Joseph Underwood Genealogy Life Sketch

(1650 - 1691)

Joseph Underwood was born October 11, 1650 in Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America. Sometime before 1673 Joseph married Elizabeth MNU in Watertown. Joseph died prior to April 7, 1691 in Watertown, Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Joseph Underwood was born in Watertown in 1650, the third of 6 known children and 1st son of Joseph Underwood and Mary Wilder. Watertowne as it was spelled in 1650, was founded in 1637, located on the Charles River west of Boston, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America. It was the first inland town in Massachusetts Bay. When Joseph was born, approximately 200 families lived in Watertown. The main part of the town was along the river, where early settlers were granted “homestalls” and built their dwelling house. Settlers were also granted land called dividend land to provide for their survival. North and northwest of town, in today’s Waltham, were woodland and meadows, where settlers cut wood for houses and fences and planted crops for food. West of town, today’s Weston (i.e. West-Town), was pasture land for livestock which included cows, sheep and pigs.

In 1658 when Joseph was 8 years of age, his mother died following the birth of Joseph’s brother Thomas. Joseph’s father remarried in 1665, Mary How. Mary gave birth to Joseph’s half-sister Hannah in 1667. Mary died shortly after the birth.

In 1668 Joseph and his siblings were left legacies in their Uncle Thomas Underwood’s Will when each was devised 3 shillings 4 pence, with the exception of Joseph’s brother Thomas who was devised Uncle Thomas’ estate. The Will noted that Thomas lived with his Uncle and his Uncle’s wife Magdalon, who were apparently childless.

Around 1672, Joseph married Elizabeth whose maiden name is currently unknown. Some genealogists and researchers believe that Joseph married Elizabeth Bond, daughter of William Bond. However this appears to be a misunderstanding of the work of genealogist and historian James Savage who referenced the work of Henry Bond, another historian noted for his book “The History of Watertown”. Records show that Elizabeth Bond married Nathaniel Barsham.

Joseph and Elizabeth had the following known children:

  1. Mary Underwood
  2. Joseph Underwood
  3. John Underwood
  4. Elizabeth Underwood
  5. Joseph Underwood
  6. Joshua Underwood
  7. Jonathan Underwood
  8. Sarah Underwood
  9. Hannah Underwood

While Joseph’s profession is not certain, he most likely was a weaver, which appears to have been the family’s trade.

In 1673, Joseph’s and Elizabeth’s first child was born, a daughter Mary. In 1675, a son Joseph was born. Joseph lived for only a month and died.

When Joseph was 26 years old his father died intestate. An inventory of the estate recorded housing and a homestall of 20 acres, a dividend of 33 acres, 15 acres more of dividend land, 20 acres of township land and 1 ½ acres in “Patch Meadow”. The inventory also recorded 14 sheep and 6 lambs, a spinning wheel, a spool of cotton wool and yarn and 10 pounds of sheep’s wool. His father also “owned” a servant boy, Ben Davis, who had been bound to him in 1666 to learn a trade in return for £12. Ben was an orphan. His mother, Mary Davis, died in the Watertown Gaol (jail) while being held on charges of adultery. Ben lived with another family until the age of 10 when he was bound to Joseph’s father, and then after Joseph’s father’s death, bound to Joseph.

Since Joseph’s father died intestate and Joseph was the oldest male, as dictated by the law, Joseph was allocated a double portion of the estate, an amount of £30..6..8 while each of Joseph’s siblings was allocated £15..03..4. Most of the value of the estate was in land. While Joseph’s siblings were of age, except for Thomas who was 19 years old and had been provided for by his uncle, Hannah was just 10 years old and would need extra support for her care. The siblings, with the exception of Sarah, entered into an agreement giving Hannah part of their allocations, increasing Hannah’s share to £27..3..4. In return for the cooperation of Martha and Elizabeth, Joseph agreed to pay Martha and Elizabeth £5 and then £10 within 6 years. In the agreement there are a couple of items of note: While Sarah, who did not give Hannah a share of her portion but is mentioned as receiving an allocation, sister Mary is not mentioned at all. Mary’s exclusion is a bit of a mystery. Mary married Isaac Ong in 1670. Ong family history relates that Isaac and Mary moved to New Jersey, however no sources confirm this. If this is true, then Mary’s exclusion may have been because she was no longer in the same colony or instead, it may be because Mary was deceased at the time of the agreement. Also of note, sister’s Martha, Sarah and Elizabeth were referred to as “Underwood” and when Martha and Elizabeth entered their marks on the agreement, again they were referred to as “Underwood”, suggesting all were unmarried at the time. In the book “Divided We Stand: Watertown, Massachusetts” by Robert Thompson, Thompson stated that Hannah was the only unmarried sibling. And since no marriage records for Martha, Sarah or Elizabeth have been found, this does not appear to be correct.

In 1677, Joseph and Elizabeth’s son John was born.

In 1678, Joseph purchased for £8 a 2 ½ acre parcel of meadowland from his Uncle Thomas’ widow and her second husband, a man whose name also happened to be Thomas Underwood. A couple of days later Joseph sold 4 ½ acres to Thomas Strayte for £4..10..0. From the descriptions contained in the deeds, these appear to be 2 different parcels so while paying more for a smaller piece of land, maybe Joseph received a better parcel than the one he sold.

In May of 1679, Joseph and Elizabeth's daughter Elizabeth was born.

In January of 1680, Joseph sold 20 acres of land to John Chadwick and then purchased 3 acres of meadow from John Chadwick.

In October of 1680, Joseph paid a bond of £40 pounds to Watertown for the “entertainment” of his newly married sister Hannah, who had married John Gibson. The reason for the bond implies that Gibson was not a resident of Watertown. Joseph entered into the bond ensuring that Hannah and John could stay in Watertown, likely with Joseph, and “not be [in] any ways chargeable to ye Towne”. Non-residents often strained the Town’s resources, both financial and natural, so the town officers, or selectmen as they were called, issued warnings to non-residents to leave.

Joseph’s family grew to 5 when son Joseph was born in 1681 and Joshua in 1682.

In 1684, Joseph agreed to “house the child of Mary Davis”, the orphan Ben Davis who was now an adult and apparently without a place to live. Joseph likely received compensation from the town.

In 1685, another son, Jonathan was born and in 1690, daughter Hannah was born. Also around 1690, oldest daughter Mary, married John Phipps and moved to Reading.

On April 18, 1690 Joseph took the Freeman’s Oath and was admitted as a Freeman. Admittance required that a person was in good standing with the church and community and free from debt.

In February of 1691, Joseph made his last Will and Testament “I Joseph Underwood though weak in body yet sound of mind and memory”. Only Mary Underwood Phipps was of age. Joseph left his estate to be equally divided between his sons John and Joseph when they reached majority, John and Joseph to pay Joshua and Jonathan each £15. Joseph’s estate included housing, orchards, uplands and meadows, as well as a diffident (woodland) of 28 acres and another meadow of 7 acres. Joseph nominated his wife, Elizabeth, and friend Thomas Hammond, to be co-executors of his will.

By April 7, 1691, the date Joseph’s will was proved, Joseph was deceased at the age of 40. Likely, he was buried in the Old Burying Ground in Watertown.

The year following his death, Joseph’s widow Elizabeth refused to enter bond for Ben Davis “to save the town harmless” and Ben was warned out of town.

Genealogical Research and Joseph Underwood Genealogy Life Sketch completed: 9 July 2021


Sources:

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Mary Underwood, 1673.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joseph Underwood, 30 Oct 1675; citing Birth, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 004198966.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joseph Underwood, 29 Jan 1676; citing Death, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009686.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for John Underwood, 6 Mar 1676; citing Birth, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009514.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Elizabeth Underwood, 8 May 1679; citing Birth, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009514.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joseph Underwood, 28 May 1681; citing Birth, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009514.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, Joseph Underwood in entry for Joshuah Underwood, Jan 1682; citing Birth, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009514.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Joseph Underwood in entry for Sary Underwood, 9 Feb 1687; citing Birth, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009514.

“Colonial County Court Papers, 1648 - 1798,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Clerk of Courts. Folios 61-81. Family Search, FHL microfilm 008131116.

“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Middlesex County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate papers 23100-23228. Family Search, FHL microfilm 007553794.

"Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Middlesex, Deeds 1670-1678 vol 4-6 Folio 433; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

"Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Middlesex, Deeds 1678-1684 vol 7-8 Folios 12, 359, 405; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

Lucien Marcus Underwood, “The Underwood Families of America,” New Era Printing Co., Lancaster, PA, 1913 at Internet Archive.

Roger Thompson, “Divided We Stand: Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630 - 1680, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 2001.

Watertown, MA, “Watertown Records, Comprising the First and Second Books of Town Proceedings”, Fred G. Baker Press, 1894.

Joseph Underwood Life Sketch genealogy research