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John "Perkyns" was baptized in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England, on 23 December 1583. John and his family were on the ship Lyon when it left Bristol, England, on 1 December 1630 and landed in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, on 5 February 1630/31.2 It was reportedly "a very tempestuous passage." Transcripts of the passenger list vary, but apparently, in its fullest, it says John was from "Hilmorton, Warwick" and intended to go to Boston. He was traveling with wife Judith and children John, Elizabeth, Mary, Thomas and Jacob. This corresponds to the Hillmorton parish register, in which these and a daughter Ann have baptisms recorded and John and Judith's marriage. I don't see Ann's burial record in Hillmorton or surrounding parishes. Since she would still have been a child when they left, she undoubtedly had died.
     The contemporary journal of Thomas Prince clearly shows why the arrival of Lyon was cause for celebration in New England.3 Even ten years after Mayflower came over, the poorer settlers there were reliant on imports to survive. Scurvy was one of the major causes of death. Prince says "The natural causes seem to be the want of warm lodging & good diet and the sudden increase of heat they endured who landed here in the Summer...those of Plymouth who...landed in Winter died of the scurvy, as did the poorer sort, whose housing and bedding kept them not sufficiently warm, nor their diet sufficiently in heart [hearty], but when this ship came, which brought store of juice of lemons, many recover speedily." A successful voyage wasn't guaranteed, and there were immigrant and provisioned ships that were lost at sea.
     The first record of John Perkins in Massachusetts is when he took the freeman's oath on 18 May 1631 at the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court.4 At the 3 April 1632 session of the court, a proclamation was made that "noe pson wtsoever shall shoote att fowle upon Pullen Poynte or Noddles Illeland, but that the sd places shalbe reserved for John Perkins to take fowle wth netts."5 Pullen Point is now the City of Winthrop. Nearby Noddles Island is the neighborhood of East Boston, now part of a bigger land mass that includes Logan Airport. On 7 November 1632, the General Court appointed John to a committee "to sett downe the bounds betwixte Dorchester and Rocksbury."6
     Having been found guilty of drunkenness at the court held on 1 October 1633, he ("Srjeant Perkins") was ordered to "carry 40 turfs to the ffort." 7 The only fort in the greater Boston area was at Boston. I haven't found a meaning for "turfs" at this time different from pieces of soil (they didn't have lawn grass in 17th century New England), so I take this to mean pieces of peat. There aren't any routine militia appointments on record this early, but he was promoted to an ensign by 3 March 1635/36. The court session on that day discharged him.8 The last mention found of him in these court records was as a "deputy" (town representative) at the session of 25 May 1636.9
     The baptism of John and Judith's daughter Lydia is on record at the First Church in Boston on 3 June 1631.10 John and Judith are on the list of members of the church, their admission undated but likely on or just before Lydia's baptism.11 Her baptism year is widely stated as 1632. This error, among others still being repeated today, may have originated in The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Mass, published in two editions in 1884 and 1889 and then copied thereafter.12 The date in the original record is "The 3rd of the 4th Moneth 1631." On the contemporary Julian calendar, the fourth month was June. John and Judith's child before Lydia was born in 1624. Given that Judith was baptized in mid 1583, her last child within the normal range of fertility, would be expected about 1627. She appears to have had Lydia in 1630 or 1631 about nine years after Jacob, making her 48 or 49.
