Patience Worth in England



I received an email the other day from a man who had discovered a document that indicated that someone named Patience Worth had apparently lived in Devonshire England during the 1600s, not exactly during the period the Pearl-Curran-Patience-Worth indicated she had lived on earth (1649 or 1694)  but during the same century.  There was a Patience Worth born on September 16, 1613 in Plymouth, Devon.  Her parents were Thomasine Foote and George Worth.  There is also one who had died in Devonshire in 1615.  There is no indication whether or not this is the same person.  There is also a record of a Patience Worth living in Devonshire England who married James Symons on September 11, 1698 in Paignton, Devon, England.  Obviously this was a different Patience Worth than those documented as having been around in 1613 or 1615. If Curran’s Patience Worth lived around 1649 -1694, then probably none of those Patience Worths are Curran’s Patience Worth.

There is documentation of two Patience Worths living in New Jersey in the later 1600s and early 1700s but both of these women were born in the Colonies, not in England where Patience Worth had indicated she was born. These girls living in New Jersey were born into the family of William Worth.  William Worth was married to Faith Patterson and they named one of their girls Patience Worth, born 1681.  One of their sons married and also named one of his daughters Patience Worth,  so William Worth had a daughter and granddaughter named Patience Worth but alas, they were probably not the Patience Worth of Pearl Curran— but—I think that they could have been related to Curran’s Patience Worth.  That is, it seems that the name ‘Patience Worth” was apparently a family name in William Worth’s family.  If he had a sister or aunt or grand aunt or other spinster relative named Patience Worth, perhaps he memorialized her (after she was killed by the natives,eh?) by naming one of his children after her as also did his son.  No record has been made available to document what happened to the Patience Worth who was the daughter of William Worth and Faith Patterson. Their grand daughter Patience Worth grew up and married Benjamin Lawrence on November 13, 1742.

I have done a little bit of research looking up the genealogy of my family and I can say that there is some or much incorrect information available on documents routinely searched  for tracing one’s progenitors.  In my own family there are at least two of my father’s siblings, Adam and Mary, born at home  and for whom there is no record.  Granted  they died very young but in a family of good Catholics I would have thought they would have been buried in the local Catholic cemetery and there would be a record  but, not so – – –  they are not there. Since my grandparents were very poor immigrants, it wouldn’t surprise me if they buried these young children out in the back yard without a birth certificate or death certificate.

My Great Grandparents: Amos Alfred Doyle and Mary Yard Doyle

My Great Grandparents: Amos Alfred Doyle and Mary Yard Doyle


One web site lists my great grandfather, Amos Alfred Doyle as having been called ‘Wesley’ but no one in my family, including my mother who lived with him as a child ever knew him as ‘ Wesley”  This web source also had an incorrect birth date for him,  two years off from the one his wife had chiseled on his tombstone.  Now which is correct:  a genealogical researcher on the web or my great grandfather’s own family?


I have seen several census listings done in the 20th century that had misspellings of names and incorrect birthdates. My own father has an incorrect birth date and that is listed in the records of the Latter Day Saints!

I now am not so naive to think that there is an absolutely accurate record somewhere of every person who ever lived on the face of the earth.  If Patience Worth was born at home in a rural location, her family may not have arranged for her birth to be recorded at the village church. (Not all births were recorded in the 1600s.)

Even though Patience Worth may have been a reluctant church-goer as a young girl, there may be no record of her baptism as an infant.  Since Patience Worth was a single woman there would be no record of a marriage and since she owned no property she would not have paid taxes, inherited, purchased or sold property. And therefore her name would not be found in records of property holdings.

Professor Stephen E. Braude, Ph.D. in his book Immortal Remains, attempts in a chapter about Patience Worth to explain Patience Worth as a dissociated personality of Pearl Curran.    He presents an interrupted discussion, associating Pearl Curran, inappropriately I think, with other obvious cases of dissociation and other far-fetched comparisons.  Braude’s chapter is worth reading (pun intended) however in that he presents a well-thought-out philosophical treatise, albeit at times contradicting himself as if he really doesn’t know what to think about the Patience Worth case.  Braude concludes his chapter on Patience Worth by agreeing with Professor F.C.S. Schiller who apparently stated that ” it is . . . safer to credit ‘Patience Worth’ to the unconscious and to classify her, officially, as Mrs. Curran’s ‘secondary self.”

