"A Weir in the Valley"


Its origin as the name of


a place,


a hamlet,


an English manor,


qnd a




including a line of descent




William Worden


ante 1514-1574


of the


Manor of Clayton,


County of Lancashire,






Waite W. Worden


East Burke, Vermont


Privately printed, 1992.




.' i




The purpose of this account is to set forth for the benefit of our family the origin of the surname Worden, and some details of our ancestry.


In about the year 1910, my then 35-year-old father,

Edward Chauncey Worden (1875-1940) developed a consuming interest in the genealogy of the Worden family, as well as that of his mother, Elvira Mabel Brainerd. By the time of his death he had gathered a vast amount of data concerning Worden genealogy. Unfortunately, almost all of it somehow

disappeared when our family home in Millburn, New Jersey, was sold. Only scraps remained. However, his frequent discussions of family history during my youth instilled in me a similar interest.


During my twenty-six years in the U. S. Marine Corps,

(1939-1965) with its frequent assignments overseas and in various parts of the United States, I could do little to further family research because sustained work was not possible due to lengthy interruptions and distance from research facilities.


In 1962, when we were stationed at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, the United States Navy planned to launch a guided missile frigate, USS WORDEN (DLG-18),

the fourth ship to be named in memory of the late Rear Admiral JOHN LORIMER WORDEN, USN, who had commanded the ironclad ship USS MONITOR in its famed civil War battle with the Confederate ship CSS MERRIMACK. The Department of the Navy asked me to locate a living female descendant of Admiral Worden in order that she could be invited to launch the ship down the ways at the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.


This request led my wife and me to begin a long and arduous search for such a person. After several months of intensive effort involving much research in The National Archives, and elsewhere, we were successful. This effort fired anew my interest in our own family genealogy, which has continued to this day.


I would suggest to my children (and theirs) and to others of our family that accurate records of each member be kept current, as vital statistics are all too easy to forget.








The calendar in use during most of our colonial period in North America was naturally the one used then in England, which, prior to 1752, was quite different from the one in use today. Failure to understand the differences can lead to much confusion in dating historical documents. It is a

long and rather complicated story involving astronomy, but a thumbnail sketch of it follows:


In about the year 45 B.C. Julius Caesar took steps to have an astronomer figure out a new calendar because the one in use, based upon cycles of the moon, had become about 90

days out of synchronization with the seasons. Named for himself, this "Julian Calendar" was based upon the rotation of the earth around the sun, which took about (but not exactly) 365_ days. Thus the Julian Calendar had 365 days per year except for every fourth year (leap year) when another day was added to catch up. But the year was really a

shade less than 365_ days, and by some 1600 years later this tiny annual difference had accumulated to a discrepancy of ten days.


Thus, in 1582, Pope Gregory decreed that 10 days should be dropped from the calendar. The day following October 4, 1582 became October 15th, instead of October 5th. Known as the Gregorian Calendar, it is the one in use today.


Britain, having broken with the Catholic Church during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) did not go along with this papal decree, but in 1752 (during our late colonial period), then being eleven days behind, instead of ten, it made two reforms in its calendar:


1. The first one was that it dropped eleven days.


2. The second one was that it realigned its legal (or civil) year with its historical year.


a. The historical year already began on January 1st.


b. But prior to 1752, the legal (or civil) year had begun on March 25th, the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called "Lady Day". Thus any date from 1 January to 24 March, inclusive, had been ascribed to the expirinq year. In and since 1752 both the historical year and the legal year have begun on January 1st.


2This has caused much confusion in dating events prior to 1752. An event dated February 9th, 1638 would, according to     today's     calendar, be     1639.     Thus     the     practice  has

developed to refer to the ivri tten date as "Old Style" or "OS". And if converted to 1639, it is referred to as "New Style" or "NS". But more simply, and more clearly, is the practice of stating the date now as "February 9, 1638/9".


Any date prior to 1752 between March 25th and December 31st, inclusive, is _ot affected this way. The stated year ivill be correct.


     Generally,     historians treat     the     matter    as     above,

without regard to the dropped eleven days, except that nowadays, the beginning of the British year for tax purposes, instead of being Ma_ch 25th (Lady Day) is April 6th. But that need not concern us here.


And if one thinks that around to the Gregorian several countries took much 1872, China in 1912, Russia and Greece as late as 1923.


