Robert Guthrie & Anna Alcock

The Family Focus is on. . .

~ Massachusetts and Rhode Island ~

Colonial New England is our destination this month in Guthrie Genealogy as we review the family history and DNA matches for Robert Guthrie and Anna Alcock. 

Family Focus write ups include Origin Theories, Mistaken Identities, Family History and Documentation, Analysis of YDNA & Autosomal DNA results, and a summary with some Conclusions and Recommendations. You are encouraged to discuss the content, add historical data and sources, argue theories, or present your own.

This family is currently in an Ungrouped Guthrie Family status, which means there is no documented proof if its connection to an established historical Guthrie Family Group. This Guthrie line has no direct male descendants, which means there is no Y-DNA in existence to conclusively prove its group origins. That creates a more dynamic puzzle to solve as our only genetic clues will be found with Autosomal DNA.

There are several participants in the Family Finder/Autosomal DNA project, so this Family Focus will include a comparison of their results to determine if they skew toward any particular group. The more distant the ancestor, the more important it is to have a large number of descendants providing Autosomal DNA for comparison.

This is your chance to add details to this family’s collected documentation and timeline, discuss mistaken identities, origin stories, current theories, or develop new ones.

Origin Theories:

Robert Guthrie is believed to have come to Massachusetts from Scotland in the 1640s-1650s. Whether he arrived as a prisoner sold to the the Lynn and Braintree Ironworks, or as a freeman of means and measure, is perhaps a key clue to discovering his family origins. It may also be possible that he was a prisoner of means, which aided in his road to prosperity in America.

Robert Guthrie is listed by The Scottish Prisoners of War Society as a probable Dunbar prisoner transported on the Unity.

After the battles of Dunbar and Worcester, Lord Cromwell sent imprisoned Scots to Massachusetts to serve as forced labor in the local Ironworks. Many of those exiled remained in the colonies. “Some of these Scotchmen found their way to Block Island, after being freed, and became a respectable section of the early settlers of that island. Some had worked at the Lynn, and others at the branch works in Braintree. They must have belonged to the Dunbar contingent. Their names are Alexander Innes, Robert Guthrie, Thormut (or Dermot) Rose, William Tosh, James Danielson, and possibly a few others.” [New World Immigrants, by Michael Tepper]

Listed as a ‘probable’ soldier associated with the Dunbar indentures, Robert Guthrie has a short bio at the Scottish Soldiers 1650 site.

The Genealogical Magazine indicates that Robert Guthrie was the principal person among a number of Scots who settled on Block Island during its first settlement in 1662. The article also relates that these Scotsmen originally were prisoners of Cromwell after the battles of Dunbar and Worcester claiming that Robert appeared to have been a man of wealth and position. His closest associates were certainly men of means.

The Rhode Island Historical Society Collections (published in 1827) reviews the settlement of “The Scotch Prisoners at Block Island. In 1660, the island was purchased by a number of gentlemen of Braintree, Roxbury and Milton from Governor John Endicott, Major William Hawthorne and others, who claimed it by right of conquest during the Pequot War.” Principal purchasers: Dr John Alcock, Thomas Faxon, Peter George, and Simon Ray. “Among the prisoners, who settled early at the island I find the following: Robert (Guttridge) Guthrie (others also listed).”

The original settlement of the island consisted of 16 men, one quarter of which were Scotch prisoners. “Robert Guthrie or Guttridge was the easily the leader of the group and soon became a large landholder and one of the most prominent men on the island, being town clerk in 1676. He married at Braintree in 1657 Margaret Ireland, who died at Block Island without issue. He then married Ann Williams, widow of John Williams of Newport, merchant, sometime Attorney General of Rhode Island, and the daughter of Dr John and Ann (Palgrove) Alcock of Roxbury. By her he had one daughter, Katherine, who married John Sands of Cow Neck on Long Island, and was the ancestor of the Sands family of New York and Block Island.”

Author of Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, David Dobson presents a tale that seems to parallel that of Robert Guthrie, if indeed he began his colonial adventure as a prisoner. Dobson tells of Charles Gordon, an immigrant from Aberdeen living in New Jersey who wrote to Andrew Irvine, a merchant in Edinburgh, saying, “I am just now drinking to one of them [the old Buckskin planters] our countryman, who was sent away by Cromwell to New England; a slave from Dunbar, living now in Woodbridge like a Scots laird, wishes his countrymen and his native soil well, though he never intends to see it.”

