Monday, September 20, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Excerpts from Rev. William Bentley's Diary

Reverend William Bentley of Salem, Massachusetts
portrait by Frothingham at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Diary of Adolph Gaetz of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia here, and wrote about how I found many clues to my ancestors' Lunenburg lives in this book. Another diary, available in book form in many libraries, is the diary of Reverend William Bentley of Salem, Massachusetts.

Rev. Bentley (1759 -1819) was minister of Salem's Second Congregational Church from 1783 until the end of his life. He kept eleven volumes of diaries and journals, which were condensed and published in a three volume set. There is also a separate index available for his diary, with many surnames listed.

In this book I was able to find many Salem ancestors, some were described as the Reverend's close friends. Here are a few excerpts that helped me further my genealogical research. They were good clues, and some of them have led to primary source citations in vital records, and others remain elusive to me (so far!).

The Diary of William Bentley, D. D. By William Bentley, Joseph Gilbert Waters, Marguerite Dalrymple, Alice G. Waters, Essex Institute

From Volume I,
page 20 April 4, 1785 "Visited with Abijah Hitchins, wife, children"

page 83 "Novr. 23, Abijah Hitchins and wife, death of the youngest child. One of the family sick" (this child is not in the vital records.)

page 365 "Jan 30, 1792, Abijah Hitchins raising a pent house and out house back of his dwelling house, Beckett Street." (I wish I knew the number for that house! We've gone up and down Beckett Street, looking at each house!)

page 399 "Oct. 7, 1792. Abijah Hitchings and wife for her delivery" (this is the second wife, Sarah Gardner, who gave birth to Cynthia Hitchings on 7 October 1792 (Salem VRs) )

From Volume II
page 464 "Oct. 1795 - Mr. Hitchens is adding and repairing Renew's eastern end of a house in Derby Street, between Turner and Cromwell Sts, South side of the street." (Apparently he was a housewright. This is strange to me since Abijah Hitchings is listed as a hatter in other records. )

page 265 "15 April 1798 Sunday- Abijah Hitchens & wife, d. of his mother Hitchens, age 82, of Lynn. She was an Ingalls." (His mother was Hannah Ingalls, daughter of Nathaniel Ingalls and Anne Collins of Lynn, Massachusetts. Her death was also in the Vital Records).

Note: Rev. Bentley, and the vital records, have used many spellings for this family surname: Hitchens, Hichens, Hitchins, Hitchings, etc. Abijah Hitchings is my 5x great grandfather (1753-1826). He married first Sarah Gardner, and second Mary Gardner, two sisters, daughters of Benjamin Gardner and Sarah Randall of Salem and Boston.

For more information: about Rev. William Bentley

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. the dates are wrong about his life I'm related to William Bentley!Its (1795-1865).

  2. Anonymous,
    Check your sources:
    Salem Vital Records, Deaths, page 35
    "Bentley, W[illia]m, Rev. D.D., angina pectoris, Dec. 29 1819. a. 61 y."
    Perhaps you are related to a different William Bentley?