Origin Story: Michael D-?

First published on September 2, 2015.

Most of this information in this post comes from The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England…, by Henry Gale Dunnel (I have no idea why this is an ellipsis on at the end of the title). While you can look at this book online, you can also order it from Amazon, which I did so that I could show people the book that was written about my ancestors.

So who was Michael D-? This was Michael Dunnel, Doniel, Donell, Dunwell, Dwenell, Duenell, Doenell or Dwinill. It was noted that Michael did not usually spell his name, instead affixing his seal to legal documents. Believe or not there are some legal documents that mention Michael, but lets start from the beginning.

Based on an American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) with is a large database of names that have been printed in genealogies, searchable on ancestry.com, Michael was born in 1640, in Massachusetts, which I feel like is slightly wrong information. Michael was probably born in 1640 but not in Massachusetts where he lived earlier. Henry Gale Dunnel writes that there’s some family historical discussion about the origins of the family, whether it is France or Ireland. Growing up I heard the same thing, the gist of the story was that my ancestor was French nobility who fled France and moved to Scotland or Ireland, changed the name a little, then moved to America and changed the name a little. I’m not sure how much of this true, I haven’t branched my research out into Europe yet.

Michael was married by 1668 to Mary Read in Massachusetts, so he was in America by that time. They had their first child Mary that same year. They had their second child, Michael in 1670, he would go on to be the first doctor in Topsfield, Massachusetts. In 1672, Michael and Mary had another child Thomas, and Michael bought ten acres of land from the Pabody’s. Mary and Michael had a lot of children, besides Mary, Michael and Thomas they had, John in 1674, Elizabeth in 1677, Maudlin in 1679, Joseph in 1682, Susannah in 1685 and Johanna in 1688. Joseph born in 1682 is my direct descendent.

Michael also had a will, in which he gave his sons parts of his land. He ordered (his words) John and Joseph to keep “Two cows, a horse and ten sheep” for Mary Read. It also says that Joseph will have no power to sell the land he was given without the agreement of his mother or counsel. It seems that John and Joseph were to split Michael’s homestead with their mother.

Michael’s will was “proved” on March 3, 1717, meaning he died around that time, either in 1717 or 1716. Mary, his wife and his sons, Michael, Thomas, John and Joseph, all signed that they were present when the will was presented. Even though they signed one after the other, the spellings of their last names differ between Dunnel, Dunnil and Dunnill.

Michael was a farmer, and the land he had served such a purpose. When The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England… was written in 1862, the author remarked that this land was still being tended by Michael’s descendants, I wonder if that is still true today. This is about all the information I know about Michael for now. Maybe as I do more digging, I’ll find more stories about him.

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