Frank Dennis

December 1997 dendesc

September 2001 ver. 2

The Dennis Family – The Descendants of Thomas Dennis of Ipswich, Mass,


          Little is known about the origins of Thomas Dennis (abt. 1638-1706).  Based upon his age at death (tombstone) he was born in 1638, although some evidence indicates that he was born in 1628 or 1630.  He may have been born in Portsmouth, N.H. of immigrant parents.  Some records in the archives of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City suggest that he was the eighth child of William and Jane Dennis of Portsmouth, N.H.,  later Plymouth, Mass., and was born there in 1628, but no reliable information is known that confirms this.  He lived in Portsmouth prior to moving to Ipswich in 1667/68, and served as constable in 1665.  He bought land of William Searles in Ipswich in 1663, and was constable and collector there in 1685-92. He became a partner with Searles as a joiner (furniture maker). Searles had lived in Devon prior to coming to America, and on Searle's death in 1667, Dennis married his widow, Grace, who was the daughter of Richard and Grace Cole and was baptized in Ottery-St.-Mary, Devon on 22 Nov 1636. Thomas and Grace had three children – Thomas (1669/70), John (1672/3) and Elizabeth (1675); Elizabeth married Ebenezer Hovey of Ipswich.  Some sources indicate that there were two or three additional children – Thomas, who died while an infant, Ruth, born 1684, died young, and Ruth, born 1686 – however, these names occur in neither the vital records of Ipswich nor in cemetery records.  Thomas served in King Philip’s War in 1676.  On the death of Grace in 1680, Dennis married Sarah ____.   Following Thomas’s death in 1706, Sarah married Capt. John How of Topsfield.


 Furniture and other items made by Dennis and Searle are available in several museums, including the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum in Maryland and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  A 6-part series of articles by Irving P. Lyon in Antiques magazine (Vol 32:230, 298; Vol. 33: 73, 198, 322; Vol. 34: 79) describes some of these pieces.  Homer E. Keyes, in a subsequent article (Antiques 34:296), suggested that many of these were made by joiners with similar styles; Keyes considered only those that remained in the family to be authentic.


          Some of Dennis’s descendants are developing this webpage to record the comings and goings of our Dennis forebears.  We now have a database of approximately 1500 descendants,  including children of Dennis females but not of their grandchildren.  The family spread from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and the West Coast and we have contacts with descendants in many of these states.  However, there are still many missing pages in the Dennis book.  Several books or manuscripts are available concerning the family (see below).  J. L. Ordway published a brief history, emphasizing the descendants of Moses4 Dennis Jr.  Thomas Little of Hartford, Conn. emphasized the life of Rev. Rodney Gove Dennis of Topsfield, Mass., and Mildred Cull Kimmel wrote a more comprehensive history, incorporating material from several previous publications.


Several other Dennis families have roots in New England.  Among these the family of Robert Dennis of Portsmouth, R.I., is well-documented, and the descendants of another Thomas Dennis are described by Mary Wright Dennis.  At this time we do not know whether or not these families have forebears in common.


          We hope that this website will encourage other descendants of Thomas to help us fill in the gaps in the record by providing more information.  If you find errors, please call them to our attention, as we want the data to be as accurate as possible.




Anonymous.  1895.  History of Litchfield and an Account of its Centennial Celebration.  Kennebec Journal Printers, Augusta, Me.  (Family of John5 Dennis Jr.)


Anonymous.   Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  Vols. I and II.


Dennis, Mary Wright.  1985.  Thomas Dennis and Some of His Descendants. Vol. 1-5, with supplements.  Private Printing.  Allen County Library, Fort Wayne, Ind.  (another Thomas)


Drake, Leora Wilson.  Genealogical notes.  Steuben County Clerk’s Office, Bath, NY.  (Notes kept by Canisteo Town Historian on Dennis families in Steuben County and their ancestors.)


Family Sheets.  Ipswich Public Library, Ipswich, Mass.  (Genealogical records for Ipswich families.)


Hayward, Wm. Willis.  1889.  The History of Hancock, New Hampshire 1764-1889.  Vol. 1.  O. Eaton, J. S. Lakin, and J. P. Hills, Town History Committee.  (Family of Moses4 Dennis)


Humphrey, Otis M.  1895.  Descendants of Robert Dennis of Portsmouth, R. I.  New England Hist. and Gen. Reg. 49:441-444. (no known relationship to Thomas Dennis of Ipswich)


Kimmel, Mildred Cull.  1968.  The Descendants of Thomas and Grace Dennis of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  (Manuscript).  Wayne County Historian’s Office, Lyons, N.Y.


Little, Thomas.  1911.  A Genealogy of Rev. Rodney Gove Dennis, His Forebearers (sic) and Descendants.  (Manuscript)  Connecticut State Library, Hartford.


Little, Thomas, compiler. 1921.  Descendants of Rev. John Dennis.  Connecticut State Library, Hartford.


Ordway, J. L. 1890.  The Dennis Family.  Press of R. C. Park, Woodhull, N.Y. (Moses4 Dennis and descendants)


Williams, Demorris Boyd.  Notes on genealogy of Dennis Family. Wayne County Historian’s Office, Lyons, N.Y.


Young, Elaine Dennis.  1957.  Some Descendants of Robert Dennis of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  Published by the author, Norwalk, Ohio.  (No known relationship to Thomas Dennis of Ipswich)