Identity Theft

John Lovell, who was born in England in 1627 to Robert and Elizabeth Lovell, came to America with his family when he was eight years old.  John Lovell married Jane Hatch from Scituate, daughter of Elder William Hatch.  Their children, all born at Weymouth before the family moved to Barnstable, were Phebe, John, Elizabeth, James, William, Andrew, and Jane.  The Lovells' first child, Phebe, was born February 19, 1655 or 1656.  John followed on May 8, 1658, and Jane, their last, was born July 20, 1670.  Their second child, the junior John Lovell, married Mary Lombard in May 1686 at Barnstable, a decade after serving in the militia during King Philip’s War.

A Boston tanner whom we usually call John Lowell (The name is spelled inconsistently in public records - sometimes Lovell, Lovill, Lowell, Lowwell, or even Lovewell, the latter being the way he actually signed his name on a deed) married Elizabeth Silvester (Sometimes written as Sylvester) at Scituate in 1658.  Their children were John, born April 7, 1660, Joseph, Patience, Elizabeth, Phoebe (Also spelled Phebe), and Zaccheus.  John, their firstborn, is the legendary Dunstable resident who lived to be about 95, although rumor put his age at 120.  He was the father of Capt. John Lovewell, killed in an Abenaki ambush in 1725.  The last of their children, Zaccheus, was born in 1668 and died at age 19 in 1687.  Elizabeth was the last to be born at Boston, just before the Lowells moved to Rehoboth.  After fifteen years at Rehoboth they lived for a few years at Lynn, where Zaccheus died a year or two before the family settled at Dunstable.

The facts in the first paragraph are drawn from “A Biographical Genealogy of the Lovell Family in England and America” by T. D. Rhodes and May Lovell Rhodes.  The information in the second is found in “Early Generations of the Founders of Old Dunstable” by Ezra S. Stearns, and is repeated in “The Lovewell Family” by Gloria Lovewell.  Gloria Lovewell also quotes the Rhodes book for the story of Robert Lovell’s voyage to America with his family, and then within a few paragraphs makes two swift attempts to splice the families together.

John married first Jane Hatch, by whom he had a son that they named John.  Then he married a second time.  His second wife was Elizabeth Sylvester, by whom he had six children.  The eldest son of this marriage he also named John.

Before he married Elizabeth Sylvester, John was married to Jane Hatch, daughter of Elder William Hatch and Jane (Young) Hatch.  Their son, John Lovell, is not to be confused with the other son named John Lovell, who was born to his second wife, Elizabeth Sylvester. 

For those keeping score at home, that’s two sons named John Lovell, born two years apart.  According to the Lovell/Lowell theory, these boys had the same father, a man named John Lovell who was later known as John Lowell.  The first boy to be named after him was born in 1658.  The timetable immediately falls apart because the man we know as John Lowell had a date at the altar with Elizabeth Sylvester in January of 1658, a marriage which soon yielded son who was also named John.  While we do sometimes find boys within the same family who share their father's given name, this generally means the first namesake died young.  Unfortunately for the Lovell/Lowell theory, both of these boys thrived and had families.  The only other given names common to the lists of John Lovell's and John Lowell's children are “Elizabeth" and "Phoebe.”  Other than having the names of three children in common and both marrying women from Scituate, there is no reason to assume that John Lovell and John Lowell are one and the same man.  They marry different women in the 1650’s, live in different places, and half of their children have dissimilar names.  One family and their descendants wind up in the northern Massachusetts village of Dunstable, while the others live over a hundred miles away at Barnstable.  John Lovell died in 1709 at Barnstable, and for the record, there is no evidence that Jane (Hatch) Lovell predeceased her husband, leaving him free remarry.  

After cautioning us to avoid confusing the two sons named John, Gloria Lovewell quickly changes the subject to the Torrey and Sylvester families before getting back to the Lovells, who in the meantime have magically been transformed into Lovewells.  In magic that’s known as misdirection.  The misinformation she passes along is almost certainly someone else’s theory, and Gloria's sleight-of-hand in presenting it suggests that even she wasn’t quite convinced.  There were a few earlier extensive studies of the Lovewell family, one in the 1920’s by Samuel Harrison Lovewell, and another in the 1960’s by Sherman Lee Pompey, either of which could have steered Gloria Lovewell’s thinking as she prepared to publish her own volume of Lovewell history in the 1970’s.

The Marygould, which brought Robert Lovell and his family from England in 1635, was one of about twenty ships which conveyed religous dissidents and others to the shores of the New World around that time.  Unfortunately, it is the only one of the twenty with a passenger list that has survived.  It must have been very tempting to spot an ancestor on that ship, even if the family name was not quite a bullseye, and the likeliest candidate had somewhere else to be, another life to lead, and a different family to raise.  

It’s not so much identity theft as ancestor theft - a harmless crime.  However, many of us with Robert Lovell and his son John on our family trees, probably should consider pruning a few branches.


Best wishes to Dave Lovewell for a speedy recovery.  I know - even if it is speedy, it’ll seem like forever.  And although your caregivers mean well, it’s okay to give them a hard time.  I think it’s in your patient’s bill of rights.  I’m sure I read that someplace. 

© Dale Switzer 2023