17 July 2023 • Michael Cooley, BA, MA

The Mysterious Origins of Robert Bennett of Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England

What follows is a draft of a chapter from an upcoming book about Governor Richard Bennett of colonial Virginia — his career, family, and ancestral origin. Significant edits are likely to occur. Although I make a big deal here about speculation that is often considered fact by Bennett family enthusiasts, I do indulge. I hope, without pretense. Speculation is valuable for creating a hypothesis that requires resolution. Otherwise, it is nothing more than an exercise in fantastical thinking. Indeed, to be proven wrong is as valuable as being right. We learn something new. And I am happy to be thus proven on any of the several points made here. But that is accomplished only through proper citation of appropriate sources or, as I explain a few pages in, with the development of a lineage's Y chromosomal markers. I welcome experienced academic collaboration on the topic, particularly from historians that specialize in late medieval and Renaissance Somersetshire.


Robert Bennett was a successful 16th-century tanner in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England, and the immediate forebear of a consequential Jamestown family. His youngest son was Edward, a wealthy London merchant and puritan leader. Edward was responsible for transporting approximately 600 people to the colony. In 1622, he arranged for his brother Robert and 120 persons to set sail on the Seaflower and settle a large plantation that Bennett named Warrosquoake after a nearby river. Robert, the manager of Edward's plantation, died the following year and was replaced by yet another brother, Richard, who met the same unfortunate fate in 1626. Edward finally arrived in Jamestown two years later with his 20-year-old nephew, Richard Bennett, in tow.1 After about a year, Edward left the estate to the administration of the young man and returned to his family in London. Richard showed himself to be a passionate Puritan leader, a talented politician, and a successful businessman. He rose in social status and became wealthy in his own right. During the English Civil War, the Virginia House of Burgesses elected him to the governorship of Virginia. But this is not the story about the Virginia Bennetts. It is an examination of the patriarch's genealogical connections.


Robert Bennett is often said to have been born at Wiveliscombe in 1533. That might be correct, but no one has found documentation that supports the assertion.2 Because baptismal, marriage, and burial records were not kept in England until 1538, records concerning his birth and parentage are not likely to turn up.3 Dr. Nick Barratt of the UK National Archives states that "certain people can't be traced, but most ranks of society appear in some records, some of the time." Barratt advises that few documents were written in English before 1400. Perceptions of society and class should change to give those records meaning. Medieval England lived under a feudal system. Manors were responsible for the local administration, each with independent laws and customs. Manorial courts dealt with trespass, the recovery of debts, unruly neighbors, theft, poaching, and more.4 They were not in the business of tracking births, marriages, and deaths. Even if an individual is found in a record during their lifetime, tying them into a family would be difficult.

Researchers have attempted to pull together the loose ends by devising narratives built on speculation. The method is not helpful to anyone, especially when contradictory evidence is ignored.5 It is an all-too-common practice to create dates from the available data — a father's birth year based on his children's births and marriages, for example. Several unknown factors might have been present that would have influenced that estimate. He might have married earlier and had a family that escaped the researcher's notice. Such estimates sometimes accumulate in a lineage to the point that an ancestor ends up decades removed from the actual events. It is also common to conflate two or more individuals into one, even combining their names into a single moniker, thus creating fictitious middle names not present during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, except among Catholics. For example, Robert the tanner reappears repeatedly as "Robert I Herbert Bennett, Earl of Tankerville." There was no such person. First, the assertion never comes with a single source. Most importantly, the earldom did not come into any Bennett family until 1714, more than a century after Robert's death.

And from where does the name "Herbert" come from? No such name appears in the histories of all three creations of the earldom.6 All but the first and last names were contrived and propagated by well-meaning but inexperienced family history buffs through copy-and-paste. It happens time and time again among a great many families. In no time, dates, names, and lineages become so entangled and removed from the truth that it is best to throw it all out and start over. As such, our Bennett research needs to return to original records. And we will need to deal with the novel writing styles of the 16th and 17th centuries and suffer from their incompleteness. This essay examines some of the genealogical malpractices committed against Robert Bennett and his family, principally that Robert descended from the Bennets of Berkshire, England — or the Pythouse Benetts of Wiltshire. Take your pick.

