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William1 Baker & his wife Mary are a much more complicated couple to sort out than previous Baker families in this line. There are fewer records due to the earlier time-period and many secondary sources have confused and entangled them making claims that are not backed up by records, and/or documentation. My hope is that if we can clearly source what we can prove through evidence, & discuss what we can’t prove, we may break through this wall eventually, especially when combined with DNA results. Therefore, this writing is aimed at clarifying the sourced evidence, & letting go of statements that are not supported.
Before I delve into a summary of what we can prove or surmise about our William from the records, I want to be clear that sadly, nothing about our William1, prior to his arrival in Concord, MA has thus far been supported with documentation. Nothing. Not one single record. This why we all need to work together so that we can solve this mystery. There has to be something out there & if nothing else maybe the y-DNA of our male Baker brother, fathers, nephews, sons – can help us figure it out that way.
We know William1 arrived in Concord after 6 Mar 1654 because he is not listed on the list of residents at that time.[i] He is said somewhere to have rec’d 7 acres from 2nd Division of Concord in the East Quarter before 1656 BUT I don’t know where this record is. If you do, please share.
By 1666 he is clearly listed as having 43 acres, within 5 lots of the east quarter of Concord MA.[ii] His homestead was on what is now Lexington Rd & was the property between what is now identified as the Samuel Staples house on the west and the Benjamin Barron house on the east. This property was passed to William2, & then Joseph1. More evidence supporting the homestead & its location will be in a different post at some point, but it can be researched through the deeds in Middlesex County, albeit, not especially straight forward.
There are no direct indications of his age on a record that I am aware of. We can try to make a ballpark guess about his age at birth & death from a little logical reasoning through the following indirect evidence
We can be certain William was married to a Mary, as she is mentioned as his widow in his probate papers. His Middlesex County Probate Docket 773, 1679 has only 1 remaining document. It is a list of the inventory of his estate, signed by Timothy Wheeler, Tho Wheeler & John Stofford (?) 17.4.79 “granted to Mary his relic widd. & com hor son[s?] & both took oath to ye inventory.” This document indicates his housing & land was worth 70 pounds at that time. It also notes:
Sonn John Baker.
Rec. Vol 6 Page 188”
Mary married second Henry Jefts of Billerica as his 4th wife. The marriage took place on the same day (by the same minister) as her son William Baker2 married Elizabeth Dutton on 5 May 1681. Henry Jefts died on 24 May 1700 in Billerica, MA. His long detailed will written 4 Mar 1691-2 mentions William2 of Concord in his will as his "son in law" which was used for both step sons & what we now know as son-in-law today. It states on page 2 at the bottom: “Jno give eight pounds in my son in laws hand namely William Baker of Concord to be improved for her personall. (?)”
Therefore, seems like Mary may have died after his will was written on 4 Mar 1691, but a record for her death has not been found.
William and Mary of Concord MA had the following children (order uncertain):
1. John Baker –Mentioned on inventory paper in his father’s probate – nothing before or after – yet – I just noticed this in the summer of 2016
2. William Baker William died on 8 Jun 1702 in Concord, MA - click here.
The above concludes the certainties we know. It is a sad & frustrating sight, but the reality is unless we back up to this point, we cannot effectively move forward in the research. I firmly believe we are all stuck because we are banking on & barking up falsehoods & unproven statements provided by secondary sources. We must eliminate these once & for all. That said, if you have evidence to support something I am dismissing, please share. I totally welcome the correction & I really hope all Baker researchers from this line can work as a team to put this together with a solid foundation.
Let’s at least start with the most entertaining of these. When I first started researching, around 1998, I came across a story of a Husking Party at the home of our ancestors in Concord, MA. I had typed something the search engine I was using at the time, and up came a digital copy of an old book. I start reading pg 190…
“For weeks, Goodman Baker knowing that his place had been selected for the husking had been alive to all the requirements of the coming occasion, and his home had been a busy hive of willing and enthusiastic workers for many evenings since the early frost began crisping and curling the corn leaves. The woods had been scoured for
game, and the clink clonk of the mortar had been a familiar sound for many evenings, while good wife Baker and the boys pounded cloves and coriander seed, caraway, savory and sage, that all might be in readiness when the merry "mixing time" came, and the rich sauces and gravies were to be prepared.”
