Historical documents are particularly useful when researching family history. They take us to a point in time and to an era and can give insight into how groups of people handled complex and every day decisions. They also shine a light on the path our ancestors took in forming beliefs and customs—what is referred to contemporarily with an all encompassing vagueness as “our core beliefs”. One such principle of the United States is religious freedom.
In my family history is a group of my ancestors, led by Ezekiel Merrill, who were the first European settlers of an area of Maine where they founded the town of Andover. They first broke ground on a property, now known as Merrill house, in 1792.
In 1822 Ezekiel, his son Ezekiel Jr. and the adult men of Andover gathered and signed a covenant establishing their religious community. A print of the document hangs in my house: