Where did the name ‘Cone’ in my family tree come from?

Last week a friend/ cousin asked me a question in the “Knight Family Connections” Facebook page. She asked me if I knew where the name “Cone” in our family tree came from. It got me to go poking around, and I found the wonderful and surprising answer. At least, I found the most likely answer anybody has, and it is wonderful and surprising.

I spent some time researching the ancestry of my 5th great grandfather, William Cone (b. 1745 Haddam, Middlesex, Ct. d. 1816 Ivanhoe, Bulloch, Georgia.) He is a celebrated Revolutionary War Captain, and an ancestor of my grandmother, Aileen Knight Haberman. I have been curious about his birthplace for a couple of reasons. First, I had seen some conflicting information. Most sources said that he was born in Connecticut, but I had seen some indication that he might have hailed from North Carolina like his wife, Keziah Barber. I wanted to straighten that out. Second, because he was connected to my Knight family and he fought with a Georgia regiment in the Revolution, I thought of him as a Georgian. Virtually all of my ancestors in the Knight/ Speir branch of my family come from Georgia pioneers who come from Carolina pioneers who come from Virginia pioneers. In other words, they are Southerners from day one. It seemed strange to see “Connecticut” in the midst of them.

It didn’t take long to find the best answer anybody has found so far. Very early in my search, I discovered “Some Account of the Cone Family in America Principally of the Descendants of Daniel Cone who Settled in Haddam Connecticut in 1662” by William Whitney Cone, 1903. My 5th great grandfather was indeed born in Haddam, Ct., and my ancestor Daniel Cone was one of the original settlers of Haddam in 1662. Page 118 of the 1903 book lists Aaron Cone, baptized Feb 2, 1734, a grandson of Daniel Cone. Daniel was the first of this Cone line in America. After Aaron’s name the book states, “Son William moved to Virginia,” and that son is most likely my 5th Great Grandfather. In the Library of Congress version of this book (but not the Google Play version) there is a handwritten note in pencil on p.118 under the information about Aaron’s son William moving to Virginia. It says, “see page 483 (6481.)” Then, on page 483 of the book, we find that my 5th ggf, William Cone is 6481. His entry contains all of the information we know to be true of him, including that his daughter, Sarah, married William Knight. They are my 4th great grandparents, the parents of William Cone Knight, who is the father of Aaron W. Knight, who is the father of my Great Granddad Joe Knight.

I have saved the most interesting for last. Just where did the name Cone come from? Well, there are other Cones, but in this line, it all starts with Daniel in 1657. He is mentioned in a correspondence from the Governor of Connecticut in that year, but before that, Daniel Cone does not exist. He had to have come from somewhere, but William Whitney Cone, in 1903, could find no record of the name Daniel Cone in the American Colonies, nor in other lands before 1657. The name Daniel Cone does not appear on any ship’s passenger list. It is as if he simply materialized in 1657 out of thin air.

I am not about to tell you that I descended from aliens from outer space. The truth, as usual, is much more plausible, and thus, much more interesting. Most Cone family researchers believe that Daniel Cone was born in Edinburg, Scotland in 1626, served in the Scottish Army, and came to America in November of 1651 aboard the ‘John and Sarah’ with other Scottish prisoners of war captured by Cromwell in the battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) and shipped to the colonies as indentured servants. A passenger listed as Daniel Machoe was one of the prisoners of war aboard the ‘John and Sarah’ when it sailed from Gravesend, England to Charles Town, MA, via Barbados, and this brave Scotsman was most likely the man who emerged as Daniel Cone when his indenture was complete.

There is always more to discover, and this attempt to tell the Cone story feels like changing the wheel on a moving car. Even as I write this I am discovering that another descendant has published a book in 2010 called “A Man Named Daniel: The Remarkable Life of Daniel Cone.” The author, Joseph Cone, is a graduate of Yale and the University of Oregon and is a faculty member at Oregon State University. This is his third book. He claims that Daniel, as a prisoner of war, was indentured to the most prominent Puritan family of early New England, the Winthrops, and that Daniel is mentioned in a number of primary source documents that prove Daniel’s history in New England and in his native Scotland. I look forward to learning more about this slice of history- Britain’s, America’s, and my family’s history.