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Ralph Hemenway

A discussion about Ralph Hemenway - Ancestor of Ernest

For those of you interested in Ralph Hemenway, who is the undisputed earliest recorded ancestor of a great many North American Hemingways including the famous author Ernest Hemingway, I have chosen to express a few thoughts here.  I am not disputing the lines back to Ralph at all.  A great many individuals have undertaken this research and I believe they have all reached the same conclusion.  That is that they are descended from Ralph Hemenway who married Elizabeth Hewes in Roxbury 5 July 1634.  Ralph had at least seven children with Elizabeth between 1635 and 1647 and he died 1 June 1678.  Amongst other locations where this is well documented, is an excellent 856 page text that is still in print that was produced by Patricia S Hemingway.*

However, a statement made in the book and repeated in various forms in other works is that Ralph Hemenway, “…was born c1603 near Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England”.  There is no evidence that I have seen that can support this assertion.    I have tried very hard and a great many other researchers have struggled to try to find any evidence of Ralph’s parents, birthplace or even record of emigration to North America.  To date, none of these have been found.

Having failed to find any evidence of his origins, I am led to believe that a very real possibility is that Ralph Hemenway, was not a Hemenway at all.  Given that he just “appears” in the Roxbury records in 1634 with no trace of an origin or in any passenger list, I am led to believe that he perhaps assumed the Hemenway name when starting his new life in Roxbury, or what is now Boston, Mass, USA.

The longer that I have had to reflect upon this theory, the more trust I have in its value.  I am the first to admit that I have no more hard evidence to support the suggestion than those that say that Ralph came from England, but whilst we search for any hard evidence of his origin, it must be a very real possibility.  It is for this reason that I believe that all those Hemenways and Hemingways etc in North America, including Ernest and his family, may not Hemenways or Hemingways in the usual or genetic sense.  However, they carry the surname of Hemenway and Hemingway (or a similar variant) and they are perfectly entitled to do so, but cannot claim to be descended from a Yorkshire Hemingway, without some hard evidence.  One of the reasons that I have created the Hemingway DNA Project is in order to try to provide some hard evidence about the family of Ralph Hemenway in the hope that we will sooner or later provide some evidence to prove or disprove the connection.  If you are a male (direct line) descendent of Ralph, it is vital that you join our project.

Meanwhile, I urge all researchers not to promulgate this myth that Ralph was a Hemingway from Bradford or anywhere else in England until there is some evidence.

*Copies of Patricia’s book entitled The Hemingways (Past & Present and Allied Families) published 1988 are available from :

    Ernest H Mainland
    PO Box 488
    Michigan 49770

Ernest Mainland will ship a copy anywhere in the world for US$45.00.  Copies to USA postal codes will cost US$35.00.  Payment should be made by any financial institutions check (cheque) or money order, payable in US Dollars, and sent to and made payable to Ernest H Mainland.    Email Ernie at