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Two examples of William's signature. Others of his signatures also show this shift between two different forms of "W." This wasn't unusual for the time, when writing and spelling was more fluid.

William lived his entire life in Beverly, as far as records show. He was a mariner, and may have sailed with his father to learn his seafaring skills. He called himself a mariner all his life, but he apparently owned or co-owned ships.
     This is an edited version of William's will, and based on the recorded copy.1 The original is badly damaged and the second and perhaps third pages, with his signature, are missing from the microfilming of the probate packet. However, there is enough surviving to show that the recorder changed the almost universal, contemporary, family-used spelling "Woodbery" to "Woodberry." See below for a more in-depth discussion of the name:

I, William Woodberry of Beverly...mariner, being...of disposeing mind & memory although very infirm of body thro weakness that hath long attended me, therefore mindfull of my near approching change I doe make this my last will & testament...

I...bequeath to my loveing wife Joanna my now dwelling house and all my house hold stuff as beds and beding, bedsteads and all other moveables in the house and all the corn and meat and other provision that is in the house or shall be brought in for ye Winter store and all wooll & cloth that is in the house and flax that is in the barn and all her wareing apparrill and the creatures hereafter named vizt. two cows and six good ews all which shee shall have libberty to chuse out of my stock and also my hourse & halfe the corn and halfe the apples and halfe the cyder that shall be raised on my liveing, with halfe the pasturing and earbidge of the same and halfe the barn standing to the eastward of my home, all cord & cyder, apples and the halfe of everything that is raised on my land before given to my wife Joannah, my five sons shall bring into the house for her, & halfe the hay, stalks and straw and winter meat for the creatures, halfe of all sorts, they my five sons shall put itt into the barn yearly for her, also my gardin before the door and also my five sons shall cutt and bring to my wife five cord of wood yearly off my land, all before bequeathed to my loveing wife Joannah to be for her own use during the time of her widowhood so long as shee shall remain my widow & no longer. And if my wife shall see cause to change her condition and marry again, then I give and bequeath to my loveing wife Joannah forever to be att her own disposall the bed wee lye on standing in the west end of my home with all the furniture their unto belongfng and one iron pott and one brass kittle, fire shovell and tongs, one tramill, one pine chest & one square table standing in the east room and three puter platters, six chaires & six spoons & also two cows to be att her own dispose forever

I hereby...bequeath to my two daughters (vizt) Sarah, the wife of Ralph Ellenwood, Jr. and Loes Woodberry to each of them and their heires the sum of ten pounds apeace in Province bills of creditt or mony equevalent thereunto to be paid in eighteen months next after my decease.

I give to my beloved daughter Mary Woodberry, relict & widow of my son Israell Woodberry decd. the west lower room in house shee now lives in and room in the sellar under the same for her own use and also the garden shee now improves before said room to be for her own use and her children to live in as long as shee shall remain my son's widow.

I give to my granchildren, the children of my son Israell Woodberry decd. namely Hannah Woodberry, Abigail Woodberry, Mary Woodberry and Joannah Woodberry, to each of them five pounds apeice... to be paid when they come to be eighteen years of age in passable mony of New England.
I...give unto my loveing daughters namely Sarah Ellenwood and Loes Woodberry, after my wife has done with itt all, the remaining part of my said home, home stuff, beds & beding and all moveabes in the house excepting what I have heretofore given my wife to be att her own disposing forever, to be equally divided between my two daughters...after my wife...her decease or mariage.
I...bequeath unto my loveing son William Woodberry the land his house now stands on and twelve foott from the house on the southwest end of itt and one rod to the north on ye back side of sd house and as far to the east of said house as ye eastermost and to square of from the two northmost corners unto the Cuntry Road itt to be understood twelve feet to the southwest of sd house and as far to the north east as ye garden is now fencd, the eastmost part of itt and so to
[runn] square from the rode or country highway, one rod to ye north or back side of his house to be to him and his heirs forever.
I...bequeath unto my five sons namely William Woodberry, Thomas Woodberry, Hugh Woodberry, Elisha Woodberry and Migill Woodberry, all the rest and remainder of my estate not hereto for mentioned be itt real and personall, houseing, lands, tenements, goods, chattles, also rights and creditts whatsoever and weresoever I have with all vessells, tackling and all things belonging there unto, I hereby give and bequeath unto my before named five sons in equall shares and proportions...and also my will is that after my wife shall marry or decease, then the house, barn & garden, before given her to be equally divided between my before named five sons. And also what I have given my daughter in law Mary Wodberry during the time of her remaning my son's widow. My will is that that be also equally divided between my five sons...they like wise paying all my just debts and funerqall charges in equall proportion...and several legacies due herein before excepted adn rewspectively allotted to the to pay.
My will is that their shall be no division of any of my cretures this Winter untill they are wintered out by reason that there is fodder layd in to keep them till the Spring and that Elisha and Miall, two of my sons, tend them this Winter and also have catol to hall wood for my wife this Winter of my land, and I do hereby make my aforesd loveing sons William Woodberry and Thomas Woodberry sole executors of this my last will and testament...I have hereunto sett my hand and seal this sixth day of Novbr anno seventeen hundred twenty five...

