Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Transcribing records is one of those things that can be easy if the handwriting is neat and easy to read, or difficult if the handwriting messy and hard to read.

And then, just for fun, some colonial sadists threw in superscript, those little abbreviations that sort of float just between two lines of text.Here's some examples taken from my ancestor John Wetherbee's will:

This first is a symbol called a thorn which was derived from a letter in the Old and then Middle English alphabets. It's used an abbreviation for several words that begin with th:the, that. this. thou, and which word it stands for depends on the other words it's used with in a sentence. For example, in the example below, I decided it meant that as in "the meadow that belongs to my home lott" . I've usually seen it written as "yt" but for some reason whoever wrote the will used "ty" instead.

The next one is not an abbreviation but the familiar "ye". What is not familiar is that again the writer puts it down as "ey":

Lastly here's part of a sentence with two superscript abbreviations. I must admit the beginning seems like gobbledygook. Ironically the only word I could make out was the abbreviated "wth" for "with". The second part of the example uses "wch" for "which" in the phrase "the wch ten pounds".

Luckily the handwriting itself was mostly legible, otherwise I'd have really been frustrated!


Saturday, May 21, 2016


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Friday, May 20, 2016


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Thursday, May 19, 2016


My 5x great grandfather Samuel Stow's wife was Abigail Dana, a member of  a distinguished Middlesex County, Ma. family. Her immigrant ancestor was Richard Dana, my 9x great grandfather. William Richard Cutter wrote this short biography:

(I) Richard Dana, the immigrant ancestor, is thought to be the ancestor of all the Dana families in this country. He came to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640, from England, according to tradition, which also says his father was a native of France who went to England because of religious persecutions. In some records the date of Richard Dana's birth is given as 1620. In 1652, in the division of Shawsheen, he received twenty acres, and in November, 1661, he was constable. In 1665 he was surveyor of highways, and the same years he was allotted ten acres. In April, 1668, he was tythingman; he also was selectman and grand juror. In December, 1683, he had fifteen acres for services to the town. Most of his land was south of the Charles river, if not all of it, in the part now called Brighton. On April 20, 1656, he deeded fifty-eight acres of land to Edward Jackson. He died April 2, 1690, of injuries received from falling from a scaffold in his barn, and an inquest was called by Lieutenant Governor Thomas Dantorth. The inventory of his estate was dated August 2, 1690, and the estate settled April 16, 1691. He married, probably in 1648, Anne Bullard, of Cambridge, and she died July 15, 1711. He and his wife were members in full communion of the church. Children, born in Cambridge: John, December 15, 1649, died August 12, 1650; Hannah, May 8, 1651; Samuel, August 13, 1653, died 1653; Jacob, mentioned below; Joseph, March 21, 1656; Abiah, March 21, 1656, died October 10, 1668; Benjamin, February 20, 1660; Elizabeth, February 20, 1662; Daniel, March 20, 1663; Deliverance, May 8, 1667; Sarah, January 1, 1669, died January 11, 1669.-p1143

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 3  Lewis historical publishing Company,  N.Y., N.Y., 1914

Richard Dana died intestate but I found his probate file online and I'll discuss that next.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Before moving onto the ancestors of my 5x great grandmother Abigail (Dana) Stow, here's a
look at how my family connects back to immigrant ancestor Richard Dana through my grandmother
Cora Berthella Barker. While my line is by way of Richard Dana's son Jacob, another son, Daniel
Dana, is the ancestor of author Richard Henry Dana of Two Years Before The Mast fame.

Monday, May 16, 2016


My 7x great grandfather John Wetherbee/Witherby had made out his will in October 1707 but didn't die immediately afterwards. However, he did add a codicil two years later in 1709. The main matter that was chaged was the disposition of the land he'd bought fro the widow Ruth Wheeler. Whereas that property had originally been willed to his sons Jonathan and Ephraim, in the codicil Ephraim is instead given a different piece of property that had been purchased from a J.R. Holm sometime after the original will had been written. Both the will and codicil were filed at Middlesex County Court in Cambridge, Ma. on 2April 1711, so John Wetherbee may have died in March of that same year.

Here's an abstraction of the codicil. Again, some of it was difficult to decipher:

