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This is a biography in progress

John came to New England with his parents and siblings when he was 17. He is on the 1643? freeman list of Weymouth, Massachusetts. He supposedly moved to Rehoboth by 1643, but his primary residence of record was Weymouth. The family lived in the "Old Spain" neighborhood. In the local militia, John was a lieutenant, then a captain. In August of 1664, John was chosen to serve in the company of Capt. Judson, but he was replaced due to the sickness of his wife and children. In the Spring of 1676, he was captain of a company raised to suppress the "insolence of the Indians" and to "range the wood towards Hassanamesit (Concord)." For this service he was paid a little over £16.
     The published Weymouth vital records have John's death on 23 November 1699. It also cites a gravestone in North Weymouth Cemetery that said he was "abt. 82." While that stone was visible in the mid 1800s, it isn't now. Despite his baptism record in April 1618 (the day for which isn't clear, but has been interpreted in print as the 6th), it's been repeated many times on the internet that he was born on 6 April 1617, thus ignoring the actual record and adjusting it to the gravestone information. He was in his 82nd year, however (which means he was 81), so technically the gravestone wasn't wrong.

     As found among John and Elizabeth's children, it was popular among Protestants in 17th and 18th Century New England to name twin daughters, and less commonly successive daughters, after the Biblical Lois and Eunice. This is likely due to the importance of Timothy's mother, Eunice, and her mother, Lois, as being influential in his Jewish faith.

John's baptism date



John's baptism record is unclear as to day of the month. The above image shows "April" on the top line and John's day of baptism on the second. Both are a part of my review of evidence. Both records say "baptized ye [x] day of Aprill." I haven't included more of this record because of copyright infringement. You can see the full page of the parish record at ancestry.com, but they've indexed it under the name "Holework." Their index agrees with me that the day was the 9th. The findmypast.co.uk index says it's the 10th. Other days have been claimed in publications and on the internet.
     The day is written in Roman numerals, as are many of the baptisms in this parish at this time, although a few are Arabic numerals or digits. The Roman numerals were stylized in a common form of 16th and 17th century English. The handwriting in general appears somewhat rushed. There are inconsistencies all over the place, but this is mostly, if not all, by the same hand. The inconsistencies were normal, both in England and New England. Some more extensive documents (see 17th century New England probate records in the original hand, for instance) are so inconsistent, especially in terms of spelling, that it defies explanation. I have examples below to show how this man formed letters and numerals with enough consistency to make a guess at what John's baptism day was.

Some of the numerals are followed by "th," which was a catch all, apparently. There are no instances of "nd" or "rd."



an example of "th"

John's doesn't have this, meaning each of the figures between "ye" and "day" must be numerals. The last is certainly an "x," meaning 10.



examples of "x" - from left to right, 15th, 16th, 17th

The "x" examples show how different the numerals were from how we would write them today. The first numeral in John's baptism is most likely an "i," meaning 1. The latter seems implausible at first look, but the style of "i" by itself was to make a hard downstroke going below the line. When "ii" and "iii" were written, only the last "i" was strongly downstroked. See the "17th" example above. What looks like "eby" is a very stylized "xvii."



examples of single "i" - 16th, 21"th"

The next numeral may be a mistake. The clerk may have started writing a "v" for 5, but continued with the "x." He didn't cross it out, thinking it wasn't fully formed and didn't matter. I can't think of any other plausible explanation for what happens between the "i" and "x," and "ivx" isn't a number. "V" is certainly formed this way, more or less, and is sometimes formed above the line like this.

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an example of the highly placed "v" formed with a strong dowstroke - 16th and 26th

There's a faint upstroke that may have been made when the clerk was beginning the "v," if it is a "v," and it seems at first look to continue up next to the "p" a little.



I don't think this is all one stroke. The downstroke of many of the "p"s and "y"s makes a small, reverse return before lifting up and starting the next letter.



examples of "p" - the one on the right is above the numerals in John's entry, which I've removed

Below are John's numerals without the word "April" above.



In the end, I think this was his realization, maybe while writing, that he got the day wrong and was left with an awkward thing before he wrote "x." As he downstroked the "v," he paused before writing "x," which left a blotch. Below is the numer without the "mistake."



The records are chronological. The previous baptism was on the 6th, and John's is the last baptism entry for April. For all these reasons I've chosen "ix," meaning 9, as his probable baptism day.


children of John Holbrook and Sarah French:

John
Abiezer
Samuel
Hannah
Sarah

children of John and Elizabeth Otis:

Elizabeth
Mary
Lois, b. 12 May 1658
Eunice, b. 12 May 1658
Experience, b. 21 May 1661
Ichabod b. 20 May 1662




vital records sources: John's baptism record is unclear as to day of the month. It was written in Roman numerals, as are many of the baptisms at this time. The numerals were stylized in a common form of 16th and 17th century English. Some of the numerals are followed by "th," which was a catch all, apparently. There are no instances of "nd" or "rd." John's doesn't have this, meaning each of the figures between "ye" and "day" must be numerals. The last is certainly an "x," meaning 10. The first is most likely an "i," meaning 1. The latter seems implausible at first look, but the style of "i" was to make a hard downstroke going below the line, and then dotted. When the clerk went to dot the i, the pen brushed the paper as he moved up and then made a small stroke instead, drawing down towards where he would write the "x." He then paused briefly before starting the "x," leaving a mark. He apparently had an awkward pen moment. There is a "p" directly above this formed like some others. The downstroke makes a small, reverse return before lifting up and above to start the "r" (April). The juxtapositon of the faint upstroke of the dotting of the "i" seems at first look to continue up next to the "p" a little, but it doesn't. The only conclusion that makes sense to me is "ix," meaning 9. The records are chronological. The previous baptism was on the 6th, and John's is the last baptism entry for April.

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all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted