Image: Annis Coat

Charles "Cormac" Annis ~ 1638-1717

"Charles "Cormac" Annis is believed to be the common
ancestor of all the Annises in New England."
-- Michael J. O"Brian, LL.D (1937)

In about 1662 a young man set sail from his home in the fortified walled city of Enniskillen, Ireland, leaving faded, broken dreams, and a uncertain future behind him. We can imagine that as he held on to the ship's rail and watched the land disappear on the eastern horizon, he knew that he also held onto a new future in a wider and more promising New World. Charles Cormac Annis did not leave his home in Ireland and travel to this land seeking an easy berth. He came with the full knowledge that to establish himself, and raise up a new family would mean only unrelenting toil and severe hardship. This is the story of his success and of his legacy.

Charles “Cormac” Annis was born in the town of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ulster Province, Ireland in the year 1638. Although it has been suggested by some that the name of Charles' birthplace may have some connection with the surname Annis, in actuality the name is English in origin. With that we must remember that many of the Irish surnames underwent the forced change to English surnames, which adds to the difficulty of early research. The name Annis, and it's variations, can be found in Huntingdonshire and Nottinghamshire and even in Scotland as early as the beginning of the 13th century.

The "River Wye, (Chepstow Castle)" was created in 1812 by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). It is an original etching and engraving with mezzotint printed in umber ink on heavy wove paper. The piece is from the "Liber Studiorum". It was engraved by William Annis. The plate has been destroyed.
Image: The River Wye

*The origins of Enniskillen's name is Gaelic, and the legend is that it was named for Ceithleann, a woman warrior of the Fomorian invaders, and from the Gaelic, "inis", for island. It is thus translated, "the island of Ceithleann, or "Cathleen's Island."

*The preceding paragraph has been corrected at the suggestion of Reuben Ó Conluain, an Irish language teacher in Dublin. He wrote:

"Beannachtaí na Feile Pádraig ó Bhaile Átha Cliath / Happy St. Patrick's Day from Dublin. I came across your site as I searched for Info re my daughter, Ceithleann's name and your account is correct. The origin of "ennis" in EnnisKillen is incorrect... the Irish root is "inis" meaning island, (both maritime and inland) still alive in the language and found very frequently in placenames from Inis Eoghain /Inishowen in the far North of Donegal to Inis Shannon down in Cork.".
Reuben Ó Conluain, Irish Lang Teacher

Ceithleann's was a heroine who, after killing a rival king in battle, swam to the island in Lough Erne that today bears her name. Her husband, Balor, was the semi-mythical one eyed leader of a pirate gang that made it's home on the island of Tory off the Donegal coast. County Fermanagh is the lakeland area of Ireland, and Enniskillen was constructed on a bridge of land between the Upper and Lower Erne. The ancient fortress city is famous for it's martial "Inniskilling Home Regiments", and it is interesting to note that one of the many airs of the Inniskilling Regiments eventually became the tune for the 'Star Spangled Banner'.

By the time of Cormac's birth, Ireland had been tamed by Queen Elizabeth I and colonized by King James I. English-Scottish Protestant overlords ruled an Irish-Catholic and landless peasantry, Some of the landowners were Presbyterian and Jacobean newcomers, while others were old English settlers who were Irish in mentality, and half Catholic in faith. Conflict and bloodshed followed in the wake of the October 1641 uprising of Gaelic forces, led by a chieftain named Strongbow, and by February 1642 most of Ireland was in rebel hands. In 1649, following the English civil war and the execution of Charles I, the Commonwealth was proclaimed, and Oliver Cromwell's first task was the bloody subjugation of the rebellious Irish and Scots.

It was in this environment of warfare and devastation that Charles Cormac Annis grew to manhood. It is not surprising that in 1664, at the age of 26, he set sail for the New World. Whether for reasons of personal safety, a yearning to be free, or in the spirit of wanderlust and adventure, he risked temporary indentured servitude for the chance of freedom in a new and dangerous land. Charles settled at Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, and it is here, with more certainty, that his story begins.

Enniskillen Castle
Image: Enniskillen Castle

Charles is often referred to in the early records of Essex county, Massachusetts as "Curmac", "Curmack" or "Cormac". The latter is correct, as that name is the Irish, or more properly, Celtic translation of Charles.
Cormac Annis is mentioned in the book,
Pioneer Irish in New England, by Michael J. O'Brian, as an example of one whose name could not indicate a nationality other than Irish. O'Brian says on page 62,

"From the fact that he was christened Cormac his nationality may be safely assumed, but in any event there is an entry in the marriage register to the effect that the bridegroom was "born in Ennis-Killen, Ulster County, Ireland, in 1638." Needless to say, the registrant intended to say Enniskillen, Fermanagh County, Province of Ulster, Ireland." Cormac is the Irish name corresponding to the English Charles, and, as shown by O'Hart, the surname originally was McGinnis, anglicized Magennis, Guiness, Ennis, Innis and Annis. Cormac Annis left many descendants, who are mentioned generally in Massachusetts and New Hampshire records as substantial people and active in town affairs.

In contradiction to this flawless reasoning, stands the fact that from Essex County, Massachusetts records, it is found that Cormac was most assuredly a member of the Church of England. Not your typical Irishman, and perhaps the legend that says that Cormac was the son of a Cromwellian soldier is given merit. On the other hand, membership in the Church of England may have been for the purpose of survival. The Protestant "anti-papist" feelings ran deep in early colonial America as well as England.

In Celtic legend, Cormac MacArt (or MacAirt, the High King, held court (254-274 A.D.) at ancient Tara, County Mearth one hundred and fifty years before Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland. King Cormac saw the light of Christianity, and was cursed by the ancient Druids for his blasphemy of declaring that the gods they worshipped were mere wooden figures. When Saint Patrick later lit a fire to mark the end of Druidic worship, legend has it that he was looking down from the Hill of Slane upon the burial place of King Cormac near the sunny east point by the River Rosnaree. He is often referred to in Irish legend as the "Irish King Solomon". The fact that Charles "Cormac" Annis was given, and frequently used, the name of this ancient Celtic king may lead to the deduction that at least one of his parents was native Irish. It has been recorded, without documentation, that he was the son of an English soldier stationed at the fortress city of Enniskillen.

It has been established with certainty that Cormac was considered an Irishman by his fellow citizens of Newbury, Massachusetts. He was not a free man, but rather an indentured servant, when he arrived at Newbury, and although the record of whom he was indentured to has not been discovered, we do know that in 1678 he took the Oath of Allegiance. On April 18, 1678 Cormac was made a "Freeman", with all the duties and privileges that came with that station. The History of Newbury, Massachusetts, by Joshua Coffin hints that Cormac Annis, and several other Irish settlers at Newbury, were among the first to introduce potatoes as a viable food crop in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This was an important addition to the diet of the lean and hungry colonists. Cormac is recorded as a "Planter", and from the evidence of his many land holdings and homesteads in his possession at the time of his death, he was a very successful one as well.

Four years after his arrival at Newbury in 1662, at the age of 28, Cormac married Sarah Chase, the eldest daughter of Aquila and Ann Chase. The marriage vows were exchanged on May 15, 1666 at Newbury, and during the course of their married life, Cormac and Sarah accumulated a substantial amount of property in the Newbury area. According to "The Ancestry of Annis Spear 1775-1858", by Walter Goodwin Davis (1945), Cormac settled in the western portion of Newbury near his wife's family. A list of his properties, who he purchased them from, and the final disposition of the properties is listed here under Acquired Properties of Cormac Annis
Sarah Chase Annis was born July 6, 1647 at Newbury, Massachusetts, of Aquila Chase {1626-1670} and Ann Wheeler {1629-1687}. Her father was an early mariner and is credited with being the first to navigate the Merrimack River.

In 1669, Cormac was one of those protesting against the methods of the selectmen in assigning seats in the town's meeting house. In 1674, Cormac and his wife Sarah were character witnesses for Thomas Tewkesbury, saying, "he carried himself well all the time he lived in the house with widow Bartlett".

