THE condition of the ancient records of vital statistics of the town of Malden was well known to those who had examined them; and fears were often expressed as to their safety unless means were taken to limit the deterioration to which time and use were exposing them. Hon. John E. Farnham, in his annual address as mayor, January 3, r898, recognizing their legal and historical value, asked the attention of the city council to the records in the following words: —
I want to refer to the condition of our old records, relating to Births, Marriages, and Deaths. These are contained in a few small books and the hand-writing is rapidly fading. All the records covering a period of two hundred and fifty years should be copied and then printed in pamphlet form, ready for distribution next year. I recommend that you authorize some person to have charge of this whale matter, and that a sufficient sum of money be appropriated for that purpose.
The Malden Historical Society, which had already considered the subject, following the suggestion of Mayor Farnham, on February 7, 1898, appointed a committee of seven members to formulate such a course as might be necessary to put the records in a safe and proper condition, and to present the result to the city council for definite action. The committee, after a consideration of the matter, delayed somewhat by the active preparations for the celebration of the two-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town, petitioned the city council for an order looking towards the preservation of the ancient volumes and the perpetuation of their contents by printing.
In March, 1899, a special joint committee, with power to carry into effect the proposed work, was appointed by the city council, consisting of Aldermen Daniel P.S. Page and Willard E. Robinson, and Councilmen , William A. Hastings, Frank S. Arnold, and Edgar A. Whittemore. In the following November, in consideration of the time to be spent in the work and to prevent confusion in details by placing it in the hands of successive committees, a record commission was constituted consisting of the members of the special joint committee. In February, 1900, Deloraine P. Corey and Frank E. Woodward, who as representatives of the Malden Historical Society had been associated with the committee by invitation, were added to the commission j and it was organized, March 5, 1900, with Mr. Corey as chairman and Mr. Woodward as secretary. The work which had been begun by the committee has been continued without a change of plan or purpose, resulting in the preparation of the present volume.
The series which was known as the ancient records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths consisted of six volumes. Some of these volumes were in an extremely bad condition. One had become so fragile, more from the quality of its paper than from misuse, that Albert F. Sargent, the town clerk [1839-1881], sealed it in a wrapper and sequestered it for several years, fearing its total destruction if exposed to use. The leaves had become detached from the binding and could not be turned without losing pieces of their margins and often a portion of the entries. In places, the loss had extended to the partial destruction of the record. Later, an attempt was made to repair this volume which resulted in a still more serious condition, as the method taken was conducive to a farther destruction of the record, which had already suffered much, even when subjected to the most careful handling. In 1865, the compiler of the present volume made a transcript of the six volumes, which has supplied many portions of entries which have since disappeared.
The first act of the joint special committee in 1899 was to procure such treatment of the ancient records as would prevent farther injury and preserve them for future generations. The work was carefully done by the late F.W.R. Emery, of Taunton, who treated the volumes by a process invented and patented by himself, which effectually protects the paper and allows the books to be handled without injury. The six books are now bound in three volumes, forming volumes one, two, and three of the vital records of the town.
The records contained in the three volumes appear to have been begun about 1693, although a few entries are of previous dates, when John Greenland, who made the earlier entries, became town clerk. They are continued until 1842, when the clerk began to use separate volumes for Births, Marriage Intentions, Marriages, and Deaths, which are collectively known as volume four. The volume of Marriage Intentions was used until January I, 1869; but the use of the others ceased in 1844, when the standard blanks furnished by the commonwealth began to be used, forming the volume now known as the fifth of the series. An attempt to copy a portion of the old records was made in 1851; but the transcript is faulty and has not been of assistance in the preparation of this volume.
In the records of the town as they are now constituted, Births, Marriages, and Deaths do not appear from the time of the incorporation of the town in 1649 to the beginning of the book now known as volume one, the book in which they were entered, if it ever had an existence, being unknown; and there is a period of about seven years [1790-1797], during which Marriages by the pastors of the First Church were not recorded. These periods are, however, covered by contemporary records; and additions and corrections are made in the present volume by information gathered from them and other sources, as is here stated in detail.
