Skip to Main Content

Colonial Records & Topics

Matthew Grant Diary

Image of Matthew Grant's Diary


Matthew Grant

Matthew Grant, Windsor Connecticut’s first surveyor, second town clerk, and ancestor of President Ulysses S. Grant, was born on October 27, 1601, probably in England, and died December 16, 1681 in Windsor. Although older genealogies indicate he came on the Mary & John with the Rev. John Warham, Windsor’s first minister, this has not been established definitively and Robert Charles Anderson does not include Grant on his "Provisional Synthetic Passenger List for the Mary & John."

Grant became Windsor’s town clerk after the first town clerk, Dr. Bray Rossiter, moved to Guilford in 1651. Today, Matthew Grant is best remembered for creating three sets of records:

  • Reports to the Colony, particularly the births, marriages, and deaths entered into Volumes 1 and 2 of the Colony Land Records to comply with Connecticut’s Code of 1650. These vital records were published by Edwin Stanley Welles as Births, Marriages and Deaths Returned from Hartford, Windsor and Fairfield (see Bibliography) and are indexed in the State Library’s Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records as "Volume COL."
  • The "Old Church Record" – more accurately a catalog of church members and their baptized children, begun about 1668 at a time when there were divisions within the Windsor church concerning the "Half-Way Covenant." Although Grant was not the church clerk and what has become commonly known as the "Old Church Record" was not actually an official record of the church, Grant’s volume fills in gaps in the early official town and church records. The original is at the Connecticut Historical Society. The State Library holds a typescript (indexed in Barbour Collection, where it is cited as "Volume MG").
  • The "Matthew Grant Diary," more accurately a personal notebook or journal, which is discussed here.

The "Diary’s" History

The early provenance of Grant’s notebook is unclear.  By the mid nineteenth century it was perhaps in the possession of George Brinley, an influential and wealthy book collector, as an 1885 article on Connecticut witchcraft trials by Charles H. Levermore refers to "a diary, belonging to the library of the late George Brinley of Hartford" as bearing "witness to the hanging of the unfortunates."

James Hammond Trumbull (1821-1897), Connecticut’s first State Librarian (writing as "J.H.T.") published an abridgement of Thomas Hooker’s "Thanksgiving Sermon" on page one of the November 28, 1860 issue of The Hartford Evening Press. The accompanying article reports that "within the last week" a "memorial of Hooker has come to light, -- a Thanksgiving Sermon, preached at Hartford on Thursday, October 4th, 1638, carefully transcribed (from the author’s own manuscript, probably,) by Matthew Grant of Windsor. The chirography of the little volume in which it is preserved has so forbidding a look to modern eyes, that it is doubtful whether it has found a reader in the last hundred years…."

Trumbull subsequently shared some portions of the notebook with other historians and genealogists. The covenant of the First Congregational Church of Windsor, transcribed from the notebook, was published in the April, 1862 issue of Congregational Quarterly and reprinted on page 16 of A Supplement to the History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Conn. published in 1863. A footnote by Rev. H. Dexter indicates that

"For this interesting document we are indebted to the kindness of Hon. J. H. Trumbull of Hartford. Mr. T. says, "I found it a few weeks since in the MS. Note Book [sic.]of one of the Deacons of that church (Matthew Grant), along with full notes of a sermon by Mr. Warham, Aug. 15, 1647 (two months before this was adopted), on the matter and form of a church and of baptizing children.’" 
Edward Chauncey Marshall’s The Ancestry of General Grant…, published in 1869, included "Matthew Grant’s Family Record" and "Matthew Grant’s Rules for Measuring Land" "from Matthew Grant’s Note Book, contributed by Hon. J. H. Trumbull."

A transcription of the Family Record "made 7 Feb., 1870. by permission of the Hon. J. Hammond Trumbull, from the original in his possession" was included in a genealogy of Matthew Grant’s descendants prepared by D. William Paterson and published in Volume II of the second edition of Henry Stiles’ History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor. In addition, in volume I , page 447 of that edition, Stiles notes that

"I have heard that, upon the inside of the cover of a diary kept by Matthew Grant, and in his own handwriting, is an entry to the effect that, on a certain day in 1647, ‘Achsah [sic.] Youngs was hanged for being a witch’" and that the date "corresponds with about what would be the date intimated" by a reference in Winthrop’s Journal to one "of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch."

