Saturday, July 30, 2016


More about the accomplishments of my ancestor John Wiswall of Dorchester, Ma. Quoting again from David Clapp's book about a neighborhood there:

For the establishment of this Dorchester school and for the means of carrying it on, in addition to a trifling income from some School lands, a direct tax was laid upon the inhabitants, which is said to' have been the first tax ever imposed for the support of a free school. Part of the expense, however, was to be paid by individuals. One of the duties imposed upon the school wardens was to take care that every year, at or before the end of the month of November, which was as early in the fall, we suppose, as a fire was thought needful, "there bee brought to the schoolhouse 12 sufficient cart or wayne loads of wood for fewell, to be for the vse of the Schoole Master and Schollers in winter, the Cost and Charges of which sayd wood to be borne by the Schollers for the tyme beeing, who shalbe taxed forthe purpose at the discretion of the sayd Wardens." As nothing in the Dorchester records is found to show how long Deacon Wiswall held this office, it is probable that he served the town as school warden until his removal to Boston in 1659-60.

John Wiswall should also be remembered as one of the few who, at the time of the Quaker persecution in Boston, dared to show a more tolerant and forgiving spirit than was shown by those then in power. We are informed that he united with the fearless Nicholas Upsall in bearing public testimony against the cruel measures adopted by the authorities in regard to the sect of Quakers. He seems, however, to have escaped the punishment inflicted on Upsall for thus questioning the justice of these measures.-pp47-48

The Ancient Proprietors of Jones's Hill, Dorchester: Including Brief Sketches of the Jones, Stoughton, Tailer, Wiswall, Moseley, Capen and Holden Families, the Location and Boundaries of TheirEstate.

At this time Dorchester was still a separate town, and eventually John Wiswall would leave it for Boston.

To be continued...

Friday, July 29, 2016


Findmypast announced the addition of 2.5 million new records today. I have to say it's the most fascinating press release I've
ever read! It is also one of the longest:

2.5 Million Historic Criminal Records Released Online
- reveal merciless sentencing of petty crooks and the crimes of Victorian Britains most notorious killers

Over 2.5 million new records from shed light on the lives of our felonious forebears
Available online for the first time, the records provide fascinating insights into the history of crime and punishment in 18th, 19th and early 20th century England and Wales
Spanning 1779-1936, the records allow you to discover villains and victims in your family tree and piece together their journey through the criminal system

London, UK, 29th July, 2016  Leading family history website has today released the records of over 2.5 million historic criminals in association with The National Archives. The release marks the final instalment of their Crime, Prisons and Punishment collection, the largest searchable database of English and Welsh crime and punishment records available online, containing over 5.5 million records.

The collection covers 157 years of criminal history (1779-1936) and records the intimate details of millions of victims and villains, beginning with judges' recommendations for or against pardons, petitions through which criminals and their families could offer mitigating circumstances and grounds for mercy, and later, licences containing everything from previous convictions to the state of a prisoner's health.

They reveal many ordinary and extraordinary stories of criminals, victims and law enforcers from the Georgian highway robber, the Victorian murderer and the Edwardian thief, to the common rural poacher, unemployed petty food thief and the early trade unionist.

The collection includes mugshots and coloured images of historical records, as well as detailed accounts of infamous serial killers, notorious executioners, and the only successful assassination of a British Prime Minister.

Tough Justice
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the criminal Justice systems chief concern was the defence of property. Crimes against property” tended to be taken more seriously than crimes against the person and, until 1823, the theft of goods worth more than 12 pence (about one-twentieth of the weekly wage for a skilled worker) had been punishable by death. Records often reveal how those convicted of larceny frequently received harsher sentences than those convicted of violent offences. Examples include;

11-year-old London street child, Mary Wade, who was sentenced to death by hanging at the Old Bailey in 1788 for stealing clothes from another child.

18 year old Thomas Abdey who was sentenced to transportation for life in 1823 for the theft of a handkerchief.

22 year old Charles Biggs who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the theft of trousers.

14 year old Richard Cooper who was transported for life after stealing a piece of ribbon.

Thirty-five year old artist Edward Ball from Eastbourne who was given the death sentence with no mercy for attempting to use a forged £5 note in 1808.

This trend continued until the beginning of the 20th century. One bizarre list of court cases in Essex dating from 1896 shows how a Mr. Charles Norton was sentenced to nine months in Pentonville Prison for stealing five cases of brandy while an errand boy named George Roker was jailed for only four months for manslaughter.

The history of British crime
The collection also shows the evolution of the criminal justice system in the 19th century as the Britain dealt with the impact of industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth. Crime rates exploded as more and more desperate people crowded into industrial cities in search of work, rising from roughly 5,000 cases a year in 1800 to around 20,000 in 1840.

Crimes against property were by far the most common offences committed during the 18th and 19th centuries, with larceny, theft and burglary continuously topping the charts. Receiving stolen goods and forgery were also common offences while violent or destructive crimes such as arson, murder and shootings were less frequent.

The majority of offenders were young males convicted of petty thefts. The most common offences committed by women were linked to prostitution and were, essentially, 'victimless' crimes - soliciting, drunkenness, drunk and disorderly, vagrancy.

Domestic violence rarely came before the courts as it tended to be committed in the private sphere of the home and was largely tolerated in working-class communities. Amongst other classes, the publicising of such behaviour would have been regarded as bringing a family's reputation into disrepute and offences were rarely reported.

Notable figures found within the collection include:

John Bellingham, the assassin of British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, the only Prime Minister in British history to be assassinated. Bellingham was executed on 18 May 1812. Many people were sympathetic to his cause and viewed him as a martyr who died to teach ministers that they should do justice, and grant audience when it is asked of them.

Michael Barrett (1841  26 May 1868) was the last man to be publicly hanged in England, for his part in the Clerkenwell bombing in December 1867. The bombing killed 12 bystanders and severely injured many more. Barrett had positioned the bomb in a wheelbarrow outside the external wall of Coldbath Fields Prison in the belief that it would bring down the prison wall and allow Fenian prisoners to escape. Barrett was executed outside the walls of Newgate Prison on 26 May 1868 before a crowd of 2,000 who booed, jeered and sang Rule Britannia and Champagne Charlie as his body dropped.

Catherine Murphy - The last woman to be burned at the stake. Catherine was convicted for counterfeiting and found guilty on 10 September 1788 alongside her husband, Hugh, who was sentence to death by hanging. The difference in the method of executions was a matter of law. At the time, the law allowed for a woman to be burned at the stake. On the day of her execution, eight men were hanged and Catherine was required to walk out in front of them to be secured to the stake.

Frances Kidder (c. 1843  2 April 1868) was the last woman to be publicly hanged in Britain. Twenty-five-year-old Kidder was executed in front of Maidstone Gaol at 12 noon on 2 April 1868 after it was alleged that she had drowned her 11-year-old stepdaughter in a ditch. The jury returned their verdict in only 12 minutes. Around 2,000 people, including Kidder's husband, are reported to have witnessed the execution. She could not stand and had to be held up by two wardens.

Numerous victims of William Calcraft, the notorious executioner who is believed to have been one of the most active executioners in British history having conducted over 450 hangings across his 45 year career.

Baby farmer, Amelia Dyer, who is believed to have murdered 400 babies between 1880 and 1896.

Serial killer George Joseph Smith, who killed three wives by drowning them in the bath before being convicted in 1915. The case was significant in the history of forensic detection and became known as the "Brides in the Bath Murders".

Franz Muller - a German tailor who was hanged for the murder of Thomas Briggs in 1864, the first person murdered on a British train . The case caught the imagination of the public due to increasing safety fears about rail travel, and the pursuit of Müller across the Atlantic Ocean to New York by Scotland Yard. The case was the subject of the successful book “Mr Briggs' Hat”.

Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American homeopath, ear and eye specialist and medicine dispenser who was hanged in Pentonville Prison for the murder of his wife Cora. Crippen was the first criminal caught with wireless telegraphy and was arrested at sea after attempting to flee to the United States with his mistress.

Constance Kent – 16 year old Constance killed her infant half-brother, Saville Kent, in what became known as the Road Hill House murder and formed the basis for the novel The Suspicions of Mr Whicher”.

Maria and Frederick Manning  the first husband and wife to be executed together in England since 1700. The Mannings were hanged in 1849 for the murder of Marias lover. Maria was a Swiss domestic servant who was different from the standard Victorian femme. The case became known as the "Bermondsey Horror" as the couples execution was witnessed by Charles Dickens who based a character in “Bleak House” on Maria and generally changed his view of executions as a result.

Thomas Griffiths Wainwright - an English artist, author and journalist who is widely believed to have been a serial killer and poisoner. He was transported to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) for forgery, where he became a portraitist for Hobart's elite.

James Bloomfield Rush – the Stanfield Hall murderer. Rush, a delinquent tenant-farmer, gunned down landowner Isaac Jermy and his son after conducting a complex, devious scheme to defraud them of their property. Rush was hanged at Norwich Castle on 21 April 1849 and was a popular figure in Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horror till the 1970s.

Few can resist the allure of a black sheep in the family, those rogues who have a real story to tell. Now we can tell these stories at the touch of a button and with original photographs too, perhaps even look into the eyes of someone who makes us a part of who we are. said Myko Clelland, historian at

 Dr Paul Carter at The National Archives said: “Criminal records are perhaps some of the most detailed and intimate records for the family historian. Those criminal records held by The National Archives, and now available through Find My Past, are a genealogical treasure trove. The various returns from convict hulks, calendars of prisoners, petitions for clemency, licenses and registers, allow the researcher to track the criminal careers of their ancestors and the evolution of the criminal justice system from the 18th to the early part of the 20th century. For the first time online researchers can chart their ancestors often from their first brush with the law, through imprisonment, appeal, transportation or execution to commutation of sentence, release from imprisonment and in many cases acquittal.

This final phase of the Crime, Prisons and Punishment collection includes over a million criminal registers listing the names of prisoners, offences, sentences and dates of conviction as well as licences to male and female convicts. Licences include full physical descriptions of inmates along with a photograph (from 1871 onwards), details related to their offence and conviction, and reports of their behaviour, or misbehaviour, in prison. Also included are trial calendars, records of prisoners in lunatic asylums, petitions submitted by family and friends and judges reports.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Week 28 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks brings me to 9x great grandfather John Wiswall. I found the following in a history of Dorchester, Ma:

John and Thomas Wiswall were early residents in Dorchester. John's name is found as early as 1634; he was a member and deacon of the church in 1636, and was made freeman in 1639. He became a Ruling Elder, and kept the church records; was a selectman many years, clerk of the writs, a deputy, and went to England on business in 1652. He returned to Dorchester and lived in that part of the town now called Canton, near Dedham, then described as "beyond ye Blew Hills." He was also one of a commission to treat with the Indians about lands. In 1659-60 he moved to Boston, was chosen Elder of the First Church there, and died Aug. 17, 1687, aged 86 years. He retained much of his landed property in Dorchester after his removal to Boston. In the year 1671 he sold, for £40, two parcels of land, comprising 5| acres, to Sergeant Samuel Clap, oldest son of Capt. Roger- Clap. The deed of transfer is dated Jan. 30 of that year, and describes the first parcel as follows: "A field commonly called the burial-place field," bounded "Northerly and Westerly with the highway leading from the meeting hous [then near the easterly end of Cottage street] to the burying place; Easterly, part with the land in the tenure of Joseph Long, being the lot of Joseph Farnsworth, and p'tly with the land of Isaac Jones—the southerly end butting upon the land of Mr. Flint, which was formerly land of William Clarke." This lot sold by Wiswall we suppose to be the northerly portion of what now lies between Boston and Sumner streets, near the Five Corners. The Joseph Farnsworth mentioned was an early resident, probably having come to Dorchester in 1635. He died there in 1660. He married for his second wife the widow Mary Long, one of whose children, Joseph, by her first husband, seems to have been in possession of the land on the easterly side of the lot above sold.

