About

The History of Massachusetts Blog is a website about the rich history of the state of Massachusetts. The blog covers the entire span of Massachusetts history, from the pre-colonial days to the present day.

The goal of the History of Massachusetts Blog is to give readers the most thorough, detailed and hard-to-find historical information possible. The blog aims to bring you topics, stories and information you can’t find anywhere else.

The blog focuses heavily on firsthand accounts and reports from the original sources to help give readers a clearer understanding of the events and the people involved. Many historical facts are often lost or distorted over time so the History of Massachusetts Blog aims to clear up any misinformation, myths and mistruths.

The History of Massachusetts Blog has been linked to and/or mentioned in numerous publications, including in articles by History.com, the Salem News, Business Insider, Time Magazine, Salon. CBS Boston, the Ford Foundation and the University of Chicago Library website.

The blog has also been cited as a reference in a number of books including:

  • No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women by Gail Collins
  • The Real Witches of New England: History, Lore, and Modern Practice by Ellen Evert Hopman
  • Shantytown, USA: Forgotten Landscapes of the Working Poor by Lisa Goff

In addition, History of Massachusetts Blog posts have been republished in various newspapers and journals, including in the Historical Journal of Massachusetts.

The History of Massachusetts Blog is independently owned and operated by freelance journalist Rebecca Beatrice Brooks. Brooks is a history lover and Massachusetts native from the North Shore area. She earned a B.A. in English/Journalism from the University of New Hampshire and got her start in journalism working at numerous small town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Rebecca Brooks, Walden Pond, Nov 2015
Rebecca Beatrice Brooks at Walden Pond in November 2015

If you would like to contact Rebecca, she can be reached at:

Thank you for visiting!

67 thoughts on “About

  1. Mitchell Simms

    This website has helped me with my term paper on the Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials have been something I have always been interested in and have read a lot about, but this website has taught a few things that I did not know. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Tiana

      This website has helped me find information for my QUEST research project which is my main grade for more than three quarters of the year.

      Reply
      1. January Kerr

        Hi Rebecca, I’m so thankful I found your blog. Hannah Emerson Dustin is my 8x grandmother. I understand that Martha married into the Emerson family. I’m just trying to figure out how the Toothakers are related to Hannah Dustin. It’s also my understanding that the “Dustin Sisters” alleged of Witchcraft during the Salem Trials are not in fact related to the Dustins of Haverhill. Any thoughts or insight would be greatly appreciated.

        Reply
        1. John Gibson Parker lll

          The Toothaker surname is in my pedigree. I’m a descendant of Capt. James Parker (b. 1617). Invariably, Capt. Parker’s 3x great grandson married the 3x great granddaughter of Jacob Parker (b. 1626).

          Jacob Parker’s descendant Sarah Parker married her second cousin Lt. Col. Moses Parker. Moses Parker was he highest ranking officer mortally wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

          Reply
          1. John Gibson Parker

            Capt. James Parker was married to Elizabeth Long and Eunice Brooks Carter?

  2. Pete Downs

    As a Bostonian for most of my 81 years, I share your interest in bygone Boston. Is there anyone who remembers the Blue Ship Tea Room?

    At the risk of seeming to carp – a charge I deny – perhaps you’ll let me clarify the USS Constitution’s putative aversion to the sun. The annual Boston Harbor turnaround has little to do with sunstroke and everything to do with weathering. Consider the damage done by countless gales and vicious Nor’easters, as well as decade after decade of wind-whipped hail and freezing rain. Moored pierside, she can’t escape it; The point is to get her to weather evenly, by equalizing her exposure port and starboard.

    How much mere sunlight contributes to the havoc I know not — but I suspect its role, in comparison, is minor.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Hi Pete. I’m so happy to meet other history lovers like myself. I wish I did remember the Blue Ship Tea Room but I’ve actually never heard of it. Thanks for the info on the USS Constitution. The tough New England weather must really take a toll on that poor ship.

      Reply
  3. Amber

    Thank you so much Rebecca for all of this information! I love reading through it all!! My husband is a direct descendant of John Proctor and it is interesting to read more about it while I am working on his genealogy.

