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Great Puritan Migration (1620-1640): Passenger Ship Portal

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  • Christopher Wadsworth (1609 - 1677)
    Came to New World (Boston) September 16, 1632 on the Ship "Lion" with brother William. Sometimes spelled his name Xtopher. Probably came form Chelmsford, Kent, England. Christopher settled in Massa...

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The Great Puritan Migration

From The Great Migration of Picky Puritans, 1620-40 New England Historical Society

When the Pilgrims landed in Plimoth Plantation in 1620, they began what was called the Great Migration – great not because of the numbers of people who arrived, but because of the Puritans’ purpose. They came to America to live righteous and spiritual lives, rather than to get rich. And they didn’t let just anyone join their movement. Most of the Puritans who came to New England were prosperous middle-class families. They were different from the poor, single male immigrants who predominated immigration to other regions of America. They were highly literate and skilled, unlike the immigrants to Virginia, 75 percent of whom were servants. The Puritans were actually leaving stable economic lives in a corrupt England for an uncertain future in a land where they could build a City Upon a Hill. ....

... The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were the most extreme of the Puritan sect. They believed in complete separation from the corrupt Anglican church. More moderate Puritans only sought to purify and reform the Church of England. King Charles I gave the Great Migration an impetus when he dissolved Parliament in 1629 and began the Eleven Years’ Tyranny. Charles, a high Anglican, embraced religious spectacle and persecuted Puritans. The Puritans knew the Plymouth Colony experiment worked, and decided to replicate it. The Great Migration began to take off in 1630 when John Winthrop led a fleet of 11 ships to Massachusetts. Winthrop brought 800 people with him to New England; 20,000 followed him over the next 10 years. The Massachusetts Bay Company found willing recruits. Marcus Lee Hansen in The Atlantic Migration 1607-1860 wrote:

"The company had no trouble in finding congregational groups willing to go, and the groups and no trouble in recruiting members. A rage of emigration swept through the eastern and midland counties of England, arousing in the authorities an apprehension which was to be shared by many other local officials of Europe during the next two and a half centuries. The popular interest anticipated most of the features appearing in later periods. The ballad, “Summons to New England,” was sung on the streets; a “great giddiness” to depart prevailed; “incredible numbers’ sold their lands; and debtors attempted to get away under the pretext of religion. When John Winthrop, Jr., in 1635 passed through Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, he found that the contagion spread also to these parts; everywhere he stopped, eager inquirers sought him out."

... Once the immigrants arrived, they typically fanned out to new towns after spending a few weeks or through the winter season in their port of entry. If they arrived early enough in a new town to become a proprietor, they would share in the distribution of land. Towns limited the number of proprietors to make sure their children had viable economic futures. When the town reached its limit, it was declared closed. Within the first 10 years of settlement, 22 towns were declared closed from Maine to Rhode Island. But there was plenty of frontier farther into the interior.

All that ended when the English Civil War broke out in 1640. The great migration stopped, and some settlers returned to England to fight the war. But the population of New England grew anyway. The Puritans lived longer and healthier lives, and formed large, healthy families. When the first U.S. census was taken in 1790, New England had a population of 1,009,522.

.... With thanks to GreatMigration.org and The Atlantic Migration 1607-1860 by Marcus Lee Hansen.


Ships of the Great Migration

listed chronologically

  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Mayflower, 1620
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Fortune, 1621
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Sparrow, 1622
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Anne & Little James, 1623
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Abigail, 1628
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Higginson Fleet, 1629
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Lyon's Whelp, 1629
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Arbella, 1630
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Handmaid, 1630
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Mary & John, 1630
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Swift, 1630
  • Great Migration: Passenger of the William & Francis, 1632
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Lyon, 1631 & 1632
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Mary & Jane, 1633
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Griffin, 1633
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Mary & John, 1633/4
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Recovery 1633/1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Elizabeth and Ann, 1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Elizabeth and Dorcas, 1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Francis 1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Griffin, 1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Hercules, 1634
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Elizabeth, 1634 & 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the James of London, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Phillip, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Planter, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Abigail, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Angel Gabriel, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the James from Bristol, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Truelove 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Unity, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Blessing, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Defence (Defiance), 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Hopewell, Spring 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Increase, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Susan and Ellen, 1635
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Speedwell, 1635 & 1637
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the John & Dorothy of Ispwich & The Rose of Yarmouth, 1637
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Mary Anne of Yarmouth, 1637
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Bevis, 1638
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Confidence, 1638
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Hector, 1637 & 1638
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Diligent, 1638
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the John of London, 1638
  • Great Migration: Passengers of the Jonathan, 1639

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