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The truth about James E. Nesworthy - A Stateside connection?

by Anne Brooks


After several years now of studying the name Nes / Nessworthy and having concluded that the vast majority of people with that name originated from Durham and Northumberland in England, its unexpected existence outside of this 'homebase' caused me to go into investigative mode. Last year I did a search of the Social Security Death index on Rootsweb and four Nesworthys, all of whom died in the United States, brought me to abrupt attention. The most recent death was that of a James E. Nesworthy in Massachusetts in 2002. A search for James led me to his obituary and the photograph posted here.

"James Nesworthy of Weston, who coached Boston University's crew team for 16 years and served in the Pacific during World War II, died Friday. He was 89. Mr. Nesworthy graduated from Springfield Technical High School in 1931 and from American International College in Springfield. A former president of the Association of Rowing Coaches of America, he coached the Boston University men's crew team from 1948 to 1964. He was placed in the National Rowing Foundation's Book of Honor in 1995." (1) His obituary described a dedicated man, much appreciated by his co-workers and students. The Boston University team named one of its boats after its former coach, a fact which seems to say it all.

Dedication of the boat

Dedication of the boat 'James E Nesworthy'. Present are: Phil Twombly, James Nesworthy, Rodney Pratt (2)

Continued in column 2...

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Connected ... or not?

So the question was, where did he fit into the Nesworthy family.....or did he fit at all? The lessons learned from the conversion of Nosworthy in Devon to Nursworthy and Nessworthy in Durham made me suspicious. His death certificate was, without question, proof that he was born Nesworthy as did the obituaries of his sisters which I also found. A gathering together of the censuses from 1900 - 1930 demonstrated that his family had originated in Newfoundland, a province well renowned for the name Noseworthy. Surname spellings on the censuses ranged from Nosworthy to Noseworthy; it appeared that the family had been in Newfoundland before 1852 making it highly unlikely there was any connection to the Nesworthys from northern England. The other three Nesworthys who appeared on the Social Security Index Death list were all related to James.

Dedication 1961

Coach James Nesworthy attends the dedication of the boat 'Francis J Bassett' in the Spring of 1961(2)

Just this week I had the opportunity to settle the issue. I found a posting on Rootsweb by someone connected to this family; he was searching for information and emphasized the spelling of the name, Nesworthy. I spoke to him on the telephone and he was able to confirm that the family was indeed Noseworthy in Newfoundland and for some unexplained reason it changed to Nesworthy in the United States. So, James Nesworthy is not part of the family tree we have developed. His name is another example of how, even in a situation where illiteracy would not be an issue, a surname can evolve into another variation. Certainly Newfoundlanders have a wonderful dialect all their own, and the simplest explanation is that it began to be written as it was heard, and at some point in time someone tired of correcting it and it remained as such.

So while we cannot include James in our family tree, we can include the photo of the dedication of his name on a racing boat, an event which is probably as rare as the name itself.


1. James E Nesworthy. The Boston Globe, 31 July 2002, Obituary, C13.
2. Boat Dedications: BU Today: News and Events June 28th, 2006

Page added: January 27th 2006
Last updated: March 20th 2012

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