The Berkshire Bennet lineage, from which derived the Earldoms of Arlington and Tankerville (3rd creation), is proven back to Thomas Bennet of Clapcot, Berkshire.7 Thomas died by 7 February 1547, the date his will was probated. It mentions no son called Robert Bennett. Indeed, Thomas's father, brothers, cousins, etc., are unknown to this day despite endless and varied speculation. Thomas of Clapcot, it seems, was the first history-making Bennett in his lineage.

Thomas's 1547 will names the following children.8

  • Alice, wife of John Southby
  • Richard
  • Edmond
  • Thomas
  • Johan the elder
  • Elizabeth
  • Margaret
  • Avelyn
  • Johan the ygr
  • unborn child

The unborn child would have been born in 1547 or 1548 and might have remained unknown, except that Agnes, his mother, also left a will. She provides for her minor child John by placing him under the tutelage of his eldest brother Richard. Although researchers have tried to make John the father of Robert Bennett of Wiveliscombe, it is impossible to make it so. There is a significant age problem. Wiveliscombe Robert would have been about a decade older than his "father", as evidenced by the fact that he married Elizabeth Edney at Wiveliscombe on 10 July 1558. Yes, Robert was old enough to have been John's older brother, except that the name is not found among Thomas's family nor his known descendants. At best, Robert might have been of a collateral lineage and a cousin of some degree to Thomas of Clapcot. For now, there is no path toward making Robert of this family, and no extant record regarding a collateral cousinship has been found. Furthermore, despite the claims, there is no evidence that Thomas of Clapcot had dealings in Wiveliscombe. His will states that "wife Agnes shall have all my farms and leases in Wallingford and Oxfordshire." There is no mention of Somerset.9

Turning to the heraldic visitations of Somerset for 1531, 1573, and 1623 we find nothing for Bennett.10 Clearly, no Bennett in the whole of the county was of the aristocracy. The problem is further complicated by the fact that England's churches were not required to keep records until 1538, making it unlikely a record of Robert's birth or parentage exists. If Robert Bennett was born in 1533, his birth occurred before the mandated record keeping. And it is reasonable to guess that he might have been born several years later. I discuss that below.


Other factors help perpetuate the myth of noble birth for Tanner Robert, one being the rumor of a Coat of Arms. Boddie writes that Thomas Ludlow, in a 1666 letter to the Earl of Arlington, "was only guessing" when he said Richard Bennett, the late Governor, carried the same Arms as the Earl.11 It is also claimed that the same image is engraved onto the tombstone of Richard's grandson, Richard Bennett, 3rd. But we find no such rumor about Bennett's uncle, Edward Bennett. If his father, a tanner, had been an earl (as discussed above), the Arms would have passed to all sons. And, as noted above, the Visitations list none.

Peter O'Donoghue, the York Herald of the College of Arms in London, responded to an inquiry in 2023. He forwarded a piece written by Joseph McMillan, President of the American Heraldry Society. It references the same story. Although reasonably accurate, the essay contains some commonly seen errors for the family. O'Donoghue writes, "It seems to be the case that any relationship between the Governor and the Earl of Arlington was unproven and somewhat speculative at the time, and has remained unproven since then. I would note that the Governor’s family do not, I believe, appear in the official records of the College of Arms."12 I replied with another inquiry. O'Donoghue responded that "it was unlawful to use [another's Coat of Arms], but it did happen nonetheless, and particularly in North America, which was never well controlled by the heraldic authorities in London. In particular, it was very common for families to assume and use the coat of Arms of an unrelated family of the same name. This was common, especially when that other family was notable, because of course their Arms would then appear in readily available published or unpublished lists of coats of Arms."13

Considering all the facts, a good case can be made that the former governor "borrowed" the aristocratic emblem of the Arlington family. In any event, the present study finds no legal or familial justification for displaying it.


So, from whom did the Wiveliscombe Bennetts descend? Writer and genealogist, John Bennett Boddie, speculated in 1938 that Robert could have been the son of John Bennett, another tanner of Wiveliscombe.14 Such a man might have existed, especially considering Robert himself was a successful tanner, but Boddie provides no evidence for him. But if a relationship existed, why would John not have been Robert's brother or another relationship? Boddie mentions "John Bennett probably brother of the first Robert" in a footnote along with his children's baptisms registered in the church records of Wiveliscombe.15

Elizabeth BennettBaptism7 December1578dau of John Bennett
Johan BennettBaptism7 January1580dau John Bennett
Robert BennettBaptism10 May1582son of John Bennett

What Boddie did not suggest is that John Bennett, the presumed father of our Robert of Wiveliscombe, had married Margery Lambert in Aller in 1561. A marriage between a couple of those names does exist, but Robert was born nearly 30 years earlier! No record even hints at John of Wiveliscombe being the same man or that he was any of a couple of dozen John Bennetts living in the whole of Somerset. It is more likely John and Margery of Aller were a young couple. Perhaps they were the progenitors of the small Aller Bennett clan rather than an elderly couple in the last years of their lives.16 Further, there is no indication that Margery was the Margery of Wiveliscombe who was buried 3 December 1564 as the Aller theorists believe. However, the Wiveliscombe burial record does list her as the "wife of John." Boddie might have been correct to suggest that Robert named his first two children after his parents, Margery and John. In any event, there is still nothing that ties the Aller and Wiveliscombe couples to one another. In the end, the folks that brought us the Aller marriage were likely the same people who made the ridiculous earldom claim. To clarify, Boddie had nothing to do with either.

And make note of an unattributed Wiveliscombe death for a John Bennett in 1601. Robert's father, likely born between 1500 and 1520, probably died long before that. Tanner Robert had two sons named John. The first was baptized in April 1561 but died a few weeks later. The second John was baptized in 1566. He was not the John who died in 1601 because he witnessed his father-in-law's will at London in 1637.17 And what about the unnamed child baptized at Wiveliscombe in 1653 to John and Cicily Bennett?

Apart from documented births, there are five records concerning Johns at the Church of St Andrew. These are the four pertinent to this question.

John BennettBaptized22 April1561son of Robert Bennett
John BennetBuried29 May1561
John BennettBaptized25 March1566son of Robert Bennett
John BennettBuried17 October1601

Perhaps we can find some answers in neighboring Milverton.


Where to now? The roots of the Wiveliscombe Bennetts are likely to be found in Somersetshire; at least there is no reliable data that leads us out of the county. But even if everyone stayed in place throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, we are still left with an incomplete and complex puzzle. The easy answer is that some births were simply not recorded. Nevertheless, a systematic search needs to be conducted. In the case of the Wiveliscombe Bennetts, we find a reasonably large family only three miles away in Milverton. For example, another Thomas Bennett of Milverton married Anstice Tompson alias Spicer of Wiveliscombe.18 It had long been supposed she married Thomas of Wiveliscombe, son of Robert. However, she is explicitly named in Milverton's baptismal records as the mother of most of the couple's children, and none corresponds to the baptisms in Wiveliscombe born to Thomas (son of the tanner), his wife not named. These were different families and the Thomas Bennetts once again become individuals. And it is useful to note that Anstice was baptized on 7 August 1575 at Wiveliscombe, a daughter of Robert Tompson alias Spyser.19 (The unusual surname persisted in the area for about 150 years.) Indeed, travel between Milverton and Wiveliscombe would have been a 20- or 30-minute horseback ride. It is reasonable that youngsters in these towns were getting to know one another and marrying. And it is even possible the Bennetts of the two communities were of the same family. There is no proof of this yet, but it is something to ponder.

Might we find a solution to the mystery of Tanner Robert in Milverton? Another Robert Bennett, son of another Thomas Bennett, was baptized in 1542. If he had been born a few years before the baptism (not uncommon), he might have been the Tanner Robert who married Elizabeth Edney at Wiveliscombe in 1558. But, and this is what makes genealogy so frustrating, according to the index at, Robert was buried a few weeks later, his parents not noted. However, I've looked at a photocopy of the original register. This infant Robert is listed as the son of Thomas Bennett.20

And while we're talking about Thomas Bennetts, who were the parents of the Thomas Bennett who married Agnes Beard at Wiveliscombe in 1620? Some say he was the son of Thomas Bennett, son of our Robert. Yet Thomas Senior's son died in 1608, as proved above. He may have had a second son of the name born at a later date, but no such baptismal record exists. Besides, that man would have been too young to have married Agnes. His might have been one of the earlier Milverton births. If so, he would have been a middle-aged man when he married Agnes Beard.

Thomas Bennettbaptized29 November 1603son of Thomas
Thomas Bennettburied23 December 1608son of Thomas

The Thomas Bennett baptisms in Milverton that might work for this Thomas,

Thomas Benettbaptized1 May1575son of William Benett
Thomas Benettbaptized21 April1579son of Richard Benett

I suspect that Thomas Bennett baptized in 1575 at Milverton was the husband of Anstice, discussed above, and that he was the man who died there on 5 October 1627, several months after his wife's death.21

Yes, there are far more questions than answers. But by realigning the records to account for the lack of evidence for Thomas's noble birth, an unidentified marriage in Aller, and keeping these folks close at home, we end up with a far more reasonable genealogy. If it had not been for the distractions, these "facts" might have been accepted a long time ago. Boddie's book is well-researched, but his speculation has led later researchers far afield.

Yet matching baptisms, marriages, and burials to one another has limited use, especially when the records are terse and often nonexistent. Even when collating the Wiveliscombe and Milverton Bennetts as a single family (which might be wrong-headed), the loose ends are too numerous and the gaps too large to accurately surmise most relationships. However, Robert Bennett's will was published. Using it along with the data extracted from church records, his family has been reasonably ascertained.


Is the written documentation exhausted? Perhaps, or not. In any event, there is one accessible set of records that remains largely untapped: the Y chromosome. This marvel of a biological archive is kept in every cell of every man's body and amounts to trillions of copies, particularly male gamete cells (sperm). I hope every adult understands that they carry half of the father's genetic material to the mother's egg. If the Y chromosome is present a son is born, and he has the same Y chromosome as the father — one hundred percent. This same process continues as long as the lineage exists. Generation after generation, every son in the male lineage has the same Y chromosome, including all brothers, paternal uncles, and cousins to several degrees, forward and backward.

Still, there is the odd but harmless single-point mutation that occurs occasionally. Any one of the 57 genetic letters on the Y might change to another letter (an A to a G, for example). Most of these mutations occur in areas of the Y that are not useful for phylogeny (arranging biological elements into a tree). But useful markers do occur at a rate of approximately once every four generations. And these markers, like the rest of the chromosome, pass down to all subsequent generations, from their inception forward. Over time, these SNPs accumulate, like fingerprints on a baton in a long-distance relay, and are interpreted through comparative analysis. By comparing multiple genetic samples, it is possible to determine the approximate age of each marker and, as a result, sort them into a timeline. With this data, a genetic tree is constructed, one that goes back tens of thousands of years, each member (or node) genetically aligned by degree with their common ancestor. Genetic clans of the same name are created, clans that are sometimes related by up to thousands of years, and even tens of thousands of years. As of this writing, the Bennetts make up about fifty distinct genetic groups, none related to the other.22 Any living male can test and discover from which clan he descends, assuming he has any matches at all. The Y, then, serves as a sort of biological coat of arms. Although genetic sequences can be complex, they are encapsulated in simple labels. For example, my "biological coat of arms" is R1a-YP4491. This is not only very un-Bennett, but the marker informs that I am separated from the R1b-A12020 Cooleys by 20,000 years! That is the power of the Y, both on a large scale and on a more "localized" sense that takes the lineage back only a few hundred years.23

