Most Likely Origins of Abraham Temple

Abraham Temple,of Salem, Massachusetts, and His Most Likely Origin

Now, for the pessimistic view of Abraham Temple's origins. There have been several theories advanced - from Royal birth to his birth in a former Templar Church in London, assuming the surname of the orphanage. Several articles in this section of the webpage have presented what some researchers have thought - but none of them offer documentary proof - they are all suppositions.

Over a hundred years of trying to shoe-horn him into a regal lineage have failed - there is no proof despite the best efforts of several genealogists to make it happen.

Although Levi Temple may have considered Abraham might be related to the line of Peter Temple of Stowe, England, the first outright suggestion relates to Dr. Henry Curtis Temple in his 1930 genealogy of the family. The next major genealogists, Albert Temple (and with some degree of reluctance at the conclusion, Danny Smith), went out of his way to "prove" that relationship, but was unable to come up with anything but conjecture. This train of thought is extensively covered in the notes on Abraham found on his entry in the website. What can be proven by other means reveals it is wishful thinking.

Saying Abraham was related to anyone at Stowe, or English royalty of any kind, has no basis in documentation. There are indeed other lines of Temples (Bowdoin Temples) in North America that also claim genealogical descent from the Temples of Stowe, but even the pedigree of Robert Temple (b 1691) of "Ten Hills," Boston, MA, and his wife Mehitable is based on conjecture and lacks any independent genealogical evidence.

As for the Temples of Stowe and their descent in North America, research by Leo Palmer, which he has kindly provided for my use on this website, indicates "...that the pedigree of other Massachusetts Temples (Bowdoin Temple branch) that reputedly links then to Stowe is problematic. This is because they have their own version of the 'Abraham Temple problem' on their tree in regards to Robert Temple of Ten Hills and his wife Mehitable.
"Specifically the childless Sir Richard Temple, 7th Baronet of Stowe, knew he had some distant Temple kin that settled in colonial Massachusetts, so he sent a general correspondence to Boston looking for kin. Ultimately the correspondence reached a Mr. John Temple (son of Robert Temple from Ten Hills, MA) and he wrote back saying he was his long lost kin. Sir Richard then said by letter that he was now his heir without proof
"The only problem is that this John Temple (1732-1798) actually was actually descended from a different Temple family from Ireland. Some vanity publishing houses like Burke’s nevertheless accepted fees to publish this new revised and imaginary pedigree (now showing a double-link to Stowe), while others like Cracroft's Peerage instead called John Temple 'The self-styled 8th Baronet' since his claim was totally bogus except for the previous Baronet’s declaration."
"Since the Bowdoin Temple branch’s claim to Stowe can’t be independently verified, neither the College of Arms Heralds nor the Monarch has ever confirmed it. In the British peerage, titles like the 'Baronet of Stowe' and  'Sir' are conferred and confirmed by the Monarch alone. However, their descendants kind of won the battle of public opinion, by publishing books and articles about their genealogy that are then used as proof in a circular fashion. Proof would be an original document conferring such a title which, if it existed at all, is by now lost."
I should hasten to add that this same sort of baseless circular reasoning led Albert Temple and Danny Smith to propose a royal origin for Abraham Temple in their book, "Rise of the Temples: A Millennium of Progress."

What little we know of Abraham is from the records of Salem, MA, where he was as early as 1636, since he was accepted as an inhabitant of the town before 21 June of that year. Family lore in one branch of Abraham's descent says that Abraham was a stowaway, but there is no evidence to confirm or disprove this. The ship on which he sailed is also unknown. Although he was apprenticed as a tailor, there is evidence to suggest he was a mechanic (according to Levi Temple). That is about as far as records take us on this side of the Atlantic.

I had thought for a longtime that DNA sequencing would hold the key, given enough samples of proven Abraham descendants, to develop a “most common” DNA profile, leading to the characteristics of Abraham’s DNA. That then, so the reasoning went, would allow us to define the family or families most closely aligned with Abraham’s parentage, and that would prove, once and for all, whether Abraham was an orphan or actually related to minor royalty, or that he was actually a Temple. Looking farther into DNA testing in general, and particularly 23andMe and AncestryDNA, I now no longer believe with the testing now available, the tools for DNA analysis, nor even our understanding of the underlying DNA itself, allows such conclusions to be drawn. Not that it won’t ever be so, but for right now, no. Two excellent sources to explain what turned me around are Adam Rutherford’s “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold through Our Genes” and his summary published in Scientific American, “How Accurate Are Online DNA Tests?” published 15 Oct 2018.

Finally, at least one avenue of possibilities has been closed through solid research and backed-up with documentary evidence. This is research done at Duke University, examining the original registries of the Temple Church where Abraham was thought to have been a foundling. The researcher, Jason Klascius-Fernandez, kindly shared the results of his research with me, and I provide it here for the benefit of all Abraham's descendants.

He wrote: "I did some research that may interest you. As you know one of the popular theories about Abraham Temple’s origin was that he was a foundling (orphan) of the famous and historic Temple Church of England. Even in some of the surname dictionaries there is even a disclaimer warning that many orphans were given the surname Temple when they were baptized at the Temple Church. So for fun, I decided to see to check the Temple Church registry line by line myself. Luckily, the staff at Duke University helped me to view an electronic copy of the register.

"Over the centuries there were lots of foundlings (orphans) given the name “Temple” for their baptism at Temple Church, but there was absolutely no record whatsoever for an Abraham Temple in the Temple Church records before 1636. 

"I did find other records for foundlings there for this period of time, but they were given different surnames presumably after saints (no Temples listed). So I keep checking the register beyond 1636 to see if there were any Temple foundlings listed at all. Eventually I found some, based on the Temple Church registry records the first foundlings given the surname Temple (i.e. Isaac, James, Margaret, etc ) happened after 1690.

"Moreover, the earliest example of a foundling being posthumously given the surname “Temple” according the Church’s burial records section was “Ann Temple” in 1697. So the this naming practice for giving foundling the surname Temple actually stated 54 years after Abraham Temple (an adult) settled in Salem, Massachusetts.

"Based on the the evidence (Temple Church registry), Abraham Temple was never a foundling (orphan) at Temple Church. Thus, this theory of Abraham Temple being an orphan of Temple Church in London has clearly been debunked."

So - the bottom line - at this point, unless tracking X-chromosomal DNA advances significantly beyond current technology, or some as yet unfound documentation - missed by over a hundred years of researchers trying to find any shred of evidence to "prove" their theory - is found, we do not and may not ever know the origins of Abraham, the original Temple immigrant to North America, who arrived at Salem, MA.

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