The other parcel sold by Elder Wiswall was evidently a portion of Jones's Hill. The deed describes it: "Lying in the hill field bounded Easterly with the land of henery Ware, wch was formerly William Blake, sen'r—Westerly with the land of Augustin Clement —Southerly with the land of Mr. fflint, wch was formerly land of William Clarke—and Northerly with highway [Stoughton street] leading from the burying place towards Mr. Stoughton's." The Augustin Clement here mentioned, it appears, was one of the hill proprietors, although we have not found his title to land there anywhere recorded. In 1671, when the town was trying to purchase Mr. Clarke's estate above alluded to on the south side of the hill for a habitation for their new minister, Rev. Mr. Flint, Mr. Clement made proposals to assume part of the risk of the purchase. Probably he was already owner of the lot adjoining, which is mentioned as the westerly boundary of Wiswall's lot to Clap. Mr. Clement was in Dorchester as early as 1635, and with his wife Elizabeth signed the church covenant in 1636. He was a painter by trade. In 1652 he was in Boston, where he owned a shop and land. He went back to Dorchester and died there in 1674. His daughter Elizabeth married William Sumner of Dorchester, and a granddaughter, Rebecca, daughter of Samuel, in 1695 was wife of Daniel Collins, and only surviving sister of her deceased brothers, Samuel and Augustin.

Elder John Wiswall, who made this transfer of land on the "hill field," owned an interest in the mills early erected on Neponset river. He deserves to be remembered by the people of Dorchester as one of its three citizens who as early as 1645 were appointed to the oversight and management of its first public school. In that year a carefully prepared series of rules and orders concerning the school then lately established were adopted by the town, one of which was that "three able and sufficient men" shall be chosen to be wardens or overseers o  f the school above mentioned, "in such manner as is hereafter expressed, and shall continue in their office for the term of their lives respectively, unless removal from the town or other weighty reason shall prevent." The men first chosen for this important duty were Deacon John Wiswall, Humphrey Atherton and Robert Howard.  pp47-47.

The Ancient Proprietors of Jones's Hill, Dorchester: Including Brief Sketches of the Jones, Stoughton, Tailer, Wiswall, Moseley, Capen and Holden Families, the Location and Boundaries of Their Estates, EEtc

To be continued..

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


(First posted in June 2007.)

The story of Varanes Libbey strikes me as being characteristic
of that era in the history of New England. Hundreds of men and
women left the family farms and the hill country to come to work
in the mills of Massachusetts. Men could earn from .88 cents to
around 3.50 a day in wages depending on their performance at the
job. Women were paid half that amount. That was still the best
wage available to a woman worker for that era. Mill workers would
work 12 hour days,6 days a week but anyone raised on a farm was
used to working all day everyday already. And the Lowell Mills
were originally intended as a sort of grand social experiment as
well as an industry so there were libraries, boardinghouses and an
expectation of proper moral behavior on the part of the workers.

Little wonder that Varanes and others like him left the farms for
work in the textile mills. Better money and in some cases better
living conditions. Eventually the noble intentions of the mill
owners were pushed aside for profits, but for a time it was a good
oppurtunity to make your way in the world.

Varanes was about 25 when he was made a Branch President of
the LDS Church in Lowell. That would seem to indicate he must
have been a serious young man with qualities that would lead to
his appointment. Yet only two months later he was replaced in the
position and apparently left the church shortly afterwards.

The next record I could find of Varanes was in the Adams &
Sampson Boston Street Directory of 1865:

“Libby Varanes porter, 28 India, house at Chelsea”

So Varanes left the mills at some time or another as well as the
Church. I have to wonder why he just didn’t go back home to the
family farm? Was it gone? Had one of his sisters married and her
husband taken over the farm in his absence? Did he actually
return home but left it once more to seek his fortune elsewhere?

Was there even in fact a farm left to go home to in the first place?

Or was it because of the suddenly controversial nature of the
Mormons as the doctrine of polygamy was introduced and the
New England church was rocked by accusations concerning the
conduct of William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith? Certainly
that would have been a topic of gossip and speculation among
“proper” New Englanders. Was Varanes made to feel that he
could not go home again because of his former association with
the church?

Whatever the reason, by 1865 the 46 year old Varanes worked in
a building on India Street, along the Boston waterfront but lived
over in Chelsea across the Mystic River. He was still living there
at Walnut St. on the 1880 census as Connell O’Donovan’s
research discovered.

Working as a porter must have been hard work, but I like to think
that Varanes enjoyed being part of life on the Boston waterfront at
a time when it was still bustling with ships and visitors from far off
exotic places.

Quite a journey for a boy from Bethel, Maine.

This is why I’m now hopelessly addicted to genealogy. You never
know what new story you will find about one of your ancestors!

Monday, July 25, 2016


From June 2007:

I’ve described here before how I occasionally pick one name from
my family tree and do a quick Google to see if I can find anything
about them that I haven’t found before. Lately I’ve been doing
this at the Google Book website.

