Saturday, August 24, 2019

Simon Thompson (1610-1675) of Ipswich, Massachusetts

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

english origins
Simon Thompson/Symon Tompson was born about 1610 based on his age (about 50) given at a deposition in 1660. This would give his a birth year of around 1610. Simon likely married and began his family in England. His ancestry in unknown. The name of his first wife is unknown. 

Simon and his unknown wife were the parents of two known children, both daughters: 

1. Mary/Mercy; who married Isaiah Wood in January of 1653. She was likely born about 1633 in       England. 
2. Sarah; who married Abraham Fitts in 1655 and was likely born in England in 1635. 

Simon is known to have been in Ipswich in 1638 when he was recorded as having received 20 acres of meadow and upland at the New Meadow. He later bought additional land and houses. He is recorded as being a rope-maker who lived near Rocky Hill. In 1640 he was named a 'Cowkeeper'. His name began appearing in court records as a juror in 1646. We know from 1652 court record that Simon had an apprentice. In 1654 he took a neighbor, John Leigh, to court for impounding his calves and won. John Leigh's name appears frequently in the records, he was not a nice person. 

His first wife died by 1656 and Simon remarried. His second wife was Rachel Glover, probably the sister of Henry Short's wife Sarah Glover. He (Henry Short) refers to his wife in a deal with Simon and the use of Sarah's inheritance.

In 1657, in response to orders by the General Council to get a handle on bad behavior during Sunday service, Simon was appointed to keep 'a watchful eye upon the youth'.

In 1660, Simon accused John Leigh of killing one of his pigs, at the same time a second man accused Leigh of killing his ox. 

In March of 1662, a woman named Mary Shefield charged that Mercy Thompson Wood's husband, Isaiah, had lured her into his barn and had his way with her. She claimed her child was the result. He, of course denied it. Other witnesses claimed it was that no good John Leigh who was really the father. But, another young woman, Mary Powell, also testified that Isaiah Wood was a cad and had put the moves on her as well. Mary Shefield was whipped for fornication. Isaiah was put in jail and ordered to pay 3d. a week for the upkeep of the child until a later court hearing. 

Simon and Abraham Fitts stood in surety to Isaiah Wood. In April of 1664, Simon was in court with Isaiah and he was ordered to pay 18d. a week for his child by Mary Shefield

In 1665, Abraham Fitts, took Simon to court, claiming he owned him  £40 which was promised if Abraham and Sarah Thompson Fitts moved from Salisbury to Ipswich. The case was pretty complicated and in the end Simon won. 

In 1666, Simon made his mark on an inventory he took for probate, he could not write his name. In 1668, three siblings, Joseph, Sarah and Rachel Brabrook, petitioned the court that Henry Short and Simon Thompson become their guardians. 

In 1672, Simon was in court to stand bond for his grandson Simon Wood who was charged with stealing a gallon of wine along with a second man. The wine was consumed and somehow a poor sheep got involved and found itself butchered. Simon was found guilty along with a host of others and was sentenced to be whipped  or pay a fine. 

Simon Thompson wrote his will in 1675. He named his wife Rachel, his grandchildren Mary, Simon, Samuel, William, Thomas, and Joanna Wood, grandson Abraham Fitts, and his daughter Mary Wood. Joanna Wood and Sarah Fitts are mentioned in an addendum presented to the probate court.  The inventory was taken of 20 November 1675. His total estate was valued at over £926, quite a sum. The will was presented to the probate court in March of 1676

It seems clear that he had no sons, at least none that lived to adulthood. Only his daughter, Mary/Mercy, was alive at the time of his death. He contracted his son-in-law Abraham Fitts to pay him an annuity of £6 per annum, which led to the court fight which he won.

See this blog article on Abraham Fitts, husband of Sarah Thompson.


*  (link to Hathi Trust edition of Records and Files of the Quarterly Court of Essex. year 1660 page 201)

* Great Migration Newsletter, V.1-20.(Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2018.)

* New England Marriages to 1700. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) Originally published as: New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.

* Great Migration 1634-1635, T-Y. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012.) Originally published as: The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volume VII, T-Y, by Robert Charles Anderson. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.

*Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1638-1881.Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.)

*Waters, Thomas Franklin, 1851-1919, John Wise, Sarah Goodhue, and Ipswich Historical Society. Ipswich In the Massachusetts Bay Colony ... Ipswich, Mass.: The Ipswich historical society, 190517.

Historical Fiction Book Review: The Ship's Carpenter by D.E. Stockman Adventure on the High Seas

The Ship's Carpenter by D. E. Stockman 
Published September 2019 by Fireship Press
Pages: 219
Genre: Historical Fiction, Nautical, Military 
Available: Paperback and E-book

Reviewers Note: I was given a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. If you are interested in purchasing this book, I have created a link to it's Amazon page, just on the book cover above. 

The Plot: Set in the tumultuous mid-1700s the story follows Abraham, a ship carpenter, as he seeks employment on both sides of the English Channel. Abraham's dream of a peaceful life with his love Yvette is swept aside by the vagaries of war. From Brest, France to London and on to the North American continent, Abraham crosses paths with dashing naval captains including French brothers Francois Saint-Aloüarn and René-Louis Saint-Alouarn, English Captain, Washington Shirley and one of the most famous sailing ships of his time,  the Renommee. There are some side-plots which, although somewhat interesting, were not intrinsic to the storyline, and felt forced into the plot. I also felt the story ended rather abruptly. It was a 'wait, what just happened' moment for me, but I suppose that's the nature of war.

This book is the first of a series of three books. The story of Abraham continues in book 2. 

The Characters:  Abraham, the ship's carpenter, plays a central role in the story.  He is a man caught between, two belligerent superpowers; England and France. The author introduces additional characters as the war progresses, who grow in importance as the story unfolds. I think Stockman did an excellent job fleshing out his male characters. My biggest quibble with the book is the female characters, especially Yvette. I found her flat, one-dimensional and not authentic to the time period. That being said, the main characters in this book really are the ships themselves. You get a sense that the author loves these sailing ships and all things nautical. The human characters are secondary.

The History: The author, David Stockman, spent 10 years researching this book, and it shows. I don't know a mizzen mast from a poop deck, but Stockman takes you on a tour of his ships from their beginning in the shipyards of France and England to their final destruction in battle. The time period covers what historians call the War of Austrian Succession in Europe and King George's War in North America. It lasted from 1740 to 1748. 

The Writing: The writing was very good and the book well editing. The pace is fast, and the book is a quick read. 

Conclusion: I really enjoyed reading this story. I love history and appreciated the research and effort that went into this book. For a first-time author it's excellent work. Although there is a love story in the background, there is little of what I would consider Romance in this book. 

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, military history, especially those who love all things nautical and fans novels such as the Horatio Hornblower series. 

You can buy The Ship's Carpenter here.

I rate this book:  4 1/2 stars 


My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Abraham Fitts (c.1630-1692) of Salisbury and Ipswich, Massachusetts

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Abraham Fitts was born about 1630 in England in the years just prior to his father's immigration to New England. Although many claim the family originated in Fitts-Ford, Devon, there is nothing that would substantiate this claim.

Abraham's father and uncle arrived in Massachusetts by about 1639. His father, Robert Fitts settled in Salisbury and uncle, Richard Fitts in Ipswich. The two towns were about 13 miles apart. Abraham was his father's only surviving child. On the 1st of May 1655, Abraham married Sarah, the daughter of Simon Thompson of Ipswich. The pair initially settled in Salisbury. According to court testimony, Simon convinced Abraham and Sarah to resettle in Ipswich. He said he would pay Abraham the sum of  £40 if they did so.

In the 1664 court case, Abraham testifies to the promise which Simon denied. His attorney is the case was his uncle Robert Lord, brother of his mother Grace Lord Fitts. Simon claimed to have given Abraham cattle, sheep and the rent free use of some land in place of the money. Simon produced an agreement in which Abraham promised to pay for half the cost of the house, which Simon had purchased from Humphrey Griffin. Abraham agreed to pay Simon £5 per year in rent for the rest of Simon's life and then £4 per year to Rachel, Sarah's mother if she still lived. Later that year, Simon was released from militia training, which usually occurred when a man was about 60 years of age. Simon was clearly using Abraham as his retirement plan. Abraham lost his case.

Abraham and Sarah had three children:

1. Sarah b. 21 Feb 1657 d. 14 June 1660
2. Abraham d. 1714
3. Robert b. 30 March 1660 d. 15 June 1661

Sarah died 5 June 1664. Abraham married  7 Jan 1668 to the widow Rebecca Birdley. He had three more children with her.

4. Robert b. 28 May 1670 d. young
5. Richard b. 26 Feb 1672
6. Isaac 3 July 1675

Abraham took the Freedmans oath in 1674. The following year he was impressed for the Narragansett Expedition. This was part of King Philip's War which nearly wiped the English from the face of the North American continent.

Abraham appeared in the courts;
1660: deposed in a case involving John Lee and his abuse of other men's cattle. Simon Thompson also testified against John Lee saying Lee threatened him with a hoe. Lee sound's like a nasty fellow as most the town seems to have testified against him.
1664: his case against his father-in-law
1667: His mother Grace to Edward Gove, a tenant to court for payment. Abraham testified. This is interesting to see a female as the plaintiff.

Abraham died on 27 March 1692 leaving behind his widow Rebecca and two living children, Abraham and Sarah. Abraham made provisions for Rebecca in his will, including her widow's thirds. His estate was divided between his son and Sarah's husband, William Baker. His estate was inventoried and valued at £267.

I am descended from Sarah Fitts Baker.

See this post on Abraham's father Robert Fitts
See this post on William Baker, husband of Sarah Fitts
See this post on Simon Thompson, his father-in-law


Hoyt, David Webster, 1833-1921. The Old Families of Salisbury And Amesbury, Massachusetts: With Some Related Families of Newbury, Haverhill, Ipswich And Hampton. Providence, R.I.: [Snow & Farnham, printers], 1897-1917.

Massachusetts. County Court (Essex Co.), and George Francis Dow. Records And Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem, Mass.: Essex institute, 1911-1975.

Essex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1638-1881.Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Robert Fitts of Ipswich and Salisbury, Massachusetts (1600-1665)

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

english origins
Robert Fitts immigrated to New England in the late 1630s, the exact year and ship are unknown. We think he came with his brother Richard. According the genealogist James Hill Fitts, the brothers hailed from Fitz Ford, Tavistock, Devon in England, based he said on family tradition. Cutter offers an unsourced pedigree, but I can find no proof of it. [1] I don't think there is any genealogical proof to make a claim of descending from the Fitts/Fitz family of Tavistock in Devon, England. 

Robert was married in England to Grace Lord, the sister of Robert Lord. There is speculation that he was the Robert Fitts on the manifest for the William and John which sailed in 1635 to Barbados but there is nothing that would make us believe that this is the same man. There was also a Robert Fitt who immigrated to Virginia by 1650, again not the same man. [2] In any case Robert and Richard were in New England by 1639. [3] Richard settled in Newbury. 

new england
Robert received land in Salisbury in the first division and again in 1640. He was taxed in 1650 and 1652. He signed the agreement in 1654 which set Amesbury off as a separate town and left Salisbury for Ipswich in 1658. He also owned a share in Plum Island. 

He died in Ipswich on 9 May 1665. Robert left Grace his widow and one child, a son named Abraham. [4] 

Richard Fitt of Newbury died childless and left his entire estate to Abraham, son of Robert. 

According to Cutter, Robert was first married to a woman named Anne Barnes. In his will Roberts describes his land as that 'he purchased of his brother William Barnes.'

