19 November 2012

Pilgrims and Puritans find religious freedom in the New World

When we think of the Pilgrims and Puritans who first settled Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, we often picture them as austere people who dressed in black with nary a smile or laughter between them. They suffered greatly for not conforming to the religious dictates of their English monarchs, being fined for not attending the Church of England, imprisoned for holding their own religious meetings, exiled for their outspoken beliefs, and even martyred for their faith.

The Pilgrims and Puritans were two distinct groups who shared much in common. They both were English Protestants who wanted religion to focus on the Scriptures themselves, not the Catholic rituals, symbols, and hierarchies in the church. Part of this process meant translating the Bible into English for the common people to read and understand. Their religious meetings centered upon readings and sermons from the Bible.

The Pilgrims and Puritans believed in original sin and the inherent badness of human beings. They believed God, through his son Jesus Christ, offered grace—the gift of forgiveness for original sin and salvation—to the chosen few, the elect. The elect were predestined to be saved. Good works, keeping the commandments, and following the laws could not change their status. However, the elect needed to be faithful and obedient to the word of God. To become a full church member, each person must have a testimony of their conversion experience, which meant they were justified and cleansed of their sins.

Although the Pilgrims and Puritans both left England, they had different reasons for doing so. English Puritans wanted to “purify” the Church of England of its Catholic practices and liturgy. Separatists believed the church was beyond reform and wanted to physically separate themselves from the Church of England. The Pilgrims, some of whom settled for years in the Netherlands before landing at Plymouth Rock, were true Separatists with no intention of returning to England. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay wished to create a “city on the hill” as an example of a true Puritan community. They maintained ties with England and some even chose to return there.

The Voyages

Sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, 102 Separatists and Strangers set sail on the Mayflower in 1620. During the first winter, more than half of these Pilgrims, as we call them today, perished in Plymouth Colony. Other Separatists joined them over the next few years. However, the colony did not expand much beyond their borders like their Massachusetts Bay neighbors to the north.

In contrast, the Puritans came in droves, particularly during the Great Migration years from the mid 1620s to 1640. Some fishing communities existed on Cape Ann in the early 1620s. In 1626, Roger Conant and part of the Dorchester Company settled Naumkeag, which became Salem. They were called the Old Planters. In 1628, more people arrived in Salem with Governor John Endicott. They were the Massachusetts Bay Company vanguard, the so-called New Planters. In 1630, 700 people arrived in the 11 ships that made up the Winthrop Fleet to settle Boston and surrounding communities. The Winthrop Fleet held the Royal Charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Since it was not uncommon for Puritan ministers and their congregations to migrate together, the colony grew quickly. 

The Pilgrims created the Mayflower Compact onboard ship, “for the general good of the Colony unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” Governing issues were determined by majority rule. The Puritans were governed by freemen, men who owned property and were full church members. They believed in order and education, and enacted laws to provide schoolmasters for children to learn how to read and write.

Oddly enough, neither the Pilgrims nor the Puritans believed in religious freedom; hence the persecution, eviction, and hangings of various people not of their faith, such as the Quakers and Baptists.

Under the new English charter of 1691, Plymouth Colony lost its status as a separate colony and was joined with the much larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to become the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Select Sources:

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

Daily Life During the Salem Witch Trials by K. David Goss

17 November 2012

Pilgrims, Puritans, and the Bible

Geneva Bible
Religion was an integral part of life in England. By law, church attendance was required; nonattendance meant fines, imprisonment, or worse. During the reigns of the Tudor and Stewart monarchs (see timeline, below), the Church of England's religious foundations changed based upon who ruled at the time.

When King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England in 1534, he was not seeking religious reform. However, of his children, Edward VII was heavily influenced by his Protestant regents; Mary was adamantly Catholic; and Elizabeth was a moderate Protestant, more interested in the country’s stability than in Puritan extremes. Some of England’s subjects followed the state religion regardless which one it was, while others practiced their religion in secret or were openly opposed to the state religion.

Power of the Word

One of the tenants of the Protestant Reformation was bringing people closer to God through the Scriptures, not through the rituals and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. During the 16th century, English exiles translated the Bible into English. Even King Henry VIII created the Great Bible, otherwise known as the Chained Bible, to be read in the Churches of England. It was available to parishioners, but often chained to a desk to prevent its removal from the church.

The settlers of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies typically used the Geneva Bible, with its Calvinist/Puritan annotations that served as a study guide, even though the 1611 Authorized King James Bible was available before they left for New England. The Geneva Bible was more in line with their beliefs.

