Governors of Massachusetts

Massachusetts made history with the recent victory of state Attorney General Maura Healey as our next governor, becoming both the first elected female governor in the bay state and the first openly lesbian governor in the United States.1 When Healey became the nominee for her party earlier this year, I started to look at her ancestry, and found many families in common that I had recently researched for who will be her gubernatorial predecessor, Gov. Charlie Baker.

Earlier this year in April, Governor Charlie Baker was our speaker and guest at our Family History Benefit Gala “A Boston Homecoming” where Brenton Simons presented the governor with a handbound genealogy of his family. His mother’s ancestors largely went back to Scotland and Ireland via Ohio and Canada, while his paternal grandfather was born in New York City with a lot of ancestry in Steuben County, New York, and some earlier ancestors in New England. The ancestry that was in the same community for the longest time was the ancestry of his paternal grandmother, Eleanor Johnson (Little) Baker (1886-1983), herself a genealogist and member of NEHGS, whose ancestors largely went back to several families (often many times over) in colonial Newbury and Newburyport, Massachusetts.2

As I researched governor-elect Healey’s ancestry, I immediately noted news stories that her family roots were also in Newburyport. Her father’s parents are both born in Ireland, while her maternal grandfather’s parents were from Newfoundland, Canada. Her maternal grandmother, Dorothy May Porter, was born at Newburyport, 8 August 1917. Dorothy’s mother Katherine Tracy was also born in Ireland while Dorothy’s father Frank Sumner Porter (1887-1978), was born in Newburyport, and much of his ancestry goes back to colonial Newbury and Newburyport, much like the paternal grandmother of Gov. Baker.

So how many times are governors Baker and Healey related? Through their Newbury ancestors alone, I have found at least 75 different connections! I think a table is needed to explain this:

Common Family Times in Baker’s in Ancestry Times in Healey’s Ancestry Total Unique
1. Bartlett 1 2 2
2. Bitfield 4 1 4
3. Coffin 16 1 16
4. Cutting 1 3 3
5. Emery 9 1 9
6. Greenleaf 16 2 16
7. Ingersoll 3 1 3
8. Knight 7 1 7
9. Moody 1 1 1
10. Noyes 3 2 2
11. Poor 6 2 11
12. Somerby 1 1 1

Many of the second and third generation descendants marry into each other’s families, so after that is all considered, there are 75 unique kinships between these 12 families with connections to colonial Newbury. When the “total unique” kinship is less than the expected number, some of those kinships are accounted by kinships ascribed to other families. For example, their closest kinship is eighth cousins once removed (three times over, as well as ninth cousins) through their common ancestors Stephen and Elizabeth (Atkinson) Coffin. Gov. Baker descends from Stephen’s siblings in an additional eight ways. Stephen Coffin was the son of Tristram Coffin, Jr. and his wife Judith Greenleaf, widow of Henry Somerby. Tristram’s sister Elizabeth Coffin married Judith’s brother Stephen Greenleaf, and Gov. Baker descends from Stephen and Elizabeth (Coffin) Greenleaf in four separate ways, making 16 separate descents from both the Coffin and Greenleaf families. Gov. Healey descends from the Coffin family once through Stephen Coffin, and from the Greenleaf family twice, through Stephen Coffin and his half-sister Sarah Somerby, a daughter of Judith Greenleaf by her first husband Henry Somerby. So, while there are 16 separate kinships through the Coffin family and 32 through the Greenleaf family, every Coffin kinship is also a Greenleaf kinship, which results in 32 kinships through those two families. Tristram Coffin, Jr.’s father Tristram Coffin lived in Newbury in the 1640s and 50s, but around 1658 formed a company to purchase the island of Nantucket, and relocated there in 1659. Tristram was appointed chief magistrate of the island in 1671 and again in 1677 for a term of four years, often informally being called “governor” of Nantucket. Now two of his descendants have been elected governor of the state for which Nantucket now belongs.3

