I’m still exploring the document I found listing people, who voluntarily or under law, left everything they owned or knew to travel to this country. I can’t stop thinking about their motivations, fears, hopes, and dreams as they chose this new and unknown over their own familiar lives.
The lists don’t tell me much, just their names and in some cases, their occupation, age, and marital status.
For instance, in 1634, on the ship Hercules, captained by one John Witherley were several passengers, one Comfort Starre of Ashford, England was a chirurgion (surgeon), and traveled with three children and three servants. There is no note of a wife. On that same journey was Will Hatch of Sandwich, a merchant, accompanied by his wife, five children, and six servants.
There were carpenters, yeomen, tailors, shoemakers, a schoolmaster, and several men listed with no particular occupation. Only one possible unaccompanied woman was recorded, one Em. Mason of Eastwell shown as “wid.” While this person may have been a widow, I’m only guessing. The incomplete name could have been a man, a widower. All other women listed were wives of male passengers or wives of immigrants who had already traveled to the New World.
Following the lists of ship’s passengers, there were lists of land patents, acreage that was granted to individuals by the companies formed to settle the New World. At first, the amount of land was relatively small…50 acres, 100 acres. Soon I noticed that some grants included 600 acres or 1050 acres, and I started thinking about the work involved in working those land grants. One man was not going to be able to clear and plant farms that size with the tools available to farmers in the 1600s.
I started asking myself how these people were managing to become so productive so quick. But of course, the answer was obvious.
On page 323 of The Lists, I found this: “A receipt for one hundred Prisoners to be transported from Taunton by John Rose of London, Merchant…” later described as “one hundred persons attainted of High treason…”
I found an invoice of 68 men–servants “they being sold for ten years…” their ages ranging from 15 to 40. There followed several more lists of prisoners in groups of 100 or less that were being sent to various colonies.
One note read, “the bill of Mortality of the said Rebells that dyed since they were received on Board and were thrown overboard out of said Ship are these…”
I think I will name these few deceased men in case any of their ancestors are searching for some long-lost soul in their family. They were recorded as Thomas Venner, William Guppy, John Willis, Edward Venn, Phillip Cox, Robert Vawter, William Greenway, and Peter Bird. These men all died on their forced journey westward on board the ship Betty out of London in 1684-85.
The lists of “rebels” and men convicted of “High treason” went on for several pages. These men, forced to come to this country, toiled for years to buy their freedom or pay their debts. It seems we have always profited from the labor of unfortunate immigrants.
Conspicuously absent are lists of “captured” Africans, but in these early historical records, there are hints of the practice. Following the lists of political and criminal prisoners, I found detailed records of the residents of Barbados and the numbers (no names) of servants and slaves. There is no doubt who the citizens of that day considered servants and who they considered slaves.
This document is a treasure trove of the earliest immigrants coming here from England, and I found it on Archive.org. I found two Collings and several Collins names listed, but it will take a lot more investigation to discover whether they are in my line of ancestors.
The fact is, I just got lost in these lists. These names represent individual lives from so long ago, all hopeful or desperate to make a new life in a new country.
History just seems to repeat itself over and over and over.