Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Great Migration Database at Connecting Edward Raynor to history

I got an e-mail today from the New England Historic Genealogical Society about updates to their Great Migration database, based on the publication The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. That period of time is known as the Great Migration because immigration to Massachusetts surged in numbers - that happens to be the time period most of my early American ancestors came over, including my Raynor family, and since the new edition to the database was for immigrants with names starting with R and S, I decided to look up my immigrant ancestor, Edward Raynor.

There wasn't much there I didn't already know: from Elmsett, Suffolk, England, born about 1624, sailed from Ipswich, England on 30 April 1634 with his probable uncle Thurston Raynor and Thurston's family, settling first in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1635, Stamford, Connecticut in 1641, and Hempstead, New York in 1644. I think about Edward all the time, sailing across the Atlantic to an unknown wilderness as an orphaned 10-year-old and then being continually uprooted for the next ten years, building settlements from scratch, navigating and exploring unknown lands, dealing with the sometimes unfriendly natives. I wish I could picture it a little more clearly, what it must have been like. But after all of that, no wonder, once he came of age, he refused to follow his uncle when Thurston once again uprooted his family and moved to Southampton, and no wonder Edward's descendants were perfectly happy to stay right where they were for the next 350 years.

The profile says he was a herdsman, which I knew, and that he signed his name with a mark, which I didn't. It also said he inherited his land at Hempstead, not from his uncle, but probably from John Strickland, another original proprietor. What I found really interesting though is that the profile says that on July 4, 1656, Edward made his mark on a petition from the inhabitants of Hempstead to Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam (even though they were English, they were in Dutch territory and had been granted the right to settle in Hempstead by Governor Willem Kieft.) Further research says the petition claimed that because the settlers were paying a tithe to Stuyvesant, that he should reimburse them for injuries received from the Indians. I thought that was fascinating - not only because it gives another tiny glimpse into what life was like for him 350 years ago - that he was sending part of his goods and produce to the governor of New Amsterdam, but that unfriendly Indians were a worry - but it connects my personal family history to the general, well-known history of New York and America. My ancestor, who is not a historical figure to anyone not related to him, signed a petition to a well-known historical figure, Peter Stuyvesant, someone we were taught about in school. Stuyvesant was his contemporary and was someone who had a direct influence on his life. It's not a strong connection, like having actually met him, but it's a connection. Stuyvesant may have held the same piece of paper in his hand that my ancestor did. How cool is that?

If you're a member of NEHGS and have immigrant ancestors from the Great Migration, you can check and see if their profile is in the database on the organization's website,

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