once I untangled which island that was, turned out to be a side show.  One son lived there and Mary moved there only in extreme old age.    The main events of the Dobbs family saga in the 1600s played out on Manhattan Island, as shown by many many sightings in the historical record   (the lease, the liquor license, Walter Dobbs being a constable in Manhattan, Mary owning a house in Manhattan and marrying a second time after Walter’s death, again in Manhattan to a man who then became a constable in Manhattan as Walter had been, Mary owning a house in Manhattan, and son William owning property in Manhattan as well).

With those corrections now summarized, I give you the link to the Lane document:

Jim Luckett