Robert, John, & James: Ironmongers of Edinburgh

During a game of Telephone a player passes on information revealed by the previous person. By the time the story circulates around to everyone in the room, it no longer resembles the original source. That happens with family legends, too. Our ancestral tales become warped to the point that it’s tough to sort out fact from unintentional fiction. 

Those traditions are still a great place to start when researching your family tree. Even a grain of truth is still a clue that could lead to whole trail full of genealogical breadcrumbs. Some of those old stories might be grounded in documentation, while others have nothing to show in the way of proof. DNA testing is one way to gain new perspectives, but it doesn’t always provide us with the kind of details we need to solve the mystery. Consider tugging on the threads of those old theories in order to weave a more accurate picture of the Family Tree.

Guthrie Family Group 2A is the largest genetic group within the project with nearly 170 participants belonging to its 13 major branches. They can trace their progenitors to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Colonial America and Canada. Sixty of them are men with Y-DNA tests conclusively proving their shared direct paternal line origins. Some branches belong to more closely related clusters sharing common traits or an origin story.

DNA testing can reveal who is related to whom, but it does not necessarily show how to fit those jigsaw pieces together.

GFG2A-Branch B, Branch F, and Branch I belong to the family legend of the three Ironmongers of Edinburgh, brothers Robert, John, and James. Their tale has been published by multiple sources, sometimes with added twists, rumored marriages, and hypothetical family members added along the way.

This Related/Unrelated segment will present some of the gaping holes in the Three Brothers Origin Theory and offer up another option. Don’t rearrange your family tree just yet. Like all theories it is intended to provoke thought and discussion. What do you believe to be the true tale of Robert, John, and James Guthrie? They might not be related in the way we have previously been told. What are your thoughts on them and how the other branches of GFG2A fit together? Do you have any documents, data, or DNA to share?

In 1889, Seymour Guthrie published ‘A Brief History of a Branch of the Guthrie Family Beginning with the Residence in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1680 of John Guthrie‘ which reveals the following:

The earliest traditional knowledge of the family is in 1680, in Edinburgh, Scotland where they were the best of the middle class and interested in the manufacture of iron. About this time John Guthrie severed his connection with his partners and brothers, Robert and James, and with a small capital sought his fortunes in Ulster County, Ireland. // It was about 1700 when he bade farewell to his friends in Ireland and set out to seek his fortune in the new world. // After a wearying voyage of two months he landed at Boston. Remaining here but a few years he removed to Washington, Litchfield County, Connecticut, and engaged successfully in the iron business running a forge and furnace on the Housatonic River. There he died in 1730, leaving four sons who carried on the business. About that time that John emigrated from Ireland, his two brothers, Robert and James, came out from Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania.

Seymour Guthrie, p.7

Theory Highlights:
1) Robert, John, and James were in iron manufacturing in Edinburgh, 1680
2) John Guthrie went to Ulster, Ireland about 1680
3) John Guthrie left Ireland about 1700. No mention of family being present.
4) Arrival Port: Boston, Massachusetts where he stayed a few years
5) Removed to Washington, Litchfield, Connecticut
6) Forge & Furnace on the Housatonic River
7) Died in 1730 leaving 4 sons to carry on the business
8) Brothers Robert and James arrived in Pennsylvania about 1700

Whatever the source of the family legend, keep in mind that Seymour Guthrie’s book was published in 1889. That’s 200 years after John Guthrie’s departure from Edinburgh. It wasn’t first-hand knowledge. He too would have relied on a family legend to pass on the story of his ancestors.

Records of the Guthrie Family of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia, with ancestry of those who have intermarried with the family‘ by Harriet N. and Eveline Guthrie Dunn was published in 1898. This is nine years after Seymour Guthrie’s book. The history of the family is covered in a single sentence. The authors then attempt to expand upon the time between the brothers’ arrival in America and move to Connecticut by identifying Boston records they believe are associated with these men.

On account of the religious persecutions under which the family suffered, James, John, and Robert decided to leave Edinburgh and seek security and repose in the New World. They first settled in Boston. The earliest record of James Guthrie we find from Suff.Pro.VI 416. in the will of John Richardson, dated May 7, 1683, in which he says, “I give and bequeath unto James Guthrie all I have in the world except twenty shillings to buy John Harris a ring and ten shillings to buy John Kyte a ring. Witnesses: James Raynsford, John Ramsey. John Guthrie removed from Boston to Litchfield Co. Conn. where he died about 1730.

Dunn and Dunn, pp.3-4

Theory Highlights:
1) No mention of Ireland
2) James, John, and Robert left Scotland and arrive in Boston together.
3) The brothers lived in Boston together.
4) There is a document listing a James Guthrie attributed to this brother. No source proving a connection. Also no listing for Robert Guthrie.
5) No mention of their families.

Like Seymour Guthrie’s book, this one focuses on John Guthrie’s son, also named John Guthrie, his marriage to Abigail Coe, and their descendants.

South Britain Sketches and Records‘ by William Carvosso Sharpe includes a section for genealogy of the Guthrie family. It begins with a general origin of the Guthrie surname, and then repeats Seymour Guthrie’s story about the brother’s arrival in America.

Covering a much grander scope of Guthrie families, the following author highlights many Colonial American lineages.

American Guthrie and Allied Families‘ written by Laurence R. Guthrie was published in 1933. It is a compilation of correspondence and research on Guthrie families with ‘Lineal Representations of the Colonial Guthries of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Some Post-Revolutionary Emigrants and Some Allied Families’.

LRG references both Seymour Guthrie and the Dunn & Dunn works, but also lists his correspondence with Guthrie descendants and researchers. These conversations took place over 40 years after the publication of ‘A Brief History’, so I wonder how much of the legend came from their own family histories versus quoting previous publications.

John Guthrie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he kept an iron foundry. He left there in 1670 and went to Ulster County, Ireland. In 1700, he emigrated with his brothers James and Robert to America and settled in Washington, Litchfield, Connecticut, where he established an iron foundry. He died there in 1730.

The Ancestry of William Dameron Guthrie (President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York from 1925 to 1927. Guthrie also served as a lawyer to the Rockefeller family.)


Sometime about the year 1700, two brothers, Robert and James Guthrie, came from the North of Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania, and soon after a younger brother John Guthrie came to Connecticut and married a woman by the name of Cone and raised a family of ten children.

Correspondence with Mrs Amy L Peoples of Los Angeles, California
(Descendant of John Guthrie)

but there were skeptics, too…

I am not satisfied that John had brothers Robert and James, nor am I satisfied that he ever settled in Boston, nor do I know when he arrived in America.

Correspondence with William Kennon Jewett, of Pasadena, California
(Parents: Hugh Judge Jewett (US Rep. OH) and Sarah Elizabeth Guthrie)

There are also versions of the story claiming there were originally seven brothers in Scotland. Due to religious persecution many left Scotland for Ireland, while others went to America. Some reportedly returned home to Scotland after the oppression ended.

The versions gathered by Laurence R Guthrie through his correspondence with Guthrie descendants across the country, and from other published sources have a similar theme with some contradicting notes. Despite more than one person identifying 1700 as the approximate year of immigration to America, LRG writes that he finds no evidence of John Guthrie’s arrival or presence before 1726. Boston, Massachusetts was a major immigration port, but it was not the only entry point during a time of significant population growth.

Family Legend vs. Published Theory vs. FACTS


BIRTH: (Rough Estimate) 1640-1660
Birth Location: Scotland
Arrival in Northern Ireland: About 1680
Marriage: Yes – Unknown Spouse, reportedly in Northern Ireland
Arrival in America: About 1700
Death: 1730 in Washington, Litchfield, Connecticut

Children: 4 Sons
1) Unidentified Guthrie
2) Unidentified Guthrie
3) Unidentified Guthrie
4) John Guthrie 1700CT-1756CT (m. Abigail Coe)

According to Seymour Guthrie, it was 1680 when John Guthrie left Scotland for Ireland. He had been in business with his brothers, so one would guess he was an adult at that time, but young enough that he had not yet married. Let’s take a stab at it and say he was 20-40 years old in 1680. He would have been born 1640-1660.

Something to think about:
There are 11 infants named John Guthrie (including variant spellings) whose birth and/or baptism were registered in Scotland between 1640-1660. Only 1 in Midlothian: Johne Guthree, Parents: James Guthree, merchant, and Margaret Broun, 8 May 1659 in Edinburgh. They were also parents to Samuel (1654), Alexander (1656), James (1657), and Jeane (1661).

There is a 20 year gap during which John Guthrie is reportedly living in Northern Ireland. Even if he waited 10 years to marry, it is reasonable to assume that some or all of his children were born there. According to Seymour Guthrie (‘A Brief History‘, 1889), there were 4 sons – John was the youngest, but the other 3 remain unidentified.

Who were those unidentified sons? According to the family story they were involved with the Guthrie foundry after John Guthrie’s death in 1730, so one would think it might be possible to find them listed in colonial records.

