A family treasure

The Parker Richardson house in Methuen. All images courtesy R. Stanton Avery Special Collections

Several years ago, long before the online catalogue, I spent time going through the NEHGS card catalogue looking for materials related to my Richardson ancestors. I came across the card for a manuscript compiled by William S. Richardson. As it turned out, he was related: he’s my second cousin four times removed. We descend from William Richardson of Newbury, Massachusetts, through his great-grandson, Parker Richardson, Sr.

William S. Richardson’s contribution was greater than the donation of a manuscript. He was an active member of the Society who joined in November 1906 and became a life member in 1911. He served on the Council and several committees until his death on 6 October 1923. He served on the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Finance, and was a member and secretary of the Committee on Heraldry. He was an inventor and entrepreneur; in addition to acting in amateur theater productions, he wrote plays, poetry, and newspaper stories. The pursuit of family history was another of his passions. I learned a great many details of his life from the memorial published in the Register following his death.

William Streeter Richardson was born 12 February 1852 to William Larkin Richardson and his wife, Sophia Ruth Streeter, daughter of Reverend Sebastian Streeter, a well-known Universalist preacher, and his wife Ruth Richardson, a descendant of the Richardson and Wyman families of Woburn, Massachusetts. He was their only child. William’s grandfather, Bill, was a brother to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Parker Richardson of Methuen, Massachusetts. There is a photograph in the manuscript of a portrait of Bill Richardson. I wonder, is this what my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Parker, looked like? Bill Richardson married Elizabeth Badger, daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Badger of Reading, Massachusetts, and son of the well-known portrait artist Joseph Badger.

The Richardson manuscript is a gem. It contains a wealth of genealogical information and photographs related to W. S. Richardson’s ancestry. William tracked down and included photostatic copies of three Revolutionary War era letters written by two of his maternal ancestors. There are also innumerable photographs taken by Mr. Richardson of the castles where his ancestors lived, the abbeys where they worshipped, and much more. Of particular interest to me is a photograph of the house in which his great-grandfather (my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather) Parker Richardson lived in Methuen, which was taken shortly before the house was torn down.

William tracked down and included photostatic copies of three Revolutionary War era letters written by two of his maternal ancestors.

Benjamin Badger, William’s great-grandfather, was the author of two of the above-mentioned letters. One was written 25 October 1776 from the military encampment on Mount Independence on Lake Champlain. In it he describes his fellow soldiers as looking “as if they come from the quick silver mines creeping about with thin lanthorn jaws.” Phebe Emerson, his mother-in-law, wrote the third letter to a friend in November 1776. In it she gives readers a sense of what it was like on the home front in Reading “since Concord fight.” In the early 1910s the letters were in the hands of family members in Indiana and Rhode Island, respectively. I wish I knew their locations now.

A sketch of the de Lacy shield.

William Streeter Richardson’s enthusiasm for the work of the Committee on Heraldry, on which he served from 1913 until his death in 1923, shows clearly in his manuscript. Interspersed with the genealogical records are illuminated coats of arms for several of the families. I descend from only one of the families so graced, the Herrick family. William Streeter Richardson’s ancestral families of his maternal line include Bulkeley, Holland, and de Lacy, to name just a few.

I often wonder who else has discovered the wonderful things that this manuscript holds.

About Valerie Beaudrault

Originally from New Hampshire, Valerie E. Beaudrault joined the visitor services staff in 2002. In addition to visitor services, she assists in editing NEHGS eNews and in historical and genealogical research related to objects in the Society's object collection. She has a BA from the University of Massachusetts/Boston and an EdM from Boston University. Valerie’s genealogical research pursuits have focused on her family in New England, upstate New York and Quebec. Areas of specialty: New Hampshire, Upstate New York, Quebec with a focus on the Eastern Townships, newspaper research, some southern African American research (Liberty County, Georgia.)

17 thoughts on “A family treasure

  1. Interesting, my tree has a long line of Wyman descendants in Woburn with Suzanna marrying Gershom Harwood a Minute man in 1776. Also, I have many universalists in my tree with Oxford, MA as mecca for them.

    BTW Upstate New York is often referred to as the “Burned over” land as the second Great Awakening created a competition for saving souls but clearly Massachusetts (Puritans, separatists, Universalists , Unitarians) and RI (Baptist and Quakers) were ground zero a century or two earlier.

  2. What a wonderful find! How great to have an ancestor that left something like that. I have as a 7th g-grandfather, Zachariah Richardson of Woburn. Sounds like there may be a connection. Is this manuscript now available online at NEHGS?

    1. My 9 times great grandfather is Ezkeil Richardson ,one of the founders of Woburn with his brothers Samuel and Thomas,

  3. Are the woman and children in the photo Richardson’s? Or is that an unsolved mystery?

  4. Fun to read your article because I have so many Essex Co ancestors. We are cousins through the Herricks, Wymans, Richardsons, etc. But more importantly, i was brought up in NH and have brick walls in Vermont, NH and Maine; sounds like your specialty is NH and QUEBEC (Eastern townships?) I now live in California. Please let me know how much your services cost and we can talk.

  5. What a handsome fellow in a treasure trove. The castles must have belonged to lines other than the Badgers, who were tenants to one or another of the abbeys in the City of Gloucester before 1537.

  6. I would be interested to know whether there is a relationship between your William RICHARDSON of Newbury, MA, and my Thomas RICHARDSON (c1608 – 1651) of Woburn, MA, who is said to have immigrated from Hertfordshire, England. Thomas RICHARDSON is my 9x great grandfather.

    1. While not a qualified reply to your question posed to Valerie, I, too, have a Thomas Richardson hanging off of one of the branches in my tree. He would be Thomas Andrew Richardson (b. 1853) [https://www.myheritage.com/person-1087615_325820551_325820551/thomas-a-richardson]. Do you see him in your tree?


  7. Three of the early Richardsons of Woburn reside on my tree — I have descents from Samuel and Ezekiel Richardson and their sister Elizabeth, wife of Francis Wyman.
    I’d love to share info with other Richardsons, particularly those who ended up in New Hampshire — is there a way to communicate with one another?

  8. Helo cousin,
    I’m going to save that post. I’m decended from Parker’s first cousin, Stephen, who lived for many years with his father, Daniel, next door to Parker’s father, Caleb. Stephen was born in West Newbury and died in Dracut a few years before Parker did. I believe all those Richardsons lived on the west side of Methuen, but I couldn’t figure out exactly where. I suppose Parker, being the eldest son, inherited his father’s property. If so, it may have been Caleb who built that house, as he was a carpenter. Daniel may have helped, as he was a housewright.
    Years ago I read some posts about French Canadian ancestors, and I think they were yours. My wife was interested, as she is French and believes she had ancestors who emigrated but has not had time to follow it up.

  9. On May 16, I posted a reply which I thought would interest Valerie, since I, too, am descended from William of Newbury. Apparently it got trashed by your automatic spam checker. I didn’t think I wrote anything objectionable. Can you clarify what the problem was?

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