Thursday, January 08, 2009


As I've mentioned earlier, I've been doing some researching of my
Andover, Massachusetts ancestors and reading my distant cousin
Elinor Abbot's book "Our Company Increases Apace". One of the
things it helped clear up for me was the terms "covenant" and 'freeman"
we see so often associated with ancestors from this period. I'm going to
try to give a coherent version of what I learned here.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, towns were formed by a group that
had to include a minister and at least ten men who would form a
"covenant" church. In order to become a member of a covenant, the
applicant would have to undergo questioning by ministers to determine
if his beliefs adhered to the Puritan faith. He'd also have to make a public
declaration of faith before the members of the church and tell about
his personal conversion and beliefs. Depending on how he performed
these two requirements he would then be accepted or rejected for
membership into the church covenant.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, only covenant members were
allowed to take the Oath of Freeman, by which they could vote or
hold office. So you can see how this favored members of the
Puritan church over settlers from other religious affiliations. As the
population of the Colony grew there was an increase in settlers from
the Anglican Church who were taxed by a government in which they
could not actually participate. Eventually, after the Restoration of the
monarchy back in England, the covenant requirement for taking the
Oath of the Freeman was abolished.

While many of my ancestors were early covenant members and
freemen, a few like John Prescott were not.

Abbot, Elinor, Our Company Increases Apace: History, Language, and
Social Identity in Early Colonial Andover, Massachusetts.
Dallas, Texas: SIL International, 2007

1 comment:

Apple said...

I've seen lots of references to Freemen in my research but new really understood it was tied to church membership. Thanks for the explaination.