RETURNS TO THE COUNTY COURT
Among the early laws of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay was the following: —
[9 Sept. 1639.] Item: That there bee records kept of all wills, administrations, & inventories, as also of the dayes of every marriage, birth, & death of every person within this jurisdiction.
Under a penalty of a fine of forty shillings at first, and afterwards of five pounds, the clerks of the writs, performing most of the duties of the later town clerks, were enjoined to make returns of such records, at first to the General Court, and afterwards to the County Courts upon their establishment. This law may have been imperfectly observed, for no returns from Malden have been found for the years 1663-1664 and for the years 1677-1684, inclusive. The returns from the towns in Middlesex were recorded in volumes, which, having been treated' by the Emery process, are preserved in the office of the Clerk of Courts at Cambridge. A modern copy of the record is in the same office; and early copies of some of the returns are in the Probate Office and in the Registry of Deeds. The record of the county clerk and the several duplicates or copies are nearly or quite in accordance. They appear to have been used as original papers by genealogists and others, and much of the information which the)' contain has been perpetuated in print. A suspicion of error in those of Malden induced a search for the original returns of the Malden clerk in the files of the court. Those for the years 1655-1658, and 1685-1691 were found; and a number of errors, mostly of dates, existing in the copies have been corrected in this volume, which will, therefore, be found to disagree with those authorities which are based upon the faulty transcripts.
FIRST CHURCH RECORDS
Marriages solemnized by the pastors of the First Church, which were not entered upon the town records, were recorded in a book kept by the Revs. Peter Thacher, Adoniram Judson, Eliakim Willis, and Aaron Green. This book, which appears to have been a private record and not a portion of the church records, was in the possession of the Rev. Charles E. Reed of the First Church [1858-1869]. Mr. Reed made a copy of a portion, perhaps the whole, of this record, covering the period from the date of the first entry, September, 1770, to September, 1817, which was printed in seven numbers of the Malden Messenger, in May-September, 1863. This book has now disappeared. The copy as printed in the Messenger has been used for the purposes of this compilation; and, while it may not be entirely trustworthy, as the copyist wrote that" in all the knotty places he guessed as correctly as he could," it must remain, for the present purpose, as the only authority which we have. A comparison with the Intentions of Marriage will serve to correct any considerable errors. For the purpose of reference, this book, or its copy, is named the First Church Records, which designation is convenient, while it is not exact.
MARRIAGES IN OTHER TOWNS
Returns of Marriages in other towns prior to 1800 were made under the Act of 1857, and were on file when a transcript for private use was made by the present writer in 1865. An official copy exists, but it appears to be faulty and the private transcript has been used for the present purpose. References are made herein by abbreviations of the town names, thus: chas. for Charlestown returns or records.
A careful examination has been made of the stones in the cemeteries at Bell Rock, Salem Street, and Forest Dale in Malden, and in the Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose. From the inscriptions in these grounds many unrecorded deaths and a number of unrecorded births have been obtained. Many dates of births occur on the stones which are not of Malden. Care has been taken to eliminate such births in the examination, but a few, which could not be distinguished, may have been taken. In many instances, discrepancies have been found between the dates upon the gravestones and those in the records, often of days, many times of months, and sometimes of years. Such discrepancies have been noted in the present volume.
The transcript of the records made by the compiler, when the books were less imperfect than now, has furnished portions of entries which are now illegible. Additions from this source are enclosed in brackets. A few items have been obtained from family records and other sources, which are noted in their respective places.