Cormac deeded a parcel of land at Newbury on May 10, 1708 to Anthony Morse and Major Henry Somersby. There may also be found in the early records vague references concerning other marsh grassland and orchards. Cormac was, without doubt, a man of property and position in the coastal environs of northeast Massachusetts.

Other interesting Essex County, Massachusetts records concern the livestock and taxes that Cormac paid taxes in 1685. The list includes: "3 heads, 1 house, 5 acres plowland, 3 horses, 5 cows, 20 sheep". In 1698 he paid taxes on "3 heads, 1 house, 9 acres of plowland, 1 horse, 2 cows, and 1 hogg". While residing at Newbury he owned an Indian servant by the name of "Malaky Edwards", and this man is mentioned in the Will of Cormac as "my Boy". Malaky Edwards was to continue in service to Sarah, and is again mentioned in Sarah's Will of 1726 as "my Indian servant".

Although Cormac Annis was not the earliest recorded Annis colonist, he was the original immigrant ancestor of the vast majority of extant Annis families in the United States and Canada. He and Sarah had eight children, seven having survived to adulthood. They were, Joseph, Sarah, Abraham, Aquila, Isaac, Priscilla, Hannah and Anne. Aquila was born June 6, 1670 and died in infancy, April 17, 1672, five days after the birth of his brother Isaac.

Annis Quam, or Annisquam Harbor is located in Ipswich Bay, MA. Although we would like to think that the area was named because of the Annis family in the area, the name "Annisquam" comes from an Algonquian term meaning "top of the rock, containing (wanashque), "on top of", and (-ompsk), "rock.
Image: Annisquam Harbor

The Last Will and Testament of Charles Cormac Annis, and of his wife Sarah, are both recorded in Essex County, Massachusetts probate records (Volume 312, pp. 190-193). Charles had accumulated a substantial amount of property at Newbury, as is evidenced by the contents of this document. According to the standards of that time, he left a fair and equitable inheritance to each of his surviving children at the administration of his Will on February 15, 1718. It may be seen from these documents that they were loving and responsible parents, as well as faithful servants of the Lord. Cormac signed and sealed his original Will on May 11, 1706, and in 1711 he made minor amendments. Sarah signed her Will on November 12, 1718. The Wills are copied in full with the original archaic spelling, phrasing, and punctuation. There has not been found a conclusive record concerning the final resting place of Cormac and Sarah Annis, but there were only two burial places that were being used near Newbury at the time of their deaths. Sarah's father, Aquila Chase was buried at Oldtown cemetery, which was the resting place of many of Newbury's early settlers, and further investigation may find that this is the place that Cormac and his wife would have been laid to rest.

In 1998 my cousin Don Ennis and I had a conversation about our common ancestor, Cormac Annis (1638-1717) and he sent me the following poem shortly afterwards. Don is a man of many talents and it has been my very special honor to work with him on our family history.

Old things behind me now
I follow the westward sinking sun
It seems to rise for me
Behind me, Ireland, laws I cannot stand,
Land I cannot own, religion I will not follow
Behind me is the eternal darkness
I own a darker future ahead
I reach for the light
I seek adventure, prosperity

It appears that Cormac may have had a brother that either came with him to Newbury, or settled there shortly after Cormac's arrival. In several early records there is mention of Michael Annis also a native of Enniskillen, Ireland. In the book Immigrants to America Before 1750 (page 63), there is an entry that reads: ANNAS (Annis, Ennis), Michael, from Enniskillen, Ireland; settled at Newbury, Mass. (perhaps same as Curmas alias Charles); (M419).
Cormac's entry in the same book (page 64) reads: ANNIS (Annes, Annice), Curmac or Charles (b. Enniskelen, Ire., 1638 [says Coffin] - d. Newbury, Mass., Dec. 19, 1717), came from Ire. to N. E. and settled at Newbury, Mass., planter; m. May 15, 1666, Sarah Chase (d. before 1726).