    Reply
  4. Gwen Stoddard

    In doing your family tree, did you discover any ancestors from Maine, Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island? I am also a Brooks, and my brother has done an extensive family tree. Could we be related?

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Hi Gwen, actually yes I did. My Brooks ancestors originate from Nova Scotia, mostly from the Halifax area which is very close to Prince Edward Island. I have actually come across a few other Brooks from Nova Scotia in my research that I actually wasn’t related to though. So, I don’t know if we are related because it seems to be a common English name in that area but it is possible. I can email you my family tree from ancestry.com if you would like.

      Reply
  5. Bill Goss

    Rebecca,

    Firstly, thank you so much for all of the work you have done. Although I am a Virginian, by birth, my ancestors go back to the Mayflower (five families, confirmed) on my father’s side, and to the settling of Weymouth (Richard Porter) on my mother’s side. Guess that kind of makes me a “confirmed Yankee”. I am learning to totally love New England, as my family now resides in Vermont, New Hampshire, as well as Massachusetts. Finding out where the family lived, how they lived, and what they did in New England, makes me quite proud of my family History (even though Thomas Putnam was, evidently, not a “nice” person.

    Please keep up the GREAT work and research. Do keep in touch.

    Regards,
    Bill

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Thank you for the kind words, Bill! What a cool family history you have! My father-in-law is also related to a number of the Mayflower families. Maybe you two are related. I am glad you are learning to love New England through your family and ancestors. It’s so unique and interesting that there is really no place else quite like it (although I’ve been to Virginia and it’s pretty cool too actually.)

      Reply
    2. Laura Taylor Hazel

      Hey Bill, I have done many years of Porter research. Richard was brother of my ancestor, JOHN PORTER, both of them arriving in Great Migration around 1635. Are you related to the Putnams? My direct line was, tho just by marriage. Did Richard and/or any of his descendants leave Weymouth to move to Salem area?

      Reply
  6. Arthur R. Small

    Hi Rebecca
    You have spent a lot of research time in different places and have done certainly a thorough job.
    I have done much research on my own, but it is over now.
    From my memory, Paul Revere (original name-Revoir)-was courtmartialed because he would not throw some of his valuables overboard. He was later pardoned in the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition . I had two ancestors there, one was killed leading his troops to climb the wall to the top, and one made it out alive when they abandoned their ships and settled in Maine.

    My grandfather Fred Small was in the 6th. Mass. Regt-Civil War. for several enlistments from the “first call” in Lowell. He made it out alive -as you can tell. Ironically I found out that General Butler (from Lowell) turned out to be a cousin but my grandfather may not have known that.
    I am also an accepted Mayflower Descendant from Elder Wm. Brewster and John Howland, and a descendant of King John I of England and King William I of Scotland , and a cousin to Rev. Burrough, an unfortunate “Witch” victim. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Arthur! You have quite the family history and you definitely have some deep New England roots.

      Reply
  7. Hanna Cutler

    Hi! So I need to cite your website for all the info I gathered. Who is the publisher for your site?
    Thanks!
    Hanna Cutler

    Reply
  8. Nicole Lathe

    Hi Rebecca,
    I have been researching the “Leathe” family of Mass… and come across your page. Great articles!
    May be a distant cousin of yours… “Brooks” is in my family history a lot. ie: my 5th great grandparents both from Woburn Ma. Elijah Leathe 8/1755-12/13/1835 He married Hephzibah Brooks…3/1792-7/1829 (her father~Benjamin Brooks). Any connection?

    Reply
  9. Robert H. Saunders

    Rebecca–

    In your history of Salisbury, you have a map of the town in 1639. Do you remember the source for this? I have a copy of the map, but do not recall the book in which it was. I would like to include a citation for the map in an article that I am writing for The Essex Genealogist on John Sanders, one of the original settlers of Salisbury.

    Regards.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      I don’t know what book it is from either. I found it online on a variety of different genealogy and history sites. I was wondering where it came from as well.

      Reply
  10. Irfan Ahmad

    “I’m a slow writer and a bad ambulance chaser, which are two traits that will not serve you well in the news industry.” Brilliant!

