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Mary's signature on two of her husband's probate papers.1 "May Woobdery" came first, in 1707, and suggests she wasn't used to having to spell. This was true of many people who were semi-literate, but that big a difference between spelling between one document to the next about the same time is interesting. Maybe she was momentarily distracted. The bottom example was 21 years later.

Mary had six young children when Peter died and was pregnant with her seventh. It's remarkable that she didn't remarry. An account of Peter's estate twelve years later refers to the income of his "whole estate" for Mary to bring up the children, so this must have been enough to cover their needs, including hiring people to help with the farm. If she had another source of income it isn't apparent. After an estate inventory and agreement to be the executor, Mary had no reason to do anything in terms of probate until 26 September 1715. At that point her oldest child, Abigail, had likely decided to marry, and needed to know about her dowry. The value of Peter's personal estate was divided and it appears Joseph had two shares, as the oldest surviving son, and the others had one, each amounting to £7, 13 shillings. Having settled that, Abigail and Jonathan Conant announced their intentions to marry on 17 November and married in December. The rest of the children were still underage, so their money would have been held in trust. That left the real estate to be divided
     It wasn't until 24 June 1728 that a formalized agreement was made among the heirs to divide the real and personal estate. That may have been done because the youngest child, Rebeckah, had just turned 21 and was legally allowed to enter into such an agreement without a guardian. The agreement says that the surviving sons Benjamin and Peter were to get half the real estate and moveables except the household goods. This translates to the means to carry on farming on the property. Widow Mary was given the household goods and a right to occupy part of the house and use what she needed in terms of spaces like the cellar and outbuildings and the orchard. The sons were to provide her with livestock and edibles for the rest of her life. The daughters had already been given £200 a piece as their share of the estate.
     Rebeckah and her husband announced their marriage plans on 1 December of that year. There's no record of Mercy marrying, and that's likely because, as an unsourced note in a Woodbury genealogy says, she was "just 3 ft. 3 in. tall." There are various reasons men and women didn't marry, as there are today, but it's rare to find a specific reason. When Mary died in 1763 at 88, she surely was living with her son Peter in the house her husband had built. Mercy likely stayed there as well. There's no record of her death. That house still stands, about half again larger, on Dodge Street in Beverly.

children of Peter Woodbery and Mary Dodge:2

i. Mark b. 21 October 1693, d. 17 December 16933
ii. Abigail b. 14 September 1694
iii. Joseph b. 29 September 1696, d. 12 June 17204
iv. Benjamin b. 29 May 1698
v. Mary b. November 1701
vi. Mercy b. 2 August 1703
vii. Peter b. 20 June 1705
viii. Rebeckah b. 1 June 1707

vital records sources: Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 1 (Topsfield, MA:1906), 103; vol. 2, 619, "wife of Deacon her 90th year" is from her gravestone, the year is confirmed in Second Congregational Church records. Her marriage is in Vital records of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 2 (Salem:1910), p. 465, "at Chebacco," which is now Essex, MA and formerly part of the town of Ipswich.

1. Essex Co., MA, probate case 30482.
2. Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 1 (Topsfield, MA:1906),
3. Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 2 (Topsfield, MA:1907), 617.
4. Ibid, 611.

all text and photographs © 1998-2021 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted