Oscar Handlin wrote in his 1979 book, Truth in History:

“The distinctive cultural development of the New World made history one of the early forms of American literature…Americans always had to explain who they were in a sense rarely compelling to other men who took for granted a connection that ran to a time out of mind, between a specific place and themselves and their families. Lacking identification with place, they searched the past to account for their presence where they were.”

Many people trace their roots back through several generations to Ipswich, one of the earliest towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I receive frequent inquiries about genealogy as well as occasional requests for genealogy tours, a fast-growing market in vacation travel. They want to travel to the land of their ancestors to re-create a link with their past and “walk in the footsteps of their forefathers.”

County Street Ipswich MA
Left to right: 11 County Street, the Bennett – Caldwell house(1725), 9 County Street, the  Benjamin Dutch house (1705), 7 County Street, the Thomas Dennis House (1663), 5 County Street, the Rindge-Pinder-Leatherland house (1718), 3 County Street (1850)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” Communities identify local or regional points of interest for visitation, and develop informational materials for distribution to travelers and tourists. Genealogy Tourism, sometimes called roots tourism, provides visitors with resources as they search their family history.

Ipswich is the country’s best-preserved Puritan town, and its residents have been the proud custodians of its history. Many Ipswich homes were built before the Revolutionary War, including at least fifty during the First Period of Colonial construction (1620-1720). The Old North Burying Ground and the South Green cemetery have some of the earliest gravestones in the country. We live in a very old and real town.

Unlike Concord and Salem, Ipswich has never been overwhelmed by commercial tourism, yet no community in this country is a more fulfilling destination for the genealogy tourist. The stories of the town’s Puritan settlers and their homes are shared on this site. made possible in no small part by the founder of the Ipswich Historical Society, Thomas Franklin Waters and his two-volume set, “Ipswich In the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

17th Century houses in Ipswich, Massachusetts - View also: 18th Century Ipswich houses 19th Century Ipswich houses 20th Century Ipswich houses
Ipswich online Genealogy Resources - Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts, by Abraham Hammatt. Vital Records Vital Records to 1850 Hathi Trust 1814 Parish Census 1678 Commonage Rights (list of settlers) Nutfield Genealogy American Ancestors Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts by Cutter, William Richard Volume I Volume II Volume III Volume IV Life sketches … Continue reading Ipswich online Genealogy Resources
Early settlers of Ipswich - The Puritan settlers of Ipswich arrived during the “Great Migration."
Ipswich burying grounds - Old North Burying Ground, Highland Cemetery, Old South Burying Ground, Leslie Road Burying Ground, Old and New Linebrook Cemeteries, Immigrant’s Cemetery, Locust Grove, and Chebacco Parish.
Tombstones of the settlers of Ipswich Massachusetts - The Old North Burying Ground at the intersection of High Street and Rt 133/1A was established in 1634 upon the founding of the town of Ipswich. The following photos are graves from the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich, and houses or other places associated with those persons. A complete list of burials is in the book Memento … Continue reading Tombstones of the settlers of Ipswich Massachusetts
Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - The authoritative source for Ipswich history from its founding in 1633 up to the 20th Century.
Walking tours of historic Ipswich - The historic neighborhoods of Ipswich offer well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th homes. Walking tours of historic Ipswich are led on weekends by Gordon Harris, the Town Historian.
Moses Jewett house, 307 High St. Homes of the Jewetts - Deacon Maximilian Jewett was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, baptized Oct. 4th, 1607. He with his wife Ann, and his brother Joseph sailed from Hull, England in 1638 in the ship John, with a colony under the leadership of Rev. Ezekiel Rogers. They arrived at Boston about the first of December, 1638, … Continue reading Homes of the Jewetts
Homes of the Lords - Featured image: The Thomas Lord house on High Street in Ipswich dates to 1658. Robert Lord arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich in late 1634 or early 1635, probably from Sudbury, Suffolk, England, where he was born in 1603. Soon after his arrival, Robert Lord was appointed Ipswich Town Clerk and Clerk of the Court of … Continue reading Homes of the Lords
A town of immigrants - Puritans founded Ipswich during the “Great Migration” of the early 17th Century. Many residents of the town descend from immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the mills.
Ipswich Riverwalk mural mill strike 1913 American Town - American Town, the History of Ipswich, Massachusetts EBSCO Publishing commissioned artist Alan Pearsall to paint the history of Ipswich on a 2700 sq. ft. mural at the Riverwalk, behind the EBSCO complex. Having done extensive research for the mural, they then commissioned him to write, illustrate and design American Town, a 200-page coffee-table-style book  as a companion to … Continue reading American Town
The early homes of the Shatswells - The oldest section of the Tuttle – Lord – Shatswell house at 88 High Street in Ipswich is said to have been built before 1690 as the home of John Shatswell, who came to join the Ipswich settlement in 1633 with his wife and four children. He was granted this piece of land and built his original small dwelling near the existing one, and … Continue reading The early homes of the Shatswells
Homes of the Wades - Jonathan Wade arrived in Ipswich in 1635 with the first wave of Puritan settlers. He came into ownership of land along the South Green originally granted to the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, and left an estate valued at £783. In the 19th Century, the Wade family of housewrights built several homes on for the family on County Rd., and other houses … Continue reading Homes of the Wades
Candlewood Rd., Ipswich Ma Candlewood Road - “Why and when the name was given is largely a matter of conjecture. Pastor Higginson of Salem wrote to friends in England of the primitive way in which the earliest settlers often lighted their houses by burning thin strips of the pitch pine trees. The suggestion is natural that this fine farming country was originally … Continue reading Candlewood Road

15 thoughts on “Heritage and genealogy tourism in Ipswich

  1. I will visit Ipswich for the first time next September 24, 2018. My 8 x Great Grandfather was Lieutenant Thomas Burnham who arrived on the Angel Gabriel. The next 7 generations of Burnhams were obviously proud of the name. When my Grandma got married and lost her Burnham surname, she kept the name alive by giving my father, Colonel Charles Burnham Milliken, the middle name Burnham. Growing up, family referred to him as just “Burnham.” My dad was General George Patton’s finance officer during WWII, reporting to his Chief of Staff. He named my older brother (d. 1959) Robert Burnham Milliken. When my daughter had a Grandson last summer she asked me for a list of interesting names from our family tree, and from that list she chose to name him Ethan Thomas Doan, after Lt. Thomas Burnham. Anyone want to meet me and my wife for coffee the morning of Sept 24, before we spend the day exploring the Ipswich area?


  2. I did a talk at the Ipswich Museum two years ago on the topic of family history, with the slant on
    visiting those places that one’s ancestors came from – walking those paths, going to those
    churches, breathing that air and listening to the accents gives you some insight into their lives that you
    don’t get by merely doing genealogical charts.
    Field trips, especially to other countries, can be greatly rewarding!!.


  3. i visited ipswich in may 2017. i am a direct descendant of john cogswell. i visited cogswell’s grant and many other places. i loved my time in ipswich. i hope to return sometime.

    sandy harrigan


  4. I would love to visit someday! 9th great grandfather, Palmer Tingley, was granted 8 acres for service in the Pequot War in 1639. I’d love to be able to trace where the land was and see if I can find out more about him. I’m excited with all of the research material mentioned in your article. I inquired about him at the Historical Society a few years ago – never heard anything back. Such is life – I’m sure they are busy. Another oddity, I went to Marietta College. The name Putnam is all over the place, but at the time I wasn’t aware of the connection. Small world!
    Thank you so much for this article!


  5. I visited Ipswich several years ago while during genealogy research in Essex County and thoroughly enjoyed the early houses, the cemeteries, and the history. My Lovering ancestors lived there for several generations. I also really enjoy your posts. You do a fantastic job of educating those of us interested in Ipswich history.


  6. Mr. Harris,

     My wife and I visitedIpswich in September 2016 and loved every minute we were there.  I’vespent years exploring my genealogy roots and have known for some time thatGiles Birdley, (Burley Burleigh) came to Ipswich around 1640 and died there in1668.  He is my 7x great-grandfather and is the main reason I visitedIpswich.

      During our visit my wifeand I spent many hours exploring The Old North Burying Ground hoping to findhis grave site.  We never found it, and I was wondering if there isanother place we should have looked?   

     By the way, sincevisiting Ipswich, I’ve enjoyed your Historic Ipswich onlinestories and articles.   Thank you for all you do to keep Ipswich’shistory alive and accessible to everyone.  


     William Burley



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