J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

“Only three of which survived him”

In 1854 the New England Historic and Genealogical Register printed transcript of pages inserted into Samuel Adams’s family Bible, setting down the family genealogy.

Later the same material was reprinted in Samuel Adams Wells‘s biography of his ancestor.

That page showed that Adams’s parents must have been in near-constant mourning for their young children.

The genealogy starts with the births of the senior Samuel Adams in 1689 and Mary Fifield in 1694. They were married at Old South Meeting-House by the Rev. Dr. Ebenezer Pemberton (shown here) in 1713.

Two years later Samuel was among the men petitioning for land for a new church in the South End, which would open in 1719 as the New South Meeting-House.

Meanwhile, the couple was having children:
  • Richard Adams, born 21 Jan 1716, “being on Saturday morning at seven of the Clock. The said Richard Adams dyed on Tuesday the 26th: day of June, about 10 of ye Clock at night.”
  • Mary Adams, born 30 July 1717, “Tuesday morning, at 4 of the clock.”
  • Hannah Adams, born 6 Nov 1720, “at half an hour after eleven at night, 1720, and dyed the 13th Jan. [1721] at eight of the Clock at night.”
  • Samuel Adams the future governor, born 16 Sept 1722 “at twelve of the Clock at noon, being Sabbath day.”
  • John Adams, born 4 Sept 1724, died 9 Aug 1725.
  • A second John Adams, born 28 Oct 1726, died 15 June 1727.
  • Joseph Adams, born 29 Dec 1728, “one quarter after one of ye Clock in ye morning, Sabbath day. Baptised pr. the Rev. Mr. [Samuel] Checkley ye same day.”
  • Abigail Adams, born 20 July 1730, died 29 Aug 1730.
  • Thomas Adams, born 22 Dec 1731, died 16 Aug 1733, “20 minutes after four of the Clock in the morning.”
  • Sarah Adams, born 18 Nov 1733 at 8:30 A.M. on a Sunday morning, baptized the same day, died 28 Feb 1736.
  • A second Abigail Adams, born 22 Oct 1735, died 31 March 1736.
  • Mehetable Adams, born 12 Apr 1740, died 11 June 1740.
At the bottom of that page, Samuel Adams the Patriot wrote of his father:
Samuel Adams aforesaid, dyed on Tuesday the eighth day of March, 1747, about eleven o’Clock in the forenoon; having lived with his wife thirty-four years, and about ten months. By her he had twelve children, only three of which survived him.
Those three were Mary, Samuel himself, and their brother Joseph, not yet twenty years old.

Of the other nine siblings, only one baby had lived more than a year, and six had died in six months or less.

The elder Adams persevered in recording the detail of every birth and death. Indeed, he became more precise as time went on, recording births at the accuracy of five-minute increments instead of “about 10.”

The younger Samuel Adams grew up to marry Elizabeth Checkley, daughter of the minister who had baptized most of the family.

TOMORROW: Samuel Adams’s surviving siblings.

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