The 1788 deed from Jonathan and Jamime Puffer and Matthias  and Mary Rice to Luke Brooks for eight acres in Stow, Massachusetts, was not one that I simply stumbled upon. I was trying to determine if the Mary Brown who married Matthias Rice in 1773 was the same one who was the widow of Ephraim Puffer who died in Stow in 1757 and the later widow of Amos Brown who died in Stow in the 1760s (mentioned in “A Brown Viewpoint on a Crowning Achievement”).

Mary Brown is not the most common name and the marriage record in Sudbury for a Mary Brown and a Matthias Rice only indicated that she was from Stow. No annotations or comments about her or Matthias are made. I need more than just the marriage entry to know if I had her or not.

Not finding any probate for either Matthias or Mary, I decided to look for land deeds in Middlesex County during the time period Mary was married to Matthias. My search process was not exhaustive. I had used the index before and knew that many (but not necessarily all) of the deeds where a wife is listed will either name her in the index or use the et ux. to indicate the wife is named on the deed as well. I would only look at those entries from the grantor index that indicated Matthias Rice had a wife listed. I also looked for deeds just naming Mary Rice as well. 

This was an incomplete process–I should have looked for all of Matthias’ deeds. I accurately described my process in my research log so that I knew what I had done and that it was incomplete. 

There was one deed in the grantee index to Middlesex County lands for a Matthias Rice and Mary Rice after they married in 1773. That’s the deed (volume 97, page 459) were Mary and Matthias, along with Jonathan and Jamime Puffer sell eight acres and reserve Mary Rice’s right to have the apples from the orchard for the duration of her life.

Because of the difficulty in viewing the images online, I magnified the images so that I could see the page numbers. That made locating the right page easier. But because of that, I wasn’t seeing all of both pages on each image–at least not initially.

When I zoomed out of the image to view both pages before saving it, I looked at the deed recorded on page 458, right before the one I was trying to locate. There was another deed to Luke Brooks. This time the grantor was Simon Puffer.

That couldn’t be a coincidence. Stay tuned for more on that.


  • clearly document what you search and how you search it. This search was admittedly incomplete and a complete research log allows me to know that my search was incomplete.
  • be aware of the limitations of any limited search and acknowledge those.
  • sometimes one has to pick a few easy apples before going through the entire orchard.




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