Below is a timeline of important Biblical, Puritan, and Separatist publications set against the backdrop of English history, including the reigns of the monarchs. 

Timeline of Religious Publications & English History
Henry VIII

1509-1547: reign of Henry VIII (1491-1547)
1517: Martin Luther posts Ninety-Five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany, which sparks the Protestant Reformation
1525: William Tyndale’s New Testament published in English
By 1526: at the White Horse Tavern in Cambridge, some people discuss how the Scriptures should be the foundation of the Church
1530: Tyndale’s Pentateuch (first five books of Old Testament) published; Tyndale’s books banned after disapproval from English churchmen
1533: Henry VIII banishes wife Catherine of Aragon from the court and secretly marries Anne Boleyn
1534: Act of Supremacy declares King Henry VIII head of Church of England, not pope; King Henry VIII excommunicated by Roman Catholic Church
1536: Tyndale convicted of heresy and executed for writing against King Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage; John Calvin (1509-1564) first publishes his Institutes of the Christian Religion in Latin
1539: Great Bible, the first English translation authorized by King Henry VIII, published, based on revisions to Tyndale’s New Testament and Pentateuch, plus remaining books translated from Latin Vulgate and German
1547-1553: reign of Edward VI (1537-1553) and his Protestant regents
Mary I
1549: The Book of Common Prayer (and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons) first published
1553-1558: reign of Mary I (1516-1558); Queen Mary, known as Bloody Mary, re-establishes Roman Catholicism as state religion, persecuting and killing so-called heretics; many Protestants flee to Europe
1558-1603: reign of Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
1558: Bishops’ Bible becomes the new authorized Bible, replacing the Great Bible
1560: Geneva Bible published by English exiles in Switzerland, with annotations espousing Calvinist and Puritan beliefs, based largely on Tyndale’s English translations
1563: John Foxe publishes The Book of Martyrs, an account of suffering and death under Bloody Mary’s rule, and how the Church of England should be “purified” of non-Scriptural elements
1580: Robert Browne publishes Reformation Without Tarrying for Anie, concluding that purifying the Church of England didn’t work, that it was time to Separate
1581: Robert Browne and Robert Harrison start Separatist congregation in Norwich
1603-1625: reign of James I (and VI of Scotland) (1566-1625)
1607-1609: John Robinson, William Brewster, William Bradford, and other Separatists emigrate to Holland
1611: Authorized King James Version of Bible published
1620-1640: Great Migration to New England
1620: Separatists (Pilgrims) and Strangers settle Plymouth Colony
1625-1649: reign of Charles I (1600-1649)
1629-1630: Winthrop fleet arrives in Massachusetts Bay Colony
1642: King Charles I disbands Parliament
1642-1651: English Civil Wars between Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and Royalists (Cavaliers)
Charles I
1649: King Charles I beheaded; son Charles exiled
1649-1653: the Commonwealth
1653-1659: the Protectorate rule of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and Richard Cromwell (1626-1712)
1660: Restoration of the Monarchy
1660-1685: reign of Charles II (1630-1685)
1678: Paul Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress published
1685-1688: reign of James II (1633-1701)
1688: Glorious Revolution; King James II deposed
1689-1702: reign of William III of Orange (1650-1702) & Mary II (1662-1694)
1702-1714: reign of Anne (1665-1714)
1707: Acts of Union joined the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain

15 November 2012

Religious dissent brings Pilgrims and Puritans to New England

 Winthrop Fleet comes to Mass. Bay Colony by William F. Halsall
Religious upheavals in England were one of the reasons why the New World appealed to early settlers such as the Pilgrims and Puritans. It all started when King Henry VIII (1491-1547) wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536), in order to marry Anne Boleyn (1501?-1536). Henry sought a male heir to strengthen his throne, and while the Queen had numerous children, only Princess Mary survived. Henry appealed to Pope Clement VII for an annulment, but he didn't get what he wanted.

So Henry banished Catherine from the court and secretly married Anne Boleyn. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, then declared the king’s first marriage null and void in May 1533; days later Cranmer validated the second marriage.

Up until this time, England was a Roman Catholic country. In essence it remained Catholic, but instead of the pope, by the Act of Supremacy in 1534, the king was the only Supreme Head of the Church of England. Protestant reformers, influenced by German monk Martin Luther (1483-1546) and other religious leaders, were persecuted during his reign.

