My Ipswich connections

By Thomas Palance…

I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that my ancestors are fully responsible for abilities, instincts and sometimes a familiarity with things I have not experienced in my lifetime.

I have always wondered what my ancestors looked like and behaved like. What were their daily rituals? What did they do for work? How were they responsible for shaping the world in a small or more significant way? I always wished I could know about their adventures, happy moments and struggles.

Many years ago, I was sitting at a bar located on the northeast coast in Portsmouth, NH and couldn’t help staring at a wonderful maritime painting from the 18th century. When I looked at the artwork displaying sailing ships and the rocky harbor, I had a deep feeling of familiarity much like the feeling you get when you go home to a place that you spent many years in your life. It’s the feeling of having a childhood warm blanket wrapped around you. At the time, I had not spent one minute on a ship and very little time on the coast. After that I was drawn to the New England seacoast.

I spent 20 years in the Washington, DC area living in the most wonderful neighborhood, experiencing close friendships, well-groomed roads and a very temperate climate. I strangely dreamed of a time when I might come back to pot holes, aggressive drivers, endlessly cold springs and long harsh winters with very little time to enjoy a beach without the famous greenhead flies. What pulled me to Ipswich?

After I retired from the Navy, my wife Lisa who was born and raised in Salem, MA and I decided we both terribly missed New England in spite of its challenges, so we took a few road trips, one of which brought us to Ipswich. When we crossed the border from Hamilton and got to the center of town, we were both struck by this charming well-preserved place near the ocean.

The people here were hard working, had character and appreciated the arts. The first person we met was Ray Morley. We loved his stories, sense of humor and passion for this town. As musicians, we felt right at home, but I didn’t realize at the time how much it WAS home. When I drove through the Ipswich streets I found myself smiling and feeling an incredible sense of peace and inner warmth like going home for Christmas while I was an undergraduate student.

Giddings-burnham house
The Burnham-Giddings house on Argilla Road was built by Thomas Burnham, descendant of Thomas Burnham who survived the wreck of the Angel Gabriel.

After living here for about 13 years, my mother (DAR member) who did genealogical research before it became popular through companies like or called me to say she found that we had a couple of direct ancestors from Ipswich. This was so exciting because history has been preserved here through its first and second period homes, graveyards and well-kept publications from our Historical Society. I had an opportunity to know these people through actual structures, well-kept documents and monuments. My mom revealed that Thomas Burnham was my 9th grandfather. It was quite the thrill to see those Burnham family homes still standing, read stories of Burnham’sshipwreck on Pemaquid Point, ME and discovering his role in founding Ipswich/Essex. Through this ancestor, I felt closer to this town Lisa and I chose to live.

The John Whipple House, before 1900, at its original location on the corner of Market and Saltonstall Streets.

Since the discovery of my family relationship to Burnham, I have found that my family also goes directly back to Marie Lawrence, Caleb Kimball, John Whipple, Susanna Clarke, Jeremiah Belcher, Mary Lockwood and Rev. John Wise, all Ipswich residents and carrying with them incredible stories of rebellion, survival and leadership! Rev. Wise wrote sermons that directly led to the words written 70 years later by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. He also led a famous revolt, along with (John) Appleton, against taxation without representation. He stood up to the myth of witchcraft and passionately fought against discrimination!

Ipswich Revolution of 1689 Tercentenary sign
Tercentenary plaque on Meeting House Green in Ipswich

My understanding of why I chose to live in Ipswich has become complete. Is it possible that I was drawn here by deeply ingrained ancestral memories? Perhaps you don’t believe in inherited memories. Since seeing that painting in a Portsmouth bar many years ago, I’ve formed an opinion that reinforced memories help explain instinct and deep knowledge that is otherwise hard to understand. Eye color, physical features and health are inherited, why not memories? There has been scientific proof of inherited memories, but that subject is too vast to share in this article.

I suspect that thousands of New Englanders have their roots based in Ipswich. We now have online tools such as the sites I mention above along with the excellent Historic Ipswich site by Gordon Harris that will assist you in your journey. I encourage you to research your past. Who knows, you may find a buried treasure of fascinating stories like I have found and enjoyed. You may realize that you are connected to positive change and find a newer deeper understanding of your humanity resulting from the decisions by your ancestors made years before your existence. You may also more profoundly understand that your choices in life will shape the world to come!

No, I wasn’t born at Cable Hospital, but yes, I consider myself a proud townie!

—–Thomas Palance, Jeffreys Neck Rd., Ipswich

Family trees

25 thoughts on “My Ipswich connections”

  1. I believe I was a Native American Indian. Before hearing about Ipswich I was taking a walk and I kept hearing ipswich.
    I looked ipswich up and found this page along with everything else.
    I feel a strong connection from another past life.

    1. Hi Joana!
      What a great story and place, huh? : )

      There’s a thing called “Genetic Memory” that I remembered when I read your story. Very interesting articles about it. Check it out.
      Be safe!

  2. I’ve had many inherited memories of Ipswich since I moved to Georgetown two years ago. It’s an awesome feeling and I had no idea that inherited memories was a real thing.
    And … we share a Grandfather in Caleb Kimball!
    I love sightseeing in Ipswich. It’s a beautiful place. Thank you for your story, it made my day!

    1. I grew,up near Boston, but our play ground, once we were allowed off the leash and could drive was always the North Shore from Gloucester to Hampton Beach. My parents were especially fond of drives to the Ipswich Rowley area. I recently returned after a number of years residence elsewhere and the increase in traffic and development is tremendous.I noticed the same thing on a genealogical junket to Plymouth and Cape Cod. My wife’s ancestors are from what was the back lots of old Ipsswich, Topsfield. Their descendants married into Clarks from Ipswich itself.Her family ancestral home is the Stanley house at 95 River road. Topsfield.I enjoy these little tidbits from the past and hope that the areas fine history is not overwhelmed by the presents dreck excess.

    2. Current day, only it involves dreams taking place in the 1600s. I will if it gets published! I’ve previously written a novella about a healer and midwife in 1678 Ipswich. It’s a lovely little read but, alas, I’m afraid it’s not what agents are looking for these days!

  3. I love Ipswich and have visited it twice. Oh, how I would love to live there! I don’t understand my profound attachment to it, but I’ve read books upon books about its history and peoples, and for whatever reason, the year 1678 is important to me. Ancestral memories? One can only dream…

      1. Thank you, Virginia, I will! I’ve been writing a mystery that takes place in Ipswich and have read of such things.

      2. Hi Nancy,

        Writing a mystery book taking place in Ipswich sounds awesome! Current day or earlier? Please DO let us know when it’s published!

  4. Tom, you and Dan Clapp are family! He has a DAR wheel and is also related to Burnhams, Kimbakks, and Choates and Jewetts. Love to meet up when covid allows and chat history! Deb

  5. Thomas, thank you for tracing your journey back to your Ipswich roots with your connections to so many founding families. It is such a lovely town.

    Many years ago a dear friend with genealogy interests said, “Helen, please consider joining the DAR. We would love to have you.” I said, “Thanks so much, but my grandparents on both sides came over from Ireland in the late 1800s.” That did not dampen my interest in early North Shore history, however.

    As I mentioned to Gordon before, my dear sister was a Notre Dame nun who lived at their senior center off Jeffery’s Neck for several years. My daughter and I visited her every week or so, taking her on jaunts throughout the local area when her health permitted. We enjoyed these excursions – the farm stands, antique shops, clam shacks, and marshy vistas were a delight. I just love those well- preserved old homes of our Yankee forbears.

    So many, like myself, identify with the town even without family connections. Ipswich’s colonial architecture, old stone fences, and winding roads with ocean views may bring us all back to the strengths of the American founding.

    Glad that you and Lisa found your way home…

  6. Enjoyed your article, Tom! I got introduced to the fascination of genealogy through the work of my wife, who is an historian and storyteller. She did research on both sides of the family and discovered that I had an ancestor whose mother had been a slave and who earned his freedom through fighting in the Revolutionary War.

    He married a Native American woman (I have visited her grave in New Boston) and that is how I came to have Mohawk heritage. In my view, understanding what one’s ancestors experienced in their lives helps give perspective on our present existence.

  7. I also discovered recently,that I have decended from William Averill, John Gage, Daniel Clark, and Thomas Howlett. And that Sara (Averill) Wildes was a sister to my great x6 grandfather. She was hung for witchcraft. I also found out that another of my great grandparents and his brother are revolutionary war veterans. And to top it all off, my 9x grandfather was William Bradford first governor of the Plymouth colony who of course came here on the Mayflower. It is a totally different experience to walk around town imagining what it was like for them.

  8. Thomas—- I only lived in Ipswich for a short period of time , 1963 to 1965, but I have a heart connection if not a DNA connection with the town. I totally understand your comments about our links to our past. I am blessed to have a daughter in Vermont and get back once a year.

  9. Can DNA results be trusted ? After my last post I rechecked my matches and found an Ipswich connection. I match at 26cM with a tree that has the following persons from Ipswich—Mary E Appleton, John Downing , Mehitable Barbrooke, Sarah Dowing, Jane Lufkin.

    1. DNA along with tracing through other sources like birth, marriage and census records can paint a pretty accurate picture

  10. People all over America have roots in Ipswich. My MIL, born & raised in Michigan, had the maiden name Choate. She was a member of DAR, so had traced her roots. My husband & kids are direct descendants of John Choate who settled in Ipswich around 1640, give or take a couple years. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Ipswich, & kayaking to Choate Island, visiting Choate House on the Island. It’s an enchanting town. Wish we were closer, but we’re in Michigan, so it’s not a day trip.

  11. I am a direct descendant of William Paine…..he left a trust that was intended forever but naturally greed showed itself and what he wanted is now gone. Hope you all enjoy it!!

  12. I have visited Ipswich twice to visit my ancestors grave sites. They were the Jewetts who were among the first to settle there. There is a historical marker at the old church with their names on it. Also a lot of the
    Jewett headstones are in the cemetery at the church.
    The Jewett name has carried down to include my mother. Unfortunately that will be the end for that branch of the Jewetts.
    I live in Indiana so is hard to make those trips, but I glad I did.

  13. We truly are all related. On the Rhoads side of my family Malachi Rhoads married Dorothy Whipple in Rhode Island.

    She was granddaughter of John Whipple of Rhode Island. Possible cousin to the Ipswich Whipples.

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