However, the existence of the "Diary" and its importance in establishing the identity of the first individual executed as a witch in New England was not widely known until after J. Hammond Trumbull’s death. His daughter, Annie Eliot Trumbull (1857-1949) published an article entitled "'One Blank’ of Windsor" in the December 3, 1904 issue of the Hartford Courant. There, Miss Trumbull wrote that she had "come into … possession of a little old volume which with its shabby binding of worn sheepskin promises to be one of the many didactic or theological or historical treatises…" and identifies it as "the manuscript diary of … Matthew Grant, resident from 1635 to 1681 of the town of Windsor, Connecticut…." In describing the "Diary" and its contents in a major newspaper, she disseminated to a wide audience the connection between Grant’s entry that "Alse Young was Hanged" on May 26, 1647 with the first execution of one accused of witchcraft in New England.

Miss Trumbull deposited the "Diary" at the Connecticut State Library on June 1, 1927 and "permanently deposited" it on May 20, 1932. On December 8, 1938, State Librarian James Brewster wrote to Miss Trumbull acknowledging her letter of December 7, 1938 "stating that you are giving the State Library as a permanent gift in your father’s name the "Grant Diary" containing manuscript notes of one of Thomas Hooker’s sermons, which has been on temporary deposit for some years."

A Description of the "Diary"

The Matthew Grant "Diary" is only 3 ½ inches wide by 5 ¾ inches high by 1 1/8 inches thick, reflective of the high price of paper in the seventeenth century. Another indication of paper’s cost is the fact that Grant seems to have attempted to utilize all available space on each page. Grant wrote front to back, but also turned the volume over and wrote from the "back" toward the "front ."

A note by State Librarian George Godard describes the volume as a "unique and most interesting and valuable little manuscript diary of Matthew Grant of Windsor, (written largely in cipher)…" and adds that "the contents in the front and back of the volume are in the writing of J. Hammond Trumbull, first regular State Librarian of Connecticut and later Librarian of the Watkinson Library and President of the Connecticut Historical Society." Mr. Godard continues:

"Note-book or Diary kept by Matthew Grant, one of the original company who came in 1630 to Dorchester, Mass. and removed to Windsor with the first settlers of that town in 1635. He was the second town clerk, the first surveyor and a prominent member of the Windsor Congregational church. The Old Church Record of Windsor, 1635-1650, was compiled by him and is the source of much of the genealogical data of that period.

This note-book contains among other interesting material, two sermons by Thomas Hooker, one a Thanksgiving sermon preached October 4, 1638 and the other preached at Windsor June 20, 1647, shortly before Hooker’s death. Besides the sermons we note Grant’s Rules for Measuring Land and his family record, both of which are printed in Stiles’ History of Ancient Windsor, 1891-92, vol. 2, p. 303-4. On the fly leaf of the Note-book occur three entries recording the death by hanging of Alse Young, 1647, of John Newbery, 1647 and of the Carringtons, 1651. Alse Young and the Carringtons paid the penalty for the alleged crime of witchcraft according to John M. Taylor’s The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, p. 145-147."

When Was The "Diary" Written?

Although some have suggested (perhaps based on the fact that the notebook includes the October 4, 1638 "Thanksgiving Sermon" by the Reverend Thomas Hooker) that Matthew Grant began making entries soon after arriving in Windsor, it seems more probable that it dates from 1645 or later. Matthew Grant’s "Family Record," beginning with the May 29, 1645 record of Grant’s marriage to his second wife Susanna, recorded on the first page of the "back" of the volume, may, in fact, be one of the earliest entries.

The tumultuous events of 1647 – the hanging of Alse Young on May 26, 1647; Thomas Hooker’s sermon of June 29, 1647 when Windsor’s minister, the Rev. John Warham, was "absint in the baye," [i.e., away on business in the Massachusetts Bay Colony]; Thomas Hooker’s death in July; John Warham’s August 15, 1647, sermon on "the matter and form of a church;" and the Windsor church’s establishment of a covenant on October 23, 1647 also appear to be among the earliest entries in the notebook. Hooker’s choice of 1 Romans 18, "for the wrath of God is revlled from heaven against all ungodlynesse and unrighteousnesse of men which hold to truth in unrighteousnesse," as the text for his sermon and oblique references such as "if a man parseueres in opposing the trueth it argues he is under the power of corruption," and "of examnation and triall that we may heare discovver whether a hart standes to the trueth and carries to the trueth … but if he be a profest oposer of the trueth he is a man that never had the tueth of God in his hart…." and passages from John Warham’s sermon such as, "vissiable rebelles against Christ are satans subiects, and re not fit to be of the vissable kingdom of Christ" suggest divisions within the Windsor church that may have led both to the execution of Alse Young and the need for a new church covenant.

