I’m writer and genealogist Janice Hamilton. I have been researching and writing about my ancestors on this blog since 2013. Most of them came from Scotland, England or Ireland in the early 1800s, establishing new roots in Canada and the United States. Hamilton, Forrester, Rixon, Glendinning, Stobo, Bagg, Smithers, Shearman, Mulholland and Mitcheson are some of the families I have researched. To search this blog for a name, place or topic, use the search box on the top right, the categories listed on the left or bottom, or scroll to the bottom to check the dated Archives.
This is the first in a series of posts about four generations of my ancestors in colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. It will include the Bagg, Burt, Phelps, Moseley, Stanley and other related families between 1635 and 1795.
Seventeenth-century New Englanders were wary of strangers. In Springfield, Massachusetts, newcomers had to be approved by the town residents before they could stay for more than a month, but when John Bagg moved to Springfield around 1657, he not only stayed, he married the daughter of one of the town’s leading citizens.
John’s origins are obscure, but once he settled in Springfield, town records were thorough, and the life of my seven-times great-grandfather was well documented. The first record of John Bagg’s name in Springfield was his marriage to Hannah Burt, daughter of Henry Burt and Ulalia March, on Dec. 24, 1657.1 Soon after, he opened an account at John Pynchon’s general store. He also worked for Pynchon, earning several shillings a day for fetching hay and stones, felling timber, reaping wheat and trimming the orchard.2
In 1659, he was listed in the ninth of 10 rows in the meeting house, where seating was assigned according to status in the community. Three years later, he had moved up a row. In 1662, John and several friends appeared in court, charged with the illegal act of playing cards. He pleaded guilty and paid a fine.
Another case involving a breach of town regulations was more complicated. John had been named a fence-viewer, an important responsibility since escaped livestock could cause crop damage. When he and his fence-viewing partner Reice Bedortha observed defects in a neighbour’s fence, town officials fined the owner. At the same time, John complained there was a defect in Bedortha’s fence, but Bedortha countered that it wasn’t his fence. Finally both John and Bedortha were fined for not carrying out their fence-viewing duties properly.
The inhabitants of Springfield all supported their families as subsistence farmers. No one became rich, but neither did they starve. They mainly acquired farmland as land grants from the town. John’s first grant, a six-acre parcel of land, was approved in 1660. In 1664, he purchased 20 acres on the Chicopee Plain and, in the same year, the town granted him 30 acres near the Agawam River (now the Westfield River.)
In 1668, John and two friends leased 40 acres. Cash was always in short supply, so they paid half the rent in “good merchantable wheate, and the other half in Pease and Indian corne, all good and merchantable.”4The town later granted him several more small pieces of land.
Springfield, the first town built in the western interior of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was founded beside the Connecticut River in 1636 by a group of eight men. The site was chosen primarily for commercial reasons. The Great River, as people called it, provided transportation, while meadows provided grazing for livestock and the fertile soil allowed the settlers to grow crops.
The town founders purchased land on both the east and west sides of the Connecticut River from the indigenous people. The town was on the east side and most of John’s property was on the other side, in what later became West Springfield.
King Philip’s War
The destruction of much of Springfield in 1675, during King Philip’s War, must have been the most terrifying event of John’s life. Town residents were on friendly terms with many of the area’s indigenous people, but a bloody conflict between the New England settlers and a group of Native Americans erupted in 1675. Some 32 houses and 25 barns in Springfield were burned, as well as several mills and large quantities of corn that had been stored for the coming winter.
His wedding was another milestone. When he married Hannah in 1657, she was 16 years old; he may have been considerably older than her. Hannah was the tenth of Henry and Ulalia Burt’s 13 children and the first to be born in New England.
Hannah and John eventually had 10 children: Hannah (1658-1740) married Nathaniel Sikes; Mercy (1660-1738) m. Ebenezer Jones; Daniel (1663); John (1665-1740) m. Mercy Thomas; Daniel (1668-1738) m. Hannah Phelps (my direct ancestors); Jonathan (1670-1746) m. Mary Weller; Abigail (1675-1739) m. Benjamin Cooley; James (1675-1689), Sarah (1678-?) m. 1. Benoni Atchison, 2. Samuel Barnard; Abilene, (1680- 1750).5
Hannah died, age 39, on Aug. 1, 1680,6 several days after giving birth to Abilene. Perhaps members of the Burt family stepped in to help raise the couple’s nine surviving children. Three years later, on Sept. 5, 1683, John Bagg “was sicke and died”.7
John’s probate record shows that Samuel Marshfield became guardian of sons John and James, and of baby Abilene, but it is not clear what happened to the other children. The inventory of his estate listed the simple belongings of a farmer: a yoke of oxen, a horse, some cows and swine, a cart, plow, axe, kettle, bedding, two coats, a pair of britches, a hat and a pair of stockings. His house and adjoining land were evaluated at 16 pounds. His debts totalled 50 pounds.8
In 1893, Springfield historian Henry M. Burt wrote that John Bagg “appears to have been an industrious citizen and his descendants are among the most prosperous and intelligent people of recent times.”9 Some of John and Hannah Bagg’s descendants still live in Massachusetts today.
