The Mistaken Identity Of William Orcutt

Where did the idea that William Orcutt was  bapt.  Dec.  18, 1618,  Fillongley, Warwickshire, England, as  William “Orchar”, a variant spelling of the surname Urquhart, as we  find erroneously listed in so many family charts, come from?

This one is easy;

The Genealogy Of John (2) Orcutt, by Helen G. Judson and Elbert E. Orcutt 1966

page IV

 “Recent research (1965) made by Helen G. Judson, who received a letter August 4, 1965 from the Diocesan Archivist of Warwickshire, England that states:  “There was a William, son of William Orchar (the name Orchar  being a modification of the name Urchard and probably Anglicized to the name Orcutt  later) baptized December 18, 1618 recorded in the parish register (1538-1653) of  Fillongley, Warwickshire, England”.     The  register  is not indexed  and  the brief glance at this time did not reveal other children of this William Orchar.  Further research is being made and it is hoped before the year 1966 comes to a close that it can be authentically established that this William Orchar baptized December 18, 1618 at  Fillongley is the father of all Orcutt families in America.”

  When reading this passage we need to be very careful to note that the statement, “(the name Orchar being a modification of the name Urchard and probably Anglicized to the name Orcutt later)”, in parentheses  are the words, thoughts, and opinion of Mrs. Judson and not the Archivist. I have used a different color text to allow a reading of exactly what the record  actually revealed, but have in no way changed the content of the text such as it appears in Mrs. Judson’s book.

   What Mrs. Judson wrote, and how that information has been accepted and further set forth by succeeding generations as fact rooted in a known record is very  crucial, as her theory and opinion concerning this particular record has been most frequently cited as fact in regard to Orcutt family history.  It’s clear that the assumption on the parts of many that this William Orchar, crst. Dec. 18, 1618 having been William Orcutt  married Mary Lane in 1663/4 at Hingham, Ma.  comes from Mrs. Judson’s  book.

  Notice also the date the letter was received, August 4th, 1965, and the date of Mrs. Judson’s book publication, 1966. She also states further research was being made, and that she  hoped that this record could be established as proof the record of  the birth of William Orcutt.  Thus Mrs. Judson was not ready to declare this William Orchar as William Orcutt on just this record, it was simply a lead she felt should be followed up, and Mrs. Judson, while perhaps unintentionally initiating the (now known) mistaken identity of William Orcutt, stopped well short of making any declarative statement this was positively him. Other people have repeated the information,  declaring it to be proof of William Orcutt’s birth and nativity, but failed to check this lead out thoroughly, as Mrs. Judson had plainly stated needed doing before declaring this proof positive.

   “William Orchar” wasn’t an Orcutt, nor an Urquhart.  The parish registers of Fillongley, Warwickshire don’t reveal any names that can be recognized as a legitimate variant of Urquhart, or Urchard, or Orcutt, for that matter, but indication is that “William Orchar” was a member of the ARCHER  family, an old and well established family from Warwickshire.  A entry in the Fillongley parish register for 1622 list an Ursula Archer, daughter of William and Katherine Archer.   Orchar is a  variant spelling of the surname Archer,  and  as there  are no other entries for any persons named Orchar, it’s most correct (and logical) to assume that this William Orchar and William Archer were one and the same person.  William ARCHER, Fillongley,  died  in ca. 1627.


Inventory of the Estate of William Archer 1627  Fillongley, Warwickshire, England page 1
Inventory of the Estate of William Archer 1627  Fillongley, Warwickshire page 2

  The name Orchar, spelled as such,  is to be found in very rare cases among the parish records for all of England in the time period of the mid 1550’s to the late 1660’s, and by careful study of those parish records in which that spelling is found to have been used  it can be shown without a doubt to have been a variant used in regard to  Archer.

Elizabeth ORCHAR  International Genealogical Index

F Christening: 1 May 1597 Bampton, Oxford, England, daughter William Orchar, with no other listings for Orchar but the “Archer”  Christening of another child,  Marian;

Marian ARCHER  International Genealogical Index

F Christening: 14 Jun 1600 Bampton, Oxford, England , daughter of William Archer

   From a genealogical standpoint it is obviously unfounded to assign the William Orchar from Fillongley to a family ( the Orcutts or the Urquharts) that does not exist at all within that same record, in any forms or spellings of those names, while ignoring the obviously overwhelming connection to Archer. The preponderance of the evidence, or perhaps more correctly, the totality of the evidence, is that this William baptized at Fillongley in 1618 was the son of the man named William Archer, who is positively known to have been in that place at that time.

  20 years have now passed since I first pointed out that these were Archers in the Fillongley record, and there is no indication, good, or otherwise, this William wasn’t the son of  this William Archer, but still a few persons are persistent in their assertion this was William Orcutt, although, of course,  ever and always absent any proof it was.  The mere circumstance that Samuel Edson, the husband of Susanna, (previously thought to have been an Orcutt but now sufficiently haved been proved to have been born a Bickley), was born/bapt. at Fillongley, thus anyone related to Susanna, or Samuel through her, had to also have also been associated with Fillongley is very flawed logic. There are many other parishes within close proximity to Fillongley that can positively be ascertained to have been where many persons named Bickley and Awcotte/Aucott/Alcott/Horkott were recorded in the records.

  I am not much for attempting to get into the mind of another person, or trying to guess their motives, (or if they have an agenda), but in this case it’s fairly obvious. Mrs. Judson’s having ascribed Orchar as having been a variant of Urquhart is hard for some people to abandon, even in the light of overwhelming proof to the contrary, as aside what other persons have merely said in references such as this, there has never been located one recorded or viable “proof” for any  Orcutt/Urquhart connection.

Mrs. Judson also wrote in the same book;

  “The records of this Orcutt genealogy are as authentic as it humanly possible to ascertain, and if errors do occur they are of the “head and not of the heart”.   It is further hoped that these records will be of use at some future time by abler genealogist who will fill in the lacking material, correct errors where found to exist, and carry the work on to completion.”

  As Mrs. Judson hoped, her work has been useful beyond mere mention, and has been treasured and enjoyed since the first reader that took it up.  It was the first Orcutt Genealogy I ever read and inspired me to find my own ancestral history.  She knew a lot about the Orcutts for that time, and I don’t want anyone to mistakenly believe I am “knocking” her work at all, as it is  NOT TRUE.

  Mrs. Judson was also wise to know that in spite of her sincere best efforts at that time there might be better future availability of sources, and new revelations and information to come to light as time went on.  Surely it was her intent and understanding  that the work would be taken up and carried  “on to completion“, just as she stated.  I don’t know if any genealogy, or family history, is ever really completed,  but I do know theories based on the currently available information can often be wrong, whether hers, or mine, in light of better, more concise information to be found in records and other sources as time goes on.