Transcription, Preservation, and Microfilming

In 1938, then State Librarian James Brewster wrote that he had given the volume "to Miss Parsons of our Archives Department, and have asked her to 'translate' it, as it were, making it easier for the average person to use, and at the same time, of course, making it unnecessary to handle this precious volume."

Jessie A. Parsons (1883-1968) completed her transcription about 1943. Her original typescript is in the State Archives and a photocopy is in the Library’s stacks. In the introduction to her transcription, Miss Parsons noted that, "The Note-Book of Matthew Grant consists principally of sermons and extracts from various religious books. It presented considerable difficulty in copying on account of peculiarities in handwriting, spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. An especial difficulty was the division of words at the end of the lines; for example, "in welcoming" might be written "inwel-coeming." The three hundred closely written pages of the original made one hundred and five typewritten pages."

In March 1993, the "Diary" was sent to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts for evaluation and conservation. The Center noted that, "The full leather laced-in binding was worn and deteriorated. The boards were warped, and the endcaps were missing. The backboard was detached. The joint was partially broken." Following treatment, the volume was "housed in a drop-spine box." In July 1997, the "Diary" was returned to the Northeast Document Conservation Center for microfilming, and the microfilm, housed in the History and Genealogy Reading Room, has served as the use copy.

The Online Presentation and Transcript

For this online presentation, each image of a page on the microfilm was scanned and converted to a separate PDF file. The Parsons typescript was also scanned and then edited by Christine A. Pittsley of the State Library staff to make it as faithful as possible to the original "diary":

The text was reorganized to reflect the pagination and line breaks of the original manuscript, permitting images of the original diary and a corresponding transcription to be presented and compared side-by-side. 
While Parsons used modern conventions, her transcription has been changed to reflect Grant's original.  For example, "ourselves,"  one word in Parsons' transcription, has been changed to "our selves."  Parsons had capitalized all references to God, Christ, and Jesus, although it is not clear that Grant capitalized any of those.  When it was abundantly clear that Grant intended a capital letter, the online transcription employs capital letters; otherwise, Grant's convention of using all lowercase letters is followed. Spelling and punctuation have similarly been edited to reflect the original "diary," as Miss Parsons had left out much of the punctuation and modernized spelling in places.
Curly brackets {  } have been added to indicate text that Grant had crossed out since strike through is not available in the software utilized for the online presentation.  Brackets also indicate where text is illegible, although such instances are also indicated with words {text illegible}.
Square brackets [ ] indicate letters that do not appear in Grant's text but which were intended by the use of tildes, contractions, etc.  Examples are the pro/pre words in which the "r" or "ro/re" were omitted and shown by an embellished "p" (transcribed as 'p[ro]fess) or the "ed" ending in which the "e" is looped, written as "e[d]."  An example of a tilde is "admissiõ" written as "admissio[n]."  Examples of each of these changes can be found on pages 218 and 219, within Extracts, Notes and Sermons.
As is the practice with modern transcription conventions, "ye" and "yt" were changed to "the" and "that" except in the cases where "ye" was clearly meant as a pronoun.  Similarly, Grant used the letter "i" in place of the letter "j," and used "u" instead of "v." For example, "iuses" is how Grant spelled "Jesus" and "saued" is how Grant spelled "saved."  In the transcription, "i" was changed to "j" and "u" was changed to "v" when appropriate.

Those unfamiliar with ancient handwriting or spelling conventions may also with to check suggested resources for reading and interpreting old handwriting.

When viewing the online presentation of the "Diary," remember that Matthew Grant made entries from both ends of the volume. Perhaps because of an interest in Thomas Hooker, J. Hammond Trumbull placed his Table of Contents at the end of the volume direction containing two Hooker sermons. Jessie Parsons followed that lead when preparing her transcript, as has State Library staff in preparing this online presentation. Still, the "back" end of the volume, including the list of hangings inscribed inside the cover, Matthew Grant’s Family Record, and the Windsor Church Covenant of 1647 could just as easily been considered the "front."


Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995 [CSL call number HistRef F 3 .A53 1995. See Volume II, pp. 801-4 for information on Matthew Grant.

