Turning green

Alicia Crane WilliamsI have been diddling with the sketch for Samuel Green of Boston for over a year and I’m still confused. Samuel2 Green, son of Bartholomew1 Green, was of the famous family of printers who operated the only printing press in the English colonies until 1665, and over Samuel’s fifty-year career his press printed 190 imprints, including the John Eliot “Indian” Bible. Samuel became the progenitor of a dynasty of printers that lasted 190 years and six generations. One would think the records for this family would be plentiful and accurate, right?

Not so much. The first account I can find is in Isaiah Thomas’ 1810 History of Printing in America, in which he broadly stated that Samuel “had nineteen children; eight by his first wife, and eleven by a second,” but provided only a few of their names and no details. Pertinent to this discussion, Thomas includes Timothy Green as a grandson, son of Samuel3 Green.

In 1860, James Savage gave a little more information in his Dictionary of New England Genealogy, identifying by name seven children by the first wife and six by the second. He does not include Timothy Green in any manner.

Next to throw his hat in the ring was Lucius Paige in his 1877 History of Cambridge, giving eight children by the first wife and six by the second and tossing in “and perhaps five more not recorded,” presumably having read Isaiah Thomas’ count. Paige, however, includes Timothy as a son of Samuel2.

…some tortuously creative thinking…

Next in 1950 William C. Kiessell wrote an article, “The Green Family, a Dynasty of Printers,” published in the Register, which went to great lengths, and some tortuously creative thinking, to prove that Timothy was, indeed, a son of Samuel2, based in part on what he called the will of Sarah (Clark) Green. However, this will turns out to be a deed, dated 2 August 1707, between Jonas Green of New London, mariner; Bartholomew Green, printer; Joseph Green, tailor; and Timothy Green, printer, all of Boston, and Sarah Green, widow of Samuel, selling property in Cambridge.  Kiessell and others assumed the four men in the deed are four sons of Samuel and Sarah, but that is not necessarily so.

Cambridge vital records do include the birth to Samuel and his first wife, Jane, of Joseph Green in 1649, and births to Samuel and his second wife, Sarah, of Jonah Green in 1663 and Bartholomew Green in 1667, but none for a child named Timothy. Furthermore, Samuel’s son Joseph died in 1672 and could not be the man in the 1707 deed.

With the exception of Isaiah Thomas’ version, Samuel3 Green, who died of small pox in 1690, is not credited with any children, but there is evidence in Samuel Sewall’s diary and John Dunton’s Dunton’s Life and Errors that Samuel did have a family, and my inclination is that the Joseph Green and Timothy Green of the 1707 deed are his children and therefore grandchildren of Samuel2.

All I need to do now is to present that conclusion in a logical and reasoned manner. Do they make chocolate flavored Excedrin?

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

20 thoughts on “Turning green

  1. Thanks for the chuckle this morning Alicia, nice to know we all get “confounded” some times with our research projects.

  2. Bet I kicked this off, so I better offer something! If the deed was for a house, what is the house’s history? How did the Green’s have it to sell? And yes, chocolate covered Excederin is sold under the brand name M&Ms.

  3. As Sgt. Joe Friday is credited with saying — “All we want/know is the facts, ma’am”….. (smile)
    BTW, I am an avid fan of the work you are doing!!!

  4. I always enjoy your articles and learn so much from them. My Green’s are from the Malden stock but we have many of the same given names that can sometimes be confusing.

  5. I’m also working on this family. I think Timothy and Joseph could belong to either Samuel Green Sr or Samuel Green Jr. The reference to Samuel Green Sr having nineteen children, eight by the first marriage and eleven by the second marriage, came from his son Bartholomew’s 1733 obituary. It also said that of the eleven were born by Sarah Clarke, two died young and the other nine lived until at least 52 years of age. Since we only have vitals for six children from the second marriage, five names are still missing. The last recorded child for Samuel Green and Sarah Clark is Dorcas in 1671. As mother Sarah is only 27 when Dorcas is born, there are many potential child bearing years left. I think it more likely (but not definite) that Sarah gave the land to four biological sons vs two sons and two step-grandsons.

    Samuel Green Jr’s children are also problematic. The birth records I can find are for Elizabeth (1681, New London), Joseph (1682/3, Boston) and Jane (1685, Boston). I believe I descend from Elizabeth.

    This Green family gives me headaches too. Let me know if you need the wife for Joseph Green (1649-1672).

  6. Kristen, great! I had not found Bartholomew’s obit. I think that the missing children may be jr’s raised by Sr. And Sarah after their parents died of small pox.

  7. Samuel Green is an ancestor of mine, through his eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Plumb) Green, and I have been researching this family quite a bit as well. I tend to agree with you that Joseph and Timothy are more likely to be Samuel and Hannah (Butler) Green’s children.

    You said in your blog that “there is evidence in Samuel Sewall’s diary and John Dunton’s Dunton’s Life and Errors that Samuel (Jr.) did have a family” – could you elaborate at all?

  8. I have a book ,”Joseph Greene, of Westerly, R.I.” Publisher 1894. By principal Frank L. Greene. Can send you info, but has same info about Printer family and just states 19 children. Ellen

    1. Thank you very much for your offer to send further information. That is very generous. If you have anything which makes it clearer whether Timothy Green is the son of Samuel Green, sr. (or as Ms. Williams says, Samuel Green 2) or the son of Samuel Green, jr. (or Samuel Green 3, a la Williams), I would be interested. My own line goes Bartholomew > Samuel, sr. > Mary, who married John Kneeland.

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