B. 1603 in Great Carlton, England
M. 1636 in Salem, Massachusetts
Wife: Elizabeth Stratton
D. November 1668 in London, England
Emigrated: (probably) 1630
John Thorndike was a Puritan who migrated to America, but he was also the brother of an important figure in the Church of England, and this would bring him to be buried at a landmark in London.
John was born in 1603 to Francis Thorndike and Alice Coleman in Great Carlton, England, which is in Lincolnshire. He had at least one brother, Herbert. While Herbert studied theology at Cambridge, John fell in with the Puritans and migrated to America, possibly with the 1630 Winthrop fleet. In 1632, John was one of 12 men named as living in the newly founded town of Ipswich (known as Agawam); the list also included John Winthrop, Jr., who later became the governor of Connecticut.
John eventually settled in Salem, and in 1636, he married Elizabeth Stratton. They would have six daughters and one son born between 1636 and about 1653. One of John's daughters, Elizabeth, married a man named John Proctor who would later be executed by hanging during the Salem witch hunt in 1692 (Elizabeth died 20 years before this).
John appears on many town records in Salem; one reference was a court case in 1636 involving a man named John Adams who was apparently his indentured servant, because he had him whipped for running away. In 1640, a man named John Stone brought suit against John for “defamation.” And in 1645, he appeared in court trying to avoid training for military duty by pleading that he suffered from “weakness of body and [age].”
John's wife Elizabeth died sometime in the 1650s or 1660s. On July 29, 1668, John made out his will and stated that he was proposing "to go this year to England." He did make the trip, bringing daughters Martha and Alice with him (ages 17 and 15). John's brother Herbert had become Canon of Westminster Abbey. The family from America stayed in Herbert's living quarters at the Abbey, and John died there in November 1668. Herbert had his brother buried in the Abbey in a grave in the East Cloister. When Herbert died in 1672, he was buried next to his brother. John's daughters had stayed with their uncle after their father died and were mentioned in Herbert's will which left them a "considerable provision" as long as they didn't return to the Puritan colony in America.
For many years, the area of the Cloisters with John and Herbert's graves was covered by a ramp leading up to the Church; when it was removed in 1998, no trace of the graves could be found. But in 1723, the inscription had been recorded in a history of the Abbey:
Canon of this Church
Famous descendants of John Thorndike include John Kerry.
1. Anne Thorndike – B. 1636
2. Sarah Thorndike – B. 1638, Beverly, Massachusetts; D. 1684, Ipswich, Massachusetts; M. John Low (?-1695)
3. Elizabeth Thorndike – B. 1641, Salem, Massachusetts; D. 16721, Salem, Massachusetts; M. John Proctor (1632-1692), Dec 1662, Ipswich, Massachusetts
4. Paul Thorndike – B. about 1642, Salem, Massachusetts; D. 2 Jan 16981, Salem, Massachusetts; M. Mary Patch (1650-1716), 28 Apr 1668, Beverly, Massachusetts
5. Mary Thorndike – B. about 1649
6. Martha Thorndike – B. 1651
7. Alice Thorndike – B. about 1653; M. Francis Hale
Wikipedia article for John Thorndike
Official Website for Westminster Abbey
Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-33, Robert Charles Anderson, 1995
Biographical sketches of representative citizens of the state of Maine, 1903
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]