Janice Hamilton, “Henry Burt: from Devon Clothier to Springfield Farmer,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 7, 2018, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2018/03/henry-burt-from-devon-clothier-to.html
Janice Hamilton, “The Obscure Origins of John Bagg,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 21, 2018, https://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2018/03/the-obscure-origins-of-john-bagg.html
Henry M. Burt, Silas W. Burt. Early Days in New England. Life and Times of Henry Burt of Springfield and Some of His Descendants. Springfield: Clark W. Bryan, printers, 1893. Google Books, p.250.
Henry M. Burt, The First Century of the History of Springfield. The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, with an historical review and biographical mention of the founders.Volume 1 Springfield, Mass: Printed and Published by Henry M. Burt, 1898. Google Books, p. 55.
Burt, Early Days in New England, p. 251.
Thomas B. Warren, Springfield Families, Vol. 1 (A-E), copied by Mercy Warren Chapter, Springfield, Mass, 1934-1935, p. 22.
Hampshire County, Massachusetts probate records 1660-1916. index, 1660-1971 [microform].
Burt, Early Days in New England, p. 250.
Virginia DeJohn Anderson. New England’s Generation, The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg “Autobiography 1846-1895. Forming a supplement to the “Obituary Notice of a Yale Graduate of ’69 written by himself in 1890.” New York: printed for private distribution by Karl Kron, publisher; reprinted from the Biographical Records of the Yale Class of 1869, vol. I, p 24-32.
Patricia Law Hatcher. Researching Your Colonial New England Ancestors. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2006.
Nathaniel Philbrick. Mayflower. A story of courage, community and war. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.
I recently broke my hand, so it will be a while before I can type properly. I wrote this article about a year ago as a self-assigned exercise in applying genealogical proof standards (GPS) to a brick wall.
Following GPS procedures, I did a reasonably exhaustive search of the evidence. For each statement I made, I included a source citation. I tried to resolve conflicts and write a conclusion. I also evaluated the weight of each piece of evidence, depending on whether it was direct or indirect, original or derivative, or primary or secondary. (See an explanation of GPS by Christine Rose, https://familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/genealogical-proof-standard/350)
The problem is that there is no birth or baptismal record for my four-times great-grandfather Phineas Bagg (c.1750-1823). I wanted to prove that he was the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley. In addition, there were several men named David Bagg in western Massachusetts at the time, so I wanted to show which David Bagg was Phineas’ father. It was possible to undertake a research project like this because the Baggs of colonial Massachusetts were limited in numbers and in geographical area. There is a great deal of information about this population, although record-keeping in Pittsfield was poor.
In the end, I decided that I could not make a conclusive statement about Phineas’ parents, but I found nothing to indicate that he was not the son of David and Elizabeth. In fact, circumstantial evidence suggests that he was their son.
As for the GPS exercise, it was a great deal of work. Citing all those sources took almost as long as writing the article. I’m not sure that I would go to such lengths to tackle another brick wall, but evaluating each piece of evidence was extremely helpful.
There is no record of the birth or baptism of my 4x great-grandfather Phineas Bagg.
When and where was he born, and was he the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley?
The Baggs were a large extended family in western Massachusetts during the colonial period, approximately 1650 to 1790. The first immigrant, John Bagg, married in Springfield in 16571 and each subsequent generation produced many children. Phineas (c 1751-1823) was part of the fourth generation. By 1790, there were 19 different families headed by a male Bagg in Massachusetts, primarily in the towns of West Springfield, Westfield and Pittsfield.2 Fortunately, there was only one Phineas Bagg3, which makes him easier to track. There are several possibilities for his identity: he could have been the son of David Bagg of Westfield and later Pittsfield as most researchers suggest; he could have been the son of a related Bagg; or he could have been adopted.
