As I have mentioned in a previous Blog, the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth will soon be upon us. As I update this Blog it is now upon us. As a result, I’m struck that I’ve had ancestors living in Plymouth County where I live for the last 400 years. I have written a few Blogs on where my Bradford ancestors lived. My previous one was on Hannah T Bradford born 1838.
William Bradford Born Before December 1686
This William Bradford was the last William Bradford in my line leading down from Governor Bradford. His line of descent is from his great-grandfather Governor William Bradford to his grandfather Major William Bradford to his father William who married Rebecca Bartlett.
Here is William going back from Hannah Bradford:
Hannah was my 2nd great-grandmother. That makes William my 6th great-grandfather. I assume that William owned land and it is possible that I may be able to trace that land to a current location. According to my Mayflower Families book, William was probably born in Plymouth. He married in Plymouth and he died in Kingston. As William had three more William’s in a row to get back to Governor Bradford, the genealogy can be a little confusing.
One other way to identify these William’s is by their spouses. Unfortunately, I cut off the last wife who was Elizabeth Finney. I also cut off the wife of the William Bradford who was born in 1654. This was Rebecca Bartlett.
William’s Father Dies When William Is Young
Here is more of the story:
William was one of three children and he was the only boy. His father William died when William was only 1 or 2. None of the dates for the children are sure. Alice’s birth is from another book. William was born before December 1686 and Sarah’s birth year is based on her death record. The elder William died in a cart accident.
William Bradford: From Plymouth to Kingston
Here is William’s wife and children:
The first five children were born in Plymouth. That is up to my ancestor Josiah born in 1724. The last three children were born in 1726 or after. That would put William’s move to Kingston at about 1725. Or did the boundaries change? I note that Kingston was incorporated in 1726.
William First Mentioned in a Deed Dated 1687
When William was still a toddler, he was mentioned in a deed by his grandfather William Bradford (born 1624). According to the Mayflower Families Book:
On 23 April 1697 William Bradford in consideration of the natural love he bore for his grandchild William Bradford, only son of his son William Bradford deceased, gives to his grandson one parcel of upland on which his son had built his house “Given unto me from my father William Bradford Esqr”
So it seems this deed mentions four generations of William Bradford’s. This also indirectly mentions where William’s father built his house.
William’s Grandfather Major William Bradford Born 1624
It is usually best to go from the more recent to the less recent in genealogical research. However, in this case, Major William Bradford and his father Governor William Bradford are so famous, that a lot is known about them. For example, Major Bradford’s house is still around, so that will give us a foothold. I have this representation on my web site:
Here is a location on a current map:
Whose house is it?
I may have been wrong. As I look at the website, it appears that the house belonged to Major John Bradford son of Major William Bradford.
Looks like I have it wrong on my web site, so I’ll have to fix that. So it pays to look into these things. Major John Bradford was the brother of the William Bradford who died in a cart accident.
Looking for Where Governor Bradford Born 1589 Lived
I’ll start at the beginning. Here is where Governor Bradford lived in Plymouth:
Hey, someone put a furniture store on Governor Bradford’s property:
I have this rendition on my web site:
I’m not sure how accurate this rendition is, but it does appear to show the church next door. Records say that Bradford held Town meetings at his house. Here is another angle:
Burial hill is to the left in this photo. Governor Bradford lived where the brick building is. However, he also had farm land in present day Kingston. His wife was Alice (Carpenter) Southworth.
In a History of Kingston Massachusetts By Rev. Josiah Peckham, 1867:
For a time Gov. Bradford had his residence in Stoney Brook, near the dwelling of the late Francis Drew. The cellar of his house is still visible. His son, Deputy Gov. Bradford, lived, and died upon the same spot. A “High-Top Sweeting,” the last tree of the orchard, set out by the son, is still standing by the lane leading to Dea. Foster’s. Mr. Henry Colman speaks of it as “planted in 1669, and as bearing in 1838, thirty bushels of good fruit.” If this account of its age is true, it bids fair soon to enter upon its third century. Joseph Bradford, another son of the Governor, settled a little south-east of the Landing.
Here is an old map of Kingston:
There is a Bradford shown to the North of Stony Brook. There is another S Bradford shown and highlighted to the South or SouthEast of Stony Brook. Today’s Stony Brook looks to be Halls Brook:
According to the Will of Governor Bradford dated 1657:
I have Desposed to John and Willam alreddy their proportions of land which they are possesssed of;
Major William Bradford Born 1624
Here is an excerpt from an 1850 article on the Bradford Family:
This account appears to differ with the account above concerning where Deputy General William Bradford lived. Or perhaps he lived both places at different times. Here is a portion of the 1820-1830 map of Kingston South of the Jones River showing three Bradford locations:
Another Kingston Clue in the Willett House
According to the Kingston Historical Commission:
Willett House update, 27 Wapping Road. Jack provided a historical overview, noting the house was likely built in the 1630s, perhaps in 1638, and describes it as having the best provenance of any house in town. Willett, who sold it to Governor William Bradford in the 1650s, came over on the second Mayflower voyage in 1629.