See this post on his son: Abraham Fitts


This is an interesting story about a member of the Fitz Family of Fitz Ford, Tavistock, Devon. Sir John Fitz


[2]The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Book Review: Queen of the Flowers by Delia Cerpa

Queen of the Flowers, Memories of a Puerto Rican Girl by Delia Cerpa
Published 2019 by 3L Publishing
Genre: Memoir, Coming of Age
Pages 236
Price: $19.95

Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Plot in brief: This is the story of Delia Cerpa, known to her family as Garin, the youngest of 10 ten children. Garin’s father commits suicide when she is just a baby, leaving her mother to raise her kids and run their small family farm alone. Garin’s world is a tropical paradise, despite having no electricity or running water. Her book describes a life of subsistence farming in a close knit family, supported by their local community. Garin shares the story of her life in Puerto Rico until she and her mother immigrated to New York, when she was 13 years old, to join her siblings already living in the Bronx.
Characters: Garin shares her family with us, especially her mother, the Widow Cerpa, a strong woman, who survives in a male-dominated culture. We get to know her siblings, from the oldest, Juan, who takes over as head of the family to the second youngest Maria Mercedes, as they grow to adulthood. We also meet many relatives, neighbors and teachers along the way. Cerpa describes a unique way of life, almost unknown in our busy modern world. Despite being poor, they were rich in love and family.

The Writing: So what’s not to like about this book? In a word, the prose. The book reads as if written by the 13-year-old Delia and not a woman with a PhD. Is this intentional? I’m not entirely sure. There are numerous typos throughout the book. The storyline bounces from paragraph to paragraph. One paragraph might be about planning a party and the very next about sugarcane harvesting with no clear section break. The author repeats herself endlessly, and the grammar is atrocious. For example: Maria Mercedes looked at me with her shaven head. And: Neighbors and relatives began to arrive. Julio and Don Cruz Munoz went to get the house building materials in town. Neighbors and relatives began to arrive early in the morning with building tools and gathered around the tobacco ranch.... Students who had worms were administered medicine for worms. Okay last one: The hens and chicks kept feeding where they were already eating. Ay, Dios Mio, I wanted to poke my eye out by the end of the book.
Conclusion: If the writing style was intentional, I didn’t like it. If it wasn’t, then shame on the editor. $19.95 is a lot of money for an ill-written book. I don’t feel I can recommend this to anyone unless the price drops significantly. If I wasn’t reviewing this book, it would have been a DNF for sure.

I rate this book 2 Stars

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Historical Book Review: Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections by Susan Shalev

Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections by Susan Shalev
Self-Published December 2018
198 pages
Genre: Biographical Historical Fiction

Reviewers Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections is a wonderfully written book. I was immediately pulled into the story of Tanya and her family. The year 1939, ten-year-old Tanya has no concerns other than hanging with her friends and members of a successful Jewish family. Her father makes sweets, her grandfather runs a successful bakery. Life is good, and then it’s not. War rolls through Poland, flattening everything in sight. Tanya’s father wisely decides to flee, leaving behind his company and their beautiful apartment. With little more than the clothes on their back they head east into Russian. 

This is a tale of survival, and resilience under dire circumstances. Riding out the war is Siberia is no picnic as the family moves from town to town, seeking safety.  Even with peace comes more challenges, as Tanya and her family struggle to regain some semblance of their former lives. 

Written in first person, this narrative is fast-paced and intimate. Although fiction the author based the story is based on the real-life experiences of a young girl retold as a grown woman. The characters are well drawn and leap from the pages. Tanya was a delight, and I found myself cheering for her from start to finish. 

Congratulations to Susan Shalev on this amazing novel. 

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Jewish history, history of WWII, the holocaust, and historical fiction.

I would rate this book 4 ½ stars

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Historical Book Review: When Sally Comes Marching Home by Richard Milton Post War Thriller

When Sally Comes Marching Home by Richard Milton
Published 2019 by Bowater Books
Genre: British Historical Fiction, Action Thriller 

Plot: In 1946 Major Sally Honeychurch, finds herself demobilized and teaching in a girl’s school. Life is dull compared to her work in the war for the Special Operations Executive, where she spent two years behind enemy lines. She’s called back to action when the City of London is threatened. Sally must use all her training to save the city from destruction.

Characters: Sally Honeychurch, tall, blond and extremely smart, is a well drawn and believable character. I quickly found myself cheering her on, a spunky woman in a male-dominated world. But she is not without her flaws, which makes her human and a better hero. I appreciate that the ‘bad guys’ are also human, a mixture of good intentions and evil outcomes. The men who help and hinder her along the way, overcome their male bias against her as she races to save the day. 