William Woodberry

signed, presence of us witnesses

John Ober
Jonathan Woodberry
Israell Ober[his mark] Black

...Ipswich Novbr 29th 1725...
[the witnesses] all personally apprd and made oath that they ware present and saw William Woodberry...signe, seale and heard him publish and declare ye within ritten instrument...

The will was then approved and the executors were ordered to take an inventory of the estate within a month of the above day.

An inventory of the reall & personall estate of William Woodberry late of Beverly decsd taken by Benja Patch, Nathll Baker & John Ober vizt [slightly edited]

the dwelling house £95
barne £16
a shop by sd house 80/
to a house formerly ye father of ye decsd. £70
1/3 of a barn 18/
fish house 40/
12 acres of upland & meadow of homesteed within fence £300
7 acres & 60 rods of upland on ye north side ye country roade at £23 a piece
7 acres of meadow & pasture land joyning on ye east of Snake Hill £91
5 acres & 150 rods of pasture land joyning on land of Isaac Gray £47 10 shillings
10 acres of wood land lying in Manchester £22, 10 shillings


£821, 6 pence

the personall estate vizt

quick stock of all sorts £21, 18/
bedsteed, beding of all sorts £19, 10/
6 chains &c 39/
brass & iron ware & plater 91/6
chest draws 25/
sundry kitching utensills, husbandry utensalls &c, chests &c as by a perticular inventory on file may appear
[I haven't found this] £24, 14 shillings, 6 pence
2/3 of a fishing skooner with appertenances £97
1/2 a small ditto £10
a fishing boat 70/
old cannon 8/
1/3 of a large pr stillards @ 5/ 3 axes 6/ musquitt & shave 7/
a loome & tackling &c £3, 1 shilling, 6 pence
£183, 16 shillings, 2 pence

Benjamin Patch, John Ober, Nathll Baker apprs
[appaisers] all sworn...Decbr 27 1725, then Thomas and William Woodberry execrs to there father...made oath to ye truth of this inventory...

     It may have been the schooner Endeavor that's mentioned in the inventory. On 22 September 1726, Daniel Williams was paid out of William's estate 15 shillings, 8 pence "which is in full upon the account of the voyage made in the schooner Endeavor in the year 1725." Another receipt was given by Henry Burchstead, having been paid for "sundry medicines and attendance to [William]." This was Dr. Henry Burchstead of Lynn. It's not apparent why someone from a different town was hired. The executors bought gravestone for William from John Holliman, examples of his shop's work being common in the area. This would have been head and foot stones, but they aren't still visible in the Abbot Street Cemetery in Beverly, where his wife is buried.
     Although there isn't a death record for William, it's obvious from his will that he had a lingering illness or debility that had advanced enough for him to feel the need to write a will by 6 November 1725. He refers to things that he wanted taken care of over the Winter, since he knew he wouldn't be alive to do it or see it done himself. He was dead a little over three weeks later.
     This family name in the 17th and early 18th centuries is spelled variously depending on the document and the gravestone. There were varying degrees of literacy, even among town clerks and ministers. Spelling was fluid and often reflected phonetics, but the prevailing spelling amongst family members was decidedly "Woodbery." Since there is no ambiguity about this, I see no reason not to use it. I do so with the note that other spelling were used, uncommonly by Woodberys themselves, more commonly by others. This spelling eventually shifted to "Woodberry," and now "Woodbury" is favored.William Woodberry - William Woodbury

children of William Woodbery and Joanna Wheeler:

i. Sarah, b. 14 December 1690
ii. Hannah, b. 14 January 1692/93, d. 16 March 1693/94
iii. Israel, b. 26 December 1694
iv. William, b. 11 July 1697
v. Thomas, b. 5 September 1700
vi. Hugh, b. 18 Mar 1702/03
vii. Lois, b. 1 May 1705
viii. Elisha, b. 21 February 1706/07
ix. Michael, b. 18 January 1712/13

vital records sources: birth from Vital Records of Salem, Massachusetts to the Year 1849 vol. 2 (Salem:1918), 441 and Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts to the Year 1849 vol. 1 (Topsfield:1906), 390; marriage from Vital Records of Beverly, Massachusetts to the Year 1849 vol. 2 (Topsfield:1907), 351; death from his gravestone?, Abbott Street Burying Ground, Beverly, needs to be confirmed.

1. Essex Co., MA, probate file 30527.

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