I reference his work here in that he claims that, “. . . we can’t forget that the Patience Worth case, .  .  .  is non-evidential.  Despite diligent research, no one has discovered a previously existing individual even roughly corresponding to the Patience persona.  .  .  .  Still, we might wonder how much the discovery of a real Patience Worth would bolster a survivalist (spiritual) interpretation of the case.  And surprisingly, I suspect that it would make almost no difference.  Here’s why.  Let’s suppose that we discover the existence of someone named Patience Worth, who lived at about the right time and place.  Now we know that no one, from that or any time, was ever reputed to have demonstrated the creative gifts manifested by Pearl Currans Patience persona.  So how do we explain why, if a corresponding Patience Worth actually existed, no one remarked on her improvisational prowess and no body of works survived?  It seems extremely unlikely that Patience would have exhibited those abilities without someone documenting them and without Patience leaving a legacy of compositions for posterity.”

Now I don’t follow Braude’s line of logical thought here.  Does he really expect that this isolated rural teenage or twenty-something girl in 17th century England, engaged from dawn to dusk in household tasks would have left a library of her writings documenting “her improvisational prowess” and that they would have achieved notoriety among the higher classes warranting their preservation for posterity and conveniently accessible for us to peruse— preserved in pristine condition, I presume!. (See this.)

On Page 191 of Immortal Remains, Professor Braude discusses “The Antonia Case” , a case of “apparent reincarnation”. To quickly summarize this case, a woman under hypnosis provided historical information about a past life but after tracking down the facts no evidence of anyone matching her description could be found.  Braude says however, “Interestingly, she  (the hypnotist) was never able to find evidence of a person matching Antonia’s description and alleged history.  However, if Antonia’s story is true, that fact wouldn’t be especially remarkable.”

So—apparently evidence of whether or not Patience Worth had lived in England in the 1600s is not especially remarkable either.

Patience Worth was once asked by a lady if when she lived on earth she had an ambition to write, since she was writing so much now.  According to Dr. Prince, “The instantaneous answer was: “Dame, what wench that has a tongue and a mind to wag it e’er itched for a quill?”

Well, I sympathize with Stephen Braude and I respect his thoughts. He made a good effort discussing the Case of Patience Worth although I don’t agree with his conclusion.  I do recommend his book, Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life after Death however.  It can be found here.

According to Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth, “Once she apparently tried to give the name of her native county and, after failures and the remark ‘there be a twist,’ seemed to resort to familiar words to suggest the sound of the name.  ‘Twere a  wing.  Ayea, and a deer—fallow.  Hast thou seen a tuft-hut?  There be a dove coo over it—the nest.’  Dr. Prince continues,  ‘Before I learned that Mr. Yost read these indications it occurred to me that a female fallow deer is a doe, that do’e is dialectal for dove, and the reference to the dove in connection with the nest suggested set, dialectal for sit.  Later Mr. Yost, thinking that the reference to a wing might have been a hint of the dorhawk or dorbeetle or both, asked: ‘About the wing, , was it beetle, or hawk or both?’  Patience Worth replied: ‘thou hast turned a stone,’ which was her way of saying he had found something.  She added ‘Thee hast the cat by the tail.’  Thus, according to Dr. Prince, ‘ we would have Dorsetshire adumbrated.’ “

Well, I think all that is quite a stretch.  Why didn’t Patience just put them out of their misery and say “Dorsetshire !”  Contrary to what is often reported, Patience never actually said that she was from Dorset or Dorsetshire.  It was Casper Yost and Dr. Prince apparently who thought she was from Dorset.  (I must say however, that if the Patience Worth persona was coming from the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran, it is highly likely that Pearl Curran did not know the names of the provinces or shires of England and therefore could not name one.)

On the other hand, if Patience Worth really was a spirit, separate from Pearl Curran, she may not have wanted anyone to know where she had lived.   In my view, if she had lived in England during the 1600s she most probably lived in Devonshire  not Dorsetshire.  Devonshire is right next to Dorsetshire and is more likely to be described on the “wing” of England as seen on a map of England (not Great Britain).  Devon was the location of the “House of Worth” , thereby indicating that there was an accumulation of people named ‘Worth” living there.  Devonshire also had the main port of embarkation to the colonies, Plymouth and the rivers and topography agree with the description given by Patience.   And as mentioned above there is a record of two girls living in Devon during the 1600s bearing the name ‘Patience Worth’..  Whereas, when I searched the same lists (provided by the Latter Day Saints) the name did not appear for Dorset. When I search for the name in England, several more persons with the name Patience Worth came up, although they were in different time periods.  So, Patience Worth, while not a common name in England it was in the name lexicon for girls as well as other Quaker and Puritan virtue names including Faith, Hope and Charity living in Devon.