About a week ago I was looking for more confirmation of the
marriage of John Ellingwood (Ellinwood or Ellenwood in some of
the records) to Zerviah Abbott and my googling brought me to the
book " A Genealogical Register of the Descendants of George
Abbot, of Andover: George Abbot, of Rowley, Thomas Abbot of
Andover, Arthur Abbot, of Ipswich, Robert Abbot, of Branford
Ct., and George Abbot of Norwalk, Ct"

Which, for interests of time and my aching fingers, will henceforth
be referred to in this piece as the Abbot Genealogical Register or

On Page 71 I found “Zerviah A.” listed among the children of
Jonathan and Mehitabel Abbott(they were both Abbotts by birth
descended from George Abbott and Hannah Chandler and were
3rd cousins) and her marriage in 1789 to “John Ellenwood” of
Bethel. I looked through the list of their children and compared
it to what I already had here, adding the names of spouses and
children I hadn’t know about to my files. Among them I found
listed my ancestor John E., his marriage to Rachel Barrows and
the names of their children includes my 2x great grandfather
Asa F. Ellingwood.

(Asa would marry Florilla Dunham in 1850 and it’s through them
that I’m related to Tim Abbott and Chris Dunham.)

While adding the names of Zerviah and John’s children to my files
one of the entries caught my interest. Their oldest child Sarah is
listed in the AGR as marrying a Thomas Libbey of Newry and
having a son with the name Varanes. It certainly was one of the
more unusual names I’ve run across among the family and it
made me wonder what had become of Varanes Libbey. So I
googled his name. There wasn’t much online on Varanes but there
was a surprise.

I found Varanes on a website on the early history of the Mormon
Church in Lowell Mass. that was compiled by Martha Mayo and
Connell O’Donovan. There are brief biographies of the church
members and Varanes is under the name Varanes/Varanus/
Veranus Libbe (or Libby):

“Born about 1819 in Maine or New Hampshire to Samuel Libby
and Sarah Stevens Ellenwood of Saco, York, Maine. Married Ann
Smith in 1842 (in Lowell?) Worked as a manufacturer and "white
washer" in the Lowell mills. Baptized in Lowell by Wilford
Woodruff on October 16, 1844 (along with Mary Thornton), and
almost immediately was made Branch President. By mid-
December 1844, he was replaced as Lowell Branch President by
travelling missionary Elder Jesse W. Crosby. He probably left
the Mormon Church about that time as well. Varanus and Ann
had three daughters: Lydia, Emma, and Charlotte.

Lydia A. Libby was born September 27, 1843 in Lowell. She never
married and lived with her parents the rest of her life, becoming a
dress maker to help support her family.

Emma Priscilla Libby was born June 2, 1849 in Medford,
Middlesex, Mass. She married Hugh Martin of Nova Scotia,
Canada in November 1869, and they also lived with her parents,
Varanus and Ann Smith Libby. Emma and Hugh Martin had one
daughter, Elizabeth E. Martin, born about 1872 in Lowell.

The last of the three daughters, Charlotte W. Libby, was born
about 1854. In 1870, she is living at home in Chelsea.

By the 1880 Census, the extended Varanus Libby family (except
Ann Smith Libby who had apparently dead) was all living
together on Walnut Street in Chelsea, Suffolk, Massachusetts
along with Ann's brother Elijah R. Smith.”

This was naturally all new to me since I hadn’t even known of
Varanes’ existence until an hour before I read this entry. I’m fairly
sure my Dad knew nothing of it. But his grandmother Clara
Ellingwood had died while both her sons were quite young so it is
possible that they’d never heard about their cousin Varanes.

I emailed Connell O’Donovan for permission to quote from his
website and research which he graciously gave.In his reply says
that he feels Varanes’s departure from the Latter Day Saints might
have been part of the upheavals over the doctrine of polygamy.
He included information that will appear in an article he hopes to
publish next year and which I’ll not mention here until it does
appear but there will be further mention of Varanes in it.

I’ll have some more thoughts on this in the next post.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Findmypast Friday this week adds over 250,000 new records to the Findmypast collections:

PERiodical Source Index
18,257 articles from 94 publications have been added in our July update. The articles, photos, and maps found within PERSI can help flush out the historical context of your family history research.

British Army Service Records Image Browse
Browse our collection of more than 7.8 million British Army Service records, the largest available online, to explore a myriad of Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents and pension claims.

Scotland, Linlithgowshire (West Lothian), Electoral Registers 1864-1931 Image Browse
Find out if your ancestor voted in the traditional Scottish county of Linlithgowshire, if they owned property and their exact location between the census years.

Britain, Absent Voters Lists 1918-1921 Browse
Uncover the names of thousands of service men and women who were away serving with the auxiliary forces, merchant seamen, diplomats and others working in occupations recognised as supporting the war effort during World War 1.

New South Wales 1901 Census
The only surviving fragments of the New South Wales 1901 census, that allow you to discover where your ancestors were living and how many people they were living with.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Findmypast Ambassador Program which includes a
complimentary one year world subscription to Findmypast and a Findmypast First membership.

Monday, July 18, 2016


This week's subject is my 10x great grandfather Nathan Aldis of Dedham, Ma. He is sometimes erroneously referred to as Nathaniel Aldis. I found this article written by Frederick H. Whitin, The Aldis Family in America, 1640-1800 in Google Books:

Of the English ancestry of the American family nothing is known. The earliest American record of Nathan Aldis, the Emigrant, is his admission to the Dedham Church on February 11, 1639-40 (II. 22).1 Mary, wife of "brother Alldys," was admitted March 11,1640-41 (II. 24.) He was chosen one of the first deacons of the Church on June 23, 1650 (II. 35). He became a freeman on May 13, 1640 (Mass. Col. Rec. I. 377).

