Saturday, April 21, 2012

Beware of Lightning Strikes

The weatherman said that there were more than 3,000 lightning strikes in and around Houston during yesterday's storm which reminded me of the death of my 9th great-grandfather Humphrey Tiffany(for family members, here is the descent: Cecily daughter of Charles N. Cone, Jr.; son of Charles N. Cone, Son of Helen Brown Newton and Fredrick Naaman Cone, Daughter of Mary Elizabeth Clarke and Charles Shepard Newton, Daughter of John Champion Clarke, son of James Augustus Clarke, son of Anna Lyman Tiffany and James Clarke, daughter of Isaiah Tiffany, Son of Thomas Tiffany, son of said Humphrey Tiffany).

According to Ella F. Wright who in 1904 published a "Genealogical Sketch of the Tiffany Family",
"Squire Humphrey is the earliest Tiffany mentioned in Colonial history, and he is undoubtedly the ancestor of the majority of Tiffanys in America." (Note: this book is available at Genealogical Sketch of the Tiffany Family at  Most reports have him being born and baptised the same day at St. John's Church in the Hackney parish area of London, England. It is thought that he arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony about 1660.

He makes his first appearance on this side of the pond in, "Records of Ancient Rehoboth. History of New Plymouth" by Baylis, Vol. 1, page 209. On "Jan. 22, 1663 Humphrey Tiffany permitted to be a sojouner and to buy and hire."  I believe a sojouner was a clothier, or seller of clothing. Later that year, "Att the General Court holden att Plymouth the first day of March, Anno Dom., 1663 Humphrey Tiffany made a complaint against an Indian for abuse received." There is no further information on the type of abuse or the resolution of the case.

Humphrey and his wife Elizabeth (surname unknown) had six children who have left either records and/or descendants, sons, James, Thomas, Ebenezer, Consider and Hezekiah, and daughter Sarah who was born July 6, 1683. They are living in Swansea by the time daughter Sarah is born.

Squire Humphrey was on his way from Swansea to Boston when he was struck by lightning. Luckily a report of his demise survives in the diary of Samuel Sewell (Publications of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 5, fifth series, page 88). "Wednesday. P.M., July 15, 1685. Very dark and great thunder and lightning. One Humphrey Tiffany and Frances Low, daughter of Antony Low, are slain with the lightning and thunder about a mile and a half beyond the Billinges Farm, the horse also slain, that they rode on and another horse in Company slain and his rider who held the garment on the Maid to steady it at the time the Stroke a coat or cloak, stoned, but not killed. Were coming Boston. Antony Low being in Town and sad. Bill was put up with (regards) of that solemn judgment of God; Fast-day Forenoon. July 15, 1685, 2 persons, 2 horses."

Another account was published in "New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A record of the achievements of her people in the making of commonwealths and the founding of a nation." by William Richard Cutter in 1915 (also available at ) Page 1160. "He was killed by lightning between Swansea and Boston, and that for a long time a metal tablet was affixed to the tree beneath which he had sought shelter. There was an inscription on the tree setting forth the incident and concluding with the following,

Squire Humphrey Tiffany
And Mistress Low
By a stroke of lightning
Into Eternity did go.

The tree and tablet are long gone so we hope for the veracity of the earlier reports.

Elizabeth Humphrey was considered a capable woman and was qualified by the general court as the executrix of her husbands estate.
Unfortunately, mother nature was not finished wrecking havoc in the Tiffany family. Son Hezekiah drowned in the Swanzey river on December 4, 1685.

As for the other obvious question... yes, the founders of Tiffany & Co. were also descendants of Squire Humphrey and Elizabeth.


  1. Hi- Humphrey Tiffany was also my 9 x great grandfather, through his daughter Sarah's line. Humphrey's wife's name was Elizabeth Ray. Sarah married John Banning. They had John Banning II, who had William Banning (who also married a Tiffany (Lucy); they had Elisha and he married Anna Burtch and they had Ozias Banning who married Alice Keir, giving birth to my great great great grandmother Ellen Banning, who married a Byers and their daughter married John Webster James- my great grandfather. I am a James as well, living near Ottawa Ontario, Canada.

    1. Wanda - please contact me at I have a Xerox copy of the book "Tiffanys of America. History and Genealogy" and would like to add you Tiffany/Banning/James information to it. Thanks!
      Harold Robinson

  2. The Squire is my 10x great-grandfather (Humphrey>James>John>John Jr>Chandler>George>Gardner>Roy>Patrick>Me).

    Have you read the exceptional physical description given by Otis Tiffany? Whatever "Maximilian Blood" is, I got it!

    1. Please contact me at It pertains to your father and his children.
      Harold Robinson

  3. Great! Squire Humphry Tiffany was my 8X grandfather- Thomas Tiffany, James Tiffany, Hannah Tiffany(my 5X grandmom), Belding Swetland, Eli Swetland and Norris B. Swetland. If I am doing this right! Thanks for the story cousins!