59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum

A Finding Aid to the William J. Rotch Estate Administration Records, 1864-1918, undated

Descriptive Summary

RepositoryMartha's Vineyard Museum, Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539
Call NumberRU 27
Creator Rotch, William J., 1847-1930
TitleWilliam J. Rotch estate administration records
Date1864-1918, bulk 1882-1907, undated
Extent1 box + 1 oversize folder (0.529 cubic feet)
LanguageThe materials are in English.
AbstractEstate administration records of business owner and politician, William J. Rotch, including Probate Court executor and administrator appointments and receipts created by Rotch in the course of the estate settlement process.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use and Reproduction Restrictions

Requests to reproduce material from this collection should be directed to the library's staff. Reproduction fees may apply.

Preferred Citation

Martha's Vineyard Museum, RU 27, William J. Rotch Estate Administration Records.

Acquisition Information

The immediate source of acquisition and date of accession are unknown.


Banks, Charles Edward. The History of Martha's Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts. 3 vols. Edgartown: Dukes County Historical Society, 1966.

Publication Information

Martha's Vineyard Museum

Gale Huntington Research Library
59 School Street
P.O. Box 1310
Edgartown, MA 02539

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Insley Julier in July 2013. Machine-encoded by Nathaniel Janick April 2014.

 Creation of this finding aid was sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Related Materials

Related Materials

For an account book of related estate administration records, see accession no. 2012.001.026 (Account book no. 29.3). For account books containing the records of William J. Rotch's general store in West Tisbury, see accession no. 1975.003.006 (Account book no. 29.2) ; and, 1998.022.001 (Account book no. 29.1). For account books containing the records of William J. Rotch's grain mill and feed store in Tisbury, see accession no. 1975.003.004 (Account book no. 77.2) ; 1975.003.005 (Account book no. 77.1) ; and, 2004.003.002. See also, RU 380, George G. Gifford Collection.

Index Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • Massachusetts. Probate Court (Dukes County)

Family Name(s)

  • Rotch family


  • Estate inventories
  • Letters of administration
  • Probate records
  • Receipts
  • Wills

Geographic Name(s)

  • Dukes County (Mass.)


  • Executors and administrators
  • Probate courts--Massachusetts

Biography/Historical Note

William Joseph Rotch was born in Tisbury, Massachusetts on January 14, 1847 to John Davis Rotch, 1807-1882, and Sarah Tilton Rotch, 1809-1889. Rotch had three elder sisters; Mary, Rebecca and Ellen, and a younger brother, John Elmore. In 1873 William Rotch married Lydia E. Smith of Edgartown, Massachusetts. William and Lydia Rotch had two children; Albert and Edna. William Rotch took an active role in island politics and was a successful business owner. A collector of historical documents, he was regarded as an authority on local history and genealogy.

Willliam J. Rotch owned and operated a combined grain mill and feed store in Tisbury, Massachusetts, and a general store in West Tisbury, Massachusetts. The general store sold a variety of merchandise, including groceries, produce, dry goods, tobacco, hardware, tools, toys, sewing supplies, kitchen ware, feed, grain, clothing and footwear. Operating from at least the 1860s onwards, the West Tisbury business was eventually transferred to Rotch's nephew, George G. Gifford, 1867-1956. Rotch was also an investor and he was particularly active in the stock market. He endowed trust funds for his children, which ultimately passed to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, per the wishes of William Rotch.

The historian, Charles E. Banks called William J. Rotch the "father of West Tisbury," noting that his advocacy, tenacity and mediation were essential to the town's incorporation. When West Tisbury was officially established in 1892, Rotch was one of the first elected officials. For 38 consecutive years, he served on the West Tisbury Board of Selectmen, retiring from office in 1929. During this period, he also held various official positions on the Cemetery Committee, as Chairman of the selectmen, Registrar of Voters and as a moderator for town meetings. A well-respected public figure, Rotch was frequently named executor or administrator of estates by the Probate Court of Dukes County in Edgartown, Massachusetts. He was active in several island cultural and community organizations: he served as an officer of the West Tisbury Free Public Library Association, and between the early 1870s and 1920, was elected to numerous positions in the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society, including, Secretary, President, head of the Auditing Committee, Trustee and Vice President. He also served as Vice President of the Dukes County Historical Society from its founding in 1922 until circa 1927.

Privately, William J. Rotch was an avid collector of historical material. Fascinated by island history and genealogy, by 1926, he was said to have amassed one of the largest collections of historical documents on the island. Martha's Vineyard historian, Charles E. Banks, felt "a special debt of gratitude for his constant and hearty aid, and…his long and intimate knowledge of the island, its people and its traditions." William J. Rotch died on April 12, 1930, and was buried in West Tisbury.

Scope and Content of Collection

The William J. Rotch estate administration records, 1864-1918, bulk 1882-1907, consist of probate records produced by the Probate Court of Dukes County, Massachusetts, including letters of administration appointing Rotch as an administrator, executor's letters, trustee's letters, copies of wills, sale of real estate licenses, insolvency notices, as well as, records and receipts created by William J. Rotch in the course of the estate settlement process.


The collection is arranged alphabetically by the last name of the individual's estate, with miscellaneous materials filed at the end.

Collection Contents


Chase, Alpheus, 1906-1907 


Coffin, Julia Ann, 1907 


Cottle, John, 1911-1912, undated 


De Grasse, Fanny A., 1898-1899, undated 


Dunham, Phebe L., 1917-1918 


Greene, Albert C., 1908, undated 


Huxford, Lavinia A., 1908 


Look, Mary E., 1901-1903 


Luce, James Franklin, 1904-1911 


Luce, William H., 1905-1907 


Manter, Catherine C., 1886-1896 


Manter, Catherine C., circa 1893 

OS GEN 427

Rogers, Gilbert H., 1894-1896 


Rotch, Benjamin, circa 1905 


Rotch, John D., 1864 

OS GEN 427

Rotch, John D., 1875-1884, undated 


Rotch, Lydia, 1917 January 15 


Rotch, Rebecca D., 1910-1911 


Rotch, Sarah T., 1889-1891 


Rotch, William, circa 1905 


Tilton, Zadoc A., 1884, undated 


Vincent, Mary O., 1892, 1901-1903, undated 


Vincent, William H., 1906-1907 


Vinson, John, 1881 or after 


West, Thomas, 1895-1898 


Miscellaneous Envelopes, 1903, 1906