When she was 18, my 9th-great grandmother, Hannah Austin, married Hezekiah Lovejoy on July 16, 1722 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Hannah gave birth to her first of eleven children the following year. 

Depiction of Haverhill, MA in 1820, where Hannah Austin Lovejoy started her massive family in 1722.

Her husband Hezekiah earned a reputation around Haverhill, according to the Lovejoy Genealogy, as “a man who loved a good time” who “went in rather a bit too strongly for the concoctions of molasses and rum.” It’s rare to get insights beyond a name in ink for an ancestor that lived 300 years ago. I think it’s fun to chuckle at how the community, according to the author, viewed Hezekiah’s drinking habits with such disdain. I wonder what Hannah thought of him.

Hezekiah died in 1751 at about age 50. When he died, Hannah wasn’t even halfway through her life at 47. She’d live for another 54 years and witness American history unfold.

She probably felt pressure living in colonial Massachusetts when the French and Indian War broke out and lasted from 1754 to 1763. In her 70s, she witnessed the American Revolution — four of her sons and some of her many grandchildren fought and helped America win its independence. She’d just turned 100 years old when Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 for $15,000,000, doubling the size of the young nation.

Hannah died on May 18, 1804, at age 101. Her unusual claim to fame? She had 352 descendants when she passed away — nearly enough to have a morning tea with a different descendant every day for a year. She had 11 children of her own, 57 grandchildren, 233 great-grandchildren, and 51 great-great-grandchildren. Buying Christmas gifts for all of them sure must’ve been a headache. 

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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