A family treasure

The Parker Richardson house in Methuen. All images courtesy R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Several years ago, long before the online catalogue, I spent time going through the NEHGS card catalogue looking for materials related to my Richardson ancestors. I came across the card for a manuscript compiled by William S. Richardson. As it turned out, he was related: he’s my second cousin four times removed. We descend from William Richardson of Newbury, Massachusetts, through his great-grandson, Parker Richardson, Sr.

William S. Richardson’s contribution was greater than the donation of a manuscript. He was an active member of the Society who joined in November 1906 and became a life member in 1911. He served on the Council and several committees until his death on 6 October 1923. He served on the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Finance, and was a member and secretary of the Committee on Heraldry. He was an inventor and entrepreneur; in addition to acting in amateur theater productions, he wrote plays, poetry, and newspaper stories. The pursuit of family history was another of his passions. I learned a great many details of his life from the memorial published in the Register following his death.

William Streeter Richardson was born 12 February 1852 to William Larkin Richardson and his wife, Sophia Ruth Streeter, daughter of Reverend Sebastian Streeter, a well-known Universalist preacher, and his wife Ruth Richardson, a descendant of the Richardson and Wyman families of Woburn, Massachusetts. He was their only child. William’s grandfather, Bill, was a brother to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Parker Richardson of Methuen, Massachusetts. There is a photograph in the manuscript of a portrait of Bill Richardson. I wonder, is this what my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Parker, looked like? Bill Richardson married Elizabeth Badger, daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Badger of Reading, Massachusetts, and son of the well-known portrait artist Joseph Badger.

The Richardson manuscript is a gem. It contains a wealth of genealogical information and photographs related to W. S. Richardson’s ancestry. William tracked down and included photostatic copies of three Revolutionary War era letters written by two of his maternal ancestors. There are also innumerable photographs taken by Mr. Richardson of the castles where his ancestors lived, the abbeys where they worshipped, and much more. Of particular interest to me is a photograph of the house in which his great-grandfather (my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) Parker Richardson lived in Methuen, which was taken shortly before the house was torn down.

William tracked down and included photostatic copies of three Revolutionary War era letters written by two of his maternal ancestors.

Benjamin Badger, William’s great-grandfather, was the author of two of the above-mentioned letters. One was written 25 October 1776 from the military encampment on Mount Independence on Lake Champlain. In it he describes his fellow soldiers as looking “as if they come from the quick silver mines creeping about with thin lanthorn jaws.” Phebe Emerson, his mother-in-law, wrote the third letter to a friend in November 1776. In it she gives readers a sense of what it was like on the home front in Reading “since Concord fight.” In the early 1910s the letters were in the hands of family members in Indiana and Rhode Island, respectively. I wish I knew their locations now.

A sketch of the de Lacy shield.

William Streeter Richardson’s enthusiasm for the work of the Committee on Heraldry, on which he served from 1913 until his death in 1923, shows clearly in his manuscript. Interspersed with the genealogical records are illuminated coats of arms for several of the families. I descend from only one of the families so graced, the Herrick family. William Streeter Richardson’s ancestral families of his maternal line include Bulkeley, Holland, and de Lacy, to name just a few.

I often wonder who else has discovered the wonderful things that this manuscript holds.

Valerie Beaudrault

About Valerie Beaudrault

Originally from New Hampshire, Valerie joined the visitor services staff in 2002. In addition to visitor services, she assists in editing NEHGS eNews and in historical and genealogical research related to objects in the Society's object collection. She has a BA from the University of Massachusetts/Boston and an EdM from Boston University. Valerie’s genealogical research pursuits have focused on her family in New England, upstate New York and Quebec. Areas of specialty: New Hampshire, Upstate New York, Quebec with a focus on the Eastern Townships, newspaper research, some southern African American research (Liberty County, Georgia.)View all posts by Valerie Beaudrault