Matthew Force

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ChartsAncestors of Adele La Force
Matthew Force, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), was born at England, between 1640 and 1645.1,2 He died before 1700.2,3,1

Matthew married Elizabeth Palmer, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), at Gravesend, Kings Co., New York, in April 1667.1,2,3,4

Matthew Force was almost certainly of England. His name does not appear in the records of Gravesend, New York, before 1666 so it is likely that his arrival in New York was related to the English takeover there in 1664. No passenger lists survive that show his arrival. Although long supposed to have been a French Hugenot, he acted much more like a normal English settler. In Kings Co., New York, when he arrived there, all the towns except one were Dutch, with many French inhabitants as well. Yet, Matthew chose Gravesend, a town founded by English religious dissenters. Non-English were not unknown in Gravesend; however, it is still curious that he would choose such a settlement if he were not English and a dissenter himself. It is still possible that he was of French descent, but from a family that had lived long enough in England to be considered English.

One long held tradition is that his arrival in America coincided with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. However, that event occurred in 1685, 20 years or so after New York records show him residing there.

5 Apr 1666, Ralph Cardell brought suit against Matthew Force in the court of sessions in Gravesend, New York for trespassing (Gravesend Records, p. 116).

Apr 1667, Gravesend granted a marriage license to Matthew Force and Elizabeth Palmer (orders, Warrants & Letters, p. 134, State Library, Albany). She was from a fairly distant town (Westchester). The English were very prone to marry other English, and Gravesend men frequently traveled great distances to find English brides, while eligible young women of Dutch and French background were nearby. His sons all chose to live in English communities, and there is no instance in which they are said to be of foreign descent. Matthew appears to have considered himself and been considered by others, to be an Englishman.

16 May 1671, Matthew Force, on Thomas Stillwell's behalf, recorded an earmark for his cattle on the Gravesend town book. 3 Jun 1671, while a resident of Gravesend, he entered into an agreement with John Grissell of Maspeth, on behalf of Grissell's daughter-in-law (probably stepdaughter) Hannah Banan, who was to serve Force two and one half years, in consideration of which, at its termination, Force was to furnish her with two suits of "comely and decent clothes and a heifer with calf, or one with a calf by her side." (Gravesend Records, p. 116).

13 Jul 1675, Matthew sold to Daniel Carfoe, one-half of a parcel of land in the city of New York which he had lately purchased from Allard Anthony (that deed apparently not recorded). The property exteded from Broadway to the Hudson River, and he was selling the half on the river.

4 May 1680, at Court of Record in New York, "Daniel Coffoe against Allard Anthony. He complains that about five years since he purchased of Matthew Force, a small parsel of ground in a place near ye Broadway where he now liveth, and paid for it by deed of sale. Notwithstanding which the defendant comes and demands in all, 9 pounds, one half of Francis Lee and the other half of the plaintiff." (New York Wills, p. 243). In a footnote, the editor indicates the land was on the south side of what is now called Exchange Alley.

There are some statements indicating Matthew died in New Jersey as late as 1700. The last reference to him as alive is 1675 (New York Wills, 2:464: Lib. 19B, p. 243). At that time he was almost certainly living in New York City. No one named Force appears on the assessment rolls of Kings or Queens Co. towns, which survive for 1675-6. It would be almost impossible for anyone to live in New York or New Jersey for another 25 years without appearing on some surviving record.

Although there are few church or bible records, or tombstones from that era, most government and legal records have survived. There is no will for Matthew, but this may not be unusual if he had disposed of all his real estate in 1675 and the rest of his estate was small enough that his wife and sons could settle it without legal action.

The four sons seem to have associated themselves with Elizabeth's family. Benjamin was in Newport in 1690 where his uncle Benjamin Palmer also had settled. Thomas went to Westchester, where Elizabeth's parents had made their home and had descendants.3,2,1


Elizabeth Palmer
  • Benjamin Force2,3,1 b. 1669, d. Aug 1734
  • Thomas Force+2,3,1 b. 1670, d. aft. 1722
  • Matthew Force2,3,1 b. 1671
  • Mark Force2,3,1 b. 1673
This person was last edited on2 Dec 2021


  1. [S283] "Force Manuscript Collection", 11 Mar 1980, Charles T. Galbraith (New York, New York). Research Report to Gregory Cooke (Vandenberg AFB, California); copy in the Gregory Cooke Clarkdale, Arizona.
  2. [S282] "Force", 17 Jul 1989, Rosemary F. Lovell (Picayne, Mississippi). Research Report to Gregory Cooke (Vandenberg AFB, California), 1-3; copy in the Gregory Cooke Clarkdale, Arizona.
  3. [S24] Mary Walton Ferris, Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Rufus R. Dawes: Volume I: Dawes and Allied Families (n. p., 1943), 1:647, further cited as Ferris, Dawes-Gates I.
  4. [S1872] Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011), 560, further cited as Torrey, New England Marriages (2011).