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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Paid What?

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This receipt was in an estate packet from the early 18th century in Massachusetts. What does it say? (This is a little bit longer than our usual exercises)


  1. December the 28th: 1722
    Recvd of Thomas Pratt of Cosbonn
    one pound eight shilengs and six pence for the
    ___ of Samuel Largenes farm for the
    year 1721 i say rescvd by me
    Joses Becknam Constable for

  2. I'm posting this transcription here for a Facebook Fan whose post would not go through:

    Desember the 28: 1722 - Recved of Thomas Piatt (or Pratt?) of boston one pound eight shilengs & sixpence for the taxs of Samuel Sargents farm for the year 1721 i say reseve by me. Joses Bucknam Constable for Charlstown

  3. December the 28: 1722

    Received of Thomas Pratt of Easton, one pound eight shillings and sixpence for the taxes of Samuel Sargent's farm for the year 1721. I say received by me.

    Joses Bucknam Constable for Charlestown.

  4. Transcript:

    Desember the 28 : 1722 - - - -

    Recved of Thomas Pratt of boston
    one pound eight shillings & sixpence for the
    taxs of Samuell Sargents farm for the
    year 1721 i say received by me

    Josef Bucknam Constable for


    What it says:

    On 28 December 1722, Thomas Pratt, Boston, paid one pound, eight shillings, and six pence to Constable for Charlstown Josef Bucknam for the 1721 taxes of Samuell Sargents farm.



    I first thought that Thomas Pratt was "of Coston," until I went to confirm an existence of a Coston, Massachusetts, found of course that this should be "Boston." Comparing the first letter of the "Boston" with the first letter of "Constable" and "Charlstown" confirms that the first letter of where Thomas Pratt is from is a "B", not a "C".

    Boston is spelled with only one "n", as the second "n" at the end has been marked out.

    "Charlestown" is today's actual spelling of Charlestown, Massachusetts, which is the oldest neighborhood in Boston according to Wikipedia.

    All of the "P" letters look like our lower case "p" or a very strange "v".

    The Constable's given name is Josef, aka Joseph. Back then, the letter "s" often looked like an "f" and vice versa. His surname is Sargents. All of the upper and lower case "S" letters in this document look like what we know today as the cursive "L".

    It is virtually impossible to tell if something is dotted, but the writer consistently dots all of his "i"s very close to the rest of the letter. If I did not see the closely paired dot with the rest of the lower case "i", I did not consider the letter an "i".

    "Taxs" was difficult to interpret, but in context, it seems logical. It could seem that there is an "i" in this word, but consistent with my logic in the previous paragraph, I do not think it is. I just don't like the first letter in that word. I tried to find another letter in the document that looks like it in its proximity to the rest of the letters in the word and found several. Both words "the" at the end of lines 3 and 4 obviously begin with a "t". These letters look very much like the one at the beginning of what I think is "taxs", but without the letter being crossed. Further analysis of both cases of the word "the", though, show that the writer crossed the "t" with the beginning of the subsequent "h". This leads me to believe that he didn't cross his "t" that time, and this leaves me without much doubt that the word is "taxs".


    1. I think the constable was Joses Bucknam.

  5. I wonder if that difficult word (ie that you think might be taxs) could be rats, meaning rates - ie the poor rate or something similar. The first letter is very similar to other instances of "r" - see Pratt in line 2, for in line 3, year in line 5 - and the third letter could be a "t".
    A word of explanation - I'm not sure about Massachusetts at this period, but in England each parish constable or overseer collected a "rate" from residents annually to support the poor/incapacitated of the parish (an early form of welfare!), and this was generally levied on the value of property of the individual payee. Those circumstances would fit with this document.
    Deborah Hart Stock