For some in Massachusetts, the mention of the years 1692 and 1693 still reminds us of a very dark and regrettable chapter in our past – a past that still is being written, analyzed, and researched more than three centuries later. The regrettable set of events that unfolded 330 years ago resulted in what we know in American history as the Salem Witchcraft trials. Alive today are countless descendants of those accused of and executed for witchcraft, as well as their accusers, and the judges who passed judgment based on spectral evidence. Continue reading Bewitched
There were three contemporary Isaac Joneses – all with wives named Mary, all living in Dorchester and Boston at the turn of the eighteenth century – whose records have been squashed together in earlier writings. The problem starts with the death record in Dorchester for Isaac Jones “late of Boston, mariner, his wid. [sic] Mary, deceased,” on “February the 18th 170[0/]1” – the wording is noticeably weird since a widow cannot pre-decease her husband. This record has been attributed to Isaac Jones who married Mary (Howard) Bass in Dorchester in 1659. That Mary died in October 1691. Continue reading The Jones boys
Working on the Early New England Families sketch for George Parkhurst of Watertown, I find myself deep in the middle of three marriages, a total of fourteen children, financial destitution, and return to England. If you are a descendant of George Parkhurst, you may not know that he returned to England, because all his surviving children who left descendants were from his first marriage. By his second marriage, which produced five more children, he has no descendants known to us. Continue reading Never a dull moment
I cannot imagine the faith that John Leverett and his wives, Hannah Hudson and Sarah Sedgwick, must have had to cope with deaths of so many of their children. By his two wives, John was the father of eighteen children, eleven of whom died as infants or young children. Six of these children were given the name Sarah after their mother, and five of them died before the sixth survived. Three sons were named John, none of whom lived to grow up. Continue reading ICYMI: Disappearing Leveretts
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. Continue reading ‘A very aged man’
The reason I have not been active on Vita Brevis recently can be laid at the feet of the Phelps family of Salem. Five members of the family will “soon” be published together as the Phelps Cluster despite their complete refusal to cooperate. Here is a little of what I have untangled so far.
The story has been that widow Eleanor Phelps (husband unknown) came to Salem with her three “minor” sons prior to 1639, when she and her second husband Thomas Trusler joined the Salem church. The Phelps boys have been deemed minors because they do not appear in Salem records until 1645 and 1655, and the implication was that the boys all grew up in Salem. However, that claim is complicated by the record of Henry Phelps arriving in Salem by ship about 1645. This and other circumstantial evidence suggest the boys were older, and that none of them came with their mother. Continue reading Those phrustrating Phelpses
I prefer to work on the Early New England Families Study Project (ENEF) sketches by myself, surveying literature, digging into primary sources, organizing, and immersing myself in the subject, so that I do not have to deal with teaching someone else to do things the way I want them done.
However, a nice NEHGS member, Barry E. Hinman of California, Librarian Emeritus of Stanford University, recently donated access to his digital manuscript collection for use by NEHGS authors, including ENEF and the Great Migration Study Project (GM). Barry’s many credits include articles that have been published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Continue reading A ‘no brainer’
From the very beginning, the New England Historic Genealogical Society intended to publish works helpful to genealogists. In fact, the first section of the 1845 charter stated that the founders had formed a corporation “for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and occasionally publishing genealogical and historical matter relating to early New England families.” Since then, NEHGS has had a vibrant history of publishing, so let’s take a whirlwind tour through that publishing timeline.
In January 1845, according to the proceedings, “a committee was appointed to prepare a circular for the use of the Society.” That November, the Society formed a committee to publish a journal “devoted to the printing of ancient documents, wills, genealogical sketches and Historical and antiquaria matter generally.” Continue reading A publishing timeline
[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 28 September 2017.]
One of the upcoming Early New England Families Study Project sketches is that for Richard Lowell of Newbury, Massachusetts. Richard was the son of Percival Lowell, who came to New England in 1639 at the age of about 69 with several grown children. Richard, Percival’s eldest son, was 37, and he apparently brought with him a wife and either an infant or in utero son who was named Percival. Richard had three more children born in Newbury: Rebecca, 27 January 1641[/42]; Samuel, about 1644; and Thomas, 28 September 1649. Continue reading ICYMI: A Lowell mystery
There are three published sources for transcribed and abstracted probate records of early Essex County: Essex Institute of Historical Collections [EIHC], published from 1859 to 1993, which we discussed earlier regarding criminal and civil court records; Essex
Antiquarian (1897–1909), a magazine that reprinted many abstracts published in EIHC; and The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, published in 1916, also based on work first presented in EIHC.