As a genetic genealogist and volunteer administrator at, now with 28 projects, I created the "Bennett of Somerset England Y-DNA Project."24 We have at least two groups of testers claiming descent from the Wiveliscombe Bennetts. But they do not match one another and are separated by several thousand years. To find proven male descendants of Robert, I have opened the research to include any tested Bennett family. To that end, I have changed the name of our Facebook Group to The Bennett Y-DNA Research Group.25 (For now, the project's name at FTDNA remains the same.) Further, it should be noted that the Somersetshire church records alone reveal the presence of Bennetts in at least 43 towns and villages across the county for the period in question, about 1500 to 1700. Because Britain has a vastly older population than its counterparts in the western hemisphere, its inhabitants had millennia to travel from one location to another, spreading their Y chromosomes throughout England. We can be reasonably assured that there are Bennetts of several Y-DNA types in Somerset.

Y chromosomal genetics is a surefire way out of this morass. But it takes time and money to sequence, interpret, and publish the results. Among the claimants to the "Society of the Descendants of Robert the Tanner of Wiveliscombe" (I have just made that up) are two groups of testers. However, multiple results from each group reveal that they must go back several thousand years before any common markers are encountered, as described above. In brief, the two families are not related to one another, there is no indication at present whether one or neither represents the Bennetts of Wiveliscombe. In short, no group can be satisfactorily traced back to the village. Because the Y lineage of Governor Richard Bennett of Virginia ended with the death of his grandson Richard Bennett 3rd, we need to locate a cousin, if of several degrees, and have him test. The project has been looking for a verifiable descendant of Richard's uncle Edward Bennett, the wealthy London merchant described at the top. Unfortunately, the documented lineages, for now, have reached a dead end. But once such a descendant is discovered, his lineage verified, and his Y sequenced, we will be well on the way to unraveling this conundrum, not only for the governor but for every tester that suspects a connection.26

Finally, the project has only one verifiable colonial-era Bennett family with roots in Somerset. John Bennett was born at Lottisham in 1736. He belongs to Y-DNA haplogroup R-BY40815, and that is far afield from the other two families discussed. Of course, if there was only one Bennett genotype in Somerset, all the others are genealogically out of luck. I suggest, however, that this is not the case. The research continues.27


So, how did this poor mingling of various Bennett families begin? In 1655, Richard Bennett, the governor of Virginia, surrendered his commission and returned to England for a couple of years to confer with Oliver Cromwell and Lord Baltimore, securing needed reform for Maryland. He gave testimony in court in 1557 on another matter in which he stated his age and birthplace — Wiveliscombe in about 1608.28 This was sufficient evidence needed by historians and genealogists to direct their research to Wiveliscombe church records and determine his family tree, if sometimes with error. As far as is known, Richard is the only Bennett of early colonial Virginia for which a record of birth had been committed to paper, irrevocably tying the man of Virginia to Wiveliscombe — the only ride back to England that early Virginia Bennett researchers appear to have been able to hitch onto. However, only a few hundred colonial families can be reliably connected to a family in the British Isles. Although not yet developed for this family, the microscopic Y chromosome is a fabulous and unimpeachable ride.

Genetic genealogy has two components, of course, each readily enhancing the other. As genetic testing progresses, so should genealogical and historical research. Boddie's excellent work took us a long way, but it was published nearly 90 years ago. He missed a lot, particularly the likely connection between the Milverton and Wiveliscombe Bennetts. However, he had nothing to do with the propagation of the two major fallacies concerning the Wiveliscombe Bennetts: the noble birth and the improbability of the Aller marriage. Other parties not as accomplished are responsible for that. As is often the case, there was a likely rush to plug in all blanks. Realistically, that will never be accomplished, and we can live with that. Frankly, a blank spot on a tree is only that. It might beckon to be filled in — with anything — but we can resist. After all, the lineage has been capably taken back to a fully identified couple, Robert Bennett and his wife Elizabeth Edney of Wiveliscombe, and into the early decades of the 16th century. This is quite an accomplishment — and is good enough.

As promised, I have speculated and suggested quite a lot here. Make note of the clues, such as "I believe" and "likely" and trust nothing that is not carefully and fully cited. I hope, however, that I have set a road map from which we can explore deeper, not only regarding Robert Bennett's roots but also in the discovery of Robert's "genetic coast of arms" now carried by every male descendant, if any still exists.

St. Andrew's, Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England29

1. A Robert Bennett is also found in Virginia records in 1628, aged 18. He is presumed to be another nephew of Edward's and cousin to Richard. Edward's brother, William, had a son Robert baptized on 29 December 1611. But another was baptized in Milverton 7 May 1609, son of Thomas and Anstice of that village.

2. By documentation, I mean primary documentation: original copies of wills, births, etc. Some secondary and well-cited sources often work, but only when the primary sources are unavailable. And too often a secondary source points only to another secondary source. Serious researchers, in my opinion, should follow this trail of secondary sources in hopes of getting to the heart of the matter. However, that trail often leads to a dead-end or something amounting to nothing but a mere piece of speculation. This suggests the whole shebang is likely bogus. In our case, the Bennett lineages are so mixed up that the only way to get a handle on it is to accept only primary sources.

3. A Brief History of the Registers of the Church of England, Derbyshire Record Office and Derby Diocesan Record Office, 25 June 2010. "Every parish of the Church of England was required to keep a register of baptisms, marriages, and burials by the Injunctions issued in 1538 by Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of King Henry VIII, in his capacity as Vicegerent in Spirituals. The Injunctions were repeated at various times in the following sixty years, despite the religious changes, and were eventually reinforced by the Provincial Constitutions of Canterbury issued in 1597 and approved by Queen Elizabeth I in 1598. These required the existing registers, which were usually of paper, to be copied into more durable parchment volumes. Consequently, few of the original paper registers survive. Many of the copies made as a result of the Constitutions of Canterbury in fact only start from 1558 or later, and for some parishes the oldest surviving register begins in the seventeenth or even eighteenth century."

4. Dr. Nick Barrat, "Trace Your Medieval Ancestors at the National Archives," The National Archives (UK), 27 August 2014, video, webinar-tracing-medieval-ancestors.mp4.

5. Speculation is important in nearly every investigative process. But if made available to the public, it needs to be clear it is just another avenue of research, not to be regarded as fact.

6. "Earl of Tankerville," Wikipedia, web,, retrieved 10 July 2023. This is a concise summary of the Tankerville lineages. It cites these sources, the first two highly respected. ¶ Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage. (London: Debrett's, 1876), 462. ¶ Bernard Burke, The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; comprising a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the present time (London: Harrison & Sons, 1884), 70. ¶ "Tankerville, Earl of (GB, 1714)." Cracroft's Peerage (Bicester, Oxfordshire: Heraldic Media Limited, 2012).

7. Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, Genealogical and Heraldic History of Peerage, Baronetage, the Privy Council, Knightage, and Companionage, 77th edition, volume 30 (London: Harrison & Sons, 1915). ¶ Sir Egerton Brydges, JK, Collins's Peerage of England; Genealogical, Biographical, and Historical, Volume 4, London: F.C. and J. Rivington, Otridge and Son: 1812).

