Deaths in Tisbury -- Introduction


1850 - 1875

Compiled by C. Baer, 1993.


This compilation is an attempt to identify:

  1. every person who died in the town of Tisbury,
  2. every person who has a gravestone in Tisbury,
  3. every resident of Tisbury who died outside the town,
whose death occurred during the years 1850 - 1875.

If I was unsure if a death met any one of these conditions, I tended to err toward inclusion. Deaths occurring before Jan. 1, 1850 have been previously published as Tisbury Vital Records to 1850.

This compilation is divided into three parts:

Section I is a transcription of all of the town's death records for this period, accompanied by information obtained from other sources. As my goals reflect those of the town (with the notable exception of burials, as well as an unclear set of rules for out-of-town deaths), most of the deaths in this compilation are in Section I. Deaths in Section I are numbered 1 - 885, and are roughly chronological.

Section II lists deaths that are not recorded in the Tisbury town books, but appear to meet one of the three criteria outlined above. Many of them may appear in the town records of Chilmark or Edgartown. Section II includes non-residents who were buried in Tisbury, Tisbury soldiers who died in the Civil War, unrecorded sailors lost at sea, unidentified bodies that washed ashore, and simple omissions by the town. It is possible that some of these references may actually be to people whose deaths were recorded by the town, however I lack enough evidence to attach it to any of the deaths in the first section. Possible connections have been noted, as well as any uncertainty.

The deaths in Section II are in rough chronological order, which the exception of the last few, which were obtained from Gazette probate notices. Deaths in section II are numbered II-1 through II-199.

Section "F") This section consists of Gazette death notices of former Tisbury residents who died and were buried out-of-town. These deaths fall outside the scope of this compilation and are included only as an addendum. Deaths in this section are numbered F-1 through F-55.


  1. NAME

    The name heading each death in this compilation is based on the town records, the Gazette notices, and the grave inscriptions. Maiden names are based on all available sources, including Banks' History Vol. III and Vital Records to 1850.

    The maiden name is my best guess. Question it!


    The section titled "Tisbury death record" contains death records transcribed from two books of vital records kept in the Tisbury Town Hall. The entries in the original books are roughly chronological, and I have numbered each record in the order in which it appears. The first book (1844 - 1855) contains the records I have numbered 1-193, and the second book (1855 - 1889) contains records 194-885. I skipped three entries, corresponding to the death of Rhoda Baxter on Dec. 28, 1843 (which would have appeared between deaths #150 and #151 in this compilation) and the deaths of Samuel Look, on April 28, 1825, and Margaret Look, on Oct. 10, 1815 (which would have appeared between deaths #150 and #151), as they occurred before 1850, and appear in their entirety in Tisbury Vital Records to 1850.

    These transcriptions are only approximations of the original town records. Some of the handwriting is not fully legible, and aspects such as the placement of words on the page are altered in transcription, and might be interpreted differently by another transcriber. I have also standardized the capitalization of words and altered abbreviations in places. If you are in doubt about any entry, go to the Town Hall and check the original.

    The town records are the most complete source of death information, however they are also (arguably) the least accurate. It appears that information was not directly entered into the books individually at the time of the death, but sporadically copied into the book from an unknown source, and there are more apparent errors than are found in Gazette notices or gravestone inscriptions. However it does contain valuable records of African- and Native Americans (as well as transient mariners) that do not appear elsewhere.

    The first book of vital records (1844-1855) has the following format:

    1. The number of the line on the page. I did not include this in the transcription.
    2. The date of registration. I did not include this except where the date of death was ambiguous, or when the death was registered long after the death occurred.
    3. Name. Maiden names are recorded only after record #415.
    4. Sex and Condition. This includes gender, marital status, and for a short period after #415, skin color (although non-white-skinned people were usually indicated throughout.) I have placed this under the age and to the left of the occupation. Presumably, "W" stands for "White" and "M" for "Mulatto."
    5. Age. This was originally entered in three columns: years, months, and days, the latter two often left blank. In the transcription I have abbreviated years as y, months as m, and days as d. For example "Age: 1m 15d" implies that in the original, "1" was entered under months, "15" was entered under days, and the years column was left blank. Sometimes the figures were entered in the wrong columns; always compare ages obtained from town records with ages given from other sources.
    6. Occupation. I have abbreviated this to "Occ."
    7. Date of death. This included only the month and day, and the year of death was written at the top of each page, causing some ambiguity at times. I use the format mm/dd/yy, i.e. month first, date second.
    8. Place of Interment. I have abbreviated this to "Interred".
    9. Disease or Cause of Death. I have abbreviated this to "Cause." I have tried to spell causes exactly as they appear in the original. However, this entry is the most likely to be misread as gibberish, due to my limited familiarity with medical terms, perhaps compounded by a town clerk with a similar handicap. This information is seldom given in Gazette notices and grave inscriptions.
    10. Place of Birth. I have abbreviated this to "Born".
    11. "Name and Surname of Parents. If a married Female, the name of Husband." I have abbreviated this to "Par/Sp" (for "Parent or Spouse"). For a short period after record #415, place names are sometimes given in parentheses after the parents' names. Presumably, this is the place of birth of the parent, but no explanation is given.

