Person:Robert Reed (27)

m. 2 Mar 1771
  1. Swithin Reed1771 -
  2. Elizabeth Reed1773 -
  3. Robert Reed1775 - 1805
  4. Sarah Reed1778 -
  5. Daniel Reed1781 -
  6. Maximilla ReedAbt 1784 -
  7. Margery ReedAbt 1786 -
Facts and Events
Name[3] Robert Reed
Gender Male
Birth[1] 4 Sep 1775 Lexington, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Death[2][3][4] 5 Jun 1805 Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States


A Capt. Robert Reed drowned 5 Jun 1805. Is it this Robert Reed?

The death record and probate cited here probably belong to the Robert Reed who drowned.

Summary of Sources

Source:Young, David C. Vital Records from Maine Newspapers, 1785-1820, Vol. 2, p. 497, reports that Capt. Robert Reed of Burlington drowned, in the 19 Jun 1805 issue, based on reports from Boston papers. So it appears the drowning did occur.

Source:Reed, Jacob Whittemore. History of the Reed Family in Europe and America, p. 470: "2. Robert, son of Swithin and Margery, married Elizabeth Hartwell of Bedford, July 2, 1771. Children, - Swithin, born in 1773; Daniel[,] Robert, Sept 4 1775. He was drowned, when out on a fishing excursion outside of Boston Lighthouse, June 5, 1805." It is very ambiguous who the last sentence should be applied to. The last sentence would normally be read as applying to the father Robert, but this cannot be true, as the father's will was proved in 1796. So the next choice would be to apply it to the son Robert, the name most recently mentioned.

Source:Hudson, Charles. History of the Town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from Its First Settlement to 1868, Vol. 2, p. 572, says the father drowned in 1805, and in the listing of his children, also says the son Robert drowned in 1805.

Source:Densmore, Lyman Willard. Hand-Book of Hartwell Genealogy, 1636-1887, p. 159, says Daniel drowned. But this gives Daniel the birthdate that we know belongs to Robert, and appears to be a record-keeping error.

Is It This Robert?

Jacob Whittemore Reed is full of errors, and it is a matter of concern that this seems to be the basis for believing it is this Robert Reed who drowned. The mishandling in the other secondary sources is almost laughable.

Reasons for agreeing:

  • Robert Reed was mentioned in his father's will in 1796 but no mention is made of his legacy in the 1813 accounting, suggesting he had died by 1813.
  • Most of our concerns stem from information in the probate cited here, but there is no guarantee that the probate is the same Robert who drowned.


The probate would appear to be the Robert who drowned, based on his occupation as mariner, and its date in Jan 1806. It clearly belongs to a young family man since his two children are minors, so would seem appropriate to this Robert. But...

  • It mentions a brother Jonathan. No son of the father named Jonathan is known, and none is mentioned in the father's will. While the births of two daughters Maximilla and Margery are not recorded, suggesting there could an unrecorded son Jonathan, the lack of a mention in the will seems significant. (Jonathan of Burlington would normally be assumed to be this Jonathan, but he is not known to have a brother Robert.)
  • No record of a marriage of Robert Reed to Catherine, or the birth of their children Robert or William can be found. If the son Robert had married, the accounting for the father's will should show a payment to his heirs, even if Robert himself had died.
  • None of the secondary sources indicate that they are aware of any marriage or children for Robert.


  1. This (death record, probate) all applies to this Robert. He had an unrecorded brother Jonathan. Legacy was paid to the estate prior to 1813 so was not included in 1813 accounting.
  2. Death record applies to this Robert who died unmarried. The probate applies to a different, unidentified Robert, who had a brother Jonathan, wife Catherine and two young sons.
  3. Neither apply to this Robert.

There is no sign of a legacy to Robert in his father's probate. There is no sign of a Jonathan in the family of the father. The probate and the death both appear to be Robert Reed of Burlington, but he appears to belong to a different family.

  1. Lexington, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States. Record of births, marriages, and deaths to January 1, 1898. (Boston, Massachusetts: Wright and Potter Printing, 1898)
    p. 64.

    [93] Robert, s. of Robert & Elizabeth, b. Sept. 4, 1775.

  2. Baldwin, Thomas W. (comp.). Vital Records of Burlington, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. (Boston, Massachusetts: [s.n.], 1915)
    p. 94.

    REED, Robert, [died] June --, 1805. Drowned while fishing beyond the light house. PR1
    [PR1=Record of deaths in Second Parish of Woburn kept by Rev. J. Marrett]

  3. 3.0 3.1 Hudson, Charles, and Lexington Historical Society (Massachusetts). History of the town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1868. (Boston, Massachusetts, United States: Houghton Mifflin, 1913)
    Vol. 2, p. 572.

    Children of Robert Reed and Elizabeth Hartwell: 3) Robert, b. 4 Sep 1775, drowned in Boston Harbor 5 Jun 1805.
    [Note: Hudson also says the father Robert drowned 1805, but the father died in 1796, so only the son did this. The father's will of 1796 names the son Robert, but son Robert did not participate on 1813 probate document (see father's page).]

  4. FHL film 0421500, in Massachusetts. Probate Court (Middlesex County). Probate records, 1648-1924. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1964-1967)
    Case 18601 "Robert Read 1806".

    9 Jan 1806: "Catharine Reed" "widow of Robert Read late of Burlington mariner deceased intestate ... waives her right to the administration of said estate and prays that the Brother of the deceased Jonathan Read may be appointed..."
    Approved 9 Jan 1806: "The memorial of Jonathan Reed of Burlington ... That Robert Reed late of said Burlington mariner deceased intestate died sized and possessed of real and personal estate within this Commonwealth within twenty years just past. That the widow has released and waived her right to administer upon said estate, that your memorialist is the next of kin to the deceased, and that he is desirous of taking administration as aforesaid. He therefore prays... [etc.]."
    9 Jan 1806: Bond of Jonathan Reed yeoman of Burlington as "administrator to the estate of Robert Read late of said Burlington mariner deceased intestate".
    30 Jan 1806: inventory taken $772.85
    1 Sep 1806: estate sold
    1 Sep 1806: accounting approved with consent of "John Walker Guardian for Robert & Wm Reed, minors". Includes the following payments: Catherine, the widow's thirds $146.66; Robert a son of the deceased, $146.66; William, a son of the deceased, $146.66.

    Case 18602 "Robert Reed & al 1806"
    14 Mar 1806: Bond of John Walker Esquire of Burlington as guardian of "Robert Reed and William Reed both of Burlington in said County and Minors under the age of fourteen years and children of Robert Reed late of Burlington".