Friday, January 28, 2011

Tiffany-a Gem of a Surname

My great grandmother was a Tiffany. Although I was a little afraid of her as a little girl and not real connected as a teenager, she has turned out to be a pretty fascinating woman and I intend to tell you more about her in a later story. But today, I thought I would write a little about that Tiffany line in general. We were always told that we were related to THE Tiffanys, but were descended from the wrong brother.
Five generations: Ethel Marsh Tiffany Paige holds her great great granddaughter, Corina while my mother Loraine and her mother Elinore and my brother Charles look on. 1969

Although, I do have a Tiffany diamond, passed down to me from my grandmother, Elinor Tiffany Paige Waters. So, with that bit of information I went out looking to see just where we were in regards to THE Tiffany's.
 I have done a lot of research and have been able to document back to my 10th great grandfather, Henry Tiffany born in Yorkshire England in 1577. Henry's son was born in London stayed there all his life. Henry Jr and his wife, Elizabeth, had a son Humphrey in 1630 who decided to make the voyage to America some time about 1660.

There is a lot of information on the Tiffany family. One of  the funniest things I found was a description of what the Tiffanys as a "race" were like. In the book The Tiffany's of America: A History and Geneaology, by Nelson Otis Tiffany For and in the Interest of Charles Lewis Tiffany of New York City  the author writes:

The Tiffanys are as a rule, physically strong, from medium to large stature, many being over six feet in height. They are too high-spirited and active to take on a suberabundance of flesh, are stately in bearing, erect in carriage, quick and clear-cut in movement, and have large heads, the upper brain developed in excess of the base. The head is well carried on a sturdy neck. The chest is deep, the lungs large and full, the body and limbs round, well knit, closely jointed. The shoulders are inclined to droop, with the arms carried close to the body. Skin and hair are fine in texture, nails are thin, giving evidence of a sensitive and somewhat nervous organization, the mental predominating over the physical. The faces are comely, with nose straight or slightly arched, nostrils large, indicating strong and full lung capacity, and the line from the nostril to the corner of the mouth, known as the line of success, is sharply defined...

The complexion is usually dark, but not swarthy, the eyes are brown, dark blue or dark gray. A blonde Tiffany is practically unknown. Probably the most marked characteristic of the Tiffanys is the expression of the eye, which is as positive and distinct as the Maximillian lip...The Tiffany eye is the first feature to attract the attention of a close observer. It is bright, giving evidence of temperate habits. Its expression changes rapidly with the mood, indicating health and buoyancy, sympathy, grief, determination, or anger, wtih quickness and unerring certainty. It is a Tiffany mark. The Tiffanys are good livers, and are fastidious in dress. As a race, the Tiffanys are long-lived, retaining their mental faculties unimpaired to a good old age."

Now, as most of you know, I stand about 5'1" if I stretch. I don't really fit many of these characteristics,  certainly I am not "too high-spirited or active to take on a superabundance of flesh".  But, my eyes do change with my moods, I think, which the author says indicates health and buoyancy. And, I am healthy and indeed, very buoyant. So there are some characteristics that survived.

Humphrey Tiffany was the first Tiffany referred to in the record books on this side of the pond. He was a well known character in his day, living in Swansea, Rehobeth, Attleboro and that area of Massachusetts. His wife's name was Elizabeth, but we don't know her maiden name. He was known as Squire Humphrey, which indicated he was justice of the peace. He was a taxpayer and a successful guy, from what I've read. But his biggest claim to fame, aside from being our immigrant ancestor, was how he died.

From the diary of Samuel Sewall.   "Wednesday, P. M., July 15. Very dark and great Thunder and Lightening. One Humphrey Tiffany and Frances Low, Daughter of Antony Low, are slain with the Lightening and Thunder about a mile or a half a mile beyond Billingses Farm, the Horse also slain, that they rode on, and another Horse in Company slain, and his rider who held the garment on to steady it at the time of the Stroke, a coat or cloak, stounded but not killed. Were coming to Boston.  Antony Low being in Town the sad Bill was put up with regard of that Solemn judgement of God; Fast day Forenoon.  July 15, 1685. 2 Persons 2 Horses." 

Historians think that Squire Humphrey and Ms. Low were probably in Canton when lightning struck them. A plaque was placed on the spot of their demise, and was there for years, well into the 19th century that read:

"Squire Humphrey Tiffany and Mistress Lowe,
by a stroke of lightning into eternity did go."

As I read the account from Sewall's diary, I wondered if this is where the expression "...and the horse they rode in on" came from. I am wondering why Squire Humphrey and Mistress Low shared the same horse, aren't you? He was married with lots of children at the time of his death.

One of those children, continuing up into my tree, was James, born in Milton, MA in 1665. He married first Bethiah Fuller, with whom he had thirteen children between 1693 and her death in 1711, the last being born in 1710. Do the math. That poor woman! After poor Bethiah passed on to a well deserved eternal peace, James married another woman named Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) and had another 4 kids. James died in 1732, leaving a long will naming all of his surviving children and his second wife, who married right away, outlived the second husband and married again.

But my ancestor was James, the second child of James and Bethiah born in 1697 in Attleboro, or Bristol, RI, depending on which record you believe. He also married an Elizabeth and if you are counting, that makes 4 generations in a row of Tiffany men marrying 4 different Elizabeths. Not easy to keep track of. However, for this Elizabeth we have more information.  She was Elizabeth Allen born in Attleboro in 1704 to Rachel and Increase Allen. Don't you just love that name? Elizabeth and James Jr, had seven children. James lived to be 79 years old and died in 1776.

One of his sons was Daniel, my ancestor, and another I want to mention was Daniel's brother Ebenezer. More about him later.

Now, Daniel was a Revolutionary War Veteran but long before the war, he married Miriam Hodges in 1760. He  was 21 and she was just 15. I'd love to know more about that story, but all I know is that she died a year later, leaving no children. Then, in 1762 he married Mary Woodcock, who had 10 children by Daniel, including Edmond Hodges Tiffany, my 4th great grandfather, undoubtedly named in memory of Daniel's first love. I wonder how Mary liked that? Mary died  after 25 years of marriage and Daniel married a 3rd time at the age of 50, fathered one more child and lived out his life near his birthplace of Attleboro, dying at the age of 78 in Norton, MA.

Edmond Hodges Tiffany married a gal, also named Mary, who was from Woodstock, Connecticut and settled there with her. They had two children: Lucy and Edmond Prelate Tiffany, for whom I have an obituary.

Click on the clipping to enlarge.
Edmond Prelate was the first one to bring the family to Southbridge, where the next 3 generations were born: Harlan, my great great grandfather, Ethel my great grandmother Elinor my grandmother. Edmond's obituary was eloquently written, I think, and tells us quite a bit about old great great great Grampa. He was a machinist, not a jeweler, however.

Edmond's son, Harland Tiffany is a fellow I have quite a bit of information about from the book of newspaper clippings I have. He was my great grandmother's father, and a very well-known man about town in Southbridge, MA in his day. He worked for American Optical company for 50 years before retirement. He had no sons and so his name stopped with Ethel Marsh Tiffany Page. But his is a story I'd really like to tell one day.

But let's get back to Ebenezer, Daniels' brother. Ebenezer had a son named Comfort.

Chloe and Comfort
Comfort married Chloe and moved to New York and there a son, Charles Lewis Tiffany was born. He would become the jeweler.

Charles Lewis Tiffany
Charles had a son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the designer and maker of Tiffany lamps.

Louis Comfort Tiffany
So, as it turns out, Charles Lewis Tiffany is my 2nd cousin 5 times removed. And Louis Comfort, my 3rd cousin 4 times removed.

The Tiffany diamond I have, was given to me as a baby by my grandmother, who received it herself as a baby. I think it is visible in this picture of her as a baby.

It may even go back further than that. There is no Tiffany & Co. mark anywhere, so it may just be family folklore, but who cares. I am still going to call it my Tiffany diamond. Here is a picture of me wearing it and a closeup for a little perspective.

Me at about age 1 wearing my Tiffany diamond.

If you get really close to the screen and squint, you maybe can make out an actual diamond in there that's no bigger than FDR's ear. It's the quality that counts, though, right?

So, there is the Tiffany story in a nutshell. I will go into more depth about some of these folks at another time. For now, just remember, if you need a diamond, I probably can't get it for you wholesale.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting and amazing story! I am also part of the Tiffany line (my mother was a Tiffany) - however they are the ones who joined Joseph Smith and the Mormons, made their way across the country via Navoo
and on to Salt Lake City, then Pondtown (renamed Salem), Utah. Mother was duly baptized in Mt. Glen, Oregon (near La Grand), but did not stay with the church. I have a lot if information on this line of the Tiffanys. My great grandfather was a sgt. in the war against the Indians (Black Hawk War - 1865 - 1877(?). serving briefly. All of this line of Tiffanys had many offspring, none were wealth - most lived what I call a 'hard scrabble' existence. If you want more information on these Tiffanys you may email Jean Laurenson Skillman now living in Salem, Oregon (isn't that a coincidence?)

seth said...

My name is Seth Tiffany, I have been trying for a long time to find something about my history as a Tiffany. This story is the best I have found so far. I love the detail and easy way of reading. I am not sure if you can help me in my trek through this history. but would be greatful if you could see. If you would like to contact me please email me at
I would be so pleased to hear from you. Thank you so very much from one Tiffany to anothr.