The Rockwell family's history in America begins in 1630, the year of the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Even before the Winthrop fleet sailed, to eventually found Boston, the ship Mary and John left the port of Dorchester, county Dorset, bringing about 140 settlers, including William Rockwell. A new church was organized on the eve of their departure, with William Rockwell chosen as one of the deacons.
The settlers established the town of Dorchester (now a neighborhood of Boston). Five years later, William's brother John Rockwell brought his family on the ship Hopewell. Around the same time, new towns were being founded in the Connecticut River valley, including Windsor. William and John moved there in 1637. William died in 1640, leaving two sons who were the progenitors of the Rockwells in Hartford County. John's descendants are through two daughters. A son Simon died unmarried. And there was a young son named John who is unaccounted for...
Unless he was the John Rockwell who settled in Stamford in 1641, as some believe. This John had three sons and three daughters, from which comes the Rockwell family based in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
A third Rockwell family is based in New London County, Connecticut. It began with Josiah Rockwell, who had several children at New London, then settled in the new town of Norwich in 1660. During King Philip's War, the major conflict with the Native Americans, Josiah was killed one winter night in 1676.
These three Connecticut family groups participated in the settlement of New England and other parts of country before and after American independence. Some families also moved up into what became Canada in the 1760s, establishing some major lines there.
A fourth group of Rockwell lines may be traced back to a man who settled in Virginia and then moved to Maryland. He is called Robert Rockwell in some early records, but Robert Rockhold in most records into the 18th century. But at various points, some of these lines adopted the "Rockwell" surname and are found in many parts of the United States today.
Most people of our surname are descended from one of these four family groups. I have ordered them in probable rank as to the number of descendants. And there are also a few stray lines that began with later immigrants to America, or with unrelated individuals who legally changed their names.
If you have a Rockwell family in your ancestry, but don't know which family you come from, the Rockwell Family Association may be able to help. And if you (or a close relative) have an unbroken male line of Rockwells, you could participate in the Rockwell DNA Project. Past results have proven that the three Connecticut lines are closely related, the Rockhold line is distinct, and the small late lines will likely have yet other DNA signatures.
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