The timeline for this family is off, and there are plenty of red flags telling us to reevaluate what we think we know about the ‘Three Brothers’ and their family structure. Part of the problem is that 2/3 of the family, namely Robert and James’ lines, consist primarily of hypothetical relationships, while 3/4 of John’s family remain unidentified. Constructing a timeline is difficult as there are only a few actual dates that can be used to create it, which means we must calculate rough estimates and ranges.

Laurence R Guthrie also seems to have had a difficult time managing to get a handle on this family when comparing his gathered correspondence and research. Not only was he using previous works as a source, but he was also examining documents for potential descendants of these three brothers. He made an assumption as to which men with the right names, Robert and James, would have been the brothers to John Guthrie, and he also created ‘hypothetical families’ by assigning presumed children to each of them.

This was not an arbitrary assignment. There were clues to consider in the decision to group certain Guthries together. His defense in ‘causing no harm by doing so’ was the assumption that all were likely related anyway. Turns out he was right for the most part, but the major question that he proposed and seems to have decided against was whether ‘brothers’ Robert & James actually belonged to John Guthrie Sr or to John Guthrie Jr.

The calculations based on actual documentation suggest that the men identified as Robert and James Guthrie would have been of a younger generation than John Sr.

John Guthrie, Jr was reportedly born about 1700 in Stratford, Fairfield, CT. (What is the proof for that date and location?) This is the year John Guthrie Sr supposedly arrived in Boston and remained for a few years. Unless John spent 20 years in Ireland unmarried and childless, he probably came with his family.

LRG finds evidence of John Guthrie in Connecticut as a resident of Durham, Middlesex County, where he “moved for safety during the Indian wars on the frontier in Litchfield County.” John reportedly lived in Durham for 7 years before moving to Stratford, Fairfield County where he purchased the home of Samuel Beardsley on 1 Nov 1726. “Later, he returned to Durham and from there went to the town of Woodbury in Litchfield County where he became a wealthy and influential citizen owning large tracts of nearby lands and lots in neighboring towns in that section of the country.” Note that these land entries are all for John Guthrie Jr.

Unfortunately, there are only a few Connecticut land & property records available online. The earliest indexed records are for Southbury and Middlebury beginning in 1792, and without a digital image. The FHL has taken up the task of digitizing many Connecticut documents, but for now they are only available at the Family History Library or a Family History Center. Without the data there is no evidence that John Guthrie Sr had a foothold in Connecticut at all.
[Current Records at Guthrie Genealogy: Connecticut]

The earliest Vital Statistics for anyone of the Guthrie name in the colony is the marriage record of John Guthrie Jr and Abigail Coe (written as Cone in Seymour Guthrie’s book and copied in other sources) on 11 June 1727 in Stratford, Fairfield, CT.

John Guthrie Jr & Abigail Coe were parents to: John (1728), James (1729), William (1730), James (1732), Joseph (1733), Mary (1735), Ephraim (1737), Ebenezer (1740), Abigail (1742), Sarah (1744), and Lydia (1746). Among their descendants are Dr Samuel Guthrie, a physician and inventor, discoverer of chloroform, and Sir Winston Churchill, renowned British Prime Minster.

Summary of Evidence:
1) Proof that John Guthrie ‘Sr’ came to America – None
2) Proof that he had a son named John. Well, John definitely existed, but the relationship is based on family tradition.
3) Proof that John Guthrie arrived in Boston about 1700. None.
4) Proof that John Guthrie had brothers Robert & James. DNA matches most of the hypothesized family lines, but otherwise no form of proof beyond the family legend.
5) Proof that John Guthrie Jr was born about 1700 in CT. None.
6) Proof that John Guthrie owned an iron foundry on the Housatonic River – Can’t find any documentation so far.
7) Proof that John Guthrie Sr died in 1730. None.
8) Proof that John Guthrie Jr and his brothers assumed control after their father’s death? No documentation found so far.

There have to be some land/property documents hiding in the Town Clerk records that will shed more light onto this family’s earliest years in Connecticut. Online resources are extremely limited, and don’t appear to include the early 1700s. There don’t appear to be county level holdings.

Both the Seymour Guthrie and Dunn & Dunn books focus on descendants of John Guthrie & Abigail Coe. The families of the other two ‘brothers’ are not covered at all. Not until LRG’s ‘American Guthrie’ in the 1930s does anyone attempt to reveal more about Robert Guthrie and James Guthrie and their families after settlement in Pennsylvania.


