Research: Our Family Connection to Roger Williams

By Michael Alan Prestwood

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One of my favorite family stories is Roger Williams, my 10th Great Grandpa! This article documents the important details that link each generation to the next.

Who Was Roger Williams?

Roger Williams is pretty famous and accomplished much in his lifetime. He is arguably the founder of modern American society, the first American abolitionist, and co-founder of liberalism.

For more on Roger Williams, read my summary:

Roger Williams founded Providence, RI which is the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separated. Providence provided religious liberty and separation of church and state. This was combined with the principle of majoritarian democracy in Providence and was a template for modern American life.

My Ancestors Back to Roger Williams

My great-great-grandmother on my mom’s side is Isabella Baxter. She and her twin sister were born in 1848. They were born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. Isabella was the last of a long line of my direct-line ancestors to Roger Williams born in Providence. The Providence-born line of ancestors goes back to the granddaughter of Roger Williams, Catherine Sayles. Catherine was born in 1671. Her mother Mary is one of Roger Williams’ daughters. Mary was born in Plymouth Colony, sometimes called New Plymouth, in 1633 before Roger Williams founded the Rhode Island Colony.

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The following chart shows my family back to Isabella Baxter. Copies of the pictures of Edwin Lowe, Sr. and Isabella Baxter were given to me by my cousin Colleen Cunningham in 2018.


The following family photo was taken in 1925. My great-grandpa Richard Henry Lowe was the 4th of 7 children born to Isabella Baxter.

In 1925, the family moved south 100 miles very near Cornell college for the kids. This picture was also sent from Colleen Cunningham to my mom Leslie Lupton in 2012. About a year after Colleen’s mom Elinore passed.

Because of a state census, we know a bit about the Lowe-Wright family at this time. This is a good example of the type of documentation that can exist for your ancestors. The 1925 Iowa state census collected some interesting information. In addition to the usual data, on this census is the name of your father (not just state born), and maiden name of mother, education levels, religion, and more. Our family was lucky in that they participated in the census in Bethel, moved to Vernon and participated again. This census clearly documents that Isabella Baxter of Providence, Rhode Island is Richard Henry Lowe’s mother.

Bethel, 1925 Iowa State census (1 of 3). In 1925, Richard and Winifred moved the family 100 miles south to be near Cornell college. They moved from Bethel to Franklin, near Mt. Vernon. Notice Edwin’s mother-in-law Jane Wright (Elizabeth Jane Buttolph) is living with them in Bethel, but she is not listed on the Mt. Vernon census. It is likely she did not move the 100 miles with them.
Bethel, 1925 Iowa State census (2 of 3). Clearly documented is Richard Lowe’s father as Edwin Lowe who was born in England, and his mother Isabella Baxter who died earlier in 1882 was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Notice Isabella is “Belle” on this census. She is Isabella on the 2nd 1925 census.
Bethel, 1925 Iowa State census (3 of 3). Notice this census indicates Methodist.
Mt. Vernon, 1925 Iowa State census (1 of 3). This home at 7th Ave, North was worth $3,500 and they owed $1,000. They also carried $2,000 of insurance on the home. In 1925, Richard had been in Iowa for 50 years.
Mt. Vernon, 1925 Iowa State census (2 of 3). Richard Lowe’s father is Edwin Lowe who was born in England. Richard’s mother Isabella Baxter was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Isabella is a descendant of the influential Baxter, Olney, Potter, and Williams families.
Mt. Vernon, 1925 Iowa State census (3 of 3). Notice this time they indicated their religion was Protestant, not Methodist as they indicated just weeks earlier. A Methodist is a type of protestant that is more methodical and applies logic and reason to the words in the bible.

Baxter Surname

In the following descendant chart, the Baxter name is highlighted in yellow. Isabella Baxter was the last of my ancestors born in Providence. David Baxter Lowe and Baxter Culver were likely named after her. But, Baxter Culver believes his parents named him after the family Pastor named Baxter. Perhaps both?

Isabella Baxter (1848-1882)

Isabella “Belle” Baxter was born in Providence on Sunday, January 9, 1848. Isabel and her sister Adelaide were twins! They were born where her ancestors on the Olney-Potter-Sayles-Williams side founded Providence, Rhode Island in 1639. Two plus centuries of the family lived and flourished in Rhode Island.

Isabella married my great-great-grandpa Edwin Lowe, Sr. Edwin was born in England and in 1856 at the age of 13, his family immigrated to Iowa. Isabella and Edwin married in Providence on Tuesday, July 3, 1866. Edwin and Isabella had their first child Cora the next year in 1867. About 1878 they moved to Iowa, and in 1878 Isabella was baptized a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at Blue Cut, Jones, Iowa, by Edward Larky. She was confirmed by W. W. Blair and E. Larky.

