27 July 2016

Using "The Expansion of New England" for Genealogical Research

Are looking for resources that will further your research of your New England ancestors?  I have found one you may not have thought of using for research. L. K. Mathews wrote, "The Expansion of New England: The Spread of New England Settlement and Institutions to the Mississippi River, 1620-1865" and it was published in 1909.  New England Historic Genealogical Society republished it in 2012 and I bought a copy.  I wanted to learn more about my New England ancestors and the times in which they lived.  I knew that my colonial ancestors did not stay in Massachusetts their whole life, so where did they go?

The Expansion of New England can help answer that question. The book helps to explain the migration of the early settlers and the reasons they may have moved. The book starts with the spread from the settlement of New Plymouth to the "first offshoots" to Massachusetts, to New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut settlements. Further migration continued up and down the Atlantic coastline and by inland rivers and streams.  Eventually, migration sent settlers to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois and Indiana. It follows New England's westward migration to 1865.

Mathews ten chapter book is filled with over 30 maps from the early 1600's to 1860. It tells the story of New England migration; the role religion played in migration, the travel patterns of whole communities, the effect of wars, the harshness of the wilderness, and the influence the settlers had on new settlements. The book is filled with additional sources that genealogist like to use.  The footnotes alone are worth reading for research sources.  Many of these sources will lead you to information about your ancestors and the places they lived.

How did "The Expansion of New England" help in my research?  I will use the Rowley family as an example.  Henry Rowley came to New England around 1632 and settled in Scituate, one of the first communities to settle beyond Plymouth.  He removed to Barnstable where we find him living in 1639.  He dies by 1673, possibly in Succanesett.

Henry's son, Moses, Sr. marries in Barnstable and purchases property, in 1677, in Succanesett, which later becomes Falmouth.  In 1692, Moses, Sr. is in East Haddam, CT.  Moses, Jr. lives most of his life in East Haddam.  Jonathan Rowley, son of Moses, Jr., migrates to Kent, CT. His son, Jonathan, Jr. migrates to Pittsford, in Central Vermont, by 1773. Jonathan's Jr. son, Hopkins migrates to Shoreham, VT and his daughter, Huldah, migrates to the Michigan frontier in 1833.

Most of this research was conducted using census, land, and probate records. Suppose you had Jonathan Rowley, Sr. in Kent, CT, but could not find his children. The Expansion of New England can help.  In fact, the Rowley family migration mirrors the migration pattern found in this book.  Or suppose you have Hopkins Rowley in Vermont in the early days of Vermont's settlement, but have no clue where he came from.  The Expansion of New England could help you explore new areas.

In fact, I did a little reverse research using the information in this book on Jonathan Rowley, Jr.  I knew Jonathan Jr. was born in East Haddam, CT, in 1729.  The next record I found for him was a land purchase in 1773, in Pittsford VT.  Where was Jonathan, Jr. during these forty four years?

Using the information on migration patterns in Mathews book, I discovered a migration pattern from eastern CT (East Haddam) to Western CT (Kent) to towns in the Berkshire Mountains migrating to Central and Northern Vermont. Can you guess where I went looking for Jonathan, Jr.? Yes, the Bershire Mountain area. It is from Richmond that Jonathan Jr. migrates to Vermont, just as the book says. 

This is only one of many migration patterns discussed in the book.  Migration patterns from New England to the Mississippi River are provided.  I have started looking for my Fenn ancestry using the information on migration patterns in this book.  I have Daniel Fenn, who married Huldah Rowley, in Vermont.  Could Daniel be found in the Berkshire Mountain area, Western Connecticut, or Eastern Connecticu?  If the genealogical gods align, he will be found.

A family history researcher may not pick this book up to read thinking that it wouldn't advance ones research.  The researcher would be missing out on a well researched and written book. "The Expansion of New England" is an excellent book to read whether you have early New England ancestors or not and if it furthers your family history research, it is a win-win.


  1. Also available at Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/expansionofnewen00roseiala

  2. Interesting post. You had me at ROWLEY. I descend from Henry as well. I haven't done much research on this branch - it's on my "to do" for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017. I recently joined the NEHGS and hope to dig deep into my New England/Pilgrim ancestry in the coming months. Thanks for the spark to get me moving in that direction!

  3. Their is quite a bit to be found on the Rowley family except for the proof I need that Huldah Rowley Fenn is the daughter of Hopkins Rowley! I am going through a lot of Vermont land records right now and will be sharing more on the Rowley family in the coming months. My Rowley line is Henry, Moses, Moses Jonathan, Jonathan, Hopkins, Huldah.