Biography of EZRA MAY, 

Many thanks to Esther Rancier for researching and sharing her information on the May family.   "I try with all the families to include more than just 'begats'.  People need to be viewed in the context of their world.  My goal is to really tell the many aspects of Oswego County history.  Eventually if one reads all my bios, a person will also learn the local history and cultural story of the area." -  Esther.

Esther is researching in the Richland and Mexico, NY areas, for the Soul/Soule, Brace and Daniel P. Smith families, and would appreciate hearing from anyone researching these surnames.   Esther Rancier at:

Basically before 1900 there were two kinds of May lineages.  Many May families emigrated from Germany after 1800.  These groups were not believed to be related to each other.  They came from various parts of the German States.  The other group were English deriving from John May, of Mayfield, Sussex, England, who first brought the May surname to America.  On 19 November 1656 in Roxbury, MA John married Sarah Brewer.  All the English May families appear to have been descended from John Mayfield.

While a book on May genealogy has been published, the confusion in the family tree remains.  The trouble has stemmed from the colonial naming pattern used by Congregational New Englanders.  The same names were repeated over and over in every generation.  Now the sorting out of the various Johns, Ephraim's, Eleasers, Nehemiahs, Ezras, Samuels, etc. makes an accurate line of descent difficult.  The same names crowd the census schedules of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. 

At best what follows can be labeled a tentative or preliminary examination of a possible line of descent from Mayfield, England to New Haven, NY.  Actually all the English May families of the 19th century in Northern New York were related, but the various Ezra Mays have different fathers and grandfathers.  Some center on descent via Holland, MA and some came directly from Woodstock, CT.  The major Oswego County, NY historians were Crisfield Johnson and John Churchill.  Each one included some material on the May family particularly in regard to Ezra and his great-great-grand nephew, Charles A. MayChurchill was very specific.  The May family at New Haven was of English origin.  Johnson pinpointed Ezra May’s date of arrival in New Haven as 1807/8 which helped to eliminate the confusion over all the other Ezra May names found in the various census.

In the second generation of the American May group, the oldest surviving son was Deacon John May, born 19 May 1663 at Roxbury, MA.  He married Prudence Bridge, born 11 June 1664.  This couple had twelve children with 11 surviving.

Their son, Nehemiah May, born 28 June 1701 also at Roxbury, wed Mehetabel Holbrook on 30 November 1726.  They had seven children.  After ca. 1727 they removed to Woodstock, CT.

Nehemiah and Mehetabel’s oldest son, also called Nehemiah, was born on 31 January 1729/30.  On 18 March 1752 at Woodstock he married a local girl, Hannah Anna Lyon who later became the mother of seven children.  This family removed to Holland, MA in 1752 where the first of their children were born.  Their children were William, Nehemiah, Zuriel, Hannah, Rufus, Eli, Chester, Ezra, Mary, Olive and Rinda.  Most of these persons were later found in New York census records, scattered across the state. 

However, these siblings were not the only May members entering New York counties.  Another set of siblings went from Woodstock, CT to Otsego Co., NY.  This group descended from Eliakim May and Martha Lyon.  One of the Otsego settlers was an Erza May, born 1780, making him 19 years younger than Ezra, son of Nehemiah.  The Otsego Ezra married Chloe Plumb.  To add even more difficulties descendants of these two branches in the next 50 years sometimes resided in the same towns along with Mays from Germany.

At Holland, MA the family lived on a land holding said to be one square mile in size called Land Mine Farm.  Anna (Lyon) May died in Holland after 1769. 

During the Revolutionary War, Nehemiah served as a captain in Leonard’s Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia in 1777.  His son, Ezra, served as a private for 5 months 6 days at Rhode Island, under Captain Joshua L. Woodbridge.  He was also allowed a further credit of 1 month 6 days for more service in Rhode Island, during December 1779.  His residence was listed as Brimfield, MA.   By 1790, the family lived at South Brimfield, MA.  Yet, Nehemiah may have died at Holland ,on 27 December 1793.  He was buried in the Old Graveyard at Holland.

At first, the trail of Nehemiah’s sons, Ezra and Chester, only led to Oneida County, NY ,where they both arrived about 1794 at Vernon, NY.  Both men were among the first settlers of the Sargent Patent.  Both brothers were listed in the 1800 Whitestown census which covered Vernon. Chester was still recorded as a land owner in 1814, but Ezra wasn’t.  Later, Chester left Vernon and settled in Fredonia, NY.

Ezra, born 10 September 1761, was placed in Jefferson County, NY by the compilers of the May genealogy book.  He married Bathsheba Armstrong, born 23 October 1753 in Woodstock, CT.  They became parents of seven sons and one daughter.  Ezra died on 10 September 1811 at Black River, NY.  Jefferson County records seem devoid of further mention of the Black River Mays.  Here the May genealogy stopped expounding on this branch. 

