New-England Runaways, 1769-1773 by Joseph Lee Boyle: Book Review

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

The Genealogical Publishing Company has been busy this year. “can tell an ample story” New England Runaways, 1769-1773, compiled by Joseph Lee Boyle is hot off the press.

As I mentioned in last week’s book review, some of my favorite authors are those who take the time to complete the very tedious job of abstracting items of genealogical interest from local newspapers.

There is a four page introduction to the book, which makes for interesting reading in and of itself, as Mr. Boyle describes ads placed not only for missing servants, but by husbands regarding runaway wives, wives looking for runaway husbands and those looking for common thieves.

28 colonial newspapers were consulted, covering territory from New England to New York and Pennsylvania. Having read a few colonial newspapers myself, abstracting ads from 28 of them would be quite a job, especially since the published notices filled 307 pages!

There is also a surname/given name index and a section concerning Negroes.

Here is a sampling of entries:

13 August 1772, Litchfield, CT – A detailed notice concerning William Orr, an Irishman, convicted of passing counterfeit currency, but not yet sentenced, who broke out of jail. A lengthy physical description is included. Reward was 40 shillings.

1 July 1771, Boston Gazette – Notice of a Negro man named Boston who ran away from Captain Daniel Campble on the Island Grenada. A physical description and that fact that he spoke good English, could read in a psalter and could lie without stuttering (??!!) were shared by the subscriber, James Smithwick.

24 February 1769, Westfield, CT – Four men placing the ad, Aaron King, Thomas Root, Thomas Noble, Jr. and Simon Treman, had a number of pieces of clothing stolen from them. The name of the thief was unknown, but suspected to be of “middling stature” with a blemish in one eye, light hair and a short blue great coat, and was “something pitted with the small pox.”

While some of the servants/apprentices ran away from homes, others fled from sailing ships in port.

There are quite a few jail breaks.

One of the most interesting entries concerns Simon Howard, who took out a notice on 2 January 1773. Although he gave notice that his wife, Priscilla, has left him and he will not cover her debts, there is a further notice placed two days later on 4 January 1773,  in The Massachusetts Gazette that the same Simon Howard, being heavily in debt, fled the country for three years, leaving his wife and two children destitute with no means of support! The notice further states that he returned as poor as he left and his wife basically wants him to leave her and the children alone!

Talk about airing the dirty laundry for all to see!

I was hoping to find some juicy tidbits about someone in my own early new England family tree, but, so far, I have found no connections.

This book is definitely a BSO (bright, shiny object) guaranteed to catch one’s attention.

Although Joseph Boyle is a new-to-me author, he has published 25 similar themed books with Clearfield Publishing Company, all of which are in print.

“can tell an ample story” New-England Runaways, 1769-1773 by Joseph Lee Boyle can be ordered online from Genealogical Publishing Company for $45.00.

Check out the website to order any of Mr. Boyle’s other publications.


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