Introducing The Great Migration Directory

Great Migration DirectoryThe Great Migration Directory attempts to include all those who immigrated to New England during the Great Migration, and only those immigrants. After much examination of the historical record, and particularly of the activities of the passenger vessels each spring, I determined that the Great Migration ended during 1640,1 and so this volume is designed to include every head of household or unattached individual who arrived between 1620 and 1640.

This basic conclusion must be tempered by two other considerations, which have always guided the Great Migration Study Project. First, because published errors are immortal, an error of omission is always preferable to an error of commission. If someone who was not a Great Migration immigrant is included in this volume, that mistaken conclusion will live forever on library shelves. If, on the other hand, a demonstrable Great Migration immigrant is omitted from this volume, he or she can always be added to the list. Thus, when deciding whether or not to include a given immigrant in this volume, I have always taken a conservative approach.

Second, because very few passenger vessels sailed from England to New England during the winter months, the Great Migration Study Project has always assumed that anyone who appears in New England records by May of a given year must have arrived no later than the previous calendar year. This explains my  decision to survey all contemporaneous sources through May of 1641.

With this background in mind, let’s review some examples of who has been included and who has been excluded. The largest source of false claims of participation in the Great Migration is the corpus of published genealogies of the last century and a half, which includes many undocumented and unsupported statements that this or that immigrant arrived in 1630 or at some other date between 1620 and 1640. One of the most egregious of such sources is the History of Lynn by James R. Newhall, which includes a long list of immigrants said to have come in 1630, but with no justification or evidence.

Unfortunately, James Savage, in compiling his Genealogical Dictionary of New England (1860), picked up many of these claims without expressing any doubts, and, more recently, Meredith Colket included many of these same statements in his Founders of Early American Families (1985). None of these immigrants, nor any of the hundreds more similarly claimed in other genealogies and journal articles, has been included in this volume, unless there exists independent evidence in contemporaneous sources for their arrival by 1640.

Conversely, however, I did not include in the Directory all those who appear in contemporaneous sources. For example, on a number of occasions crew members of the many vessels that came to New England, and especially those who came to Boston, ran afoul of the law during their brief time ashore, and thus made an appearance in the colony court records. When those who made a single appearance in the records may be identified as transient crew members or merchants, I have not listed them here.

Other men and women appear in the surviving records who never came to New England. Andrew Coleman, for example, appeared twice in New England sources in 1640, once in a Quarter Court session record in Boston and once in the notarial records maintained by Thomas Lechford.2 These were in fact two versions of the same document, created by Lechford and then entered in the court records. Careful reading of the item shows that all the actions attributed to Coleman took place in England, and that he had authorized John Haynes of Hartford to act for him in New England. Andrew Coleman does not get an entry in the Directory.

Adapted from Robert Charles Anderson’s introduction to The Great Migration Directory.


1. Robert Charles Anderson, “When Did the Great Migration End?” The Great Migration Newsletter 22 [2013]: 3, 6.

2. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, 1628−1686, 5 vols. in 6 (Boston: W. White, 1853−54), 1: 298; Edward Everett Hale, ed., Note-Book Kept by Thomas Lechford, Esq., Lawyer, in Boston, Massachusetts Bay, from June 27, 1638, to July 29, 1641 (Cambridge, 1885; reprinted Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1988), 308.

About Robert Charles Anderson

Robert Charles Anderson, Director of the Great Migration Study Project, was educated as a biochemist and served in the United States Army in electronics intelligence. In 1972 he discovered his early New England ancestry and thereafter devoted his time and energies to genealogical research. He published his first genealogical article in 1976, and about the same time began to plan for what eventually became the Great Migration Study Project. In 1983 he received a Master’s degree in colonial American History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Anderson was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists in 1978 and has served as Secretary and President of that organization. He became a Contributing Editor of The American Genealogist in 1979, Associate Editor in 1985 and Coeditor in 1993. He has been an editorial consultant to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register since 1989.

16 thoughts on “Introducing The Great Migration Directory

  1. While we associate the Great Migration with hard core Puritanism …. actually only a faction of these settlers could be classified as such …..estimates placed these radicalized at only about 4000 of the total. And even here the “Saints” were eventually bought to their knees. Drivers were — the October, 1691 decree of the English Royal Couple, William and Mary to effect “shape up are else” and the Salem Witch Trials which documented that the saints, were anything but saints ! For a great read on both– a shout out must go to Tad Baker and his newest and extremely well researched “expose”.Emerson W. Baker (2015), “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience”. Oxford University Press: New York.

