I am searching for the ancestry of John Black born 1790, died February 1849, married to Mary Goodrow and buried in the Orr’s Island cemetery, Orr’s Island Maine. The descendants of John Black are quite well documented and I am confident I have most of that well researched. It is his ancestry that is a roadblock.


Local legend and family lore says John Black (who is sometimes referred to as John Blake) is a descendant of “Black Will” a slave belonging to Nicholas Shapleigh of Berwick. I already know a good bit about him through the excellent research of the Berwick[Maine] Historical Society and from Patricia Quall’s book “Lives of Consequence”. “Black Will” had two sons, one being William who was the product of a mixed race relationship, and Joshua. Joshua remained in Berwick all his life and appears to have had a large family, while William eventually moved to what is now Bailey Island in Casco Bay along with his wife Elizabeth and children William and Elizabeth. William [the child of William] eventually moves to Neighboring Orr’s Island and married his cousin Mary Black who was the daughter of “Black Wills” other son Joshua.


This is where the disconnect comes in. I can not conclusively connect William and Mary Black to my ancestor John Black. I have some theories and it is possible there is a missing generation between John and William but no documentation. So, the question becomes, Is the legend true. Are we descendants of John related to “Black Will”. In my case I am am descended from John through my grandmother and 9 generations back, so if I understand DNA correctly, DNA would probably not show a connection to Black Will for me. I have cousins who do connect to John Black through the Paternal line but there is no clear indication of a connection in their DNA [Ancestry DNA].  


The next avenue to try is to find a more recent descendant of Black Wills other son Joshua, but keep in mind he has a different mother  and I believe she was a different woman from the mother of William.


I have spent some time trying to piece together Joshua's line but the spelling of the last name is randomly spelled Black and Blake. I think it depended on who was recording the information as to how they spelled it. Although I do believe that it was pronounced Black no matter how it was spelled.


This introduces another roadblock to the research. There are many…….many online (and written) genealogies that totally ignore the connection to “Black Will” and push this line back to Daniel Black and Faith Bridge of Boxford, Massachusetts. Daniel it seems was a Scott's POW. I have researched his line some to see if any of his descendants ended up in the Casco Bay area and might have come to Orr’s Island and had a child John Black but I do not find a connection…..yet. But several of Daniels sons ended up in York, Maine only a few miles from Berwick where “Black Will” was.


In the meantime I have found a large number of Blakes in Harpswell, Maine (which Orr’s Island and Bailey Island are both part of) and they seem to be descendants of William Blake and wife Agnas of Pitminster, Somerset, England. William Blake,  the  son  of  Giles  and  Dorothy  (Twecly)  Blake, of  Little  Baddow,  Essex,  England,  emigrated  to  America  in 1630,  with  his  wife  Agnes  and  five  children,  -  four  sons  and  one daughter.  They came in the ship "Mary  and  John," Captain Squeb, arriving at Nantasket May 30, 1630, and with the company settled in Dorchester.


I do seem to be related to these Blakes but……. not because they came to Harpswell or Orr’s Island. No….It seems one of these Blake men came to Greene, Maine, a bit inland from the coast, and married into the Rose family. ANNNNNND Mahala Rose married one of the descendants of John Black. (remember John from back at the beginning of this mess? So. I know I’m related to that line of Blakes.


So….This is a request for anyone researching Black/Blakes in southern Maine to jump in here. I am particularly interested in Joshua Blacks descendants and if any of them have had DNA testing done.

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Cumberland County deeds show that "John Black ailious Blake" bought land and buildings on Orr's Island in 1818 of Olive Black, spinster of Harpswell. Any idea who Olive was, and whether there was a family connection?

I have not been able to pin down exactly who Olive is. This deed is dated 1818 and she is old enough to be “a spinster” so….does that make her over 30 and born about 1788 or before? That would make her about the same age as John Black/Blake who I believe was born about 1790. But she could be born earlier. If she were born around 1750 she could be about right to be a daughter of William and Mary whom I have estimated were married about 1745. No way to tell for sure. All I have are assumptions and guesses. However the land that is being bought and sold is land documented to have been bought by William Black and wife Mary Black. So I would have to suppose that there is some family connection because of that. William bought the entire south end of Orr’s Island in 1764 in excess of 160 acres. And the Betsy Meers named in the deed is recorded in other deeds dated 1806 and 1808 where she sells some of William Blacks land land to the Sinnetts and calls herself William Blacks daughter. I just don’t know which William Black she is referring to. William at Bailey Island or his son at Orr’s. One would suppose Orr’s. But they definitely seem to be parts of the same family.


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