MIGRATION TO THE NEW WORLD – PURITANS

My next few posts will be summarizing information from “Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in American,” David Hackett Fischer’s wonderful book published in 1989. Fischer describes four British Folkways who migrated to the United States. He describes these  folkways as Puritans, who came into New England; Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants, usually the younger sons of British gentry and their servants who came into Virginia and Maryland setting up tobacco plantations; Quakers, who came into Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania;  and the Borderlanders, mostly the Scots-Irish who came in first through Pennsylvania and later through the Carolinas, settling on the frontier. Many of our family ancestors can be traced back to these four groups.

One of our earliest Puritan ancestors, through the Buckmaster, Dovey Piercy line, may have been the ship’s carpenter on Mayflower. Peter Browne lived only a few years after arrival, but he did leave a daughter who survived him. To prove this lineage, we need to more information on our Bedford ancestors who lived in Texas, west of Dallas. If you have more information on this family line or want to gather information on these ancestors, please contact me. From “Albion’s Seed,” here is more information on the Puritans.

About 21,000 Puritans left England because of religious persecution, arriving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony between the years 1629 and 1640.

Most Puritans were from the middle class of English society. They were educated and most could afford to pay their passage. They were usually skilled craftsmen or tradesmen. Those who did farm practiced a trade, as well. With Puritans, the family was very important; the extended family not as important as in other groups. When they settled in the new world, their settlements were similar to their English towns and villages with farmsteads outside of the village. As a group, they tended to stay in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (greater Boston area).

The Puritans were a part of what became the Congregational Church. They subscribed to a modified Calvinist Doctrine–which can best be defined by five words: depravity, covenant, election, grace, and love. Puritans screened immigrants coming into their Massachusetts Bay Colony. If someone anyone “unsuitable” showed up, they were asked to leave. Their sense of order was one that required unity.

The family ways of the Puritans came out of their religious convictions. Family relationships were covenants that could be broken. Marriages, therefore, were not usually performed by a minister, but by the magistrate. Divorce was allowed if the covenant was broken. Valid reasons for divorce were: adultery, fraudulent contract, willful desertion, and physical cruelty. It was against the law for husbands and wives to strike each other. Sex was supposed to be confined to marriage and offenders were punished severely–both parties were punished but the men more severely than the women. Both parents and children had to consent before a marriage could take place–and parents were not allowed to withhold consent without a valid reason. Weddings were simple affairs. First cousin marriages were forbidden and second cousin marriages were discouraged.

Puritans were strict parents who loved their children much but believed their wills needed to be broken (due to basic depravity of human nature). This will-breaking was achieved by strict and rigorous supervision in which the fathers took an active part. They tried to use mental discipline and love but, if it didn’t work, they were quick to use physical constraints. The practice of “sending out” was used. children often were sent to stay with other families for training, discipline, apprenticeship, etc.

The Puritans valued education. All children were taught to read by parents or masters; schools were available very early; and four colleges were founded prior to the Revolution.

Source: “Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in American,” David Hackett Fischer, 1989.

Copyrighted, 2012 by Andrea Musgrove Perisho.