  2. And it was a matter of “anybody can say anything, at any time, but that does not make it so.”
    And accusations of witchcraft were going on in other parts the world at that time. And, it was just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was a means of having other people convicted, imprisoned, whatever, AND then taking their property and assets………….

    Witch Hunt – A History of a Persecution by Nigel Cawthorne.

    1. And the Saints were caught big time here…… actually using their very extreme “American made” Theology to enriched their own agendas as the hard core were in fact wealthy merchants from East Anglia. No wonder Harvard Theology went Unitarian but in the last 50 years or so things have got a but sanitized under another Harvard Don ,Perry Miller ! To quote Baker ..op.cit. of the witch trials. “The great scholar of American Puritanism called them a non-event ” (page 6). !!!!!

  3. Is there a list of the index of names? The book won’t help me if my relative, who came to Boston in 1635, isn’t in it.

    1. If your relative came to Boston in 1635, he should be in one of the already published Great Migration books (and also in the new Directory). To see a comprehensive index of all sketches in the previously published books, go here: and then under Online Resources, click on:
      “View an alphabetical list” to download a pdf file.

      If your person is not on that list, there is another possibility. A few people were missed in these GM books. Those that have since been discovered will be in the new Directory. See the article on The Great Migration Directory by Robert Charles Anderson in American Ancestors, Spring 2015, pp. 25-30, at p. 26.

  4. What an amazing piece of scholarship that has been prepared. I know that I will turn to this on a daily basis while working at NEHGS. Once again Robert Charles Anderson has given the genealogical community a resource that will be utilized for generations to come.

  5. I have the full set of The Great Migration books. Will this directory be simply a duplication of information?

    1. Here is the description of the book, for a better idea of what’s included:

      Covering individuals not included in previous Great Migration compendia, this complete survey lists the names of all known to have come to New England during the Great Migration period, 1620–1640. Each entry provides the name of the head of household, English or European origin (if known), date of migration, principal residences in New England, and the best available sources of information for the subject.

    2. The Directory includes entries for all individuals published in the existing Great Migration publications (1620-1635) plus entries for all individuals who arrived from 1636 through 1640, who have not yet been published. See the current issue of Americanancestors (available on for details and examples.

  6. Likewise, I’d be interested in looking at an index before I commit to buying. I have two ancestors who were in Rowley by 1638 and want to know if they show up in the book. It’s fascinating history, but before I buy, I’d like to know if my family’s there. Valuable, certainly, in any case.

  7. I am not qualified to critique the scholarship of Robert Charles Anderson. I am in awe of his work; however, some of the statements made in this introduction cry for a solution.

    “If someone who was not a Great Migration immigrant is included in this volume, that mistaken conclusion will live forever on library shelves.”

    People are not perfect, they make mistakes. Librarians and authors of critical, life threatening, data solved that problem years ago and there is no reason in this day and age why errors in genealogy should be given sanctuary. If the NEGHS cared they could have started a list of errata years ago.

    ” If, on the other hand, a demonstrable Great Migration immigrant is omitted from this volume, he or she can always be added to the list.”

    The last three paragraphs are about why some names were excluded. I am not questioning this rational; however, why should all this work of Robert Charles Anderson be lost. Where is the list of these excluded as well as the reasons why they were excluded? Think of the time, and work, it would save for future researchers, as well reduction of the proliferation of errors. This list could start with the last paragraph.

    There are solutions for all negative reasons.

    1. Excellent points … I am sure that there were more than a few colonial settlers in this era that for what ever reason did fall through the cracks. Through disasters such as lightning strikes burning down meeting halls, homesteads and the kind…there is such a lack of records in early New England that every surviving source should be considered a gem into itself ! One source that has never really been gleamed by American genealogists are those treasures from British archives…… after all that is where the great Migration began !

  8. Thank you Mr Anderson for this book, which will help me greatly when looking for Great Migration details. It arrived today (I don’t live far from Boston) and it contains the known sources of information for each person listed. This will save me a lot of time. People should understand that the 10 volumes of the 2 Great Migration series contain the known details of the lives of those included. This book helps you to navigate those books plus many other important works. Thank you again for all of your important and irreplaceable work over the years on our ancestors.

  9. For those who do not wish to purchase this work, perhaps you could speak with your local library, and they would acquire it for the community.

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