This picture was taken in about 1875. At that time, the family was living in Brandon, Iowa which is in the county of Jackson. Edwin was a tinsmith. Cora is the oldest of their children and was born in Providence. Richard Henry Lowe is about age 3 in this picture. It is assumed his two younger brothers Albert and Walter died as infants prior to this picture.

Edwin and Isabelle had 7 children, of whom 5 reached adulthood. She died 8 days after giving birth to her 7th child Edwin, Jr. after 8 days of intermittent fever. Isabella reached age 34 years, 8 months, and 3 days. Her death took place in Baldwin, Iowa at 5 a.m. on July 12, 1882. She was buried the next day in Canton. Edwin married Alice Abbie 3 years later and had 1 more child: Anna Lowe was born in Iowa about 1890.

This picture was taken about 1920. Edwin, Jr. was a merchant and the youngest of Isabella Baxter’s children. Isabella dies 8 or so days after giving birth to Edwin. She died from complications of giving birth. She had a very high fever indicating an infection of some type.

Validating Data from Isabella Baxter to Roger Williams

The book A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney by James H. Olney was published in 1889. Thomas Olney was an original proprietor of Providence, R.I. who came to America in 1635. This book was the first source I found documenting our direct-line ancestors to Catherine Sayles. I’ve spent the last several years auditing and validating the data back to Roger Williams. The more I look, the more I’m convinced I have the lineage correct.

This 1889 book documents the following lineage:

Isabel Baxter + Edwin Lowe Sr < Hannah Olney (545) + Josiah Baxter < Elisha Olney (261) + Caroline Potter < Jabez Olney (120) + Hannah Pitcher < Gideon Olney (54) + Abigail Olney (52) < John Olney (19) + Patience Jenkes < William Olney (7) + Catharine Sayles < Thomas Olney (2) + Elizabeth March < Thomas Olney (1) + Mary Ashton

Plus, Abigail’ from above (first cousins):

Abigail Olney (52) < William Olney (18) + Phebe Angell < William Olney (7) + Catherine Sayles

All of the people in the following pedigree chart except those highlighted in blue are documented in the book, A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney, published in 1889. In addition, my mom Leslie has DNA matches to Hannah Olney, Jabez Olney+Hannah Pitcher. Also, I have DNA matches from me back to Caroline Potter’s parents, and Hannah Pitcher’s parents. So, the family is very confident going back to Jabez Olney (1761-1837). Let’s audit, validate, and explore!

Highlighted in yellow are my ancestors that are direct-line descendants of Roger Williams. Finally, documents the Catherine Sayles in this chart is married to William Olney (1663-1750) as the granddaughter of Roger Williams.

Note: The drawings of Thomas Olney and Roger Williams are accepted images of them. However, both were drawn after their deaths and are only an artist’s representation based on descriptions.

Hannah Olney (1815-1883)

When Hannah Olney was born on December 3, 1815, in Rhode Island, her father, Elisha, was 20, and her mother, Caroline, was 17. Hannah was their first child. She married Josiah Baxter who was born in 1806 in Massachusetts. They had four sons and three daughters between 1839 and 1853. They raised their 7 children in Providence. The twins including Isabella Baxter were the 5th and 6th children.

Josiah was a cabinet maker and a plow maker at various times over about 30 years. I wonder if any of his cabinets or plows are still around?  Hannah reached 67 years of age and died on May 6, 1883. Josiah died sometime after 1883.

The 1860 census is a good example of the Josiah Baxter and Hannah Olney family because the parents and all 7 children are listed.

Highlighted in yellow are the 12-year-old twins, Adelaide and Isabelle. Their parents are highlighted in blue. Notice Hannah is Hannah P. Olney. Hannah’s middle name starts with “P”. We know because it shows up on multiple census records showing up over decades. I think the “P” might be for Pitcher. Her grandmother was Hannah Pitcher so her full name might be Hannah Pitcher Olney, but that’s just a guess. I’m still researching this tidbit.

The following book entry is important because it links my 2nd Great Grandmother to the 1889 Olney family book which links reliable back to Thomas Olney, an original member of the First Baptist Church, and William Rogers.

Page 166 clip from “A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney”. The daughter Isabel Baxter who married Edwin Lowe Sr. and is the mother of Richard Henry Lowe.