I did design a Coffin chart for Governor Baker (with 16 different descents, that was one of the more complicated charts I had to make). For this post, I’ll show Healey and Baker’s kinship through their common ancestors John and Mary (Ward) Cutting of Newbury (and thanks to my colleague Ellen Maxwell, this chart was made in Adobe Illustrator, and not Microsoft Paint!). Healey’s three Cutting descents make her kinship to Baker that of ninth cousins once removed, tenth cousins, and eleventh cousins once removed. The Cuttings are also ancestors of President Gerald Ford (whose ancestry is likewise heavily in Newbury). Mary (Ward) Cutting was baptized 20 November 1594 in Little Wratting, Suffolk, England, daughter of Edward and Judith (Lukyn) Ward(e), and was part of a larger kinship group of immigrants to New England. Mary’s sister Rebecca (Ward) Allen of Newbury is an ancestor of Henry David Thoreau and Queen Camilla, and Mary’s nephew William Markham of Hadley, Massachusetts is an ancestor of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Mary (Ward) Cutting also has a royal descent from King John of England.4

Chart showing the shared lineage of Chalie Baker and Maura Healey

Serving with Healey as the next lieutenant governor is Kim Driscoll, current mayor of Salem, Massachusetts. One notable ancestor behind Gov. Healey (that is not in the ancestry of Gov. Baker) is Mary (Perkins) Bradbury of Salisbury, Massachusetts, who was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang as a witch in Salem in 1692, but managed to avoid her sentence until the trials were discredited, and died eight years later aged 85. Another Bradbury descendant whose ancestry was also previously prepared for a past annual gala is the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.5

And finally, a fun graphic that Ellen designed for the presentation for Governor Baker included a map of Newbury showing the plans of lots laid out to the first English settlers. The original map was from Ould Newbury by John Currier (1896). For the graphic, sixteen of Gov. Baker’s ancestors were highlighted in yellow. Ellen updated the graphic below, with Gov. Healey’s ancestors highlighted in blue, and their common ancestors now highlighted in green!6

Map of Newbury showing lots belonging to Baker and Healey ancestors

 

Notes

1 Jane Swift served as acting governor of Massachusetts from 2001-2003 after Governor Paul Cellucci resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Tina Kotek, also openly lesbian, was elected governor of Oregon as well on the last election day. She will assume office on January 9, 2023, while Healey will be inaugurated on January 5, 2023

2 Eleanor Johnson Baker authored A Genealogy of the Descendants of William Johnson of Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1969. William Johnson is also my own ancestor and Eleanor Baker’s work was mentioned here in my previous post.

3 President Rutherford Hayes is also a descent of Tristram Coffin, while President Calvin Coolidge, who had also served as Governor of Massachusetts, is a descendant of Tristram Coffin’s sister (see Gary Boyd Roberts, Ancestors of American Presidents [AAP], 553).

4 Leslie Mahler, “ The English Origin of Nathaniel1 Ward of Hartford, Connecticut, Mary1 (Ward) Cutting of Newbury, Massachusetts, Rebecca1 (Ward) Allen of Newbury, and their nephew William 1 Markham of Hadley,” The American Genealogist 83 (2008):13-18; Gary Boyd Roberts, The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants (RD900), 653-656.

5 Christopher Challender Child, Ancestors of Doris Kearns Goodwin (Boston: NEHGS, 2014). Healey’s lineage to Mary (Perkins) Bradbury is as follows: Maura Tracy14 Healey (Tracy13 BurtonDorothy May12 Porter,Frank Sumner11 Porter, Henrietta Hobbs10 Titcomb, Isaac Cummings9 TitcombJoseph8 TitcombElizabeth7PettingillMary6 Moody,Caleb5 MoodyThomas4MoodyJudith3 Bradbury,Mary2 PerkinsJohn1 Perkins). Through the Perkins family behind Mary (Perkins) Bradbury, Healey (but not Baker) has kinships to presidents Fillmore, Coolidge, F.D. Roosevelt, and Nixon (see AAP, 450-51). Mary’s husband Thomas Bradbury also descends from King Edward I of England (see RD900, 579).

6 In 2015, I gave a talk to the Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury, Massachusetts, for which both Baker and Healey would qualify for several times over. In preparing my talk, most of my Newbury ancestors became “former ancestors,” with the exception of Anthony Morse, who is also in Gov. Healey’s ancestry.