David Bagg was born in Westfield, MA on 19 Feb. 1717, the tenth and youngest child of Daniel Bagg and Hannah Phelps.4 On 12 May 1739, David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley announced their intention to marry in Westfield.5
Although both West Springfield and Westfield generally kept good birth and baptismal records, there is a minimal possibility that Phineas was born to another Bagg family and slipped under the radar. David’s brother Daniel Bagg and his wife Abigail, of Westfield, had six children: Daniel, 1735, Moses 1737, Abigail 1738, Roger 1740, Ann 1746 and Naomi 1750.6
There were at least five other young Bagg families in the area between 1740 and 1755. In Springfield, David Bagg and his wife Hannah Stockwell had three children: Noah, born in 1740, who died at age six, Mercy born 1746 and Mary in 1748.7
In West Springfield, Ebenezer Bagg and his wife Lois produced five children: Thankfull in 1749, Frederick in 1750, Warham in 1752, Walter in 1754, Ebenezer in 1756 and Judah 1758.8
West Springfield residents Thomas and Margaret Bagg had Thomas in 1749, Israel in 1752 and Oliver in 1754. In addition, their son Ezekiel was born 1755 died at age three and they had another son they called Ezekiel in 1761.9
James and Bathsheba Bagg of West Springfield, had Bathsheba in 1745, James in 1746 and Jonathon in 1748.10
There was another young David Bagg family in West Springfield, however, I have not found a marriage and mother’s name did not appear in the children’s baptism records; they are simply listed as son or daughter of David Bagg. These children were: David bap. Sept 18 1737, Hannah bap. July 15 1739, Aaron bap. Oct 28 1740, Mercy bap. Jan 19 1746 and Mary bap. Jan 19 1748.11
It is unlikely that Phineas was orphaned or given up for adoption and raised by David and Elizabeth. I have so far been unable to find any references to adoption practices in colonial Massachusetts, but there would likely have been a paper trail and I have not run across any legal guardianship documents concerned with Phineas.
Assuming that he was the son of David and Elizabeth, when was Phineas born? Most sources say he was born around 1750 or 1751. The best evidence for his date of birth comes from the record of his burial at Montreal’s Anglican Christ Church.Dated Nov. 3, 1823, it says, “Phineas Bagg esq of Montreal, merchant, died on the 31 day of November [sic] 1823, aged 72 years, and was buried on the 3rd day of November following by me. John Bethune, rector.” 12 (The minister made a mistake on the date of death: it was actually 31 October.) Neither of his sons signed as witnesses, so it is not clear whether any family members were present. Thus, although the source is original, the information is secondary.
David and Elizabeth had seven children baptized in Westfield: Elizabeth baptized 1741, Joseph 1741, Rachel 1742, Martin 1745, Eunice 1746, Abner 1748 and Aaron baptized 11 March 1750.13 If Phineas was born in 1751, this would have fit the pattern of Elizabeth having a baby every year or two.
Where was Phineas born? Probably Westfield, since David Bagg is not listed among the early landowners of Pittsfield.14 Pittsfield was a newly settled town in the Berkshire Hills, on the western frontier of the colony, about 50 miles from Westfield. David Bagg is thought to have moved there not long after 176415 but more research needs to be done on David Bagg’s land records in Westfield and Pittsfield to try to establish a time-line.
Another question arises here: there were several men named David Bagg in this time period. Was Elizabeth Moseley’s husband the same David Bagg who moved to Pittsfield after her death? The answer is probably yes. David Bagg jr., son of David and Hannah of Springfield died in 1756 in his 19th year.16 David Bagg, son of Jonathon Bagg of Springfield, died in 1760 in his 50th year.17 (Perhaps he was the David Bagg who had five children born in West Springfield.)
There was one more David Bagg: David Bagg, born Westfield to Mary Sacket, March 27, 1739.18 I have found no other records concerning his life.
Following Elizabeth’s death, David Bagg of Westfield moved to Blandford, Mass,19 where he married Martha Cook, the widow of John Dickinson, on June 25, 1761.20 She died a year later. After he moved to Pittsfield, David married a third time, to Ruth Tupper.21 There is no record of his death.
Because David and his sons seem to be the main Bagg family in the Berkshires, the presence of Phineas in Pittsfield is a circumstantial argument that supports his being one of David’s sons. In the 1790 federal census (the first such census taken), Daniel Bagg, Martin Bagg and Phineas Bagg were counted in Pittsfield while David’s other known son Joseph appeared in nearby Lanesborough.22 However, there were two other Baggs for whom there are no baptismal records, but who lived in Pittsfield in the 1770s through 1790s. Elijah Bagg turned up in tax23 and marriage records and Daniel Bagg was listed as a soldier during the Revolution24 and in other records.
During the War of the American Revolution, Phineas, David, Martin and Daniel Bagg all fought with Pittsfield regiments, while Aaron marched from nearby Lanesborough and Joseph was a Lieutenant in a Berkshire company.25 A paper titled “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough”, written in 1918 by William A. Cooper, husband of Mary Bagg, noted that, in 1776, David Bagg marched to Albany in Capt. William Francis’ company, “and his son Phineas went with him”.26 However, given that this was written more than 100 years later, this statement carries little weight.