Elisha Olney (1795-1869)

When Elisha Olney was born in 1795 in Providence, Rhode Island, his father, Jabez, was 34 and his mother, Hannah, was 34. Elisha married Caroline Potter on January 22, 1815, in Cranston, Rhode Island. They had nine children in 19 years. He died on November 30, 1869, in his hometown at the age of 74, and was buried in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He died on November 30, 1869, in his hometown at the age of 74, and was buried in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Clip from “A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney” is one of the sources documenting their family of Elisha Olney and Caroline Potter.

Jabez Olney (1761-1837)

Jabez Olney was born, lived and died in Providence, RI. Jabez’s parents are Gideon Olney and Abigail Olney. Gideon and Abigail are first cousins. Their fathers are brothers which means instead of having 4 different sets of grandparents, they both only had 3 different sets. Both their dad’s parents were William Olney and Catherine Sayles.

When Jabez was born on April 8, 1761, in North Providence, Rhode Island, his father, Gideon, was 31 and his mother, Abigail, was 32. They had three sons and four daughters between 1784 and 1801.

Jabez married Hannah Pitcher and had 7 kids including my ancestor Elisha.

Jabez was a Corporal in the American Revolutionary War. He reported to Captain Lewis Peck’s Company. His colonel was John Mathewson.

He died on September 5, 1837, having lived a long life of 76 years, and was buried in Providence, Rhode Island.

Jabez Olney is buried in Providence, RI at the Swan Point Cemetery located at 585 Blackstone Blvd. Click headstone image to visit record.

More Evidence:

  • We have several DNA matches including from my mom Leslie Ann Lupton to member G.B. on ancestry. My mom is descended from their son Elisha, and member G.B. is descended from their son William.


Gideon Olney (1729?-1798) and Abigail Olney (1729?- ____)

When Gideon Olney was born on June 28, 1729, in Providence, Rhode Island, his father, John, was 30 and his mother, Patience, was 30. When Abigail Olney was born in 1729, her father, William, was 35, and her mother, Phebe, was 32.

Gideon married his first cousin Abigail about 1747. They had ten children in 20 years. Their fathers were brothers. In the past, fewer people lived near each other, and travel was more difficult so it was fairly common for 1st cousins to marry. They had a farm on the road leading to Fruit Hill, North Providence, RI.

Gideon was the representative from Tiverton in the General Assembly of 1776. He died on February 3, 1798, in North Providence, Rhode Island, at the age of 68. I’m still researching Abigail’s death date.

In this book, No. 52 just refers to No. 54.

More Evidence:

  • The Rhode Island vital records document the birth and death of Gideon.

Brothers William (1694-1771), and John (1699-1798)

When William Olney was born on October 6, 1694, in Smithfield, Rhode Island, his father, William, was 31 and his mother, Catherine Sayles, was 23. William married Phebe Angell in 1716 in Rhode Island. They had seven children in 12 years. William died on April 20, 1771, in Providence, Rhode Island, having lived a long life of 76 years.

When John Olney was born on May 9, 1699, in Providence, Rhode Island, his father, William, was 35 and his mother, Catherine Sayles, was 28. John married Patience Jenkes on October 24, 1722, in his hometown. They had five children in 15 years. He died in 1798 in Providence, Rhode Island, at the impressive age of 99.

The brothers William and John were two of the sons of William Olney and Catherine Sayles. William had a daughter Abigail, and John had a son Gideon. Gideon and Abigail, first cousins, married (documented above). All of whom are our direct ancestors. Both brothers were born and lived their whole lives in Providence.

From book, “A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney”, published 1889 by James H. Olney.

John Olney married Patience Jenkes, here is DNA match from my mom Leslie Ann Lupton to Patience Jenkes’ parents to another member:

More Evidence:

  • The book North America Family Histories Lineage book (NSDAR, Volume 109, 1929) documents the marriage of Gideon and Abigail Olney and that he was a representative of the General Assembly in 1776.

Catherine Sayles (1671-1753)

Catherine is the daughter of John Sayles II and Mary Williams. When Catherine Sayles and her twin sister Eleanor were born in 1671 in Providence, Rhode Island, their father, John Sayles Jr and their mother Mary Williams were 38. They were young children at the time of the King Philip’s War between settlers and Native tribes that lasted three years from 1675-1678. Their grandpa Roger Williams played a key role in the conflict.

She married William Olney on December 28, 1692, in her hometown. They had seven children in 19 years.

She died on February 21, 1753, in Providence, Rhode Island, having lived a long life of 82 years, and was buried there.

From the book, “A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Olney”, published 1889 by James H. Olney. NOTE: Catherine Sayles is a direct ancestor of ours and the granddaughter of Roger Williams, founder of Providence.

