Saturday, December 15, 2012

William Sanderson of Watertown and Groton, MA

During my research for this article on William Sanderson I had to wade through a lot of sources including general genealogy books and town records as well as  other blogs trying to decide if Robert Sanderson was in fact  William's father, as is claimed by many, many people.  I have wavered on this idea, back and forth. We I first wrote and posted this article, I said I did not believe it to be true, now I'm not so sure.  If he was not the son of Robert, he was almost definitely related to him.

There is no birth record for William and no document which would specifically point to his parents.  Robert Sanderson did not name him as a son in his will, but he did name his son Joseph Sanderson of Groton. His Wife Elizabeth left some money to two of William's daughters, Mary and Lydia.  Of note is the fact that Mary and Lydia were the names of Robert's first two wives.

In the genealogical books written at the turn of the century, one writer suggested that maybe William was Robert's son(Henry Bond: Genealogies of the Families of Watertown), and another that there was no proof.  One other bit of telling evidence is that he, unlike all of Robert's sons, did not train as a silversmith.  It seems unlikely to me that this would be so, but I wasn't there so what do I know.  Robert left Watertown for Boston in 1652. Did William stay after Robert left Watertown, young unmarried men were not allowed to live alone, so who did he live with?  I think that people badly want him to be Robert's son, and rearrange the facts to make their story fit.

William's year of birth is generally given as 1641.  This date seems to be based on information given during a deposition in 1681 when he gave his age as 40. If he were born that year, and if he was the son of Robert and Lydia, he would have to have been born in Hampton, just prior to Lydia's death.  But there are two other clues about his age that would change this date.  William was also deposed in 1683 and this time he gave his age as 48.  This would give him a birth year of 1635. This makes much more sense when you consider that he took the Oath of Fidelity in 1652. If he was born in 41 he would have been only eleven years old at that time, but if he was born in 35 he would have been 17 years of age.  Now, I am pretty sure that boys of eleven did not take the oath, but a young man of 17 would. (Men could take the Oath of Fidelity at age 16)

In his book about Watertown, Roger Thompson describes the "peopling" of the town. Many of the newcomers, those who came after the first two waves of migration, were extended family members of the original settlers.  Also a majority of the population were originally for the East Anglia area of England.  If Robert were from Norfolk, it makes sense that he would assist other members of his family to immigrate to Massachusetts. If William was not Robert's son, he might have been a cousin or nephew whom Robert assisted in immigrating. 

After taking the oath in 1652, William disappears from the records until his marriage in Watertown to Sarah Unknown on Dec 18, 1666.  In the records Williams surname is spelled Sandors, Sanders and Sanderson. There are no clues about the surname of his wife Sarah to be found.  Many internet tree say it was Marr, but I do not know where they come by this name, there does not seem to be any Marr's in Watertown.

The births and baptisms of his children are recorded in the Watertown records. His name is also mentioned in a Middlesex County Court  record dated Oct 1668. He testified in the drowning death of the son of Thomas Hastings.

His children were:
John born 16 October 1667 name was spelled Sandors
Sarah born 17 March 1668
William born 6 September 1670 baptized 1688 in Watertown
Mary 30 November 1671 Batized 13 Jan 1688/89 Baptized 28 Nov 1686
Hannah born 8 March 1674 bp. 1688 in Watertown
Lydia born 21 April 1679 Baptized on 20 May 1688
Joseph born 28 August 1679 Baptized on  20 May 1688

Sarah was a member of the church, but it seems that William was not.  When the children's baptisms were recorded the records say that Sarah "owned the covenant" meaning she was a full church member, William was not identified as a church member.  

Groton is a town north and west of Watertown. It was incorporated in 1655. A large number of early proprietor of Groton were from Watertown. On November 25, 1670 John Morse the town clerk of Groton recorded the sale of 20 acres of upland by Abraham Parker to William Sanderson. William "Sanders" is recorded in the early records of Groton as one of the first 73 heads of families in Groton. On March 13 1676 the town of Groton was burned to the ground, save four garrison houses, and was abandoned until 1678. In 1681 he was charged a rate for payment of the ministers salary, so presumably he returned  after the end of King Phillip's War and the hostilities by the Indians. 

On July 27th 1694 a band of Abenaki warriors attacked the town of Groton at dawn.  20 of the townspeople were killed and 12 carried of into captivity.  One of those killed was William Sanderson.  He died without a will, but his son William probated his estate. 
His estate was not a large one, valued at 54 pounds.  He did not appear to own or sell land in Watertown prior to his relocation to Groton. If Robert Sanderson was his father he did not seem to profit from the relationship. 

Sarah born 1668 married in Watertown, 1694 to Andrew White.
William born 1670 married first Abigail Traine and second in 1704 Anna Shattuck.  They married in Watertown but settled in Sudbury. 
Joseph married Sarah Page in Groton on 30 July 1714. On 30 August 1714 Bethia Kemp had a child out of wedlock and named Joseph Sanderson as the father. Joseph died in Groton 1736.

other parental options
According to Roger Thompson in his book on Watertown, "Divided We Stand", William was the son of Edward Sanderson of Watertown.  A writer to the Boston Transcript's genealogy column got the same answer when inquiring about his parentage.  If this is the case there are, as far as I can tell two scenarios:
1. William is the son of Edward and Mary Egellston who married in 1645.  He would have born at the earliest 1647, given the 1646 birth of their son Jonathan.
2. William was the son of Edward and a previous wife.  Since he married in 1666 and the average puritan male married at 25 or more years of age, it seems more likely that he was from a prior relationship, which may account for the lack of birth information for him. 

It is interesting too that Edward was unable to support all his children, some of them being put out to work for other townspeople.  Jonathan worked as a servant for Justinian Holden for five years, beginning at age seventeen.  In May of 1666, William Sanderson was caught drinking liquor with Justinian Holden Jr. 

Related posts:
Robert Sanderson of Watertown
Edward Sanderson of Watertown
Andrew White of Watertown
Sanderson name in records
What's in a Name

Bond's Genealogy of Watertown 
Middlesex Co. MA: Abstract of Court Records, 1643-1674
Middlesex County Land Deeds Volume 6 page 94
Torreys Marriages Prior to 1700
Watertown Vital Records
Groton Vital Records
Watertown Records: East Congregational and Precinct Affairs (source for baptisms)
Samuel Abbott Green, Groton Historical Series 
James Monroe Crafts, History of the Town of Whatley, 1661-1899
Roger Thompson, Divided We Stand: Watertown 1630-1680 

Jeff Hause has an excellent website which includes an extensive write up of Robert Sanderson and his family, including William Sanderson. There is a lot of valuable information and food for thought, give it a look. Hause Genealogy 

Comments, questions, polite confrontations welcome
cite your sources please

Have a great day!