THE GREAT MIGRATION: SHIPS TO NEW ENGLAND 1633-35

Harrison House, Branford, CT

Harrison House, Branford, CT

It an amazing story of Providence and the skill of English seamen that dozens of Atlantic ocean passages were made in little wooden ships bringing our Puritan ancestors to America almost without mishap in the 1630’s; the unhappy exception being the harrowing story of the Angel Gabriel, 1635, which met a terrible storm and cast up on the coast of Maine with only a few survivors.

There were perhaps 30,000 emigrants from England to New England before the English Civil War. These folks were mainly from the English middle-class, self-reliant and motivated to find a place where they might live, worship, and raise their families without government harassment. This movement of people is called the Great Migration.

Their motivation was religious, political, and economic. The British church and government was becoming insufferably hierarchical, tyrannical, and tax-hungry. Common resentment among the English people led soon to the English Revolution beginning in 1642, and eventually to the beheading of King Charles for treason in 1649, after agents intercepted his secret invitations to foreign kings and armies, that they invade England, crush Parliament and the English Constitution, massacre his English opponents, and restore Charles to his pretended Dei gratia royal privileges. Charles Stuart continued incorrigibly to hold his dynastic interest separate and above those of Parliament and the British people, and ultimately Parliament had no alternative but to end his conspiracies with an axe.

kingcharlesKing Charles I of England

Son of James and Anne. A well-intentioned knave, he was captivated by his Catholic bride Henriette-Marie, who led him to treason and death, and all England to civil war.

The Great Migration ended at the start of the English Civil War. Then for a time in the 1640’s was hope rekindled in the people that they might live in liberty in England, and the flow of emigrants ceased, in fact reversed. Many brave New Englishmen and their sons returned to fight in England to uphold Parliament and the Commonwealth. The true history of the British Commonwealth has been an unwelcome topic in Britain since the restoration of monarchy, 1661. But that is another story…

GREAT MIGRATION PASSENGERS BY SURNAME

The migration included over 1500 persons from England to New England during the years 1632-1635. I found the name Harrison on a passenger list, who with his family headed east from New Haven, Connecticut and helped to settle Branford in 1644.

My hubby, Thomas Harrison Claus has lots of Harrison descendants here from abroad. As noted above, the Harrison’s were included in the migration and came over on one of the Puritan’s ships from Darby, England, and boy did they rock the boat. They raised their children who spread their wings and founded Newark, New Jersey. We were bowled over when we saw Richard Harrison’s name on a plaque in Newark as a founder. And there was a cemetery in Essex Fells, New Jersey that had interred many of the Harrisons’.

CaptainThomas Harrison (one of them-there were many)

Captain Thomas Harrison Branford, Connecticut

So, who was this Captain Thomas Harrison?

It’s a fantasy . . . . When we told my hubby’s mother we were moving to Connecticut from New Jersey, she mentioned the Harrison’s lived there generations ago. There it was, the Harrison house, well preserved right on Main Street in Branford as a antique home and museum, open to public for tours. But the best part was the library of the family right there on a bookcase in the kitchen. And it had the writings of a Captain Thomas Harrison who had the last entry in the late 19th century, ending with, “I hope someone will continue the Harrison history.”

Now, I have more about this Captain Thomas Harrison, but you’ll have to come back next week to hear the rest of the story.

Do you know anything about Captain Thomas Harrison?

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