New Horizons Genealogy

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Worchester County Massachusetts Warnings Out, 1737-1788

Transcribed by Matthew Tooley

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Very early in the settlement of the country the towns were confronted with the problem of taking care of the strangers or stragglers who appeared in their communities. Acts were passed forbidding the entertainment of any such persons for any length of time, unless some reliable persons furnished security for their behavior and support.

In 1637, the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, taking action on this subject, ordered

---"that no town or person shall receive any stranger..., resorting hither with intent to reside in this jurisdiction, nor shall alow any lot or habitation to any or intertaine any such aboue three weeks except such pson shall have alowance under the hands of some one of the counsell or ot two other of the majestrates."

The penalty was 100 shillings for each offence.

Various changes and modifications of this act were passed at different times to meet special emergencies.

By an act in 1692-3 strangers entertained in any town for the space of three months, and not "warned out," and their names returned to the Court of Quarter Sessions, would be considered as inhabitants of such towns, and this act was practically in force through the Provincial period. In accordance with these provisions the towns issuing warnings against new comers, and recording the names with the Court, were relieved from liability of their support, throwing the same upon the towns from which they came, if they proved to be improvident and worthless; and this action not only included that class of persons, but also those in every way responsible. In some towns a large proportion of its inhabitants, many of whom became prominent citizens, appears in the list of persons warned; and the fact that a family were warned to leave town is not to be considered as indicating that they were paupers or even in indigent circumstances. It is true that some were in this condition, but very many were not.

The wording of the returns of the warrants as they appear upon the records of the Court was not uniform in all cases, and the following are given at length as examples:

"Sturbridge Caution--against Saml Child an old man now dwelling at the house of Moses Marcy Esq. Warrant dated Oct. 7."

"The Selectmen of the Town of Sutton in said County are allowed to Enter their Caution against Kezia man the Selectmen refusing to admit her Inhabitant of said Town she having been duely warned thereout as by a Warrant under the Hands and Seal of the said Selectmen. Dated ye 23rd of December Last and Constables return thereon on file appears."

The statute regarding the return to the Court appears never to have been practically repealed, but the custom, after the lapse of a period, ceased. In some towns the clerk continued for successive years the practice, however, of recording the incoming of new inhabitants.

In the following pages all the names, dates and other essential particulars which appear in the returns to the Court in the County of Worcester during the entire period--a full half-century, from 1737 to 1788--in which these entries were made, are given. The returns from each place are brought together and arranged under the name of the town or district. An Index of Surnames has been supplied.

Abbreviations: w. for wife; ch. for child or children. The first date in each entry is that of the return of the warrant to the Court.

Warnings Out by Town

Source: Worchester County Massachusetts Warnings, 1737-1788, With An Introduction By Francis E. Blake, Worchester, Massachusetts: Published By Franklin P. Rice, Trustee of the Systematic History Fund, 1899.