An Early Patrick in Massachusetts

Patrick Tracy, 1784/1786, by John Trumbull, at the National Gallery of Art.

Last year, the Boston Globe interviewed my colleague Sarah Dery on the ancestry of recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and myself on the “Boston Brahmin” ancestry of her husband, Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson. While I’ve also discussed here the numerous Harvard graduates in the Jackson family, one other interesting item is the origin of his name Patrick, which was a rather uncommon name for Yankee families in Massachusetts before the American Revolution.

Similar to my own name of Christopher, Patrick tended to be a name amongst Catholics, with Pilgrims and Puritans rarely using the name in the 17th and 18th centuries. Within our database of New England Marriages to 1700, there are only thirteen married men named Patrick in all of New England in the seventeenth century.

The first Patrick in the ancestry of Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson was Patrick Tracy (1711-1789) of Newburyport, Massachusetts. A Memoir of Dr. James Jackson (1903), written by Dr. James Jackson’s grandson James Jackson Putnam (1846-1918), includes the following account of Patrick Tracy (who was the maternal grandfather of Dr. James Jackson):

“Patrick Tracy, the progenitor of the American branch, was born in Ireland in 1711. He came to this country as a common sailor, and rose by dint of energy and enterprise to be the commander of a vessel, then the owner of many, and eventually a rich and successful merchant. He was generous and liberal, and left a good record as a public-spirited citizen. When the idea began to spread that even men of dark skins might love the rights of freedom, he responded by setting free a negro and his wife, well known in Newburyport, who had lived long as trusted servants in his household, and making a provision in his will securing to them a home and maintenance for the remainder of their days. From 1743 to 1747 he was vestryman at St. Paul’s Church, and during the Revolution he served on important committees, and in every way lent his support to the national government and cause. He died February 28, 1789.”

The African-American couple referred to above were Apropo Tracy and Dinah Hill, who married at Newburyport in 1783, where they died in 1810 and 1828. The 1788 will of Patrick Tracy mentions “my faithful black man Apropo” in considerable detail. In 1771, Patrick Tracy built a mansion for his son Nathaniel Tracy. The “Tracy Mansion” became the Newburyport Public Library in 1865 and remains so to this day.

Patrick Tracy did not name any of his children after himself, but had two namesake grandsons, including Patrick Tracy Jackson (1770-1847), an American manufacturer who was one of the founders of the Boston Manufacturing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts with his brother-in-law Francis Cabot Lowell and other associates. After Lowell’s death in 1817, the remaining associates founded the Merrimack Manufacturing Company and the city of Lowell was named for Jackson’s late brother-in-law.

By the mid-19th century, many of Patrick Tracy’s descendants were also descendants of Judge John Lowell, and treated in The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts, co-authored by Scott C. Steward and myself. By this point many of the later Patricks were probably named for Patrick Tracy Jackson.

A rather interesting namesake descendant was Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam (1904-1953), the subject of an interesting biography by Joan Mark entitled The King of the World in the Land of the Pygmies. P.T.L. Putnam spent twenty-five years living among the Bambuti pygmies of the Ituri Forest in what was then the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His “Camp Putnam” was modeled after dude ranches of the American West. Putnam married three women from the United States, and was polygamously married at various points during the early 1930s to five African women of the Mboli tribe. His marriage to his last African wife, Mada, lasted well into his marriage with his third American wife Anne Eisner.

My chart below shows Patrick Tracy and his children and eleven namesake descendants in green over nine generations. The seven successive men named “Patrick Tracy Jackson” are numbered with retroactive suffixes.

Chart showing Patrick descendants of Patrick Tracy

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

8 thoughts on “An Early Patrick in Massachusetts

  1. Hi Christopher, your post struck me immediately, as I have recently stumbled across an 18th century Connecticut mystery that began with the curious fact the person was named Patrick, which, as you say, is a very unusual name to come across in that place and time. My Patrick is the mysterious Patrick Doron, who married Keziah Bundy in Stratford/Trumbull in 1767. I came upon this by a circuitous route – my ancestor Benjamin Bundy (ca 1703-1778) is one of my persistent brick walls, and I periodically cast the net widely to search for clues. Benjamin married Abigail Smith in Stratford, CT ca 1737. I have long hoped to find evidence he was the same Benjamin Bundy who married and then abandoned Hepzibah ____ and their two infant children in Voluntown in about 1735 (and evidence he was the son of James and Mary Bundy), and I had leaned on the fact (I thought) he was the only evidence of the Bundys in Stratford in the mid-18th century and so must have migrated there from elsewhere. However, I recently I came across an Early Connecticut Marriages entry for the 1767 marriage of Keziah Bundy to Patrick Doron. There is no evidence of a daughter Keziah born to Benjamin and Abigail, indeed no direct evidence of the birth of a Keziah Bundy at all, though there is an 1839 Fairfield Co death record for a Keziah Bundy, age 92, so born about the right time (but one would assume my Keziah was no longer Bundy). So it frustratingly raises the possibility of another Bundy family in the Stratford area in this timeframe. What makes it doubly frustrating – and relevant to your post – is the fact that her husband’s given name was so unusual, as was his family name (Doron), and yet I’ve found no trace of either of them, or of any children born to them, before or after their marriage. Patrick Doron appears seemingly out of nowhere in rural Stratford in 1767, marries Keziah Bundy, and then the two of them disappear. So I offer that to you as a another curious Patrick tale from colonial New England.

    1. Very interesting Michael! Always frustrating when a couple appears out of nowhere and then disappears just as quickly!

  2. Such differences of time, place, and faith with names. Both of my father’s Irish-born grandfathers were named Patrick, curiously without Catholic baptismal records though they exist for siblings. I speculate that Patrick Tracy was born in a family that belonged to the Church of Ireland. On St. Patrick’s Day, your post broadened the scope of Irish research. Thanks, Chris.

    1. Thanks Michael! Yes, I think it’s likely Patrick Tracy became an Anglican upon his arrival in Massachusetts.

  3. C. Child’s style is eloquent genealogy. So well researched, words well chosen, interesting facets, superbly presented and with bonus tie-ins. A gem.

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