Birth: (Rough Estimate) 1673-1704
Birth Location: Scotland (or possibly Northern Ireland or Connecticut)
Arrival in America: About 1700 (or perhaps born here)
Marriage: Yes – Reportedly to a Miss Darlington
Death: After 1735, presumably in Pennsylvania (Trees list 1750)

Children: 4 hypothesized by LRG
1) William Guthrie
born 1713-1730PA – died 3 Sep 1778SC (m. Elizabeth Barnett)
2) Adam Guthrie
born 1714-1733PA – died before 6 Jul 1798PA (m. Mercy Irwin)
3) James Guthrie
born c1720 – died p1801PA (m. Jeanette Wilson)
4) John Guthrie
born 1724-1743PA died p1800PA (m. Margaret Brown)

Robert Guthrie was a real person who owned property in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Whether or not he was a brother to John Guthrie Sr (or Jr) is up for debate. Whether or not he is the father of the men hypothesized by LRG to be his sons is also up for debate.

If Robert Guthrie was the brother to John Guthrie Sr, and an adult partner in the family Iron Manufacturing business in Scotland, his estimated DOB would also be about 1640-1660. (Hold that thought.)

His first appearance in Chester County, Pennsylvania comes in Fallowfield Township in 1732 almost immediately after the 1730 death of John Guthrie Sr. Time spent in Fallowfield was short. He was a taxable in Nantmeal Twp. in 1734/35 and 1735/36. Robert Guthrie disappears from the records after that. Did he die in Chester County? LRG theorized that Robert simply moved to that part of Lancaster County that became Cumberland County, PA while living in the household of one of his sons.

There is no document known to exist that ties Robert Guthrie to any of the men proposed to be his sons. DNA tells us only part of the story. William, Adam, and James’ descendants match the GFG2A genetic profile. There is no participant in the project representing ‘son’ John’s line. An examination of the mutations in the DNA results indicates that James was probably not a brother to William & Adam. Even though he does share ancestry with these men, his DNA is a closer match to Branch G.

What ties these men to Robert Guthrie in the first place?

The trail starts in Nantmeal Township where Robert Guthrie was last seen in 1735/36.

LRG theorized that Adam and John were sons of Robert Guthrie because they lived in the same township. Adam shows up as a Freeman on the West Nantmeal provincial tax list in 1754, and John appears soon afterward.

Adam remained in West Nantmeal until 1768 when he purchased land in East Caln Township. He was a member of Brandywine Presbyterian Church along with his designated cousin James Guthrie from Branch I.

John Guthrie, who had been in Chester County at least through 1764, settled in Hamilton Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania long enough to act as witness to the 1771 will of Thomas Barnett, the father-in-law of his designated brother William Guthrie. John then settled in Bethel Township, Bedford County and later Franklin County.

William Guthrie’s only documented connection to anyone associated with this hypothetical family seems to be the Barnett will. He is not listed on any of the early Chester County tax lists. The earliest records attributed to him are the 1751-1752 Lurgan Township, Cumberland County tax records. This part of Cumberland County later became Franklin County, which is where his designated brother John Guthrie eventually ended up. By 1770, William Guthrie and his family were already living in the Waxhaws Settlement in South Carolina.

James Guthrie, the brother who is actually a cousin, was living in Hamilton Township, Cumberland County in 1753 and owned land along Back Creek. He remained in Cumberland County at least through 1777, but moved to Westmoreland County in 1786. The man very likely to be his actual brother, John Guthrie who m. Jane Reed (Branch G) settled in Westmoreland in 1771.

LRG latched onto this James Guthrie because his property was physically close to William and John’s. It is interesting that he picked this James rather than the James Guthrie of West & East Caln in Chester County who lived near and went to the same church as Adam Guthrie. (More on him in the discussion about Branch I below.)

Calculating Robert Guthrie’s DOB based on the possibility that he was John Guthrie Sr’s brother and in business with him in Edinburgh in 1680, he would also have an expected DOB range of 1640-1660. But the calculations for the expected DOB of Robert’s assigned children range from 1713-1724 at the earliest, which would make him 53-84 years old when they were born. Possible, just unlikely. This stretches to 73-104 if their DOB are at the end of the estimated range.

Since the DNA records for Adam & William tell us that they both belong to GFG2A, and there are no obvious pattern markers to indicate that they are not brothers, it is possible that they were. We don’t have proof for John’s line.

William Guthrie was born 1713-1730 in PA, married Elizabeth Barnett about 1751. Children: Margaret (1753), Robert (1756), Elizabeth (1761), James (1764), William Barnett (1767), Adam (1769), Ann (1773), and Mary (1776). William and Elizabeth moved their family to the Waxhaw Settlement in Lancaster, South Carolina.