I was so excited to have found a story from the 1600’s! I was glued to it until the end. I was very green at the time and had not yet learned the magnitude of context in this type of work. I hung on every word as it sucked me in, line by line. It wouldn’t be until I finished the story & went back to the beginning that I realized …this was not a true story. It was a fictional story within a non-fiction book. Alfred Sereno Hudson takes creative license in his book History of Concord Massachusetts, Volume 1 Colonial Concord (1904) and he tells a wonderful hypothetical story. Although, I will admit for a longtime I was kinda mad at him for crushing me like that, lol. I highly suggest you read it, but start it from the beginning on pg 188.
Less amusing is the bulk of information that comes from numerous books who have both highly accurate information, as well as unsupported/inaccurate information. This makes it especially difficult because we want to believe that sources are either good or bad, black or white, & not waste time wading through the mucky greys, but wade we must. The following is most of the information that cannot be back up with additional records, to my knowledge at least.
Let’s start with Town Records of Littleton. For the most part this is a highly accurate source when it comes to the records. The Baker compilation on page 519-20, however, is significantly lacking in the sections below.
BAKER (pg 519)
1 Wm Baker of Charlestown 1634 d. 1658. His widow Joan d. 1669. He was one of the Selectmen 1646.
Tradition says one William Baker came to America about 1660 with a son William aged 3 years and he (probably the son) d. June 8 1702. One record says Wm Baker, s. Wm and Mary, b. Oct 19 1655.
Our William1 is not the son of William & Joan of Charlestown & Billerica as indicated. The 1658 Administration papers & Middlesex County Deeds for William Baker & his wife Joan of Charlestown & Billerica – do not name William as an heir of William & Joan’s.
We do know our William1 was in Concord before 1666 and he did have a son William who died 8 Jun 1702, but that is it. There is no support for anything else in this “tradition”. We have no record indicating how, when or where our William came from. Whether he came from somewhere else in New England, Virginia or from England. we do not know. There is more on this tradition under the discussion of Albert Clark Baker’s book.
Our William2 was NOT the William born Oct 19 1655. That William had siblings John, Nathaniel & Mary & was the William who married Mary Eddington & Pilgrim Eddy, who then married _______ Stedman. This was a different man.
BAKER (pg 520)
2 Wm Baker d. 8-2-1679 in Concord. His wife Mary (French) and son William settled his estate. (Mary m. 2nd May 5th 1681 Henry Jefts as his 4th wife). Children:
Probably William b. 1657 or Oct 19 1655, m. 1st Eliz Dutton (p. 424) at Concord, b. Jan 28 1659, probably dau Thomas. She d. Apr. 7 1698.* William m. 2nd Abigail Waite who m. 2nd Samuel Wheat.
Jos settled Marlborough
A John Eddy was in Watertown 1634, had a daughter Pilgrim who m. 1st Apr 22 1656 Wm Baker, m 2nd before 1678 Steadman. See N.E.H.G. Register p. 244-1848
The above William Baker would be the one we refer to in this report as William1, and he did die 8-2-1679 in Concord & his wife was Mary. That is all agreeable & supported by the records.
However, I have found no evidence that supports (French) as Mary’s maiden name, and we can prove that she most definitely was not the daughter of William French through his probate record. While a Joseph French lived in Concord also, nothing has been found yet to indicate a relationship with any of the French family at all.
Further, William1’s probate record does not mention William2 at all. Instead it states “John Baker” and & “sons” appears to be plural, “both” signing off on the inventory.
Despite this, it is certain they did have William2 who may have been born about 1660, but again he was definitely not born Oct 19 1655. Their son William, known here as William2, did marry Elizabeth Dutton at Concord. She was the daughter of Thomas and she did die 7 Apr 1698.
William2 did marry again, & she did after marry Samuel Wheat, but her maiden name was not Waite. It was Ballard as evidenced by her & her father’s probate papers. This is explained in the sketch of William2.
Further, there was actually another marriage for William2 between Elizabeth & Abigail. That wife was Sarah Crackbone. She died 11 months after they married. Therefore, technically, William married Abigail 3rd, not 2nd.
No evidence has been found indicating William & Mary had a son named Joseph. None. It seems this may have been an incorrect assumption made by the History of Marlborough, MA. There is evidence our William1 had another son, John. He is named on the one probate paper that remains for William Baker d. 1679.
Baker, Andrus, Clark & Adams Families with Descriptive Travels of the Author
Again, this is another source that has some undocumented information. It is a treasure to the family & has tons of fabulous information too, but some very critical information is not specifically sourced and leaves us in a very wobbly tree. These “traditions” have been repeated time & time again in other books and trees, but they are not specifically sourced and therefore are not supported by evidence. They just aren’t. I wish they were too, but until someone comes forward with evidence, it is merely tradition. “Tradition” is not the equivalent of truth. Let’s go through the areas of most concern one by one.
