Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fearless Females 2016

March is Women's History Month and Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist has compiled some prompts to encourage blogging about female ancestors.

On the first of March we are challenged to write about a favorite ancestor. Rachel Andrews Colman is a woman who comes to mind immediately. Rachel lived through almost the entire eighteenth century and left very few records for a lifetime of experiences.  I first wrote about her here.

As I go over the research I have done over the years, I have been forced to reevaluate the assumptions I made even a few years ago.  I have visited Rachel's grave in Ashby, Middlesex, MA.  She is buried in the front row in the center of town with her husband James.  A tree has grown up around her headstone, obscuring the inscription. According to the headstone, she was 92 when she died in 180? She is not listed in the Ashby death records, and I am not certain of the year of her death.  That means her birth could have been between 1708 and 1717. She is not found in the Ipswich births or marriages, where her first known child was born in 1734.

As are most women of that time, her existence is noted only by the births of her children between 1734 and 1758 in Ipswich, Lunenburg, and Ashburnham. There were eleven recorded, with biblical names of Job, Rachel, Solomon and Ruth.  They moved away from the coastal settlement of Ipswich to the frontier sixty miles to the west with their young family to an area first known as "Dorchester Canada." It was so remote that records were kept for years at the more secure town of Lunenburg.

Her child-bearing years were times of hard work building a farm and establishing a new town, with a near constant fear of attack, disease, or other hardships caused by weather or natural disasters. She was pregnant almost half of the time, with children born in two year increments.  James was a Selectman, and held other positions of responsibility in the local government.

Although her husband lived into his sixties, she lived thirty years longer. Their youngest daughter was 15 and other children were settled nearby when she was widowed in 1773. Although I wish I knew more about her life in those years, her experiences would have been much like any woman of that time.  But after James' death, where did she go?  Did she remain in their home for a time, or live with one or more of her children or grandchildren? She saw four sons respond to "the Alarm" of 1775 and join in the rebellion against the British. She saw the growth of her community, the birth of the new nation,and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I would like to know where she was when she died, when she was brought to rest beside her husband. I would like to picture her in her old age, and know who was with her. When I visit her in Ashby, I surely wish she would speak to me.

Signature from Middlesex County probate file for James Colman

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