Adam Guthrie was born 1714-1733 in PA, married Mercy Irwin about 1758. They lived in Chester County, PA. Children: William Guthrie (1756), Hannah (1760), Adam (1762), Robert (1764), Mary (1770), Sarah (1772), Martha (1774), Jane (1775), John (1775), and Elizabeth (1776).

John Guthrie was born 1724-1743 in PA, married Margaret Brown in 1764. They lived in Chester, Bedford, and Franklin Counties. Children: Mary (1769), William Brown (1772), and Robert (1774).

QUESTION: Were any of these men actually sons of Robert Guthrie of Chester County, PA?
ANSWER: Maybe. There is no document to connect them. DNA evidence has shown they descend from the same genetic group (GFG2A). The details in the DNA results show that ‘son’ James is probably not a brother to Adam and William.

QUESTION: Was Robert Guthrie of Chester County, PA the brother of John Guthrie, Sr, the immigrant Ironmonger of Edinburgh?
ANSWER: Probably closely related based on the DNA evidence and the theories connecting them. That’s assuming Adam and William are indeed his sons. However, the relationship between John the Immigrant and Robert of Chester County may be a father-son relationship rather than brothers.

The birth ranges listed for the ‘sons’ of Robert Guthrie are all estimations based on their first documented appearances. We can use those dates to calculate Robert Guthrie’s DOB. If he was 20-40 years of age when these presumed sons were born 1713-1724 (at the earliest), his estimated birth range would be 1673-1704.

The original estimation for the Three Brothers was birth between 1640-1660. Robert Guthrie appears to belong to the next generation. Could he be one of John Guthrie Sr’s unidentified sons instead? Hmm.

Another struggle of the Branch B line is Robert Guthrie’s rumored marriage to a Darlington. I can only guess that this came up in LRG’s correspondence because there is no documentation. The Darlington name is used by one of John Guthrie & Margaret Brown’s grandchildren, Otho Darlington Guthrie. There have been no significant Autosomal DNA findings of Darlington ancestry amongst the GFG2A-Branch B participants.

Virginia R. Harshman, author of ‘A Guthrie Gathering: The American Ancestors and Some of the Descendants of Robert Guthrie 1794-1846, has a unique theory about the origins of Robert Guthrie of Chester County, PA that has nothing to do with the Three Brothers legend. She postulates that Robert Guthrie was one of the Jacobite prisoners transported to South Carolina aboard the Wakefield in 1716, and that after his forced indenture travelled north to settle in Pennsylvania.

Although the timing is appropriate, there are other Guthrie groups in South Carolina more likely to be connected with that Robert Guthrie.


Birth: (Rough Estimate) 1691-1711
Birth Location: Scotland (Possibly Northern Ireland or Connecticut)
Arrival in America: About 1700
Marriage: Yes – Reportedly to a Miss Bissell
Death: Abt. 1778, presumably in Pennsylvania

Children: 4 hypothesized by LRG
1) James Guthrie
born about 1731- died 1799PA (m. Ann MNU)
2) William Guthrie
born about 1735 – died _____ (single)
3) Thomas Guthrie
born 1744 – died 1837 (m. Mildred Howell)
4) Robert Guthrie
born 1752 – died 1815 (m. Elizabeth Jane Caldwell)

Here’s another red flag. If it wasn’t for the Three Brothers Origin Story, there seems to be no evidence that James Guthrie ever existed. With the exception of that one Boston document identified by Dunn & Dunn, every other document attributed to this man could easily belong to his ‘son’ of the same name.

For now, let’s go with the idea that James Guthrie was a real person. He is supposed to have married a Miss Bissell. However, the maiden name of ‘son’ James’ wife is also unidentified, and so could potentially be the Bissell in the family. Captain John Bissell was a founder of Windsor, Connecticut, and his descendants are entrenched there. Interestingly, some variation of the name Bissell, Bessell, Bussell has found its way into several Guthrie lineages. In addition to GFG2A’s ties, GFG7 has reported Bissell connections. Descendants of an ungrouped Guthrie lineage from Menmuir, Scotland also intermarried with a Bessell line in Australia.

James Guthrie, the Ironmonger of Edinburgh, and brother to John & Robert, is “supposed to have been the James who moved from Connecticut to Chester County, Pennsylvania,” says LRG in ‘American Guthrie’, p215.

The first entry for a James Guthrie in the Chester County records does not occur until 1749/50 in West Caln Township where they continue until 1765. He is listed in East Caln after 1768, and then specifically in Brandywine.

James Guthrie 1731-1799PA & wife Ann were parents to: Ann (1750), Sarah (1755), James (1760), William (1763), and John (1767). Descendants match the GFG2A genetic profile.

