‘A very aged man’

The most recent sketch posted for the Early New England Families Study Project is for George Blake of Gloucester and Boxford, Massachusetts, and his family.[1]

George Blake is another of those men who left little record. We do not know where he came from nor who his parents were. We know neither the maiden name nor parentage of his wife Dorothy. He served one term as a selectman in Gloucester, belonged to the established church, served on juries, and stayed out of trouble, himself, although his daughter Rebecca (Blake) Eames was imprisoned for seven months as an accused witch.

The only personal comment we have of him comes from the History of Boxford: “At first he was well-off; but became so poor that the town voted, in 1691, not to tax him.”[2] In the 1687 tax list he is called “a very aged man: [with] 3 cows, 1 young cattle, 5 sheep, 3 swine [valued at] 1s.3d.” George was about 76 at the time. Nothing was found to tell us the cause of his economic troubles.

George and Dorothy had seven children born in Gloucester, six girls and one boy. The boy, Thomas, died within two weeks of his birth in 1658. The girls all grew up and apparently all married, although identifying the spouses of two of them has proved challenging. George’s will, written in 1698, named three living daughters: Rebecca Eames, Mary Curtis, and Ruth Shaw. Rebecca’s husband was Robert Eames; George left his farm to their son, John Eames. Mary’s husband was Zacheus Curtis. Ruth’s husband, Mr. Shaw, remains unidentified.[3] George went on to list three grandchildren whose mothers were deceased: Deborah Kimball, Deborah Perry, and Moses Tyler. Deborah Perry was the daughter of Elizabeth Blake who married Matthew Perry. Moses Tyler was the son of Prudence Blake who married Moses Tyler.

By process of elimination, Deborah Kimball would logically have been the daughter of George’s second daughter, Deborah Blake…

So who was Deborah Kimball? By process of elimination, Deborah Kimball would logically have been the daughter of George’s second daughter, Deborah Blake, and writers have concluded that Deborah Blake married an unidentified Kimball. Thomas Kimball of Malden had a wife named Deborah, but their marriage in 1686 shows that she was Deborah Pemberton, obviously a younger woman than Deborah Blake, born in 1644.

So … who was Deborah Pemberton? John Pemberton of Malden had a wife named Deborah, whose parentage is not documented, but who was, we believe, indeed Deborah Blake. The story is compelling. John Pemberton abused his wife Deborah, and by 1676 she and her children were destitute. Although John was still living, his family became dependent on the town of Malden. A deal was made between the Malden selectmen and Joseph Hills of Newbury, Massachusetts, for him to deed for life one quarter of an acre with a little house that he owned in Malden to Deborah Pemberton for her and her children’s use only (not her husband’s), giving Deborah the right to dispose of the property to her children as she saw fit when she died.[4] John Pemberton died in 1691 leaving an estate, none of it real, valued at a little over £6. Deborah left no probate record, and there are no obvious deeds on record for us to trace the little quarter of an acre any further through her children.

Our conclusion is that Deborah Blake, daughter of George and Deborah, married John Pemberton, that their daughter Deborah Pemberton married Thomas Kimball, and that she was the granddaughter Deborah Kimball named in George Blake’s will – see the discussion in George Blake’s Early New England Families sketch.


[1] NEHGS membership is required to access this database.

[2] Sidney Perley, The History of Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts… (Boxford, Mass., 1880), 30.

[3] He was not Joseph Shaw of Boston as suggested, without documentation, by Clarence Almon Torrey in New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston: 2011); Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. NEHGS, 2008), 2: 1162.

[4] This deed led to the erroneous assumption that Dorothy was the daughter of Joseph Hills.

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.

16 thoughts on “‘A very aged man’

  1. Thank you so much for your fantastic research on the George Blake family and for bringing them to life. Their daughter, Rebecca Eames, is my ancestor.

  2. Imagine my surprise when I started seeing familiar surnames! There is some evidence, although I have yet to prove it conclusively, that I am a descendant of Rebecca Blake Eames. Shaw is also a family name.

    At least one line of my family originated in Boxford, and I have a 5th great grandaunt who married a Perley. Most interesting is the mention of a Moses Tyler. I will have to look at him more closely as he may be the link that finally breaks my Tyler brick wall.

