Family and Massachusetts Bay Colony Essay

Submitted By PrincessMaranda1997
Words: 1165
Pages: 5

It is estimated that, between the years 1629 and 1640, about 80,000 Puritans fled from England because of religious persecution. About 21,000 of them came to Massachusetts Bay Colony (the others went to Ireland, the Netherlands and the West Indies). They came from all over England, but most heavily from the East England counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Herfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, and Kent. Of the total, about 60 percent were from these counties. The next largest number came from the southern counties of Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Devonshire, and Hampshire. Less than 10 percent came from the City of London.

The majority of the Puritans were from the middle class of English society. They were educated--two thirds of the adult males could sign their own names--and most of them could afford to pay their own passage. They were usually (about 60 percent) skilled craftsmen or tradesmen. Less than a third of them had been employed in agriculture in England. Those who did farm followed the East Anglia practice of mixed husbandry and a trade. They tended to migrate in families. More than 40 percent were adult men and women over the age of 25 and about half of them were children under the age of 16. The gender ratio was about 150 men to 100 women. Very few were elderly and very few were servants. Those servants who did come were usually already part of the family before leaving England--not part of a labor draft. With the Puritans, the nuclear family was very important and the extended family not as important as in other groups. Therefore, we don't see them migrating in clans as, for example, the Scotch- Irish did. When they settled in the new world, their settlements were the same style that they had been used to in England: Towns, villages, and farmsteads outside of a village but no more than 1/2 mile from the nearest "meeting house". As a group, they tended to stay in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (greater Boston area)--but a small minority did migrate to the Connecticut River Valley.

The Puritans were a part of what became the Congregational Church here in America. They subscribed to a modified Calvinist Doctrine--which can best be defined by five words: depravity, covenant, election, grace, and love. One thing that was extraordinary about this group of immigrants was that they were screened. If anyone "unsuitable" showed up in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, they were asked to leave. That was because their basic sense of order was one that required unity. In spite of the fact that there were more men than women who came, among church members there were more women than men. (Nothing has changed!)

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 clergyman, 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. The average age for marriage was higher than in any other group of immigrants. For men it was age 26 and for women age 23. (This is something to consider when trying to estimate a possible birth date from age at marriage.) There was a strong imperative to marry--those who did not were ostracized. Therefore, 98 percent of men and 94 percent of women did get married. The practice of celibacy was disapproved of by the Puritans. Both parents and children had to consent before a marriage could take place--and parents were not allowed to withhold consent arbitrarily. They had to have a valid reason. The Puritans married for love--there were no arranged marriages. Courtship practices were strict and weddings were