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Vital Records of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the Year 1850


Compiled by Lee D. vanAntwerp

Edited by Ruth Wilder Sherman


Copyright 1993 Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

Picton Press, Camden, ME, 1993



   Only half of the vital records to 1850, from the Plymouth Town Clerk's books, have previously appeared in print. These records are from volume one and part of volume two and constitute the first 318 pages of this book; they were taken from literal transcriptions by the legendary George E. Bowman, in The Mayflower Descendant quarterly magazine. We have compared his work to the original records and found his accuracy impressive; few discrepancies were of enough significance to warrant correction.

   Dr. Lee D. van Antwerp transcribed the balance of the vital records through the year 1849 from microfilm prints of the Town Clerk's records to form pages 318-649. His work was meticulously compared with the films and corrected as needed. These additional records are from volumes two and three, and from the Register.

   The appendix contains a few records copied from the published Plymouth Colony Records, some of which are identified as belonging to Plymouth people.

   All names in the above records are included in the index, which we believe to be a most significant part of the present volume.

   The names of persons and places have been copied exactly; Middo. stands for Middleboro, Plymo. for Plymouth etc. All other spellings were modernized. Standard capitalization has been used for clarity. Dates are not changed from old style (O.S.) to new style (N.S.); those which were recorded, for example, as 17011/12 are printed here as 1711/12. Words which were crossed out in the town books are struck through in the printed text. Marriage intentions have been shortened somewhat and, usually, an asterisk and footnote have been used on those pages so that the intentions will not be mistaken for marriage records. Birth records in early years often listed both parents with the family surname (e.g., children of Nathan Ward and Elizabeth Ward his wife), which does not mean that the father and mother were born with the same surname. On items of doubtful interpretation, the editor and proofreaders have checked with each other, with the original record books, and with the 19th century copies made by Nahum Mitchell around 1840. Any items of which we are still unsure carry bracketed comments.


May 1992

Warwick, Rhode Island



   Andrew J. Collas, Town Clerk of Plymouth, for granting permission to print these records and for lending the microfilms so that we might do this work many miles from "America's Home Town."

   The late Lee D. van Antwerp, Former Governor General of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and a Past Governor of the Illinois Society of Mayflower Descendants, for his major part in this work (see page viii).

   The late Ruth Wilder Sherman and the late Robert M. Sherman of Rhode Island for computerizing the records, as well as for their careful proofreading and editing.

   Roger D. Joslyn of New York and Robert M. Sherman for indexing, and Shirley M. Pizziferri for proofreading the index.

   Jerome E. Anderson of Massachusetts, Robert Charles Anderson of New Hampshire, David L. Greene of Georgia, Roger D. Joslyn, and Robert S. Wakefield of California for further proofreading and for offering constructive criticisms.

Charles F. Mathewson of Plymouth for endpaper and frontispiece artwork.

   That hardy little band of people who braved the high seas and founded the mother town from which sprang many daughter towns in New England and elsewhere.



   In 1976, Dr. van Antwerp responded to a challenge in The Mayflower Quarterly addressed to interested and capable persons that they should undertake some sort of Bicentennial project which would honor our country's anniversary and at the same time be a boon to historians and genealogists. He selected as his project the transcribing of the Plymouth Vital Records, of which only about half was in print. Mrs. Sherman obtained the necessary permission and films and, for several years, Dr. van Antwerp diligently read the film and typed what he could read, despite severely failing eyesight.

   At this point Mrs. Sherman and her husband, Robert M. Sherman, with their long experience in reading the 17th and 18th century handwritings, agreed to take his work, computerize it, compare it with the filmed originals, and make the needed changes. This was completed by 1984, but the untimely death of Mr. Sherman put the work on hold. With the publication of this volume, Dr. van Antwerp's vision will have become a reality.

   Only those who have successfully brought an accurately-transcribed volume of 17th century records into print will appreciate the work which has been done since 1984 by those thanked above (and others) in order that the best possible version can be made available in this 92d year since the Rhode Island Mayflower Society was founded.



   There are many other published and unpublished original records which serve as "mortar" to hold the Plymouth vital record "bricks" together. Among them are the following published titles (including guides to unpublished materials) some of which are long out of print, but may be available in reprint or microform:


Frederick W. Bailey, Early Massachusetts Marriages Prior to 1800, 3 vols. (New Haven, Conn., 1897)

George E. Bowman, Pilgrim Notes and Queries, 5 vols. (Boston 1913-1917)


George E. Bowman and Alicia C. Williams, The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim History and Genealogy (Boston 1899-1925,1930-37,1985-      )


Lucy Hall Greenlaw, The Genealogical Advertiser: a Quarterly Magazine of Family History, 4 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1898-1901)


Bradford Kingman, Epitaphs from Burial Hill, Plymouth Massachusetts, from 1657 to 1892 (Brookline, Mass., 1892)


David T. Konig, Plymouth [County] Court Records 1686-1859, 16 vols. (Wilmington, Del., 1978)


Plymouth Church Records, 1620-1859, 2 vols. (New York 1920-23)


Charles H. Pope, The Plymouth Scrapbook: The Oldest Original Documents Extant in Plymouth Archives... (Boston 1918)


Records of the Town of Plymouth, 3 vols. (Plymouth 1889-1903)


Ruth Wilder Sherman and Robert S. Wakefield, Plymouth Colony Probate Guide: Where to find Wills and Related Data For 800 People of Plymouth Colony 1620-1691 (Warwick, R.I., 1983)


Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer, Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, 12 vols. (Boston 1855-61)


Robert S. Wakefield, Plymouth Colony Marriages to 1650 together with Mary Chilton's Title to Celebrity (Warwick, R.I., 1978)


Ralph Van Wood Jr., Plymouth County Massachusetts Probate Index 1686-1881 (Camden, Maine, 1988)

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