Puritan Pedigrees

Robert Charles Anderson_June 2014_1Now that my book on genealogical research methods (Elements of Genealogical Analysis) is out, I have turned my attention to the series of lectures I will be delivering in October and November; these, in turn, will form the basis for a future book entitled Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England.

In most of the Great Migration volumes, I have been able to examine the motivations of the migrating families only in the context of events at the time of migration. A few years ago, while working on The Winthrop Fleet, I began to get a better feel for the deeper connections and influences which had been developing for decades and for generations leading up to the migration decision. I have already written about some of this in my earlier Vita Brevis posts and in The Great Migration Newsletter.

My goal in this series of lectures is to trace the continuity of connections which go back more than a century before the Great Migration, back to the beginning of the English Reformation under Henry VIII in the 1530s. The lectures will describe both the genealogical pedigrees and the intellectual pedigrees which linked ministers and laymen in religious reformation during this century. The course will begin with two background lectures, one on the Lollards, a sort of proto-Protestant movement of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and one on the activities of fifteenth-century merchants which are relevant to our story. There will then follow thirteen chronologically constructed lectures, approximately one per decade, beginning with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s and concluding with the final stages of the Great Migration itself in the 1630s.

The Great Migration Study Project has focused on the lives of its subjects once they arrived in New England; now, in these lectures (and, in time, in Puritan Pedigrees), I will begin to fill in some of the pre-migration background. It is my hope that the lectures and the book will give their respective audiences greater insight into the world from which our forebears came – and a sense of why they made some of the choices they did.

Robert Charles Anderson’s new book, Elements of Genealogical Analysis, is now available in the Bookstore at NEHGS. Readers can register for the Puritan Pedigrees online course here.

About Robert Charles Anderson

Robert Charles Anderson, Director of the Great Migration Study Project, was educated as a biochemist and served in the United States Army in electronics intelligence. In 1972 he discovered his early New England ancestry and thereafter devoted his time and energies to genealogical research. He published his first genealogical article in 1976, and about the same time began to plan for what eventually became the Great Migration Study Project. In 1983 he received a Master’s degree in colonial American History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Anderson was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists in 1978 and has served as Secretary and President of that organization. He became a Contributing Editor of The American Genealogist in 1979, Associate Editor in 1985 and Coeditor in 1993. He has been an editorial consultant to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register since 1989.

42 thoughts on “Puritan Pedigrees

  1. I can’t wait to see what you’ve done. Most of my ancestors came to the US between 1630 and 1640. Reginald Fo[r]ster, William Swift, Arthur Hathaway, John Cooke, Starbuck, Tripp, Allen, Gardner, Coffin, Hussey, Swain, Hooker are just some of the names I am looking for.

    1. Jennifer and I share quite a few surnames: e.g. Allen, Coffin, Gardner, Swain. on Both Nantucket and the mainland, Some of the others of my 1630-1640 ancestors include Dyer, Hutchinson, and White.

    2. Found this book most interesting, I also have many ancestors that arrived from 1620 to the 1650’s. I am interested in your John Cooke, as that was my great grandmothers name. I know nothing before Asa, b abt. 1729 in Chatham, Middlesex Co. MA.

    3. Jennifer, This may be a shot in the dark as it has been some time since you posted your comment.
      I am descended from Frances Cooke, whom I believe was the father of John Cooke. Would it be possible to exchange information on the Cooke’s?

      Thnaking you in advance

      Cheryl Thornburg Crosswell

  2. Sounds very interesting. I have found a number of my ancestors who were ministers of the Church of England, and one of them, the Rev. Charles Chauncey seems to have riled up the church hierarchy and was possibly jailed or threatened with jail if he didn’t conform to the churches teachings; he subsequently left England, either on his own or with the advice of the church leaders, settled in MA Bay Colony and became the 2nd president of Harvard College, now Harvard University. I would be very interested in finding out more about why the Bulkeley ministers of the family left England around the same time.

    1. Have you read “All Our Yesterdays” by James Oliver Robertson and Janet C. Robertson? Many Bulkleys mentioned in this excellent history of a small town, Hampton, Conn. Were your people also in Fairfield? My Sherwoods came from England in 1634 on the Francis of Ipswich.

