Category Archives: Bucknam

Guardianship File for “An Idler and his Family”

I’ve been researching the family tree now for 40 years and I have to say this is the first and only time I’ve seen a “guardianship” file like this one. It’s 127 pages long.

While working on all the Bucknam posts and updating my facts, I came across guardianship (File #3380) for Ebenezer Bucknam Jr.  in Stoneham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts in 1805. I initially took a look because I thought it was possible he was a son of one of my Ebenezers (the one born in 1762 in Malden, MA to James Bucknam and Mary Goddard), for whom I have no death date.

Not so, but I stumbled upon what I think was a very unusual situation.

Are you familiar with the term “warning out”? Warnings out were issued for many years by various Massachusetts towns to a person/people or family who were not residents and who either couldn’t or wouldn’t support themselves through honest work.

Such people were “warned out” to return to their home town, who would then be responsible for their care. It was the colonial and early American way of avoiding welfare costs that the town would have to cover. I believe that warnings out went out of style after the 18th century.

At first glance at the guardianship file of Ebenezer Bucknam, I wondered what in the world could have happened for a file to be that long, even if Ebenezer was an infant when orphaned.

First, we need to know who Ebenezer Bucknam Jr. was. One Ebenezer Bucknam was born in Stoneham on 29 January 1743/44, the son of Edward and Sarah Bucknam. If this is the correct Ebenezer, then he married Mary Hay on 11 November 1762, in Stoneham, two months shy of his 19th birthday. Mary was born 12 October 1741, the daughter of Peter Hay (1696-1790) and his second wife, Isabel Green. Most males married around age 25, so an 18 year old marrying in that time period in New England is quite unusual.

In any case, Ebenezer Bucknam and wife Mary became the parents of Ebenezer Bucknam Jr., born 7 February 1766, also in Stoneham. By trade, Ebenezer Jr. became a cordwainer, a shoe maker who makes shoes from new leather.

Ebenezer Jr. married Rachel Lovejoy, likely soon after intentions were filed on 16 March 1786 in Stoneham. Rachel died, aged 67, on 8 January 1836, also in Stoneham.

Ebenezer and Rachel had the following children, all born in Stoneham:

1. Sarah, baptized 3 July 1791
2. Lusa (Lucy?), born 19 December 1791
3. William, baptized 9 September 1792
4. William, born 9 August 1798
5. Jesse, born 1 October 1800; died 4 April 1801
6. Rebecca, born 1 October 1801
7. Jesse, born 6 February 1804
8. Rachel, born 7 July 1808

The very first item in Ebenezer’s guardianship packet is a bond for Jabez Lynde, guardian of Ebenezer Bucknam, dated 20 June 1806. The reason for the guardianship is immediately clear:

Ebenezer, “an idler”

The second document, a complaint by the Stoneham town selectman, dated 10 April 1805 (the documents are not in chronological order) shed more light on Ebenezer’s problems:

His excessive drinking and lack of productive work were putting himself and his family in danger of destitution and therefore becoming a welfare charge to the town, who would have to support the family.

Even if warnings out had still been issued in the 1800s, Ebenezer and his family were residents of Stoneham, so could not have been warned out anyway. They were Stoneham’s problem.

Many of the documents in this file are lists of debts and creditors’ claims against Ebenezer Jr. Why would the judge decide appoint a guardian for him rather than sentencing him to jail?

This is just speculation on my part, but the Hay family was very powerful in Stoneham. Peter Hay, Ebenezer’s grandfather, was very wealthy and the family held many town positions through the years. Ebenezer was likely a great embarrassment to his family and it was probably hoped that a guardian could keep him under control and keep the family out of the poorhouse.

The judge issued an order to Ebenezer to appear in court to show cause why he should not have a guardian appointed:

Whereas the Selection of Stoneham aforesaid have represented to me the subscriber Judge of Probate for said County that by excessive drinking and idleness you to spend waste and lessen your estate as thereby to expose yourself and family to want and suffering circumstances and also to endanger the said town of Stoneham to charge and expense for your and their maintenance and support.

Mr. Lynde carried out his responsibilities until 13 January 1809, with Ebenezer’s cash on hand at one point being $191.09 with debts amounting to $882.37. At that point, he asked that Mr. peter Hay Jr. be appointed to take on guardianship of “the spendthrift.” to put these amounts in perspective, $191 is worth about $3900 today, while $882 is the equivalent of about $18,000.

