Parents of Ben Bonnell UE


During the past 30 years, my number one challenge was the establishment of the parents of my Loyalist, Benjamin Bonnell/Bunnell. Now, after some DNA verification, I now question the latest publications I have had as to who Ben's parents were. It appears that we are now back at the starting point in this research.

In 1980, it was found that the possible parents of Benjamin was Gershom Bunnell of Connecticut. These findings were because of all the children in this family who were Loyalist, plus one child, Isaac Bunnell of Redding, Connecticut who relocated to New Brunswick and lived only 5 miles from Benjamin.

Later, I had found a possible parent/son link between Thomas Bonnel of Morris County, New Jersey who had children with all the same names as this Benjamin's family. This family was also Quaker's just as Benjamin and his wife Sarah before the war. Thomas mentioned a son Ben in his 1788 will but this Ben disappears. Our Ben here left New Jersey in 1779 to New York as a Loyalist refugee. As of today, this Thomas Bonnel and family does not connect to William Bunnell of Connecticut.

Then a few years ago, from the research and possible discovery from Bill Austin, founder of the Bunnell/Bonnell Newsletter found a letter from the Brotherton family that appears to connect our Benjamin to another Quaker Bunnell family, one Benjamin Bunnell, father of Aaron Bunnell who married Ann Brotherton, and where a Benjamin Bunnell signed as witness to his marriage record. This Benjamin also disappears. With the Brotherton letter, being Quaker Bunnell's and location in New Jersey, it was assumed this was the latest findings of being the Loyalist, Ben's family.

After I submitted my DNA results to the project that Charles (Charlie) Bunnell, latest editor of the Bunnell/Bonnell Newsletter involved in, he discovered a mismatch with my Benjamin and his latest father, Benjamin Bunnell. This brings us to this page to make aware and continue on with a more positive results of the parentage of the Loyalist, Ben Bonnell/Bunnell. Listed below are some of the emails that took place showing you the dicussion over the DNA adventure.

23 Jan. 2007

Greetings Paul,

After Steven Lance Bonnell  , and John G. Bunnell and I poured over the current DNA results it appears that it isn’t supporting the theory  that Benjamin Bonnell the Loyalist, 300054, was the son of Benjamin Bonnell, 290008.

 In your book you said that there is not 100% proof and that the connection was based primarily on Bill’s research and analysis, indicating that this was the most likely ancestral line out of the known possibilities. 

 The DNA results to date indicate otherwise.  Far too many markers differ from those of any proven descendent of either William or his son Nathaniel Bonnell.  With wider participation, we can possibly pin down your line. 

 Using the results from 5 known descendants of William, 3 of whom are descended from Nathaniel Bonnell, we developed a “baseline” set of DNA markers for William.  Each one of the 5 descendants varies from the baseline by only one marker out of 37.  In fact, 2 of us have had the 67 marker test done and we still vary by only the same one marker. Your results show 6 markers different, with another 5 that weren’t tested, out of 37.

 I’m still learning about this stuff, but using the charts and graphs the FTDNA Company provides I know that with a match of 35 out of 37, there’s a 90% probability that our mutual ancestor is no more than 12 generations back.  With a match of 31 out of 37, or actually 26 out of 32, they won’t even predict it.

 Our goal at this point is to get more people involved and tested so that we develop other baselines.  We know there were other immigrants and we know they have living descendants.  The trick is to get them to participate. I could see in time having several lines with the living descendants identified.  But of course we’d still be looking for the “paper trail” that proves it.    

 Let me know your thoughts.


 23 Jan. 2007

I hope we can find some descendants and that they’ll participate.  I hope I broke it to you gently – this was not one of the outcomes I had expected.  Steven Lance Bonnell  in PA, who is running the BNL DNA program for us also appears not to be descended from William, but his markers and yours are very different.  So that indicates two additional lines besides Williams.  And I won’t be surprised to find out there are others.

 So far the only “positive” result has been that the Kentucky clan that we can’t connect through documentation does appear to descend directly from William. John G. Bunnell is a descendant from that clan and his and my DNA has only 2 markers different out of 67. That’s pretty solid evidence.

 Claude’s database shows living male descendants of Thomas Bu/Bonnel.  I don’t know if any are subscribers so I’m going to have to research that.  If not, then I guess we try to sell them on participating.  In Thunder Over New England you also mentioned the possibility of a Gershom Bunnell.  Is he definitely ruled out?

 Do keep in mind that we are a Bu/Bonnel(l) family, not just a William Bunnell family ;-)  In my e-mail I said that there were 5 known direct descendents who tested and were matched.  It was four.  John G. Bunnell was the 5th matching person, but his line was not known. The conclusion though is still valid.



Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: DNA Results


Charlie, this is quite a blow and surprise. Bill was so sure with the Brotherton letter and all, but I remember Claude taking his findings with question.

