Family drama

Families of the seventeenth century expected that their scandals would die out pretty much when the last neighbor who knew about them died. It is fortunate, therefore, that they cannot know how easy it is for us to dig up long-buried skeletons today. An example of this came to light while I was working on two Watertown families.[1]

William Parry [sic] settled in Watertown by 1641, and he and his wife Anna [maiden name unknown] had six children. Richard Hassell arrived in Cambridge about 1643 and he and wife Joan [maiden name unknown] had three children born there.

In 1667 two of William Parry’s children married two of Richard Hassell’s children: Anna Parry married Joseph Hassell, and Obadiah Parry married Esther Hassell. In 1673 Anna and Obadiah’s younger sister, Abiah Parry, was living in Richard Hassell’s household when Richard made a complaint to the Middlesex court against William Bull (Jr.) “for Irregular proceeding in making love or sute in order to marriage unto Abyah Parry Durr unto Goodman Parry of Watertown who {Abiah} liveth in the House of sd Richard & under his charge &c contrary to the mind of Goodman Parry the father.”

“for Irregular proceeding in making love or sute in order to marriage..."

Whatever misgivings everyone had about William Bull’s intentions, he and Abiah Perry were married in Watertown in 1674 and had three children born there: Abiah, 1675; William, 1678; and Andrew, 1684.  All well and good, except that in June 1682, Abiah’s sister Sarah accused William Bull of fathering her child.  “Wm Bull Junr appearing, & being accused by Sarah Perry his wifes sister of being the father of her Bastard child, He is sentenced, to help towards the maintenance of said Bastart, as the Court shall from time to time appoint him & paying fees is discharged.” Bond was given to assure that “Wm Bull shall pay two shill: & six pence each week in money, towards the maintenance of the Bastard child of Sarah Perry, until the Court take further order.”

Sarah Perry “being convicted of committing fornication with her sisters husband, Wm Bull Junr is sentenced to be severely whipt or to pay ten pounds fine.” Her father opted to pay the fine to save his daughter from punishment, but in October 1682 William petitioned the court for an abatement because his estate was “very low, together with my old age and ye age of my poore wife….” He asked the court “to show mercy to their daughter Sarah who has grievously sinned.” The court abated £5 of the fine.

No record of William and Sarah’s child appears in the Watertown records, and we do not know what became of it. We do know that Sarah died unmarried in Concord in January 1692/93 leaving no estate. Her sister Abiah died before September 1693, when William Bull married his second wife.


[1] The citations for these events will be published with the Early New England Families sketches for William Parry and Richard Hassell.

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.View all posts by Alicia Crane Williams