Unfortunately, there is no further record of Michael Annis at Newbury, but there are other tantalizing scraps of information that could lead to the supposition that he was the founder of a separate branch of the Annis clan in New England. The existence of three other Annis men, and their families, in Massachusetts during the period 1690 to 1715 can be confirmed by surviving records. However, these men cannot be linked to Cormac by existing records. These men are:

Charles Annis of Truro, MA. Truro is located in Barnstable County on the Cape Cod peninsula. Charles was born circa 1690. His descendants are well documented and reside in Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and many other states.

Andrew Annis of Boston, MA was born circa 1690-1693, and married in 1713 at Hampton, NH to Hannah Belcher. The town of Hampton is also where Sarah Chase Annis' father, Aquila, settled before removing to Newbury circa 1646. His descendants reside in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire.

Thomas Annis of Philadelphia, PA, mariner, ship's captain.



In the name of God Amen the eleventh of May 1706 In ye year of our Lord God 1706. I Charles Annis of Newbury in ye county of Essex, Husbandman, being weake of body but of perfect mind and memory Thanks be to God therfor being mindfull of my Mortality of my Body Doe Make and Give and Recommand my Soul into ye hands of God yt Gave and my Body I Commend to ye Earth to be buryed in a Christian Decent Manner att ye discretion of my Exec. not doubting but at ye Generil Resurrection I shall receive ye same again by ye mighty power of God -- And as Touching my Worldly Goods which it hath pleased God to bestow upon me in this life I Give, Divise and Dispose of ye Same in ye following manner and form.

Imprimis. I Give and Bequeath to my Loveing and Dear Wife Sarah ye one half of my Dwelling house viz. ye part in which wee now live, ye cellar & Upper room and one half of ye barn togather with one third part of my lands and Orchard and Corn in ye ground During her natural life and all my Living and Dead Stock and moveables and household Goods and all my right in my Boy Malaky Edwards My said wife to maintain One Third part of ye fence about said lands so long as said Boy continues with her. Afterwards my son Joseph Annis to Maintain all ye fence about said lands so long as my wife remains my widow. Item. I give to my beloved Son Joseph Annis that half of my homestead house in which he now dwells Togather with Two Thirds of my homestead house or lands which I bought of Mrs. Sarah Morse House and one half of my barn and att my Decease and ye whole said housing and lands after my wives decease. Also I Give my Son Joseph Annis one half of my marsh lyeing in Salisbury and also my wood lott and priviledges in ye Towne Commons of Newbury. My son Joseph Annis to pay Such legacies as I shall appoint in this my Last Will.

Item. I give to my Son Abraham Annis my Lott of land which I bought of Mr. Dole on which he now Dwells togather with yt Lott of Land caled my Rate Lott and one half of my Marsh Land Lyeing att Salisbury he my son to pay such legacies as I shall appoint In my Last Will.

Item. I Give my son Isaac Annis that Lott of Land which I bought of Dean Coffin on which he now Dwells Togather with yt my Island of Salt Marsh caled Acre Island he my said son to pay such legacies as I appoint in this my Last Will.

Item. I Give my daughter Sarah Bagley Twenty pounds of Corn or Cattle as Money to be payed by my son Joseph Annis within six years after my Decease.

Item. I Give to my daughter Ann Worthen in corn or cattle as money Twenty pounds to be payed by my son Joseph Annis within six years after my Decease.

Item. I Give to my daughter Hannah Weed Twenty pounds in corn or cattle as money Twenty pounds to be payed by my son Abraham Annis within six years after my Decease.

Item. I Give to my grandchild Dorothy Worthen forty shillings in or as money in corn or cattle to be payed by my son Isaac Annis within six years after my Decease, or when she is eighteen years old.

Item. I Give to my grandchild Judith Worthen forty shillings in or as money in corn or cattle to be payed by my son Isaac Annis when she comes to ye age of eighteen years.