8. Will of Thomas Bennett, 1545.

9. When faced with this conundrum, inexperienced researchers will sometimes come up with reasoning such as, Well then, Robert was an illegitimate son of Thomas. In other words, there is an attachment to a specific target rather than to the evidence. Even if the assertion was true, there is no way to prove it.

10. "Heraldic visitation," Wikipedia, retrieved 11 June 2023. The heraldic visitations were conducted in England between the years 1530 and 1688. "Their purpose was to register and regulate the coats of arms of nobility, gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees. The Wikipedia authors of the article liken a visitation to an "upper-class census."

11. John Bennett Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County Virginia volume 1 (Chicago: Chicago Law Printing Company, 1938), 266.

12. Peter O'Donoghue, MA, FSA, York Herald, "College of Arms enquiry," College of Arms, Email message to Michael Cooley, 2 June 2023.

13. O'Donoghue, 7 June 2023.

14. Boddie, 267.

15. Boddie, 271.

16. Michael Cooley, "Bennetts in Aller, Somerset, England, 1500-1700," Research Reports for Bennetts of Somerset, England, 10 June 2023, web

17. Will of Jasper Bourne, 1 Feb 1635. A transcription can be found in Boddie, 277.

18. Thomas and Anstice married at Milverton on married 19 August 1599, Somerset Archives, D/P/MILV 2/1/1.

19. Michael Cooley, "Anstice Tompson alias Spicer of Milverton", Research Reports for Bennetts of Somerset, England, 15 June 2023, web

20. Yes, not even an index should be trusted. The records themselves should be examined.

21. A burial for an Anastice Bennett is found in Milverton in the year 1647. However, the record itself states explicitly that she was the wife of William Bennett. It would be somewhat unusual for a husband and wife to be born the same year, but it appears to be the case here: Robert Bennett (1575-1627) and Anstice Tompson alias Spicer (1575-1627). The fun now is in tracking their children, William (1600-), Emanual (1601-), Joane (1605-), Robert (1609-), John (1610-), and William (1613-).

22. Cindy Smith, Administrator, "Bennett," Family Tree DNA, web,

23. For example, a tree that includes my Cooleys within a much larger genetic group is found at

24. Michael Cooley, administrator, "Bennett of Somerset England," Family Tree DNA, web,

25. Michael Cooley, administrator, "The Bennett Y-DNA Research Group," web,

26. The "Blackwater" Bennetts have a marker called R1b-BY172987 but the descendants of "Dr." John Bennett (-1668) of Virginia carry the marker R1b-FTA7413. The former is descended from immigrant Thomas Bennett (1587-1641), his approximate years easily authenticated. But there is no match for him in Wiveliscombe records. John Bennett is believed by his descendants to have been the son of Thomas Bennett (c1603-1668?) of unknown origin who married Agnes Beard at Wiveliscombe in 1623. (It is proven above that he was not the son of Thomas of Wiveliscombe.) The death year for him, the presumed father of "Dr" John Bennett of Virginia, is taken from a 1668 burial record in London. No known, legitimate connection has been made to that burial. For more information regarding the Y-DNA for these two Bennett clans, see the following pages: Presumed Blackwater Bennetts and Descendants of "Dr" John Bennett of Virginia.

27. In fact, this would be a good collaborative effort — to compile parish records for Bennetts throughout the county of Somerset between 1500 to 1700. I'd love to hear from anyone interested in helping with that.

28. Boddie, 266.

29. Mike Searle, "St Andrew's church, Wiveliscombe - nave and chancel," Geograph (2012), web,, retrieved 4 June 2023. The church can be documented back to 1179 but was rebuilt during the tenure of Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-63). It was deemed unfit in the 1820s and once again rebuilt in 1829 by Richard Carver but using some of the original windows. Additional information can be found at "Wiveliscombe bishop's palace discovered during building work", BBC, 12 March 2021,, retrieved 4 June 2023.