Patience is a “virtue name” like Grace or Hope, and celebrates the Puritan attribute of the acceptance of delay, trouble, or suffering through faith in God.
Know all men by these presents I, Thomas Burnam of Ipswich in the County of Essex and Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England, yeoman, for and in consideration of the sum of thirty two pounds lawful money to me in hand before the ensealing hereof well and truly paid by Robert Dodge of Ipswich aforesaid yeoman, the reciept whereof I do hearby acknowledge, and myself therewith full satisfied contented and paid, have bargained and sold and do by these presents bargain sell, sett over and confirm unto the said Robert Dodge his heirs executors administrators or assigns a negro girl known by the name of Patience —–
To have and to hold said negro girl Patience during her natural life unto the said Robert Dodge his heirs executors administrators or assigns —- And further I the said Thomas Burnam, for my self my heirs executors and administration, against the lawful claims or demands of any person or persons whatever, forever hereafter to warrant secure and defend — In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this thirteenth day of December Anno Domini, one thousand seven hundred and sixty nine.
Thomas [Burnam?] [seal]
Signed sealed and delivered in presence of
This document – a receipt of the sale of a woman only identified as Patience – provides a few important pieces of information, but also leaves us with a good deal of mystery. The buyer and seller are both identified by name, occupation, and town. The names of the witnesses can be read; they were probably both adults, and related in some way to the buyer or seller. Patience, though, has no surname, or specific occupation, and is called a “girl.” What was her age in 1769? Was she born in or near Ipswich? How did her life change with this transaction? Did she eventually become free, and what were her circumstances then? Did she marry or have children? Was she a church member? Where are her remains buried?
Resources for genealogical research in Massachusetts’ Colonial and Revolutionary eras are plentiful and might be used to identify Burnham, Dodge, Patch and Whittredge with certainty. Information about Patience could be found in many of the same resources, but with her surname unidentified and her age unrecorded, she is likely to be very challenging to find. Guides that offer strategies for locating African American records include those from American Ancestors, and FamilySearch.
When genealogical evidence is hard to find, it is important to look for clues about the known associates of an individual – their family and neighbors, or members of religious, fraternal or military groups and the like, to which they belonged. Since her records are elusive, what information can be gleaned about Patience and her circumstances from the others whose names are on the document? Continue reading