I Doe Constitute and Ordain my Dear and Loveing Wife Sarah my only and Sole Executrix of This my Last Will and Testament Impowering her to receive and pay all my Lawfull Dets and I Doe hereby Diannull all former wills and Bequests Ratifying and Conforming this is my Last Will and Testament. In Witness whereof I hereunto Set my hand and Seale the Day and Year above written.
his mark Charles Annis (L.S.)
Signed Sealed and Delivrd In Ye Presence of us
Abraham Merrill, Thomas Flooansbour, William Noyes

Cormac also made an amendment to his Last Will as follows:

That whereas I Charles Annis in this Will aforsd Entaild when Lands yt I given to my son Joseph Annis after my son Joseph Annis his Decease I ye said Charles Annis Doe hereby Will and make void ye first entailment and what I have given I this Will to my son Joseph Annis Do Give itt all house & lands mentioned In my Will aforesaid to my Son Joseph Annis after mine and Wives Decease my said son Joseph Annis paying such legacies as I have ordered him to pay aforesaid. Also my Will is yt my son Joseph shall have all of my wood Lotts &River Lott in Newbury also my Will my son Joseph have all my meadow Lott in ye town of Salisbury. This aforesaid is my Mind & my Last Will & Testament as witness my hand and Seale.
Charles C. Annis (L.S.)

Witness to this
Abraham Merrill, William Noyes, Benjamin Morse

Burying Ground of the First Setters - Newbury, MA


In the name of God Amen the twelth of November 1718, I Sarah Annis of Newbury in the county of Essex with his majty's Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England, widow to Charles Annis of Newbury Late Decd. I being weak of body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God, Therfor calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all once to dye, do make ordain this my Last Will and Testament in the following manner and form. Imp. I do give and bequeath to my four daughters Sarah Bagley, Priscilla Godfree, Hannah Weed and Anne Worthen all my stock of all sorts of creatures and all manner of moveables and household goods and warein clothes of all sorts whatsoever and all money both silver and paper, with all debts Due me from all and every person, and also my Indian servant, in equall Proportion betwixt them after my just debts are paid and the cost of a Deacent Christian Buriall when it pleases God to take me out of this world. Rattifying and confirming this is my Last Will and Testament. In witness wherof I have hereunto set my hand and Seale ye Day and year above written
Sarah Annis (L.S.)

Signed, Sealed, pronounced and Declared by said Sarah Annis to be her Last Will & Testament in the presence of us subscribers - Orlando Bagley Jr.
John Davis
Ezekial Worthen

The Oath of a Freeman

I Charles Annis being (by Gods providence) an Inhabitant, and Freeman, within the jurisdiction of this Common-weath, doe freely acknowledge my selfe to bee subject to the government thereof; and therefore doe heere sweare, by the great & dreadful name of the Everliving-God, that I will be true & faithfull to the same, & will accordingly yield assistance & support therunto, with my person & estate, as in equity I am bound: and will also truely indeavour to maintaine and preserve all the libertyes & privilidges therf, submitting my selfe to the wholesome lawes, & ordres made & established by the same; and further, that I will not plot, nor practice any evill against it, nor consent to any that shall soe do, butt will timely discover, & reveall the to the publick weale of the body, without respect of personnes, or favour of any man, Soe help mee God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Acquired Properties of Cormac Annis

Date Acquired

Acquired From


Disposition To



Town of Newbury


Sarah Annis and son, Joseph Annis

December 1717

December 1670

Aquila Chase

Penny Island



April 1678

John Dole

House and Lot

Abraham Annis

December 1717


Sarah Morse


Joseph Annis

December 1717


Dean Coffin

House and Lot

Isaac Annis

December 1717

My 1694

Tristam Coffin

House and “Rate Lot”

Abraham Annis

December 1717


Town of Newbury

Wood Lot

Joseph Annis

December 1717


Town of Salisbury

Marsh land

Joseph Annis

December 1717


Town of Salisbury

Meadow lot

Joseph Annis and Abraham Annis

December 1717


Town of Newbury

Acre Island Salt Marsh

Isaac Annis

December 1717


Land Parcel


A. Morse and H. Somersby

May 10 1708

Monument to the early settlers of Newbury, MA

Image: Newbury Monument


The Annis Family in the US and Canada Directory