Research on Thomas Woolley (abt 1701–1750)

The following information is built on research reported by Preston Woolley Parkinson, The Utah Woolley Family (Salt Lake City, 1967), pp. v-xv, who expressed the hope:
that some interested kinsman will be led to further research in this area.

Name origins.  

The most common modern spellings of the surname are “Woolley” and “Wooley.” The highest and earliest concentration of families of the name suggest its most likely origin to have been in Derbyshire, England. When surnames were first used in the period of Middle English (1150–1500) the name would have been Woollea. The first part of the designation would have been after a man by the name of Wulfa in Anglo-Saxon. The second part is quite common in place names meaning a clearing or meadow. Since the name of “Wulfa” was not rare, there could have been many small places distinguished by the name. In fact by 1871 Bartholomew’s Survey Gaxetteer of the British Isles lists at least 17 such places. And then there is the old Germanic name Wulf-wig (war of wolves), which could have been carried by the Anglo-Saxon (West Germanic) element as “Wolvic.” This makes it also a possibility that the son or others associated with a man of this name could be known by that name, which in the Middle English period could easily become something like “Woolley.” In fact the manor and church of Woolley in Yorkshire has such a history. Dr. J. W. Walker in Yorkshire Archæological Journal, v. 27 (1924), pp. 249–318, traces the variations of this name in the Middle English period. We must remember that spelling was very much at the whim of the clerk, depending on how he might have interpreted what he heard. In 1087 it was Wilvek, in 1188 Ulsinople (Latinized, cf. -in- “belonging to” + Greek -polis “city, place”), Wlvelay in 1192, Wlvele in 1195, 1210, and later, Wolvelay in 1349, Wolvelai in 1407, Woley in 1520, Woolley in 1522, 1536, Wooley in 1546, Wollaye in 1591, and Woolley rather consistantly since 1700. This place seems to have been interpreted as associated with a man named “Wulvwic” in the Anglo-Saxon period, but under the influence of the Normans was changed and reinterpreted as “wolves’ lea.”

Woolleys among the Quakers in England.  

The Quaker movement grew out of the Puritan movement in England in the mid-seventeenth century among all classes of people. Much of its strength can be attributed to converts from the upper classes. These people were at times severely persecuted for their non-conforming belief system and strong moral integrity. The book Sufferings of the Quakers by Besse mentions four people of the Woolley name who underwent such persecution in various parts of England during this formative period.
William Woolley of …leanor, Derbyshire in 1685 (p. 143)
Ezekial Woolley in London in 1670
John Woolley of Glamorganshire, Wales, imprisoned in 1660 (p. 746)
John Woolley held in gaol in Radnorshire for not swearing allegiance to the king in Jan 1663.

Who’s Who in England.  

The 1955 edition of Who’s Who in England contains short biographical sketches of eight individuals carrying the surname of Woolley. Among the more noted was a linguist and archæologist of the ancient Near East, Sir (Charles) Leonard Woolley (b. 17 Apr 1880 near London). His work there and publications spanned forty-three years (1907 to 1949). He published many books and pamphlets during this period, concluding in 1954 with a record of his twelve-year efforts at Ur of the Chaldees. He died in 1960. His earliest known Woolley ancestor came to London in 1588 from Lincolnshire.

Wolley Immigrants to America.  

Most of the early American immigrants carrying the Woolley name settled in Virginia. Yet like many settlers of that period they seem to have left few descendants.
John Woolley in Elizabeth City, 1623
Samuel Woole in Accomack County, 1635
William Woolley in Henrico County, 1636
William Woolley in 1638
William Woolley in lower Norfolk county, 1647

Woolleys in colonial New England.  