_______________. "The Mary & John: Developing Objective Criteria for a Synthetic Passenger List." New England Historical and Genealogical Register CXLVII (April 1993), pp. 148-161 [CSL call number F 1 .N56 vol. 147].

"Clans of the Grants." The Hartford Courant, Oct. 28, 1899, p. 5. Online ProQuest Historical Newspapers Hartford Courant (1764-1922).

Ferris, Mary Walton. Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines…. [Milwaukee]: Priv. print. [Wisconsin Cuneo Press], 1931-43 [CSL call number CS 71 D269 1931]. See Volume II, pp. 371-9 for one line of Matthew Grant’s descendants. Grant’s "Rules for Measuring Land," transcribed from his "manuscript note book" appear on pp. 377-8.

Godard, George Seymour. Letter to Miss Annie Eliot Trumbull "May twentieth 1932," Record Group 12, Box 35, folder "Trumbull, Miss Annie Eliot".

Levermore, Charles Herbert.  "Witchcraft in Connecticut, 1647-1697." New Englander and Yale Review 8 (1885), pp. 788-917 [CSL call number Z 9999 .N472].

Marshall, Edward Chauncey. The Ancestry of General Grant, and Their Contemporaries. New York: Sheldon & Company, 1869 [CSL call number CS 71 .G762 1869]. See page 100 for a transcription of "Matthew Grant’s Family Record" and page 101 for a transcription of "Matthew Grant’s Rules for Measuring Land."

Matthew Grant’s Old Church Record. Barbour, Lucius Barnes Genealogical Collection, no. 68, RG 74:36, no. 68. Typescript of a transcript prepared by Albert C. Bates. Includes an every-name index.

Roberts, Richard C.  "The Events of 1647 as Revealed in Matthew Grant's Notebook."  Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor Newsletter XXV:I (Fall 2007), pp. 8-9 [CSL call number F 104 .W7 N48].

Starr, Frank Farnsworth. Various Ancestral Lines of James Goodwin and Lucy (Morgan) Goodwin of Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford [New Haven, the Tuttle, Morehouse, & Taylor Press], 1915 [CSL call number CS 71 .G657 1915]. See Volume I, pp. 99-110 for "The Family of Mathew Grant."

Stiles, Henry R. The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut…. Hartford: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1891 [CSL Call Number F 104 .W7 S7 1891]. Reference to the hanging of "Achsah Youngs" as being recorded "inside of the cover of a diary kept by Matthew Grant" appears in Volume I, p. 447. Biographical and genealogical information on Matthew Grant is in Volume II, pp. 302ff, with the transcript of Grant’s family record included on pp. 303-4.

Stiles, Henry R. A Supplement to the History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Conn., Containing Corrections and Additions…. Albany: J. Munsell, 1863 [CSL call number F 104 .W7 S85 1859 suppl.].

Taylor, John M. The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, 1647-1697. The Grafton Press, 1908. Reprint Williamstown, Massachusetts: Corner House Publishers, 1974 [CSL call number BF 1576 .T25]. Pages 145-147 discuss the then relatively recent identification of Alse Young as the first person executed as a witch in Connecticut based on the information listed inside the cover of the Grant "Diary".

Trumbull, Annie Elliot. "’One Blank’ of Windsor." The Hartford Courant, Dec. 3, 1904, p. A11. Online Proquest Historical Newspapers, Hartford Courant (1764-1922).

Welles, Edwin Stanley, ed. Births, Marriages and Deaths Returned from Hartford, Windsor and Fairfield and Entered in the Early Land Records of the Colony of Connecticut: Volumes I and II of Land Records and no. D of Colonial Deeds. Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., 1898. The information in this book was transcribed from State Archives Record Group 1, Early General Records volumes 46 and 47, otherwise known as "Connecticut Colonial Land Records" vol. 1 (1640-1653) and vol. 2 (1646-1763), and Early General Records volume 48, otherwise known as "Connecticut Colony Records of Deeds, etc.: The Publick Records of Her Majesties Colonie of Connecticut, Number D". It consists of one page of Fairfield records, two pages of Hartford records (listing 31 events), and fifty-five pages of Windsor records carried to Hartford and in some cases actually transcribed in the first volume of the colony’s Land Records by Matthew Grant (the abbreviation for this volume in the Barbour Collection is "Col".)




Connecticut State Library | 231 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106 | 860-757-6500 * Toll-free 866-886-4478
Disclaimers & Permissions | Privacy Policy | State of Connecticut Home Page

The State of Connecticut is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and strongly encourages the applications of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.