Friday, February 23, 2018

A Traitor in My Family Tree? Yes! Part Two

A screenshot of JL Bell's blog Boston 1775

One of the things I love about blogging is the comments I get on my blog. In yesterday’s post I referenced another blogger.  He commented back on my blog with a big hint about some additional information in an article he wrote in 2005.  Wow!  What lot of good genealogical information that was new to me!

My blog post yesterday was about Ebenezer Richardson and his two wives.  Yesterday, 22 February, was the anniversary of Ebenezer’s mistaken attempt to quell a Boston mob by firing bird shot into the crowd.  He injured one boy and killed another, probably causing the Boston Massacre two weeks later, on 5 March 1770.  I read about his story at Twitter in an “On This Day In History” tweet.  The names in the link caught my attention since they were all from my family tree.

In my blog post I gave some posts from J.L. Bell’s history blog Boston 1775 as sources. He wrote back in a comment that he had written an article in the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s magazine New England Ancestors about Ebenezer Richardson, and he said, “I think Rebecca (Fowle) (Richardson) Richardson died in 1753 after her sister Kezia (Fowle) Henshaw gave birth and before Kezia married Ebenezer Richardson. There’s no divorce on the record… I think the Rebecca Richardson who died in 1782 is therefore someone else.”

The article that J.L. Bell wrote is “’A Wretch of Wretches Prov’d with Child’: From Local Scandal to Revolutionary Outrage”, New England Ancestors, Volume 6 (2005), pages 22 – 24 and page 40, (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009.)   I looked it up online with great enthusiasm, since both the RICHARDSON and the FOWLE families of Woburn are in my family tree.  As Bell stated in this article “When Kezia (Fowle) Hincher gave birth in 1752, she had been an unmarried widow for over five years. Naturally, her neighbors in Woburn, Massachusetts, gossiped about the father.  At first the mystery roiled local church politics.  Eventually, the fallout from this genealogical puzzle helped bring on the American Revolution.”  Yes, it was a great genealogical puzzle! 

Puzzling out my genealogical relationship to the main characters in this story was my main goal yesterday.  But last night, after reading the NEHGS article by J. L. Bell, I’m was determined to iron out the details of the lives of the two sisters, Rebecca and Kezia.  Fortunately, Bell had done all the work in preparing his article.  He believes there was no divorce, no bigamy, and that Rebecca had died before Ebenezer remarried to Kezia. His argument is laid out in his article. 

The magazine story also describes, in great detail, Ebenezer’s extra-marital affairs with his sister-in-law. She first accused her employer of being the father of her bastard child (she was house maid to the local minister), and he had to sue to restore his reputation.  It’s very juicy stuff for the 18th century (things haven’t changed much, have they?).  And there are more details about Ebenezer’s treachery in colluding with the British customs officials more than fifteen years later, to the point of not sentencing him to hang, and leaving him free to escape to freedom in London.  He was so infamous that even in “1816 John Adams remembered Ebenezer this way: ‘Adultery, incest, perjury were reported to be his ordinary crimes’”. 

To me, another very interesting part of J. L. Bell’s article is how he describes how he found all the documentation to prove Ebenezer Richardson’s story. He puzzled out the intricacies of the sister’s relationships to him with vital records, church and town records, but he also found broadsides, trial records, Legal Papers of John Adams (he was the lawyer for the British side of the Boston massacre), and probate records. In the last paragraph of the article he gives a tip for ordering copies from the National Archives of Great Britain. Usually I read Bell’s work in the context of American history, but this article proves how history and genealogy work hand in hand.

If you missed part one of this blog post (yesterday) click on this link: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Traitor in My Family Tree?  Yes!  Part Two", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 23, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

1 comment:

  1. OMG, what a story! Our family's history really is part of history.