Archive:NEHGR, Volume 172

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Archives > Archive:Extracts > Archive:The New England Historical and Genealogical Register > NEHGR, Volume 172

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.)

[p. 101]

Alice Goble, the First
Wife of Nathaniel2 Woods
of Groton, Massachusetts

Allan Gilbertson

In a Register article published in 1910,[1] Henry Woods stated that Nathaniel2 Woods of Groton, Massachusetts, son of Samuel1 and Alice (Rushton) Woods, had four wives: Eleanor _____, Alice _____, Sarah Brown, and Mary (Blanchard) Derbyshire. This article will show that Eleanor and Alice were the same woman, and that she was not Alice Whitney, daughter of Joshua2, but that she was almost certainly the daughter of Daniel2 (Thomas1) and Hannah (Brewer) Goble.

An examination of the town records of Groton shows that Nathaniel Woods's eleven children, born between 1694 and 1716, were recorded with "Alles" as their mother. Three of them, Aaron, Moses, and Reuben, born 1707-1711, also have baptismal records in which their mother was called "Eleanor." In the original handwritten town records, all the children of Nathaniel and Alles were recorded on one page.[2] Since the same children are give with mother Eleanor only in the church records, "Alles" and "Eleanor" apparently were the same person.[3]

The 1895 Whitney genealogy stated that Alice/Eleanor was the daughter of Joshua2 Whitney. This idea apparently was originally published in 1860 in Henry Bond's Watertown genealogies.[4] In the list of Joshua Whitney's children, Bond includes "dr. Woods, mentioned in her father's will; perhaps Alice, wife of Nathaniel Woods of Groton."[5] However, Bond was mistaken.


1 Henry E. Woods, "The Woods Family of Groton, Mass.," Register 64 (1910):35. Mr. Woods was editor of the Register 1902-1907 and "designed the vital records series subsidized by the Commonwealth" (John A. Schutz, A Noble Pursuit: The Sesquicentennial History of the New England Historic Genealogical Society [Boston: NEHGS, 1995], 74-77, 85, 230, 257). In addition, Ryan J. Woods, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NEHGS, is descended from Nathaniel and Alice (Goble) Woods.

2 Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, images 346 and 441 of Groton vital records, online at; Vital Records of Gronon, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols. (Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1926)m, 1:258-264.

3 According to Robert L. Ward of the Whitney Research Group, "she may have been known by the nickname Allie or Ellie (pronounced almost identically, especially with an English accent), and the record keepers tried to supply what they thought was the proper form. The minister or his clerk may have thought Ellie was short for Eleanor" (personal communication from Robert L. Ward to the author, dated 5 April 2016).

4 Frederick Clifton Pierce, Whitney: The Descendants f John Whitney (Chicago: the author, 1895), 25, repeats the idea, without providing any evidence, that Joshua Whitney had a daughter Alice who married Nathaniel Woods. Probably this identification was first published in Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1860), 1:644.

5 Bond, Watertown [note 4], 1:644.

[p. 102]

Joshua Whitney made his will 17 April 1713, in which he mentioned his "five daughters now living, Mary Peirce, Eleanor Shepart, Sarah Juell, Martha Williams and Elizabeth Farnsworth." He also mentioned "eldest daughter wife to Thomas Woods."[6] No daughter Alice was mentioned, and it was Thomas Woods, not Nathaniel, who married one of Joshua's daughters. Although not listed by name in the will, other sources indicate that Thomas Woods's wife was Hannah Whitney. Since she was not listed among his five living daughters, Hannah had apparently died. Robert L. Ward of the Whitney Research Group has concluded that Alice is "very unlikely to be a daughter of Joshua Whitney."[7] While there is no record of Joshua having any daughter named Alice, he did have a daughter Eleanor, wife of Samuel Shepard. However, she could not have been the wife of Nathaniel Woods, as she was living in 1713 at the time of Joshua's will.[8]


6 Middlesex County Probate, File 24703, Joshua Whitney.


8 Samuel Shepard and Eleanor Whitney were married about 1702 and he died in 1724 (Gerald Faulkner Shepard, The Shepard Families of New England, Donald Lines Jacobus, ed., 3 vols. (New Haven, Conn.: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1971-1973], 1:12, while Nathaniel Woods and his wife Alles/Eleanor had children recorded in Groton born between 1694 and 1716.

[p. 276]

New England Articles
in Genealogical Journals in 2016

Henry B. Hoff

[p. 279]

Whitney: see Burke

[p. 280]


[p. 281]

Burke, Adrian Benjamin. "More on the Will of Robert aWhytney [Whitney] if Castleton, Herefordshire," TAG 88 (Oct. 2016):213-313.

Copyright © 2020, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group.