Arms: Ainsworth of Pleasington

Two Ainsworth Scholars

Two notable scholars are in the Ainsworth family tree.

Henry Ainsworth was a Puritan clergyman in the 16th century who was also a notable scholar and musician. In addition to several tracts and books, he made a translation of the Old Testament directly from the Hebrew. I was privileged to see a first edition of it in the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He was the Teacher (an official post) to a Puritan congregation who fled England for the Netherlands. Members of that congregation later joined the Mayflower pilgrims. Although Henry Ainsworth did not accompany them on the journey, they brought with them his Ainsworth Psalter — a metrical psalter which was the first hymnal to be used in New England. It remained in use in some places until the late 19th century. Wordsworth mentions it in “The Courtship of Miles Standish” - “the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth, Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together, Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the walls of a churchyard, Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.”

Not one of my direct ancestors, but related, Robert Ainsworth, 1660-1743, was a lexicographer who compiled a famous dictionary of Latin (Ainsworth’s Latin Dictionary, 1736) that was the standard work for at least 150 years and saw 24 authorized editions in England and two in Boston. He was a friend of Charles Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who mentioned their meeting in 1738 in his diary: “I was much moved at the sight of Mr. Ainsworth, a man of great learning, above seventy, who, like old Simeon, was waiting to see the Lord’s salvation, that he might depart in peace. His tears and vehemence and childlike simplicity showed him upon the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven.”