Winthrop was born in 1548 in London but he spent some of his youth in Suffolk, where his father, also Adam (see picture), a master clothmaker, had purchased a manor at Groton. He studied at Magdalene, Cambridge, where he met John Still, and later married Alice Still. He trained for the law at the Inns of Court. In 1575, Winthrop was appointed steward of the college’s Kentish manors.
Alice died young, and Winthrop married Anne Browne, son of Henry Browne, a former clergyman of Groton. He acted as a minor landowner in his own right and as estate manager for his brother John, who had inherited Groton Manor, and performed legal services for local landowners. In 1592, he was appointed auditor of Trinity College and travelled regularly to Cambridge.
Over time, Winthrop acquired a theological library which he shared with clerical friends. He continued to correspond with John Still who became the Bishop of Bath and Wells. He died on 28 March 1623 at Groton. Winthrop’s son by Anne Browne, John, became a historically important figure - one of the founders of New England and the first Governor of Massachusetts - and Adam’s grandson, another John, was one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony. A little further information can be found from the DeLoria-Hurst family tree website, from Rootsweb, or the Miller-Anderson Histories.
Winthrop kept a diary which, because his son, John Winthrop, achieved such a high position in early American society, has proved of some historical importance. Indeed, extracts were published (by Tickner and Fields, Boston, 1864) in Life and Letters of John Winthrop by Robert C. Winthrop - which is freely available at Internet Archive - and in the so-called Winthrop Papers. Millersville University has used the diary to reproduced Winthrop’s library. Further information about Winthrop’s diary can also be found in Francis Bremer’s book, John Winthrop - America’s Forgotten Founding Father, much of which can be read at Googlebooks.
Here is an extract from the opening pages of the published diary (in the Appendix of Life and Letters of John Winthrop).
‘Special matters & observations noted in the yere of our Lords God 1595: by me A. W.
This yere Corne was very scarce vntil haruest, notwithstanding yet there was muche wheate & rye brought into Inglande from by yonde the Seas, whereby the price of corne was abated.
Also al other kinde of vitaile was in the begynnynge of this yere sould at great prices.
On Whitsonday I had a great swarme of bees, and on Munday in Witsonweeke ther did come a swarme of bees flyeng ouer Castleynes heathe into Carters grounde. [There were many superstitions about bees in Suffolk County; and, among others, that bad luck was portended by a stray swarm of bees settling on one’s premises, unclaimed by their owner.]
The same day & tyme Mr. Gatcheroode, Mr. Walton, Mr. Th. Waldgraue, Mr. Clopton & my selfe were ther present about the bounding of the heathe.
On Thursday the 3. of July, Mr. Brampton Gurdon had a soonne borne to him: who was baptized on Sunday the 13 of July and named John. Sr Wm Waldegraue and old Mr. John Gurdon were godfathers: and the Lady Moore & olde Mris. Gurdon were godmoothers.
This yeare at ye Sommer assises, viz: 22 Julij 1595, diuers Justices of the Peace were put out of ye Comission by the Q. comandement [. . .]
This yere the viiith Day of July my brother Roger Alibaster, & my sister his wife wth their iij sones, George, John & Thomas, & Sara their daughter, tooke their iourny from Hadleigh to goe into Irelande.
The same day it Thundred, hailed & Rayned very sore.
Willm Alibaster their eldest soonne departed from my house towards Cambrige the ixth of July, malcontent.
This yere harvest began not wth vs vn till the xijth of August & contynued vntill the _ of September.
The 27 of August Mr. Hanam fell sicke & recouerd the iiijth of Sept. The same day my brother killed a brocke [badger] wth his hounds. [. . .]
The 3, 4 & 5 daies of October Sr Wm Waldegraue mustred all souldiors viz. 400, vppon a hill nere Sudbury.
The 8 day of October my wyfe rydde to her father at Pritlewell in Essex & returned the xxth.
The xth day of October Adam Seely retourned home, & the same day I Recd a lre from my L. of Bathe. [Dr John Still]
In the moneth of Octobre, Ano 1595, Sr Thomas Heneage died, Vir bonus & pius, & on the same day & monethe Philip, late Erle of Arundell died in the Tower of London.
The XXXth day of Octobre Richard Bronde of Boxford sherman [cloth worker] Departed out of this life, ano etatis 59.
The 7 of November the Erle of Hertford was comitted to the Tower.
The xiiijth of Decembre I receyved a lre from my brother Alibaster written from Tenby in Wales concernynge his ill successe in his Irisshe iourny.
The _ Day of January the butcher of Netherden woodde was cruelly murdered viz. his hed was cutt of & his body devided into iiij qrtrs & wrapt in a sheet & layd vpon his owne horse, as he came from Bury markett; & so brought home to his wyfe, who vppo the sight therof pntly died. [. . .]
The last of Aprill Sr J. Puckringe, L. keper of the great seale died of the deadde palsey.
The xth of May Grymolde of Nedginge did hange himselfe in his Barne.
The xvijth of May Adam Seely went privilie from my house & caried awaye xv he did steale from Richard Edwardes, pro quo facto dignus est capistro.
The xxviijth of May Mr. Pie of Colchester died suddenly.
The xjth of June Sr Wm Waldegraue trayned his whole band of footemen & horsemen on Babar heathe.
The 16 of June my brother Winthrop departed from my house towards Ireland, & my brother Alibaster went wth him.’