Protestants and Catholics Rule
Elizabeth I

After Henry’s death, the crown passed to Edward VI (1537-1553), son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour (1508?-1537), who was raised as a Protestant. When Edward died, Mary I (1516-1558), daughter of Henry and first wife Catherine of Aragon, ruled. She was known as Bloody Mary for trying to re-establish Roman Catholicism by burning more than 250 religious dissenters at the stake. After Mary’s death, Elizabeth (1533-1603), daughter of Henry and second wife Anne Boleyn, became queen. She compromised on religious issues, keeping many of the Catholic elements in the Protestant Church of England, but re-establishing the monarch as head of the church. The Book of Common Prayer became part of the services, and while church attendance was required, punishment was not extreme such as in Mary’s reign.

After Elizabeth’s long reign, she was succeeded by the (Protestant) James VI of Scotland and I of England (1566-1625), son of the (Catholic) Mary, Queen of Scots who was imprisoned and later beheaded to stop a Catholic conspiracy to overtake the English throne. James tolerated Catholics who took the Oath of Allegiance proclaiming the king and not the pope as head of the church, but he did not agree to all the changes Puritan clergy wished to make. James did, however, sponsor a new translation of the Bible, the King James version, published in 1611. Following his death, son Charles I (1600-1649) became king. Charles not only married a Catholic and stirred up wars, he also wanted to move the Church of England away from the influences of Calvinist teachings that Puritans followed.

During the English Civil Wars, King Charles was beheaded in 1649 and replaced by the Commonwealth leader (and Puritan) Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and his son Richard Cromwell (1626-1712) before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 and the merry reign of Charles II (1630-1685). Although Charles II favored religious tolerance for Catholics and Protestant dissenters, Parliament would not allow his royal decrees to stand. On his deathbed, Charles II converted to Roman Catholicism. He was succeeded by his unpopular Roman Catholic brother, James II (1633-1701). In 1688, the Glorious Revolution replaced James with his Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange (1650-1702), and his daughter Mary (1662-1694) acting as joint rulers. William & Mary did not have descendants, so upon their deaths, the crown went to James II’s other daughter, Anne (1665-1714).

Dissent and Calls to Reform

Some of England’s subjects followed the state religion regardless which one it was, sometimes in order to protect their lives, livelihood, property, wealth, or position in society. Others practiced their religion in secret or were openly opposed to the state religion.

By the 1560s, some people, influenced by the Protestant Reformation and theologians such as John Calvin (1509-1564), believed the Church of England needed more reforms, to rid itself of popish practices. They wanted to “purify” the English church. From these groups we find the first settlers of Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were Separatists who believed the Church of England was too corrupt for reformation. Starting in 1607, some of these Separatists left England for Amsterdam and later Leiden before coming to the New World in 1620 and a few years following. The Puritans were non-separatists who believed reform was still possible. They came to New England starting in the mid 1620s.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration refers to the time period from 1620, when the Mayflower landed in Plymouth Colony, to about 1640, when immigration slowed due to the English Civil Wars (1642-1651). During these two decades, about 10,000 immigrants came to New England. Much of the migration falls between the reigns of James I and Charles I, but it was the prior rulers, starting with Henry VIII, who initiated the change of religious history in England that led to the Great Migration.

10 November 2012

Ancestor-based family associations in Massachusetts

Alden house in Duxbury, Mass., circa 1904
To honor ancestors and to help find cousins, some people have created family associations based on a specific ancestor or couple. These are typically membership-based organizations with mission statements, boards, and bylaws.

For example, the Alden Kindred of America Inc. owns the original 17th century home of pilgrims John Alden and his wife Priscilla Mullins in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Part of the Alden Kindred’s purpose is to preserve the home, which has never been owned by anyone other than Alden descendants. However, people related to the Aldens can become lineage members (as well as museum members) by documenting their ancestral lines. Lineage members are invited to family reunions, receive publications and discounts, have opportunities to volunteer or participate on committees, support research projects, and have a certain pride of place when visiting the old homestead.

Ancestor-based family associations may offer its members access to ancestor-related databases, unique library collections, digital and manuscript archives, newsletters, special events and reunions, book publication projects, DNA projects, research help, historical houses—and much more. It all depends upon the goals of that individual society.

Below, you’ll find links to ancestor-based family associations related to Massachusetts. Many of these groups are connected to pilgrims who came on the Mayflower in 1620 and settled in Plymouth Colony.

ALDEN - Alden Kindred of America Inc.
Pilgrims John Alden (1599?-1687) and Priscilla Mullins came to Plymouth Colony in 1620. Also preserves the family home in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

ALDRICH - National Aldrich Family Association
George Aldrich (1605-1682/83), who came from England to Dorchester in 1631; settled in Mendon, Massachusetts.

ALLERTON - Pilgrim Isaac Allerton Society
Pilgrim Isaac Allerton (1586?-1659) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

AVERY - Avery Memorial Association
Christopher Avery and son James (1621-1700) came from England to Gloucester, Massachusetts, before 1642. James settled in Groton, Connecticut.

BARTLETT – Bartlett Society  
Robert Bartlett (d. 1676) came to Plymouth Colony on the Anne in 1623.

BREWSTER – Elder William Brewster Society
Pilgrim William Brewster (1566-1644) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

CHANDLER - Edmund Chandler Family Association
Edmund Chandler (d. 1662) of Duxbury, Massachusetts.

COGSWELL – Cogswell Family Association Inc.
John Cogswell (1592-1669) of Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived 1635.

COOKE - Pilgrim Francis Cooke Society
Pilgrim Francis Cooke (d. 1663) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

CUMMINGS - Descendants of Isaac Cummings of Topsfield/Ipswich, Massachusetts
Isaac Cummings (1601-1677) of Topsfield/Ipswich, Massachusetts.

DELANO - Delano Kindred
Philippe de Lanoy (1602?-1681/1682) came to Plymouth Colony in 1621 on the Fortune.

DELVEE - Delvee Family Association
Peter Delva (1745-1803) settled in Warwick, Massachusetts.

DOTY - Pilgrim Edward Doty Society
Pilgrim Edward Doty (d. 1655) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

FOLSOM - Folsom Family Association
John Foulsham and his wife, Mary Gilman, who came from England in 1638 to Hingham, Massachusetts. Also lived in Exeter, New Hampshire.

FULLER - Fuller Society
Pilgrims Edward Fuller (1575-1620/21) and Samuel Fuller (d. 1683) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

GOODENOW - Goodenow Family Association
Five Goodenow siblings immigrated from England on the ship Confidence in 1638 and settled in Massachusetts. The name is spelled various ways including Goodenough, Goodnough, Goodno, and Goodnow.

HARLOW – Sergeant William Harlow Family Association
Sergeant William Harlow (1625-1691) of Plymouth Colony.

HARRIMAN - Harriman Family Association
Leonard and John Harriman, immigrants to Rowley, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, circa 1638.

HARTWELL - Hartwells of America 
William Hartwell of Concord, Massachusetts, 1635, and other branches.

HOPKINS - Pilgrim Hopkins Heritage Society
Pilgrim Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

HOWLAND - Pilgrim John Howland Society
Pilgrim  John Howland (d. 1672/73) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

NICKERSON – Nickerson Family Association
William Nickerson (1604-1689/90) and wife Anne Busby arrived in 1637, settled in Chatham, Massachusetts. Maintains the Nickerson House and Genealogical Research Center, located in Chatham, and the adjacent Caleb House (1827).

RAYNOR - Raynor Family Association  
Thurston Raynor (1593-1667) family and Thurston’s nephew, Edward Raynor (d. 1684), arrived in Boston on the ship Elizabeth in 1634.

RICE - Edmund Rice (1638) Association
Edmund Rice (1594?-1663) arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony about 1638 and settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

ROGERS – Thomas Rogers Society
Pilgrim Thomas Rogers (1571?-1620/21) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

SAMSON – Pilgrim Henry Samson Kindred
Pilgrim Henry Samson (1604-1685) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620. Also Abraham Samson (b. 1614; d. 1685-1701) who was in Duxbury by 1638.

SOULE - Soule Kindred of America
Pilgrim George Soule (d. 1679) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

STANDISH - Myles Standish Society
Pilgrim Myles Standish (d.1655) came to Plymouth Colony in 1620.

TAFT - Taft Family Association
Robert (d.1725) and Sarah Taft (d.1725), first found in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1675, and of Matthew and Ann Taft who were in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, in 1728.

TUPPER - Tupper Family Association of America 
Thomas Tupper (1578-1676) of Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 1637.

TYLER - Job Tyler Family Association
Job Tyler (1619-1700) arrived in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1638.

WARE - Ware Family Association 
Robert Ware (1625?-1699) settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, by 1642.

WYMAN - Francis Wyman Association
John and Francis Wyman arrived with their Richardson uncles by 1640. Also preserves the Francis Wyman home in Burlington, Massachusetts.

For more family associations and surname groups check out: