'A very aged man'

The most recent sketch posted for the Early New England Families Study Project is for George Blake of Gloucester and Boxford, Massachusetts, and his family.[1]

George Blake is another of those men who left little record. We do not know where he came from nor who his parents were. We know neither the maiden name nor parentage of his wife Dorothy. He served one term as a selectman in Gloucester, belonged to the established church, served on juries, and stayed out of trouble, himself, although his daughter Rebecca (Blake) Eames was imprisoned for seven months as an accused witch.

The only personal comment we have of him comes from the History of Boxford: “At first he was well-off; but became so poor that the town voted, in 1691, not to tax him.”[2] In the 1687 tax list he is called “a very aged man: [with] 3 cows, 1 young cattle, 5 sheep, 3 swine [valued at] 1s.3d.” George was about 76 at the time. Nothing was found to tell us the cause of his economic troubles.

George and Dorothy had seven children born in Gloucester, six girls and one boy. The boy, Thomas, died within two weeks of his birth in 1658. The girls all grew up and apparently all married, although identifying the spouses of two of them has proved challenging. George’s will, written in 1698, named three living daughters: Rebecca Eames, Mary Curtis, and Ruth Shaw. Rebecca’s husband was Robert Eames; George left his farm to their son, John Eames. Mary’s husband was Zacheus Curtis. Ruth’s husband, Mr. Shaw, remains unidentified.[3] George went on to list three grandchildren whose mothers were deceased: Deborah Kimball, Deborah Perry, and Moses Tyler. Deborah Perry was the daughter of Elizabeth Blake who married Matthew Perry. Moses Tyler was the son of Prudence Blake who married Moses Tyler.

By process of elimination, Deborah Kimball would logically have been the daughter of George’s second daughter, Deborah Blake...

So who was Deborah Kimball? By process of elimination, Deborah Kimball would logically have been the daughter of George’s second daughter, Deborah Blake, and writers have concluded that Deborah Blake married an unidentified Kimball. Thomas Kimball of Malden had a wife named Deborah, but their marriage in 1686 shows that she was Deborah Pemberton, obviously a younger woman than Deborah Blake, born in 1644.

So … who was Deborah Pemberton? John Pemberton of Malden had a wife named Deborah, whose parentage is not documented, but who was, we believe, indeed Deborah Blake. The story is compelling. John Pemberton abused his wife Deborah, and by 1676 she and her children were destitute. Although John was still living, his family became dependent on the town of Malden. A deal was made between the Malden selectmen and Joseph Hills of Newbury, Massachusetts, for him to deed for life one quarter of an acre with a little house that he owned in Malden to Deborah Pemberton for her and her children’s use only (not her husband’s), giving Deborah the right to dispose of the property to her children as she saw fit when she died.[4] John Pemberton died in 1691 leaving an estate, none of it real, valued at a little over £6. Deborah left no probate record, and there are no obvious deeds on record for us to trace the little quarter of an acre any further through her children.

Our conclusion is that Deborah Blake, daughter of George and Deborah, married John Pemberton, that their daughter Deborah Pemberton married Thomas Kimball, and that she was the granddaughter Deborah Kimball named in George Blake’s will – see the discussion in George Blake’s Early New England Families sketch.


[1] NEHGS membership is required to access this database.

[2] Sidney Perley, The History of Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts… (Boxford, Mass., 1880), 30.

[3] He was not Joseph Shaw of Boston as suggested, without documentation, by Clarence Almon Torrey in New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston: 2011); Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. NEHGS, 2008), 2: 1162.

[4] This deed led to the erroneous assumption that Dorothy was the daughter of Joseph Hills.

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