     John, Judith and their children moved from Boston to Ipswich. I think this happened after 1 October 1633, when John was orderd to take turf to the fort in Boston. Ipswich was named at the 5 August 1634 session of the General Court, changing it from the Native American "Agawam."13 At the first recorded Ipswich town meeting in November 1634, John is mentioned in the deciding of vague boundaries of Ipswich as having a "plantinge ground" at a "Cove of the River" at the east side of town.14 It's safe to say the Perkinses had moved within the previous year.
     In the record of land at this time, apparently in 1634, he was given about forty acres "bounded on the East by Mr. Thomas Coles his Land on the South by a small Cricke, on the West unto the towne side."16 This was later called Manning's Neck. The "town side" likely referred to the main settled area or village, located where it still is today. His neighbor to the east, Thomas Coles, had 200 acres and to the east of him "unto the sea" was designated common land "forever." It was customary when establishing these coastal towns to have common marshes for gathering roof thatch. These marshy areas haven't changed much since then. His north and west boundaries were creeks. His south boundary isn't clear. We have the one mysterious description "small cricke" above and a vague reference to his homestead at the "cove of the river." The latter surely was the dramatic bend in the Ipswich River just west of Ipswich village. A map recreating property bounds in 1640 show a mix of owners along this part of Ipswich River, including lots occupied by John's sons. I haven't found how much of the riverfront property here was John's. If it was all his, he sold it or gave it away by 1640. The creek to the north may be the one running south of Greenwood Farm Road.
     Maybe at or by October 1635, the date being unclear, John was given more land17 - thirty acres of upland and ten acres of meadow "lying towards the head of Chebocky creeke, havinge Thomas Howlett's Land on the Southwest." Chebacco Creek became Essex River, the head of which, in the mid 17th century, was probably considered to be what's now the village part of the town of Essex. On 2 March 1638 he appears to have sold this to Thomas Howlett.18 This record says it was given to John in 1636 and was 40 acres, but given that it was both meadow and upland and the only real estate John had recorded in the Chebacco neighborhood, it must be the same. Their final agreement about the transfer was on 23 April 1638. Continuing with the 1635 grants, "Likewise a little Island commonly called Mores poynt, about fifty acres lyinge on the South side of the Town River." This is the only mention I've found to "More's Point," or maybe Moore's Point, in Ipswich. Another reference to it is a boundary description of an adjacent island given to Thomas Boreman,19 which was bounded north by the "Towne" (Ipswich) River, on the east by a creek between it and John Perkins's island and on the west by Labor in Vain Creek. From the above description, "More's Point" has to have been what is now Treadwell's Island, which comes to a sharp point at its north end. This is unlikely, since the history of that area doesn't seem to accomodate John's ownership. More research is needed. There is an area of what available maps show as marshland to the east of Treadwell's Island. It would have to have been significantly different in 1635 to warrant being "More's Point," because some published histories refer to the Perkinses having a small dwelling there, requiring upland.

