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Court Records

Creation of the Quarterly Court of Massachusetts:

"The charter of 'The Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England,' granted March 4, 1628-9 provided that annually there should be chosen from among the freemen of the Company, a Governor, Deputy-Governor and eighteen Assistants. Among the duties prescribed for this governing body was that of holding 'upon every last Wednesday in Hillary, Easter, Trinity and Mich[aelm]as termes respectivelie for ever, one greate, generall, and solmne Assemblie, which foure Generall Assemblies shalbe stiled and called the Foure Greate and Generall Courts of the saide Company.'

For a number of years this Court exercised the entire judicial powers of the Colony but with the increase of population there came a necessity for additional tribunals, and at a session of the General Court held in Boston onn March 3, 1635-6, the following law was adopted:

Further, it is ordered, that there shalbe ffoure Courts kept eury quarter, 1, att Ipswch, to which Newberry shall belonge; 2 att Salem, to wch Saugus shall belong; 3 att New Towne, to wch Charlton, Concord, Meadford, & Waterton shall belonge; 4th, att Boston, to wch Rockbury, Dorchestr, Weymothe, & Hingham shall belonge. Eury of their Courts shallbe kept by such magistrates as shal[lbe] dwelling in or neere the said townes, & by such other psons of worth as shall from tyme to tyme be appoyneted by the Genrall Court, soe as noe Court shalbe kept without one magistrate att the least, & that none of the magistrates be excluded, whoe can & will i ntend the same; yet the Genrall Court shall appoynet wch of the magistrates shall specially belonge to eury of the saide Court. Such psons as shalbe ioyned as assotiates to the magistrates in the said Court shall be chosen by the Genrall Court, out of a greater number of such as the seurall towns shall nominate to them ..."

So wrote George Francis Dow in his introduction to the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County Massachusetts (published in 1911 by the Essex Institute). Dow's introduction goes into further detail about jurisdiction, dating methods, recordkeeping, etc. Many of the records are transcribed and indexed online for your research convenience. Volumes 1-9 span the years 1636-1686, with numerous inclusions of Fairfield family members, especially John, Elizabeth, and Walter.

Researchers can access the quarterly court records online through the following links to volumes divided by years as noted. If you prefer to search the text version (rather than book page images), you can select the "full text" option on each volume's web page.

Volume 1 / 1636-1656

Volume 2 / 1656-1662

Volume 3 / 1662-1667

Volume 4 / 1667-1671

Volume 5 / 1672-1674

Volume 6 / 1675-1678

Volume 7 / 1678-1680

Volume 8 / 1680-1683

Volume 9 / 1683-1686: Online image available on the University of Virginia website: You will have to copy and paste their URL address into your web browser (e.g. google) to access the site, because my web server will not allow direct access due to the misconfiguration of their website.

If you experience any problems with the above links, you can also access the court record volumes at the family search website

Keep in mind when you look at the dates in the court records that "previous to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar to take effect September 2, 1752," as Dow explains, "the month of MARCH WAS THE FIRST MONTH OF THE YEAR and double-dating prevailed between January 1st and March 24th inclusive, in each year, so that 21:12:1656-7, when modernized, should read February 21, 1657."

Fairfield, John



1638: Fairfield property in Charleston, MA, referred to as boundary of George Bunker property and others.

