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                    COMFORT FAMILIES OF AMERICA

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This text is take from the introduction of the Comfort Families of America
A Collection of Genealogical Data,
by Cecelia C. and Roland B. Botting, Brookings, South Dakota, 1971:
Contributing authors, Charles Alexander Comfort, Mandred Whitsett Comfort, Jean Norwood Partridge;
pages: viii, 664 p. ; 29 cm.
 

     Traditions vary widely as to the European home of the earliest
Comforts in America. Some families claim a Welsh, others a Dutch,
others a Huguenot, and still others a Scottish origin. For example,
one tradition has it that "John, William, and Benjamin Comfort came
from Scotland -- exact date unknown -- probably around 1740." Yet
what we know of the three, rather than supporting this story, strongly
suggests that it has little, if any, basis in fact. George Fisk
Comfort recorded what in some respects may be a more credible tradi-
tion, that his ancestors emigrated from England to Holland in the
seventeenth century and thence to New York around 1740; we have found
no evidence however that any Comforts were in Holland at that time;
likewise, his ancestors were here long before 1740. So it is with
most such family stories as have been passed down through the gener-
ations concerning the origin of the family. They often have some
slight basis in fact, but this kernel of truth is surrounded by a
tissue of misinformation and conjecture. However, though we have
been unable to trace them to any specific European locality, the bulk
of available evidence suggests that most of the bearers of the name
in America descend from English stock and that their ancestors came
to the Colonies late in the seventeenth century.

     In England the earliest records we have found of the name center
in Kent and Sussex, where the variant forms Comford, Comfort, and
Comport were of frequent occurrence; Comport and Comfort, at least,
are found there to the present time. Of the three, Comport may be the
earliest, and it has been suggested that, like many other Anglo-Norman
family names, it was derived from the name of the place where the
family lived. Shortly after 1066, Raoul de Courtespine, a follower of
William the Conqueror in the train of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, was granted
the Barony of Birling; he thereafter resided at Comports (or Comford),
about a mile north of Birling, as did his descendants until the time of
Henry II (1154-1189). From this, the family may well have become known
as De Comports. That the name did originate in this fashion is uncer-
tain, as we know of no occurrence of Comport as a surname before the
reign of Henry II. Though the form Comfort appears no earlier than
1273, the name in its varying forms -- and sometimes it would seem
almost interchangeably -- is recorded with increasing frequency after
1200. It was in the form Comfort that it was brought to the Colonies.