      The second book (1855-1889) has the following additions and changes:

    12. Place of Death.
    13. "Name and Surname of Parents. If a married Female..." is changed to "Names of Parents", although the use of a married woman's husband was still commonly used. I continue to use the abbreviation "Par/Sp" for these entries.
    14. Informant or Undertaker. I have not included this information in the transcriptions unless it is unusual and might contain genealogical information.

    Other notes:

    1. "Notes" are comments by the compiler, and do not appear in the original.
    2. The use of brackets [ ] in the transcriptions indicate the words of the compiler, and do not appear in the original. A bracketed question mark "[?]" usually indicates uncertainty in deciphering the handwriting.
    3. The use of a slash "/" usually indicates that the entry was written on two different lines. (This sometimes happened when two causes of death were given, or when skin color was not listed under "Condition.")


    The section headed "Gazette" lists all known references to a death in the Vineyard Gazette. The first line lists the dates of all of the issues (in the format mm/dd/yy) in which death notices appear, followed by the issues in which probate notices are found (abbreviated PN), and any named family members or administrators of the estate (and any other remarks) in parentheses following the date.

    I have usually quoted the notices in their entirety, or included a photocopy. I sometimes omitted unimportant segments (usually religious in nature) from longer passages, in which case I note the omissions with ellipses "..." . When several people died on the same day, a single date was often given for all of the notices. These are also indicated with ellipses between the date and the notice. There are also a few cases (mostly in the "F" section) in which I have only an abstract of the notice. I have appended these with the remark "See Gazette for complete notice."

    All dates have been replaced with the mm/dd/yy format. Bracketed [ ] comments are notes of the compiler and do not appear in the original.

    The only other alterations I have made in reproducing the notices is the use of the following abbreviations:

    dau. = daughter, a. = age, y = years, m = months, d = days.

    The Gazette also used some of their own abbreviations, including "ult." which indicates a date from the previous month, and "inst." (or "instant") which indicates a date from the current month.

    Gazette death notices can be divided into two types:

    1. Brief notices listed under the heading "Deaths," which often contain very little information, but often yield information not found in the town records. I was able to find virtually all of these.
    2. Long articles found elsewhere in the paper under varying headings. These include obituaries and articles describing newsworthy deaths. I was able to find the large majority of these, however it is quite possible that I have missed some.

    Probate notices (PN) are legal notices. They can appear as long as ten years after a person's death, and are often repeated for weeks. These occasionally yield useful information, so I have sited the issues in which they appear, as well as the administrators of the estate, (which was often a family member) or other principal family members involved in the estate settlement. The administrators appear in parentheses after the issue date, where I occasionally include other information as well. Issues listed without an administrators can be assumed to have the same administrators as the previous issues.

    I did not give a high priority to finding these notices, so while I have sited the large majority of them, I have probably omitted a fair number.

    Probate notices are probably a good indicator that probate records exist at the Court House in Edgartown.

    The issues from which this collection was compiled were from the microfilm series found at the town libraries. It is almost complete, but there are some missing and damaged copies from which I could extract no information.


    I visited all of the gravesites known to me in Tisbury and West Tisbury during the summer of 1992, and compared my notes with previous transcriptions found at the Dukes County Historical Society. (Harriet Marshall Pease transcribed the North Tisbury Cemetery, the Lambert's Cove Cemetery, and the West Tisbury Village Cemetery in 1899. Joann Murphy and Girl Scout Troop 802 transcribed the Vineyard Haven Village Cemetery in 1990. Linda Voluckas and JoAnn Murphy transcribed the West Chop Cemetery (c. 1989?), C. Mayhew transcribed the Company Place Cemetery in 1989. Joseph B. Elvin transcribed the Lambert's Cove Cemetery again in 1962.) Where there was a discrepancy between my notes and the previous transcriptions, I went back to the cemetery to recheck. Any omissions and significant discrepancies have been noted. I use the abbreviations HMP = Harriet Marshall Pease, JBE = Joseph B. Elvin, and DCHS = Dukes County Historical Society.

