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  • Lieutenant William Andrews, Original Member of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati

    Charles W. Wadhams

    The recent addition of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati database to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s website prompts me to share a story of my efforts to locate the lineage and biography of one of its original members. William Andrews was a notable Boston bookbinder whose work was showcased in the publications of the American Antiquarian Society. 1Boston was a small town in the mid-to-late 1700s, and William would come to know many local tradesmen, such as Paul Revere, John Crane, and Henry Knox, all later to become patriots of the Revolution. He was in the same trade as Henry Knox, a local bookseller who had a great interest in military science, particularly artillery. Before the Battle of Bunker Hill, Knox had volunteered to General Artemis Ward, commander of the Massachusetts Militia, who put him in command of several militia artillery companies. Late in 1776, Col. Knox was ordered to create an artillery regiment in Boston for the Continental Army.  His knowledge and energy attracted the attention of General Washington, who ultimately made him commanding general of the entire Continental Artillery.

    William was commissioned January 1, 1777, 2as a lieutenant with Col. John Crane’s newly reorganized Third Continental Artillery, and he immediately began recruiting in Captain Treadwell’s company in Boston. By the end of March the regiment moved first to Morristown, New Jersey, and then to Smith’s Clove, New York 3. They wintered at Valley Forge and by the end of April were at Crossroads and Brandywine. His pay receipts from the National Archives 4confirm that he moved with the unit to the Hudson River area near West Point, where British troops captured him on June 1.  William was held at Fort Lafayette in New York and exchanged on September 13, 1781. He was immediately promoted to first lieutenant and sent to Boston by General Knox, where, because of his parole, he was in charge of recruiting for the duration of the war.  

    At the end of the war, veterans of the Continental Army met and formed the Society of The Cincinnati. General Knox was a prime mover in the organization. It was named after the Roman senator, Cincinnatus, who, like Washington, was called several times from his beloved farm to defend his country. The purpose of the organization was to continue the “fellowship of arms” of the Continental officers, and to look after their wounded, disabled, and destitute comrades. In addition, the Society members vowed to continue pressuring Congress to pay the several years of arrearage owed to the troops. In Massachusetts, Andrews continued his association with his fellow soldiers by becoming an original member of the Massachusetts Society as well as a member of its governing “Standing Committee.”

    The Society limited membership to the Continental Officer or his descendant, and allowed only one descendant to represent each future generation. Today there should be one member for each officer; however, a number of lines have become extinct or forgotten. Qualified family members next in the line of descent are eligible to represent these families and become members of the Society. On several occasions the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati has shared its database with NEHGS in an attempt to offer these memberships to qualified individuals. 5I am one of those individuals, who in the normal pursuit of my lineage, stumbled upon qualification for the Society. This is my story too:

    My introduction to the world of genealogy began at the National DAR Library in Washington DC. I went into the library and asked the docent how to begin searching for my ancestors. I gave her the name of my great grandfather, Isaac Hastings, and she proceeded to show me an index card for a genealogy, a The Hastings Memorial 6.  The index showed an Isaac Hastings, who had died in Perinton, Monroe County, New York, which matched information in a family bible kept in my library.  I hurriedly wrote down all I could before the library closed its doors. That was thirty-five years ago, and I am still at it! Long ago, after finding the easy lineages, I "hit the wall" with many dead ends. Today each new piece of data found is greeted with great celebration.

    Lieutenant William Andrews was identified that day as well. The Hastings Memorial showed that Simon Hastings 7married Mindwell Andrews 8in Boston on November 19, 1794.  She was the daughter of Lt. William Andrews and Jane Hayes. I looked at a number of Andrews genealogies and found many individuals named William. How in the world does a person find the right one? The International Genealogical Index at the Family History Center contained an abundance of them as well, but none could be identified as the right one. The question nagged at me while I went on with other searches that could be accomplished with the resources at hand. William Andrews was left behind for many years. 

    The amateur genealogist is constantly confronted with a blizzard of data from which to select the one “snowflake” that will provide the breakthrough needed to prove or discount a theory. In 1983 the purchase of a new computer prompted a project to clean up the vast information in my notebooks and enter it into a genealogical database. The “Andrews problem” presented itself again. Several years later I began scanning the DAR Patriot Index for Lt. William Andrews, in an attempt to determine which company he was affiliated with, and to find, perhaps, a listing of his parents.  It showed several individuals named William Andrews9

    , one of which was from Massachusetts, married to Jane Hayes, and an officer in Col. John Crane’s Third Continental Artillery. I jumped at those words “Continental Artillery!” A new source had presented itself.

    Would the Society of the Cincinnati have the information and lineage of this Andrews?  I wrote the Massachusetts Society, and they responded that they had no information about William’s parentage. They also wrote that William Andrews was not represented by a current member of the Massachusetts Society. The letter went on to say that I might be invited to join, but there may be other descendants who had a prior claim to the membership. I asked my older cousins if they were interested in the membership and their responses varied between "what's that?" and "go for it!" I found later that the individual who wrote the letter was referencing Memorials of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.  This publication gives information about members, from the Society’s beginnings to the present, and includes descendants of the members. My great grandfather Isaac Hastings was shown in the book 10. Still, no one knew the identity of William Andrews' parents.

    As I already had documentation on William’s marriage and death, I searched vital records, collecting information on at least eight immigrant Andrews families. On a trip to Boston in 1992, I found William’s obituary and will in Cambridge. The obituary established that he was born in 1748 by showing his age at death.

    I then turned again to the IGI, which listed about fifty men bearing the name William Andrews. Collateral information narrowed the possibilities to less than five. The dates of marriage for two of these Williams matched the biography he had given the Society of the Cincinnati. The microfilmed source material cited in the IGI turned out to be the Boston Commissioners Reports, 11which listed a son born October 19, 1748, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to William and Mindwell [Clap] Andrews. While I had looked in Boston records, I had not noticed Dorchester, a suburb of Boston, whose records are included with Boston, but in a separate volume. The IGI’s reference to the Dorchester vital records was the “snowflake” that opened up the whole story.

    Further research of the Boston Commissioners Reports 12show his lineage to be: William4and Mindwell [Clap] Andrews; John3 and Margaret [Lord] Andrews; Thomas2 and Phoebe [Goard] Andrews; and Thomas1 and Ann [?] Andrews, all of Dartmouth, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. A search through the vital records of Dorchester uncovered a complete and extensive fan chart for the Andrews family, including many maternal lines. Since William named his first daughter Mindwell (after her mother) and since the date of birth matches the obituary, there is no doubt this is the correct lineage for Lieutenant William Andrews of the Third Continental Artillery. 

     1Early American Bookbindings from the Collection of Michael Papantonio (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1985), 8, 9
    2Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in The War of the Revolution (Boston: Wright & Potter, 1896), 1:261
    3John K. Robertson and Bob McDonald, “Orderly Books of Artillery Units in Continental Service,” online <>  
    4National Archives: Service Record of 1st Lt. William Andrews; John Crane's Third Continental Artillery  These were matched up with a Revolutionary War time line showing places, dates, and orders.
    5The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 91 (Boston: NEHGS, 1937) 205-206 and 94 (1940) 95-96. Lists of vacancies were published to attract qualified members.
    6 Lydia Buckminster, The Hastings memorial : a genealogical account of the descendants of Thomas Hastings of Watertown, Mass. from 1634 to 1864 (Boston: Samuel G. Drake, 1866)
    7Simon’s lineage is: Simon4 and Sarah [Coolidge] Hastings; Benjamin3 and Mary [Taynter] Hastings; Samuel2 and Sarah [Coolidge] Hastings; Thomas1 and Margaret [Cheney] Hastings. The second Sarah Coolidge is the grand niece of the first. The family is of Watertown, Massachusetts, and connected to numerous Revolutionary War veterans and several U.S. presidents, including Coolidge, Garfield, and the Bushes.
    8A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, vol. 30: A Volume of Records Relating to the Early History of Boston, Containing Boston Marriages from 1752 to 1809, (Boston: Municipal Printing Office, 1907) 349
    9Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Patriot Index (Washington: The Society, 1990, c1994), 103:30
    10Bradford A. Whittemore, Memorials of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, (Boston: Printed for the Society,1964), 13
    11A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, vol. 21: Dorchester Births, Marriages, and Deaths to the End of 1825. (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1891) 143
    12Ibid vol. 21, vol. 30, shows his ancestors to be many of the first settlers of Dorchester.  

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