That there are numerous traces of Woolley families in New England may be attested by a glance at the indexes to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. In one thorough account (vol. 75, 1921) the author, Irene Cynthia Gould notes the fact that there were at least three unrelated families named Woolley in New England around the middle of the seventeenth century.
1) Christopher Woolley was living at Concord, Massachusetts, in 1646 (the subject of the article).
2) Robert Woolley can be documented in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1649–1653. He moved his family to Southampton, Long Island, before 1657. This family is treated briefly in Howell’s History of Southampton, L.I. (2nd ed., 1887), pp. 408f.
3) Emanuel Woolley was in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1655. He moved his family to Monmouth, New Jersey, after 1667, where he appears in the Quaker records. This family is treated extensively in John E. Stillwell’s New Jersey Historical and Genealogical Miscellany (1932), vol. 5, [80 pp].

Woolleys in the 1790 Census.  

Not all states of the fledgling country have census records that survive of that first enumeration taken in 1790. The number of households identified with a Woolley head in the various states, for which returns are representative are:
Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (2), New York (15), Maryland (2), Massachusetts (1), North Carolina (1), New Hampshire (2), Vermont (10)

Research note on Woolleys in Philadelphia.  

The central concern of research remains Thomas Woolley of Philadelphia, who married there in Christ Church in 1729. He does not appear to be connected directly to any of the families so far identified in any detail. There were some Woolleys already resident in Philadephia when he arrived, who in the early stages of research sparked no little interest. From History of Chester County by Gilbert Cope (p. 22):
Arrivals between 1682 and 1688
28 Jan 1687/8 The Margaret from London, John Bowman, Commander. James Calypoole, merchant, and Helenah his wife, with 7 children and five servants, viz., Hugh Masland and his wife, to serve 4 years, Sissilla Wooley, 4 years and Edward Cole Jr., to serve 7 years.
Also from American 25, vol. 2, p. 693 [probably the old call no. at GSU Library for William Wade Hinshaw’s American Quaker Genealogy]:
30 Mar 1688 Joshua Tittery had a certificate to marry Cicily Woolley, Abington meeting (Phila. meeting records show that Joshua Tittery was a Quaker in England).
From the Orphan’s Court records of Philadelphia County:
Will of Joshua Tittery of Philadelphia, potter, July 1709:
Wife Cicily — executor, her brother Edmund Woolley and his daughter Cicily.

Will of Edmund Woolley, wdd 1760, wpd 1771
Children and executors: Stephen, Mary and Sarah.
Witn: Jos. Galland, Nicholas Waln

(In 1729 Edmund Woolley witnessed the will of Richard Cummins.)

Dr. Stephen Woolley was witness to a codicil to the will of Geo. Maccullin of Philadelphia, 15 Oct 1772, who was nephew of William Parsons, brother of Rebecca Woolley and cousin of Elizabeth Cummins.
Edmund Woolley    1746Adm.BookFp. 52
Jonathan Woolley1771WillBookPp. 152
James Woolley1791Adm.BookIp. 143
Mary Woolley1783Adm.BookIp. 64
Sebastian Woolley1792Adm.BookIp. 287
Sebastian Woolley bought property from William Weaver, 115 L Frame house & lot S. side of Appletree alley near Arch Street, 47 ft. E. of 5th containing 13 x 16 bounded on the E. by Benj. Franklin, etc. (Book D 22, pp. 284ff., 16 Oct 1784).

George Woolley witnessed the will of Wm. Jones, Oct 1797.

Edmund Woolley was executor of the will of John Barnes 1741.

Ann Woolley witnessed the will of Susannah Collins of Plum St. SW, Philadelphia, widow, 15 Feb 1789.

George Woolley witnessed the will of Hannah middleton, widow, of Nottingham, Burlington Co., N.J., wdd. 11 Mar 1820, wpd. 6 Feb 1824.

Children of George Justice: Elizabeth Woolley, Rebecca J. Mitchell, Mary J. Bartling, Jacob Justice, George M. Justice.

Edmund Woolley witness June 1711; witness John Goodson of North Liberty, physician to Cicily Tittery, wid. of Joshua of Philadelphia Meeting.
First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia
2 Oct 1705Cicily Woolley and William Cheesman
28 Nov 1705Mary Woolley and Fletcher Godbe
12 Feb 1711Abigail Woolley and William Snowden
Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia
30 May 1782Stephen Woolley and Prescilla Stiles

Edmund Wolley Story.  

