Friday, November 8, 2013

Why it is so important to read the marginalia!

This is a short post about looking at the original documents when you are researching your family tree.  If you cannot get to the actual document, a scanned image will be second best.  This is why.

Here is the Town Clerk's Records from Beverly, Massachusetts. I'm researching the HICKS family, sometimes spelled HIX in the vital records.  My 4th great grandmother, Susanna Hix (1768 - 1859) was born in Beverly, but her death record did not list her parents.  I suspect that her parents were the Abraham and Sarah HIX listed here.  The records list two children, Joanna and Abraham, who might be her older siblings.  I found evidence in the records of four other siblings (marriages and deaths), so I know that all the births were not recorded.   Abraham died in 1767 in Beverly (listed in the VRs).

While wondering about Abraham and Sarah, I noticed this note above the entry for the HIX family, written in teeny tiny lettering.  This message is not transcribed in any other record of the Beverly records, it is only available when looking at the actual book in Beverly or at the scanned image of the Town Clerk Book available at  

This message says:
"Dec 19 1757 a warrant was issued "to warn Abraham Hix to depart out of the town be being an inhabitant of Plimoth in the County of Plimoth"

If you are unfamiliar with the term "warned out", it was a complaint issued by towns who did not want to support paupers or those asking for assistance who were not proper residents of the town.  The "warning out" did not mean that the constable escorted them out of the town limits, but after being warned the town would no longer support this family.  

It was also a very good clue to Abraham HIX's origins.  I did find him in the Plymouth, Massachusetts records, and his parents before him were Abraham HICKS and Desire TROWBRIDGE.  

While patting myself on my back about this good fortune in reading the note, I also noticed another note, in the same teeny weeny handwriting, in the bottom margin of the page

This note read:
"Trisse Lovett, daughter of Susanna Hix born January 31, 1790"

Did you notice that this message lists the mother (my 4th great grandmother) under her maiden name, five years before her marriage to Josiah STONE.  I have not found a marriage between a LOVETT and Susanna HIX, so I am assuming this was an illegitimate birth for now. 

Unless I find another note in another record book.

And I'll be sure to check the marginalia!

These images are from "Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1627-2001," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 Oct 2013), Essex > Beverly > Births, marriages, deaths 1653-1890 > image 239 of 589.

The URL for this post is

Copyright (c) 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Great fun! For me the margin notes have been parental consent for underage marriages which help identify kinship and narrow age ranges but which are not indexed or transcribed. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Excellent sleuthing Heather! Thanks for sharing this lesson.

  3. Well searched and found, Heather! This is why ORIGINAL sources need to be consulted.

    Was Trisse Lovett's birth recorded in the Beverly published VR book?

    1. Yes, you can find Trisse Lovett in the "Tan Book" of Beverly births, and also she has been indexed in the NEHGS database of the Mass. VR's at The whole page is fascinating here, which is why its so important to read. Especially whole pages on census records, too, to get an idea of who were the neighbors (usually relatives), and who was the enumerator (usually a relative, too, in small towns).

  4. I've found a wealth of information in these books since I learned of them about a year ago. I've also learned "the hard way" to check the preceding and following pages. There have been occasions where there wasn't adequate space for marginalia on the page containing my selected record or information was garnered prior to or after the recording in question.

  5. Your meticulous research certainly paid off! I too have found exciting information in the margins of parish registers and other archival sources.