I wonder if this brings me back to my original (possible) parent of being Thomas Bunnell/Bonnell/Bonhill who was a quaker who settled Morris Co., NJ and died c. April 1790 in Hanover NJ. His descendants were (besides my possibly Ben), Henry Bonnel, b.c. 1742; Joseph Bonnel, b.c. 1747; Phebe, b.c. 1750; Capt. James, b.c. 1754; Hannah, b.c. 1760, Affa/Aphia, b.c. 1760, all in Morris County, NJ.

 Maybe one of these descendants can be found to test?


 25 Jan. 2007


 I’m going over Claude’s notes and Bill Austin’s book regarding the father and grandfather of your Ben Loyalist.  I’ve noticed that Bill uses the term “probably” when describing Samuel Bonnell as the father of Benjamin Bonnell. And in his revised description of Benjamin Bonnell (1-3-3-1, CB290008) he is especially careful to point out that: “No evidence indicates a connection [between the Benjamin in Morris co., NJ in the 1770s and the son of Solomon mentioned in the apprenticing incident of 1714 in Essex co., NJ] other than a complete lack of any other candidates.” I’m beginning to think that they are not the same Benjamins. This would be the most likely generation for the disconnect to occur, assuming that the connection indicated in the Brotherton letter is valid.

 In Bill’s book he points out that using the 1984 IGI, which included only 3% of the English Parish records, there were 193 entries for marriages and christenings prior to 1631 for the various Bu/Bonnell spelling variations. My point is that Bu/Bonnell was a fairly common name and any number of such named folks could have immigrated.

 Because of the considerable differences in the DNA results, from what I know and understand of it, it’s extremely unlikely that your line will be connected to William. I don’t believe that retesting, using the same company we are, would make a difference, though other than the cost it wouldn’t hurt. To give you some idea, the company we’re using doesn’t do computations when there is a difference between two people of very many markers. Ken Bonnell, Steve Bonnell (AZ) and John C. Bonnell each have 2 markers different from each other and from me. The probability of us each sharing a common ancestor

Within 12 generations 89%

Within 16 generations 97%

Within 20 generations 99%

 But if we had 4 markers different out of 37 that were tested, the following probabilities are provided that we share a common ancestor:

Within 12 generations 59%

Within 16 generations 81%

Within 20 generations 93%

 You have at least 6 markers different from anyone listed so the probability of having a common ancestor with 12 generations is very low, though I can not say impossible. I’m inclined to believe that there was another immigrant. But again, we definitely need more participation from as many different lines as possible.

Hope this helps a little. 



Hi Paul,

 We don’t have the absolute answer yet.  Thomas Bonnel of Morris County sounds like a like worth pursuing. Do you have his number in Claude’s database? Maybe we can find s descendant who is willing to participate in the DNA program. 

 A marriage cert may help.  How about a death cert from Ben?  And maybe your Ben’s dad was Benjamin, but the Connection between that Benjamin and Samuel may not be correct.  As I said, that proof is sort of weak. 

 For the time being, the only thing I’d put on your web page is a short comment something like this: “Recent DNA research has called into question the ancestry of Ben the Loyalist and whether he descended from William the immigrant.  Absolute proof either way still isn’t available but research is continuing.”  You could say that if there is a break in that lineage the most likely place is either between Ben the Loyalist and his parents or between his father (Ben) and his father, currently believed to be Solomon Bonnell. And you could certainly lay out the alternative contenders as you’ve done in this e-mail. That may spur some responses.  I can certainly discuss our problem in the Newsletter to possibly spur some other research.

 I’m torn about suggesting that you take another DNA test.  On the one hand, I doubt it will change the markers that were tested.  But it would fill in the 5 blank ones that FTDNA tests that your company doesn’t test.  Those could, if they match the model, simply retain the 6 marker difference; if they are different from the model, that would further decrease the probability of Ben’s descendancy from William.  In either case it would give us a complete set of markers to work with as we search for other lines.  Without that we will never know if we have a perfect match with any line.  The 37 marker test, which should be enough for some time, is $189 for our family group.  Be sure to go to to get that rate.  Otherwise it’s $259. 

Let’s keep working this as we never know what surprises lie in store for us.



 Hi Charlie,


If there are any Bunnell/Bonnell's related to the above Thomas Bonnel of Morris Co., NJ please notify me or Charlie Bunnell so we can carry this research forward to achieve an answer.

Thank You, Paul J. Bunnell, UE  



I don't know how to thank you for all the work you are putting into this research. You are so kind. I have made a note/page on my website as soon as you told me last week. I have included all our emails and thoughts plus my previous possible parents I thought from before. The main one being Thomas Bonnel (Claude #002197). If you look at his sight you will see the similar names in the family which led me to believe this could be my Ben's family (Claude's #300054).
I thought it best to show my readers and relatives the questions and discussion process by placing our emails at my site. Please let me know if you do not want this. I think it's good and open research for input from others. I think the answer is in getting a DNA sample from one of Thomas Bonnel's descendants. Please let me know what I can do.
Best Regards, Paul