The next record of Phineas was his intention to marry Pamela Stanley, dated 21 March 1780 in the vital records of Pittsfield.27 If he was born in 1751 he would have been 29 at the time. I did not find records of the baptisms of their children, nor did I find a mention of Pamela’s death in the church records.28
Times were tough in post-revolutionary Western Massachusetts, and Phineas was caught in a credit crunch. Because of his debts, he lost much of his property to pay off his creditors.29 He headed north with his four children and a new partner. By 1798, Phineas was an innkeeper in La Prairie, Lower Canada, where he and Ruth Langworthy had two children baptized in the local Catholic church.30
Finally, how are the dots between Phineas Bagg of Pittsfield connected to the man who was an innkeeper in La Prairie and died in Montreal? First, a search of databases available on ancestry.com and americanancestors.org indicates there was only one man named Phineas Bagg. Second, there is a record of Ruth Langworthy and her parents in Pittsfield.31 Third, when sons Stanley and Abner Bagg were baptized as Anglicans in Christ Church, Montreal in 1831, they both gave their birthplace as Pittsfield.32 In addition, in her 1856 will, Sophia Bagg Roy mentioned that Abner and Stanley were her brothers and Lucie Bagg was the “natural daughter of my father Phineas Bagg.”33
In conclusion, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Phineas Bagg was born in 1751 in Westfield, the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley, however, most of this evidence is indirect, from derivative sources and secondary information, so it is inconclusive. I found no evidence that conflicts with this hypothesis. The next step is to do more research on Pittsfield deeds to see whether David transferred any of his property to Phineas, and to see whether there are any other resources I have missed.
1. Henry M. Burt, The First Century of the History of Springfield. The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, with an Historical Review and Biographical Mention of the Founders. Volume II. Springfield, Mass: printed and published by Henry M. Burt, 1899. p. 524.
2.Ancestry.com. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)
3. Ancestry.com. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Year: 1790; Census Place: Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M637; Roll: 4; Page: 483; Image: 526; Family History Library Film: 0568144. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)
4. Westfield, MA: Birth and Death Records. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Abstraction of original records, donated to NEHGS by Harold T. Dougherty. “Westfield Birth and Death Records as Obtained From the Files at City Hall, Westfield,” donated 1937) (accessed Jan. 13, 2013)
5. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. MassachusettsVital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook). (accessed Jan 14, 2013)
7. Springfield births: Vital Records of Springfield, Massachusetts to 1850. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
8. West Springfield: Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
12. Ancestry.com. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
13. Westfield, MA: Baptisms Performed in the Church of Christ, 1679–1836 (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org, 2003.) (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
16. West Springfield Deaths. Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
18. Westfield, MA: Birth and Death Records. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.orgNew England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Abstraction of original records, donated to NEHGS by Harold T. Dougherty. “Westfield Birth and Death Records as Obtained from the Files at City Hall, Westfield,” donated 1937) (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
19. William A. Cooper, “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough, Mass” Conshohooken, Pa.: unpublished, 1918. p. 10
21. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. MassachusettsVital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook). (accessed Jan. 20, 2013)
22. Ancestry.com. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Year: 1790; Census Place: Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M637; Roll: 4; Page: 483; Image: 526; Family History Library Film: 0568144. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)
23. Massachusetts and Maine 1798 Direct Tax.(Online database. AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003.) Original manuscript: Direct tax list of 1798 for Massachusetts and Maine, 1798. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA. (accessed Jan 14, 2013)
24. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, 17 Vols. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1998. Original data: Secretary of the Commonwealth. MassachusettsSoldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution. Vol. I-XVII. Boston, MA, USA: Wright and Potter Printing Co., 1896. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
25. Ibid. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
26. William A. Cooper, “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough, Mass” Conshohooken, Pa.: unpublished, 1918.
27. Jay Mack Holbrook, Massachusetts vital records to 1850: Pittsfield, 1761-1899 [microform]. Oxford, Mass: Holbrook Research Institute, 1983.
28. Records of the First Church, Pittsfield, Mass. Rollin H. Cooke Collection. Berkshire County, Mass. Reel #2, vols 26 and 27.
29.Land records, Middle District, 1761-1925 Berkshire County [microform] Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1771, 1991.
30. Ancestry.com. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 14 2013)
31. William Franklin Langworthy, compiler, The Langworthy Family. Some descendants of Andrew and Rachel (Hubbard) Langworthy, who were married at Newport, Rhode Island November 3, 1658. Published by William F. and Orthello S. Langworthy, Charles St. Hamilton, N.Y.
32. Ancestry.com. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)
33. Labadie, Joseph-Augustin, notary, 14278. 18 Mai 1856. Testament de Dame Sophia Bagg veuve de l’Honorable Gabriel Roy. Bibliotheque et Archives nationale du Quebec