Drawing of Ames Tavern.

Discovering the Gerrishes: Dedham’s First “Family of Color”

February 21, 2024
Jack Gerrish listed in 1800 Census
Jack Gerrish listed in 1800 Census.

During Colonial times, slaves and Indigenous Peoples existed in Dedham. As the Revolutionary War and slavery receded from New England, these two groups often married and slowly became “free” citizens of society. The first of these families to become established in Dedham was that of Jack Gerrish (1745-1816) when appearing in the 1800 US Census, but as the saying goes, “it takes a village.” The Gerrishes continued to be connected and dependent on many well-known Dedham families including the Ames, Pond, Shuttleworth, Lewis, Ellis, Richards and Gay households. Unfortunately, individuals and families such as the Gerrishes were rarely documented in early traditional vital records or historical documents and often had no surname. By creatively searching the white families they worked for and lived with; a lost history can sometimes be constructed.

Professional genealogist Christine Gray-Mullen has focused her research on southern New England BIPOC families. Her research brings facts and context to missing stories about previously invisible people. Over the years, her work has focused on Dedham.

To watch a video of this talk, recorded by DedhamTV, click here.

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