Pg 4: “Father in old age often was in a reminiscent mood, and I became much interested in the family history as it had come to him: but there was nothing in the shape of a genealogy except a family record in the old family Bible of my grandfather, this in the handwriting of my grandfather, on the front leaf inscribed: "William Baker's Bible, 1810." This genealogic record reached back to Concord, Mass., as the original home of the family.”
See… it is implied there is proof in the Bible of William Baker 1810, but we don’t know what it is or where the bible is now. We have no way of knowing which facts are, and are not, in the bible. It states the bible reached back to Concord, but what about Concord is truly in it? We need to document this information. If the bible is still out there in the family or universe somewhere, we should all pray photos of it make their way to the rest of us.
Pg 4: “He also left to my father the coat of arms brought from England and carried in the William branch of the family.”
Pg 8: “The coat of arms (by the name of Baker ) I have no doubt is an original and not one of those that were sold to the public for prestige. My father said his father prized it much and that he said it had been in the William branch of the family since brought from England. It is on a very ancient piece of sheepskin and shows all the marks of its ancient origin. It was put in a frame covered with Indian arrow-heads and for years hung in the sitting-room at our old home in Castalia. When we removed from there, it was taken from the frame; it was never reframed, but at father's death given to my brother William at Sioux City. His son William having passed on, it was given to Frank Dike Baker of Sioux City, the oldest living son.”
The author mentions this last part under The History of Embellishments, so it would make sense that there was a photo of it somewhere, but it is not in any digital copies of the book I have seen. It does say in Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography, Volume 1, by Marion J. Kaminkow, Library of Congress, that the coat of arms is on the cover of the book, but upon writing to the Smithsonian to gain a photo of it, they responded:
“Unfortunately the Library of Congress frequently rebinds the materials it receives, and that was the case with this 1920 publication. So the Library's copy does not have the original cover. If the descriptive information was provided by the Library of Congress rather than the author, it must have been compiled before the book was rebound. That's an unfortunate loss of information.”
Since it is not on the actual hardcover of the other digital copies of the book, it would seem there could have been a book jacket with it originally & perhaps it was on that? If one still exists, it has not been located. Until it is, we are in the dark on our particular Baker Coat of Arms.
A few hints on the trail of where it might be, can be found by tracing Frank Dike Baker. Woodbury County History 1982, BAKER, By Gertrude Baker Scroggs writes: http://iagenweb.org/boards/woodbury/biographies/index.cgi?read=272714
“My parents Frank Dike Baker and Myrtle Reed Baker, now deceased, met at Carlton College, married January 4, 1899, and had four daughters all living as of December, 1983. They are Marion Reed Baker Rowse Strachan of Gulfport, Florida; Ruth Pamelia Baker Jepson of San Diego, California; Gertrude Baker Scroggs of Hawarden, Iowa; Helen (Billie) Adams Baker Robbins of Omaha, Nebraska. These four produced seven grandsons (one deceased) and one granddaughter.”
From this, one might guess the original Baker Coat of Arms ended up outside of the Baker surname. Perhaps someday it will appear again among the belongings of this family line or on our Facebook page J
Beginning on Pg 4, Albert Clark Baker talks about Amos Baker writing to his father for the first time in 1872. He is clear that when Amos first wrote, Amos had no reliable information other than finding Albert Clark Baker’s father. The entire line Amos first thought was ours was incorrect until Amos found William Henry Baker, ACB’s father. Albert goes on to talk about how Amos describes that he traveled to Rutland VT & by following the trail ended up at the house of Almira Richards in Westport NY, who was ACB’s 1st cousin, the daughter of his oldest paternal aunt.
Amos tells how he was born in Concord, MA, the son of Daniel Baker, an uncle of ACB’s father. Amos was 74 in 1872 & had been an instructor in Boston for 42 years. He was now retired & was researching the family history. In a later letter, it is discussed how Amos’s father left the family when he was 10 to establish a home in the west for the family. The family never heard from him again. Amos’s mother had died about 2 years later. ACB’s father apparently had previously told Amos his father had died in Utica NY when Amos was about 19. Amos then went to Utica finding his father had apparently abandoned them, becoming a very wealthy man there.