The probate judge approved the appointment of Peter Hay as the new guardian. The lists of income and expenses continued on as Mr. Hay carried out his job. By February 1815, Peter Hay had had enough:

“but now finding it verry disagreable and troublesome to act any longer in Said capacity of guardian to the Said Bucknam”

The judge must have decided that caring for Ebenezer Bucknam was a two-man job, as in 1816, Aaron Stone and Nathaniel Richardson were appointed guardians. They added yet another uncomplimentary term to Ebenezer’s behavior:

“excessive drinking, idleness and debauchery”

After 25 years of guardianship, a petition from Ebenezer himself appears on 11 January 1830, stating that he can care for himself and asks the court to dismiss his guardians:

However, the judge wasn’t having any of that and Ebenezer’s petition was denied in April 1830. Several months later, on 17 August 1830, Stone and Richardson stepped down and Jesse Green was appointed to serve as Ebenezer’s latest guardian.

Ebenezer made another petition to the court on 28 April 1835, again asking to be released from guardianship. This time, Selectmen Peter Hay and Ira Gerry came out in favor of dismissal.

This is the most recent date found in the probate file of Ebenezer Bucknam. He was apparently set free from his guardianship. However, there is no death date entered for him in the Stoneham town records, nor in any other town records in Massachusetts for that matter.

What a sad life he and his family led, having belongings appraised and sold off to pay debts with the same cycle repeating itself year after year after year.





Family of American Revolution POW Joses Bucknam and Abigail Hay

Joses Bucknam and Abigail Hay are my 5X great grandparents and Joses is the ancestor under whose service I chose to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.

I’ve shared the story of his capture and imprisonment at the notorious Old Mill Prison in England, but realized I haven’t provided a family sketch for him.

As today is the 185th anniversary of his passing, it seems an appropriate day on which to share more about his life.

Joses Bucknam was born 6 Mary 1761 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts, the son of James Bucknam and Mary Goddard.

Abigail Hay was the daughter of William Hay and Phebe Brown, although her birth was not recorded in Stoneham, where she grew up. She was born in November 1768, based on her age at death and died in Glenburn, Penobscot, Maine on 19 September 8154.

After Joses returned to Massachusetts in a prisoner exchange with the English, he married Abigail on 19 September 1786. They likely lived in Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, where several of their children were born. In the summer of 1793 or in 1794, the young family left Massachusetts and settled in Mason,  Hillsborough, New Hampshire.


  1. Abigail, born c1787, probably Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died 4 May 1796, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
  2. Phebe Hay, born 24 September 1790, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; married (1) Cyrus Davis, 15 July 1810, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire (2) Mr. Johnson, before 1 January 1833, when Joses wrote his will.
  3. Joses, born 16 February 1793, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died after 1840, probably Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia; married Elizabeth Low, 22 August 1816, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
  4. Caleb, born 16 November 1795, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; died 3 August 1874, Cascade, Dubuque, Iowa; married (1) Deborah Barrett, 17 December 1818, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire (2) Louisa Brooks Snow, 26 December 1820, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
  5. Abigail, born 13 May 1798, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; died 1 January 1820, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; married Charles Scripture, 20 November 1817, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
  6. Mary Goddard, born 11 February 1801, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; died 21 August 1879, Glenburn, Penobscot, Maine; married Oliver Scripture, 1 December 1819, Washington, Sullivan, New Hampshire.
  7. James, born 12 July 1803, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, reportedly died in North Carolina. No further record.
  8. Eliza Simons, born 6 February 1806, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; married Caleb Brooks, before 1 January 1833, when Joses wrote his will.
  9. Lucretia, born c1809, probably Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; not in her father’s will in 1835.
  10. Nancy Hay, born 2 July 1811, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; married William Robbins, 1 December 1835, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
  11. William Hay, born 4 January 1815, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; died 1862, Cascade, Dubuque, Iowa; married Susan Henry, c1836, probably in New Jersey where Susan was born in in Virginia, where their first two children were born.

Joses Bucknam left a short will, probated in May 1835. (Hillsborough County, New Hampshire WB 41:56-57, Source: FamilySearch)

In the name of God, Amen. I Joses Buckman of Mason in the county of Hillsborough & State of New Hampshire considering the uncertainty of this mortal ife & being of sound & perfect memory, blesed be Almight God for the same, do make & publish this my last Will & testament in manner & form followin — First I give & bequeath unto my beloved wife Nabby Buckman the use of all my Real & personal Estate which shall remain after my just debts and funeral expenses are paid during her natural life & at her decease the property which shall then remain shall be equally divided between my children Joses Buckman Jr. Phebe Johnson Caleb Buckman Mary g. Scripture Eliza S. Brooks James Buckman Nancy buckman William H. Buckman —

Item – I give and bequeath unto my daughter Nancy Buckman ten dollars –

And I do hereby appoint Willis Johnson sole Executor of this my last Will & testament hereby revoking  all former Wills by me made —
Done this first day of January one thousand eight hundred & thirty three.  In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this first day of January A.D. 1833.

