John Atkinson is a wonderful example of the pitfalls of trusting late 19th and early 20th century genealogy. It was the habit of genealogists to find two men of the same surname in early New England and (a) if they were of the same generation, make them brothers; and (b) if they were of differing generations, make them father and son. The genealogical literature is now rife with articles disproving such long-held assumptions.
John Atkinson was born ca. 1639 and shows up in Newbury, Mass. in 1662 as a feltmaker and hatter. For years he was identified as the son of Theodore Atkinson of Boston, b. ca. 1614, d. 1701. [For instance see Essex Antiquarian IV (1900):81] However, Mary Lovering Holman showed this not to be true. [See NEHGR 88 (1944):288]. She cites an original deed that showed Theodore calling John "his nephew" in the text, but was filed forty years later after the death of John and the recorder erred and called John "son" of Theodore. That mistake combined with the surname and the two men sharing the same profession, led to this misidentification. Curiously, with this relationship established, the English origins of John and Theodore are still not known. [Although there are two guesses, neither of which have been proven.]
John married twice, first to Sarah Myrick, daughter of James and Margaret (---) Myrick. His second wife was Hannah (Noyes) Cheney, widow of Peter. John died at Newbury between 26 June 1713 and 29 September 1716, the dates upon which his will was written and proved. John and Sarah (Myrick) Atkinson had eleven children the eldest of whom was Sarah, wife of Stephen3 (Tristram2-1) Coffin.
- Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury & John Sargent Pillsbury by Mary Lovering Holman (2 vols., 1938), pp 719-24.
- The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635 by Anderson, Sanborn & Sanborn (Boston, Mass.: NEHGS, 1999), I:95-103 (sketch of Theodore Atkinson).