Many members of the Borden family in America can trace their ancestry to Richard Borden who emigrated with his family (and his brother John and family) to Boston in about 1635 from the village of Headcorn, Kent County, England. The ancestors of Richard and John Borden can be traced back another eight generations to Henry Borden, born in the 1370’s, who was the first Borden to live in Headcorn. Henry was likely a descendant of a Borden from the village of Borden, about 12 miles north of Headcorn.
Researchers believe that the family name Borden is derived from the French family name DeBourdon, which came to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066. After the Battle of Hastings, the Debourdon’s were awarded lands in northern Kent County where the village Borden in located. The DeBourdon name was Anglicized into several variations including Borden. There is no evidence that the Richard Borden who emigrated to Boston was a descendent of the original DeBourdons. It is possible that peasant families in the area had assumed this family name.
The early 17th century in England was a period of severe religious repression by the Church of England, the state religion. The Puritans were dissenters who wanted to cleanse the Church of any vestige of Catholicism, and their views were seen as a threat to the concept of absolute monarchy. In 1629, John Winthrop lead a group of 400 Puritans to Massachusetts under a charter as the Massachusetts Bay Company. Thus began an exodus of settlers to the New Land, which continued for the the next ten years.
The pressure on Puritans and other dissenters increased when in 1633, William Laud, who had been Bishop of London and was strongly opposed to the Puritans, became Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England. By sending commissioners to churches around England, he began to cleanse them of Puritan influences.
The city of Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral is located only a few miles from Headcorn and Borden. From ships records, John Borden and his family sailed on the ship Elizabeth and Anne about 20 June 1635. John was 28, his wife Joan 23, son Matthew 5, and daughter Elizabeth was 3. There is no indication that Richard and his family were on the Elizabeth and Anne, or on another vessel, but they do appear in Boston by the next year. It is not clear if the Bordens were Puritans, but the affiliation of Richard Borden with Anne Hutchinson and later the founding of the Quaker congregation in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, indicates that he was certainly a “dissenter.”
When Richard Borden arrived in Boston with his wife and two sons,Thomas and Francis, fifteen years after the Mayflower had landed in 1620, there were approximately 10,000 settlers in New England. The Puritans in Boston under Governor Winthrop had become a new religious authority that accepted no dissent. Many who had fled English persecution did not share their beliefs. Anne Hutchinson, the daughter of a minister, was just such a person. As a woman, she was barred from being a minister herself, but she began to counsel and teach women in her own home and nursed them in theirs.
In March 1638, Anne Hutchinson was put on trial in Boston, excommunicated and banished. Anticipating the outcome of the trial, Anne’s husband Will and a number of followers and friends of the Hutchinsons, decided to find a new location to settle. Before departing Boston to seek a new site, they signed the Portsmouth Compact, considered by many as the first declaration of religious freedom in the colonies.
The Will Hutchinson party first traveled to the new settlement of Providence, and with the help of Roger Williams, purchased land from the native Americans at Aquidneck, which would soon become the site of Portsmouth and then Newport, Rhode Island. By April, Anne and her family and some friends were welcomed by Will and other members of his party at Aquidneck. John and Richard Borden and their families were members of this group and Richard’s third son, Matthew, was the first child of English descent born on Aquidneck in May 1638. Richard was to become a leader in the Portsmouth community, and became one of the founders of the Society of Friends in Portsmouth (known as Quakers).
Richard’s family finally totaled ten children, seven boys and three girls. His oldest son Thomas moved to Providence, Francis was one of the first settlers of New Jersey in Shrewsbury, and Samuel and Benjamin also went to New Jersey. Sons John and Matthew stayed in Portsmouth.
Richard’s brother John and his family eventually left for New London, but there is no trace of his descendents beyond there. There is little or no evidence that other persons with the Borden name came to America, however the Borden family name was adopted by some immigrants who arrived from a number of other countries such as Ukraine, Italy, Greece, Poland and Turkey in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, many who carry the Borden name in the United States can trace their ancestry to Richard Borden.