This volume, though in the main compiled from the original manuscript records of births, marriages and deaths found in the town books of Lexington, contains some entries derived from other sources. The first volume of these records embraces a period ending with the year 1843, and beginning ___ one can hardly say when. Entries do not appear to have been made regularly and with much regard to system until the time of the incorporation of the town in 1713, or even later than that time; but the earlier pages of the volume show entries made throughout the existence of the settlement as an incorporated precinct or parish (Part of Cambridge), 1692-1713, and a few scattered ones of birth at "Cambridge Farms" even before the establishment of the separate parish. Many of these earlier entries were evidently made long before the events which they record, for there is found in them a lack of chronological order; for example deaths of some persons are recorded lower on a page than others who survived them.
In order to make the record as complete as possible the committee having the preparation of this publication in charge thought it desirable to consult not only the register of the First Parish Church of Lexington, but also the church and municipal records in Cambridge, the two latter being read for a considerable period prior to 1692 with an eye for family names known or believed to have been identified with the settlement at the "Farms."
This collateral research besides revealing names and dates not found in the town books with reference to persons whose births, marriages or deaths, as the case might be one may supposed to having occurred here, disclosed entries which substantially duplicate many of the earlier ones in those books. A useful comparison was in this way made possible, one record often removing obscurities in the other.
The sources, then, of the date from which this volume has been prepared are:
1. The original record of births, marriages and deaths (in the custody of the town clerk of Lexington), Vol. 1 dating from (about) 1692 to 1843; Vols. 2, 3, 4 and 5 from 1844 to 1898. In Vol. 1 appear sundry scatted entries obviously not contemporaneously made) of an earlier date.
2. The original "Records of the Church of the First Congregational Society in Lexington" dating from 1690 to 1844. In addition to the original of this book, there exists an excellent copy, which is in the hands of the pastor, the Rev. C.A. Staples. Entries in this register were not made contemporaneously until 1691 or 1692. From this time on they are in good form, with the following exceptions. There is no record of a marriage until Jan. 3, 1734. This entry was by the Rev. Ebenezer Hancock. Ebenezer continues the record of marriages until his death in 1739. Strange to say, however, there is no entry made by his father of any marriage until Jan. 4, 1750, although he was minister of the church for fifty-five years, dying in 1752. He appears to have entered all marriages solemnized by him during the years 1750, 1751 and 1752. In the interval between his death and the installation of his successor, Aug. 5, 1755, there is an irregular record of deaths (about seventy in number) with no specific dates given. Baptisms are given throughout the entire period covered by the book, and deaths are regularly recorded, save as above noted. Hudson thinks that the Rev. Mr. Hancock, senior, must have kept a record of marriages from the beginning of his ministry, and that the book has been lost.
3. The original "Records of the Church of Christ in Cambridge" which date back to 1658.
4. A copy, made by the late Rev. Lucious R. Paige, of the original Cambridge records, contained in several volumes now lodged in the office of the clerk of courts at East Cambridge. The copy, which may be found at the Cambridge city hall, has an excellent index.
It seldom happens, in these volumes, that there is anything of interest in the particular form of language in which the original entry of a birth, marriage or death is entered. For this reason, and because an exact reproduction of the originals would not only add materially to the bulk of the printed book, but necessitate an elaborate index, thereby adding very largely to the cost, we readily decided to follow the plan adopted at Woburn; namely, the grouping of surnames in alphabetical order, with the Christian names placed under them according to chronology, each surname being printed but once, and in bold faced type. In this way the need of an index practically disappears.
Our scheme will be found to have broadened somewhat in Part II (where the more complete data of the modern records makes this possible) so as to include collateral information regarding names of parents, places of birth, etc.
In the earlier years the dates of baptisms (taken from the church register) are given sometimes in connection with the birth dates, and sometimes without them. In the latter case the dates of birth cannot be found in any of the records which furnish the basis of this work. For illustration, it may be noted (see page 58 hereof) that Theodore Parker, with two of his sisters and two of his brothers, was baptized Feb. 26, 1812. None of the birthdays of these children of John and Hannah Parker are to be found in the public records. Hudson, who gathered them from some private source, gives the date of Theodore's birth Aug. 24, 1810.
Where, as is sometimes the case, a birth appears on the town book as of a later date than the date of the same child's baptism, the baptismal date may be presumed to be correct, because it comes from the church register, which was kept with more system and by men who were witnesses of the facts recorded.
Whenever any one shall desire to see the original of any entry in the town book prior to 1854 we have, by the figures given at the left hand, next to the margin of the page, made easy a task that otherwise would have required in most cases a long and tedious search, and would in some instances have been well-nigh impossible.
EXPLANATION OF SIGNS
A figure, then, at the left shows the number of the page on which the original entry is found in the first volume of the town book (births, marriages and deaths); except that the added information as to baptism, if any, is taken from the church register.
A dagger (†) shows that the entry came from the Cambridge book (Paige's copy mentioned above.) In numerous cases a dagger and a number at the left both occur in the same line. (see, for example, the birth of Elizabeth Bridge, page 9.) The marks referred to show that her birth is recorded both in the Cambridge book and in the Lexington book, the number of the page where the entry appears in the latter being 7.