1638: John Fairfield granted liberty to buy John Baker's house in Salem.
July 16, 1639: "John ffairefield desires accommodation" at Salem, MA
August 25, 1639: John Fairefeild admitted to Salem church (source: The Records of the First Church in Salem)
December 23, 1639: John Fairfield granted 80 acres for a farm
May 13, 1640: John ffairefeild admitted as freeman in Salem, MA
November 16, 1640 (referenced June 1678) Land agreement in Salem with Samuel Smith
April 2, 1641: "John Fairfeld" land agreement with Thomas Smyth
March 27, 1643 (March 1670 court record): John Fairefield's house boundary in Ipswich, MA, referenced.
December 26, 1643: John Fayrfield fined 30s for "attempting the chastity of wife of Goodman Goldsmith." According to Lisa Lauria of the University of Virginia in section VII. of her interesting article on Sexual Misconduct in the Plymouth Colony, this wording indicated an attempted act or proposition of adultery.
September 10, 1645:"brother Fairfield" presented nuncupative will of Frances, then wife of Robert Hawes. Frances was almost certainly John's sister, as her child Robert Edwards (from her first marriage) later refers to John as "Uncle" An additional sibling relationship to Frances (and thus to John, as well) is inferred by the reference in her will to "Elin Hilles, her sister in owlde England."
September 9, 1646: "John Fairefilde" presents inventory of widow Mary Hersome of Wenham. Only known autograph of John appears on this original document, according to Wynn Cowan Fairfield.
December 11, 1646: John Fairfield writes will in Wenham, MA. He dies between then and December 23, 1646, when an inventory of his estate was taken. The will was proven in courtJuly 6, 1647, by Robert Hawes & William Fiske and sworn to in court July 7, 1647, by widow Elizabeth Fairfield. Click here for text version and image of will.
Fairfield, Elizabeth
June 13, 1641: Admitted to the church
July 7, 1647: Appears in court to swear to inventory of John Fairfield estate.


Given the strict laws governing daily life in 1600s Massachusetts, a person could easily find himself whipped or put in the stocks for what seems today a minor offense.

For instance, in court held at Salem November 1 & 2, 1639, "Barbery, wife of [Edw. Waste Book] Clark, to be whipped for unchaste words, etc.; and is not to haue to doe wth this man Joans. Joans (who is a married man) to be set in stocks and fined 10li for his carriage with the said Mrs. Clark. Neglect to pay, to be severely whipped."

In defense of the court, it must be said justice was sought and found by many citizens who had been wronged. In court held at Salem January 30, 1641, "James Smith, Jr., for stealing two fishing lines, to return twice as many lines and pay 20s for loss of owner's time." The court later became famous for its Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in the late 1600s.

Fairfield, Walter

According to Wynn Cowan Fairfield, "Walter Fairfield was a leading figure in the life of Wenham [MA]: member of the jury at County Court of Salem June 25, 1667; served on committees in Wenham as early as Nov. 8, 1667; kept an 'ordinary' at Wenham, licensed 1680 and 1686 (an evidence of public trust in those days); treasurer and constable, 1676; selectman several times 1668-1709; sergeant, 1683 and Ensign, 1695; representative to the General Court in 1692 and 1700; moderator of town meeting, Wenham, 1706-1709; signed petition to the king, 1675 and represented Wenham 1689 in moves to secure restoration to the Massachusetts Bay Charter and of the General Court, after restoration of William and Mary, Called 'yeoman' and 'turner.' Involved in many litigations, some involving rather violent outbursts of language and action."

November 1660: Court forbids Richard Coy from using any timber on heirs' land except for housing and fencing.
November 1660: Review of father's estate division between sons, custody of Peter Palfrey, etc.
June 1661: "Walter Fairefeild" vs. Richard Hutten for withholding from him a parcel of land. Verdict for defendant.
November 1664: Walter and John Fairfield v. Richard Coy. Verdict for defendant.
November 1664: Walter Fairfield sworn constable for Wenham
September 1665: Walter Fairefield fined for abusing Richard Coy's wife and children with words and blows.
November 1667: Walter and John Fairfield determined heirs of mother, Elizabeth. [bro. Benjamin died 1668.]
November 1670: Walter "Fayerfeld" deposed, aged about thirty-eight years.
June 1672: Charges of trespassing against Walter. Withdrawn.
October 1672: Report filed of jury of inquest, on which Walter was member. Report dated June 29, 1672.
June 1673: Walter "Fairfeild" aged about 40 years
June 1673: Walter "Fearfeeld" for detaining or not requiring his servant, Jno. Besoon to attend the public worship of God on the Lord's day, was admonished.
March 1674: Writ submitted by Walter Fayerfield [w/autograph], builder of sawmill.
May 1674: Fined for verbally abusing Charles Gott and Daniel Killam
March 1675:Walter "Fayerfield," aged about 40 years [sic] testified
June 1676: Walter Fayerfield, aged about 43 years, testified
March 1677: Benjamin Kimball chose Walter Fayerfield to be his guardian
November 1677: Walter Fayerfield, aged about 45 years testified
March 1678: Walter Fairefield v. Mr. John Giffard. Slander. Verdict for plaintiff.
June 1678: Walter Fayerfield, aged about 48, deposed regarding land.
November 1678: Joseph Kembell chose Walter "Feirefeild" as his guardian
April 1679: Abigaill Soolart chose Walter Fairefield as her guardian
November 1679: Sarah Needham, daughter of Walter, suspected of fornication. Walter bound for her appearance at the next Ipswich court.
May 1680: Reason for appeals recorded February 9, 1680, relating to the committee of militia and the impressment of saddles and pay.
March 1680: Walter Fayerfield, being bound to bring Sarah Needham into court and not appearing
September 1680: Walter Fairefield v. Tho. Knowlton appeal re:saddle
September 1680: John Dodge v. Walter Fairefield et al. for wrong and injury done to his wife. Verdict: guilty.
November 1680: Issack Hull, husband of Sarah, relict of John Sollart Jr., v. Walter Fairefeild for withholding estate
March 1681: Walter Fairefield licensed to keep an ordinary* *Descendants can join the Flagon and Trencher Society.

September 1681: Walter Fayerfield March 31, 1679 land agreement with Ezekell Woodward. Aged about 49 years

September 1682: Walter Fairfield petition to retail alcohol, partly due to injuries sustained in fire at Boston
November 1682: Ezekiell and Walter Fayerfield complaint against one another for illegal sale of alcohol
November 1682: Walter Fairefeild v. Thomas Fiske appeal re: false oath. Reversion of judgment in favor of Walter.
March 1683: Walter Fairefield granted liberty to draw [alcohol] by retail until the next Salem court
June 1683: Walter Fairefeild's petition for continuing his license was not accepted.
Fairfield, Sarah (Skipper)
November 1682: Testifies re:Ezekiell and Walter Fayerfield complaint against one another, aged about 43 years
Fairfield, John
November 1666: marriage on March 26, 1666, of John Fairefield and Sarah Geare recorded
September 1669: John "Fayerfield" about 28 years of age, assaulted by John Edwards
Fairfield, Sarah (Geare)
November 1672: John "Farefield's" widow Sarah (Geare) presents inventory of John's estate.
November 1673: Marriage recorded of Daniell Killim and Sarah Fairefild April 13, 1673.
Fairfield, Benjamin
November 29, 1660: Chose Peter Palfrey for his guardian upon mother's death.
November 1663: Peter Palfrey dies and Benjamin chooses Matthew Edwards as new guardian
November 1664: Lease dated May 24, 1658 declares July 21, 1666, as date Matthew will be eligible to inherit.
Fairfield, William
June 1681: William Faierfeild, aged about 18 years, deposed.
1692: William Faierfeild, constable, Salem witch trial jury selection
Fairfield, John (III):
June 1673: inheritance of John "Feirefeild" put in trust of stepfather Daniel Killam until of age.
June 1677: bequeathed items from Aunt Mary Dennis, recently deceased

Fairfield, Tryphena:

November 1667: birth recorded of Trypheana, daughter of John Fairfield, on April 6, 1667.
June 1673: inheritance of "Trifana" put in trust of stepfather Daniel Killam until of age.
June 1677: bequeathed items from Aunt Mary Dennis, recently deceased
Fairfield, Elizabeth:
June 1673: inheritance of Elizabeth put in trust of stepfather Daniel Killam until of age.
Fairfield, Walter:
November 1673: record of births for Wenham shows Walter's "Fairefild's" birth (son of Walter) on April 15, 1672
Fairfield, Benjamin:
July 1667: Wenham burial recorded of Benjamin Fairfield, son of Walter Fairefield, Sept. 14, 1668.
Abbe, Sarah (Fairfield) Needham
June 1679: Sarah Needham and Phillip Parsons, for fornication.
November 1679: Sarah Needham, daughter of Walter, suspected of fornication. Walter bound for her appearance at the next Ipswich court.
March 1680: Walter Fayerfield, being bound to bring Sarah Needham into court and not appearing
June 1681: Sarah presented for fornication, found to have borne a child, and fined (warrant dated June 29, 1681).
Fairfield, Tabatha
November 1673: birth recorded of Tabatha, daughter of Walter, July 29, 1669
Fairfield, Elizabeth:
November 1666: record of births for Wenham shows Elizabeth, daughter of Walter Fairefield, born August 9, 1666.

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