The Burdick family has a long and distinguished history. Much of what is known of the family comes from a remarkable book entitled "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island" that was compiled by Nellie Willard Johnson and published in 1937.
The manuscripts of William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt, an earlier researcher, provided most of the information on the earlier generations and Nellie brought it up to date through research and correspondance. Her book lists tens of thousands of Burdicks throughout the country.
The book has been out of print for many years and most reside in libraries across the country. Occasionally an original copy will come up for sale, they are a real collector's item. Reprints are available through the Higginson Book Company of Salem, MA.
This web site is a continuation of Nellie's efforts. The goal is to update the Burdick genealogy, filling in the family additions since 1937 as well as filling in as many missing branches of the family tree as possible.
Many believe the Burdick family is an offshoot of the well-documented Burdette (or Burditt or Burdett) family of England. Another theory indicates that the family name originated in the Rhine region of Germany, where the name "Burdick" has been recorded since the 1200s and where Burdicks still live today. DNA evidence shows no definitive link between the Burdick and Burdette family, but it also does not show any German link either. Research continues.
What is unique about the name "Burdick" is that only a single early immigrant with that name came to the New World. The name first appears in the official colonial records of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. That immigrant was Robert, aged 18, and he arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1651. His name was first officially recorded in 1655, only thirty years after the Pilgrims arrival.
Robert married a fifteen year old girl named Ruth Hubbard in the fall of 1655. Ruth had the distinction of being the first white child born in Agawam in the Massachusetts colony, a settlement that was later named Springfield. Ruth's father, Samuel, had come to Salem in 1633 and he was a bit of an individualist. He married his wife, Tasy Cooper, in January of 1636 after marching through the winter woods from Watertown, MA to become one of the founding families of Connecticut. Because of his Baptist views he sought refuge in the more religiously tolerant Rhode Island Colony in 1648. In December of 1671 he, his wife, his daughter, and a handful of others formed the Seventh Day Baptist Church of America.
Well, back to the Burdicks. As I said, the Burdicks may be related to the Burdettes, Burdetts, and Burditts of England. William Burditt came to Virginia in 1615. George Burdett or Burditt arrived in Salem in 1633 and his descendants retained the spelling "Burditt." But by this date the Burdette family already had a long history in England. The first "Burdets" arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Two brothers, Robert and Hugh, appear in the Roll of Battle Abbey and both appear in the Domesday Book as sub-tenants in Leicestershire. The family was granted an official Coat of Arms, issued by King William himself for loyalty. William Burdet, in 1223, was a member of the Crusades to the Holy Land in the time of Henry II. It appears that the name "Burdet" was an Anglicized version of the French "Bourdet." Before they came to England with the Normans they were Barons of Cuilly near Falaise in Normandy.
So young Robert and his younger wife settled down on a farm in what was to become Westerly, Rhode Island. Back then the colonies feuded quite regularly, trying to grab each others land. You guessed it, Robert and Ruth, along with a few other hardy settlers, planted roots right in the middle of a tract claimed by both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In 1661 Massachusetts officials ambushed and arrested Robert and another farmer, Tobias Saunders. Robert and Tobias soon became the focus of a 17th Century Mexican Standoff. For two years Rhode Island tried to negotiate their release. So finally, the Rhode Island Swamp Yankees did the only reasonable thing left: they abducted two Massachusetts officials and a prisoner swap took place. Oh, and the land dispute? The big shots in England split the land between Connecticut and Rhode Island. Sorry Massachusetts! Robert's house happened to be on the Rhode Island side where Westerly is today. So that's why it's "Robert Burdick of Rhode Island" instead of "Robert Burdick of Connecticut." At least I now know why I have a distrust of government -- it's genetic!
When Robert and Ruth settled down they did so in a prolific fashion. Thomas, Naomi, Ruth, Deborah, Roger, Benjamin, Samuel, Tacy, Robert Jr., and Hubbard, to be specific. Their children were born between 1656 and 1676 with a discrete gap in the early 1660s when Robert was -- uh -- out of town. A final child, born in 1678, died as an infant which seemed to put an end to the kids. So all of us Burdicks can trace our pedigrees back to one of Robert's sons. For the first couple of generations the Burdicks were a population force to be reckoned with in southwest Rhode Island. In fact, my own grandfather kept the string going in the Westerly area until he left for Detroit in the 1920s.
The family has been well represented in military conflicts throughout the years. Burdicks fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and every conflict of the 20th Century. Burdicks were a part of the westward expansion, homesteading in Kansas, the Dakotas, and everywhere in between. We've also done our part in the homogenization of late 20th Century America. You'll find Burdicks in every state and throughout Canada. The growth of our family mirrors the grow of the United States. We have been involved in many aspects of our country's history, many of which you will find on this web site. We're everywhere. And we're all related.