All posts by Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia is the lead genealogist on the new NEHGS study project, Early New England Families, 1641-1700. Prior to joining the NEHGS staff, she compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant, the Alden Family Five Generations project, and the Harlow Family : Descendants of Sgt. William Harlow (1624/5-1691) of Plymouth, Massachusetts. 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. In October 2016, Alicia was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.

The three-legged horse

Thanks to everyone who joined in the discussion after my last post and suggested future topics. I should have plenty of inspiration, but please feel free to add new ideas at any time.

Overwhelmingly, everyone wants some kind of aid – a master list, a database – that will provide a one-stop source for researchers to assess bad resources, false claims, mistaken identities, and anything else that is not right about genealogy. Continue reading The three-legged horse

“But it was published in a book!”

Vita Brevis has posted more than one thousand essays in the last four years, of which I’ve done a few,[1] but I am having a really hard time lately coming up with appropriate and interesting topics for a Vita Brevis post, so I am throwing it out to you readers. What do you want me to write? Questions? Comments?

In the meantime, I recently read a quote from Isaiah Thomas – the eighteenth-century printer, not the basketball player – that I thought was worth thinking about: “But, to my great disappointment, I soon found that people were not to be reasoned out of measures, that they never reasoned themselves into.” Continue reading “But it was published in a book!”

Dower vs. inheritance

After my previous post, the question came up about whether a widow’s dower right in her husband’s property is an “inheritance,” since, as we traditionally see the term being used in seventeenth-century New England, it is held only for the widow’s lifetime and reverts to her children on her death.

However, I found the following on Wikipedia: “Usually, the wife was free from kin limitations to use (and bequeath) her dower to whatever and whomever she pleased. It may have become the property of her next marriage, been given to an ecclesiastical institution, or been inherited by her children from other relationships than that from which she received it.” Continue reading Dower vs. inheritance

Reverse dower

From a modern perspective, we might think that women had no legal rights in the “old” days, but there actually were many ways in which women were legally protected. For example, husbands could not abandon wives and families (although one had to catch the husband to make him pay up). Another right that we regularly see is the right of dower given to the wife: she was entitled to inherit one third of her husband’s estate, no matter what he might have thought about it. This right is often expressed in land records when the husband sells land and the wife “releases” her dower rights to the property. Not all deeds include this release, but the right was there and the transaction could later be contested without it. Continue reading Reverse dower

The Phippen chart

John Symonds, “Genealogical Register with Coat-of-Arms of the Phippen and the Smith families of Salem, Massachusetts,” 1808, detail. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Anna Augusta Chapin Fund

When I compiled the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Joseph Phippen a couple of years ago, I briefly mentioned that the identification of the maiden name of his wife Dorothy/Dorcas/Darcus as “Wood” depended on an “incomplete Phippen pedigree chart attributed to Joseph, which [Clarence Almon] Torrey noted was doubted; see description of the Chart [by Robert Charles Anderson in his sketch on David Phippen] in GM2, V:455-56 [who did not incorporate information from the chart, deeming it too far removed from the early generations]).” Not having the opportunity to see the chart in question, myself, I followed Bob Anderson’s caution and did not include any maiden name for Joseph’s wife. Continue reading The Phippen chart

Salt Lake City

Just shy of my seventieth birthday, I finally made it to Salt Lake City. I am a notoriously bad traveler (with a tendency toward such things as sciatica, migraines, and hives), but the occasion was the annual meeting of the American Society of Genealogists, and since this was the first meeting after my election as a Fellow last October it seemed rather rude not to show up.

I survived the trip and got to enjoy three mild, sunny October days in Salt Lake (the fourth day was cold and windy). I enjoyed meeting new colleagues and seeing old faces, some not seen in 30 or more years. Rachal Mills Lennon is our newest Fellow. Continue reading Salt Lake City

Remarriage

The question came up after last week’s post about the length of mourning periods between remarriages in seventeenth-century New England. It has always been my (undocumented) impression that the traditional one-year mourning period was usually observed except for emergency situations, such as the need to care for infant and young children.

I looked around for some studies to see if I could back that up with statistics, but so far I have not found anything that particularly applies to early New England – a lot yet to track down, especially in books that are not available online. So I decided to start my own study using the Early New England Families sketches. Continue reading Remarriage

Pandora’s box

I opened Pandora’s box. Traditionally, Daniel Fisher is credited with marrying Abigail Marrett/Marriot/Marrott, etc., daughter of Great Migration parents Thomas and Susan (Wolfenden) Marrett.[1]

This is supported by the record of marriage in Dedham of Daniell Fisher to Abigal Marriott on 17 November 1641, and by the will of Thomas Marrett dated 15 October 1663 naming his daughter Abigail [no surname given] and grandchildren “Lidea, Amos, John and Jeremiah Fisher.” Continue reading Pandora’s box

A Lowell mystery

One of the upcoming Early New England Families Study Project sketches is that for Richard Lowell of Newbury, Massachusetts. Richard was the son of Percival Lowell, who came to New England in 1639 at the age of about 69 with several grown children. Richard, Percival’s eldest son, was 37, and he apparently brought with him a wife and either an infant or in utero son who was named Percival. Richard had three more children born in Newbury: Rebecca, 27 January 1641[/42]; Samuel, about 1644; and Thomas, 28 September 1649. Continue reading A Lowell mystery

The Fishers of Dedham

When I started working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Daniel Fisher of Dedham, I had a vague recollection that he might be one of my ancestors. However, once I pulled out my old folded, torn, and turning-brown 12-generation wall chart (only about half of which has been entered in my genealogy database), I realized that no, I am not descended from Daniel. My ancestor is Daniel’s first cousin, Joshua Fisher Jr.

Daniel and Joshua Jr.’s fathers, Anthony and Joshua Fisher, were brothers, both of whom brought their families to New England in the late 1630s. This means they have not yet been treated in the Great Migration Study Project (complete only through 1635), but, very fortunately, the Fishers and their ancestors have recently been more than thoroughly treated in print.[1] Continue reading The Fishers of Dedham