     It is certain, however, that not all American Comforts are descended
from English stock -- or even from ancestors who bore the name. A case
in point is a family in Des Moines of which a member wrote:
     My grandfather Thomas actually had the name Comerford, and they
     came from Comerford, Ireland. Due to the fact that Thomas was
     working for the Milwaukee Railroad and that they were making out
     his checks to "Comfort", we have been Comforts for the last
     sixty years.
The story is similar with the descendants of Michael and Mary Conforti,
who came from Italy to Washington, Pennsylvania; some branches retain
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the original spelling and others use _Comfort_. Other examples are another family of Confortis, two families of Irish Comerfords, and the Confers who came from Alsace-Lorraine. Likewise, we think it probable that the descendants of Geraldus Cambefort similarly took -- or were given -- the name Comfort for reasons of convenience. When one turns from Comforts "by adoption" to those whose ances- tors had probably long borne the name, one finds that the information concerning the earliest members of the family in America is scanty, often indefinite, and sometimes contradictory to known facts. The earliest of whom we have found records are Ann, Samuel, Richard, and Robert. Of Ann, we have only the information that, on February 15, 1658, 250 acres of land was granted to William Moseley, under the system of "head rights" then in effect, as compensation for his impor- tation into the colony of Virginia of five persons, Rice Jones, Win. Caxcraft, Andrew frisle, Ann Comfort, and Joseph [blank]." Of Ann we hear no more, and no other Comforts appear in Virginia until many years later. Of Samuel we have learned somewhat more. He evidently lived in or near New Castle, New Hampshire, between 1690 and 1700. In 1693 and 1698, he received money from certain transactions with the provincial government, one of which involved liquor supplied for the celebration of the proclamation of a Governorís Commission. About the same time, he fell into a dispute with his landlady: in 1697, he sued Mrs. Sarah Hopkins for holding his chest, containing his clothes and his "articles of agreement with Samuel Allen, Esq., Governor of the Province of New Hampshire." She entered a cross suit for "one years diet," from which he in turn claimed exemption for 59 days while he was absent "to meet the Lieutenant Governor, etc." In 1699, he was Clerk of the Courts; and in the same year he sued Col. John Pole of Boston to obtain payment for oars. Col. Poleís reply credited him with "105 small pitiful oars judged thus by Captain Job Alcock and Mr. Goudge, not worth a bone." In addition, from the information at hand, it appears that he was born about 1667, that he came to the Colonies on the _America_, and that he was by trade an oarmaker. Before 1690 and after 1699, we completely lose sight of the litigious Samuel. Richard and Robert each appears to have left only one documentary trace of himself. On April 26, 1699, Richard Comfert was a surety for William Slute at Edenton, Chowan County, North Carolina; and the 1698 census of Newtown (now Elmhurst), Long Island, lists Robart Cumfort with the additional information that the family numbered six. The presence of Samuel, Richard, and Robart in the Colonies during the 1690ís brings to mind the "vague tradition" inserted by Orrin F. Comfort in Amzi Wickman Comfortís account of his family; he reported it as coming from his uncle Edward Comfort. The family story was that three brothers named Comfort landed at New York City and there sepa- rated, one -- "probably Robert" -- going up the Hudson to settle "presumably at Fishkill," the second moving into New Jersey, and the
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other going south, "probably to Old Point Comfort, Virginia." Herbert T. Comfort reported what is perhaps a variant -- that the three landed at Point Comfort, Virginia, one settling in Virginia, one in Pennsyl- vania, and the third in Canada. Surely, one cannot conclude from these traditions that Samuel, Robart, and Richard were brothers, that they came together on the _America_ to the Colonies, and that they then sepa- rated; however, traditions changing as they do in passing orally from one generation to the next, it is well within the bounds of possibil- ity that about 1690 three brothers -- Robert, Richard, and Samuel Comfort -- came to New York on the _America_ and that they then went their individual ways -- Robert to Long Island, Samuel north, and Richard south, the latter two staying at least long enough in New Hampshire and North Carolina respectively to leave the known documen- tary proof of their presence. It may be noted that Robert, Samuel, and Richard were all names that appeared frequently among the early Ameri- can Comforts who descended from Robart and that the Comforts were just as prone as others of that time to repeat the names of one generation in the next. We have found no reason to suspect that Samuel or Richard left any descendants; Robart, however, assuredly did, and we have strong evidence of who some of them were. In 1715, Robert Comfort, Jr., was named as a member of Capt. Daniel Stevensonís Military Company of New- town. The "Jr." of this record certainly points to Robart Cumfort as the father of Robert, Jr.; no other Comforts appear in the 1698 census, nor do any other records suggest that another family of Comforts was then on Long Island. To digress in order to conclude the story of Robart -- in 1722, when Elizabeth Betts married Robert Comfort, he is no longer referred to as Robert, Jr.; from this, we conclude that Robart died between 1715 and 1722. If Robert, Jr., is accepted as the son of Robart, two more of his sons can be identified. John Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, stated in his letter to his son Silas that "brothers of the name of Comfort -- Robert, Benjamin, and John moved from Long Island." As the Robert mentioned was John of Lanesboroís grandfather, the evidence is strong that Benjamin and John were also children of Robart . This con- clusion is supported by a letter written by Thomas Jefferson Comfort in which he says that his grandfather was Robert, "the brother of a John who settled in New Jersey." In addition, Amzi Wickman Comfort, Thomas Jefferson Comfortís son, named Benjamin, John, and Thomas as brothers of Robert. Of Thomas, more later; but the evidence strikes us as conclusive that Robart Cumfort was the father of Robert, Jr., John, and Benjamin. In addition, the records of the Newtown Presbyterian Church mention a Mary Comfort who may well have been Robartís daughter. They show that Mary Comfort was married to Christopher Osborn on November 6, 1728, that Mary Osburn was baptised as an adult on March 25, 1735, that Mary Osborn died on June 28, 1735, that Christopher Osborn died Feb- ruary 1k, 1767, and that Mrs. Christopher Osborn died on March 10, 1767.
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From these data, contradictory conclusions may be drawn: either Mary Comfort Osborn died in 1735 and Christopher Osborn married a second wife, who died in 1767, or else the Mary Osborn who died in 1735 was not Mary Comfort Osborn but another Mary Osborn -- perhaps a daughter -- and Mary Comfort lived until 1767. In either case, Mary Comfort may have left descendants, but we have discovered none. Of her we have no further information, but it is certainly clear that she was of an age to have been a daughter of Robart; her connection with the Newtown Presbyterian Church strengthens the probability. Abigail Comfort may have been another daughter. The pertinent facts concerning her are that she was married at North Kingston, Rhode Island, to Thomas North, on February 1k, 1708 or 1709, and that they later removed to Long Island, where her parents are said to have been living. The possibility that she was a daughter of Robart is perhaps weakened by the fact that the name _Abigail_ does not appear elsewhere among the early Comforts, but this is surely too slight a hint to justify discarding the possibility that Abigail was a sister of Robert, Benjamin, and John. Of the Thomas mentioned earlier, little can be said. Our only evidence of his existence is found in the genealogical notes of Amzi Wickman Comfort already cited; there it is said that he was a brother of Robert, John, and Benjamin and that he settled in Ulster County, New York. It must be admitted that the authority of these notes is weakened by certain confusions concerning other early Comforts. For example, of John it is said that he "was a Tory and went to Canada about the time of the Revolutionary War." From other sources it is abundantly clear that John moved to New Jersey and that he was dead long before the Revolution. (It should be pointed out that it is not strange that this John should have been confused with one of the two John Comforts who, did migrate to Canada about the time of the Revo- lution. After all, from about 1720 on, Robartís son John was separated from the rest of the Long Island Comforts by both religion and geog- raphy, and both he and his wife died before 1730.) But, despite such inaccuracies, we should not discard the possibility that Robart had a son Thomas who may have settled in Ulster County. To summarize what we know and believe concerning the Long Island Comforts -- Robart Cumfort and his family resided at Newtown in 1698. Various records, dating between then and 1730, show Abigail, Mary, Robert, Jr., Benjamin, and John Comfort to have lived there or in that area, and tradition adds Thomas to the list. It seems clear that John, Robert, and Benjamin were sons of Robart; the probability is strong that Mary was his daughter; and there is a good possibility that Abi- gail and Thomas were also his children. As already indicated, we have no information concerning Robart, Ann, Samuel, Thomas, and Mary beyond what appears in the foregoing paragraphs. In the body of our work, we have presented all that we have learned about Abigail, John, Robert, Benjamin, and their descendants, as well as other Comforts who certainly had no connection with the Long Island family.
Copyright © 2003 Stephen D. Williams. All rights reserved.