The Holmes branch of the family starts in Manchester, England. The surname was originally spelled Hulme and begins with Robert Hulme of Reddish in the Parish of Manchester, who was buried in Stockport on 14 January 1604 or 1605. His wife, Alyce, was buried at the Manchester Cathedral (then the Collegiate Church) on 7 September 1610.
Robert Hulme, Jr. of Reddish, was born 18 August 1578. He was a husbandman and inherited his father's lands. He married Katherine Johnson at Stockport on 8 October 1605. They had nine children.
He was buried at Stockport 12 November 1640. His will, dated 20 August 1640, was proved at Chester 24 November 1649 by Robert Hulme, one of the executors, power being reserved to the other executor, Hugh Johnson, Robert's "brother-in-law." By this will Robert Hulme bequeathed to his son Robert " my estate and interest...in the messuage (a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use) in which I now dwell and which has been held...by my predecessors tyme out of mynd".
Obadiah, the immigrant ancestor, was born in 1610 and baptized in Didsbury, Lancashire. He was somewhat wild in his youth and wrote: "Three sons they [his parents] brought up aright to the university at Oxford but the most of their care was to inform and to instruct them in the fear of the Lord and to that end gave them much good counsell [sic], bringing them often before the Lord by earnest prayer, but I the most rebellious of all did neither harken to counsel nor any instruction, for from a child I minded nothing but folly, and vanity... I was not only rebellious against my parents but against the Lord...continuing in such a course for four or five years... my rebellion to my honored parents then looked me in open face, and my dear mother being sick it struck me my disobedience caused her death, which forced me to confess the same to her, my evil ways and danger."
His two brothers, Samuel and John, attended Brasenose College in Oxford, and Samuel received his Bachelor of Arts degree there in 1636. In his writings, Holmes mentions another brother, Robert, but it is not clear whether it was Obadiah or Robert who attended college in Oxford as the third of three sons of his parents who went there. Most early writers on the subject assume that Holmes had spent some time at Oxford.
Obadiah was married at the Collegiate church of Manchester on 20 November 1630 to Katherine Hyde.
In 1638 Holmes, Katherine and possibly son Jonathan, sailed from Preston on the River Ribble in Lancashire to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Soon after landing at Boston in the summer or early fall of 1638, he and his family made their way up the coast and settled at Salem. On 21 January 1639 Obadiah received an acre of land for a house and a promise of ten more acres "to be laid out by the town." Two months later, on 24 March 1639, he and his wife were admitted to the Salem church.
On 11 December 1639 he had another two acres granted, being called one of the "glassmen" of the town, and this is where he and two others manufactured glass. The young Salem settlement encouraged Holmes and his co-workers in the development of what may have been the first glass factory in North America, by giving them a loan of 30 pounds. As late as the 1880s, pieces of glass from this original source were said to be in existence.
Obadiah had a restless soul, a pugnacious spirit, a hot temper and a tendency to find fault. It would only be a matter of time before it got him into trouble in the New World.