On July 8, 1913 Curran’s Patience Worth was asked when she lived.  Patience presented the following date(s) “1649”  “94”.  When she was asked again on August 25, 1913 she was asked to repeat the date she gave on July 8th and the record of her dictation records “a confusion of numbers. 1 – 4 – 6 – No!  – 164 – 9.  By this the reader can see that there seemed to be no certainty as to this date. “   Irving Litvag quotes the record in “Singer in the Shadows” as saying “The board hesitates, swings to and fro, seems uncertain.  Finally, numbers are indicated: 1-6-4-9- . . .9-4 .  .  .  “

So who knows?  Without my iphone, radio, computer and television, I probably wouldn’t know what the date was let alone what the year was and many people don’t know the date of their birth and if I never went to school and stayed at home all of the time I probably wouldn’t even know what state I lived in either.   Patience refused to be tied to any one place or time.  Casper Yost has quoted her as saying:

“I be like to the wind and yea, like to it do blow me ever, yea, since time.  Do ye to tether me unto today I blow me then tomorrow, and do ye to tether me unto tomorrow I blow me then today.”

Yost continues to quote her saying,

“I be abirthed awhither and abide me where.  .  .  .  I be like the wind who leaveth not track, but ever ‘bout and yet like to the rain who groweth grain for thee to reap.  .  .  .   I do plod a twist o’ a path and it hath run from then till now.”

3 thoughts on “Patience Worth in England

  1. William Dorian

    Yes, I totally agree with your conclusions. Also, on a couple of points: I’ve done a genealogical history of my family too, and it’s true that certain names keep popping up over the decades– someone will name a child after a friend, but then by the time that name has been used 125 years, no one remembers who that original friend was. Anyway, the family of ‘Worths’ with several ‘Patiences’ could be a real possibility. Mr. Doyle, you’re much more of a scholar on all the Pattience Worth literature and history than I am. Most of what I know came word-of-mouth from Eileen Curran. I definitely agree that Braude’s comments about a record of Patience’s “improvisational prowess” and a “body of work” left in some dusty chest somewhere contradicts what Eileen told me Patience herself said. I was told that Patience implied that in her day women weren’t allowed to express themselves on paper. I suppose she may not have even known how to write. She came back through Pearl so she would finally have the opportunity to be an author.

  2. Amos Oliver Doyle

    Bill thanks for your comments, I value your input because you have had first-hand contact with Eileen Curran, Pearl’s biological daughter. While your information from Eileen about Pearl Curran and Patience Worth is second-hand, I regard it highly and believe it should be preserved and available for others who may study this case in the future. If Eileen told you that Patience Worth said that women in her day weren’t allowed to express themselves on paper, that sounds reasonable to me, especially if she were a Puritan, although I need to verify that information as I am vaguely aware that a few of the higher class women of nobility of that day did put their thoughts on paper.

    Considering Patience Worth’s station in life as a peasant girl, I surmise that it would be unlikely for her to have the materials or time to sit around compiling a compendium of her work for future generations as Dr. Braude implies. I suspect that if he thought about his conjecture a little more he would agree that finding a treasure trove of her writings done in the 1600s might be expecting a little too much. Of course I cannot speak for him. I like Patience’s response to this issue when she replies “Dame, what wench that has a tongue and a mind to wag it e’er itched for a quill?”

  3. Amos Oliver Doyle

    Bill: I did do a quick scan of articles concerning Puritan educational practices. You may know that Patience Worth accepted the Puritan label placed on her by Pearl Curran , Pearl’s mother Mary Cordingly Pollard and Pearl’s friend Emily Grant Hutchings. Patience wanted the adopted daughter of Pearl Curran dressed “Puritan prim” and did not refute Mary Pollard’s Puritan label, so I guess one has to assume that Patience Worth was a Puritan of the late 1600s. Certainly I am not highly knowledgeable of tenants of Puritanism but it seems that teaching young girls to read the Bible was about the limit of their education. Reportedly “somewhere up to 30% of the Puritan women were able to sign their own names.” Advanced education was essentially something for males not females. Women were thought to be the cause of original sin and that became a cornerstone of Puritan beliefs relegating them to an inferior societal position to men. To quote another source, “Women in Puritan society fulfilled a number of different roles. Women acted as farm hands, tending their vegetable gardens, as wives, responsible for caring for their husbands, and as mothers, producing and guiding the next generation of Puritan children. Girls learned enough reading, writing and arithmetic to read their Bibles and to be able to record household expenses. Another source says that, ” it is evident…that reading and the Scriptures were closely connected. It was also around this age, before the age of five, that girls started needlework. Girls were not educated beyond this point.”

    My thought concerning all of this is that Eileens’ remembrance of what Patience Worth said about not being allowed to express herself on paper seems to be congruent with what a Puritan girl of the later 1600s would have said, especially if she were from a poor family. I know this appears to be a minor point but it is these seemingly insignificant details that make the Patience Worth case and Pearl Curran so enigmatic. that is, if this information was all coming from the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran, where did she learn it? There is no indication that she was ever an avid student of Colonial or English Puritan history of the 1600s.


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