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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Russells of Woburn, MA

I have long been curious about the Russell family who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1640. John Russell, Sr. and his wife Elizabeth (nee unknown) settled in the area that had been formerly called Charlestown Village. In May 1640, the residents of Charlestown Village applied for and received additional lands to the west, thus accommodating the growing agricultural needs of the community. It is said that this village changed it’s name to Woburn, in honor of Woburn, England. The curious thing is that Woburn, England is the family seat of the Russell family, the Dukes of Bedford.  The first Earl of Bedford, John Russell, 1547, was given the former Cistercian Monks’ Abbey for his home, now called Woburn Abbey, by King Henry VIII.  From all the sources I have read, I can find no connection between John Russell, immigrant, and the Russell family, Dukes of Bedford.  The relatively close, geographical locations of the two families suggests that there may have been a familial connection but it is not recorded and, if so, is lost to the mists of time.

(First Burial Ground, Woburn, MA)

Over time, the name has seen many variations of spellings, such as: du Rozel, Rossel, Rossell, Rowsell, Rozel, Rusell, Rusels, Russel, Russell, Russells. If you are looking into the Russell family, be sure to include all spellings in your research.

Records show that John Russell married again on May 13 1645 in Woburn MA to Elizabeth Baker.  They had at least one child, Mary Russell, b. 1645/46 in Charlestown, MA. This would suggest that she was born in the area that would become known as Woburn, when the community changed its name.

Mary Russell m. Timothy Brooks, the s/o Henry Brooks and an unknown wife. They moved to Swansea MA with the Baptists and then on to Cohansey NJ. Timothy became a minister and moved to NJ about 1687, where he kept his own congregation. He was known as a sweet and loving man. He and Mary had 12 children. Mary died in 1680 so she didn’t make the move to NJ with her family.

                          (Coles River, Swansea, MA)

Their daughter, Rebecca Brooks, was born about 1679. She married Melatiah Martin, s/o John and Joanna Esten Martin. He was an ordained Deacon in the Second Baptist Church of Swansea, MA. They had 8 children. Descent is through their daughter Keziah Martin and her husband, William Wood.

a.)  Keziah Martin (1697-1753) m. 1716 William Wood (1693-?)
b.)  Hannah Wood (1720-1756) m. 1740 Nathaniel Finney (1720-1809)
c.)  Anne Finney (1747-1804) m. 1766 Benjamin Tower (1744-1804)
d.)  Phebe Elizabeth Tower (1777-1822) m. 1792 Edward Buck (1763-1826)
e.)  George Buck (1798-1878) m. 1820 Phebe Palmer (1801-1881)
f.)   Catherine Buck (1824-1904) m. 1841 Edward Cole (1815-1897)
g.)  Rebecca Cole (1854-1944) m. 1878 Alexander Chambers (1855-1887)
h.)  Alvina Chambers (1880-1970) m. 1901 Patrick John Broderick (1879-1944), my maternal grandparents

Swansea, MA was once a part of Rehoboth, MA, Warren and Barrington RI. Tracing family names is difficult enough without all the town boundary changes and, eventually, state boundary changes. One really needs to read the town histories for the whole area to get a good feel for what was happening from the mid 1600’s-1700’s. After Swansea became established, it was the first town attacked by Metacomet’s (aka King Philip) men in protest over broken treaties.  Most of the town was burned and many chose not to rebuild in Swansea. The area has a great deal of history to absorb. I find it interesting that Swansea has two rivers with names associated with my family. The first, Cole’s River, is named for Hugh Cole, my 7th gt. grandfather and the Palmer River, which I have not yet connected to my family, but hope to do so as research continues.

(Palmers River, Rehoboth, MA)

Another stumbling block for this region is there are so many cemeteries. Most of them are small, family plots that had been associated with a home or farm. Many are overgrown and the stones are difficult to read. I’ve provided a link to the Bristol County Cemetery web site for any who are interested.



An Account of Some of the Descendants of John Russell, The Emigrant, Gurdon Wadsworth Russell, MD, LLD, 1910


A History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Mass., Samuel Sewall, MA, 1868

Historic and Architectural Resources of Barrington, RI, Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission


http://genealogytrails.com/mass/bristol/cemeteries.html