Additional sources for chart: Christopher Challender Child, Ancestry of Charlie Baker (Boston: NEHGS, 2022); Massachusetts Vital Records to 1620-1850 and 1841-1920 (available on AmericanAncestors.org); obituaries of Dorothy M. Burton and Russell T. Burton.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

14 thoughts on “Governors of Massachusetts

  1. You know that I’m laughing over that knot of Coffins and Greenleafs! Shortly before my husband and I visited Nantucket nine years ago to visit ancestral sites in my paternal grandfather’s family, I traced my paternal grandmother’s ancestry back to Tristram Coffin, Jr. and Judith Greenleaf. My initial thought was, “Oh no! Not MORE Coffins!!”

    1. Hi Janis, governor-elect Kotek is mentioned in my first footnote of this post. Healey will be sworn in to office on January 5, 2023, while Kotek will assume office a few days later on January 9.

  2. Have your traced her ancestor who was from Newfoundland? My maternal grandmother was born in Newfoundland in 1885. I think that all Newfoundland people who were there before 1900 are related to each other 10 different ways. Needless to say that line is much more difficult to trace than my maternal grandfather’s line that has over 30 of the original settlers in it.

    1. Hi Dorothy, I haven’t traced that side beyond her great-great-grandparents. Here are a few links.

      Her great-grandfather, John Charles Burton, was born at Carbonear, Newfoundland, 4 November 1875, son of John and Elizabeth – https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/59685:61507

      John’s wife (Healey’s great-grandmother), Elizabeth Cole, was born at Carbonear, Newfoundland, 10 January 1877, daughter of John and Julia
      https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/52194:61507

      John and Elizabeth came to Massachusetts around 1897, and lived in Lynn and later Saugus, and were buried in Peabody – https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20964164/john-c-burton

  3. Among my common ancestors with the new Governor: Caleb & Judith (Bradbury) Moody, Nicholas & Mary (Cutting) Noyes, Richard Knight, and John Emery (father of the immigrants John and Anthony). With Baker I can add John Knight, John Cheney, and Abraham Toppan, plus Dummer ancestors in England. The old Newbury families are certainly well intertwined.

    Dorothy, with respect to Newfoundlanders being even more interrelated, the one caveat is that the English Protestants and Irish Catholics did not, as a rule, intermarry. My husband is a Newfoundlander (only trace Irish ancestry, according to Ancestry DNA) with roots of one branch near Carbonear, and I note some familiar surnames on the page of John Charles Burton’s baptism, so there’s a good chance of a connection, although the further back you go, the more there are gaps in the records.

  4. Who knew? It appears that I am cousins to both of these governors. I am a direct descendant of the Rev. James Noyes who is the brother of Nocholas Noyes. Thank you for the new information on my family tree.

  5. Very interesting Christopher. My ancestry also traces to that area along the NH/North Shore of MA coastline in the 17th century. My question has to do with the Warde family – My 11th great grandmother was Lucy (Warde) Page of nearby Hampton. NEHGR v.141 has information on her family, but I don’t believe it identifies a connection between Lucy’s parents Francis and Susannah (Browne) Warde and the Edward Warde you identify as an ancestor of the two governors. Do you know if they were they both members of the same kinship group you refer to in your article? My understanding is that the only other member of Lucy’s immediate family to come to New England was her sister Anne. (I also descend from the Ingersolls, another 17th century family with what I understand to be obscure origins.)

  6. My interest in genealogy was kindled by the circular chart that hung in my grandfather’s study. It was made for my grandfather, Leon Little, by his sister, Eleanor Little Baker, Charlie Baker’s grandmother. Her chart gave me a huge head start on filling our the beautiful Goodspeed’s book of charts that my Grandmother Little gave to me. Her Wheeler parents had each also filled out books of their ancestries, so that gave me half my lineage when I was 21. I got to research my father’s Motley side on my own, so I got into the fun of the treasure hunt.

    1. Thanks for your comment Eleanor! I saw your tree when I researched Governor Baker’s ancestry and also know your brother Herb through the Society of the Cincinnati.

      1. Hi Chris, Thanks for posting my comment. Interesting that you and Herb are acquainted! You might be interested in the “cousins chart” that I invented. I sent it to NEHGS a while ago, and no one seemed to be interested. As someone who grew up in Boston surrounded by cousins, it helps me to visualize this wonderful cocoon around me.
        Cheers,
        Eleanor

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