Remember the ladies!

Alicia Crane WilliamsReaders have asked for Early New England Families Study Project sketches for the ladies. Because genealogy is traditionally oriented to the male surname – and if a wife has only one husband – “reversing” his sketch for her would not include any more information. With 35,000 sketches to do, that is unneeded redundancy.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. In the cases where a woman has married more than one husband and has children by both (or more), then her sketch will contain different information from her husbands’ sketches. Thus to completely cover a family, sketches are needed for the husbands and the wives who connect them. Three new sketches have been posted on the website for three of these wives and a fourth is in progress. It is quite interesting what a change of view can do for our understanding of what it was like to be a wife and mother in seventeenth-century New England.

The three sketches that have been posted are for Abigail (Stansfield) (May) Johnson [wife of Samuel May and Humphrey Johnson], Elizabeth (Newgate) (Oliver) Jackson [wife of John Oliver and Edward Jackson], and Elizabeth (Fones) (Winthrop) (Feake) Hallett [wife of Henry Winthrop, Robert Feake, and William Hallett]. The latter Elizabeth is, of course, “The Winthrop Woman,” whose life has been celebrated in a novel and includes being widowed at age 21 with a two-month old child, being married to a man who went insane, obtaining a disputed divorce, and cohabiting with the man who became her third (claimed) husband. Her sketch combines what has already been posted in the Early Families sketch about her first husband, with additional detail on her succeeding two husbands and her children by them – a total of 11 pages just for her! Her second husband was already treated in Great Migration, and her third will eventually have his own Early Families sketch based on his marriage date to Elizabeth in 1648. While all of these sketches overlap, each provides a different combination of information.

The lady in progress is Elizabeth (Hawkredd) (Coney) (Mellowes) Makepeace [wife of John Coney, Oliver Mellowes, and Thomas Makepeace]. She had children by all three husbands, the latter two of whom had children by other wives. At the time of her third marriage, there were sixteen children in her combined family, probably all under the age of 21, to which she and Thomas added two more.

If I have counted correctly, these four ladies were the mothers of 36 children (not all of whom survived) and stepmothers of 22 children of their ten spouses’ previous marriages. Talk about populating a frontier!

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.

30 thoughts on “Remember the ladies!

  1. I am related to Elizabeth (Fones) (Winthrop) (Feake) Hallett [wife of Henry Winthrop, Robert Feake, and William Hallett] thru her Feakes and Winthrop lines on my mothers maternal and paternal lines. I have two copies of The Winthrop Woman and am proud to say she is an ancestor and should be recognized more in the early history of our country.

    1. You may find the new non-fiction book by Missy Wolfe detailing Elizabeth’s life very interesting. “Insubordinate Spirit, A true Story of Life and Loss in Earliest America 1610-1665.” A best seller on Amazon and Kindle.

      1. Missy, I enjoyed your book and it was a great help to me while trying to sort out the time lines and find New York resources. I recommend it as a great story of an unusual family, to say the least.

        1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you found my research really helpful on Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett. The Hallett family has allowed publication of many of their family documents from the 1600s. I am now transcribing hundreds of 1600s documents in the vault of Greenwich, CT town hall and finding a lot of unpublished information on many families.

  2. In 1884 and again in 1984 my family published the ‘official’ genealogy – without new research on one of the the founding lines.
    While working on both my line and that of my husband’s, I came across the mix up — all due to the married name of wife # 2.
    Add in the use of common given names, and the entire line was ripe for mix-up!
    Hint: I bought “New England Marriages Prior to 1700″ by Torrey and began a systematic search for all related women. In many cases, was able to trace their marriages, subsequent marriages and issue, thus filling in a lot of maternal lines.
    Jane DOE married under her maiden name, marries 2nd under her married name (JONES), and if marrying again, is seldom listed with the Doe-Jones lineage listed. She dies, buried under the surname of her 3rd husband, SMITH.
    Used the same system, using ‘History of Martha’s Vineyard” by Banks, since I descend from 7 of the original founding families.
    I might add that these were BOOKS. Paper. Where I could use post-its, paper clips and penciled margin notes. Can’t do that with electronic media 🙂

    1. Susan, Good work. And some people think it has all been done before!
      You’ll be surprised how fast ;you will (eventually) become used to the digital books. They don’t have the “feel” of course and take getting used to, but they eliminate the biggest problem — space. For those of us who don’t get to the library regularly and who have limited space in the house, we can have access to hundreds of thousands of books through the computer — makes the transition a lot more palatable. Try it.