Albert states there are “a large number of his letters to father”. It is implied that Amos was the one to discover the following between 1872 and his death on 12 Apr 1886.[iv] We don’t know the date of this letter, but he mentions the following traditions a few times.
Pg 5 :“First he found one William Baker with his wife Mary and son, four years old, settled there direct from England, and that this William Baker was an offspring of William and Johanna Baker, married 1590 in England.”
Pg 11 :“ “William and wife, Mary, with one child, William, four years old, came to America and settled in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1660.”
Pg 86 :“ “We know that William the first was the son of William and Johanna Baker. They married in Old England in 1590.”,,,,,, “We do not know what portion of England they came from, hearsay history William Baker was from Yorkshire, and Johanna, Welch. We have no means of corroborating this.”
Given Littleton Town Records was published in 1900, and it is implied Amos found the above information before 1886, it might seem logical that Amos is the earliest origin of any information regarding the “traditions” we first discussed relating to William & Mary coming to America, as well as the William & Johanna story of England. However, we do not know for sure where Amos got this information. Maybe it was in the records somewhere, maybe it was a random Baker who told him. We have no idea. Sadly, that keeps this mere “tradition” alive in online land. We cannot hold on to these and accept them as truth without support, otherwise we may never find the truth.
Finally, the last thing I would like to mention about the difficulties in ACB’s book is:
Pg 6: “we find the will of Henry Jefts, in which he appoints his stepson William Baker as administrator of his estate. This seemed to fully establish the record so far. Next, we find the birth of his family and his son Joseph moving to Littleton and marrying Alice Jefts. a niece of Henry Jefts of Bellerica.”
William was definitely not named administrator in Henry Jefts Sr’s will, nor was he called “stepson” in it, as was discussed earlier. Further, Alice was a daughter of Henry Jefts Jr. & granddaughter of Henry Jefts Sr. These types of errors really have to make me question the reliability of this work.
Today the letters are unlocatable, or are at least out of the scope of my knowledge & photos of them were not published. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I have to say, we cannot gleam anything from them as truth all by themselves. According to ACB, Amos Baker clearly indicates he knew nothing of his family until he was well aged. Without a clear explanation of how he determined some of the statements he made on early Bakers who lived 200 years before him, we cannot assume he was correct, because he states he did not grow up knowing anything. To make matters worse ACB also indicates that Amos Baker was totally on the wrong track until he found ACB’s father. Unfortunately, the credibility & reliability of Amos Baker has to be doubted and I cannot risk perpetuating a falsehood along with the others.
I mean no disrespect to these men. I know how painstaking the work is first hand, and how meaningful & treasured their work is to Baker family members, myself included & I’m sure my work is not perfect either, but, I just cannot accept those truths & stay in line with genealogical proof standards, or in good conscience in the search for the truth. Times were just different. Documentation was not required by the same standard that it is today. It is a good thing that we have higher standards today, and we must adhere to them despite all the frustrations they bring with them.
In summary, thus far…we cannot prove the following information, as well as many other things.
• William1’s birthdate, birthplace, or parents, either here or abroad.
• William1’s occupation
• When or where William Baker1 & Mary married
• What Mary’s maiden name was
• Where they came from prior to Concord MA, to date no evidence suggests anywhere, here or abroad.
• If from abroad - when they arrived or a ship they arrived on?
• The age, birthdate & place of their son John, if here or abroad
• The age, birthdate & place of their son William2, if here or abroad
• The names or dates of other children born to William1 & Mary Baker of Concord
Also...I wonder..Is it merely a coincidence that after William1 died in April of 1679, John Baker & Susanna Martin give birth to a boy in August of 1679 & named him William? Perhaps y-DNA will solve the mystery...?
Copyright Amylynne Murphy, NewEnglandGenealogist.com 2017
[i] The History of Concord, Massachusetts. V. 1-: Colonial Concord (Free Google eBook) by Alfred Sereno Hudson (1904), p. 99 & 165;
[ii] See next
[iii] History of Concord p.37/38 Tax List 1666
Proprietor No. of Lots Acres Residence of:
William Baker 5 43
Nathaniel Billings, Sr. 4 51 S. Amos Baker's
Nathaniel Billings, Jr 7 196 S. Amos Baker's
John Billings 6 185 S. Amos Baker's
[iv] "Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12119-101756-0?cc=1463156 : 20 May 2014), 0960233 (004223257) > image 132 of 581; State Archives, Boston.
Copyright Amylynne Murphy, NewEnglandGenealogist.com 2017
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy