|Marriage record of Henry Freeman and Elizabeth Benue from the original Woodbridge town records at Rutgers' Special Collections and University Archives, New Brunswick, NJ. The entry reads as follows:|
"Henry Freeman was married to Elizabeth Benue: May the Sixteenth 1695: by Samll Hale, Justice of ye Pease"
The notion that Elizabeth, wife of Henry Freeman, was the daughter of James and Mary (Stout) Bowne is a fabrication of Orra Eugene Monnette put forth in his multi-volume, largely unreliable compendium First settlers of ye plantations of Piscataway and Woodbridge ... (1930-35). This falsehood, unfortunately, has been repeated without question by countless genealogists for the last 80 years because it provides (erroneously) a claim of descent from the heroic Penelope Stout.
Monnette's statement was, in actuality, a wild and entirely unfounded speculation based solely on the fact that Elizabeth's maiden surname appears as "Bonne" in the published vital records included in Joseph W. Dally's 1873 history of Woodbridge. Dally had probably copied "Bonne" correctly from a transcription of the records made by the Woodbridge Town Clerk in the late 18th century.
Reproduced here, however, is the first recording of the 1695 marriage. While the misreading of the name as "Bonne" is understandable, it is undeniably "Benue" based on the keystrokes and surrounding text. For fuller analysis of this, see Patty Barthell Myers's excellent genealogy, Ancestors and Descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman ... (1995), p. 6-8. Ms. Myers's book is the definitive work on the early Freemans.
The marriage entry above was penned into the original Woodbridge town book in the early 1700s, it being followed by a list of the children born to the couple. (This manner of grouping vital events by family, as a matter of public record, was a New England tradition carried forward into several colonial New Jersey towns.)
There is little question that "Benue" is an anglicization of the French name Baignoux. This is supported by family tradition that Elizabeth Freeman was of Huguenot ancestry. The veracity of "Benue" (as compared to Bonne, or the fabricated Bowne) is also evidenced by the fact that Elizabeth's real surname was carried down in her family for generations. The earliest examples are her grandsons Benyew Dunham (b. 1741) and Bennui Freeman (bapt. 1744), and her great-grandson Andrew Bennew Rock.
Note that, in addition to more extensive analysis of the marriage record, Ms. Myers's book also contains documentation about Elizabeth's presumed father, Jean Baignoux (dit Petit) a.k.a. John Benew.
The photography of the original record was procured and is owned by this contributor (Joseph R. Klett).