      1. I havent been online or doing any family history research for some time due to health issues. I dont know the name of the ship they Bulkeley’s or Chauncey’s arrived on, nor the year and only guess that the Chauncey’s settled in Boston MA because it appears that Charles became the president of Harvard Colleged shortly after his arrival. Glad to know about this book! Thanks for mentioning.

    2. Think Rev. Peter B. left for the same reasons—non-conformity. I have several ministers: Chauncy, Bulkeley, Hooker. Looking forward to the book.

  3. I wait in great anticipation for your next book. I too have a family which I have research for over 15 years and much of what I continue to go back to is the time before they departed for America. Why? Religious persecution? I suspect so. I look forward to Mr. Anderson’s findings.

  4. I am glad your lectures will lead to a book, as I am unable to attend the course itself. This subject has fascinated me for a long time, and more so since I learned that a large portion, perhaps a significant majority, of my European ancestors immigrated from one area of Great Britain (Gloucestershire) in a relatively short time. By the time the book comes out perhaps I’ll be ready to begin exploring their origins on the other side (I’m still piecing together their migrations on this side, post Connecticut!).

      1. I have conflicting info, but it is possible. My direct line (including other relatives) went from CT to Tenn/KY, and ended up in Utah. But there are suggestions that they made more moves, or that another branch of the family went west via NY. I am just beginning to explore those blanks. If you have info that might be useful, I’d love to be in touch with you.

        1. Try “Some Connecticut Nutmeggers Who Migrated”.Published by Heritage Books 1988. Joseph and Samuel Stratton went to Roxbury NY, probably Bounty Lands after Rev. War service. That’s why many went to NY.It also mentions “A Book of Strattons”. I can’t find my “Annals of Oxford”, which mentions your family. I’ll look for it. I have an old sign bought from a fellow antiques dealer “WE SELL THE UNIVERSAL NATURAL MILKER Geo. R. Stratton Oxford, New York. I’ve been to Oxford twice, years ago, pre-internet, and have lots of photos.Happy Hunting! Susan

          1. Thanks for book suggestions. I have an the Book of Strattons in electronic form. Vol 2 is actually a second edition, an expanded version of Vol 1, and worthwhile looking at (some libraries appear to have an “updated”version with later material added up to the late 20th century, and reprinted or rebound). I will definitely check out the other books you mentio as well. Joseph and Samuel are a different Iine. My line is through the mysterious William of Win(d)sor. His son Martin and family (and apparently, a group of other folks from Hartland Co, CT) moved to PA around 1790. Later, toward the end of the War of 1812, they moved to southern Ohio, and thence into KY and Tenn, where I was able to link the line with my great-great grandfather, thanks to a local history and an unusual family name (Serajah) that made up for the plethora of Williams (oy). Now if I could only figure out where that first William of Windsor came from…

          2. I just found my The River Towns of Conn.: Wethersfield, Hartford, Windsor… no Strattons. I also have Conn. Marriages… will look there. What other names are you researching? I have Nichols, Whitmore, Enos, Churchill, Gorham, too tired to remember more. ttfn

          3. If you are in a reasonable distance from Hartford. I would suggest a visit to the CT State Library and their Archival and Genealogical Rooms. It is an excellent source of all New England history with of course an emphasis on Connecticut. When viewing its Standing Orders, you sense that this state was the most extreme of all the Puritan areas (still is! ) starting with Thomas Hooker and his settlement in 1636.

          4. Thanks, Viola, but I was just trying to help someone and I had a bit of Stratton info. I am 40 miles west of Chicago…only been to Conn. once, 12 years ago coming back from picking up my Shiloh Shepherd pup out at Cutchogue… took the ferry back to Fairfield, got lost, didn’t get to see any historic sites…stopped briefly at Sherwood Island to say hello to my ancestors,and drove home. Someday… Susan

          5. Susan, I just caught this. I appreciate your information. I recently joined NEHGS, and am plodding along, one family line at a time, establishing a research framework so I know what questions need to be answered. I am fortunate enough to live just a few hours drive from almost anywhere in New England if I do it on the cheap. Planning a trip to Boston (I have friends near there where I can crash and do my own kind of marathon).