And then there were pirates…

“On Block Island, Guthrie–and by extension the entire Williams family–became connected with some of the leading smugglers, money launderers, and black marketers in New England.” Robert Guthrie became guardian and stepfather to the children of John Williams (d.1687). Stepdaughter Mary Williams married Edward Sands, a friend of Captain Kidd, while his stepson Palgrave ‘Paul’ Williams took to the seas with Samuel ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy. [Pirates of Virginia: Plunder and High Adventure on the Old Dominion Coastline]

Much of the same text is found in Pirates of New England: Ruthless Raiders and Rotten Renegades, by Gail Selinger, a co-author of the Pirates of Virginia book. “The surviving members of the Guthrie family were tried for treason and banished from the country. They were sent with other Scottish prisoners to New England as indentured servants to the ironworks at Lynn and Braintree, Massachusetts. In time, quite a few of the Scots were able to relocate to Block Island and became part of a community of organized crime especially targeting the English. Robert Guthrie moved his new family into an atmosphere that introduced Paulgrave Williams into a world of money launderers, smugglers, and black marketers operating throughout the entire New England area.”

Mistaken Identities:

Published in 1916, Benjamin Aymar Sands’ compilation of ‘The Direct Forefathers and All the Descendants of Richardson Sands‘ draws some of its lineal Guthrie data from an earlier work. His main resource appears to be ‘Records of the Guthrie Family‘ by Harriet N and Eveline Guthrie Dunn, published in 1898.

One error that has been perpetuated across a number of family trees is a claim of direct lineal descent from Rev. James Guthrie, Minister of Sterling, who was martyred on 1 June 1661. James had only 1 son, William (1656-1674), who died of illness while at university, presumably unmarried and without issue at the time of his death, and a daughter named Sophie.

The authors’ narrative on Rev. James Guthrie appears to be intended to describe the precarious state of religion in Scotland, and the dangers present because of it. They did not make a statement of a direct parental relationship between the martyred minister and their Guthrie ancestors. This was written at a time that all Guthrie families were presumed to be related, and therefore the authors likely made a general assumption of relatedness to all descendants of the Guthrie name.

After (incorrectly) connecting Rev. James Guthrie to Robert Guthrie of Block Island, author Benjamin Aymar Sands pulled a second origin story from the Dunn & Dunn book. This one, however, has some intriguing parallels to the actual origins of Robert Guthrie of Block Island.

The Dunn & Dunn book relates the tale of three brothers from Edinburgh, Robert, James, and John Guthrie, who were in the iron manufacturing trade. Part of this origin story mentions arrival in Boston prior to moving on to Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The time frame, the location, and the family trade all click. However, the Robert Guthrie connected with the Dunn’s family story settled in Pennsylvania. See GFG2A-Branch B. This is one of two branches within the GFG2A tree that were configured based on the hypothesis of Rev. Lawrence R. Guthrie, author of ‘American Guthrie and Allied Families’. YDNA connects the descendant families within his theory to GFG2A, but Robert Guthrie of Block Island’s connections to iron manufacturing presents an intriguing sidebar as we continue to look at documents and DNA results.

Note that the two Pirates books merge all of the origin stories in the Sands and Dunn & Dunn books not only claiming that Robert is a son of Rev. James Guthrie (without actually naming him), but that his mother and siblings were exiled and transported to New England along with a large contingent of Scottish prisoners.

Looking at the facts, the Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650 with the transportation of the Scot prisoners to the colonies that year. Rev. James Guthrie was not executed until 1661. Therefore, the minister’s widow and any children would not have been aboard the vessel bringing the Scots prisoners to Massachusetts. The associations made by the authors between the family of Reverend Guthrie, the prisoner transport, the three brothers origin story, and Robert Guthrie of Block Island are essentially incorrect.

The Find-a-Grave memorial and notations on Robert’s wife Margaret (Ireland) Guthrie/Gutry appear to confuse Robert Guthrie of Block Island with someone named Richard Guthrie. This does not appear to be a typo, and I think I might know why the name was substituted. The fictional television character of Richard Guthrie from Black Sails, which is set roughly 20 years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, might have a few things in common with real life Robert Guthrie, such as an island, wealth and pirates.

The Family of Robert Guthrie of Block Island, Rhode Island:

aka Robert Guttery, Robert Gutteridge
Parents: Unknown
Born: Est. 1620-1630
Location: Scotland, presumably
Occupation: Landowner, Assistant Warden and Town Clerk
Married 1st: Margaret Ireland on 25 Dec 1656 at Braintree, Norfolk, MA
Married 2nd: Anna (Alcock) Williams on 5 Jun 1689 at New Shoreham, RI
Died: 3 December 1692
Location: Drowned while crossing from New Shoreham to Newport

Parents: Unknown
Born: About 1623
Location: Unknown
Children: None
Died: 5 April 1687, aged 64 years
Location: Block Island, Rhode Island
Buried: Island Cemetery, Block Island, Rhode Island

Parents: Dr John Alcock and Sarah Palgrave
Born: 26 May 1650
Location: Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Married 1st: John Williams on 24 Feb 1669 at Boston, Suffolk, MA
Williams Children: Mary (1670), Nathaniel (1672), Anna (1674), Palgrave (1676), Elizabeth (1679), Arabella (1681)
Guthrie Children: Catherine (1690)
Died: 3 April 1723
Location: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts


Born: 24 June 1690
Location: New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island
Married: John Sands (II) on 9 Sep 1706 Newport, Rhode Island
Sands Children: John (III) (1708), Robert (1710), Edward (1712), Mary (1715), Annie (1719), Nathaniel (1721), Joshua (1725), Simon (1727), Gideon (1729), Mary (1732), George (1733), Benjamin (1735), Catherine (1737)
Died: 10 February 1769
Location: Sands Point, Nassau County, New York
Buried: Sands Point Cemetery

Family Finder / Autosomal DNA Participants: Yes

Historical Highlights:

Scotland, presumably

This is an estimated birth date range. Robert’s first wife, Margaret Ireland, was born about 1623, so it is likely that Robert was approximately the same age.

According to her grave marker, Margaret was 64 years old at her death in 1687. I have no data on her parents or birth location.

“The first permanent Colonial settlement was established in 1636 by Roger Williams, a former member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.” [Source]

Roger Williams traveled to England and was granted a charter for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. [Source]

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, Volume 1: 1636-1663. [Internet Archive]

Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts on 26 May 1650

Anna Alcock and her twin sister Sarah were born on 26 May 1650 to Dr John Alcock his wife Sarah nee Palgrave. Her father was a graduate (1646) and an instructor (1647-1648) at Harvard University, establishing himself as a physician at Roxbury. The family moved to Boston prior to 1657.

“The battle of Dunbar lasted two hours. Cromwell claimed that 3,000 Scots were killed in the rout and another 10,000 taken prisoner, for the loss of only thirty men of the Commonwealth army. All the Scottish artillery and baggage was captured and 2,000 colours taken. Although Cromwell’s estimate of the Scottish losses are probably exaggerated, it was undoubtedly a serious defeat for the Covenanters. The wounded Scottish prisoners were released, but about 5,000 were marched south to Durham. Many died from sickness and hunger either on the eight-day march or during the subsequent period of imprisonment in Durham Cathedral. The survivors were ultimately transported to New England or Barbados as indentured labourers.” [The Battle of Dunbar – BCW Project]


Note that Robert Guthrie is not named as a Scottish officer nor soldier on the collected lists I have see for POW of the Battle of Dunbar.

More on the Scots Prisoners and their Relocation to the Colonies, 1650-1654.

Braintree, Norfolk, Massachusetts on 25 December 1656

Margaret Ireland was about 33 years of age when she married Robert Guthrie. The marriage lasted 31 years until her death in 1687. They had no children.

“Along with several other men, James Sands obtained what is now Block Island, Rhode Island from the original inhabitants of the island, the Narragansetts, in 1660.” [Sands]

Block Island is 7 miles long and 3 miles wide covering 7000 acres. Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 12-14 miles from the Rhode Island coastline.

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island

The designation of ‘freemen’ was given to those men in the community who were allowed to vote and participate in civil matters. They were required to take an oath against bribery and corruption.