An entry made by the town clerk, John Shute, on the fly-leaf of volume one is: "New Stile began the 14 of Sept., 1752." It might appear from this that the practice had been to begin the year on March 25; but there are indications that no uniform practice prevailed~ and that the clerks sometimes considered the year, for their purposes, to begin with January. The double date, which would make the matter clear, was not always used, 'and the real date is often in doubt. Thus January 25, 1703, may be in 1702-3 or in 1703-4. When it has been possible to ascertain the date with certainty, the single record date has been followed by the correct double date in brackets, as March 12, 1728 [1727-8]. In this example, the clerk considered the day as coming within the new year, and not within the old year, as the Old Style practice required. Left by itself, there is a doubt as to what was intended. Inattention or misapprehension of Old Style dates has involved many genealogists in errors. Where an uncertainty exists, the record date has been left without an attempt at its elucidation. Old Style dates may readily be changed to New Style dates by adding ten days for dates in the seventeenth century and eleven for those in the eighteenth century.
Some dates in the court returns are given in numerals, which have been left as in the original papers. The numeral for the month, in parentheses, follows that of the day, as, 20 (11), 1670, which is January 20, 1670-1, January being the eleventh month in the Old Style system.
In some of the imperfect records will be found such dates as 1760-1763. This indicates that the year is in doubt, but that it is included in those given.
The most unsatisfactory portion of the records begins in 1844 with the use of the blank forms which were furnished by the state. It appears that information for recording was received from time to time and temporary records or memoranda made on slips or loose sheets, which remained subject to the accidents liable to such papers until the requirements of the law in relation to returns caused the clerk or an assistant to perform the duty which should have been performed at brief intervals. Thus, on May 22, 1845, there were recorded eighty-five births occurring at dates during the year previous to May. Such records, entered sometimes by an incapable hand from memoranda hastily made, became charged with errors. Names were distorted or omitted and initials were misread. Thus, a mother appears as Sarah C., Sarah H., and Sarah A. Some genealogist of that family may discover the correct initial. The death of a child is recorded as "Edward, aged nine months," and again as "Edward H., aged nine days." In the first, only the surname of the father, misspelled, appears. In the second, the parents are given as Edward and Celicia. The parents were Henry and Celia.
Several marriages are found, mostly during the period 1840-1850, for which the corresponding records of Intentions of Marriage do not appear.
Duplicate entries frequently occur. When they agree but one reference is here given, but differences are noted. Thus, Jan. 12 [445, July 12], 1830, indicates the variation in the second reference.
Surnames are given in the family headings in their usual or established forms, sometimes with their more frequent variants j but this method is not strictly followed in the text of Intentions of Marriage and Marriages, where the second surname is usually given with the spelling of the record, unless it might lead to error. In some cases where a peculiar or local pronunciation has led to a misspelling and the form of the name has become established, the record is not followed. Lynds and Lines are not used for Lynde.
Christian names are given in their proper form, unless the record is such as to cause uncertainty. Silas and Mercy are used for the record forms of Cilas and Marcy, and Unight appears as Unite. The interchangeable names of Elizabeth, Eliza, and Betsey, of Mary, Molly and Polly, of Martha and Patty, and others, will cause neither misunderstanding nor confusion. They were the results of fashion or a fad like that which now transforms many feminine names.
While this compilation is not a copy, it furnishes a complete index to the original town records to r8so inclusive, as to each entry is prefixed the number of the leaf of the record in which it appears. Considering the disorder, in relation to dates, in the records, this feature is of much importance, as it affords a means of ready reference in examinations for legal purposes or for verification.
All entries obtained from sources other than the town records are indicated by abbreviated marginal references which are explained in the table of abbreviations.
All portions of entries which correct, or are in addition to the authority noted in the margins, are enclosed in brackets, as are the additions made from the transcript of 1865, which is elsewhere noticed.
Acknowledgment for painstaking work is due to Mrs. Fannie C. Hastings, who copied and arranged the contents of four volumes and of the fifth volume, so far as it was used, and assisted in the labor of verification until she was compelled by a serious illness to retire.
D. P. C.
MALDEN, April 30, 1902.