    1. Joyce, as I just replied to Susan, while books are nice (especially if we own them and can write in them), there just isn’t enough room to keep them, they have to be dusted, and some of them are darned heavy! I have become a convert and while it is still a pain to chase down, download, etc.(which will improve with time) the on-line books, my horizons have broadened immensely. “Shelf reading” takes on a new meaning!

      1. While revolutionizing armchair genealogical detective work, the books posted at, say, actually make “shelf-re-reading” still necessary. Optical scanners are soulless automatons, i. e. no built-in self-correcting algorithm to distinguish between barely perceptible page smudges and actual words. It creates words out of the smudges and regularly renders a “pr” sequence as “pl*”. And what it can do to actual names renders them unreadable, therefore “unknown”! “Mr. Cuus” in History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) is an example.

        Google Books is somewhat better in that you can switch between images and texts for proofreading. But I know Google can write the code to make that almost unnecessary! And Google is unlikely to get around to uploading any of the Collection and Proceeding volumes of the Massachusetts Historical Society, some of which (if you can identify them) are up at archive.

        What Ancestry has in its Card Catalog has been more readable and easier to search; it even has GDMNH and that search function on that book is great, as names are buried in other notices! (Did I just say that about Ancestry?)

        But, yes, it was quite a positive to find The Battey Family at archive. Did I have to spend more than a bit of time “translating” the OCR text? Much more than I wanted to, while acknowledging the convenience: the Sixth Floor is in Boston and I’m in Oregon.

        1. Bob, I avoid the OCR versions. Most of the older books are in PDF now, although things like GDMNH aren’t, so I bought that book, which I use regularly. MHS is holding on to its copyrighted material very closely, but I hope that they will soon allow their Collections to be made available.

          1. When I’m doing a Google Lit Search, I don’t find a pdfs for, say, RECORDS OF MASS BAY at all. (Not quite all the volumes are up at the Early America Studies Group pages, and I don’t remember if I’ve found any in garbles text version as at Archive.)

            How should I be using Google to find them?

    2. Alicia:
      Please consider giving priority of a sketch on Herodias (Long) Hicks) (Gardner) Porter, who has children by all three of her husbands and is seriously misrepresented in footnote 11 of your sketch on Thomas Starr. The footnote says her 1st husband divorced her on grounds on desertion, citing an article on Rhode Island History, which says no such thing. on the contrary, it is undisputed that her 1st husband left Rhode Island for Long Island and she stayed put in their Rhode Island house until she presumably moved next door to join a neighbor in a common law marriage. If this constututes desertion on her part, you’d better cite the sexist law that can be so interpreted!
      There are other important issues with this ancestor that also require attention:
      Can you track her English origins from the dates she received legacies from her mother and brother?
      Does her English marriage record explain how she managed to marry at 13 without parental consent?
      What was Rhode Island’s law on spousal abuse when her 1st husband beat her?
      Did she know where he was when she joined her neighbor in common law marriage?
      Could she have been pregnant with her 1st child be George Gardner before her 1st husband left her?
      when did she become a Quaker?
      Why did she go to Massachusetts Bay and why did they beat her and her serving girl?
      Where was she living with her children from her 1st 2 marriages when she decided to divorce George Gardner and marry John Porter?
      Please correct your Starr sketch by doing this “lady” next.

      1. Whoa! That’s an interesting case, indeed, as you’ve presented it. One of those “I’d love to see the details on that.” But Alicia’s project is not yet (maybe never) an AA refereed wiki project. There’s just 1 of her. As she’s looking at several thousand marriages listed in Torrey, why not help her and us by writing up a formal piece, starting with turning RCA’s template into “Patience Puritan” and filling in the blanks with sources. (I’ve found that very useful, re Malden Women’s Petition of the 1650s.)