A double dagger (‡) marks an entry from the record of the Church of Christ in Cambridge, above referred to. A single and a double dagger will in a few cases be found in conjunction. (See e.g. under Robbins, page 65.) The names preceded by both these signs were found in both the municipal and church register at Cambridge. The dates here recorded being so late as 1709-12 (i.e. subsequent to the organization of the separate parish at "the Farms" or Lexington), the births should probably betaken as having occurred at Cambridge, and possible as having nothing to do with a Lexington family. In making the search in Cambridge we believe it best to err on the side of a too broad rather than a too narrow inquiry; and so all family names known to have had Lexington association were incorporated.
All entries throughout Part I (i.e. those prior to1854) not marked by any sign are taken from the Lexington First Parish Church Register.(i.e. source of information No. 2 referred to above) The initials "P.R." (parish register) are used in a few instances in the text to denote this source; and "T.R." to denote the town record.
A star (*), which sign will be found only among the marriages in Part I., inculcates that the ceremony was performed in some place other than Lexington, but that one of the parties was at the time a resident of Lexington. The date for these items were found in letters from the town clerks of the places where the marriages occurred. In Part II, also there are some records of marriages which took place elsewhere of persons at the time having association with Lexington through residence, birth or parentage.
An interrogation mark (?) after a date or name does not mean that there is any doubt as to the accuracy of the copy, but denotes that there is reason to question whether the date or name copied is correctly given in the original.
Brackets [ ] among births and deaths in Part II enclose the birthplace of the person named immediately before them.
Parentheses ( ) enclose maiden names.
The meaning of abbreviations employed is believed to be in all cases obvious, when viewed in the light of the context. For born is used "b.;" for baptized, "bp.;" for married, "m.;" for died, and also for daughter, "d.;" for son "s.;" for child "ch.;" for father "f.;" for husband "hus.;" for wife "w.;" for widow or widower "wid.;" or "widr." for received into the church "r."
Thus it will be seen that the following entry under the surname BABB, in the death record, on page 409, "Charles H., 41 y. 1 m. 5 d. [Conway, NH.], s. Dan'l & Elizabeth (Child), m., May 29, 1893," means "Charles H. Babb (a married man), born in Conway, NH., the son of Daniel Babb and Elizabeth.Babb (whose maiden name was Child) died May 29, 1893, aged 41 years, 1 month and 5 days."
Similarly, the following is the meaning to be given to the marriage record under the surname WETHERN, on page 400: "George M. Wethern, of Malden, aged 32, who was born in Sumner, ME, the son of Woodman Wethern and Jerusha F. Wethern, married Nov. 1, 1863, Emeline F. Harris, aged 24 years, of Lexington who was born in Boston, the daughter of Henry Harris and Emeline Harris (whose maiden name was Bryant.)"
With reference to chronology, it is to be observed that we have printed all dates exactly as they are found in the original, reproducing "double dates" wherever the record gives them. As if well known, an act of Parliament in England was passed in 1751, directing that the new year begin Jan. 1, 1752, according to the custom which had long prevailed in Catholic countries. Before this, the year, in England and her colonies, ended March 24. By the new style it was to end December 31. It was also ordered that eleven dates be dropped, Sept. 3, 1752, to be reckoned September 14. Prior to Jan. 1, 1752, it was customary to double date the year as to any day occurring in January, February and March, to and including March 24. For example. January 10 of the year which, according to the modern system, would be 1704, would be written in the old records "Jan. 10, 1703-4."
Our town record contains the following entry: "Note that after the 28th of June, 1746, double dating will be laid aside, and the year begin[s] with the almanack." From this it would seem that Lexington attempted to adapt the new style, so far as the beginning of the year was concerned, in advance of the formal act of Parliament. Whether a date like that mentioned in the above example appears in the original Lexington records as "Jan. 10, 1703-4," or as "Jan. 10, 1703," it ought probably to be regarded as one occurring in 1704, new style. Usually, but not uniformly, the old Lexington records double date dates in January, February and March, and sometimes this was done as to the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth days of March, although it should properly have ceased March 24.
It is our understanding that in order to reduce to the new style dates appearing in our records as prior to Sept. 3, 1752, it is necessary to add eleven days; while if the date occurs between December 31 and March 25 of any year written as 1745 or earlier, the year number also should be increased by 1, or, in case of a double date, the last figure should be taken, as explained above.
The laborious and painstaking task of copying, collating and arranging the subject matter, as well as the reading of the proof, for this book has been performed by Mr. N.A. Sparhawk of Boston, under the direction of the committee; and we desire to make public acknowledgment of the thanks due him for the intelligent and conscientious manner in which he has done his work. Though an undertaking of this kind cannot be expected to be carried through without errors occurring, we believe that the finished work now delivered from our hands to the town will be found to exhibit accuracy to a high degree, and we trust that it will prove to be correspondingly useful.
Any one who finds a name or date incorrect should not hastily conclude that the mistake is due to the compiler rather than to the person who originally furnished or recorded the item. A similar remark may be made with regard to the omission of names altogether. We have found a number of cases, even in recent years, where a missing birth or death is not contained in the original record.
The volume is published in obedience to a vote of the town, and in furtherance of a general purpose, expressed at the annual meeting in 1896, to preserve in some imperishable form the original manuscript records, and to print them for public use, beginning with the record of births, marriages and deaths.
Lexington, October. 1898.
Vital Records Project