An ongoing project at the society has been the organization and transcription of our 17th and 18th century records into language we can understand today. These official records may not be what you imagine. The high cost of paper necessitated frugality so they are often literally scraps of paper. Sometimes they are written on the backs of used paper. But it was the high quality of that paper that allows this communication to survive three hundred plus years after pen was put to paper. Through the photography of Bruce Westgate and a data base created by Eileen Westgate the documents are available for research. We can work with the images and not handle the original documents. Assisted with a grant from Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, many of our records are now in a digital form and available at the Society and the Portsmouth Free Public Library.
Click on the blue link below to see the document transcription.
transcript:schoolhouse: This interesting document details the cost of material and labor for Souther-most Schoo in 1725. Bill presented by Adam Lawton. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.
Tax rolls 1688 #111.015 : This is a listing of tax assessment on Portsmouth residents in 1688. Transcribed by Carolyn Holmes.
Transcription – Hog Island Hay : 1638 document granting rights to William Brenton to hay on Hog Island. Transcription by Gloria Schmidt
Npt.:Ports boundaries: Copy of document from 1666 about how the boundaries between Portsmouth and Newport were marked. John Albro and William Dyer are listed as overseeing the marking. Transcription by Gloria Schmidt
This document is an agreement of indentured servitude. In the document, an Indian man named Robin Richman agrees to a term of four months as an indentured servant to Ann Brayton, an Englishwoman: 1692. Transcription by Ben Grande.
See corrections to this transcription in the comments below. Thank You!
Document #8 and 9 (1700’s) A warrant for Daniel Chubb: This is a warrant issued by the town of Portsmouth. The warrant orders Sergeant Caleb Bennet to arrest Daniel Chubb and transport him to Warwick. On the second page, Bennet affirms the successful arrest and transportation of Chubb (5/11/1747). Transcription by Ben Grande
Document #191 (1700’s) An Inquest into the death of an Indian Boy: This document is a response to an inquest into the death of a Native American boy named Robin Sonkanawash (3/24/1724). Transcription by Ben Grande.
PHS 211.036 transcription:inquest Indian: This document recorded the inquest into the drowning death of a male Native American in 1712. Roger and John Burrington, Benjamin Wibour, William Arnold, Thomas Borden are among the names of the jurors. Transcription by Ben Grande.
PHS 211.010 inquest Indian Rachel: December 2, 1746 inquest. The jurors in this case believed that a Native American woman named Rachel died after having too much to drink and then getting lost out in the cold. Thomas Shearman, John Coggeshall, Silas Tallman, Job Lawton were among the jurors. Transcription by Ben Grande.
PHS 211.0342 Death Inquest for Richard Tripp: Inquest on December 28, 1712 into drowning death. Jurors included William Potter, John Earle, William Manchester and Roger Burrington. Transcription by Ben Grande.
211.033 -12:25:1728An Inquest into the death of an Indian Boy: Another inquest into the drowning death. Jurors included Joseph Brownell, Benjamin Hall, Joseph Wilcox and Peleg Shearman. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Inquest into death of Gemimas boy 1731: Two documents concerning same case. Inquest into whether an Native American’s infant’s death was due to murder or stillbirth. 211.032 is the PHS accession number. PHS #211.0321 is the verdict. Preserved Fish, Joseph Cundall and Richard Sisson are among the jurors. Transcriptions by Ben Grande.
transcription of John Vaughan’s obligation 1715: Blacksmith Vaughan vouches for a family coming from England. Portsmouth required that people coming into town provide an assurance that they would not become a burden on Portsmouth taxpayers. PHS # 211.146. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Indenture of Philip Gusteen to John Cory of North Kingston dated 5/14/1750 – PHS # 1700.017. This document spells out the rights and obligations of both the apprentice and the master. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Obligation of Joseph Brownell to become the legal guardian of Martha Brownell, orphaned child of late George Brownell. 2/8/1768 PHS # 211.503. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Obligation by Phebe Brown: to the town of Portsmouth for a sum of fifty-one pounds, seven shillings; Brown is also obligated to submit a complete inventory of her late husband’s possessions to the town Council.l PHS # 211.51. 1781. Transcription by Ben Grande. This binds a widow to make an inventory of her late husband’s property and pay death taxes to the town. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Order for Removal of Joseph Shuerden and his family from Portsmouth back to Middletown and Order for Removal of Weaver family: 1790 and 1792. Both these documents deal with sending poor families back to Middletown. Portsmouth took care of well established families when they fell on hard times, but the town wanted to control who was welcomed into the community so that generosity was not abused. Transcriptions by Ben Grande.
Probate Summons Isaac Manchester of Tiverton dated 8 2, 1771. This document deals with the estate of Robert Burrington and the guardianship of his child. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Terms of apprenticeship-1753 Lawton. The apprentice in this case is almost seven years old. He will provide service to Captain Lawton and in return will be boarded and fed and taught to read. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Warrant for Town Meeting for vote on Constitution- 1788. This documents call the freemen of Portsmouth to voice their opinion on the Constitution. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Vote on Constitution May 1788. The Nays have it – 60 to 12. Portsmouth freemen vote to not ratify the Constitution. Individual names and their votes are noted. Transcription by Gloria Schmidt.
Indenture dispute between Daniel Fish and Henry Baggs. 1718 document that illustrates how disputes between masters and apprentices are resolved. Although the reason for the dispute is not listed, it is clear that the town had a stake in these disputes. Transcription by Ben Grande.
Indenture of an orphaned Indian boy named George to Joseph and Elizabeth Martin. This 1781 document illustrates the obligations and benefits of apprenticeship. Transcribed by Ben Grande.
An obligation of debt to the town council of Portsmouth and an obligation of Preserved Fish to become the legal guardian of an orphaned boy named Henry Lawton In this document Preserved Fish pledges money to insure he will be a good guardian for an orphan. Transcribed by Ben Grande.
Indenture between Rachel Hodgson and Elizabeth Rawlings This document is an early one from the 1600s. It is interesting to compare this indenture with the apprenticeships and indenture documents from later eras. Transcribed by Ben Grande.
111.023 – Receipts. These receipts were listed on the back of an earlier tax roll. Among the names listed for reimbursement for town work are John Anthony, John Albro and John Tripp. Transcribed by Carolyn Holmes.
Town paid for Almy Estate 1679. This document shows how Portsmouth went about getting its share of the Almy estate even though Almy’s wife Mary died before she could pay. Transcribed by Carolyn Holmes.
Estate of Joseph Ladd 1688: Death inventories like this one give us a glimpse into everyday life of early settlers. Thomas Manchester and Matthew Greenell compiled this inventory. Document 111.077 was transcribed by Carolyn Holmes.
Inquest into the death of an infant Indian: Document # 211.32, 1731 Document transcribed by Ben Grande. Mother seemed to be part of the Job Shearman family. Jurors included Preserved Fish, Richard Sisson and Thomas Durfee.
transcribed Bayly: Document 111.201 is dated December 28, 1669. Widow Grace Bayly is pledging payment from of the estate of her late husband William to William Baughton. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.
111.143 – property lease Almy:Potter: This is a 1697 lease that carefully details the terms the rental of Portsmouth property owned by William Potter and leased by Christopher Almy. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.
Town of Portsmouth debts1680’s: This list of payments includes burial expenses for Job Hawkins, payments to Town Clerks – John Anthony and Thomas Manchester, and payments for the “keeping of old Bulgar” by Joseph Anthony, Mary Cory and others. Payments recorded from1682 to 1687. Document #111.11. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.
1709 Treasurer’s accounting 221.0164; This seems to be an audit of the treasurer’s work. Detailed accounting of town expenses in 1709 including payments for blackbird heads, payments to Joseph Cook, Benjamin Hall, George Brownel, George Cornel, William Anthony, Giles Slocum, William Sanford, George Sisson, William Earl and many more. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.
License for a public house – 1781: The petitioners to the town council are asking for a license to run an inn, tavern or what they called a “public house.” Jonathan Cornell
John Thurston, William Cook are asking for the license. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes. PHS document. #1700-055/ Dec 10, 1781.
Call for vote on deputies 1723: This document is a call for all the freemen to come and vote on new deputies. Abel Tripp, the sergeant, is mentioned. This is document 211.50. Note that it asks them to go to the “School house that is at the South.” This is before the Southermost School was completed. Transcription by Carolyn Holmes.