This may signify to whom it may concern That whereas I ye within mentioned Jno Witherby in
within mentioned will did order that my sons Jonathan & Ephraim should have all ye upland
& two thirds of ye meadow belonging to ye lands I bought of Ruth Wheeler together wth part of ye
meadow belonging to my home lott as wthin. I do alter my sd will in manner following.
In pri. I do appoint & order tht my wife wthin mentioned & my son David shall have ye wholl of
my house lott in manner as they were to have all ye upland by part of ye meadow, now they
to have all ye meadow belonging and shall not have any of ye meadow that I bought of
sd Ruth Wheeler. And to my son Jonathan I give all whole lands both upland
& meadow tht I bought of sd Ruth Wheeler, and to pay ten pounds to his sister Anne my
at full age or sooner if she shall happen to marry, as is mentioned in his deed of it
pr wifes bearing even date wth these presents the wch ten pounds shall be in part of the fifteen
pounds ye sd Anne was to have been payd for by my Executor as wthin. and I do further will
& bequeath unto my youngest son (viz) Ephraim the whole of the land & accomadations
that I bought ye last year of J.R. Holm, wthin sd town of Stowe bound and he to have no fur
ther in ye land yt I bought of sd Ruth Wheeler or my home lott or meadows belonging
only my sd wife & David my son shall have ye use of ye lands I have given unto Ephraim
my sd son until he shall attain ye age of twenty on years, and further if my personall
estate afer my sd wife had her third shall ammount to more than to pay my sd daugh
ters their legacyes, then ye over plus to be equally divided amongst my children after my
sd wife her decease, all to be done & performed according to ye directions above written not
wthstanding what is contained wthin this my sd will. In witness whereof I do affix my hand
and seal this forth day of April Anno Domini seventeen hundred and nine.
signed sealed published
and declared
in the presence of us

Thomas Baroman
Thomas Browne Senr
Elizabeth Browne her mark

Friday, May 13, 2016


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My seventh great grandfather John Wetherbee/Witherby left a will and a later codicil, and I found
them in his probate file at and at first glance I thought transcribing it would
not be too difficult. As it turned out, it wasn't difficult but it was annoying because of a few things,
one being some of the words abbreviated in superscript, a topic for a later blogpost.  

Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871.Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.) 24167:1

The original will was drawn up and witnessed on 13Oct 1707, three and a half years before it was filed in Middlesex court on 2Apr 1711:  

I John Witherby of the town of Stow in the county of Middsx within the Province
of the Massachusetts Bay in New England Husbandman being grown old & weake of Body,
but of perfect mind & memory praised be God for it calling unto minde ye mortality of my Body and knowing that it is appointed for all her(?) once to dy, Do make and ordain this my last will & testement First of all& principally I give & recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it, & for my body I commend it to the earth, in a decent manner to be buried, according to the discretion of friend, nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same againe by the mighty power of God. And as to my worldly estate that God of his Goodness hath bestowed upon me, I give, divide & dispose of the same as followeth. Imprimus, I do will & Appoint that all my just debts be payd and my funerall charges be defreyed by my executor hereafter mentioned. Itm I do will and bequeath unto Lidia my beloved wife all the free use of the one half of my now dwelling house in sd Stow & half of the Improvemnt of that my home lott that is to say the upland during the time of her naturall life except she should marry again, and to my son David I will & bequeath the other halfe of both houseing & land for ever together with ye other halfe of sd housing & land after his mothers decease or marriage again if she should happens so to do. Itm I do will & bequeath unto my two sons (viz) Jonathan Witherby & Ephraim Witherby all the the upland that doth belong unto the land that I bought of Ruth Wheeler of ye place called Shalbern (?) at Stow afore sd. Together with two third parts of the meadow that doth belong unto the sd land that I bought of Ruth Wheeler as also of that meadow ty belongs to my home lott before mentioned, both for quantity & quality, and the other third part of the meadow belonging to each parcell of sd upland I do will & bequeath the same unto her my sd wife & him my sd son David Witherby in & after the same maner as I have to them ye housing & land forth above mentioned. And to my three daughters (viz) Mary, Lidia, & Anne I do will & bequeath unto each fifteen pounds that is to say Fourty & five pounds in the whole & the same to be payd out of my prsonal estate by my Executor if the same will hold out, after my sd wife has had her thirds out of my sd personal estate, my sd daughters to be payd when they come to lawful Age or sooner if any happens sooner to marry, and if my personal estate hold not out to pay the afore sd fourty five pounds, my aforenamed two sons (viz) Jonathan & Ephraim shall make it up in paying the remaindr unto their fore mentioned sisters. And unto my three eldest sons I do will & bequeath as followeth, unto my son Joseph Witherby fourty shillings unto my son John, & Thomas, unto each twenty shillings and all three to be payd by my son David in common pay within or by the expiration ofone year after my decease. The wch being Added to what I have formerly given unto them is the wholl of what I do resolve to give them my sd three eldest sons, and the remainder of my prsonal estate after my wife afore sd hath had her third out of my sd prsonall estate (the wch I do will unto her for ever) the remaining I say of any therebe I do will & bequeath unto her my sd wife & David my son whome I do make & ordain the Executor of this my last will & testement. And I do utterly disavow revoke disannul every other former will by me made at any time ratifying & confirming this & no other to be my last will & testement in witness there of I have here unto set my hand & seal this thirteenth day of October  In the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & seven.
signed sealed published pronounced and declared
by him the afore sd Jon Witherby, as his last will
& Testament in the prsence of us the subscribers
(viz) John Hunt
         Thomas Brown Senr
          Ruth Browne

John signed it with his seal and by making his mark.

The codicil will be the subject in Part 3.

To be continued.