the bottom image is from the 1872 Beers atlas map of Ipswich.

The rest of the 1635 Perkins grants are these: "Likewise ten acres of Land upon part where of he hath built an house having William Perkins on the Southwest. Likewise six acres of meaddow and six of upland joyining to the former ten acres all these lying at the East end of the Town, having William White's Land on the Northeast, and the highway to Jeffries Neck on the Northwest." The road to Jeffries Neck is still called "Jeffrey's Neck Road." William Perkins must be the minister who settled in Topsfield. He may have been a relative, but it wasn't close. He came from London and before that, his family was in a different part of Warwickshire than John's. "Also five acres of marsh upon the same Neck of Land, having a parcell of meaddow formerly granted Thomas Howlett on the Northwest a parcell of meadow of Thomas Clarke on the West, at the south end abbutting upon the Town River, at the North end upon the great creeke joying to Mr. Bracy's Land." Being only five acres and having the river on the south and the creek on the north seems to put this parcel at the far end of a neck of marsh extending east of what is now the end of Newmarch Street. On 1 March 1638 he was given "six acres of salt marsh adjoyneing unto the medow he hath lately bought of Serjent Howlett uppon the necke at the East end of the Towne."

Continuing with the Ipswich town records, he was on committees to oversee land divisions in 1634.20 On 20 February 1637 he was chosen to be on another committee for land surveying, to "assist the lott layers" in establishing farms for Gov. Dudley, Simon Bradstreet, Secretary of the Colony, and the very wealthy and knighted Richard Saltonstall.21 The next year, Saltonstall joined "Goodman" Perkins (meaning he was a freeman in good standing and of lesser status that the "Mr." suffix given to Winthrop, Bradstreet and Saltonstall) and several others to join the "lott layers" to view and lay out more land.22 John served on more such committees in years to come. Also at the 20 February meeting he was chosen to "order Towne business for these three months next following" with John Winthrop, sometime governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Simon Bradstreet and three prominent Ipswich men. They were, in essence, the town's selectmen. He was chosen for this again, this time for six months, on 10 February 1640,24 and again on 11 March 1646 25 This, among other things, signifies John's place in the status hierarchy of Ipswich and implies something similar in Boston. He couldn't be considered one of the Colony's elite, but I would guess that his appeal on these surveying committees was more a reflection of respect than it was experience. What was more evidently a matter of landowner status was that he and several others were given "power to lay out ways on the north side of the river,"26 but priority given among the lot owners was to be deferred to the "magistrates." It was at this town meeting that someone is actually appointed a "lott layer," showing that the committeemen weren't doing the actual surveying. 4 April 1644, 112 On 22 December 1648 he was on a list of men due money for killing foxes. For three foxes, John was to get three shillings.27
16 February 1651, surveyor of highways. 18 March 1652/53, "Goodman Perkins is to have ten shillings for his bull & his cowes to goe free till the 12 of June?"      John was on the grand jury for the Ipswich session of the Essex County Quarterly Court on 28 December 1641.28 He was on a grand jury there on 26 September 1648 and 28 September 1652.29 He was excused from militia training in the 26 March 1650 session with a reference to him being "above 60 years old."30

John Perkins's will, transcribed from the original:31

28th of ye first mo called March, 1654

I John Perkines the elder of Ipswich being at this tyme sick and weake in body yet through the mercy and goodnes of the Lord retaining my understanding and memory doe thus dispose of and bequeath my temporall estate as ffolloweth

first I doe give and bequeath unto my eldest sonn John Perkines a foale of my young mare being now with foale if it please the Lord shee foale it well also I give and bequeath to my sonn John's two sonnes John and Abraham to each of them one of my yearling heyfers: also I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Perkines one cow and one heyfer also I give and bequeath to his son John Perkines one ewe & to be delivered for his use att the next shearing tyme also I doe give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth Sarjeant one cow and an heyfer to be to her and her children after her decease as it may please ye Lord they may increase the profflts or increase to be equally devided amongst the sayde children also I doe give to my daughter Mary Bradbery one cow and one heyfer or a young steere to remain to her and to her children in theyr increase or profflts as it shall please the Lord to bless them and to be equaly devided to ye children also I doe give and bequeath to my daughter Lidia Bennitt one cow and one heyfer or steere to be equaly devided to her children in theyr increase or profflts after her desease: I doe also give unto my grandchilde Thomas Bradbery one ewe to be sett apart for his use at ye next shearing tyme: also I do give and bequeathe unto my sonn Jacob Perkines my dwelling house together with all the outhowseing and all my landes of one kinde and other together with all improvements thereupon to be his in full posession according to a former covenant after the decease of my wyfe and nott before and so to remaine to him and to his heires forever: all the rest of my estate of one kinde and other I doe wholy leave iny deare wife Judeth Perkines apointing and ordaining my sade wyfe apointing and ordaining my sade wyfe the sole Executrix of this my last will and testament desiring my sayde wife to dispose of the cattell above mentioned according to her discresion as they shall prove steeres or heyfers as also to dispose of some of the increase of the sheep to ye children of my sonn Thomas and of my three daughters at the discresion of my sayde wife and this I doe ordaine as my last will and testament subscribed with mine owne hand this twenty eight day of ye first month 1654. John [mark] Perkines
his mark

Signed in presence of

William Bartlholmew
Thomas Harris

pved in court held at Ipswich the 26 (7) 1654 by the oath of William Bartholmew and Thomas Harris p me Robert Lord cleric