Nathan Aldis first appears in town affairs as a "viewer of fences," April 17, 1640 (III. 67). He was selectman for the years 1641, 1642 and 1644 (III. 75-100). This proves incorrect the statement 

of Paige (History of Cambridge, Authority, unless otherwise stated, Hill's Dedham Records. 
p. 479) that in 1642, Nathan Aldus occupied land near what is now Harvard Square and Dunster Street.

As a Dedham proprietor, Nathan Aldis signed the Dedham Covenant, as did also his only son, John. As such, he received various grants of land, but always in small quantities (III. 95, 108, i11, 211). This is explained by the small number of cow-commons, the unit of proprietorship, which he held. The number varied, being seventeen in 1666 (IV. 126), decreasing to eleven in 1669 (IV. 174), out of a total of 335 at that time. John Aldis, the son, had the last number in 1685 (V. 170), while seven appear, in the inventory of the estate of Daniel3 Aldis (No. 7). .

In August, 1642, Nathan Aldis acquired a sixth interest in the water mill on East Brook. Seven years later he, with John Allin (the pastor) and John Dwight, sold his interest to Nathaniel Whiting, the fourth partner (Suffolk Deeds, IV. 285).

Nathan Aldis acted as appraiser in a number of probate cases, and in two of these the original papers are preserved. His signature of the date of 1642 has been reproduced (III. 89) from certain town papers. All show a similarity of writing, but not of spelling; it being "Alldis" in town affairs, "Aldous" in Suffolk Probate case, No. 33, (1642) and "Aldis " in case No. 531 of the year 1670. This later indicates greater familiarity with a pen, if firmer characters are any criterion.

The Emigrant did not prosper greatly in this world's goods in the later years, judging from the proportion of taxes he paid, and the comparative assessed valuation of his house. This latter was £20 (III. 183) in 1651, ranging afterwards from £15 (IV. 178) to  £30 (IV. 77).

His public acts were chiefly in connection with the meeting-house and pastor's salary, he being a committee on both. His last appearance on the town records was on November 29,1675 (V. 36),when he was assessed is. 3d. for the general tax.

1. Nathan Aldis, emigrant, was born in England about 1596 (Suffolk Court Files, No. 966, a deposition), and died at Dedham, Mass., March 15, 1675-6 (I. 15). Mary, his wife, died at Dedham on January 1,1676-7 (1.15). Administration on his estate was granted on April 25, 1676 "to Mary Aldis, his relict and John Aldis, their sonne." The inventory amounted to £112, including the house lot valued at £40. (Suffolk Prob. V. 338). Issue, born in England:—

2. i. Mary2.

3. ii. John2.

Dedham Historical Register, Volume 14 Dedham Historical Society, 1903 - Dedham (Mass.)

Nathan's daughter Mary married my 9x great grandfather Joshua Fisher Jr.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Findmypast Friday this week adds over 2 million new records to the Findmypast collections:

Worcestershire Monumental Inscriptions
Explore centuries of monumental inscriptions from 178 different parishes. This brand new set contains over 85,847 records, including UK Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

Aberdeenshire, Banffshire & Kincardineshire Monumental Inscriptions
21 THOUSAND RECORDS A brand new set containing records from 22 different Scottish cemeteries. Discover when your ancestor died, where they were buried and their religious denomination.


Middlesex Monumental Inscriptions 1485-2014
Number of records added: 10,592
Total records: 30,245
Covering: Inscriptions from 22 churches, including one record dating back to 1189, exclusive to Findmypast
Discover: Hans Sloane, Irish physician whose work formed the foundation of the British Museum

British Newspapers
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Covering: London, Wales, Yorkshire and Essex and more
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Essex Memorial Inscriptions
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Discover: Four centuries of marriages from over 330 parishes

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Discover: Birth and death years and the names of other relatives


Full disclosure: I am a member of the Findmypast Ambassador Program which includes a
complimentary one year world subscription to Findmypast and a Findmypast First membership.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


In my research on my Fisher, Gay, Dean and other families from Dedham, Ma., I kept running
across references to a part of the town called The Clapboards or The Clapboard Trees. It struck
me as a strange name for a place, so I searched Google Books and found an answer in The Early Records of the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts: 1636-1659. volume three, edited in 1892 by the
Dedham Town Clerk, Don Gleason Hill. The origin of the name was in the records of early town

Dedham The 31 December 1636
Assembled whose names are heervnder written vizt Robte Feke, Edward Alleyn, Abraham Shawe, Samuell Morse, John Kingsbery, Phileman Dolton, John Dwite, John Hayward, John Coolidge, Richard Evered, John Gaye, Thomas Bartlet, Thomas Hastings, Willm Berstowe, John Huggens.

First yt wch was agreed vpon the last assembly was Read and confirmed.

Wheras Nicholas Phillips hath felled crteyne trees wth out his Lott wth out licence contrary to an order made in that behalfe. Therfore he is fyned to pay vnto ye Collector for the vse of the Towne Sixe pence for every tree soe felled.

And for yt Ezechiell Holliman hath felled one greate Timber tree for clapboard wth out his owne Lott contrary to an order made in that behalfe, therfore he is fined to pay vnto the Collector for ye vse of ye Towne the sum of Ten shillings.

And the sayd Ezechiell is to paye in like manner for every lesser tree soe felled contrary vnto the sayd order the sum of sixe pence for a fyne as aforesayd.

The sayd Ezechiell Holliman is moreover Fyned the sum of Fifteene shillings to be payd vnto ye Collector For that yt he hath covered his house wth Clapboard contrary vnto an order mad in that behalfe.

Wheras crteyne of our Company are gone up to inhabite this  winter at our Towne of Dedham, & yt other materialls are not well to be had for the [ ] closeing in of their houses in such a season, wch thing being well taken into consideration: we doe therfore give liberty only for every such inhabitant abouesayd to make vse of Clapboard to any pte of his house for his prsent necessety from this prsent daye vntill the first daye of the third month next called May daye And not afterward yt soe the order in that behalfe made may stand still in force & effect to all intents and purposes for wch it was soe made accordingly

The Early Records of the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts: 1636-1659. volume three, printed at the offices of the Dedham Transcript, Dedham, Ma. 1892

But by the next year the town was growing so it was decided to allow clapboarding again:

Dedham The 18th of ye 5th month comonly called July 1637
...It is agreed concrneing Clapboarding of houses yet it Clapboard shalbe at liberty vntill midsomer day next, not wth standing ye order wch is afterward to stand in force from yt day forward

And finally it was decided to remove all restrictions on the practice.

Dedham The 6th of ye 5: Month 1638
The Clapboarding of houses set at liberty vnto all men from Clapbord this tyme forward.

Most of the trees that were initally cut down to make into clapboards were in the western part
of town and the area came to be known as The Clapboard Trees and then simply The Clapboards
And when a new church parish was established there it came to be know as the Clapboards Parish.

Just another one of those interesting things you learn while researching family history!

Monday, July 11, 2016


My 8x great grandfather Joshua Fisher 3rd was known as "Captain Joshua" to keep from any confusion with his father "Lt. Joshua."

Here's what Philip A. Fisher wrote about him: 

13. Joshua4, son of Lieut. Joshua (6), of Dedham, born there Jan. 9, 1651, and died Jan. 26, 1708-9. He was made a freeman, May 8, 1678. Mentioned in records as lieutenant Jan. 1, 1678-9; afterwards was a captain of militia; inherited the Fisher Tavern in Dedham, for account of which see under Joshua (28) and Deborah (137). He m. Esther, dau. of Elder John and Margaret (Smith) Wiswall, who was b. June 7, 1654, probably at Dorchester, and died between April, 1710, and April, 1711. Joshua received pay for services in King Philip's war from Feb. 29 to Dec. 10, 1675. Dedham "granted liberty to Joshua Fisher to take so much of the Towne timber as with the old may rebuild his brew House : and also a lean to:" Dec. 15, 1679. He was chosen " to repair the pounde for this present yeare and to keepe it," Aug. 10, 1693, May 9, 1694, May 18, 1695, and May 11, 1696. An inventory of his estate, made Feb. 17, 1708-9, appraises his property as follows: Household goods and farm utensils, £102 10. 6; the houses and lands and orchards at home, £200; several parcels of outlands and spinning wheels, £6$ 9. An agreement was entered into by the heirs, April 21, 1709, in which the widow Esther was given '' one half the housing and lands of the deceased, called the homestead lying in Dedham & one third of the tract of land wch abuts upon the Elders Causeway (so called) and one acre & a halfe of wood land at the place call'd the Clapboard Trees. And it is agreed by and between all the party's to these presents, That Joshua Fisher and John Fisher shall have ye other moiety of ye housing and lands call'd the Homestead", they agreeing to pay to the four daughters, namely: Esther, wife of Daniel Fisher, Sarah, wife of Samuel Fuller, Mary and Anna Fisher., their respective single portions of £61 11. 5.

The will of widow Esther, made April 22, 1710, was filed for probate at Boston, April 18, 1711; she gave to son Joshua "my Candlebox and all my pewter measures both for bear and wine. Item. To my son John Fisher I give what sum or sums of money shall be due unto me from this Town of Dedham at my decease upon Account of my Entertainment of the Selectmen of this place whilst upon Town affairs Together with one cow if I shall have any." Her personal property to four daughters ; Mary and Anna Executrixes. The will of daughter Anna was made July 5, 1711 ; entered for probate by John Fisher, Sept. 20, 1711; gives personal property to brothers Joshua and John, sisters Hester Fisher, Sarah Fuller and Mary Deane; to brother John's wife Mary; to his maid Rebekah Woodcock; and "to my Aunt Deane my biggest brim'd pewter bason". Children b. in Dedham were:

8. Joshua5, b. Feb. 4, 1674-5; m. Hannah Fuller about 1695. 

Esther5, b. April 17, 1677; d. May 24, 1677.

29. John5, b. July 15, 1678; m. Mary Onion, of Dedham. 

Esther5, b. Feb. 27, 1681-82; m. Captain Daniel Fisher, 3d
(63), Nov. 25, 1703.

30. Sarah5  b. Nov. 5, 1685 ; m. Samuel Fuller, Feb. 10, 1706.

31. Mary5, b. July 24, 1687; m. Jeremiah Deane, Jan. 26, 1711. 

Anna5, b. March 25, 1690; d. single, July 8, 1711.


 The Fisher genealogy: A record of the descendants of Joshua, Anthony, and Cornelius Fisher, of Dedham, Mass., 1630-1640   Massachusetts Pub. Co.,   Everett, Ma.  1898

Saturday, July 09, 2016


A final thought about Joshua Fisher Jr.
-A few weeks ago I didn't know much about the Fisher family, let alone Joshua Fisher Jr. And now
he's become one of my favorite ancestors. Yes, he was multi-talented.  He served in the Militia as
an officer, surveyed and laid out boundaries for several towns in Massachusetts, created maps for
those towns, and ran a tavern in Dedham, Ma. But what really amazed me that he came over from
England by himself at age 17  to set up a blacksmith shop for his father who was still back home. I've no idea what his formal education had been before he came to Massachusetts, or if he even had any (which would make all he accomplished even more impressive). He must have been quite
mature for his age, but then again, most children grew up faster in that time period than they do in
these days.    

Here's a relationship chart from Joshua Fisher Sr. down to my father:

Friday, July 08, 2016


The Findmypast Friday collections this week are for two sets of U.S. records:

United States Naturalization Petitions
7,693,491 records spanning the years 1905 to 1950 and covering Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Discover when and where your ancestor was born, their port of entry and even photographs.

United States Passport Applications
Uncover an original photograph of your ancestor as well as details on when, where and why they travelled. Applications may also include a physical description, occupation, residence, spouse's name, and date and place of birth.

A variety of new records from around the UK will be available to search next Findmypast Friday. Keep your eyes peeled for more details.

To register for our upcoming webinar, "How to break down brick walls after 1837" with Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists for top tips on overcoming family history hurdles in the years after government registration was introduced in the UK.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Findmypast Ambassador Program which includes a
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Thursday, July 07, 2016


Joshua Fisher Jr died on 10Aug 1672. Philip A Fisher wrote the following about Joshua's estate and his children.

The Inventory of his estate, made Aug. 20, 1672 (Suffolk Pro., VIII, folio 239 et seq.), covers many pages. Among the articles enumerated are the following: Meadow of 12 acres abutting upon the house lot, £60; all the houses at home, the dwelling house and leantoos adjoining, the brew house, the shop, and barn, £120; the orchard on the south sjide of the street, £35; eleven acres in the broad meadows, £12; one piece of woody land near Thomas Fisher's, £4; land in the Clapboards, £3.17; common rights, £3; cedar swamps near the town, .£3.5. The total value of the estate was £1145. 6. 5. Daniel Fisher, Thomas Battelle and Joshua Fisher, the administrators, filed a bond Sept. 5, 1672, for £2200. In the division of the estate, made Nov. 23, 1672, the widow was given '' a trunke with what is in it, prissed at £22.18 and 50£," and the thirds of all the houses and lands, or instead £10 per annum. The remainder was divided into seven parts: two to Joshua, the eldest son, and one each to John, Vigilance, Mary., Abigail, and Hannah; the signers to the agreement being Joshua Fisher, William Avery for John Fisher, Thomas Fuller for Vigilance Fisher, Thomas Clap, John Holton, and Daniel Fisher for Hannah Fisher. Children, all born in Dedham, were:

Mary4, b. March 23, 1644; m. Thomas Clapp, Nov. 10, 1662.   (Clapp Genealogy, p. 107-9.)
Joshua4, b. Oct. 30, 1645; d. Jan. 14, 1646.
Hannah4, b. Feb. 14, 1647; d. Sept. 4, 1648.
Abigail4, b. Feb. 29, 1649; m. John Houlton, of Dedham,
13. Joshua4, b. Jan. 9, 1651; m. Esther Wiswall.
14. John4, b. Feb. 18, 1652; m. Hannah Adams, March 6, 1674. Hannah4, b. Jan. 19, 1653; m. [William?] Burroughs..'
15. Vigilance4, b. (by second wife) Nov. 21, 1654.
James4, b. March'1, 1657; d. Sept. 27, 1658.-
The Fisher genealogy: A record of the descendants of Joshua, Anthony, and Cornelius Fisher, of Dedham, Mass., 1630-1640   Massachusetts Pub. Co.,   Everett, Ma.  1898

I'm descended from son Joshua and his wife Esther Wiswall.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Continuing with more on my 9x great grandfather Joshua Fisher Jr, Philip A. Fisher quotes from another source with more information:

Roberts' History of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company says of him:

"From the Colonial archives of Massachusetts Bay we learn that in 1648 he was appointed lieutenant of the military company in Dedham, and usually after this time he is styled 'Lieutenant,' and when he is not his name is connected with some survey that identifies his individuality. In 1650 he was appointed by the General Court to run the line between Sudbury and Watertown; in 1656 was appointed to lay out Mr. Alcock's land, also Mr. Bradstreet's eight hundred acres; in 1664 the General Court granted him three hundred acres of land for surveying the south line of the patent of Massachusetts Bay, next to Plymouth; in 1666, he settled the controversy between Mr. Z. Gold and Gov. Endicott as to land bounds, and laid out Gov. Endicott's farm on Ipswich River; in 1667 was appointed, with others, to lay out the town of Mendon; also to layout Dedham's eight thousand acres, near Hadley. In 1670, the General Court ordered a further survey of the line between Massachusetts and Plymouth, and Oct. 11, 1670, the bill, forty shillings, of Lieut. Fisher, for doing the same, was paid to his children. The survey was reported to the General Court May 15, 1672, and Lieut. Fisher died in August of that year. From the records of Dorchester, we learn that Lieut. Fisher was employed to run the line between Dedham and Dorchester; in 1670, to run the line from 'Blue Hill' to Plymouth; in 1661, Dorchester paid him for a new map of the town, and in 1670 for a second revised map." ....pp14-15

The Fisher genealogy: A record of the descendants of Joshua, Anthony, and Cornelius Fisher, of Dedham, Mass., 1630-1640   Massachusetts Pub. Co.,   Everett, Ma.  1898

And some how Joshua also fit in the time to provide another valuable service to his fellow citizens of

In ansr to ye request of the selectmen of Dedham, desiring, in regard of theire remotenes from Boston, Left Joshua Fisher might haue liberty to sell some strong waters, to supply yt necessity of such as shall stand in neede thereof in that toune, the Court graunts theire request. [Oct. 19, 1658: Mass. Col. Rec„ IV, Part I, 352.]-p.13

Blacksmithing, surveying, mapmaking, soldiering. and tavern keeping; Joshua Fisher Jr was a man
of many talents!

