Out of New England

A History Lesson

Forgive an old woman’s necessity to always “teach” and attempt to put her thoughts in context.  I want to share my family’s history with my granddaughters, who number two (2) at the moment, Tristan Lee Anderson and Myah Mathilda Schmitz.  This is the story of my grandmothers’ grandmothers’ grandmothers and even before them.  We will pick them up as they arrive in America.

I have been unable to identify any Native American direct ancestors in my own family.  So we must begin with the earliest European colonists to America.  Here begins a bit of a history lesson.  We will get back to “us” in a moment.

St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the continental United States, founded by the Spanish on August 28, 1565. The second European settlement in the Americas was at Roanoke, Virginia in 1585. The first settlement was a disaster and all returned to England. The second settlement in 1587, disappeared. There are current day Native Americans who believe themselves to be descendants of the "lost settlement of Roanoke" from members of this second settlement who disappeared. Not until twenty years later did the first permanent settlement finally take root, at Jamestown. This settlement was primarily commercial in nature and was not real successful. The population of Jamestown was rather static.

The Pilgrims then landed at Plymouth Rock, approximately 30 miles south of present day Boston in 1620, thirteen years after Jamestown. Again, the settlement persevered, but could not be described as a beachhead of colonization of the colonies. During the 1620s, there were some other settlers who migrated to Massachusetts after the Pilgrims, but they were small. One settlement was at Gloucester, in 1623.  There were also advance parties for the Puritans in the years 1628 and 1629.

The New England adventure really began when John Winthrop's Fleet landed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630, with the first mass exodus of Puritans from England. There were 1,000 settlers in that first group. Two hundred died that winter and two hundred more returned to England the following spring. But more came and shortly they had established a series of seven villages* and in the next ten years, 20,000 persons, most from England and most of the Puritan philosophy, immigrated to Massachusetts to form the backbone of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Something like 18 of our ancestors were among these very first early settlers.

And, then, it was over.

There was hardly any further migration into New England until after the Revolution. Virtually all growth of the colony after 1640 was by natural reproduction, which is why once you've found yourself a descendant of a pre-Revolution New Englander, you very likely have a bunch of immigrant ancestors.

John Winthrop was their leader until his death in 1649. A man of some wealth, he helped to finance the first expedition and his money fed many of those first settlers in that first year. They landed at present day Salem, but almost immediately moved to the present day site of Boston harbor. Within a couple of years, a new extension, that of Charlestown, was created. Within ten years, the colony had spread into small settlements in Roxbury, Woburn, Lexington, Concord, Cambridge, Watertown, and others that can be seen on a map today, all within a 30-50 mile radius of Boston. (Salem was founded around 1626. Charlestown was founded in 1628. Boston was founded on September 17, 1630. Cambridge (originally New Towne), Dorchester, Roxbury, and Watertown were also founded in 1630. Dedham was settled in 1635 by people from Roxbury and Watertown.)

Within a few short years, this industrious and hearty group of pioneers had established a successful and thriving colony in the New World.

There have been estimates of 500 or so English settlers in New England before Winthrop's Fleet. (There probably weren't more than 2,000 to 3,000 English settlers in all of the Americas). The New England population would have consisted primarily of Plymouth Rock (1620) and the advance parties of the Puritans, arriving primarily 1624-1629. With the arrival of Winthrop's fleet, the population of New England tripled to 1,500. By 1640, researchers have estimated between 16,000 and 26,000 immigrants arrived, mostly Puritan immigrants from England.

By 1640, The Great Migration was over. Charles I summoned Parliament in 1640 for the first time in 11 years, opening the possibility of major political and religious change at home. Within short order, England was on the verge of civil war and efforts by folks to emigrate were discouraged. By 1650, Oliver Cromwell had executed King Charles and the English Revolution had quieted down. Commensurate with these events, the impact of Puritanism in England was pretty well finished. As a result of these events in England, immigration to the colony slowed to a trickle after 1640. Virtually all growth in New England (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine) from this point up to the revolution was a natural reproduction from the 20,000-26,000 or so Puritan immigrants of 1630-40. The population doubled approximately every 28 years.

From Massachusetts, many of these pioneers migrated to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire. When you find you have an ancestor to pre-revolution times in New England, the odds are that you will find several generations of your ancestors being American-born back to the original Puritan exodus of 1630-40. You will find your families interweaving and intermarrying with other New England families, so that you may very well have multiple original Puritan immigrants.

That is what we found and we have attempted to introduce them in the following pages.

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