  3. I’m thrilled to see the profile on George Blake and his family, since I’m descended from his daughter Prudence. Really appreciate your work on this.

  4. NOTE the legal twist that Joseph Hills had to do to deprive John Pemberton any rights to the lot and house he was giving Deborah.

    The deed had to EXPLICITLY state that it was in Deborah’s “own right,” meaning that if she died before John, the real estate would go to her children, not to to him. The only other deed that I have read that does this is a deed to my fourth great-grandmother Rebecca from her older brother Thomas D. Reed, farmer, of a lot and house in Middleborough. Her husband, John B. Paine, had lost everything in the late 1830s crash/depression (house builder in New Bedford), and the family washed up to stay with the Reed family.

    The deed explicitly states Paine has no rights in this even if he was the survivor. Why this didn’t happen more frequently is a surprise but not really: once she married, a woman had for hundreds of years lost her independent status and became a child in the eyes of the law (written by men) in which the husband was effectively her guardian. And THAT gets us into guardianship laws, at which I will stop.

    Did Mr. Hills do this as a good friend or was there a family connection? As always, fun to see the research wheels grinding away, Alicia.

    1. Bob, Hill’s gift was almost certainly not because he was a relative. He might have been doing a Selectman a favor, but I think most likely it was a worthless little plot of land that he probably couldn’t sell for much anyway and this was a good way to get rid of it.

  5. I usually am pleased when Alicia Crane Williams publishes a sketch that touches on one of mine, but not this one! It shows my tree might not be reliaiable, but but shows there may be no reliable line. Much more work is needed, but I must know when to stop.Sgsin, thank you!

  6. Good Morning Alicia. It is really great to see you on the the site today. I know I am not the only person to miss you all these months. Your data on George Blake is along the lines of the data I have. My Line goes back to Robert Blake- born in 1300 and died 1347 ?? Your data is somewhere along the lines of mine. I am willing to assist anyone with what I am working on
    re the Blakes and the rest of the family tree. It has taken me about 2 months to sort out the names I have and I hope they are correct. Thanks so much for everyone’s input into this line. I have to work on things to be sure of the data as we all do. This material is linked to my Hilton Family and many other surnames. I have connections to the Blakes and many other connections. My lineage goes back to at least William the Conqueror. Hylton Castle in the Sunderland area of England is the Family home of the Hilton, Helton, Hylton Family (s). After 4 years of hard work the castle is getting restored It now has a roof an a second floor as well as Electrical connections and a steel roof deck. They have paid approx. 4 Million Pounds for what is done so far. I thank my Grandmother Archibald and my Mom for so much help in what I have been able to accomplish since 1954.. Good luck all for the future. Love and Best wishes, Paul Morris Hilton, Harvey Station, New Brunswick, Canada.

      1. Good Evening Alicia. I just read your reply to my note a bit ago. John Blake 1661-1713 born in England and Bridget (last name unknown) also from England were George Blake’s Parents. I use Roots Webb-World Connect to locate some of the data that I have. The family begins in 1300- with Robert Blake (1300) and Anne Cole (1300). I have the Tyler connections as well. My Hilton File is made up of close to 13000 names and also the Archibald and Hilton connections is 1100 pages in length. I use Legacy to file the names by Alphabetical means. I ran off a copy of the Early Families of New England Study project that was included in the same file. Thanks for so much data on my family history or so many names as you locate for us. I would be able to talk to you on the phone and give you more data. I can make unlimited phone calls from our phone here to both USA and Canada for free. All the best of luck with your Genealogy research, Alicia and so many friends from NEGHS.

  7. OOPS ALICIA !!!! I goofed. The Father of George Blake was William Blake born 1594 and died 1663– Dorothy (Dorothie) UNKNOWN was born 1615 and died Dec. 2, 1702. I do apologize for the error. I had finished watching the Hockey Game last night and I might have been asleep !!!!!! There are approx. 15 Blakes in the same lineage. I have a Legacy Webinar about 3 PM today. I will be more careful in the future. All the best friends with all your research. I have to watch myself re Roots Web as they are not always correct either. Sincere best wishes, Paul Hilton. My Email is tinym81@rogers.com

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