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  1. Carolyn Converse-Cooper

    Reply to John Converse:

    Thanks for your comments. I gather that you have had a look at my Flickr site, https://www.flickr.com/photos/frogfarm/albums/72157629300378475? This is a record of a visit to the Thompson, CT old graveyard, and a few of the Converse graves. I did a rubbing of one stone, of James Converse, and there is also a picture of his joint stone with his wife Mary. There is also a picture of me demonstrating gravestone rubbing back in the 1970s – gravestone rubbing is now discouraged as possibly being damaging to the stone.

  2. John Converse

    Hi Carolyn,
    Just wanted to say thank you for doing this research and publishing it on your site. Very interesting! I wish I had found it earlier. I am a descendant of James Converse of Thomspon CT, you have a rubbing from his grave, That was great to see.

    thanks again!

  3. Carolyn Converse Cooper

    Hi Peter,

    On the subject of Roger de Coignieres, I spent several hours in the library with Burke’s Peerage looking at the Conyers family, and found they did not go as far back as someone of this name, though it did seem to imply that the name Conyers had a French origin, as you might suppose. You would have to dig up one of the more recent Conyers, not Roger, if you wanted to do DNA!

    In any case, the pages I cited in Charles Allen Converse’s two-volume work, in volume two, show quite well how there is no connection between Deacon Edward and that family, at least as far back as Edward’s great-grandfather Richard Convers who died in 1542.

    You might say, maybe this early Richard is somehow descended from one of the Conyers? It is possible, though how a yeoman could be related to a noble family, in any legitimate way which would be in the records, is not clear.

    It is not just the geographical discrepancies, which you refer to, but that there are clear records in Essex for Edward Converse and his wife and children (the same ones who went with him to America) which appear to confirm that this is the correct Edward Converse. Have a look at Eben Putnam’s explanation in volume 2 of the Charles Allen Converse’s book.

    There are other people in England with the J2 haplogroup who are not Jewish and two of them (not Converses) have written to me. The thing is, J2 occurs widely in the Mediterranean, so it could have come in their families from non-Jews just as possibly as from Jews, and I have written to them to say that. It is possible, for instance, that their J2 came to Britain with the Romans and their workers/slaves who came with them.

    In our case, though, we have the extensive literature on the medieval Jews and how they were known as (le/la) Convers if they converted to Christianity. I cited only 3 books on this topic in my article, for reasons of space, but there are lots more. As I say in the article, there is a possibility of a non-paternal event (such as illegitimacy or adoption from another family, for instance) and this will always be a question. It is the two factors, J2 and the history of the Converts, which says to me that it is most likely that the early Converses were converted Jews.

  4. Peter Converse

    Hi Carolyn,
    Thank you for all of the research and energy you’ve expended in your efforts. It’s great to live in an age where DNA has revealed so much of the unknown in many areas.
    As many in our family have expressed, your findings, and those of our other researchers, are truly fascinating. Certainly, there’s much more to be discovered.
    I happily embrace the origins of our family.
    As evidenced by the ongoing research, we have quite a diverse and rich history. Surely there must be further intrigue. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to have been a participant in the DNA studies, and I’m confident my brother, and the seven others, feels the same.
    As you know, one of the many things lacking is DNA from the Roger de Coignieres‘ branch. If we could only find that, then we could, for once and for all, either confirm or dismiss our lineage claim. I do understand the geographical discrepancies, though. However, I have not yet compared the locales of each on a map with respect to travel and migratory habits/trends.
    To attain DNA samples from that line, would probably require an exhumation. What is the likelihood of gaining permits for that endeavor in the U.K.? Slim to none?
    I’m looking forwards to further discoveries. For now, I’ll continue to maintain that my forebear was a noted dragon slayer among other things!
    Peter deLancey Converse

  5. Carol Converse Maurer

    I find all this so very interesting to learn about our Jewish descendants from the earlier medieval English Jews who converted. I read about the Domus Conversorum in London. I don’t remember where I read it though. It was years ago, but I found it very interesting at the time and wondered, at the time, if our family started out as Jews or not.

  6. Tim Converse

    I’m Tim Converse, son of Philip Converse who made some contributions to research on the Converse line.

    I am particularly intrigued by the “Converso” hypothesis – the idea that our surname comes from the term for Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity in Spain in the 1400’s.

    My father Philip had always been dismissive of this idea when it was based only on resemblance between ‘Converso’ and the Converse surname. Late in his life, however, he gave more credence to it when DNA studies revealed that our haplogroup indicated patrilineal descent from somewhere in the Middle East.

    It seems that the earliest patrilineal ancestor we know of is Richard Convers, who died in Essex in 1542. If we had evidence of another couple of generations previous residing in England, it might tend to disconfirm the Converso theory, but as matters stand it still seems plausible. I would love to hear from anyone who has more information relating to the question.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Tim:

      It’s good to hear from you. Although I never met your father in person, I had a long email correspondence with him over a number of years about this very topic. As you may know, your father set up the Converse site on Family Tree DNA, but when I joined (with my brother’s DNA for Y-chromosome analysis) there had been no other members of the group. Over the past few years nine male Converses have had their DNA tested, and I have been working on trying to confirm the ancestral line of each donor back to their supposed forefather, Deacon Edward Convers (1588-1663) who was the first Convers(e) in America. Hal Whitmore has helped me to find subjects for this study and has done extensive research on the family in England.
      What we have found, in all 9 donors, is that they have the haplogroup J2, which is rare among English people but, as you have said, occurs in the Mediterranean area. The most likely origin of this line is medieval Jews, who came to England from France about the time of William the Conqueror. They were encouraged to migrate because of their ability to help William with his financial dealings. Later on, some converted to Christianity, especially in the mid-thirteenth century, as hostility to Jews increased. Those Jews who did not convert were expelled in 1290.
      The Jews who converted were known as les Conversi, or le or la convers in the singular, and commonly had this attached to their name, eg Richard le Convers. In the fourteenth century, Norman French was dropped as the official language in England, and le Convers became Convers. That spelling was common even in America for several generations, before the final “e” was added to become Converse.
      So I think you can see that we are probably not directly related to the Conversos of Spain and Portugal. I did discuss this with your father, and may have convinced him eventually that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain around 1492 was too late for our ancestors to get to England, get anglicised and become established in Essex in the mid-1500s. In addition, none of the Conversos actually had the surname Conversos; they mostly had Spanish surnames. We are probably descended from the earlier medieval English Jews who converted.
      Particularly interesting is the Domus Conversorum in London, founded by Henry III for the Jews who had converted to Christianity, and having been deprived of their property, needed a home. It continued for several centuries, but the building eventually became the House of the Rolls (mentioned in Hilary Mantel’s books on Thomas Cromwell, who was keeper of the Rolls and may have lived there for a while). The library of King’s College, London, now sits on the site on Chancery Lane, which was originally known as Converslane.
      There has been extensive research on the medieval Jews, for instance by Michael Adler, whose papers are collected in “Jews of Medieval England” published in 1939. More recent books summarising this history include “Expulsion: England’s Jewish Solution” by Richard Huscroft (2006), “The King’s Jews” by Robin R. Mundill (2010) and for the story of one woman, “Licoricia of Winchester” by Suzanne Bartlet (2009).

      Carolyn Converse Cooper

  7. Patrick Deady

    Just wanted to thank you for creating this site! As a Converse descendant, I think bringing science to bear on some of the myths and finding some answers to the deep ancestry questions is a wonderful opportunity for those in the family to solve the mysteries!

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