Mother Dead from Smallpox, Daughter in Disgrace


The second of John and Sarah Brown’s children to predecease him1 was eldest daughter Sarah, who died of smallpox in 1678:

The next year his oldest daughter, Mrs. Sarah Poor, was one of the victims to the smallpox in Charlestown, at which time 40 persons died. She left seven small children. The eldest, Sarah, was 17, and being left without a mother’s watchful care, she was shortly after in difficulty, being brought before Court for having a child. She was sentenced to be whipped and imprisoned. She afterwards died in jail, Feb. 9th, 1688.2

Although this is more information than I’ve been able to find about many of the early descendants of my tenth great-grandfather John Brown who are nothing more than names and dates, there are just too many unanswered questions before I can lay these two Sarahs to rest. Who was the father of Sarah’s illegitimate child, and why didn’t he marry her? What were the circumstances of her death in prison at age 27? What became of her child?

Given that Cousin Asa wasn’t particularly diligent about citing his sources, I thought that looking for corroboration in birth and death records on Family Search would be a good place to start. I’m finding discrepancies, so I’ll be taking some time to research further. In the meantime, I’ve read some useful information on other genealogy blogs about “bastardy” in Puritan New England, which should help in my search.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to find out more information, so stay tuned, and if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!

1John’s wife Sarah Walker Brown had died in 1672.

2Asa Warren Brown, “From the Exeter News Letter, October 27, 1851: The Hampton Brown Family” (unpublished manuscript, Personal Papers of Ronald Dalrymple Brown, n.d.), 4.

2 thoughts on “Mother Dead from Smallpox, Daughter in Disgrace

  1. Thanks for the suggestion! I’m familiar with the website, but I’m not a member.

    I just checked the library holdings at the University of New Hampshire, which is just down the road from me, and they have access to the American Ancestors database!


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