However, Ezra’s Revolutionary War service meant that his female descendants could join the DAR.  On 20 September 1924, Cora Shell Lash, Ezra’s great-great -granddaughter was accepted in the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC. As member #194,105, she submitted her lineage papers with useful information which tied the Black River Mays and the New Haven Mays together.  The DAR accepted that Bathsheba Mays, born 1 September 1803, was a daughter of Ezra and Bathsheba (Armstrong) May 

New Haven, Oswego Co., NY was only about 60 or so miles from Black River.  New Haven’s historical records included many references to the May family.  It was possible to speculate regarding some of the children of Ezra and Bathsheba (Armstrong) May.  They were likely to have been the following:  Elias, born ca. 1785; Ezra born ca, 1789/90;  Dexter, born ca. 1792;  Alanson, born ca. 1793; Bathsheba, born 1 September 1803; and Nehemiah, born ca. 1810.  Elias and Dexter’s birth dates, were taken from census records.

Ezra May settled in New Haven before 1808/09 according to Historian Johnson.  In 1810, he opened the town’s first tavern, suggesting he was then at least 21.

In the War of 1812, Ezra was a pilot in Commodore Chauncey’s Lake Ontario fleet.  Due to an error, the boat sank, Ezra was taken prisoner by the British who transported him and others to Kingston, Ontario.  There he bribed a sentry and escaped.  He reached Sackett’s Harbor a few miles north of New Haven where he received a hero’s welcome.  He was given $50 for his bravery.  Historians Churchill and Johnson both printed this story but the National Archives Compiled Index of the War of 1812 Service Records lacked Ezra’s name. 

He presumed brother Dexter, also served in 1812.  Documents of his service exist.   He received $21 from a claim of loss he submitted to the State of New York.  In 1883 his widow, was included as a pensioner from the War of 1812 by the U.S. Government. 

Supposed brother Alanson, also participated in the War of 1812 according to Historian Churchill.  However, his name was not found in the National Archives’ Index.

When Ezra opened his tavern in 1810, it quickly became the towns first hotel.  In 1824, Ezra built a new brick hotel to better serve his guests.  May descendants ran a New Haven hotel for years.

Very little was known of Ezra’s wife, except her name was Anna.  There was an Anna May and Bathsheba May, her presumed daughter, in the 1834 records of the Congregational Church of New Haven.  There were several Oswego County deeds recorded mentioning Anna as the wife of Ezra May.

Elias settled in New Haven before 1813.  At the first town meeting he was made a path master, which meant leading a crew of his neighbors in keeping the roads (then barely footpaths) open and free from fallen trees, potholes, dead animals, and filling in muddy sections.  Closed or poor roads, meant no crops to the markets and land buyers could not see the open land on sale, so would move elsewhere.

Records at John Grattan’s store in New Haven in the late 1820's show purchasing by Ezra.  In the 1830 New Haven census, Ezra and his family of one son and 6 daughters still resided at New Haven.

Ezra next appeared to own a store in nearby Mexico, NY.  The store had a post office in it, assuring that people would stop in.  Ezra had some involvement with the Mexico Presbyterian Church.  Ezra was called “of Mexico” in a newspaper mention of his daughter, Malinda May’s marriage to Ira A. Johnson on 20 November 1834.

Elias May, age 65 in the 1850 New Haven census, worked as a millwright.  He wed Cynthia, age 61, from Rhode Island.  None of their children remained in the home.  In 1820, he had three daughters in his household.  Possibly one of them wed a David for an 11-year old Mary Ann David, born in New York, was part of the 1850 household.

Elias died before 1860.  In the 1860 New Haven census there was an Elias enumerated, but he was age 34, a laborer, with wife Elis, age 28, and two children: C.A., age 7, and H. M., age 5.  This Elias could have been the son of any of the brothers.

Dexter May, wed in 1820, according to the LDS Ancestral File, Amanda who was born ca. 1799 at New Haven.  Only partial records remain on their children.  On 1 September 1821 Mary Malvina May was born.  Dexter worked as a carpenter like much of the family.  In 1850, he was 56 with a worth of $600.  Amanda was age 50.  Anna Eliza May, age 15, resided in the home.

Before 1859, Ann Eliza became Anna and married Alexander Glass.  In the 1860 New Haven census, Alexander Glass, age 34, a farmer, headed a household consisting of his wife, A. E., age 25; his son, age 4 months, F. I. plus Dexter May, age 63, a farm hand, and his wife, Amanda, age 60.

In the 1870 New Haven census Dexter, age 78, listed with no occupation and Amanda, age 70, were shown living in a separate household.  Dexter died before 1880.

Amanda May returned to the household of her son-in-law, Alexander Glass.  The 1880 New Haven census enumerated the Glass family thusly:

Glass, Alexander -58-farmer-NY
Glass, Anna, 42-wife-NY
Glass, Fred -19-son-NY
Glass, Frank -14-son-NY
Glass, Nellie -12-daughter-NY
Glass, Bertha -8-daughter-NY
Glass, Jennie -3-daughter-NY
May, Amanda -89-mother-in-law-NY
It was at this time that Amanda was receiving her husband’s War of 1812 pension.

Sister, Bathsheba May, wed on 28 December 1823, to Hiram Bracy of New Haven, born 27 December 1801.  They had four known children.  They were: Sarah Ann Bracy, born 20 November 1824; Henrietta Amelia Bracy, born ca. 12 January 1828; Walston Bracy, born 1830; and Dorliska, born 1832. Hiram died 5 March 1839.  At some point before 1849, Bathsheba and family went west to Scipio, Allen Co., IN.  

At Scipio, Bathsheba met Philip J. Shell, a farmer with 6 children.  His wife died ca. 1848.  On 21 December 1849, Bathsheba became his second wife. In the 1850 census her son, Walston, age 20, worked as a hired hand for Mr. Shell.  Bathsheba died 5 November 1878. 

Dorliska Bracy married on 19 June 1849 William A. Moore from Genesee, NY.  She had ten children, dying 17 May 1914.   Henrietta Amelia Bracy, wed during 1844 at Scipio, IN, to William Palmer.  They had six children of whom five survived: (from the 1860 census in Wayne, IN) Florence, Clarence, Anna, Minnie plus Earl born in 1863.  Earl died 19 January 1945.  Minniehaha, [sic] Palmer married, had children and now living grandchildren.  She died 22 November 1931.  Sarah Bracy wed James Ireland, 7 August 1842.  Her daughter, Lugenia Ireland, born 18 May 1843, wed George Shell, born 17 February 1840, a stepson of Bathsheba (May) (Bracy) Shell’s. It was their daughter, Cora Shell, born in Scipio, IN, who applied to the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Alanson May married on 12 September 1825  to Nancy Mack, daughter of Joshua and Charlotte (Boise) Mack.  They had four children, one of whom, Alvin, died young.  Their daughter, Henrietta M. died in 1849, age 6.  In the 1850 New Haven census, Alanson, a millwright, worth $2500, age 57, was enumerated with his wife Nancy, age 46, and children: Erastus, age 24; and Charles, age 22.  Both sons worked as coopers.

Erastus married Elizabeth Hoban from New Haven.  Besides his work as a cooper, Erastus manufactured staves.  In 1869 he died.  The 1870 New Haven census showed the household led by Elizabeth, age 37, with children: Hellen [sic], age 15; Herbert, age 9; and Juliette, age 4.

In the 1870 census Alanson, age 72, a farmer, lived with wife, Nancy, age 65, and three apparent grandchildren.  The oldest child, Charlie, age 17, was the son of Erastus, but the other two (Herbert, age 7, and Henrietta, age 4) may have been double listings for Erastus’ younger children shown as living with their mother. Alanson’s son, Charles, born on 20 February 1829, left New Haven.  He married and resided in Castleton, ND.

In the 1880 New Haven census, Elizabeth and the younger children were not enumerated.  Son, Charles, age 27, a farmer, lived with his grandmother, Nancy May, a widow, age 76.  It was this Charles who in later life was called, Charles A. May.  In 1913, he was a Justice of the Peace at New Haven.  He worked as a mason by 1895.  In 1889, he married Emma Hubbell.  He apparently knew Historian, John Churchill contributing to Churchill’s work about New Haven.  Grandmother Nancy, died on 3 January 1889.

Other grandchildren of Erza and Bathsheba resided in New Haven by 1850.  They were trained to be carpenters.  The oldest was Orris H. May, age 32, with wife Atlanta, age 33, and sons, Wm. H., age 6, and Hiram L., age 4.  

Another descendant, Martinus (?) May, age 25, was enumerated with two females, Mita Mack, age 30 and Calista, age 23.  One of these women was the mother of Florence M., age 3.  There also was Elonson M., age 23, with his wife, Adelia, age 22.

By 1860 Orris H., age 43, had become a master carpenter.  He lived with Atlanta, age 44, and children: Wm., age 16, and Frank, age 14.  The same family in 1870 included Orris, Atlanta and son Hiram, age 24.  Hiram was called Hiram F., so he was the person called Frank in the 1860 census.  In 1880 Orris was spelled Oasis [sic] and Atlanta was Attalanta [sic].  They both lived with Hiram, age 33.

In the 1870 census Elonson M. became Mortimer, age 44, with his wife, Adelia, age 42, son, Eugene, age 18, and daughter, Varula, age 12.

By the 1920 New Haven census, Hiram F., age 73, son of Orris, was located.  He was a widower who by the 1930 census still was alive living as a boarder in an apparent stranger’s home.

Erastus’ son Herbert L. lived in Scriba by 1910.  A farmer, he had married Minnie E. Hallack, daughter of Nathan and Maria Hallack of Scriba.  In 1910 her unmarried brother, Richard Hallack, age 38, lived with Minnie and Hiram who had been married for 12 years.  Minnie stated in the 1910 Scriba census that she had never given birth.  This couple of Herbert and Minnie also appeared in Scriba’s 1920 and 1930 census.

There were also various other May families in New Haven, but their relationship to Erza and Bathsheba, seemed less clear. 


Ancestral File.  Available [online] [1 March 2004].
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Churchill, John C.  Landmarks of Oswego County, New York.  Syracuse: Mason, 1895.
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Wager, Daniel E. Our County and Its People.   Boston: Boston History, 1896.
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