Edmund Woolley, master carpenter, and Andrew Hamilton, lawyer, planned the building and supervised the construction of Independence Hall, which was begun in 1732 and completed in the 1750’s. Located on the south side of Chestnut Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets, in Philadelphia, this building served as the original State House of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Independence Hall, with its wings was designed in the dignity of the Georgian period and has long been considered one of the most beautiful public buildings of colonial America.

By some historians, Edmund Woolley has been given credit for hanging the Liberty Bell, and for the construction of Carpenter’s Hall in 1770. This latter building has since been dedicated as a patriotic shrine it having been the scene of the First Continental Congress in 1774.

In a booklet by the name of Philadelphia, a well-known architect, Edwin Bateman Morris, has this to say regarding Edmund Woolley’s contribution to the construction of Independence Hall.
Before I ever thought of going into architecture myself, I used to know an architect, Mellon Rogers, who was concerned with certain changes and restorations of Independence Hall. He told me something of the architectural history of this building, which intrigued me. He gave credit as architect to Andrew Hamilton, a lawyer, who was Speaker of the Assembly in 1730 and thereafter.
Later investigation shows that only a certain sterilized architectural credit can go to Hamilton. He did, while superintending its construction, have much to do with its form and arrangement, but the original design drawing seems to have been made by a master carpenter named Edmund Woolley. Yet Hamilton does seem to have been the dynamic force which pushed toward the idea of starting construction of the building and of continuing it. It was he who, after acrimonious debates in the Assembly, finally overcame all opposition to the project.
Motivated by a tradition in the family of Paul Woolley Taylor (#330) of Wilmington, Delaware, that a tool chest that had been given him by his grandmother had long ago belonged to one of his ancestors and that this ancestor had worked on a historical building in Philadelphia, we have exhausted all references to Edmund Woolley in available documents trying to discover any relationship of him to Paul’s ancestor Thomas Woolley. In addition to the references cited above we find the following in the Phila. Deed Book E.F. 32, p. 131, under the date of 27 May 1733:
Edmund Woolley, city of Philadelphia, carpenter, and Mary his wife (said Edmund Woolley being the eldest son and heir at law of Edmund Woolley, last of said city, tailor, deceased, and also heir at law of his brother John Woolley, another son of said deceased Edmund Woolley)
William Wallace of said city, mariner, and Susannah his wife.
John Barnes of Horsham in county of Philadelphia in said province, yeoman, and Mary his Wife.
Amos Ashead of Hattonfield in West New Jersey, woolcomer, and Cicely his wife (the said Susannah, Mary and Cicely being the daughters of said deceased Edmund Woolley).
Convey to: William Parsons, of said city of Philadelphia, yeoman, (Whereas said Edmund Woolley, the father, being lawfully seized of Messuage and piece of ground, died intestate, leaving only issue said Edmund, his eldest son, the said John Woolley, who is since deceased intestate and without issue, and the said Susannah, Mary and Cicely).

From this and other entries in the early records of Philadelphia, it appears that though this Edmund Woolley was a contemporary of the Thomas Woolley who married in Christ Church in 1729 to Sarah Coppock and was the progenitor of the Utah Woolley family, no relationship between them has been established. Edmund and his father lived in adjoining houses on Second Street between Sassafras (Race) and Vine Streets. The northernmost was that of Edmund Woolley, Jr., the next was where presumably the widow of Edmund Woolley, Sr., had lived until her death in 1732 (which her heirs deeded to William Parsons, brother-in-law of Edmund Woolley, Jr., and which he in turn sold in 1735 to William Wallace, a son-in-law of Edmund Woolley, Sr.) The third and southermost house was that of the widow Goodson, the same Cecily Woolley who had married Joshua Tittery in 1688.