            And Viola: I am definitely planning a trip to CT! Thanks for the suggestions. I understand that the part of CT my Strattons were in was a destination for people trying to escape MA puritanical expectations (or were forced out). Some of William’s grandsons were Baptist ministers, so that is a clue, as is the fact that the family ended up in PA and nearby states, with later gens deeply involved in churches the Puritans were antithetical to.

          6. Those that went to Connecticut found that things there were even worse. Their Standing Orders were invoked to bring everyone in alignment with puritan old Testament dogma. The dogmatic period of Extreme Puritanism has now largely been sanitized.

          7. As part of my effort to understand the context of the period, I’ve been reading history, most recently a fascinating book that goes into in detail of early aspects of colonization history that have been sanitized or ignored. The book is The First Frontier, by Scott Weidenhall. It is well-researched and well-balanced, but doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t mention Windsor, but other sources say that this area was something of a “free zone” during this period (early 1700s), CT was preoccupied with intense warfare along the coastal areas, both with native people seeding retribution and with other European entities with designs on the land. It sounds as if CT didn’t have resources to impose edicts throughout the colony (whose borders were still very fluid). But if they were able to extend that influence in later decades, that could explain why the entire family, along with others, left the area and headed west. .

          8. At the Hartford Room in the Hartford Public Library, Hartford.CT , I compared two gems. An original copy of the “Standing Orders” or Blue Codes imposed on the residents of Connecticut by the Puritan elect dated – late 1600 and the Blue Laws or Codes of the Anglican tidewater Virginia elect – same date. In CT each code of behavior was backed up by a “selective verse” from the old Testament. Behaviors such as smiling on the Sabbath, kissing your spouse on the Sabbath and any signs of mirth on that day were “written up as violations”. After the third violation, you were deemed “to be possessed by demons and for the good of the community had to be destroyed” by drowning, stoning, etc. In Virginia for similar violations – you were ordered to pay a public fine or if not able to – your head went into the public stock for a ordained number of hours as befitting the “crime” ! Noting the difference between Puritanism and Anglicism in enforcing behavior; this could have been the push to convinced your CT ancestors to migrate. Aside, while living in CT … still “so proper”….I hardly saw anyone smile. Now that we know that smiling has a genetic component, one wonders if that gene has been eliminated !

          9. Nah, when they went west, they got their smiles back, and still do! Your comment about the standing orders suggest that perhaps I should be looking at the other CT Strattons and maybe VA for the origins of my mysterious William. My impression is that previous searchers have largely focused on MA.

          10. Annie, I only made it to Boston once, 20+ years ago…spent all 3 days at NEGHS and didn’t even leave time to see Paul Revere’s house. Had to try to see both Isabella Stewart Gardiner’s villa and part of the Museum of Fine Art in one afternoon. Sigh. Found out years later that ggrandfather and gggrandmother are probably buried there… sigh, again.

          11. Susan, I know the feeling. I used to drive cross-county to visit my family on the west coast, and planned one trip one trip to visit my grandparents’ grave in an out-of-the-way place. Stupidly, it never occured to me to check the rest of the cemetary. I found out later that it is filled with relatives from several generations, some of whom had lived much or all of their lives elsewhere and elected to be buried there. Sadly, I am unlikely to ever make such a trip again– there is neither rail or air transportation to the area. Sigh. I am making liberal use of the grave documentation sites.

  5. I can’t wait to hear or read about these, either! While looking for info in England on various branches, I have found overlap in locales, in contacts, in occupations between what seem like utterly disconnected families. Having someone map those areas of confluence and tell the history behind them would be fascinating.

    1. I’ve signed up for your talks. Having known about my Pilgrim ancestors for some time, I only recently discovered some 1630’s ancestors, the Warren and Harrington families, who came to Watertown… as well as the “Men of Kent” to Scituate and then the Cape. Time to start reading your “Winthrop Fleet Book” in the meantime! With much gratitude for all your excellent work.

  6. I hope that you include the dark side of the Puritan migration in your lectures, as well. One that produced the Extreme Puritan Theocracy in New England that was worse than any religious intolerance seen in the old England, One that demanded complete obedience to their selective interpretation of the old Testament or “else”. With the “Saints” using whatever means they had- absolute control, corruption, murder and opportunism in order to “plant their Golden City on the Hill” in New England. The picture is not a pretty one !

    1. I had Quaker ancestors in both Nantucket and Massachusetts itself. They were treated badly. Not all Puritan ministers were the same. Stephen Bachilor, ancestor of the Batcheldor line, was fairly liberal in some beliefs. He ended up going back to England.

      1. The Rev. Stephen Bachiler (Bachilor) as a Liberal Puritan and incidentally my g- grandfather (10th) through my Wing ancestors ( they as well were founding Quakers of Cape Cod) was always at odds with the more Extreme Puritan Oligarchy that had evolved within the Mass. Bay Colony. In fact, he was the only New England puritan minister that supported Roger Williams and his decision to relocate to Rhode Island for more religious toleration. The Rev. Bachiler learned that the religious intolerance that he encountered in New England was much greater than that he had encountered in England. In total disgust – he did migrate back to England where he was finally able to obtain the peace in his old age that he had not had in New England.

        1. Exactly. Now I don’t know about my 8th g-grandfather Stephen Hooker. He graduated from Harvard in 1652. I presume he was fairly strict.
          Do you know anything about clergy named White from Danbury Connecticut?

  7. Can’t wait for the series to begin ! So many families, most of them dead-ended as they left England/Leiden with no ancestry known.

  8. I am a direct descendant of William Sargent and Anthony Colby who were original settlers of Amesbury, MA. My Sargent line migrated from there down to my grandfather who ended up in Baltimore, MD.

  9. I am a direct descendent of Charles Gott who arrived in Salem, Mass. in 1628, on the ship Abigail, with John Endicott and company. Charles was a founder of the First Church of Salem, yet his name is rarely, if ever, mentioned in regard to the Puritans or the Great Migration. Do I have to write about him to get him noticed?

    1. We are distant cousins, then! I am a direct descendent of his, as well. His son, Daniel, is my progenitor.

  10. This will be an exceptionally important historical project, Mr. Anderson, and I wish you much success with it. I think you’re going to uncover some very deep and significant cultural patterns. Historians have just scratched the surface when it comes to New England’s connection with the English Civil War (which was the American Revolution 100 years early).

    I hope you’ll look in particular at New England connections to the Leveller movement of the 1640s. I’m sure you’ve seen the important new book by Adrian Tinniswood called “The Rainborowes” — it illustrates the direct genealogical and political connections between Massachusetts Bay and the Puritan Parliamentarians. We tend to think of English ideas influencing developments in New England, but it may well be, for example, that the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641 directly influenced Leveller attempts to draw up a republican constitution for England during their civil war.

    Two other important sources to keep at hand are “Puritanism and Liberty”:

    And the ongoing collection of “Tracts on Liberty by the Levellers”:

    I would not be surprised if there were significant genealogical connections in all these groups, in England, New England, and even across the channel in the Low Countries.

    I will be following your work with much interest.

    Bob O’Hara (rjohara.net)

    1. I am not sure how much credit that I would give the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641 in terms of social justice. For one thing, most Englishmen came into the colonies at that time as Indenture Servants with middlemen purchasing their passages under the condition that it would be paid back after seven years according to terms of English Common Law. The Boston Puritan oligarchy in the ‘Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641 ” changed the terms so that it would apply only to white indentures—- the black indentured to be bounded out for life. Hence lies the beginnings of Racial disparity in the United States. And of course to jump to our own Rebellion — a significant driver here was that while Great Britain was in the process of abolishing slavery and slavers – the British North American colonies were so much embedded in this human bondage for profit and commerce – that they were not about to go that route. Hence the Rebellion.

  11. Excited about this course. I’m researching the John Pers/Perice/Pierce family who emigrated from Norwich in the 1630s and settled in Massachusetts for a book on Puritan women in early New England. I live in California now but will be in Boston later this month. I welcome any suggestions of places to see, books to read, libraries to visit…

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