More documentation, this one from a 1966 book:

1966 book, “Roger Williams, vol II” documents Catherine Sayles, her parents back to Roger Williams and her kids.

This clip shows John Sayles III, the brother of Catherine documented as the grandson of Roger Williams in town records.

In 1680, John Sayles buys 35 acres from his grandpa Roger Williams. See page 84, “The New England Historical and Genealogical Registry”, vol 4.


  • John inherited some of the Wenscot farm in North Providence from his dad.
  • Rhode Island vital records confirm their marriage date.
  • Data confirmed in the 1966 book, “Roger Williams of Providence Rhode Island, Vol II” by Bertha Williams Anthony. Confirms Roger Williams + Mary Barnard to Mary Williams+John Sayles to Catherine Sayles+William Olney to both sons John Olney+Patience Jenkes and William Olney+Phoebe Angell.
  • confirms this Catherine Sayles was the daughter of John Sayles II and Mary Williams. also confirms the parents of Mary Williams as Roger Williams and Mary Barnard.
In memory of Mrs. Catarien the wife of M. William Olney & Younge? [????er] of Mr. Richard Sayles who departed this Life Feb 24th, 1753 in y 81th Year of her [Age].

Mary Williams (1633-1681)

Mary is the daughter of Roger Williams and Mary Bernard, their firstborn. Mary was born the first week of Aug 1633. She married John Sayles Jr in 1652. She was 48 when she died in 1681 which means she died after 7 Aug in 1681. At the time of her death, her mother had passed but Roger Williams lived about another 2 years.

Mary Williams’ husband was John Sayles Jr. He was the son of John Sayles, Sr. of Manchester, England. His father brought him to America in 1635 at the age of two. They first settled in Portsmouth, RI, and moved to Providence about 1650. In 1653 he was treasurer of the Assembly which met at Providence, May 16. In 1656 he ‘entered an anker of liquor.’ The same year he assisted Thomas Angell in rescuing a prisoner from the custody of a Massachusetts officer. In 1657 he was empowered ‘to treat with the Indians that lay claim to the meadows of Lohusqussuck and clear it for the town and the above mentioned be accommodated therein.’ In 1677 he was fined twenty shillings for not attending grand jury. During the thirty years or thereabouts, from the time of his marriage till his death, he was at different times commissioner, town clerk, town treasurer, warden, grand juror, a member of the town council, and he was twelve times chosen assistant or deputy.

Mary’s husband John Sayles also died in 1861. Both were young, Mary was 48 years old, John about the same. We know Mary was born in the first week of August 1633 and died on August 8, 1681, just a few days after her 48th birthday. I’m still researching John’s exact birth and death dates and why both died so young.

On a deed from 24 Jun 1670, John Sayles mentions his father-in-law Roger Williams. Page 253, “The Early Records of the Town of Providence”, vol 14, 1899.
Here lyeth y body of Mary Sayles wife of John Sayles who died in y year 1681 aged 48 years
Clips from pages 12 and 13 of the book, “Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island” Volume I, Published 1908. Book: Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island. Volume I, Published 1908. The following clips from pages 12 and 13 documents that Catherine Sayles was one of the daughters of John Sayles and Mary Williams.


  • Rhode Island vital record has the birth of Mary first week of Aug 1633 and lists parents as Roger Williams and Mary.
  • Founded in 1620 Plymouth Colony is sometimes called New Plymouth. It became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. Now it is the city of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • International marriage records document Mary Williams + John Sayles marriage date of 1652.
  • Data confirmed in the 1966 book, “Roger Williams of Providence Rhode Island, Vol II” by Bertha Williams Anthony. Confirms Roger Williams + Mary Barnard to Mary Williams+John Sayles to Catherine Sayles+William Olney to both sons John Olney+Patience Jenkes and William Olney+Phoebe Angell.
  • Mary’s memorial record documents birth, death, parents, and children.

Roger Williams (1602?-1683)

The following chart lists Roger and Mary’s children, siblings, and parents. Roger and Mary had 6 children in 10 years.

I am proud that Roger Williams is my 10th Great Grandpa. My family has always been free thinkers supporting progressive ideas that enable the individual to think and believe what they want and are encouraged to explore life.

By Mike Prestwood
Natural Philosopher

Mike’s throwback title simply means he writes about philosophy, science, critical thinking, and history with a focus on exploring boundaries and intersections. While his focus is on our rational ideas about empirical observations, he does enjoy dabbling in the irrational. His exploration of the empirical led him to develop his Idea of Ideas which allows him to understand what is empirical, rational, and irrational as well as to easily understand what is empirically true, rational true, and irrationally false.

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2 thoughts on “Research: Our Family Connection to Roger Williams”

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