Joses Buckman (ss)

Signed sealed published & declared by the above named Joses Buckman as &/or his last will & testament in the presence of us who at his request & in his presence & in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses thereto .

William Wright Calvin Elliott, Ferdinand L. Johnson

Mason Town Cemetery, Summer 1980
Grave of Joses bucknam, Center with American Flag

I was honored to visit the grave of my 5X great grandfather, Joses Bucknam, in 1980. Several of my ancestors and collateral relatives are buried here. Joses’s grave is in the middle of the photo and is the dark gray stone, rounded at the top. It is difficult to make out, but someone placed an American flag on his grave.

RIP, Joses Bucknam


James Bucknam & Mary Goddard of Malden, MA, 1700s

James Bucknam and Mary Goddard were the parents of one of my Revolutionary War ancestors, Joses Bucknam. He is the patriot under which I joined the Daughters of the American Revolution. It is also with Joses that the Bucknam surname is lost in my tree, as I descend from one of his daughters.

James Bucknam was born 3 January 1724/25 in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts, the son of Joses Bucknam and Phebe Tuttle.

Mary Goddard was the daughter of Giles Goddard and Hannah Pratt, born 15 November 1728 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.

James Bucknam and Mary Goddard married on 17 September 1747 in Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts. They were likely already engaged when on 29 April 1747 James Bucknam purchased from one Giles Goddard 24 acres of land and a double house in Malden for £1250, quite a bit of money for the time.

The handwriting isn’t the easiest to read, but there also isn’t much of interest in the sale either that makes it worth transcribing. What is most important to me is not the land sale itself, but the fact that Mary’s mother, Hannah, consented to the sale.

No death record has been located for Hannah and the latest record I had for her before this time was the birth record for Mary (Goddard) Bucknam’s birth in 1728. This record proves she lived at least 19 more years. However, I digress, so it is back to the story of James and Mary.

Mary Goddard Bucknam predeceased James by almost nine years, passing away on 8 December 1790 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

James died on 10 October 1799, also in Malden. He not only left no will, I have not found any probate administration and the last date I find him in the land records is 1762.

I imagine by the end of his life, he was living with the family of one of his children.

James and Mary were the parents of eleven children, but at least two did not survive to adulthood.


1. Mary, born 16 July 1748, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts: married William Turner, 10 November 1767, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts. No further information.
2. James, born 27 March 1751; died 5 February 1753, both at Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
3. Phebe, born 17 April 1753, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died ?February 1817, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; ?married John Bucknam, 19 May 1776, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts. I don’t know if this Phebe married this John Bucknam or if the record belongs to her aunt. The death entry just gives her name with no parents of husband, so, again, I am unsure to whom the record belongs.
4. James, born 8 February 1755, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died about 17 March 1787, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; married Margaret Sables, 12 February 1778, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts. James was a mariner.
5. Sarah, born 11 June 1757, Chelsea, Suffolk, Massachusetts; no further record.
6. William, born 30 April 1759, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died 4 April 1823, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; said to have married the widow of his brother, James, Margaret Sables.
7. Joses, born 6 March 1761, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died 18 April 1835, Mason, Hillsborough, New Hempshire; married Abigail Hay, 19 September 1786, Wakefield, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
8. Ebenezer, born 9 November 1762, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts; reportedly died after 1821 in New Ipswich, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; married Hannah Varder, 29 May 1785, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
9. Elizabeth, born 3 October 1765, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; buried 7 March 1838, Cambridge, Suffolk, Massachusetts;  married Leonard Parks, 15 March 1785, Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
10. Caleb, (twin) born 27 September 1767, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts; died 7 October 1767, Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
11. Joshua, (twin) born 27 September 1767, Medford, Middlesex, Massahcustts; died 2 July 1849, Charlestown, Sullivan, New Hampshire; married Anna Parks, 11 June 1789, Lincoln, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

The Bucknam history will conclude on 18 April 2020 with Revolutionary War soldier Joses Bucknam and his wife, Abigail Hay. It will be the 185th anniversary of his death.