Ian Watson's New England Settler Resources

Four sketches of early New England settlers

Here are four sketches of seventeenth-century New England settlers that I have written, which are not part of my book of Great Migration sketches published by NEHGS in January 2024.

Please don't be shy about sending me any feedback on these sketches. My email address is on the front page of this website. Each of the sketches carries a date, and I may revise them if new information warrants that.

The subjects of the sketches are:

These sketches have hot-linked citations. Click on any citation in the sketches and you will be taken directly to the original source (or in some cases, a page close to it). These links were automatically generated by software that I developed. To view some sources, you may need to be logged into familysearch.org or americanancestors.org in your default browser, or (for certain resources at HathiTrust) you may need to be using a US-based IP address. A few sources aren’t addressable by page, and with those the link will carry you to the title page.

All of these sketches are copyrighted by me and are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, known for short as CC-BY-NC-ND. That means that you may download them, and share them with others as long as you credit me, but in sharing them you can’t change the sketches in any way, or charge for access to them. For more information, see the license link.

Of course, the actual data points in the sketches cannot be copyrighted, and you are free to mine the sketches for individual details which you may include in your own work as you like. In particular, I'd be very glad to see the key data and references from the sketches added to the relevant profiles at WikiTree and the FamilySearch Family Tree (see links above). And I would be gratified to see these sketches serve as a foundation for scholarly research.

Three of these sketches (Partridge, Salmon, and Whiting) started life as "trial sketches" that I wrote in 2017 to demonstrate my abilities before starting work for NEHGS; I’ve since revised them. A sketch of William Bellingham was originally intended as part of the NEHGS book, until we saw that his arrival year had to be considered as "by 1639" rather than "1638"; at that point the sketch was abandoned. Later, I decided to complete it on my own.

Some reflections on these sketches

These sketches showcase a different approach to writing about early New England settlers than the Great Migration sketches published by NEHGS. The Great Migration sketches published in the volume I authored are available on paper only, in the same way as the first work by Robert Charles Anderson published almost thirty years ago. In the meantime, though, technology has leapt ahead and open scholarship has become more of a norm.

The only way to read the paper sketches is to purchase a book which costs seventy dollars. Although the book is expensive, it has a glued binding which will not stand up to hard use. Perhaps some day that book will be released electronically to subscribers at americanancestors.org and indexed there, but that day is not yet on the horizon. You have to buy the entire paper book, which contains over 130 sketches, even though you may want only one or two of them. By its nature, the paper product cannot take advantage of the features that electronic media allows (such as clickable links to external sources, every-word search, and indexes which take you straight to the page). In my view, the paper publication is something of a throttled or crippled product — it simply cannot do the things that are possible with an electronic publication, and yet it costs a lot of money and takes up space on a reader's shelf.

In contrast, the sketches you can read here on this web site are indexed by search engines and easily discoverable by people interested in their subjects — at no cost. Readers can create references to these sketches and insert them into online family trees like FamilySearch or WikiTree. If new facts are discovered, I can make changes in a sketch and can quickly and easily republish it. As well, each citation in each sketch has been converted into a URL using an automated procedure. Clicking on the citation will take you to that URL so you can see the source. All in all, these open, digitally enabled sketches offer the researcher much more than the ones you can buy on paper.

There are, of course, reasons why NEHGS/American Ancestors did not release the most recent Great Migration book openly in a format like that used on this website. Among these reasons are matters of inertia, as print-on-paper-and-sell was the only business model available when the first Great Migration books were published. (For more on these changes in genealogy publishing, you can read an article that I wrote for APGQ.) Now, though, in the 2020s, I think we can all agree that scholarship on seventeenth-century New England would benefit if we were able to direct our efforts away from throttled publication on paper and towards open publication of the type you see here.