The surname Doolittle is of Norman origin and gradually Anglicized over time. One of the members of William of Normandy’s expedition was named “Du Litell” or “de Dolieta” (which meant “of Dolieta” a location along the Normandy coast). Rudolph of Dolieta, the Norman nobleman is likely the progenitor of most, if not all, Doolittles in England.
In the fourteenth century, mention is made of Robert Dolittel who received a royal pardon. In the sixteenth century, records mention the names “Dolittle”, “Dolitell”, “Dolitill”, “Dolitle” and “Doolitlie”. In the early seventeenth century the name “Doolittle” begins to appear. Anthony Doolittle, a glover, was married and had three sons and mentioned as an “honest and religious” citizen. His son Thomas was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, and a non-conformist which would be later be referred derisively to as “Puritan”.
Some sources suggest that “Doolittle” was an English nickname for a lazy man. However, the man featured in today’s article was undoubtedly not lazy. He appears to be the first Doolittle to immigrate to New England and is considered the progenitor of most of the Doolittle family in America.
Abraham was born in either 1619 or 1620 and possibly a descendant of Reverend Thomas Doolittle. Abraham married Joane Allen (or “Alling”) and soon afterwards set out for New England. Records indicate Abraham’s presence in Boston in 1640, but he like many others, heard good reports of the fertile lands in what would become Connecticut. Sometime before 1642 the couple arrived in New Haven and built a home. (Note: Although I use the evolved surname of “Doolittle”, Abraham actually used “Dowlittell” as noted in early colonial records.)
Abraham quickly established himself as a well-respected citizen. In 1644, although he was perhaps just twenty-five years old, he was appointed the chief executive officer of the colony. Not only did Abraham deal with issues of concern to his fellow colonists (land, trade, public defense), he also had dealings with the Indians. His participation in New Haven civic affairs was notable as well – according to one historian when an individual of that day was prominent in public affairs it was guaranteed that he was of the highest moral character and an asset to his community.
His wife Jane died and in 1663 he married Abigail Moss, the daughter of John Moss. He and John Moss would later participate in the founding of Wallingford, Connecticut. It is believed that Abraham was the first white man to explore the land beyond the Quinnipac River. Wallingford was incorporate as a town on May 12, 1670.
Again, Abraham plunged into the civic affairs of his town, appointed to almost every position available in the town over the next twenty years until his death in 1690 – including treasurer, surveyor of highways and selectman. In 1673 he was appointed sergeant of the “first traine band” and thereafter bore that title. On February 15, 1675 he was appointed to a committee which would found the town’s first Congregational church.
Records indicate that Abraham served his community continuously until just before his death on August 11, 1690. His grave stone is still standing and quite interesting – a stone about four inches thick and perhaps a foot high and wide, which has his initials, age and date of death etched on it.
Theophilus was the youngest son of Abraham and Abigail Doolittle, born on July 26, 1678 in Wallingford. Theophilus was only twelve years old when his father died and when he became of age he received his share of Abraham’s land, becoming a farmer.
On January 5, 1698 he married Thankful Hall, daughter of David and Sarah Rockwell Hall. Theophilus and Thankful named their children: Thankful, Sarah, Henry, David, Theophilus, and Solomon Doolittle. Interestingly, the name Thankful was carried forward as Thankful Doolittle married Timothy Page and they named on of their daughters Thankful, who married Asher Thorpe – and of course, one of their daughters was named Thankful Thorpe.
I believe Thankful is quite possibly a distant relative of mine (note: as with the Tombstone Tuesday articles, I usually just pick a random surname to research). Although I haven’t traced out the entire Hall line, the information so far seems to point to my ancestors as part of the line descended from John and Jane Woollen Hall of England who immigrated and settled in Wallingford, Connecticut. Thankful’s father David was a son of John and Jane Hall.