Saturday, February 24, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ TOWNE of Salem and Topsfield, Massachusetts

Topsfield, Massachusetts 1872


William Towne, my 10th great grandfather, was baptized in the Saint Nicholas Church at Great Yarmouth in England on 18 March 1598/9, the son of John and Elizabeth Towne.  He married his wife, Joanna Blessing in Great Yarmouth, and six of his eight children were born there before they came to Salem, Massachusetts.  On 11 October 1640 his first land was in a part of Salem called Northfields “Graunted to William Townde a little neck of land right over against his howse on the other side of the riuer to be sett out by the towne.”

In 1652 William Towne removed his family to "New Meadows", now called Topsfield, where he bought forty acres, and bought more land in 1656.  He gave his youngest son, Joseph, two thirds of his Topsfield land in 1663 when he married Phebe Perkins.  I descend from the third son, Edmund Towne (about 1628 – 1678), who married Mary Browning, my 9th great grandparents. 

William’s mother-in-law (Joanna’s mother), Joanne (Priest) Blessing, had been accused of being a witch in England.  During the trials, Ann Putnam testified that three of Joanna (Blessing) Towne’s daughters were witches because her mother was a witch.  [Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 2016, page 28]   Mary (Towne) Easty was accused on 1 April 1692, and hanged on 22 September 1692.  Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was accused on 2 May 1692 and hanged on 19 June 1692.  Sarah (Towne) Cloyse was accused on 3 April 1692. She spent four months chained in jail, and her case was dismissed in January 1693.   A fourth daughter, Susannah, died in 1678, before the trials began, or she probably would have been accused, too!

In his youth, Edmund Towne was an apprentice to Henry Skerry of Salem.  He was known as “Sergeant Towne” in the Topsfield records.  He was part of the militia, and in 1674 he formed a committee to petition to form a military guard for Topsfield, which was considered the frontier.  Edmund Towne died without a will.  His wife, Mary, was named administrix, and she divided the estate among the daughters. 

In the next generation, I descend from Samuel Towne, my 8th great grandfather, who married Elizabeth Knight. He also died without a will, and his wife divided the estate between herself and the four children.   Their youngest daughter, Rebecca Towne, is my 7th great grandmother, who married Stephen Johnson in 1730. Stephen died in 1734, leaving her with two small children, and Rebecca remarried to her second cousin, Joshua Towne, the son of Jacob Towne and Phebe Smith.

Some TOWNE resources:

The TOWNE Family Association:  

“TOWNE Cousins” on Facebook:  

Towne Family, William Towne and Joanna Blessing, Salem, Massachusetts, 1635, Five Generations of Descendants, by Lois Payne Hoover, 2011, from the Towne Family Association.

(An older compiled genealogy) The Descendants of William Towne: Who came to America on or about 1630 and settled in Salem, Mass., by Edwin Eugene Towne, 1901, reprinted by Higginson Book Co., 2006.

Some of the Towne Family and the Salem Witchcraft Delusion, by Joseph L. Wheeler, 1969
Gary Boyd Roberts, “Notable Kin:  The Progeny of “Witches” and “Wizards”: Some Descendants of George Burroughs and William and Joanna (Blessing) Towne, Parents of Mary Easy and Rebecca Nurse”, NEHGS, NEXUS Volume 9, pages 108 – 11 which was also printed in his book Notable Kin, Volume Two, pages 79 -86 (descendants of fifteen 1692 Salem witch trial victims).

My TOWNE genealogy:

Generation 1:  William Towne, born about 1598, probably in England, died about 1672 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; married on 25 April 1620, St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England to Joanna Blessing, daughter of John Blessing and Joanne Priest.  She was born about 1594 in Great Yarmouth, and died 1682 in Topsfield.  Eight children.

Generation 2:  Edmund Towne, born about 1628 in Yarmouth, England, died before 3 May 1678 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; married on 25 March 1652 in Salem to Mary Browning, daughter of Thomas Browning and Mary Unknown.  She was born 7 November 1637 in Salem, and died about 1717 in Topsfield.  Seven children.

Generation 3:  Samuel Towne, born 11 February 1673 in Topsfield, died 1714; married on 20 October 1696 in Topsfield to Elizabeth Knight, daughter of Phillip Knight and Margaret Wilkins.  She was born 25 January 1677 in Topsfield, and died 17 May 1752 in Topsfield.  Four children.  Elizabeth remarried to Elisha Perkins on 4 April 1715 in Topsfield.

Generation 4:  Rebecca Towne,  born 8 February 1699/1700 in Topsfield; married on 2 December 1730 in Topsfield to Stephen Johnson.  He was born about 1700 and died 29 August 1734 in Topsfield.  Two children.  Rebecca remarried to her cousin, Joshua Towne, on 7 August 1739 in Topsfield, and had one more child.

Generation 5:   Ruth Johnson married Richard Cree
Generation 6:  Stephen Cree married Hannah Smith
Generation 7:  Sara Cree married James Phillips
Generation 8:  Hannah Phillips married Thomas Russell Lewis
Generation 9:  Hannah Eliza Lewis married Abijah Franklin Hitchings
Generation 10:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings married Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 11:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings married Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ TOWNE of Salem and Topsfield, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 24, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Traitor in My Family Tree? Yes! Part Two

A screenshot of JL Bell's blog Boston 1775

One of the things I love about blogging is the comments I get on my blog. In yesterday’s post I referenced another blogger.  He commented back on my blog with a big hint about some additional information in an article he wrote in 2005.  Wow!  What lot of good genealogical information that was new to me!

My blog post yesterday was about Ebenezer Richardson and his two wives.  Yesterday, 22 February, was the anniversary of Ebenezer’s mistaken attempt to quell a Boston mob by firing bird shot into the crowd.  He injured one boy and killed another, probably causing the Boston Massacre two weeks later, on 5 March 1770.  I read about his story at Twitter in an “On This Day In History” tweet.  The names in the link caught my attention since they were all from my family tree.

In my blog post I gave some posts from J.L. Bell’s history blog Boston 1775 as sources. He wrote back in a comment that he had written an article in the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s magazine New England Ancestors about Ebenezer Richardson, and he said, “I think Rebecca (Fowle) (Richardson) Richardson died in 1753 after her sister Kezia (Fowle) Henshaw gave birth and before Kezia married Ebenezer Richardson. There’s no divorce on the record… I think the Rebecca Richardson who died in 1782 is therefore someone else.”

The article that J.L. Bell wrote is “’A Wretch of Wretches Prov’d with Child’: From Local Scandal to Revolutionary Outrage”, New England Ancestors, Volume 6 (2005), pages 22 – 24 and page 40, (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009.)   I looked it up online with great enthusiasm, since both the RICHARDSON and the FOWLE families of Woburn are in my family tree.  As Bell stated in this article “When Kezia (Fowle) Hincher gave birth in 1752, she had been an unmarried widow for over five years. Naturally, her neighbors in Woburn, Massachusetts, gossiped about the father.  At first the mystery roiled local church politics.  Eventually, the fallout from this genealogical puzzle helped bring on the American Revolution.”  Yes, it was a great genealogical puzzle! 

Puzzling out my genealogical relationship to the main characters in this story was my main goal yesterday.  But last night, after reading the NEHGS article by J. L. Bell, I’m was determined to iron out the details of the lives of the two sisters, Rebecca and Kezia.  Fortunately, Bell had done all the work in preparing his article.  He believes there was no divorce, no bigamy, and that Rebecca had died before Ebenezer remarried to Kezia. His argument is laid out in his article. 

The magazine story also describes, in great detail, Ebenezer’s extra-marital affairs with his sister-in-law. She first accused her employer of being the father of her bastard child (she was house maid to the local minister), and he had to sue to restore his reputation.  It’s very juicy stuff for the 18th century (things haven’t changed much, have they?).  And there are more details about Ebenezer’s treachery in colluding with the British customs officials more than fifteen years later, to the point of not sentencing him to hang, and leaving him free to escape to freedom in London.  He was so infamous that even in “1816 John Adams remembered Ebenezer this way: ‘Adultery, incest, perjury were reported to be his ordinary crimes’”. 

To me, another very interesting part of J. L. Bell’s article is how he describes how he found all the documentation to prove Ebenezer Richardson’s story. He puzzled out the intricacies of the sister’s relationships to him with vital records, church and town records, but he also found broadsides, trial records, Legal Papers of John Adams (he was the lawyer for the British side of the Boston massacre), and probate records. In the last paragraph of the article he gives a tip for ordering copies from the National Archives of Great Britain. Usually I read Bell’s work in the context of American history, but this article proves how history and genealogy work hand in hand.

If you missed part one of this blog post (yesterday) click on this link: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Traitor in My Family Tree?  Yes!  Part Two", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 23, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Traitor in my Family Tree?

Boston Massacre

On this date, 22 February, in 1770 a mob had gathered outside of Theophilus Lillie’s shop in Boston to protest his importation of British goods. This was during the “Intolerable Acts” when the folks in Boston decided to stop drinking tea and buying British goods, rather than pay the intolerable taxes on imported goods.  While reading about this incident in history, I was struck by the name of the shopkeeper and (thank you internet!)  I was researching his genealogy to find a link to my LILLIE ancestors of Reading, Massachusetts.  I wasn’t finding any links.

As I read further, I learned that the man who lived next door to the shop in the story was named Ebenezer Richardson.  He tried to disperse the crowd by firing bird shot into the crowd, which was mostly young boys and teenagers.  One teen was injured, and a 10 year old German boy named Christopher Sneider was killed.  Again, being a genealogist, I stopped at the name of Ebenezer Richardson.  I had a long line of Ebenezer Richardsons in my family tree, from the town of Woburn outside of Boston. It only took me a minute to confirm that one of these cousins in my tree was the same Ebenezer Richardson whose shot out his bedroom window foreshadowed the Boston Massacre, which took place soon after on 5 March 1770. 

Who was Ebenezer Richardson?  Well, it turns out that his hot temper which led to this incident was not the first time he had displayed tawdry behavior.   In 1752 his wife’s sister gave birth to his child.  He married his own sister-in-law in Boston in January 1754 (his wife didn’t die until 1782).   
Ebenezer Richardson, upon fleeing Woburn, went to work for the British as an informer in Boston.  When he was found out, the British made him a Boston customs officer. His job was to collect the new “intolerable” taxes. 

After the little Sneider boy died,  two thousand people attended his funeral.  On 20 April 1770 Richardson was found guilty of murder by a Boston jury. I’m not surprised- he was a very unpopular figure in Boston and rumored to be tarred and feathered.  The British judges thought the sentence unfair and didn’t sentence him to hang, and London sent a pardon.  The British also found him a new job in 1773 in Philadelphia.  But the good folks of Boston “informed” on Richardson and told the people of Philadelphia his story, including the scandal with his second wife.  He fled to London.

No more is known of Ebenezer Richardson.  Did he die in London?  Change his name?

Ebenezer Richardson, son of Timothy Richardson and Abigail Johnson, was born on 31 March 1718 in Woburn, Massachusetts.  He married first to Rebecca Fowle about 1740.  She was the widow of Phineas Richardson (she was the second cousin once removed of Phineas, and the second cousin twice removed of Ebenezer).   He married second to Kezia Fowle, sister to Rebecca and widow of Thomas Henshaw.   I have no further information on Kezia, and Rebecca died on 6 November 1782 in Woburn, long after the scandal.

The two Fowle sisters, Rebecca and Kezia, are my 1st cousins 8 generations removed.  Their parents, John Fowle and Elizabeth Prescott are my 8th great uncle and aunt.  John’s parents, James Fowle (1643 – 1690) and Abigail Carter (1648 – 1718) are my 8th great grandparents.

Ebenezer Richardson is further removed from me.  He is my 3rd cousin, 8 generations removed.  His great grandparents, John Richardson and Elizabeth Bacon, are my 9th great uncle and aunt. His 2x great grandparents, Samuel Richardson (1602 – 1658) and Joanna Thake (1606 – 1666), are my 9th great grandparents.  Interestingly, Elizabeth (Bacon) Richardson’s grandparents, Michael Bacon (1579 – 1648) and Alice Blower (1681 – 1648), are my 11th great grandparents.

For more about this story:

Don't miss Part Two of this blog post:

The Richardson Memorial: Comprising a Full History and Genealogy of the Posterity of these Three Brothers, Ezekiel, Samuel and Thomas Richardson, by John Adams Vinton, 1876, pages 242-244, page 265.

J.L. Bell, “Ebenezer Richardson Custom’s Informer”, Boston 1775, posted May 22, 2006, ( accessed 22 February 2018).

J. L. Bell, “Ebenezer Richardson as Cause of the American Revolution”, Boston 1775, posted April 9, 2015, ( accessed 22 February 2018).

My RICHARDSON "Surname Saturday" post:

My FOWLE "Surname Saturday" post:

The image above is from Paul Revere of Boston. The print was copied by Revere from a design by Henry Pelham for an engraving eventually published under the title "The Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or the Bloody Massacre," of which only two impressions could be located by Brigham. Revere's print appeared on or about March 28, 1770. -, Public Domain,


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “A Traitor in my Family Tree?”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 22, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Weathervane Wednesday ~ Above a Congregational Church

I post another in a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed in Vermont.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #351?  Scroll down to find the answer.

This arrow weathervane can be seen atop the steeple of the Congregational Church on the village green in Norwich, Vermont.  This congregation was first gathered in 1770.  A building was built in this location in 1852.  The bell in the steeple is an original Paul Revere bell, purchased in 1817. Last year, 2017, marked the 200th anniversary of this historic bell.

This quintessential New England church in Norwich
was immortalized by painter Maxfield Parrish
"Peaceful Night, Church at Norwich Vermont"

The Norwich Congregational Church website:

Click here to see the entire collection of Weathervane Wednesday posts!


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday ~ Above a Congregational Church", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 21, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Charles Eugene Almy, 1830 one month old

This tombstone was photographed at the Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, New Hampshire.

Son of
Capt. John C. &
Mrs. Ruth Almy
died March 9, 1830
AEt. 1 month

On earth thou wert all but divine
As thy soul shall immortally be
and our sorrow may cease to repine,
For we know that thy God is with thee.

Little baby Charles Eugene, born 15 November 1830 in Exeter, New Hampshire, was the son of John Coggeshall Almy and Ruth Bailey, who were married on 30 September 1822 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  The Almys had nine children: Mariana born 1 December 1823 in New Bedford, Massachusetts; John Coggeshall, Jr., born 8 December 1825 in Exeter, New Hampshire; George B. born about 27 March 1827 in Exeter;  Charles Eugene (above); Charles Eugene b. 15 November 1830 in Exeter and died 1864;  Jane K. born about 1833 in Exeter, Sarah Catherine born 8 May 1838 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Ellen Emma born 29 April 1844 in Dartmouth; and Ellen Coggeshall born 9 June 1847 1847 in Dartmouth. 

Capt. John Coggeshall Almy's death record in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on 2 February 1872 lists him as a master mariner, the son of John Almy and Sarah Dunham of Newport, Rhode Island.  His wife Ruth Baily was the daughter of Joseph A. and Ruth Bailey.

Why was the baby, the son of a sea captain, buried in landlocked Derry, New Hampshire?  At the time, Exeter had access to the sea, and Dartmouth, Massachusetts was a busy seaport.  This is a very impressive tombstone for an infant.  The fan designs in the corners remind me of seashells.

The baby's epitaph comes from a poem by Lord Byron:


Bright be the place of thy soul!
No lovelier spirit than thine
E'er burst from its mortal control
In the orbs of the blessed to shine.

On earth thou wert all but divine,
As thy sould shall immortally be;
And our sorrow may cease to repine,
When we know that thy God is with thee.

Light be the turf of thy tomb!
May its verdure like emeralds be;
There should not be the shadow of gloom
In aught that reminds us of thee.

Young flowers and an evergreen tree
May spring from the spot of thy rest;
But nor cypress nor yew let us see;
For why should we mourn for the blest?

1808  George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron

See this book William Almy and his Descendants in America, by Merwin F. Almy and Thomas A. Almy, 2001 online at this link: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Tombstone Tuesday ~ Charles Eugene Almy, 1830 one month old", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 20, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

Monday, February 19, 2018

The 300th Anniversary of the Scots Irish Diaspora

The next two years are going to be a very interesting time here in New England as we commemorate the Scots Irish diaspora.  Although a few Scots Irish migrated to Massachusetts, like my minister ancestors Rev. William Holmes and Rev. Thomas Craighead, who arrived in Boston in 1714 from Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  The organized mass migration began in 1718 when Rev. William Boyd obtained permission for a grant of land from Governor Shute of Massachusetts. That same year Rev. James McGregor brought a large portion of his flock from Aghadowey, to Boston.  These Ulster Presbyterian families spent a cold winter in Maine, where some remained, and some went on with McGregor to found the Nutfield settlement in New Hampshire in the spring of 1719, and others spread out in Massachusetts.

The 300th anniversary of these events begins this year, and the kickoff event will be The Scots Irish Reunion at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine 14 – 16 August 2018.  It will be hosted by the St. Andrews Society of Maine and the Maine Ulster Scots Project.   This reunion will include:

-  Identifying the people who left Northern Ireland, their home villages, and their settlements in New England

-  Exploring the uniqueness of the diaspora and the folkways brought to America

-  Academic lectures, articles, conferences, archaeological reports, genealogy, and publications

-  Tours of points of interest: First Parish Church, cemeteries, archaeological sites

Next year celebrations will be held in Nutfield (Londonderry, Derry, Windham and Derryfield (part of Manchester), New Hampshire) with a kickoff  for the300th anniversary of the 1719 sermon by Rev. McGregor on the shore of Beaver Lake in present day East Derry.  A heritage day will be held on 13 April at the Meetinghouse with historical presentations, artistans, and a musical performance.  There will be a special church service that weekend to conclude the weekend.

There will be also be commemorations in 2019 during Wndham’s June Strawberry Festival, Derry’s Fourth of July, and Londonderry’s August Old Home Day. 

Nutfield Genealogy will be celebrating, too!  I plan on switching my “Surname Saturdays” to cover the Scots Irish families who settled in Nutfield/Londonderry.  The first posts will be the first 16 families who arrived with Rev. James MacGregor in 1719, and then I will feature some of the other Scots Irish families.  Stay tuned to see if your ancestors are included, and stay tuned to learn more about the Nutfield commemorative events next year.

For more information:

Maine Ulster Scots Project:


St. Andrews Society of Maine


The 1718 Migration

The 1718 Society at Facebook

Nutfield History   

The following links will be updated soon:

Londonderry’s Old Home Day 

Windham’s Strawberry Festival


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The 300th Anniversary of the Scots Irish Diaspora", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 19, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ JOHNSON of Topsfield, Massachusetts

Help me smash this brick wall!

Stephen Johnson, my 7th great grandfather, is another brick wall ancestor.  I don’t know his birthdate, birth place or parents.  On 29 August 1734 he married Rebecca Towne, the niece one generation removed from three Towne sisters who were accused of witchcraft in 1692.  Two of those sisters were hanged: Rebecca (Towne) Nurse and Mary (Towne) Eastey.  Rebecca Towne (b. 1699/1700 in Topsfield) is the granddaughter of their brother, Edmund Towne (1628 – 1675).

This tie to the witch trials of 1692 might be a big clue.  The children and grandchildren of the witch trial victims tended to marry descendants of other victims. I have many examples of this in my family tree, which is why I am descended from so many of those families.  Why did they marry each other?  Were they ostracized from marrying other potential spouses?  Did they find common ground? I have no idea why this happened.

During the 1692 hysteria, there was a young boy, only 14 years old, who was also named Stephen Johnson. He was accused of being a witch, and arrested, along with many members of his extended family.  He was a nephew of Abigail (Dane) Faulkner (1652 – 1730), my 9th great aunt.  Because I had the Dane and Faulkner families in my family tree, I found Abigail’s sister had married a man named Stephen Johnson (father of the accused 14-year-old Stephen Johnson).  There were many Stephens in this Johnson family that lived in Andover, Massachusetts (one town away from Topsfield).  I have traced out most of them.  Did I miss a connection to the husband of Rebecca Towne?  

Their daughter, Ruth Johnson (1731 – 1800) married Richard Cree in 1756 in Topsfield.  They had a son named Stephen Cree (another STEPHEN!) who is my 5th great grandfather.  The name Johnson daughters out here. 

Is there a JOHNSON family researcher out there who knows the answer to this mystery?  Am I chasing a red herring trying to tie the two Johnson families together?

My JOHNSON genealogy:

Generation 1:  Stephen Johnson, born about 1700, died 29 August 1734 in Topsfield; married on 2 December 1730 in Topsfield to Rebecca Towne, daughter of Samuel Towne and Elizabeth Knight.  She was born 8 February 1699/1700 in Topsfield.  Two children born in Topsfield.  Rebecca remarried to her second cousin, Joshua Towne, son of Jacob Towne and Phebe Smith. 

Generation 2:  Ruth Johnson, born 30 August 1731 in Topsfield, died 29 June 1800 in Topsfield; married on 5 February 1756 in Topsfield to Richard Cree, son of Nicholas Cree and Keziah Dwinnell.  He was born 13 August 1727 in Topsfield, and died 15 April 1769 in Topsfield.  Five children born in Topsfield.

Generation 3: Stephen Cree m. Hannah Smith
Generation 4: Sarah Cree m. James Phillips
Generation 5: Hannah Phillips m. Capt. Thomas Russell Lewis
Generation 6:  Hannah Eliza Lewis m. Abijah Franklin Hitchings
Generation 7:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 8:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ JOHNSON of Topsfield, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 17, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine from my Dad, through my Mom

Although my Dad passed away in 2002, a few years ago my mother gave my sister and I a lovely gift that used to belong to him.

My Dad's wedding ring was very wide, with unusual carved edges. My mother had a jeweler take my Dad's wedding ring and cut it in half lengthwise, and he shaped it into two hearts for her daughters to wear on chains.  It was a very precious gift from my Mom, and from my Dad.  I recognized it as being from Dad's ring as soon as I saw it.

I wear this around my neck often, and especially for every Valentine's Day, and it always makes me think of my Dad.

Do you have any vintage jewelry from family or ancestors that you have "re-purposed" or "updated" for modern wear?  Leave a comment below!

My parents wedding in 1958.  Can you see the ring?


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Valentine from my Dad, through my Mom", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 14, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).