Thomas Nock

I noticed recently the Scottish Prisoners of War Society (SPOWS) still lists Thomas Nock as a possible prisoner. Oh my. I thought we settled that.

The Scottish prisoners of war who are the subject of this society’s research were taken prisoner after the Battles of Dunbar (1660) and Worcester (1661), then deported to New England. In America they tended to stay together, with some intermarriage in the first generations. They formed the Scots Charitable Society, now the oldest charitable organization in the Americas.

It was this tendency to stick together that led to the idea Thomas Nock might have been one of them. He was where they were, and his surname Nock could maybe be a form of Knox.

The modern expert on the Scottish prisoners is Andrew Millard, an archaeologist at the University of Durham. He supervised excavations on a mass grave used for the Scots who were interned at Durham Cathedral in 1660 after the Battle of Durham.

The SPOWS page for Thomas Nock quotes from an email Dr. Millard sent to Teresa Rust and me on Oct. 9, 2018:

The date of the 1652 grant was doubted by Stackpole in his Scotch Exiles typescript (see attached page) where he said “the last figure is very indistinct and doubtful. It may be 1656 or later.” Have you managed to see the original of this grant?
If that date is not certain, then all are agreed he had a land grant was in 1657, but there is another indication he was there slightly earlier. Both the Tibbetts and the Knox books says Thomas’s son Thomas jr. made a will on 15 Feb 1676, though Stackpole says 15 Sep 1676. An image of this will ought to be on Ancestry, but I don’t have a subscription to US records. Ancestry have transcribed the month as February.  Sylvanus, another son, was taxed in 1677 according to the Tibbetts book and Stackpole. They must have been 21 to make a will and be taxed, placing their births in or before 1655 and 1656. Sylvanus was apprenticed in 1670 according to the Tibbetts book, which conventionally would have happened at the age of 14. Although age at apprenticeship did vary, this would fit with a c.1656 birth.
If the 1652 date is correct I agree he is unlikely to be a SPOW, but if he first appears in 1655-56, in a place where there were a number of SPOWs, then I’d still consider him to fall in the possible category. The key thing is the date on that first land grant, for which the original or a good image of it needs to be consulted.

Good enough. We have to start somewhere. I was skeptical, however. It’s unfortunate my response the same date is missing from the Society’s website.

One of the main reasons for thinking Thomas Nocke might have been a Scot is that his surname could have been Knox, and in fact this is typically the modern spelling among his descendants. However, the spelling Nock is preserved in the place name Nock Marsh, and there are Nock/e families documented in England. In fact there have been several attempts over the years to identify Thomas Nocke in Dover with different men of that name in English baptismal records. I continue to be cautious. This line of thinking can only be speculative until there is a firmer basis for going a particular direction.

I think it's also worth noting that while Stackpole did so much of the pioneering research on the families in this area, he is not always as careful as he might have been. You yourself have provided an example. He says the will of Thomas Jr. was 15 September 1676. The actual date is "the ffifteene day of ffeburary in ye Yeare of our Lord God one thousand six hundred Seaventy Six". 

Similarly, when he says the "the last figure is very indistinct and doubtful" in the 1652 grant, that's something I would want to verify. It might be worth noting that others have also read it as 1652 (for example, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine & New Hampshire). I've seen it myself on LDS microfilm but didn't pay any particular attention. Without unpacking my notes, I couldn't even say right off if what I've seen is the original or a typescript copy. As I recall it's in a somewhat unexpected place in the records so it might take me some to find it again.

However, I'll repeat what I said in my first message. Thomas' son Thomas Jr. was born 26 March 1654/55. This, I believe, is key to the rest of the dating. Thomas Sr. and Rebecca were likely married before June 1654. This makes 1652 a very plausible date for a first land grant to Thomas. We see this scenario over and over and over in early New England genealogy. A boy reaches his majority, ends his apprenticeship or indenture, then marries and gets a grant of land almost simultaneously. Of course it would be that way. The town would not have allowed him to marry if he could not provide for a family. Nor would the town have failed to provide him with land if he had recently come of age and expected to marry. Thomas' marriage before 1654 and the date of 1652 for the grant are mutually supportive.

Then approaching the question from the opposite direction - if Thomas had been taken prisoner at Dunbar in 1650, and arrived with other Scots prisoners on the Unity in Dec 1650, it seems he would have served an extraordinarily abbreviated indenture if he was free and married by June 1654. Three years, compared to the 6, 7, 8 years served by other prisoners. 

This additional information seems dispositive. It is highly improbable Thomas Nocke was one of the Scottish prisoners.

More Information

My SPOWS ancestors are John Clark, Peter Grant, John Sinclair, and John Taylor. Thomas Nock is my ancestor but not one of the prisoners.

Stackpole, Scotch Exiles
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