    I went to school in Boston in the 1980’s and have been a Boston fan since – although I live thousands of miles away. I wanted to know about the history of Boston and in terms of when the first Brits arrived and was fascinated by your account of the early migrants – yellow fever and smallpox brought by the European settlers wiped out most of the indigenous Indian population and the rest were subsequently defeated in battle and made slaves.

    I will come back and read up more. Very informative.

    Reply
  11. Wanda Jocke

    Enjoyed your website very much. I have especially enjoyed your research on Salem witch trials. One of my ancesters, Rebecca Shelly Addison Chamberlain died in the prison in Cambridge. I have not been able to find out very much about her. If you could enlighten me , I would be very appreciative. I was just in Billerica a few weeks ago. I was hoping to find her grave or her husband William Chamberlain and their 13 children. I didn’t have any luck or enough time.

    Thank you for your information.

    Wanda

    Reply
  12. Marsha

    Thanks for the interesting article about Thoreau’s burning of the local woods. I appreciated seeing the newspaper account, given that I’m writing about HDT.

    Reply
  13. Bob Johnson

    Hi Rebecca,
    I am a descendant of a Abraham Brooks of Weymouth, Digby Nova Scotia . Does that name ring bells ? His descendants moved to Maine and Massachusetts during the mid 1800s.

    Reply
  14. Grandchild of Susannah and Orlando

    Hello! So I came across your site while adding to my tree on ancestry…and working on my DAR application…my Mom had mentioned ages ago I think that somehow our family was connected to Salem and the witch trials but I really didn’t pay attention to that but more so on the “Patriots” in our tree so I can get the DAR thing done…so lo and behold I find out that I am a great (9 times) grand daughter to Susannah Martin (North) AND great (8 times) grand daughter to Constable Orlando Bagley. *MIND BLOWN*. I am waiting for my DNA circles to update…but just wow. (I had stopped adding to my tree after getting to son of one of my Patriots and so this is what I have found on Mary Morgan Carters side) ANYWAYS…since you are a local pretty much there…I wanted to pick your brain on best times to visit and where to stay in the area. We would be flying in from CA….and will visit sites in Boston of course too. Any advice would be greatly appreciated and your site is AWESOME! I have subscribed to your “newsletter”. THANK YOU!!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      That’s really cool that you’re related to Susannah Martin! Thank you for your kind words about the site and for subscribing to my email list. Regarding your question, the best weather is in the spring and fall but fall in Salem is a little intense. It gets overrun with thousands of tourists and the lines for everything are long. It’s a lot of fun though if you like meeting new people. Summer is a great time to visit too, although the weather can get a little hot and humid in July and August. The best place to stay in Salem would be the Hawthorne Hotel because it’s right in downtown Salem and is only a few blocks from all the attractions. As a history buff, I think the best places to stay in Boston are in any of the historic hotels like the Omni Parker House, the Buckminster hotel, etc.

      Reply
  15. Grandchild of Susannah and Orlando

    thank you much for your input! Thinking we may try to take a trip next year. 🙂 Thank you again!!

    Reply
  16. Laura Taylor Hazel

    Hi Rebecca! Just read your blog for the very first time, and applaud what you are doing. I too am very interested in Massachusetts history, and can trace my genealogy on both my dad’s and my mom’s ancestry back to the 17th century….both sides emigrating from England. Also had a family on the Mayflower
    (Allerton). Family names researched are Porter and Taylor. Writing a book that incorporates the historical context and events that helped shape their lives. Have never thot of myself as a history “nerd” but maybe I am.
    Have referred to myself as a history buff….I would take on either label! What appealed to me in your blog, Rebecca, is your straight forward, engaging style that includes detail and content important to include, BUT minus unnecessary fluff and academic babble that usually just distracts the researcher. Laura

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Laura! Whether you’re a history nerd or a history buff, it’s all good!

      Reply
  17. Trish Berrong

    I have a question….who were the forefathers of the Gardners in the U.S.? I know of Thomas the Old Planter, but there are Gardners in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, as well as, Massachusetts in the 17th Century and 18th Century.

