Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#72--Dedham, Massachusetts--Visiting A Favorite Place

What is your favorite place to research and who was from there is the theme for this week's blog.  A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about one of my favorite places--Butler, Missouri and John W. Hannah so I needed to pick another place.  After some thought, I decided that Dedham, Massachusetts would be a good choice.  I have visited Dedham, done a considerable amout of research about it, and have many ties to that area.  My immigrant ancestor, Edward Richards, was from Dedham and arrived there in 1636.  My Richards line remained in Dedham from then until about 1890.  Not only am I related to the Richards, I also have ties to the Newells, Huntings, Metcalfs, Fairbanks, Smiths, Fullers, and Fishers and several other families,  I discovered that it is a pleasure to research my Dedham ancestors as the town records are fairly complete and readily available.  As I have said to other genealogists, ""Those Puritans wrote everything down."  So I know that Edward Richards was a selectman and picked to represent the town in Court, but also fined for not inspecting the fences.

Dedham was established in 1636 when the citizens of both Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts decided to establish two other plantations, one in Dedham, the other in Hartford, Connecticut.  The General Court granted the original petitioners of Dedham 200 square miles of land south and west of Boston.  The intent of these Puritans was to establish a Christian community, where its citizens would live by the Golden Rule, where differences between people would be settled by mediation, where citizens would donate time to maintain the community, and where town rules and policies would be followed.  Their intention were contained in a document known as the Dedham Covenant.  Those desiring to settle in Dedham need to be acceptable to the prior signers of the Covenant and were required to sign the covenant.

Over the years, Dedham went from a town of about 200 in 1640 to 24,729 at the 2010 census.  In addition, due to increases in population, other towns-- Medfield (1651), Wrentham (1673), Needham (1711), Walpole (1724), Dover (1784), Norwood (1872), and Westwood (1897)were established from the land which had been granted to Dedham.

Twice I was able to visit Dedham.  So here are some of the highlights of those trips.

The bus left me off on High Street, which is the town's main street.

HIgh Street
I quickly walked down the street to the Dedham Historical Society and Museum.    While I was there, I did some research on my Richards ancestors, looked at the exhibit of Dedham Pottery, and visited the Museum.
Dedham Historical Society and Museum

I also saw the Allin Congregational Church, which was established in 1637.

Allin Congregational Church

Many of my ancestors are buried in The Village Cemetery.  So I had to go there.  I spent time looking at the Richards headstones and taking pictures of them.  

Village Cemetery

About 10 minutes from the town center is the Fairbanks House.  My 8th great grandfather, Jonathan Fairbanks  built this house in 1637.  It is the oldest standing timber –frame house in North America. I walked over to it and had a wonderful tour.   For more information about the house see #27--Jonathan Fairbanks--Building his Family a House

Jonathan Fairbanks House

One of these days, I hope to go back to Dedham.  I would like to spend more time at the Historical Society, visit some of the other nearby towns, and see some of the other cemeteries in the area.


  1. Having ancestors from Dedham myself (and having visited there - sadly just once!), I really enjoyed your post. We are distant cousins - Jonathan Fairbanks is my 9th great grandfather. (Now I must go read your story about him; I've also written about him this year as part of the 52 Ancestors project) Other of my ancestors in Dedham include Bullens and Morses.

    1. .Jonathan Fairbanks is my 8th great grandfather so we are indeed cousins.

  2. I grew up in Dedham and have lived in Needham for 23 years. However no direct ancestors lived here as far as I know (though I have plenty of colonial Massachusetts ancestors).

    When I was a child, I was amazed and puzzled when my mother told me that Dedham used to go all the way to the Rhode Island border. It wasn't until I was older that I understood the history of the area and how towns split off from Dedham.

  3. Mary, I am also a descendant of Edward Richards and have done a great deal of research about him. Please contact me at jeffrey.herrmann@gmail.com to share information.