William Guthrie 1735-1829PA was an Indian Trader and soldier. He never married. He died in Westmoreland County, PA and left his property to the children of his brother James Guthrie, and to an unidentified sister’s children. Having no descendants there is no way to genetically prove William’s ties to GFG2A.

Thomas Guthrie 1744-1837KY married Mildred Howell. He was in the Cumberland County Militia, and was listed on the 1779 Tax Records in Cumberland County. He leased property in Fauquiet County, Virginia in 1792, but moved to Woodford County, KY five years later. Children: Mary (1773), Thomas (1776), John (1777), James (1779), William (1784), Nancy (1785), Elizabeth (1787), Mildred (1792), Robert (1794), and Caleb (1798).
The project needs more participation in YDNA testing for this line in order to genetically prove Thomas Guthrie’s ties to GFG2A. Current descendants of son Thomas Guthrie do not match the YDNA of any of the established groups. However, autosomal DNA of other descendants within the line skew toward GFG2A matches.

Robert Guthrie 1752-1816OH married Elizabeth Jane Caldwell. Descendants do not match the YDNA profile for any Guthrie group, however have a high match rate to each other with Autosomal DNA testing. This suggests the presence of a causal event at or before Robert’s generation. Robert Guthrie was first documented in Washington County, PA living near William Caldwell of Buffalo Creek. The heirs of William Caldwell, presumably the siblings of his wife, sold Robert 64 acres in 1797. Sometime before 1800, Robert and his family moved to Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio.

Of the 4 presumed sons of James Guthrie, the Ironmonger/Immigrant, we can only confirm that James Guthrie belongs to GFG2A. We are fortunate to have his grave marker, which reveals that his death in 1799 occurred when he was 68 years of age. That provides us with a DOB of 1731.

If his father, hypothesized to be James Guthrie the Immigrant Ironmonger, was 20-40 at James’ birth in 1731, his birth range would be 1691 – 1711. This is much later than the original estimate of 1640-1660 if he was an adult in 1680 when ‘brother’ John Guthrie left Scotland for Ireland. If we go with the original estimate of James being born 1640-1660, he would be 51-71 years of age in 1731 at James’ birth. Not impossible, but less likely.

Just as in the case of Robert Guthrie, it appears that James Guthrie is more likely to be the son of John Guthrie Sr than his brother.

Could the Alternate family structure be as follows?

John Guthrie Sr (born 1640-1660 SCT – died 1730 CT)
1) Unidentified Son
2) Robert Guthrie of Chester County, PA (born 1673-1704 – died after 1735)
3) James Guthrie of Chester County, PA (born 1691-1711 – died unknown)
4) John Guthrie of Connecticut (born 1700CT – died1756CT)

The available records do not seem to provide the connections revealed by the Three Brothers Family Legend. We need those early Connecticut land and property records to see if they show any evidence of the original story versus this potential alternative.

Below, you will find the records and resources that I have collected as part of this search. The data can also be found in the new Research & Resources section of the Guthrie Genealogy site. I will add content to it as I find the time to transfer my notes. In the meantime, take a look and think about the Three Brothers Origin Story.


I found two references to forges run by Guthrie men. None mentioning John Guthrie. However, it does indicate that the family was in the iron business.

Woodville-Commings Forge aka Guthrie’s Forge
Originally built by Pratt and Hitchcock in the 1780s, the forge came under the control of Elias Guthrie by 1797, and was referred to as Guthrie’s forge until taken over by Commings. The Commings/Cummings Forge was located in the vicinity of the junction of present day Route 202 and Route 341 (1988). [SOURCE]

Note: Elias Guthrie, born 1769, was the son of Joseph Guthrie & Rachel Hand, and grandson to John Guthrie & Abigail Coe.

Guthrie-Chittenden Forge
Joseph Guthrie and Elijah Mallory built a bloomery forge in 1794. Frank Chittenden bought the Guthrie Forge in 1836 and it continued operations at least until the 1840s.

Gordon, R. (1995). Material Evidence of Ironmaking Techniques. IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, 21(2), 69-80. Retrieved January 14, 2020, from

LRG writes that the first record found for John Guthrie in Connecticut is as a resident of Durham, Middlesex County where he had moved for safety during the Indian wars on the frontier in Litchfield County. He reportedly lived there about 7 years, and from there moved to Stratford, Fairfield County where he bought the home of Samuel Beardsley on 1 Nov 1726. He returned to Durham about 1734 and soon settling in Woodbury, Litchfield County where he became a wealthy and influential citizen. This refers to John Guthrie the son.

The family of John Guthrie and Abigail Coe is fairly well documented. They had 7 sons: John, James, William, James, Joseph, Ephraim, and Ebenezer, and 4 daughters: Mary, Abigail, Sarah, and Lydia. John Guthrie’s last will and testament written 29 June 1756 was probated 18 Aug 1756.


Documents related to ownership of real estate are recorded within each district by the Clerk of the Town. Image previews and paid downloads are available for some records, but not for the earliest deeds. These could potentially provide the best clues about John Guthrie, the immigrant, and whether or not Robert and James Guthrie were present in Connecticut.
See: Connecticut Land Records

The following 4 small collections are at the Family History Library:

Judd, Sylvester, comp.,Judd Manuscripts (Connecticut). Includes land, vital and town records, 1635 to 1850 with an index. (Microfilm of manuscript at Forbes Public Library, Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1960.) FHL films 234515 to 234517 with index on film 250287.

Colonial Land Records of Connecticut, 1640-1846, Including Patents, Deeds, and Surveys of Land, Includes a partial index. (Microfilm of originals at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, Connecticut. Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954.) FHL films 3656 to 3658.

Judd, Sylvester and Connecticut State Library. Land Lotteries and Divorces of Connecticut, 1755 to 1789, with Index. (Microfilm of originals at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, Connecticut. Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954.) FHL films 3617 and 3618.

Winthrop, Robert C. Robert C. Winthrop Collection, Connecticut Manuscripts, 1631-1794. (Microfilm of originals at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, Connecticut. Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954.) FHL film 3644.

Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776:
Volume 1: April 1636 – April 1665 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 2: May 1665 – November, 1677 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 3: May 1678 – June 1689 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 4: August 1689 – May 1706 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 5: October 1706 – October 1716 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 6: May 1717 – October 1725 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 7: May 1726 – October 1735 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 8: October 1735 – October 1743 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 9: May 1744 – November 1750 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 10: May 1751 – February 1757 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 11: May 1757 – March 1762 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 12: May 1762 – October 1767 – One Guthrie Entry
Upon the memorial of Nathan Tibbals, Stephen Starkweather, William Wedge, Jedediah Durkee, William Guthrie, and Ephraim Guthrie, all of the society of East Greenwich in the town of Kent, representing the difficulty of attending public worship in said society, and praying to be annexed to the society of New Preston, where they can more conveniently attend &c.
Volume 13: May 1768 – May 1772 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 14: October 1772 – April 1775 – No Guthrie Entries
Volume 15: May 1775 – June 1776 – One Guthrie Entry
This Assembly do establish Joseph Guthrie to be Ensign of the 10th company or trainband in the 13th regiment in this Colony.

FINANCE and CURRENCY, Second Series, 1689/90-1820
Guthrie, Joseph (A) Kent lister, certificate, 1773 — IX:48

Connecticut archives. Revolutionary war, June 1765-May 1820 : Six Volumes and Index
Guthrie, James, Washington, petition with certificate by comptroller, showing that he served as a soldier in the regiment commanded by Col. Swift & that there is a balance due him of L11 1s 10d & praying for liberty to receive same. Resolve granting petition, May 1793 — III:221,222
Guthrie, Patience, Danbury, loss in Britain raid, mentioned, 1792 – I:51c,63v
Guthrie, Patience, Danbury, Western lands grantee, 1792 – I:63v

Connecticut archives. Towns and lands, 1629-1789 : ten volumes and index: INDEX
Guthrie, Ebenezer, Southbury petition – X:133b, 134a
Guthrie, Ephraim, Washington petition – IX:208b
Guthrie, Joseph, Washington petition – IX:208b
Guthrie, William, Washington petition – IX:209b
Gutterage, Gutrage, Gutteredge
” Col. – V:15
” Richard (A) – I:70b
” Richard, land from Mohegans – III:187L

Ninth Regiment – Col. Webb.
Short Term Levies, 1779, Abstract Pay for the Six Months Recruits
Abraham Guthrie, Fairfield, Commencement of Service: 26 Aug, Expiration of Service: 4 Dec

Campaign of 1758 / Pay Roll 1758 / Endorsed by Capt. Jos. Canfield
Ephraim Guthrie, Time of Enlistment: April 2, Discharged: November 11

Lists and returns of Connecticut men in the Revolution, 1775-1783
Returns of Men in Service, 1777-1779
(The following men received bounty.)
James Guthery
James Guthra, Danbury, Company__, Regiment Col Beardly, Time they enlisted for: During Ye War, Detached to Serve til 1st Jan Next
Sixteenth Regiment
A Return of the Noncommision officers and Soldiers enlisted into the Connecticut Line of the Continental army belonging to the 16th Regiment of militia as Returned by the Commanding officers of the Companies on ye 10th Day of May 1779.
Capt. Richard Barnum’s – Danbury
James Guthrie
Sixteenth Regiment
Recruits raised within the 16th Regiment to join the Connecticut Line in the Continental Army in the year 1780. Bounties paid them in july 1780, and for Blankets.
Abel Guthrie
Connecticut Line 1781-1783 – Revolution Lists and Returns
May 16th Abel Guthrie, procured in New Fairfield
Third Company – Capt Betts – 3rd Regiment – Commanded by Col. Webb
Muster Rolls for February 1782
Abel Guthrie, Nov 19, 1780, Term: 3 years
First Company – Capt. Betts – 3rd Regiment – Commanded by Col. Webb
Muster Rolls for Dec 1782-Jan 1783
Privates Include: Abel (?) Guthrey, Term of Enlistment: 9 Months 14 days


The indexed land records below can be found at USLANDRECORDS. The earliest online records are from 1792, but many do not include images of the records. Those documents that do include images can be previewed without purchase, but the site does charge for official image downloads.

Land documents remain at the Town Clerk’s office for each Township, and are not available at the county level. The only two locations found with any records online for the 1800s are Southbury and Middlebury. If you have access to the compiled records in book format, please share some info from those early records.


Since Connecticut is being a bit stingy with clues about its earliest Guthrie settlers, let’s switch gears and take a look at Chester County, Pennsylvania. This is where Robert Guthrie, designated as one of the Three Brothers, first shows up.



Samuel Guthrie is likely the GFG2A-Branch C progenitor Samuel Guthrie c1700-1746DE who married Mary MNU and purchased land in New Castle County, DE in 1737. Amongst his children are sons named Adam and Robert. He is a good candidate to be the 4th unidentified son of John Guthrie Sr.

Robert Guthrie of Fallowfield and Nantmeal are believed to be the same man. This is the Robert Guthrie identified by LRG to be Robert Guthrie the Ironmonger of Edinburgh (Branch B) and brother to John and James.

The Londonderry & Oxford entries above and below are for John Guthrie 1708IRE-1790PA from GFG2A-Branch H.

Archibald Guthery is likely to be the theorized father of Branch D lines John (1744) and Archibald (1753). He was listed as a private during the French and Indian War and made a New Purchase application for a 300 acre tract in Westmoreland County, PA in 1769.

Robert Guthrie of East Nottingham is supposed to be the son of Branch C’s Samuel Guthrie who died single in 1750. Does that mean the Nottingham entries for Adam Guthrie are likely to be Robert’s brother/Samuel’s son Adam Guthrie?

Adam Guthrie of West Nantmeal is Branch B. Husband to Mercy Irwin.

James Guthrie of West Caln is either James Guthrie the Ironmonger of Edinburgh (if he existed) or his ‘son’ James Guthrie. The son was born in 1731 and would be 18-19 by the first of the entries.

Adam Guthrie of West Nantmeal & East Caln – Branch B
James Guthrie of West Caln & East Caln – Branch I
John Guthrie of Oxford – Branch H
Samuel Guthrie? of West Fallowfield – unknown
William Guthrie of Tredyffrin – unknown

There are frequent entries for James Guthrie who owned a tavern called the Plow and Harrow in East Caln Township. These tavern petitions were either accepted or turned down for various reasons.
A – Allowed (license granted)
D – Disallowed (no license granted)
B – Bond
R – Remonstrance (petition against the issuance of a tavern license)

SERIES 3 – Militia Rolls and Land Warrantees
Listed in Order of Volume (11 – 26)


  1. Excellent post. I can relate to a number of the pitfalls described here.

    Family lore has it that I’m descended from John Adams and John Quincy Adams. So far no evidence has been found to indicate that it’s true.

    Generational differences can be even trickier, even when the relationship appears obvious. I once ran across census records showing older siblings caring for a larger number of younger siblings. I would never have thought twice about it except that two of them had the same name. After locating death records for the parents it became obvious that the younger children could not be siblings. It’s doubtful I will ever be able to determine who their mother was but I eventually was able to determine their father was another sibling. His wife had apparently died and his siblings were caring for his children while he looked for work elsewhere. Tracking it all down was difficult enough with today’s tools. I can’t help wondering how many errors have crept into older genealogies due to issues of this type.

    I’m looking forward to studying this in more detail.

    Anne Harshman

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