    Reply
  18. Barbara Brooks Quinn

    Hello, Rebecca. I am Barbara Smith Brooks Quinn and am interested in joining the Mayflower Society. Many of my fellow DAR members are also members of the Mayflower Society. I can trace my ancestors to William Bradford, Stephen Hopkins and now William Brewster. I am so excited to do this and have 3 sisters who would join with me! Please keep in touch. I appreciate anything you can do for us.

    Reply
  19. Shay McNeal

    Good morning,

    Enjoyed your account of the Salem Witch Trial events and persons involved. I have several questions:

    Did you ever see a primary source account of Samuel “beating “ his slaves? I believe Elaine Breslaw stated that in her book focusing on Tituba. When I queried her over the phone she did not have a primary source assertion. She said, “All slave owners beat their slaves.” I am afraid that is not enough to brand Samuel a Slavs beater.

    Do you know if any primary source identifying what happened to Thomas Parris’ son with Elizabeth? It appears Tituba had a daughter named Violet. I found a Violet listed in an inventory of a Parris family in a southern state.

    Did you find evidence of Tituba being remanded to a man from Virginia?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Hi Shay, yes I do have a primary source about Tituba’s experience. After the trials, she was interviewed by Robert Calef for his book More Wonders of the Invisible World and she told him that she was beaten by Samuel Parris when he tried to force her to confess. That info is on page 189 of the 1823 edition of the book which is available online with google books. I unfortunately don’t know of any primary source about Parris’ son and I don’t have any info about Tituba being sold to a man from Virginia. Calef’s book just states that she was sold for the price of her jail fees.

      Reply
  20. Suzanne Weymouth - Mueller

    Are you related by any chance to Susannah North-Martin? My mom has done a ton of family ancestory, and Susannah was my 10th great grandmother. I was wondering if you wrote on Susannah because you were related or not? The article is very well written and factually correct. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Nope, I’m not related to any of the victims as far as I can tell. Glad you found the article helpful!

      Reply
  21. Ann Casey

    Rebecca, I can’t describe to you how much I enjoy your website. I subscribe to receive your articles by e-mail, and always look forward to your straight forward and well researched historical information. In fact, I almost live in fear that I might accidentally delete them! Most all of my ancestors came to America early: including the Thompson’s of New Hampshire (think Benjamin the Benefactor, who I’m sure you are familiar with since you attended the University of New Hampshire) as well as others who migrated early from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam, from England, and probably France. None of this is of any importance other than to explain how knowing the history of New England that involved the lives of my ancestors is very exciting to me. I am basically writing to say, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Thank you so much, Ann, for your kind words! It really made my day! I’m so glad you find history as exciting as I do!

      Reply
  22. Jim Barnes

    Superlative site! Exceptional precision re historical information coupled with eminently readable text makes this site a treat to visit. If you like New England, you will love this site from wherever you are.

    Reply
  23. Greg True

    Ancestry.com led me to the astonishing news that my paternal line goes back to Salem and Salisbury around 1640. So happy to find your site; Well done! I will be visiting in early August, and I hope to visit the Salisbury Historical Society Museum, as well as other of your site’s recommendations. We live in San Francisco Bay Area, but, by coincidence, my wife grew up in Essex County, MA!

    Reply
  24. Wendy Cummings

    Thank you, Rebecca, for including Prudence Cumings Wright in your Roles of Women in the Revolutionary War. She is oft overlooked or forgotten. She and her Guard did dress up in their absent husbands’ clothing that night at the Bridge. Could that be considered “disguise”?
    I’m from her hometown of Pepperell. Do you have a copy of The Women Who Guarded the Bridge by Mary Lucinda Parker Shattuck? She wrote it in 1898 and read it at the first meeting of the DAR in Pepperell. The Chapter is named after Prudence.
    Gratefully,
    Wendy Cummings

    Reply
  25. Paula Thompson

    Hello Rebecca,
    I happened on your site as I was researching ancestors that were connected to the Revolutionary War. I discovered a direct line to Col. William Burbeck who was second-in-command of the American artillery regiment under Col. Richard Gridley. I grew up in Lexington, MA and have always had a keen interest in this time period. (Besides, there was never school on April 19th! )

    I have not had the time to go through your website, but I certainly look forward to doing so.

    Sincerely,
    Paula Thompson

    Reply
  26. Clare McArdle

    Hi Rebecca,
    I live in Cambridge, England, & have always been interested in early American history. My paternal family came from Watlington, Oxfordshire, & I have discovered that Francis Nash, one of my ancestors, emigrated from there & was in Braintree, Massachusetts by 1660 & fought in King Philip’s war in 1675. I’m looking for any other family connections in the area, but also to say that the information on your blog is fascinating. I’ve had two trips to Boston before I knew this connection but hope to come back !

    Reply
  27. Reba Brooks

    Hello Rebecca!
    I am also Rebecca Brooks and my family came from Virginia Tennessee and later, to the Ozarks. I spent 2 years studying my family history but lost all my records so I’m starting fresh to seek answers. My Brooks family dates back to Matthew Brooks. I’ve read he was a Quaker who moved from Massachusetts to Virginia but as you know there are many Brooks branches. I’ve heard we were German, but find more evidence of being English. My paternal lines are Brooks and Jones which couldn’t be more common and confusing. Both my paternal lines traveled together as did my maternal who were Ulster-Scots. I am having difficulty finding records because courthouses in the Ozarks were burned during the civil war. If you know of any helpful sites for records please post a few as time allows. Thanks so much. I’m enjoying your blog so much!

    Reply
  28. Donna

    Hi Rebecca! I am trying to plan a trip to MA with my daughter who LOVES history. I read your list of tours that leave Boston and go to Plymouth and Cape Cod, but none of them seem to be leaving during the month of May. So, I’m wondering if May is not a good month to visit (still too cold?) or perhaps there are some tours that could still take us from Boston to these sites even during early May? Do you have an opinion on this? Just to give you some background, this is a mother/daughter trip – I’m in my early 60’s and my daughter is 25, with an English degree. ) and we are from TX. We only have a week, but want to see as many historical places as possible. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      It’s probably because tourist season starts in June so they cater the tours for that time. These were all the tours I could find at the time so I’m not sure if there are other ones out there that run in May.

      Reply
    2. Linda C

      Donna, May is a great month to come…not too hot-not too cold. Since you have some time yet, maybe you could plan out which historical sites you and your daughter want to see from researching online. There are, of course, many places to see right in Boston and then maybe you could rent a car for a few days to check out Plymouth and whatever you want to see on the Cape.
      You’ll definitely want to visit Plimoth Plantation (that’s how they used to spell Plymouth. They are open in May. Here’s a link for you: plimoth.org/plan-your-visit-0
      Have a great time!
      Linda
      9th great-granddaughter of John & Pricilla Alden, lol

      Reply
  29. Jen Segal

    Hi Rebecca- I just wanted to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed your piece on Salisbury. I’ve just moved there and have always been intrigued by history so imagine how surprised I was to realize what a truly early settled town it was. I loved all that you brought out in your post, especially the Pennacook tribe and the really early history of the area. I intend to keep reading. You presented so much in a way that was interesting and informative. Thank you!

    Reply
  30. Grace

    Hi, I just wanted to say that I appreciate the page on the daughters of liberty. I am doing that topic for national history day and when I saw your site I was like it came from heaven. So thank you for posting that.

    Reply
  31. Anna

    Hello Rebecca, I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate your blog. It has provided me with much information for my paper! So thanks alot from Germany! My research question is which role religion partook in the establishment of Plymouth colony. Do you have any book or literature recommendations for this topic? Thanks again, have a nice day !

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Beatrice Brooks Post author

      Thanks for the kind words. That’s a very niche topic so nothing really comes to mind except for the few sources I listed at the end of my article on religion in Plymouth colony. I guess I would start there.

      Reply
  32. Sami

    Hello Rebecca
    I would like to thank you for this useful page. As a new reader about American history, I found these information intersting, concise, and easy to remember. In fact, I have an assignment to prepare and it helped me greatly. Once again, thank you and looking forward to reading your writings.

    Reply

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