Monday, June 01, 2009


Like many early immigrants to this country, it was always about land for my ancestors
on my Dad's side of the family. Our Mayflower ancestors sought religious freedom but
they also needed good farmland to support themselves. With time the settlers moved
northwards where the farmland was better and our Edson, Forbes, Keith, and Packard
ancestors ended up in what later became the Bridgewaters, which are less than ten minutes
away from where I sit typing this article at this moment.

Our Massachusetts Bay Colony ancestors were a bit luckier than those south of Boston.
The land to the north and west was more fertile and land was plentiful. Ralph Ellingwood
was given 1/2 acre in 1637 by the town of Salem and left a considerably larger estate
when he died. Simon Willard was one of the first settlers of Concord, John Prescott of
Lancaster, and Jeremiah Swain Sr. of Reading. Some were farmers, some built mills and
sawmills, and Simon Willard even traded in furs with the Indians. And of course, it was
the growing number of English settlers taking over the land that led to the wars with the

A lot of the fighting took place in Maine and New Hampshire over the next century so
many of the Revolutionary War veterans who took land grants there after the Revolution
had heard stories of what to expect in the area from their fathers and grandfathers. Some
of them farmed, but others logged the forests.

The more recent generations of Dad's family did some of both farming and logging, and
trapping and hunting as well. Admittedly I'm not expert but from what I can tell they
did it carefully and with respect for the land.

And then my father moved south and married a city girl. Mom's family might have
been here for a shorter time but her Irish-American family did have in common with my
Dad's ancestors a desire to own land. As soon as they could they bought houses out in
the suburbs. I think the biggest regret for both my parents was not being able to manage
to own their own home.

One of the great things about researching my family history is the realization of how deep
a connection there is with the history of the region. That probably explains why I can't
imagine myself living anywhere else!

Written for the 73rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

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