As if a person gets the choice.
But anyway, Benjamin Wilmot, born in 1589 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and his wife Ann Ladd (b 1593) are my 8th great-grandparents.
Once they crossed the ocean blue, they settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and then moved to the newly formed New Haven Colony, probably to be closer to their son and his family. Benjamin is recorded as taking an oath of fidelity there 2 May 1646.
It's not necessarily the upright citizens whose stories appeal to me. Instead, an unhappy marriage in this distant and alien time is the thing that caught my imagination.
One of Benjamin and Ann's kids, my great-something Aunt Ann, married a man named William Bunnell in Watertown, Massachusetts Colony.
Although he stood for jury duty in September of 1630, William doesn't look like a successful addition to the Colony. He didn't build on the land given him, and he couldn't seem to make ends meet.
These early Colonies included a stout social safety net: an allowance was paid out in support of William Bunnell's three children when William fell on hard times. And then, in 1646, he asked the authorities for a shot in the arm so that he could have a new set of threads when he returned alone to England. They agreed to give him 30 shillings or some such as he left.
The safety net also ended up being a bit of a cage: The Massachusetts Colony needed for Aunt Ann and the children –– left without means –– to be claimed by a responsible man. Someone like her father Benjamin Wilmot over in New Haven Colony.
New Haven included about fifty households (1,000 or so people) by 1640-ish, and I imagine each one of those households knew all about old William and poor Ann. The government was small, personal, and specifically religious. Morality was not a private affair.
Imagine how claustrophobic that cozy little town might have been for a family on the down side of luck.
According to the town records, this decision "which, if it could be attained, might free the Towne from some charge, though they made some present disbursement for his passage and other necessaries for him, and understanding a vessel at Milford is bound for Newfoundland ordered that the Townsmen and Treasurer should treate with them for his passage thither, and Agreed of some course how he may be sent from thence to old England where he saith he hath some friends to take care of him." *
Here's your hat and what's your hurry...and William Bunnell fades from the pages of history. His children (cousins of my ancestors) went on to multiply and (mostly) prosper.
*Lazy scholarship, I quote this passage from the Ancient Records Series of the New Haven Historical Society 1649- 1662, edited by Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Volume 1 and the Vital Records of New Haven as cited by William R. Austin in his profile of William Bunnell/Bonnell from The Bunnell/Bonnel Newsletter, Vol 1, No 1, January 1 1987, p 3-5. Here's the weblink.
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