        Then you can circulate it among ACW and other Society staffers for comments. Don’t forget the people at the RI Historical Society or the RI State Gen Society too.

        You already have the general issues at your fingertips, and I’m sure the sources. Plus, the English legacies make it a “jumping the pond” type article which has always been the Register’s forte. But above all, give Alicia something to work with by working it yourself.

        You can do it. Go for it. I did, and the experience was as good as when I wrote my master’s thesis.

        1. Hi Bob. Yes, I can only write so many sketches in my lifetime and there will be many successors to follow me. We certainly encourage researchers to use the Early New England Families Study Project format to work on their own families.

          However, I have to be a bit of a Grinch and ask that researchers do not send their material to me, principally because it may concern families with which I will never do any work and would simply sit in a file gathering dust. I recommend, instead, that they donate copies of their compiled genealogies to the NEHGS library collection, or see if they are appropriate for publication in one of the magazines.

          1. Happy to give you the opportunity to restate more clearly what I was trying to articulate.

      2. Hi LInda,

        Herodias is quite definitely a lady who deserves attention, but exactly when she will get it is still unknown. The sketch for Herodias will be done at the same time as the sketch for her first husband, John Hicks. His sketch will be done according to the date (or estimated date) he arrived in New England, which I haven’t yet researched, since Hicks was an “other spouse” of a spouse in the Starr sketch.

        Untangling all of the evidence for the “desertions” and “divorces” in this very complex group of individuals will definitely be fun, and when that time comes I will certainly do my best to make sure everyone gets their due justice. To do that I have to read all of the testimonies and court records available in print, but even then I won’t be able to answer all of your questions simply because the Early Families project is a summary of what we know about each family and, alas, time does not allow the luxury of new research.

        On the subject of Rhode Island divorces: Bob Anderson and Melinde Sanborn’s NEHGR article, “Betty Baulston and John Coggeshall: An Early Rhode Island Divorce,” which mentions Herodius in its examples of the complexity of divorces at that time. It is in vol. 149, pp. 361-73, which unfortunately is not on because of copyright restrictions, but you probably already have seen this in the original volume.

        Thanks for being her advocate.

  3. While I understand the thinking behind not emphasizing a woman who had only one husband if the husband’s lineage has been traced, you can lose a lot of interesting stories that way. My great-great-grandmother married her one and only husband at age 19 and then moved from Hamilton, later Ontario, Canada to the Mississippi, where she and her mother and brother took a boat to Winona, Minnesota, to meet her husband and father, who had come ahead of them. One month later, she gave birth to my great-grandfather. I don’t know how they traveled, but the trip took from April to October, 1855. She’s my inspiration and I’m glad I had the chance to research her. Incidentally, her birth family is fascinating, too–why would I want to ignore that?

    1. Anne, Of course you don’t want to ignore any part of your ancestors’ stories, but in the context of the “Early New England Families Study Project,” where we are collecting summaries of what is known about a couple, for the single-marriage wife all of her information that we know, including her parentage, is included with her husband’s sketch. So in that limited case, “reversing” the sketch for her is simply an exercise in rearranging paragraphs. However, we all know how many multiple-marriage wives there were, so I expect we will continue to see more sketches on these very interesting ladies!

      1. Hear, hear! in general.

        Reversing the paragraphs is, however, a very good way to create fresh perspectives on women as settlers in themselves. For instance, there are a larger number of “single” woman in NE before 1700 then we are inclined to suspect. I cross-checked some names off a pro-Midwife petition of circa 1658 (?) to Torrey and found a good number not in there, and these seemed all to be married women. See, Jenny Hill Pulsipher article in W&MQ circa 1997 which prints & analyses the document in its historical context with reference to some genealogy material.

