Saturday, March 27, 2010

Which Sarah Whipple b. 1641?

Recent posts to's Whipple Message Board show ongoing confusion about the two Whipple families of Ipswich, Massachusetts and nearby Dorchester (now a part of Boston). A recent thread began on 9 Feb 2005:

Looking for the ancestral line for Sarah Whipple, born 28 Feb. 1641/2 - Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island; died 23 July 1681- Dorchester, Suffolk, Mass. She married Joseph Goodhue 13 July 1661. Joseph was born 1639 - Ipswich, Essex, Mass; died 21 Sept. 1697 - Ipswich, Essex, Mass. Thank you.
A response was posted yesterday (five years after the first query):
I have a source for ancestors of Sarah Whipple. Would like to know if you are still persuing such a treasure. Please let me know.
The following is offered in response to both posts:

There are actually two Sarah Whipples born in 1641, three months apart, 35 miles apart, in Ipswich, Massachusetts (point A on the map below) and Dorchester Massachusetts (point B on the same map). You can drive from Ipswich to Dorchester in 47 minutes on a good day:

View Larger Map

(You may need to click on the map and "drag" it--or zoom out--to see both points A and B at the same time.)
  1. The first Sarah was born 3 Nov 1641 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She married Joseph Goodhue. You can find her in the Whipple Genweb at https// Before her death on 23 Jul 1681 in Ipswich, she wrote a "valedictory" to her husband. You can read that valedictory on the Whipple Website. (Scroll to the bottom of both pages cited in this paragragh for sources of information.)
  2. The second Sarah Whipple was born the same year, 35 miles to the SSW in nearby Dorchester. Her baptism (christening) date was 6 Feb 1641/2. (I'll briefly mention the slash in that date later in this post. It is not an indication of uncertainty.) She married John Smith in Providence, Rhode Island in 1659. (She had moved with her family from Dorchester to Providence the year before.) I don't know Sarah's date of death, but she was still alive in Providence on 12 May 1710. Sarah number 2 is in the Whipple Genweb at
Note that both Sarah's are daughters of fathers named John. Most (?) online databases (including those at incorrectly "merge" those John's into a composite. (For what it's worth, I--the writer--am a descendant of the Dorchester/Providence John; my wife is a descendant of the Ipswich John. See Two Immigrants Named John on the Whipple Website.)

Slashes in Colonial Dates:

The slashed year 1641/2 is not an indication of uncertainty, but is an exact year. In those days, the new year started on March 25, not on January 1. 6 February 1641/2 was actually three months (and 3 days) after 3 Nov 1641. Both Sarahs (and public records of the day) referred to 6 Feb 1641/2 as 6 Feb 1641 (without the slash), and knew that it was after 3 Nov 1641, because in those days the new year started on March 25. (The day following 24 Mar 1641 was 25 Mar 1642.)

England changed from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian calendar in September 1752, by declaring that 2 September 1742 would be followed by 14 September 1752. Also, for the first time, the day following 31 December 1742 would mark the beginning of the next year--1 January 1743. (See my article "Making Sense of Dates in Colonial America" on the Whipple Website.)

To summarize: When we see a date that looks like 6 Feb 1641/1642, we should realize that
  1. New (and old) Englanders of that period referred to the date as 6 Feb 1641 (in their public records), and knew that it was after 3 Nov 1641.
  2. The "/1642" was added for the benefit of people of our day, to remind us that in 1641, February followed November.
Unfortunately, most people don't realize what the slash is for (so the use of slashed dates fails miserably [sigh] ... :)

(One more note: When you see slashed years in dates between 25 March and 31 December before 1752, you should investigate them further--they are probably in error.)

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