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Digging Up My Ancestors in Ipswich and Rowley

(Reprint from News: August 6, 2001)

July 24, 2001


When I got up the next morning, the air was almost as hot and steamy as it had been the previous evening, and the quick, cold shower that I took (no jokes, please) was a welcome relief.  I left the campground at Harold Parker that morning and drove up to Ipswich, Massachusetts, a small coastal town about an hour north of Boston, and a place that I'd been wanting to visit for several years.


If you've been following my website, you know that one reason I'm taking this trip is to trace my genealogical roots.  I wanted to visit Ipswich because I had learned that ancestors on my Dad's side, with names like Bradstreet, Chaplin, and Hastings, were among the first settlers in America and emigrated from England to Ipswich in the 1630s, just a few years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth.  I discovered all this while I was still in Portland a few years earlier by using the Mormon's genealogy website (www.FamilySearch.org), so I'm probably the first person in my family to visit Ipswich in over 100 years, maybe 200.  At this point, my Ipswich ancestors were just names that I saw on the Internet and didn't really mean anything to me.  I was hoping to find out something about these folks during my visit here and add some meaning and substance to our family tree.


As I walked into the Ipswich Public Library, I wasn't sure if I'd find any information here about my ancestors so I was ready to hop on the Turnpike that afternoon and drive the six hours to my brother's house in New York, my next planned stop.  However, with the help of a nice Reference Librarian named Paula, I spent the entire afternoon in the Archives Room and dug up a lot of information about my ancestors, including a fellow named Humphrey Bradstreet who was a Puritan aristocrat and Hugh Chaplin who was a weaver, both of whom came from England to Ipswich in the 1630s.  It was pretty interesting to read about these people and I tried to imagine what life must have been like for them here back then.


After spending several hours in the nice-and-chilly Archives Room, I left the library and walked down to the Ipswich marina to see the exact spot where these and other ancestors from England landed in the New World seeking a better life... not to mention Happy Meals.  Sitting here at the Ipswich marina and envisioning my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Humphrey Bradstreet (obviously, he was really great) stepping off the ship "Elizabeth" at this exact spot in 1634 was a pretty stirring moment for me.  After a few minutes, I walked down to the water and dipped my hand into the sea to reconnect a bit with my past... and also to wash off the residue from Walden Pond.



Above left:  Camping at the very hot and sticky Harold Parker State Park after leaving Walden Pond.  This is a typical evening scene: downloading photos while eating chili and Doritos.  O.K., so I'm not a connoisseur...

Above center:  Downtown Ipswich, Massachusetts.  This is a place I've wanted to visit ever since I learned on www.FamilySearch.org that my ancestors lived here in the early 1600s and were among the first white settlers in America.  

Above right:  I spent four hours in the library's Archive room finding lots of interesting things about my ancestors (many thanks to Paula, the Reference Librarian).



Above left:  Here's the site in Ipswich, Massachusetts where my ancestor, Humphrey Bradstreet, landed in 1634 after sailing from England on the ship "Elizabeth."  As I learned, these folks were strict Puritans and came to America because, among other things, they didn't think that people should be allowed to dance or play games.  Maybe that's why I hate to dance...

Above center:  This is the lot in Ipswich that my man Humphrey Bradstreet bought in 1635 (the house was built a few years later).  It was pretty exciting to discover the exact place where my ancestors lived during the Puritan age.

Above right:  Visiting Rowley, just north of Ipswich, where I traced some more ancestors.  Rowley and Ipswich are two of the oldest cities in America.



Above left:  My jaw dropped when I saw this sign for the "Platts - Bradstreet House" in Rowley.  This house, which is now a museum, was built in 1677 by two of my ancestors, the Bradstreets and the Platts. 

Above center:  I spent a couple of hours walking through the Rowley Cemetery looking for gravestones of my ancestors.  I found a lot of familiar names here and we had a family reunion, of sorts... though I was the only one there talking.

Above right:  Here's the barely-readable gravestone of Moses Bradstreet, my 7-times-great-grandfather who died in 1690.  This is the oldest gravestone in the cemetery.  Finding Moses' old gravestone has been the biggest highlight of my trip so far.



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