Friday, August 2, 2013

Working in the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records Collection

I take some time each week to look for records for my ancestral families in the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 collection on

I've finally figured out that if I focus on one family at a time, I can find records that provide an Original Source with Primary Information and Direct Evidence (or nearly so, sometimes they are transcriptions of a not available or unreadable record book) that I can use to support my vital record conclusions in my RootsMagic family tree database.

For example, last week I worked on my John Phillips (1722-????) and Hannah Brown (1725-????) family; they married in 1749 in Southborough.  I found their marriage record, and the birth records of their five children (two in Southborough, three in Shrewsbury), and I know that the John Phillips family resided in Lancaster after that from land records.

Here are the birth record entries from the Southborough and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts town record books:

Hannah (Brown) Phillips died before 1774, and John Phillips married Mary Richards in 1774 in Southborough, and I found their marriage record also.  Mary's son, Isaac Buck (1757-1846) married John's daughter, Martha Phillips (1757-????) in Lancaster in 1780.

The puzzles I still need to solve are:

*  What is John Phillips death date?

*  What is Hannah Brown's birth date, death date, and parents names?

*  What is Mary (Richards) Phillips' death date?

Unfortunately, a search of the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1622-1988 collection did not answer any of those questions to my satisfaction.  It may be that the deaths were not recorded in town records (but I know that not all of the town record books are in this collection, but those for Southborough, Shrewsbury and Lancaster are) or the handwriting could not be deciphered.  There are other nearby towns also that may provide a clue.

As for Hannah Brown's parents, I've been through many of the town vital record books in past years and cannot find anything positive.  Having identified potential parents for Hannah, I've been through Worcester and Middlesex County probate record indexes and microfilms without success also.  I had hoped to find land records that grant land from a Brown to John Phillips, but that hasn't worked out either.  This may be one of those brick wall ancestors who had no recorded birth date and just appeared ready to marry in 1749 in Southborough.  There were two other marriages of an nearly Brown in Southborough records, a Mary Brown in 1751 and a Susanna Brown who married in 1754.

My next plan is to check out all of the Brown families that moved to Southborough, or had children in Southborough.  The first record book for Southborough says the records are for 1718 to 1796, but I don't see any entries with dates before 1730.

By doing this one family at a time, I look at each family with fresh eyes and more knowledge, and can identify missing information and think of strategies to add more information in a focused way.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Diane B said...

Randy, I have some Browns in nearby Sudbury and Wayland, descended from Hopestill Brown (earliest was William Brown). At some point soon I plan to revisit the Parmenters/Hunts/Browns/Adams. I will keep a lookout for Hannah Brown. Of course your post caught my eye because of Phillips, and also because I love those Massachusetts Town Records. Between those and the Massachusetts deeds on FamilySearch, the range of what we can try from home has gotten broader.