Robert Ransom was born likely in England sometime about 1636 (based
on guessing he was mid-20s at the time of his ca 1660 marriage). He was at
Plymouth Colony by 1654 where he started his new life in as an indentured
servant in Sandwich. He was a member of the Plymouth church and was made a
freeman there in 1657, but he had a rebellious streak and appears frequently in
court records. His name is sometimes spelled “Ransome” in records. Robert is my
9th great-grandfather on my grandfather Arthur Washburn Ellis Davis’
side of the family.
I have seen another descendant give Robert Ransom as being baptized
6 April 1636 at Ipswich, Suffolk, England, but I haven’t researched this
myself. My research is very much a work in progress, so I appreciate hearing
from people about any errors or gaps in my research!
In 1654 Robert accused Thomas Dexter, Jr., a Sandwich (on Cape
Cod) miller to whom he was apprenticed, of treating him harshly. The court
found in favor of Dexter and Robert was reprimanded for stubbornness and
committed to the custody of the marshal for a night and a day. Thomas Clark of
Plymouth bought out his remaining term of servitude from Dexter on 4 August
Despite his early rebellious nature, sharp tongue and quick
temper, he seemed to evolve into a respected citizen, becoming a prosperous business
man and landowner whose children married into some of the early, prominent
families. He also served his community in minor roles as a highway surveyor and
on a committee to collect money from townspeople to increase the minister’s
salary. He is called planter and yeoman in many records, but was also an inn
keeper and, based on the three sets of scales and weights and other items
listed in his inventory, he bought and sold products beyond alcohol and food
such as wood shingles.
Circa 1660 Robert Ransom married a woman
often referred to as Susanna or Hannah (mostly by author Wyllys Ransom whose
work, according to NEHGS Nexus magazine, vol 5, No. 3
1998, under Queries contains inaccuracies including his wife being Susannah). Robert’s
probate records refer to his widow as Abigail, which I consider a good chance
of being accurate. Children of Robert and Abigail:
is mentioned in his father’s inventory), m. 1st Mary Gifford, 2nd
is deeded land by his father), m. Anna Waterman
Ransom gives them a son Matthew, of Saybrook, CT, who married Hannah Jones, but
the above Nexus source states there is no known connection between Matthew and
from two of Robert’s children: Hannah who married Eleazer Jackson (I wrote
about them here.) and
Mercy who married Samuel Waterman (I wrote about them here).
Ransom was involved in many land transactions in his life but unfortunately
none of them mention his wife by name. He signed by his mark, indicating he was
illiterate although he did own a Bible. See Plymouth Colony Land Records for details.
12 April 1661, Benajah Pratt sold for 10 pounds upland and meadow at Acushenah
Coaksett. On 15 October 1661 Samuel Ryder Jr., cooper of Plymouth, deeded to Robert
Ransom planter of Plymouth land at Wamonsett Pond in Plymouth near Thomas
Clarke's farm, contained 20 acres of upland, also part of Little Meadow and right
to the home where he now lives.
transactions: 20 July 1661, conveyance to Edward Gray; 24 March 1661(?/2)
Thomas Pope of Plymouth, cooper, land exchange in Lakenham; 30 June 1662, deed from William Spooner and a
deed to Jonathan Pratt; 11 January 1665,
agreement of John Ricard, James Cole Jr, Joseph Ramsden and Robert Ransom on
division of farm land and meadow at Lakenham; 2 Feb 1665, deed from Town of
Plymouth; 15 May 1665, deed to John Tilton for 13 pounds sterling 14 acres of
upland at Lakenham; 27 Nov 1667, deed to Zachariah Eddy; 8 July 1672, deed to
Samuel Mylam; 16 April 1674, deed to John Andrews.
On 17 June 1686,
Robert Ransom Sr gave by deed of trust which took the place of a will, certain
real estate holdings, to Robert Ransom Jr "my beloved son." Deed was
acknowledged before a justice of the peace on 22 July 1689. Entered and
recorded 15 Dec 1704. Robert signed by his mark "R" and his wife by
her mark "H" which could look similar to an “A.”
On 29 September 1696,
John Dunham sold to Robert Ransom Sr. of Plymouth, for 14 pounds, 30 acres of
upland adjoining the land which said Ransom now lives in the Lakenham village
of Plymouth, which bounds the lands of Samuel Waterman (Robert’s son-in-law).
Perhaps this late-in-life purchase was to procure more land to leave to his
Ransom frequently occurs in Plymouth Colony Court Records.
On 3 Oct
1662 at the General Court Mr. John Barnes complained against Robert Ransom in to
the damage of 20 pounds for neglecting to give him sufficient security for the
payment for a horse that Ransom bought of Barnes. Court ruled Robert Ransom to
make over to John Barnes as security until he paid for the horse 15 acres of
meadows in the township of Plymouth, three acres of upland and a house thereon
at Lakenham in Plymouth, and five or six acres of meadow belonging thereto, and
he is to pay the said John Barnes a barrel of tar for court charges within one
On 1 March
1663, Robert Ransome was fined 10 shillings by the court upon complaint of AL
Wait for his turbulent and clamorous carriage. In the May 1665 court, Robert
Ransom of Lakenham was at court for fencing in common land and was ordered to
have fence “throwne down.”
On 2 Dec
1665 Robert Ransom was admonished for calling William Hawkins a rogue and insulting
Jr and Ephraim Tilson were fined 3 shillings, 4 pence each for "breaking
the king's peace" when they struck Robert Ransome. Cole testified his
brother had been abused by Ransome. On 1 March 1669/70, Robert Ransom appeared for
speaking wicked and reproachful words against the governor and magistrates for
which the jury cleared him legally as there was just one witness, but they
added that it did sound like something Ransom would say. On that same date,
John Tilson was fined 3 shillings, 4 pence for striking Robert Ransom. On 3
June 1673, John Andrew was fined 3 shillings, 4 pence for breach of the peace
by striking Robert Ransom, and Ransom for “misdemeanoring” himself in abusive
words toward Andrews was released with an admonition.
On 2 March
1679/80 Edward Gray of Plymouth complained against Robert Ransom of Lakenham in
said town to the damage of 16 pounds for non-payment for 8 pounds of pork. A
side note says: "withdrawn." On 7 July 1681, John Doter, late
constable of Plymouth, complained against Robert Ransom of said town in an
action for the damage of 5 pounds for his putting Doter to much unnecessary
trouble, expense of time and loss in the execution of his office of constable.
Jury found for the plaintiff.
in the October 1680 court include 5 pound fine to Robert Ransom for selling rum
by retail without order. This must have forced his hand in becoming licensed to
sell liquor. He was licensed to sell wine, beer, ale, cider or strong liquors
as a Plymouth innholder by the court in 1686, 1687, 1688, 1690, and 1691.
tumultuous personality was also present at home. On 29 Oct 1669 Robert Ransom
and his wife appeared to answer for their contentious and unworthy carriages
each to the other in their walking in marriage condition and on their
engagement to live better in that behalf they were for the present cleared and
their bonds for their appearance canceled.
Robert’s legal battles seem due to his outspoken nature and perhaps bristling
at the prominent role of the Separatists in law making. Later in life he seems
to have quieted down, perhaps becoming a respected citizen. He was surveyor of
highways, served on a jury of the General Court (where he must have been the
juror most familiar with the courts!), was on a committee to receive funds for
the increase of the minister's salary, and was prosperous in business affairs.
Also, his children married into the most prominent families.
death is not recorded in vital records but the date is given in his estate
inventory as 14 December 1697. He died intestate and his probate file is PCPR
case no. 16575. The inventory of his estate was sworn 22 Dec 1697 and it totaled
136 pounds, 2 shillings, 7 pence, which did not contain all of the real estate
he once owned which he conveyed to his children before his death. It does
contain land that was John Dunham’s, 24,000 shingles, 200 boards, 2 spinning
wheels, a yoke of oxen, 4 cows, 1 mare, 2 small swine, 2 turkeys, farm tools,
brass scales and weights, money scales and weights, great scales and weights, 9
barrels of cider, two gallons or rum, empty casks, 8 bushels of Indian corn,
about a barrel of beef and pork, three bushels of oats, 9 pounds yarn, a Bible,
home furnishings including pewter, brass and iron, sheep’s wool, over 19 pounds
in money. Also mentioned is a horse, saddle and arms he gave to his grandson
Nehemiah Busse before he died with no value given. There were considerable
debts owed to his estate including from his sons Robert and Joshua, Adam Wright
for barrels, and an Indian named Sam Clark.
Abigail made oath to the inventory. John Tilson’s 1673 estate inventory
mentions Goodwife Ransom (assumed to be Robert’s wife), then Abigail Ransom,
aged about 36 years, testified concerning Tilson’s will, which gives further,
if somewhat inconclusive, evidence of her name.
Cadwell Ransom, Historical Outline of the
Ransom Family of America, Volume 2, 1903
Richard Cutter, New England Families
Genealogical and Memorial, Third Series, Vol. IV, 1913
Jonathan A. Shaw, John Shaw of Plymouth Colony, Purchaser and
Canal Builder, NEHGR, July 1997