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Continuing Philip A. Fishers entry on my 9x great grandfather Joshua Fisher Jr reveals what may have been a first in colonial New England:

At the town meeting in January, 1648-49, he was chosen selectman and continued in that office 22 years. He also tries his hand at surveying, for the records state that Jan. 7, 1649-50, he " is deputed and undertaken to take and make a true platt of ye out most Lines of the Towne." We find him later regularly chosen town surveyor, and the records show him at work in other parts of the Colony, one large work being the surveying of 8000 acres completed in May, 1665, "at a place called Pocumptuck" (Deerfield), "it lyinge northward from Hadley about tenn or twelue mile," being the land given Dedham in the exchange for the land they claimed at Natick.

It is ordered by this Court, that whereas there was graunted to Dedham eight thousand akers of land the last session of this Court, Ensigne John Euerard & Jonathan Danforth are hereby appointed to lay out the same according to graunt. [Oct. 21, 1663: Mass. Col. Rec., IV, Part II, 91.]

This tract of land, conteynig eight thousand acres, being layd out according to this1 plott given into the Court & remayning on file, beginning att A, & so running to L, by the Foote of a mountejne, south & by west two miles forty sixe rod; from L to K, along by the same mouuteine fine miles forty rod south & by east two degrees easterly; From K to I, vpon a streight ljne two miles & a halfe & a half west halfe a point southerly; From H to I, vpon a streight line south halfe a point easterly, fower miles; From G to H, uorwest fower degrees, westerly three hundred sixty two rod; From E to G. S. S east three degrees southerly, one hundred & sixty rod; from E to F south southeast, west three degrees southerly, eighty eight rod; from D to E south west one hundred and eight rod; from C to D south south east eighty rod J From B to C south Sc. by west three degrees westerly, five hundred & eighty rod; from A to B west north west two degrees westerly, one mile twenty rod. This tract of land is lajd out at a place called Pecuinptick, to answer the grantof the honoured Generall Court made to Dedham for the lands at Natick, which the Indians are setled vpon, by the Courts order, it lyinge northward from Hadley about tenn or twelue mile. Layd out as abouesajd May, 1665, By me, Joshua Fisher.

The Court allowes & approoues of this returne, provided they make a toune of it, to majntejue the ordinances of Christ there once wihin five yeares, & that it interfere not Majr Genrl Dennison & Hadley grant. [Oct. 11, 1665: Mass. Col. Rec., IV, Part II, 282.]

Probably referring to the above, Temple's History of North Brookfield, p. 54, says: „

"The compass was first brought into use in laying out land grants in this region, by Lieut. Fisher, of Dedham, when he surveyed the Deerfield lands in 1665. They had a chain to measure distances, and some prominent object was selected as starting and turning point. The chief concern was to get the full quantity named in the grant."-

The Fisher genealogy: A record of the descendants of Joshua, Anthony, and Cornelius Fisher, of Dedham, Mass., 1630-1640   Massachusetts Pub. Co.,   Everett, Ma.  1898

To be continued...

Monday, July 04, 2016


Philip Fisher has quite a bit about my 9x great grandfather Joshua Fisher Jr in his genealogy of the Fisher family, including why Joshua Jr is known as "Lt. Joshua"

6. Joshua1, son of Joshua (2), of Medfield, was baptized at Syleham, England, April 2, 1621, and came to New England in 1637. The Dedham Records contain the following: "Dedham. The First of ye 11th Month 1637. That wch was agreed vpon yt last meeteing was now Reade & confirmed. Vpon a motion made by Anto Fisher It is condescended that Josua Fisher may enter vpon the Smithes Lott & ther fitt himselfe ye building & otherwise for to doe some worke of ye trade for yt Towne in the behalfe of his Father wch is expected this next somer. Provided yt yf he cometh not in such a tyme as may be conceived fitting by our sayd society Then the sayd Josua shall leave yt sayd Lott & yt Towne to be at liberty to put in another Smith: allowing vnto the sayd Josua his wholl Charges vpon the same to be alowed by 2: Judicious men." About this time he signed the Dedham Covenant, but we cannot learn the exact date. In August, 1639, he joined the Dedham church; the following year became a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and was its second sergeant in 1648; and was made a freeman May 2, 1649. Joshua married 1st, Nov. 15, 1643, Mary, dau. of Deacon Nathaniel and Mary Aldis, of Dedham. She died Sept. 3, 1653; and he m. 2d, Feb. 16, 1654, Lydia, widow of Samuel Oliver, of Boston.

Upon the Petition of Dedham for Eleazer Lusher to be their Captaine, Josua Fisher their lief tenant, & Henry Philips their ensign, their petition is granted. [Oct. 18, 1648: Mass. Col. Rec., II, .257, and III, 139.]

To the honoured Gouerner Majestrats and deputies assembled at the Generall Court at Boston
The petition of the Towne of Dedham
Humbly Sheweth:

That wheras our band of Trayned Souldiers haue bin yet: defectiuc for want of Oficers established: to exercise them: and as we humbly conceiue that we haue some amongst vs that may be fitt. to exercise our Company we haue with one consent made choyce of Eliazer Lusher to be our Captaine: and Joshua Fisher to be our Leiftenant aud Henry Phillips to be our Ensigne humbly desyringe this Honor Court: that you would be pleased to Ratifie and confirme them in the said places if you shall thinke good : And your petioners shall pray et
William Ballard, clarke of ye Trayne band 

The depties haue graunted this pet. wth Refferance to the concurrance of or honord magists William Torrey by order &c

The mast consent hereto Jo: Winthrop. Gour
19 (8) 48
[Mass. Arch., LXVII, 43.See Col. Rec., III, 139.]

So by the title of "Lieutenant Joshua " he was thereafter known throughout the Colony.

The Fisher genealogy: A record of the descendants of Joshua, Anthony, and Cornelius Fisher, of Dedham, Mass., 1630-1640   Massachusetts Pub. Co.,   Everett, Ma.  1898

Continued in Part2.

Friday, July 01, 2016


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