Britain was a bit late in coming Calendar, let it be said that longer. To name a few - Japan in (after the Revolution) in 1917,


Any date 1 January through 24 March, prior to 1752, should be recoqnized as "Old Style." If "corrected" to match today's calendar, the year should be increased by one and then labeled "New" Style". But the clearest i-lay to avoid confusion is to show both years, such as March 1, 1710/11".


Irrelevant to this manuscript, but of some interest, is the fact that 365 days plus a leap year every 4th year still does not make our days come out even with our relationship to the sun. There are still a few seconds per year not accounted for. The rule is that centennial years will not be leap years unless evenly divisible by 400. The year 1600 was a leap year. 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. But the year 2000 will be!


References: Ecyclopaedia Britannica.


W. E. Waring: Give Us Back Our Eleven Days.




It is only natural for a person to wonder where his family started - where it came from. One would have to go back to the origin of the human race to find out, and in this connection one could choose between the evolution of mankind from lower forms of life, or its creation in the Garden   of         Eden.         Either         way,         since         records    of         vital

statistics did not come into common use until a few centuries ago, all one can do nowadays is to follow backward in time such records as do exist, until the path becomes so obscure as to end. Although certainly not the biological end, it becomes the end of the record, and thus, in a sense, the beginning.


In our case the path ends, therefore begins, in a small and ancient hamlet in England. Originally known as Werden, it later became the Manor of Worden, from which our family name was derived. For no discernible reason the spelling became slightly changed somewhere along the line, but the original pronunciation has not.




Any serious study of the genealogy of the Worden family in the United states inevitably leads backward to the first Worden in North America, Peter Worden, ye elder,

whose presence here was clearly documented in the records of the Plymouth Colony. Although not a member of the Colony, he lived within its boundaries, specifically in Yarmouth, on Cape Cod, Massachuetts.


Under (the "Old Style") date of January 7, 1638 (see

l'Understandinq the Calendar as Used in Colonial Times") a General Court of Assistance was held in Plymouth Colony which listed the names of men to whom grants of land had been made ".. .at Mattacheeset, now called Yarmouth". This list of bona fide grantees was followed by the names of four men already there to whom grants of land had not been made. They were listed this way:


"Psons there excepted against


(Old Horden

( Burnell ( Hright (Wat Deuille"


(In the handwriting of Plymouth Colony records, the letters "u" and "v were used opposite to the way we use them today. Example: a grant of land was made "..in the meddow abo,!!e him at the ypper end of that meddow." Thus Hat Deuille would be Deville. I have often wondered about


4"Wat", whether that was phonetic spelling for "wait" or "waite". I've seen worse ["Weight"]).


Peter made his will on February 9th, 1638/9 and died within a month. A record of a General Court of the Colony dated March 5th states: "Mr. Nicholas Sympkins, Heugh T_lly and Giles Hopkins were deposed to the last will and testament of Peter Worden, thelder,(sic) of Yarmouth, deceased."


(Not totally relevant at this point, but of interest,

is the fact that John Alden was listed as an Assistant to the Governor at both courts mentioned above, while at the court of March 5th, Captain Miles Standish was elected to the same position.)


Following the deposition of Sympkins, Tilly, and Hopkins (who were witnesses to Peter's will of February 9th) the will was recorded in the Plymouth Colony' in the handwriting of the Court Clerk (probably Nathaniel Morton). This original recording (not the orginal will)

may be seen today in the Plymouth Colony Records, Wills, Vol. I, Part I, page 33, in the vault of the Plymouth

County         Commissioners'         Office         on         South         Russell         St.,

Plymouth, Massachusetts.


The term "Old Worden" in the January 7th Court record is interesting. Most names in the Colony records include the given name and the surname. The use of "Old" could,

perhaps, signify displeasure at finding Peter in Yarmouth without official sanction of the Colony. (Peter may have squatted there, or bought land from the Indians, both contrary to Colony laws.) Or, the term could have been used because his first name was not known. Yet in the case of Burnell and Wright only the surnames were listed, as shown. Why wasn't Peter merely listed as Worden, along with Wright and Burnell? The answer probably lies in the fact (proved in other records) that there were two Wordens there, and "Old" ,vas used to distinguish one from the other. And in listing "Psons there excepted against" the Colony probably would not have listed the son, but the father, as head of family. Thus -- "Old" Worden..


The second court record of Peter referred to him as Peter Worden, "thelder". In his will Peter referred to himself in similar manner and named his son, Peter, as his heir and executor. Considering also the text of the will there can be no doubt that at that time there were two men at Yarmouth, father and son, both named Peter Worden.