The Putnams of Hawridge and Cholesbury
and their connection to the New Colonies

The Putnam name can be found spread all across the USA and Canada originally descended from two family lines. The Putnam name has had a long established connection with Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire and one particular line with Hawridge and Cholesbury. Although no Putnams live in the villages today, a wood, and elsewhere a field where the family house once stood in Hawridge, retain the name today.

The family name is taken from the village of Puttenham (Putte Flemish for Well and Ham or Hamlet), located a short distance beyond Tring in the Vale of Aylesbury and ancestors can be traced back to Norman origins when land was granted by William the Conqueror.

This lineage has been well researched on both sides of the Atlantic and a brief synopsis of this family history is provided below.

Fifteenth century boys

The earliest mention of a Putnam in these villages was John Puttenham who was born around 1450 and is known to have connections with Hawridge. He was probably the grandson of Thomas Puttenham a tanner of some ill repute (on account of the poor quality of his workmanship) and who lived in Chesham and died in 1474.

John Puttenham (or Putnam as the family name was already on some occasions being recorded), had four sons, the eldest “John Putnam of Hawridge” next “William Putnam of Cholesbury” and younger brothers of these, Richard, Edward and Hugh. On his father’s death in 1521, John inherited lands in Hawridge identified today as Pinnocks Leath and Putnams, and William in 1561 acquired lands mainly in Cholesbury but also at Heath End, (still known today as Marshall’s) bequeathed from a separate line of the family.

Although John Putnam’s lands in Hawridge passed on his death in 1551 to his brother William, provision was made that some of these properties would pass across to one or other of John’s sons on William’s death. Indeed the said lands passed to Richard and on to his son, yet another John Putnam.

Parrots Farm

The estate passed on John’s death in 1592 to his son Thomas Putnam. Thomas had acquired and moved into Parrots Farm in Cholesbury previously owned by the other branch of the family. He died in 1644 and passed on his Cholesbury property to his eldest son, also called Thomas. Sometime after 1666 Thomas in turn passed the Cholesbury estate to his son James Putnam. James left no male heirs and his daughters sold these lands in 1713.

Meanwhile, Thomas’ wife who remained at Parrots farm, retained her rights to his properties in Hawridge.

Thomas’s second son, John Putnam inherited a “mault mill”. This was clearly a profitable business as his family grew prosperous and his son, also called John subsequently purchased Hill Farm in Heath End.

Turning to the younger brother William Putnam. He and his wife Agnes’s (nee Duncombe from Tring) eldest son was also named Thomas Putnam. He inherited most of William’s properties in both villages on his father’s death in 1574. Around 1550 Henry Putnam, the youngest brother to Thomas in a family of nine was born.

In 1579 Henry Putnam and his wife Mary (nee Whitney) had a son William Putnam. He was the eldest of six children. Henry died sometime before 1599 when it is recorded that William inherited land known as Halfacres in Cholesbury from his father. William soon after married Jane Salter in 1605 and they too had six children. William died in 1648. The eldest son was Thomas Putnam, born in Cholesbury in the autumn of 1623.

It is from Thomas’s offspring that one half of the American “Putnam” line is descended. For reasons probably connected to the political and economic climate of the time, Thomas Putnam sailed to Virginia in 1647 aboard the ship Increase with his wife Dorothy and son, also called Thomas, but soon after arriving the elder Thomas died in 1650.

According to research by a current descendant of the family, Bill Putman, parts of the family spread in the early part of the 18th century beyond Virginia changing their name to Putman. By the 1750’s, the family could be found in North Carolina and then following the American Revolution into South Carolina and then further west to Kentucky. One line remained in Northern Virginia. By 1800, the families had reached into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Other branches went south to Georgia, Alabama and across the southern US to Texas and in common with other early settlers to the far West.



John and Joan Hay: Hilltop Villages of the Chilterns
G Andrews Moriarty: The Putnams of Hawridge and Cholesbury
Bill Putnam: www.billputman.com