        While creating “Patience Puritan” sketches was not necessary to Pulsipher’s work nor to Marilyn Westerkamp’s book (Women and Religion in Early America, 1999), doing just that for the “36 Women of Malden” is the only way to focus on recovering their individuality. Most of them had or were having multiple marriages at the time of the Marmaduke Matthews confrontation with the General Court. Switching the prism may be the only way to understand why they so publicly voiced their support of Matthews. At the very least, a “Patience” draft presents the researcher with the gaps to fill-in. (See History of Malden, chapters 5 & 6–and you can readily guess how the Mass Bay Court responded. Also, MM is sketched by Anderson in Great Migration.)

        Then too, I’ve just remembered Julie Helen Otto’s Nexus study of the Stoddard-Edward women which highlights the “career” of being a minister’s wife using a matrilineal descent approach

        Yep, there’s a lot of knowledge to be gained by switching the prism.

        1. The article on the petitions for the imprisoned midwife in Boston in the WMQ in the late 1640s/early 1650s is by me, Mary Beth Norton, not by Jenny Pulsipher (though she was a good guess)–just in case people want to find it. And yes, even though I and an undergraduate research assistant scoured every source we could find, there were female signers we just could not identify.

          1. the article appeared in the William & Mary Quarterly, January 1998, pp 105-34. My assistant and I tried to research all 200+ female signers of 5 different (but somewhat overlapping) petitions. As I said in the first comment, we did not find information on all the signers, but we did identify most. Among other factoids, I was able to suggest that the midwife in question, Alice Tilly, most likely supervised at the birth of Elihu Yale, after whom the university was named, though he was not technically its founder.

          1. Oh, I’m not done with them yet, re 36 Women of Malden, nor with the larger concept of women as individuals/groups.

            By groups I mean a continuum of experience from family through work/sewing through church/conventicles to public action. A different perspective from the one of being just in-the-house or out-of-the-house as the only “viewable” locales of agency for woman/women. For me, that’s the necessary attitudinal shift in doing research so as to develop the broader HISTORICAL presentation.

            Using the continuum approach means building up from what can be known about individuals, i.e. distinguishing all the surnamed Green women in Malden from each other, or in the case of the Alice Tilley petitions, who-what-where-when-how answers can be asked, such as regarding the likely mother-daughter combo of “Holland Battran” & “Battran Joyce” whom I did NOT find in Torrey.(*) That’s the application of the GENEALOGICAL perspective. Getting the details correct.

            The gen-facts can then be used to ground the historical questions of
            1) are there any overlaps among the petitioners, either directly or through familial connections (a mother signs in Boston and a daughter signs in Malden, i.e. how multi-generational is this?),
            2) how does social-status power the action of signing (mistress-goodwife-plain Janes)?,
            3) are these really the only 2 public acts of agency by women in groups or are there more we just haven’t “seen”,
            4) and if more, are the occasions also family (Tilley) and church (Matthews) , or
            5) is there another aspect of the public social life generating the “group voice” action?

            (*) It would seem that the Tilley petitions have been IN PRINT before MBN’s article in RECORDS OF MASS BAY. They are at 3:197 (23 May 1650, Reply to Petition #4), 3:208-209 (21 June 1650, Reply to Petition #5), 9:6, (1649, Petition #1), 9:8 (1649, Petition #2), 9:11 (1649, Petition #3), 9:12 (Petition #4), and 9:14 (1650, Petition #5). Noted & re-typed at the following website by a descendant of one of Mistress Tilley’s Blower sons:

            HOWEVER, Professor Norton’s transcriptions of the names from the original Mass Arch documents are to be PREFERRED as those RECORDS lists (1) have the names printed alphabetically so the family/neighbor relationships are destroyed, such as with the “Battran” women, and (2) the printed lists seem to have transposed first names for last names & the reverse, too, I would suspect.

            Prof. Norton may already have addressed the issue above in her text/footnotes. I don’t have my copies (10 cents per 2 pages at Concord, as I remember), and I don’t have access to JSTOR. Still, they are there and online for gen researchers to use in fleshing out their own immigrant “Patience Puritan”‘s experiences.

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