Thomas Terry, Peter George, Simon Ray, William Harris, Samuel Dearing (Deering), John Rathbone (Rathbun), John Davies or Davis, Samuel Staple, Hugh Williams, ROBERT GUTHRIE (Guttrig), William Tosh (McIntosh), Tormot Rose (some use Ross), William Cahoone (Calhoun), Tristram Dodge, John Clarke, Joseph Kent, William Baker or Barker.

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, Volume 2: 1664-1677. [Internet Archive]
Note: Robert Guttery/Gutteridge entries on pp.58, 361, 413

Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts on 24 February 1669

Anna Alcock married John Williams, the son of Nathaniel Williams, a glover, of Boston.

“John Williams, an almost forgotten Newport magnate of this period, was one of the earliest of the great merchants of Newport, at a time before the Malbones, Challoners, Scotts, and Bannisters had become identified with Newport mercantile life. John Williams was a man of great wealth and aristocratic connections. He was also a man of large public spirit and ability, as is shown by the offices that he was elected to; as for example that of Deputy to the General Assembly and Attorney General of the Rhode Island Colony.” [The Genealogical Magazine]

Mary Williams (1670) m. Edward Sands (Friend of Captain Kidd)
Nathaniel Williams (1672)
Anna Williams (1674) m. Jonathan Bennett
Palgrave ‘Paul’ Williams (1676) Entrepreneur & Explorer (Pirate)
Elizabeth Williams (1679) m1. Thomas McCarty, m2. Thomas Payne
Arabella Williams (1681) m1. Edward Pelham, m2. John Holman

Incorporated in 1672 as the only town on the island of Block Island,

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island

Robert Guthrie “was easily the most important person among the Scots, and was one of the more important persons in the new settlement. This leads to the belief that he had, perhaps, been a person of more consideration in Scotland than the rest of his companions. He was, moreover, a man of considerable property and education. In 1676 he was Assistant Warden and Town Clerk of New Shoreham, holding the latter office for a number of years. Much of the first book of New Shoreham records is in his handwriting.” [Genealogies of Rhode Island Families, Vol. II]

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island

Alexander Innes died in 1670 making a nuncupative will in the presence of Robert Guthrie and 2 others from Block Island, naming William Harris as his heir. (New Shoreham Town Book 1:52).

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island

Robert Guttridge gave a bill of sale of 1 acre near Henry Neale’s pond to Thomas Mitchell of New Shoreham, hatter (New Shoreham 1:465).

A list of the Freeman of New Shoreham was entered on the town records. The list begins with the name Mr. Robert Guthrie.

Newport, Rhode Island on 29 April 1687

“John Williams died in 1687, when his son (Paulgrave) was eleven years old, leaving the execution of his will and the guardianship of his children in the hands of his friend, a Scottish exile named ROBERT GUTHRIE. Guthrie married Paulgrave’s mother a year and a half later, permanently settling the family on their estate at Block Island in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, a move that profoundly altered young (Paulgrave) William’s life.” . . .

“Through Guthrie, young Williams was likely introduced to some unpleasant truths about the English conquest of Scotland, and some radical notions about who should be sitting on the British throne. [The Republic of Pirates, by Colin Woodward]

This author repeats the origin story found in the other pirate books, also mentioning that Paulgrave William’s sister, Mary, married Edward Sands, a personal friend of Captain Kidd. Mary and her husband helped hide some of Kidd’s contraband at their home while he was on the run. His younger sister Elizabeth Williams married Thomas Paine, a likely nephew and namesake of a retired pirate who had a long history of buying and selling plunder.

1687: OVERSEER of the POOR
New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island, Rhode Island on 5 Apr 1687

A sandstone marker at the Old Island Cemetery reads:

“Here lieth
the body of M
Margaret Gutry
Aged 64 yers who
departed this
life April 5 1687″

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island on 5 June 1689

New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island on 24 June 1690

Catherine Guthrie was the only child of Robert Guthrie & Anna Alcock.

Robert Guthrie drowned while crossing from New Shoreham to Newport.

Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island on 9 Sep 1706

Catherine Guthrie married John Sands II on 9 Sep 1706.
Parents to 13 children:
– John Sands (III) (1708)
– Robert Sands (1710)
– Edward Sands (1712)
– Mary Sands (1715)
– Annie Sands (1719)
– Nathaniel Sands (1721)
– Joshua Sands (1725)
– Simon Sands (1727)
– Gideon Sands (1729)
– Mary Sands (1732)
– George Sands (1733)
– Benjamin Sands (1735)
– Catherine Sands (1737)
John and Catherine lived on Block Island directly following their marriage, but moved to Cow Neck around 1716. The Sands family was one of the original three families that settled in and owned what is now Sands Point, New York.

Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts on 3 April 1723

The Guthrie DNA Project:

The Y-DNA Project
Since Robert Guthrie had no sons there is no Guthrie Y-DNA for his lineage in existence. The direct male line for this branch ended with him.

The Family Finder / Autosomal DNA Project
Robert Guthrie had 1 daughter, Catherine Guthrie, who with her husband John Sands had 13 children. Any familial autosomal DNA from the Guthrie side would have been inherited down the Sands family line.

Because Robert Guthrie is up to 10 generations distant from descendants being tested today it is going to be a challenge to prove Guthrie connections with even more distant common ancestry. The percentage of DNA inherited from your 8th great-grandparents is about 0.09%, so while finding matches to other people of Guthrie ancestry might be possible, genetically proving that they also share the same ancestry as Robert Guthrie is a tough task.

Kit 251270
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > Gideon Sands 1729NY-1770 (6xGGF)

Kit 251270

Kit 350555
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > Edward Sands 1712RI-1778

Impression: Inconclusive

Kit 350555

Kit B6109
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > John Sands b1708 (4xGGF)

Impression: Inconclusive

Kit B6109

Kit B58915
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > Joshua Sands 1725NY-1787NY (6xGGF)

Impression: Inconclusive

Kit B58915

Kit B170887
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > Nathaniel Sands 1721-1783 (5xGGF)

Impression: Inconclusive

Kit B170887

Kit B203487
Robert Guthrie > Catherine Guthrie 1690RI-1769NY > Remainder Not Listed

Impression: Inconclusive

Kit B203487


Our search for Robert Guthrie’s parents remains a mystery both on paper and through Autosomal DNA. Because of the number of generations that separate Robert’s descendants from any potential descendants of his father and/or siblings, it is necessary to review results in far greater volume. If current or prospective project members have AncestryDNA tests, which typically provide many more matches due to the size of their database, consider allowing a review of your Guthrie matches by providing ‘viewer’ access.


  1. Ann:
    Thomas Gray here. Son of Gertrude E. Guthrie Gray Grandson of Charles Clarence Guthrie of Woodward Iowa. I have had both Y and mt dna tests done trough Ancestry. I would like to know how to get the raw results from them and then have that sent to you.
    Thomas Fray

    • Thomas,
      The only Y-DNA tests applicable to the Guthrie DNA project are from Guthrie men. Y-DNA comes from the direct paternal line, so your Y-DNA was inherited from your GRAY paternal line. It does not qualify for our project, but should for the Gray/Grey DNA Project. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing is also not applicable as it examines only the direct maternal line, ie your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, etc.

      The current version of the Ancestry DNA test is strictly an autosomal DNA test, which is the test you would be eligible to submit for the Guthrie DNA Project. This is the equivalent test to FTDNA’s Family Finder test, the 23andMe test, and MyHeritageDNA test. I do recommend starting with an AncestryDNA test as you will gain access to their huge database.

      Once results come in you can use Family Tree DNA’s free Autosomal DNA Transfer process to upload your Raw Results. Go to your DNA Results Summary > Settings > DNA Ethnicity and Matches Access > Provide me with ‘viewer’ access (user AnnGU3). On the top of the same page go to Actions > Download Raw DNA Data > Follow Ancestry’s Instructions > Save File to Your Computer > Go to > Sign in to your Page > Click my Projects > Join a Project.

  2. Ann, Didn’t we have another Guthrie family listed in our GFG2A, perhaps 100 years later, who were counterfeiters? Could there be a connection of these two families?
    The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

    • Samuel H. Guthrie (b.1797) was a prominent lawyer in Woodsfield. He was the son of GFG2A-Branch C’s Samuel Guthrie and Susanna Edwards. He married Rebecca Driggs, the daughter of Joseph Driggs & Dollie Ball. Rebecca’s brother, Nelson Driggs was the leader of the Driggs Gang of Counterfeiters and he was at that time considered to be the most notorious counterfeiter in the United States. Newspaper accounts suggest that one or two of the Guthrie sons may have also been involved in the gang.

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