History: The author is well versed in English history before, during and after the war. I found the book fascinating simply from a historical standpoint. I enjoyed learning about the rise of Fascism in England in the pre-war years and some interesting tidbits concerning HRH Edward, Duke of Windsor. Woven through the story are many ‘real’ characters which added a sense of reality to the story.

Writing: Told in third person, past tense, the book zips along. It is well written, the pace is fast, the story action packed. Although there is quite a bit of historical information packed between the pages, it never bogs down the story. The last few chapters will have you on the edge of your seat. The resolution of the story does not disappoint. 

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this well written action-packed story. A sharp clever main character and a page turning story make for a winning combination. I don’t give out many five stars, but this one fits the bill.

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Historical Book Review: The Thin Gray Line by Michael Kenneth Smith: A romp through the American Civil War

The Thin Gray Line, by Michael Kenneth Smith
Published: May 2019
Independently Published
Genre: Historical Fiction, American Civil War
Pages: 411
Price: $13.99

Reviewers Note: I was given a free uncorrected proof in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Plot: Prepare to suspend all disbelief in order to enjoy this far-fetched coming of age story. This is the tale of wonder-child Luke Pettigrew, a teenaged Confederate soldier, who assigned to be a medic at the battle of Shiloh, because, as he tells us, 'he's good with farm animals'. As the tide turns against the Confederates on day two of the battle, Luke finds a horse and rides into the Union lines to retrieve a fallen confederate battle standard and despite coming under heavy fire returns uninjured. Thereafter he is taken prisoner. While a POW near Columbus, Ohio, a prominent local businessman helps him to escape from prison. Luke promptly falls in love with the man's niece, who is visiting from Tennessee. No explanation is given as to why a prominent man would risk his life and reputation to help Luke escape. Luke makes his way back to the South and the Confederate Army and is made one of Jeb Stuart's scouts because, 'he's good on a horse'. At some point during the three-day battle at Gettysburg, Luke is shot in the thigh. Miraculously and without explanation, Luke makes his way, over 650 miles, to his hometown of Crossville, Tennessee without seeking medical treatment. How he does not die of gangrene, bacterial infection or blood loss is left to the imagination. A local drover, Clyde McCallister, picks him up at some point and he and his wife amputate Luke's injured leg. Whew, all that in the first few pages and the book hasn't even started yet.

Don't worry I'm not going to spoil the plot. Luke recovers from his amputation and learns to walk again. He leaves the McCallister's home and begins an epic adventure which takes him to Richmond, Virginia. Along the way he works again as a medic, meets a spy, runs a smallpox hospital, saves abandoned slaves, learns to help other amputees, and adopts a young black girl, and he's not even twenty years old.

Besides just a story the author raises multiple ethical and moral issues which Luke wrestles with the entire book; parental love and approval, the issue of slavery, the humanity of slaves, and or course the war. This results in frequent flashbacks to earlier years which slows the momentum of the story.

The Characters: Luke is a boy scout kinda guy, upstanding, kind to children, protective of women. Everyone seems to know who he is, including the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Luke is given responsibilities way above his pay grade, doctors, soldiers, businessmen have total confidence in him within minutes of meeting. Some characters Luke interacts with are almost caricatures or just flat out unbelievable. The spy, Cuff, is probably the most gullible spy I ever read about.

The History: The author clearly knows his Civil War history, and the writing is at its best when he is describing battles, soldiers and strategy.

The Writing: The prose is bland and simple for the most part, but the author occasionally slips in a bit of descriptive writing that is incongruous to the rest of the text. For example: "...the hoar frost melted in a stubbornly yielding shadow that portended fair weather." I have no idea what that means. Thankfully, there isn't too much of that in the book.

Conclusion: I was excited to read this book but was really disappointed in the story which had too many 'that would never happen' moments. I think it could have benefited from a good editor to tighten up the plot and sharpen the writing.

I give this book 3 stars (barely) in hopes that the finished product is better than what I was sent to review.

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...