The inventory of John's estate transcribed from the original:

An Inventory of the Estate of John Perkines Senior deceased

It the dwelling howse and barn with out howsing
[£]40-00 [shillings]-00 [pence]
It land about the howse about eight acres 12-00-00
It more land unbroake up about fourteen acres 21-00-00
It a pcell of marsh about six acres at 40 s
[hillings] per acre 12-00-00 It a pcell of upland and marsh being much broken about xx acres at 20 s p acre 20-00-00 It 12 acres of improved land at 50 s p acre 24-00-00 It one mare with a mare foal at 25-00-00 It six milch cowes at 30-00-00 It four yearling heyfers & a steere at 11-10-00 It six ewes at 35 s p 10-10-00 It 5 yewe lambes at 05-00-00 It one yearling weather and two weather lambs 02-00-00 It one young calfe 00-15-00 It one cow at the pasture a sow & 3 piggs all 08-00-00 It one feather bed with bedsteed & furniture 04-00-00 It one coverlid with other small thinges being linen most 02-10-00 It left in mony at his decease 10-00-00 It a cart, plowes a harow with severall goods of lumber as caske tubbs cheares axes hoes etc valuable 05-00-00 It severall ketles pottes & dishes in the kitchin 02-00-00 It his wearing aparell 05-00-00 ---------------

witnesses & aprisers

William Bartholmew
John Anabl

red in the court held at Ipswich the 26 of the (7) 1654

p me Robert Lord cleric

     George A. Perkins includes two signatures of John's in his book. One is from the probate records of Sarah Dillingham in 1645. That document was apparently taken from the county courthouse before the records were microfilmed. I only find it in transcribed form in the probate volumes. The other, which is clearly by a different hand, is apparently from an Ipswich town record of an agreement among neighbors about fences dated 15 February 1635. I haven't found this among the images of the town's original records. I have no idea if either of these are actually his signature. John, Jr.'s, signature looks nothing like either.

children of John Perkins and Judith Gater:32

i. John, bap. 14 December 1609
ii. Elizabeth bap. 25 March 1611
iii. Mary bap. 3 September 1615
iv. Ann, bap. 5 September 1617
v. Thomas bap. 28 April 1622
vi. Jacob , bap. 12 September 1624
vii. Lydia, bap. 3 June 1631

vital records sources:

3. verbatim translation from The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649 (Harvard University Press:1996), 44-46, digitized at See also Winthrop's Journal, History of New England, 1630-1649, (Charles Scribner's Sons:New York, 1908), 57-58, published as part of the series "Original Narratives of Early American History."
4. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England [hereafter RGCMB], vol. 1 (Boston:1853), 366.
5. Ibid, 94.
6. Ibid, 102.
7. Ibid, 108.
8. Ibid, 165.
9. Ibid, 174.
10. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 39, (Boston:1961), "Records of the First Church in Boston," 277, accessed at
11. Ibid, 14
12. George Augustus Perkins, The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts, (Salem:1884), 2.
13. RMGCB, 123.
14. The Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich, vol. 1 (Ipswich, 1899), not consistently paginated, digitized at, image 10.
15. Ibid, (images hereafter) 136.
16. Ibid, 12.
17. Ibid, 22.
18. Ibid, 38, 40.
19. Ibid, 60.
20. Ibid, 12, 14.
21. Ibid, 30.
22. Ibid, 36.
24. Ibid, 84.
25. Ibid, 120.
26. Ibid, 81.
27. Ibid, 132
28. Records and Files of the Essex County Quarterly Court, vol. 1 (Essex Institute:Salem, 1911), 37.
29. Ibid, vol. 3 (1913), 144, 260.
30. Ibid, 187.
31. Essex Co., MA, probate case file 21337.
32. All of these baptisms except Lydia's are in the Hillmorton parish register of St. John the Baptist Church. See note 10 for Lydia's citation.

all text and photographs © 1998-2022 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted