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Risley in America

Source of Risley in America

As the National Historian for the Risley Family Association since 1982, I have been tracking down Risleys (et al) wherever they we to be found, all across America, the British Isles and even Australia.

There were two landed gentry families of the name in England in the 13th century. One was a Norman line in the Visitations of the Herald in Chetwode, Buckinghamshire, that showed the spelling Riseley (not to  be confused with the American Riseley family who migrated to Rheinbeck, NY about 1700 from Germany). The other was a Celtic family in the Visitations of the Herald in Winwick, Lancashire who spelled the name Risley.

Barring a non-paternal event in my Risley lineage, my 67 marker Y-DNA with Family Tree DNA proves that the American Risleys descend from an ancient Irish line possibly from King Niall of Nine Hostages, that  later crossed to Southwestern Scotland, and finally settled in the 12th century in Northwestern England.

In 1292 a.d. Ellen de Culcheth, daughter of Gilbert de Culcheth and Lady Cecilie de Lathom (a descendant of King Alfred the Great of England), a ward of the Baron of Warrington, received as her dowry the land and manor of Risley in Winwick, on her marriage to Robert de Hindley. Thereafter, they used the name de Risley which was the earliest beginning of our name as Risley. It was a location name in England describing Risley manor and lands as a meadow surrounded by brushwood. I know this connection only from my Y-DNA results and by process of elimination of the two families in England and we still have much to learn about our Risley generations in England and the parentage of our immigrant, Richard Risley.

It has been often stated that Richard Risley came to Boston, Massachusetts, with Rev. Thomas Hooker in 1633 on the ship "Griffin". In all of my research I could find nothing to support that claim. What I did find was a passenger list for the Planter of London that arrived in Boston on April 6, 1635. Among its passengers was a Martin Saunders, age 40, a currier, from Sudbury, Suffolk, England, with five other members of his family, and with them also were Marie Fuller, 17, Richard Ridley (sic), 16, and Richard Smith, 15. I seem to recall that one of the passenger lists I saw said Richard Ridley was put to the ship from Stepney, London. Then, they removed to Braintree, Massachusetts where Martin Saunders would succeed Jeremy Adams as the Tavern Keeper when Adams left to join the Hooker Party in Newtowne (now Cambridge). The later records give a full account of the Saunders family but nothing more is known of Marie, Richard or Richard Smith. I think they went on with Jeremy Adams to Hartford and somewhere along the way Richard Risley married Marie(or Mary)Fuller.

This becomes more apparent when you study back from the wife of Richard Risley, Jr., Rebecca Adams. Her grandfather was Jeremy Adams came to Braintree in 1632 with his brother, Henry Adams who was grandfather to President John Adams. Her mother was Abigail Smith, daughter of Richard Smith. Jeremey Adams was the Tavern Keeper and Constable at Hartford. Richard Risley was a relatively young man when he died In Hockanum of typhoid fever in October 1648 while his wife was pregnant with Richard Jr. He had a large home lot on the Southwest of the Hartford settlement on the grounds of the present Connecticut State Capitol Building, and was said to be the Hay Warden responsible for collecting the winter forage for the livestock.

On May 31st 1636, the Hooker Party turned their backs on the Massachusetts Bay Colony, leaving behind nothing to be desired and betook themselves through a trackless wilderness on foot to the site now occupied by the city of Hartford, reaching their destination in about a month. A treaty was consummated with the Indians for a tract of land, embracing the present city of Hartford and the adjoining towns of East
Manchester and East and West Hartford.

Richard Risley, with the Hooker Company, was one of the original founders of the Commonwealth of Connecticut...On January 14, 1638, Richard participated in the adoption of the "Fundamental Orders," hidden in The Charter Oak, the first written Constitution known to history.

Richard Risley was married about 1640 to Mary, who was probably born in England. She married secondly, William Hills who raised the Risley children after Richard's death.

Richard and Mary Risley had three children:


Samuel, baptized November 1, 1645, Hartford,

Richard, Jr., baptized August 2, 1648; m. Rebecca Adams.



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This site was last updated 05/28/07