Based on further Commission notes, this house is in private ownership. This excerpt is from the Massachusetts Historical Commission:
The ownership history has been thoroughly researched and indicates the (house and?) land was sold to Governor William Bradford in 1653. It remained in the Bradford family when it was willed to his son, Major William Bradford, who built the “Bradford House” on Landing Road, and then to Samuel and Gershom Bradford. In 1747, the land was sold to Reverend William Rand and later to John Faunce, in whose family it remained for quite some time. From December 1936 to July 1937, a Historic American Buildings Survey team recorded the site and listed the owner as George Higgins. Shortly thereafter, a Mrs. Peabody owned the property and it was under her ownership that the house underwent a restoration by Strickland & Strickland in 1946. The current owner has not significantly altered the appearance of the house since she bought it and it appears very much as it did following the 1946 restoration.
Here is 27 Wapping Road, Kingston:
This is to the South of Jones River. I’m not sure if the previous reference to Stony Brook is accurate or not.
Here is a photo of the house:
The original house from the 1600’s is the one in the back and the ‘newer’ part is on the front dating from the 1700’s. Here is some more information from the Massachusetts Historical Commission:
The main block of the Willett House, in its current configuration, is a typical early 18th century saltbox. Town records indicating a land grant to Capt. Thomas Willett in 1639, including forty acres of “upland and meadow” and seven acres “on which to build his house,” have served as the basis for dating the rear ell. In The Story of the Thomas Willett House, Gordon Massingham of the Kingston Historical Commission assumed that the ell was built around 1640 and it apparently served as a model for a precise, although somewhat larger replica built at Plymoth Plantation in 1994. HABS field notes suggested a slightly later 1653 date, apparently based on town histories published in 1884 and 1920. Abbott Lowell Cummings visited the house in 1996 and, according to the owner, stated that the rear ell did show evidence of 17th century construction (based in part on sheathing exposed at the time) and that the saltbox was probably built around 1700.
It helps to have famous ancestors who have been well-researched. On the 1820-1830 Kingston Map, the house appears to be labelled as belonging to the Widow Faunce:
Chronology for the Williett House
Governor Bradford buys the Williett house in 1653. It is not clear to me if he lives in it or not. The Massachusetts HIstorical Commission [MHC] says it was willed to his son Major William Bradford. However, Governor Bradford died in 1657. His Will says he already gave land to his two sons prior to the Will. My guess is that if the Governor ever lived in the house it was for a very brief time or only to visit his son. According to the MHC, “It remained in the Bradford family when it was willed to his son, Major William Bradford, who built the “Bradford House” on Landing Road, and then to Samuel and Gershom Bradford. In 1747, the land was sold to Reverend William Rand…” That means tha the Willett house was a Bradford house between 1653 and 1747.
The Samuel mentioned above, born about 1667, was the son of Major Bradford. Gershom, born 1691 was Samuel’s son. This Gershom was probably the same Gershom who in 1741 was appointed guardian of my ancestor Josiah Bradford (born about 1724) after Josiah’s father William Bradford died in a carting accident. That means that Josiah possibly lived at this location also when he was young.
The Bradford House on Landing Road
Am I going in circles? Above it says that the Willett House was willed to Major William Bradford who built the Bradford House on Landing Road. Wasn’t this the house that was listed as the Major John Bradford Homestead above? Major William Bradford died in 1687. The John Bradford house was built when?
According to Wikipedia:
The Bradford House, also known as the Major John Bradford Homestead, is a historic house at 50 Landing Road in Kingston, Massachusetts. The Jones River Village Historical Society owns the house, and operates it as a historic house museum. The oldest portion of this 2-1/2 story wood frame house was built c. 1714; this was the western portion of the house, including what is now the central chimney. Documentary evidence suggests the building was expanded to its present width c. 1750.
Apparently there is some confusion. So if Major William Bradford died in 1687, he couldn’t have built a house in 1714, unless there was a different house in this area that he built. According to a Major John Bradford Biography at the Jones River Village Historical Society web site:
Maj. Bradford’s home in Kingston, built in 1675, is still standing and open to the public today. According to tradition, the Indians attempted to burn John’s house during King Philip’s War. The Major discovered the fire. He spied an Indian on Abrams Hill waving a blanket and shouting to his fellows, and shot him. But on approach, he could not find the body. After the war, the Indian met Bradford and showed him the scars of his wound.
Based on this earlier date of construction, the house would have been built when John Bradford was 22 years old.
