January 9th, 2011
In the southeastern region of the United States civil registration of vital records (in general) did not begin until the twentieth century. Consequently when I discuss my family origins I’m not surprised to hear the comment, “You are so lucky that your ancestors were in New England where vital records are so easy to find.” Yes, indeed. However, I find that many New England family histories contain very grave errors because the records are not evaluated and carefully analyzed. For instance, the wonderful series of document abstracts appearing in the series, Vital Records of [town], Massachusetts to the year 1849, is frequently misused by family historians.
Unfortunately, all too frequently family historians do not consider the entire community. My Woodwards were in the Boston area and the North Shore by the mid sixteen hundreds. The children of Ezekiel and Ann (Beamsley) Woodward were born in Boston and Ipswich [A Report of the Record Commissioners Containing Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths, 1630-1699 (Boston: The City, 1883); and Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Salem, Mass.: The Essex Institute, 1910). The marriages and children of their son Ezekiel and their several grandsons named Ezekiel are frequently misrepresented. Oh, yes, the marriages, and births took place, but which Ezekiel was the principal character in each event?
Abstracts of the Ipswich Vital Records are published below. Readers will note that the births of four children are listed and they all have a father named Ezekiel-Is this the same man, or are there more than one man with the same name? We should not base our final conclusion on this single record. Likewise, we notice two marriages which might cause additional problems. For female marriages, unless stated, we do not know if the given surname is the maiden name of the woman or the surname of a former spouse.
In conclusion: As wonderful as they are the vital records should not stand alone, and we don’t want to take anything for granted.
Let’s look at the Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 volumes (Salem, Mass.: The Essex Institute, 1910).
Ezekiell Woodward, s. Ezekiell, Aug. 9, 1666. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Martha Woodward, d. Ezekiell, May 3, 162. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Mary Woodward, d. Ezekiell, Dec. 8, 1664. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Rachell Woodward, d. Ezekiell, Jan. 20, 1668. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Ann Woodward and Thomas Da, Oct. 20, 1672 [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Anne Woodward, of Gloucester, and John Warner, jr., int. Nov. 2, 1728
Margrett Woodward, and William Andrews, Oct. 20, 1672 [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Martha Woodward and Nathaiel Emerson, —- [1685?]
Prudence Woodward and Benjamin Marshall, Nov. 2, 1677. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Sarah Woodward and A. William Row, Nov. –, 1671. [court record, Essex Co. Quarterly Court]
Sarah Woodward and Benja[min] Foster, at Chebacco, Mar. 15, 1725/6 (Intentions also recorded).
Thomas Woodward of Brooklline, and “Ms.” Mehitable Gooldsmith, int. Feb. 7, 1756.
Deaths – none