    A small number of stones in the three cemeteries visited by Harriet Marshall Pease have apparently been replaced since 1899, as the content of the inscriptions today seems very different. I have noted HMP's inscription in brackets when this occurs. There are also a number of stones which I was unable to locate in 1992; I have indicated these with the remark "as recorded by HMP; not found in 1992."

    Note that no transcription of Oak Grove Cemetery has previously been provided to the Dukes County Historical Society. Because of this, errors in transcription of Oak Grove graves in this compilation are probably more likely to occur than for transcriptions from other cemeteries.

    I have divided each cemetery into a number of "areas" and "sections":

    Oak Grove Cemetery:

    Area 1 -- east of Palm, south of Birch (the main entrance near the school.)
    Area 2 -- west of Palm, northeast of the dirt road along the "triangle" from Birch to Palm.
    Area 3 -- west of Palm and the "triangle", east of Cypress and the dirt road connecting Cypress to Birch.
    Area 4 -- east of Cypress, west of the dirt road connecting Cypress to Birch.
    Area 5 -- west of Cypress, east of Chestnut.
    Area 6 -- west of Chestnut, east of Cedar.
    Area 7 -- west of Cedar, east of Ash.
    Area 8 -- west of Ash, east of Poplar.

    I have further divided these areas into the section (north, southeast, etc.) in which the grave is located.

    West Tisbury Village Cemetery:

    Area 1 -- The large square area containing the majority of the older stones, located in the southwest corner of the cemetery, near State Road. I call "south" anything south of an imaginary line connecting the grave of Capt. Edwin Luce in the west and the monument to David and Hannah Look in the east. I call "east" anything east of the imaginary line connecting the east wall of the building in the north with the grave of Lucy Athearn in the south.
    Area 2 -- The enclosed Whiting family lot, located east of the center drive.
    Area 3 -- The area near the west wall, north of Area 1, west of Area 2, and encircled by a drive.

    North Tisbury (Middletown) Cemetery:

    Due to its small size, I did not partition this cemetery.

    Vineyard Haven Village Cemetery:

    "North" is any location north of an imaginary line running from the stone of Ben Morse Jr. near Franklin St., through the stones of Jeremiah W. Cottle, David Smith, Joseph Smith, Polly Daggett Hillman, Charles Manchester, Jirah Luce, Ariadna Daggett, Thomas W. Tuckerman, to Charles Luce near the east wall.

    "West" is anything west of an imaginary line running from the small gate near Center St. in the north, through the stones of Sally Manchester and Charles Manchester, to the west wall of the large fenced family plot in the south.

    West Chop Cemetery:

    "North" is any location north of the small gate on Main St. South is any location south of this gate.

    Company Place:

    "East" is any location east of the imaginary line running from the post near the road just west of Jane Ann Norton's grave, through a tree, through Rhoda Winslow's grave, to the tree northwest of Abby S. Morse's grave in the north.

    Lambert's Cove Cemetery:

    "South" and "North" are left and right, respectively, of the line connecting the front gate to the path between the double row of trees, following the path directly to the rear.

    Other sites:
    The Christaintown cemetery, the Mingo plot near Christaintown, and the "Pumping Station" gravesites do not contain any graves from 1850 - 1875 that I am aware of. There are two single graves, one in a private yard northeast of the intersection of Daggett Ave. and North William St., and one in the backyard of Duncan Kreamer on the west side of Main St. between Greenwood Ave. and Woodlawn Ave, both of which are included in this compilation. There is also a single grave in the Barnes Road "Smith Family" Cemetery which I have included.

    The grave inscriptions quoted in this work are highly abbreviated. I didn't transcribe the exact wording on the stone, just the information contained on it. (For instance, "In memory of John Smith who departed from earth Jan 9, 1871..." would be transcribed as "John Smith, d. 1/9/1871") I eliminated most unessential wording, and used the following abbreviations:

    d. = died, b. = born, a. = age, y = years, m = months, d = days

    The mm/dd/yy format is used for all dates. The existence of an epitaph (or other additional wording on the stone) is indicated with the abbreviation [ep.] Commas are usually my own addition to the inscription, and do not appear on the stone.

    The use of angled brackets <> indicate information that can be inferred by reading other parts of the stone, or neighboring stones. For instance, if the stones of John and Mary Smith are connected with the inscriptions "Father" and "Mother", I note this with the remark " < husband of Mary >" in John's death, and " < wife of John > " in Mary's.

    A few graves are badly weathered, and are very difficult to read. Bracketed question marks [?] indicate uncertainty in the transcription.

    "Neighboring graves" list up to two gravestones that are found in the immediate vicinity of the transcribed grave. These can be used to physically locate a grave, or to identify possible family members (based on grave proximity). I list only the name and years of birth and death, or the age at death if a birth year is not given. In choosing the neighboring graves, I gave preference to spouses, parents, and other apparent family members, and listed other graves only if there were no apparent family members in the immediate area. If no neighboring graves are listed, the stone is isolated.


    I was able to obtain a microfilm copy of the 1850 and 1870 mortality schedules, which were taken at the same time as the 1850 and 1870 federal censuses. They contain information regarding deaths between June 1, 1849 to June 1, 1850; and June 1, 1869 to June 1, 1870. The 1860 Mortality Schedule was not available to me through the research facility I was working in, although it does exist.


    There are a number of stillbirth and infant deaths which were recorded in the town book of births, but not in the book of deaths. All of these have been included in Part II.

    I have also listed the information contained in the town birth records (as well as a few marriage records) that correspond with the person in the death record, when the birth (or marriage) took place after Jan. 1, 1850. These are listed under the heading "Unpublished Vital Records." Births 1844-1867 and marriages 1844-1853 are found in the same town book as deaths 1844- 1855. Marriages 1853-1954 are found in the same book as deaths 1855-1889. Births 1868-1950 are found in a separate book.

    I have included as many birth records as I could identify, although it is very possible that I may have I missed some (particularly if the death information is incomplete.) The marriage records in this compilation are very incomplete; I have included only a few. The association of a birth or marriage to the person in the death record is not always obvious, and I have noted any uncertainties.


    This section contains my best guess as to the family relationship of the individual to Banks' genealogical structure in the third volume of Banks' History of Martha's Vineyard. This relationship is based on all of the sources used in this compilation, including Vital Records to 1850 for Tisbury, Edgartown, and Chilmark.

    Question it!

    Unless otherwise noted, all numbers refer to the numbers assigned by Banks to each member of a family, and if no family name is stated, the family is assumed to be the same as the individual's surname. A single pair of parentheses () indicates that the person in the death records is the child of the person referred to in Banks. Double parentheses (()) indicate the person is the grandchild, etc.

    Many of these relationships are very tentative. A single question mark ? indicates that I have a fairly strong suspicion that this relationship holds, but I do not have enough evidence to be certain. Double question marks ?? indicate that there is very little evidence to go on, but that this relationship is a fair possibility.

    When I could find no relationship in Banks, or when my guess is very uncertain (i.e. two question marks), I have included references in Vital Records to 1850 to this person (or other named family members in the record).

    I use the following abbreviations:

    TVR = Tisbury Vital Records to 1850,
    EVR = Edgartown Vital Records to 1850,
    CVR = Chilmark Vital Records to 1850.

    Numbers refer to the page, and first names indicate which reference. If no name is listed, it is assumed to be a direct reference to the person. I use the same question mark system as for the Banks references.


    In this section I have included a number of occasional miscellaneous references, including Banks vol. I, the 1862 "Gazette draft list" (which was a roll of all of the adult men in Tisbury during the Civil War, and can be found in the Sept. 12, 1862 issue of the Gazette), and Tisbury Proprietor's Records.


    The line labelled "Census family #" lists my guess of the family number (as opposed to the dwelling number) of the person in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 federal censuses. The first number is the 1850 census reference, followed by a slash, the 1860 census reference, a slash, and the 1870 census reference. If a person was born after a particular census, a dash "-" replaces the family number. The same system of question marks used for Banks and Vital Records to 1850 is used here, except that a lone question mark indicates that I couldn't locate the person at all in that census. Family numbers in parentheses refer to a reference in the mortality schedule. Notes of the census taker are noted in brackets. If no town name is given, it is assumed to be Tisbury.

    Special thanks to Kay Mayhew, for proofreading the town death record transcriptions, and to Heather Fauteux, for her help identifying the old diseases.

    These records are indexed.
    Comments? Questions? Corrections? Suggestions? Write the compiler.
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