Joseph Bemis was born circa 1619 in Dedham, Essex, England to Joseph Bemis (1582-1628) and Anne Spray (1593-1628) and died 7 August 1684 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts of unspecified causes. He married Sarah Finch (1620-1712) 1640 in Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.



The question of the parentage of Joseph Bemis is taken up again in another book, "The History of the Bemis, Perkinson, Fay, and Lawrence Families" by Ted Bemis. In this book, there appears to be lineage for Joseph and Mary Bemis which is slightly different than the note quoted above - i.e., this Joseph's father's name was Joseph, and HIS father's name was John, thus rectifying the earlier-mentioned problem of John Bemis dying before his "son" Joseph was born

Migration to America

Watertown Founders Monument

Watertown Founders Monument

He is listed on Watertown Founders Monument, commemorating the first settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts. The town was first known as Saltonstall Plantation, one of the earliest of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements. Founded in early 1630 by a group of settlers led by Richard Saltonstall and George Phillips, it was officially incorporated that same year. The alternate spelling "Waterton" is seen in some early documents.

The births of all 9 of these children are recorded in Watertown vital records.

He was a blacksmith and farmer by trade, and on 11/8/1647 was one of seven men chosen to order the prudentiall affayers of the town (Watertown). On 2/12/1649 he was fined three pounds for felling trees on the common. Fifty shillings of this was returned to him with the provisio he pay the other ten shillings and have no share in the wood or timber on the common. Joseph was granted a strip of land against the meadow to make in lune, or fence, straight, and to pay the town what it was worth. On 1/14/1655 he was fined one shilling for a hog, disorderly.

By August of 1656, he was one of two overseers of fences and hogs. On 1/3/1658 he was elected surveyor of highways, and a Constable on 11/4/1667. Joseph Beamis and two other men were chosen by the town on 11/2/1674 to see that all children were taught to Read the Inglish tung and the orthodox catechism, and that each man have in his home a copy of the 'Capital Laws'. He was a selectman of Watertown in 1648, 72, and 75. Some say he was also a soldier in King Philip's War, but I think that it was actually his son Joseph and his son Ephraim who were soldiers in King Philip's War.

Last Will & Estate Division 1712

The Last Will of me Joseph Beamase I comit my soule unto god my Creator and my body to the Earth to the dust from whence it (was) taken and my Worly goods as foloeth. It is my will that my wife Shall have all my estate during hir life for hir maintinance: and hir Daughter Martha It is my will that my daughter martha shall have all my orchard During hir Life and a comfortable Roome in my Dwelling house hir Lif time I give my Sone Joseph Bemase my farme to him and his ars: but if he di without an are Lafuly begoten after his deces to be equally devid a mongst ye rest of my children It is my will that after my Wife' deces all my Estate that is left to fe devid Equaly amongst my other 5 children

the 7 day of 7 month 1684 The mark of Witnes by us Joseph Beamase John Whitney Senior The mark of Susana Harrington "7.8.84. Sworn in Court by sd witnesses & admr granted to his relict widd. Bemas" His inventory lists his books. (:Middlesex Probate docket# 1541)

It is not known when 'his relict' died, but in 1712 the heirs began to divide his property which was not already spoken of in the will.

The following is found in Henry Bond's book about Watertown, 679 Volume II (see above):

The estate of Joseph Bemis was divided, Nov. 18, 1712, after the d. of his wid. Sarah, and it was distributed (except what had been given to "eldest son, Joseph," and dr. Martha), to the following children, viz.; Ephraim, Mary, Rebecca and John. As the eldest child, Sarah is not mentioned in this distribution, she was probably d.s.p. [died without heirs]. It appears that Joseph the eldest son lived to have a share of his father's estate, but it is not known what became of him. Martha was adm. f.c. by Rev. Mr. Angier, Feb. 25, 1697-9, then aged about 49, unm. Ephraim settled in Watertown, where the births of four of his children are recorded, but the account of the family is brief. He probably had other children besides those four recorded, and it is probable that his family, or some part of it, moved to Windham and Hamton, in Windham Co., Conn."

Research Notes

"The Bemis History and Genealogy, Being an Account in Greater Part of the Descendants of Joseph Bemis of Watertown, Massachusetts" by Draper has, I believe, long been one of the primary sources of information of the Bemis Family in Massachusetts. This family history deals primarily with Mary Bemis's brother, Joseph Bemis, but also up front mentions Mary Bemis (not to be confused with her niece, Joseph's daughter, also named Mary Bemis, wife of Samuel Whitney) who married William Hagar. This family history does not say where Joseph and his sister Mary immigrated from, or who their parents may have been, just that they were in Massachusetts by about 1640.

There is a second book, "Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts" by Henry Bond, that mentioned this family, primarily between pages 20 and 26. This book does not mention possible parents for Mary and her brother Joseph either. The Bemis and Hagar families are also mentioned briefly in several other books about early New England and Massachusetts settlers.

In yet another book, "Historical Homes and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts," volume 1, page 141, which can be found online, has the following paragraph: "Joseph Bemis...was born in 1619, and came to Watertown, Massachusetts, as early as 1640, when he was about twenty-one... It is known that Joseph Bemis was the son of John Bemis, who was born in Dedham, Essex County, England, as early as 1550. The will of John Bemis was proved June 28, 1604. [something is obviously wrong here, since 1604 is many years before his "son" Joseph was born in 1619] His children were: Isaac, Luke, Mary, James, Susan, Joseph, and Abraham. [7 children] Joseph and his sister Mary came together to Watertown. Perhaps others of the family also came. Mary married William Hagar March 20, 1644-45; died December, 1695. Her husband died January 10, 1683-4. They had ten children and have a host of descendants. .. His [Joseph's] will was made the day of his death, August 7, 1684, and proved October 7, 1684. The widow administered the estate. She died 1712, and the estate was divided among the heirs November 18, 1712, except those parts already given to the eldest son Joseph, and daughter Martha." The paragraph goes on to list all 9 of Joseph's children, plus additional information about the children.

Marriage & Family

Draper writes in his book that he didn't know if Joseph was married in England before he immigrated, or was married here, "although their first child Sarah was born in Watertown in 1642, Joseph and Sarah may have been married in Watertown in 1641, or as the Boston Records note their first child Sarah's birth, they may have been married in Boston, and their dau. Sarah born there." Draper's book never gives a maiden name for Sarah. This file has her last name as "Finch," but I don't know the source of this name.

The birth of all 9 children is recorded in Watertown records.

  1. Sarah Bemis (1643-1712) - 2nd wife of John Bigelow, no children
  2. Mary Bemis (1644-1730)
  3. Joseph Bemis (1647-1647)
  4. Ephraim Bemis I - died in infancy
  5. Martha Bemis (1649-)
  6. Joseph Bemis (1651-1694)
  7. Rebecca Bemis (1654-)
  8. Ephraim Bemis II - received large land grant for his service in King Philip's War (1675).
  9. John Bemis (1659-1732)


Offspring of Joseph Bemis and Sarah Finch (1620-1712)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Sarah Bemis (1643-1712) 15 January 1643 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 1712 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts John Bigelow (1617-1703)
Mary Bemis (1644-1730)
Joseph Bemis (1647-1647)
Ephraim Bemis (1647-1647)
Martha Bemis (1649-)
Joseph Bemis (1651-1694)
Rebecca Bemis (1654-)
Ephraim Bemis (1656-1738) 25 August 1656 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 1738 Elizabeth Bond (1658-1712)
John Bemis (1659-1732) 13 August 1659 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 24 October 1732 Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Mary Harrington (1663-1716) Sarah Holland (1662-1716) Mary Harrington (1663-1716) Sarah Holland (1662-1716) Judith Jenison (1667-)


#g1: Offspring of Joseph Bemis (1582-1628) and Anne Spray (1593-1628)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Issac Bemis (1615-) , ,
Luke Bemis (1615-) , ,
Joseph Bemis (1619-1684) 1619, Dedham, Essex, England 7 August 1684, Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Sarah Finch (1620-1712)
Abraham Bemis (1621-) , ,
Mary Bemis (1624-1695) 10 December 1624, Dedham, Essex, England 16 December 1695, Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts William Hagar (1620-1684)
James Bemis (1626-1665) , ,
Susanna Bemis (1628-) , ,



Footnotes (including sources)