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Benjamin Dunbar, Town Citizen

This week I continued my review of Chatham, Massachusetts records on Family Search (www.familysearch.org). My Dunbar family lived at Chatham during the early 1800’s.

I looked at two record sets:

  1. Selectman’s Town Records for the period 1804-1854. These pages list tax payments collected from residents each year, but oddly, my ancestor Benjamin E. Dunbar’s name never appears. I do not know what the criteria were for owing this tax. Benjamin must not have met the threshold.
  2. Town Meeting minutes. I have found that Benjamin was appointed to do his part to keep the town running several times over the years. He served on the Grand Jury, served on a committee to oversee eel and shell fishing, and served as Constable.

Other people appeared in these records much more often than Benjamin did. His wife’s uncle, Capt. Benjamin Buck, often served on committees or as Constable. He also oversaw the collection of supplies for benefit of the clergy.

Reading these records helped me learn about the town life my ancestors experienced. I found that some themes in human life never change.

The townspeople complained about outsiders fishing in their waterways. They disliked their church minister and convinced him to resign. They created a system to prevent the youth from misbehaving. They looked for new ways to raise revenue. They feared hardship as the War of 1812 loomed.

It will take more time for me to complete the task of reading the Town minutes. I began with the year 1794, when Benjamin Dunbar turned 18. I am now reading the pages for 1814. Benjamin would live in Chatham until 1831, so I still have a way to go.

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