Hot off the Press! Puritan Pedigrees of the Great Migration of New England by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG: A Review

I am always excited when the New England Historic Genealogical Society has a major new publication. Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, is definitely in that category.

This book is literally just off the press and arrived in my mailbox two days ago. (Disclaimer: I had pre-ordered the book in December – this is not a complimentary copy, nor have I received any perks or compensation for this review.)

The book’s format is straightforward with the objective stated in the opening paragraph:

The purpose of this volume is to expand on two long-standing and prominent strands in the historiography of the Great Migration to New England, combining both the clerical and lay perspectives, with emphasis on the latter.

The two strands mentioned are (1) the religious motivation for the migration from England to New England and (2) the network of genealogical and intellectual connections that existed among those early immigrants in England.

In other words, this is the backstory of the social and religious influences that caused the beginning of the Great Migration.

There are 12 chapters in the book, interspersed with Interludes that add side details pertaining to the chapters they follow:

Chapter One – Thomas Mildmay and John Winthrop
Interlude: The Culverwell Family
Chapter Two: Thomas Cranmer and Walter Norton
Chapter Three: Alexander Nowell and Increase Nowell
Interlude: The Weald of Kent
Chapter Four: Henry Hastings and Richard Mather
Chapter Five: Edmund Grindal and John Wilson
Interlude: Conventicles
Chapter Six: Richard Rogers and John Rogers
Chapter Seven: Robert Browne and Thomas Oliver
Chapter Eight: Thomas Stoughton and James Cudworth
Interlude: The Classis Movement Connection
Chapter Nine: Arthur Hildersham and Walter Desborough
Interlude: Childerditch
Chapter Ten: Robert Parker and Stephen Bachiler
Chapter Eleven: John White and John Warham
Chapter Twelve: Herbert Pelham and Isaac Johnson

First, do NOT make the mistake of scanning the list of names in the chapters and decide to pass over this book because none of your ancestors are listed.

By doing so, you will miss the whole point of the book, which is to understand HOW the Great Migration came to be.

Social influence, education and kinship in England were all important factors that contributed to the birth of Puritanism. The genealogical pedigrees of the men highlighted in these chapters are deftly woven into a complex set of relationships and stories, beginning in the 1500s and extended into the early part of the 17th century, which saw the first ships leaving old England for New England.

Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England is a scholarly work, heavily foot-noted and annotated with charts and illustrations. If you are lucky enough to have ancestors mentioned in this book, that is a bonus, but shouldn’t be the impetus for reading it.

I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in the religious influences, barriers and persecutions that led to the Great Migration and the founding of New England.

It isn’t an inexpensive book, but it definitely should be on the reference shelves of anyone researching 17th century New England.

An aside, if you have read Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer, the first section, East Anglia to Massachusetts, is a great companion piece to accompany this book.

Puritan Pedigrees: The Deep Roots of the Great Migration to New England by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG is available on American Ancestors for $64.95.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.