Here is another reference from a 1920 Biography on Governor William Bradford by Albert Hale Plumb that further confuses the issue:
Based on what I have learned so far, I am a little skeptical of the above Biography.
Some History of Kingston
According to Wikipedia:
Originally part of Plymouth, Kingston was first settled by Europeans shortly after the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620. It was settled once more in 1635. During 1675, several bloody battles during King Philip’s War are believed to have occurred within Kingston’s borders and the residence of Governor Bradford, which is now part of Kingston, was raided by Wampanoag warriors.
In 1685, the area was placed within the boundaries of Plymouth County and for a brief time, between 1686 and 1689, the borders of Kingston were within the Dominion of New England.
Kingston was first established as Plymouth’s northern precinct in 1717 upon the creation of First Parish Kingston, now a Unitarian Universalist church in the town’s center. Kingston was incorporated as a distinct town on June 16, 1726, following a tax dispute between the residents of north and south Plymouth, when the parish was known as the upper class portion of Plymouth.
I would question that the residence of Governor Bradford was raided in 1675 as Governor Bradford died in 1657. If this is referring to Lieutenant Governor William Bradford, this would make more sense.
William Bradford Born Before 1654
According to the Mayflower Families he was probably born in Plymouth. But recall the boundaries were different then. This was the William who married Rebecca Bartlett and died when a cart he was driving overturned and killed him. I am hoping there will be some information on him that will clear things up. Here is a representation of my four William Bradford’s who lived in Plymouth as it is easy to get these William’s mixed up:
As the result of William’s untimely death in 1687, there are some records.
John Bradford was the administrator of William’s estate. I assume that this was the Major John Bradford who had the house I showed earlier in the Blog.
John’s job was to see what assets William had and pay off outstanding debts. Then he would see if anything was left over.
If I could read the above, it might give a clue to the kind of work William did. My assumption is that William had some sort of carting business as he died in a carting accident.
Here are the people that William owed:
According to to the book, “William Bradford of the Mayflower”:
On 23 April 1687 William Bradford in consideration of the natural love he bore for his grandchild William Bradford, only son of his son William Bradford deceased, gives to his grandson one parcel of upland on which his son had built his house “Given unto me from my father William Bradford Esqr.” Before acknowledging the deed on 4 Sept 1696, William added a paragraph saying that when his grandson William reached the age of 21, he “shall enjoy the lands without Interruption.” On 29 Oct. 1709 John Bradford, Samuel Bradford, Israel Bradford, Ephraim Bradford, David Bradford, and Hezekiah Bradford all of Plymouth County gave their right in a cedar swamp to their kinsman William Bradford, son of their brother William Bradford deceased. This deed was not acknowledged until 26 Marcy 1747.
What I gather from the above is that the carting William lived in a house that he built on land of his father Major William Bradford. This land was given to the Major by Governor Bradford. My guess is that the Major intended the carting William’s son William to be able to continue to live in the house that his father built. However, it does not seem that the younger William would own the land that the house was on.
From the book, “The Descendants of Elder William Brewster”:
The children of William and Rebecca (Bartlett) Bradford were remembered in the will of [William’s uncle] John Richards of Boston dated 1 April 1694 and proved on 10 May 1694 that mentioned that “the children of William Bradford Fr. of Plymouth were to receive the share fo their grandfather Major William Bradford, which was to be equally divided between them.” The children’s names were not mentioned.
The three children of William Bradford Jr., late of Plymouth, deceased, namely, William, Alice, and Sarah, made choice of their “uncle” Mr. Joseph Bartlett and Mr. Nathaniel Warren to be their guardians on 18 December 1700. Each child would have been over 14 years of age to be allowed to choose their guardian. A bond in the amount of 100 pounds was posted by the guardians “to ye orphaned Children.”
I wonder who Joseph Bartlett and Nathaniel Warren are? Rebecca Bartlett Bradford had an Uncle Joseph Bartlett (1639-1711). This Joseph also had a son Joseph (1665-1703). Nathaniel Warren seems even more obscure. Rebecca’s great-grandfather was Richard Warren. The titles Mr. are important. At the time, Mr. would have indicated a person of status and wealth.
Here is a helpful article from Illinois.edu from the Plymouth Colony Archive Project:
Guardian agreements are another type of agreement that I will only briefly mention here. The Court Records demonstrate that by 1660 guardian agreements were more common in the records than service and apprentice agreements. No recorded laws governed these agreements. Guardian agreements were written in a contract form similar to that of a servant’s indenture. Often a child would “pick” one or two adults to serve as their guardian until they were adults. A typical guardian agreement reads as follow: “Att this Court, Hannah Hull made choise of Joseph Holley and Nathaniel Fitsrandall to be her guardians, which was approved by the Court” (PCR 5: 52). In this case it is uncertain as to whether or not this childððs parents are deceased. However, other agreements specifically mention that the child’s father or parents were dead (PCR 5: 124). In some instances guardian agreements explicitly stated what goods the chosen guardian was to provide for the child while others asked that the guardians manage the estates inherited by their new wards (PCR 4:39).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a guardian as “one who has or is by law entitled to the custody of the person or property (or both) of an infant, idiot, or other person legally incapable of managing his own affairs” (Electronic Text Center: UVA). The Plymouth Court Records indicate that this was how Plymouth residents defined guardians. Guardian agreements thus became a type of social welfare for orphaned children or children who can from dysfunctional parents. We may never know the manner in which guardians dealt with their wards. Did the guardian treat them like their own children, or did they treat their wards like servants? Most likely, the treatment of wards was highly varied. One record from 1659 involved a complaint made against John Williams, of Scittuate, for the “hard vsage of a daughter of John Barker, deceased” (PCR 3:160). The child was removed from William’s house and given to Thomas Bird until the next Court session could look into the case further. In the meantime, Williams was required to pay a fine. The final sentence of the record was particularly intriguing as it revealed a kin relationship between Williams and the daughter of the deceased John Barker. The record stated that “the said Thomas Bird is to appeer att the next Court to giue in what testimony hee can produce to cleare vp the case betwixt the said John Williams and his kinswoman, the said gerle” (ibid.). Here we see that Williams was probably the guardian of Barker’s daughter, and yet he had mistreated her and used her like a servant.
This record concerning the treatment of a ward is on the one extreme. In other cases a ward may have been treated like the guardian’s child. A future project might entail looking at the wills of men whom we know were chosen as guardians. Are the children they were assigned to look after listed in their wills? Are they listed as servants? These are just a few questions which might help us to understand the social roles of both the guardian and the child.
Apprentice, servant, and ward all entered into a common law contract with a master or guardian. These indenture agreements were viewed as unbreakable contracts and were enforced by the Plymouth Court. Any changes in indenture agreements — from the trade of a servant and the withholding of food or clothing to the misdemeanors of a servant — were brought before the Court. The next several sections will explore the manner with which change and divergence in indenture agreements was dealt.
It appears that the children would live with the guardians and would be treated along the range between servant to child. This doesn’t surprise me, as I believe that natural children were aslo treated along the same spectrum between child and servant.
From “William Bradford of the Mayflower”:
John Richards of Boston, merchant, in his will dated 1 April, proved 10 May 1694, named, among others, the children of his late sister Alice the wife of Major William Bradford of Plymouth; Thomas Bradford of Connecticut; Mercy the wife of mr. Steel of Hartford, [Conn.]; Alice the wife of Major James Fritch of Norwich, [Conn.]; Hannah the wife of Joshua Ribpley of Norwich; Melatiah the wife of John Steel of Norwich; the children of Willima Bradford Fr. of Plymouth to receive the share of the grandfather Major William Bradford to be equally divided among the; John Bradford; Samuel Bradford; Mary the wife of William Hunt of Wymouth; Sarah the wife of Mr. Baker of Duxbury; and Elizabethe Adams the daughter of Alice the wife of the late Rev. William Adams of Dedham.
John Richards was Major William Bradford’s brother-in-law.
Two Generations of Bradford Guardianship
The last William Bradford in my line born before 18 December 1686 chose, along with his two sisters to be under the guardianship of “their uncle Mr. Joseph Bartlett and Mr. Nathaniel Warren”. This William died 9 March 1729/30. According to “William Bradford of the Mayflower”, “On 29 Nov 1736 George Partridge of Duxborough was appointed guardian of Sarah and Jerusha Bradford, over 14, and of Mercy and Josiah, under 14. On 21 May 1741 Gershom Bradford was appointed guardian of Josiah”. Josiah who was my ancestor was born possibly 1724.
Who Was George Partridge?
My assumption is that Josiah went to live with George Partridge in what I assume would be today’s Duxbury between 1736 and 1741. According to a 1915 Partridge genealogy:
Perhaps Josiah didn’t care for being restrained and was able to choose Gershom Bradford as his guardian as of 1741.
Summary and Conclusions
- For the most part, I did not get very specific with the location of various Bradford ancestors
- A specific location is known where Governor Bradford’s first dwelling house was in Downtown Plymouth.
- I also guessed as to where Josiah Bradford lived when he was under the guardianship of Gershom Bradford in Duxbury.
- In general, for the time period that I looked at, my Bradford ancestors lived to the North of Plmouth mostly in what is now Kingston.
- The study of where ancestors lived and the lands they owned goes beyond the basic birth, marriage and death records and can be complicated. On the other hand these land records are sometimes better recorded than other records. When people moved, it was often for a reason and adds interest to the family history.