Three Girls Named Philip

One of my favorite things happened recently, – I made contact with a new cousin and genealogist. After I’d sent along my line of descent (the way cousins introduce themselves), I received this gentle correction,

BTW, your 8th-g-grandmother was Phillipa CHASE, daughter of Benjamin and Phillipe (Sherman) CHASE.

To start off, I wholeheartedly thank every thoughtful and generous person who has spotted my errors and got me back on track. (Please do keep it up.) Now, this is a rare thing, but I don’t always agree with suggested corrections, and this is one of those times.

You’ll work out from that note, the presumed mistake was that I gave the above Chase and Sherman females the masculine moniker, “Philip.” However, it wasn’t a goof; I did it deliberately. Despite our society’s sensibility that a girl must have a girl’s name, – I believe this line has three females named Philip and they embody a tradition that can be traced in records from 1652 through 1795.

Who would give a girl a boy’s name?

Perhaps it’s no surprise, this story begins with a man, Philip Sherman / Shearman (1610-1687). Born in England, he came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1633, married Sarah Odding there the year after, had a few kids, then had a disagreement with church elders. That precipitated the family’s move to Rhode Island, an early bastion of religious tolerance. By 1638, Philip was making himself useful to the new settlement at Portsmouth, and 10 years later (1648), Philip Sherman was appointed General Recorder (secretary) of Rhode Island. He was described as

An excellent penman (his records remain in Portsmouth), educated and wealthy for the times. [1]

Philip spent years growing Portsmouth, growing a personal estate, and growing his family. In addition to three girls, he and Sarah had seven (or eight) boys, and none was named Philip in 1651, when Sarah told him for the eleventh (or twelfth) time, she was pregnant. Both were Into their forties, financially secure, and doubtless feeling pride in worldly accomplishments and public honors, It’s likely, in the interest of preserving health and happiness, the Shermans agreed this child would be their last.

God had been good to Philip thus far; He clearly approved of his conduct and his plans, Having deferred the honor so many times, surely God would send him a Philip Sherman junior. When Sarah’s time came, Philip would have been humbly grateful to the almighty for preserving the lives of his beloved helpmeet and the newborn. No doubt the daughter was a surprise, but that was the divine will, and Philip named the baby just as he’d planned.

Miss-Spelling and Miss-Interpretation

Oh yes, misspellings and other errors crop up in official records, and all too often. (I expect you have some frustrating, and / or funny examples of your own.) But, before you relegate my female Philips to the category of mistakes, gentle reader, I offer two points for your consideration:

(1) Philip Sherman / Shearman, General Recorder of Rhode Island, as noted above, has been recognized for his excellent handwriting. This ability and attention to detail were key qualifiers for creating official documents for the colony. It’s reasonable to expect that what Philip wrote, he meant to write. For example, on 15 Apr 1678, Philip Sherman deeded some land to…

Benjamin Chase my son-in-law and my daughter Philip his wife.

Three years later, he made his will (dated on 31 Jul 1681)…

Philip Shearman, yeoman, aged seventy-one years, of the Town of Portsmouth… to my daughter Philip ten ewe sheep.

The man, Philip, the colony’s recording secretary, in two documents, spelled his daughter’s name exactly the way he spelled his own. He meant to do that. To avoid confusion, he specified “daughter.”

 (2) There is consistency in records that give the name Philip to females through time. Examples from Freetown, Masachusetts records and compiled indexes include marriage listings:

CHASE, Benjamin (1639-1731) & Phillip / Phillopa [SHERMAN] (1652-); ca 1672?; Portsmouth, RI / Freetown

HATHAWAY, Jacob & Phillippa / Philip? CHASE; 28 Jan 1696/7, 1696; Taunton

We see the compiler’s instinct to femininize the form for the bride, but that eloquent “?” tells us the record said Philip. Here’s a birth

Born in freetown Philip Chase the daftor [daughter] of Benjamin Chase born 5 day of July 1679 ———

Image excerpt from Freetown, MA town register showing

Click to enlarge the image.

The Jacob and Phillip (Chase) Hathaway who married in 1696, decided to name a son Philip, so our female Philip skipped generation. However, Jacob and Philip’s daughter Hannah Hathaway, married Lot Strange and named her first daughter, born in 1722, Philip Strange, and we hit the jackpot with marriage records for this lady:

Philip Strange to John Payne (Paine) Jr. 10 Apr 1738

Philip Pain to Seth Chace (Chase) 7 Nov 1751

John Crandon of Dartmouth & ye widow Philip Chase of Freetown were married December ye 14th – –  – 1768.

Over three decades, with different town clerks, we see the same, masculine name, attached to women. That’s consistency. Finally, nearly 30 years after the 1768 marriage, among the town’s compiled death records (1686-1844), is a 1795 listing for Freeborn Paine (Payne) which gives the wrong father, but note the detail on the mother:

Freeborn Payne, son of Eben.r & wife Philip (m.n. Strange) died Sept. 11, 1795.

I believe, the sources out there giving Philippe, Philopa, Phillipa, etc. as given names for these Sherman, Chase and Strange girls were just reacting to cultural conditioning, making the Philip of the records into an appropriately feminine form. Is that correction really necessary? How many researchers would conclude that Philip & Benjamin, Philip & Jacob, Philip & John or Seth were married male couples in colonial Massachusetts? Not likely.

I think we should relax, be accurate, and accept – like that founding father of Portsmouth, that Philip is a fine, worthy and noble name for a child of any gender. But I have a final surprise for the finish, – the original Philip Sherman was not himself named for his father, but for his mother, Philippa (Ward) Sherman (1577-1610). Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Notes & Sources:

Philip (name meaning), Greek for a lover of horses. Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_%28name%29

Unisex names; Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unisex_name

[1] New England Families Genealogical and MemorialAmerican Historical Society, editor,1916; reprint, LaVergne, TN: BIBLIOLIFE, LLC, 12 May 2012), Page 363.

AmericanAncestors.org (New England Historical Genealogical Society); RICR  1:209, 217, 230, 236. | Great Migration Study, Philip Sherman profile.

FamilySearch.org; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film # 1993524.

Ancestry.com: Torry, Clarence A. New England Marriages Prior to 1700; Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown, MA.

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Ken Burns – Please, Love Thy Loyalist Ancestor, Too

I never thought I’d say this, but Ken Burns disappointed me. Of course, the documentary films he’s given us are priceless –  The Civil War – Baseball – Jazz, and recently, The Roosevelts. But this same Ken Burns, when he learned one of his ancestors was a Loyalist (or Tory) during the American Revolution, reacted as though told Darth Vader was his father. Considering that Burns also has a Virginia ancestor who owned slaves, – this stung and stunned me.

It happened that I was watching the October 2014 Season 2 episode of the wonderful PBS series, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that featured Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, and Anna Deavere Smith. I gave myself several months , to make sure I wasn’t overreacting,  and here I am. I’ll give you two reasons why, the first, as you may have guessed, is that I have Loyalists in my tree; second, Burns, steeped in history, should know that in any war, people caught up in power struggles – are not simply good guys or bad guys. Ken Burns, of all people, should realize that it wasn’t the Civil War, but the American Revolution that first pitted brother against brother.

Most Americans were farmers, many with deep roots in the land, some with Mayflower ancestors. Through generations of tilling, toiling, and building, families developed farms and expanded homes that they were proud to pass on to their children. They obeyed the laws and paid their taxes; they prayed for peace, so they could get on with their lives. But sometimes their neighbors wouldn’t let them. From U.S. History.org:

Patriots subjected Loyalists to public humiliation and violence. Many Loyalists found their property vandalized, looted, and burned. The patriots controlled public discourse. Woe to the citizen who publicly proclaimed sympathy to Britain.”

D. Hamilton Hurd’s History of Bristol County, Massachusetts (1883) mentions my own revolutionary era ancestors among the Chase, Hathaway, Briggs and Paine families below:

   “At a legal town-meeting held at ye public meeting-house house in Freetown on ye 31st day of May 1777, ye following Tories were voted for trial, viz.: George Brightman, William Winslow, Luther Winslow, John Winslow, Jael Hathaway, Solomon Terry, Abiel Terry, Abiel Terry, Jr., William Hathaway, Silas Hathaway (2nd), Silas Terry, Ebenezer Terry, Benjamin Tompkins, Ralph Paine, Job Paine, Job Paine (2nd), George Chase, George Chase, Jr., Bradford Gilbert, Ephraim Winslow, Ammi Chase, Horah Durfee, Jonathan Dodson, Job Terry, Silas Sherman, Benjamin Cleaveland, Abraham Ashley, John Briggs. – Then Maj. Joshua Hathaway was chosen agent in behalf of ye said town.”

Another book, Divided Hearts – Massachusetts Loyalists 1765 – 1790 by David E. Maas (1980), lists some of the names above: [Note: inimical means hostile or malevolent]

Ammi Chase – Freetown; shipwright RM & L 1777 Family L guilty inimical trial 1777

Eber Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1778

Ezra Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1777

George Chace, Jr. – Freetown; husbandman RM F; guilty inimical trial 1777; J 1777

Silas Hathway – Freetown; boatman RM inimical trial 1777

Illustration for the American Revolution

It wasn’t only neighbors who turned against one another, families were wrenched apart too, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. My 5th great-grandfather, James P. Chase (1745-1816), born in Freetown, was chased away from there, lived in New York for a time, then fled with the 80,000 or so other American loyalists to New Brunswick, Canada. James, however, may be seen as a bad guy, because he actually profited from the war, and I wouldn’t argue. But he paid an awful cost.

Nearly all of James Chase’s 17 brothers and sisters remained near their Massachusetts birthplace, even his brother, George (1755-1787), the Loyalist sympathizer mentioned above. His brothers, Edward Chase (1742-1815) who served 4 days in the Third Company of Freetown Militia in August 1780 and Greenfield Chase (1854-1810) who served in the First Company for 6 days – are Patriots to their proud descendants.

I hope Ken Burns will eventually find a way to embrace his Loyalist ancestor. Those times were difficult for all Americans; terrifying for those tortured by mobs; deadly for those who fell defending their homes and families from the British – or from former friends and neighbors. I believe, people of character acted with honorable intent, whether they chose to stand for tradition  – or to blaze new trails in the history of the world, both Patriot and Loyalist ancestors are worthy of respect.

For those interested, there is even a membership organization called Loyalists & Patriots.

Sources & Resources:

Wikipedia – Loyalist (American Revolution); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_(American_Revolution)

AmericanRevolution.org; The Loyalist Pages; http://www.americanrevolution.org/loyalist.php

Divided hearts, Massachusetts loyalists, 1765-1790 : a biographical directory / compiled and edited Maas, David E. [S.l.] : Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ; [Boston] : New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1980.

U.S. History: The American Revolution; 11b. Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots; http://www.ushistory.org/us/11b.asp

History of Bristol County, Massachusetts with Biographical Sketches; D. Hamilton Hurd, (1883; reprint, Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1883), 285-308. Cit. Date: 12 Jul 2014.