Friday, September 6, 2013

Planning a Genealogy Photo Trip to Ipswich, Massachusetts

Last week we took a trip to Ipswich, Massachusetts.  I had four goals four this trip:

1. )      Visit the Historical Society to learn about their genealogy resources
2. )      Visit the Whipple House, built by an ancestor
3. )      Visit the 1640 Hart House restaurant, built by someone in my family tree
4. )      Photograph lots of ancestral gravestones at the Old North Burial Ground

This is what I learned…  It pays to use the internet before going on a little trip like this… Or to pick up the phone and ask questions.  Did I meet my four goals? 

1.)    Ipswich Historical Society has a museum you can learn more about at to find the hours and days it is open.  It operates tours of both the Whipple House and the Heard House.  Also, it is right next door to the Ipswich Visitor Center (bonus points for visitors). You can get a lot done here in one place, but they also have a staff genealogist who just happened to meet me at the door.  I didn’t have an appointment, this was just serendipity.  She prefers appointments for genealogy questions (this is stated on the website!), so you need to call ahead.  Or queries are answered for $20 per hour, one hour minimum.   Her best advice to me was to explore the historical records at the Ipswich Public Library.  I'll have to make a special research trip to Ipswich at some other date.

This is only a partial view of the map of Ipswich, Mass
with houses and early land grants marked by surnames.
It was a large map hanging just inside the entrance to the Ipswich Museum

Also, at the entrance to the museum was this great map of the original proprietors of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  You just might find your ancestor on this map.  The society does not have copies of this map on a poster or brochure.  Just inside the front foyer was the gift shop, where I bought this great book about Ipswich, too.

American Town: The History of Ipswich, Massachusetts
by Alan Pearsall,  Ipswich, Mass: Ebsco Publishing, 2009

2.)    So, we had a great tour of both houses, but the Whipple House was first.  It was a private tour since it was a Friday morning and we were the only patrons.  This was wonderful and I was able to ask lots of questions.  Photos were allowed without flash.  Perfect!

Above is the back of the Whipple House, and below is the front door 

Whipple House web page:

Captain John Whipple (1595 – 1669) built the Whipple House.  He is my 10th great grandfather.  His daughter Sarah Whipple (1641 – 1681) is my 9th great grandmother, married to Joseph Goodhue.  As you can see, I don’t have a long line of Whipple ancestors in Ipswich!

If you are interested in photographing First Period Homes (before 1725) or your ancestor's home in Ipswich, you can pick up the following brochure at the Visitor Center or at the Historical Society. It was produced by the Ipswich Historical Commision:

3.)    After the Historical Society we found the 1640 Hart House restaurant.   It wasn't dinner time, so we didn't go inside.  This is something else to add to the agenda for trip number 2 to Ipswich.   I took some photos of the outside, and we’ll save the fancy dinner for the next time we are in town.  It was built by Thomas Hart, who was an indentured servant in Boston until 1637.  He came to Ipswich and built this home, which was passed down in the family for generations, and added onto over the years.   Some of the original Keeper’s Room was removed from the interior and installed as an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.   So does that make it a good excuse for Trip number 3?

Thomas Hart (1611 – 1674) had a son named Thomas Hart (about 1640 – 1717), and a grandson named George Hart (1669 – 1753) who married Martha Ward (1672 – 1723), my first cousin 9 generations removed.

4. )    The best information for Ipswich History and cemetery guides is at the website of the Ipswich Historical Commission (not the Historical Society) at   The page for cemeteries is at this link:

On this cemetery web page, there are links to each of the old cemeteries in Ipswich.  You can print them out (or download them).  I did both, so I could use my iPad mini or my paper copy in the cemetery.  Actually the paper copies worked out best because I could circle the spots on the map where my ancestors were buried, and I could write notes as to who was buried where.  There is also an eBook version.

For the Old North Burying Ground there is a database of graves I saved as a text document.  I used this to see who was buried here, and (thank goodness!) there is a list of epitaphs for those stones that are now almost illegible.   I printed out all the maps.  The cemetery is divided into eight sections, and all the graves are numbered according to the database of graves in the text document.

This was a very easy system.  I had TWELVE pages of graves to find and photograph.  I had highlighted all the direct ancestors, and we found all of the directs, and many, many of the other graves.  I will have to go back to find them all.  We spent about an hour and took over 150 photographs of WHIPPLE, TREADWELL, WARD, HASKELL, and other surnames.  Jackpot!

Above is my paper version of the Old North Burying Ground sections C and D map
and below is the downloaded version from the website onto my iPad Mini

Below I made a text document of the locations and epitaphs, 
cut and pasted from the version on the website.  
Direct ancestors were highlighted. 
I checked them off as we photographed each gravestone. 

I would recommend this system to anyone exploring the Old North Burying Ground.  Bring your hiking boots, since it is very large and built on a very steep hill. Hopefully your ancestors aren't buried at the top of the hill or you’ll have to climb a scary set of granite steps.  Don’t ask me how they carried coffins up there 250 years ago.  I don’t know the answer to that!

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I remember a trip to that area when I was beginning in genealogy. We had a Sunday with no plans so decided to go to Ipswich. There was a festival of some sort so we went to the village green to see what was available. We learned that we could tour a couple of historical homes, one of which was the Whipple House. Yes!! Although I am descended from John's brother Matthew, we took the tour and were so captivated by the town that we decided to stay in a motel there for several days. We took the commuter train into Boston to NEHGS a couple of days.

  2. I found your blog on a google search of Ipswich. How exciting to find the brochure of early homes of Ipswich and find the name Thomas Low! My son is also Thomas Lowe (an 'e' was added in the 1800s). This is so great to have this information for when he is older...and for his 91 year old great-grandpa, who doesn't know this history. Thank you for sharing!

  3. i am an 11 th generation Hart ... Thomas Hart was my great 11 times grandfather. We spent a day in Ispwich in 2008 and toured the homes and ate at the Hart house. I was wondering is there ever a family reunion of descendents of the Hart family.. my other tie to the area is the Arlete family.