Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy anniversary to us!

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

Today is the fourth anniversary of going live with this William and Mary Barrett Dyer research blog in 2011. I’d been writing articles for a year before that, so I’d have material with which to make a splash. My desire is to share with you not only the extraordinary people the Dyers and their friends and enemies were, but give you a new take on what their motivations might have been in light of 21st-century research.

A snapshot today shows that this blog has passed 167,000 page views, and visitors are clicking in from 148 countries, including United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, Netherlands, India, Ireland, and Italy.

Of the 131 posts published, the top stories are:
Page views from 2011 to 2015
Surprise! There’s still a large file of ideas to develop, to bring you many more posts about the Dyers and their culture.

I’ve found numerous articles copied and pasted into other people’s ancestry blogs and in newsletters as diverse as an astronomy site in southern England. Though I’m a little bit flattered that readers liked them, this is not cool. Flattery does not pay my bills. It’s a violation of my copyright. I did the research and the writing and polishing, and I haven’t been paid by anyone or any publisher. If I advertise my books and letter reproductions in the blogs, it’s a small way of recouping my expenditures. But my products are not being copied along with the purloined articles. If you borrow or steal my copy instead of linking to MY web pages, you’re doing me no favors. Some articles were graciously written by guest authors, and I’ve noted that in every copyright byline and the author tag at the end of the post, along with links to their sites or products. Please respect our rights and ask permission. Simply asking to use the articles will probably result in pleasant chat and a “yes.”
Sparking juice, wine, or
whatever you like--

A hearty thank-you to everyone who has shared these posts in social media, commented, or “followed” this blog. You've become friends, and we've discovered distant cousin relationships between this blog and Facebook pages. That's a fantastic side effect I never anticipated.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Dyers’ 1635 voyage from England to New England

and the Great August Hurricane

© 2015 by Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  

A ship of the time, in 1638: William Rainsborough’s
warship, Sovereign of the Sea, was used in the wars
of the Barbary Coast. Rainsborough, a contemporary
of Gov. John Winthrop, was the father of Winthrop’s
fourth wife, Martha, and of Judith, who married
Stephen Winthrop.
Autumn 1635—William and Mary Dyer boarded an English ship with their Westminster neighbors, perhaps 100 other passengers, and sailed to new Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony. No one knows the name of the ship or the exact date they arrived, but it probably arrived before one of the terrible winters of the Little Ice Age. Ship passages took an average of eight weeks if the winds were favorable, and up to twelve weeks if not.

The strongest hurricane ever to come ashore in New England made landfall in mid-August 1635, between Connecticut and Cape Cod, with massive 20-foot storm surges and winds that knocked down thousands of trees. Modern meteorologists estimate sustained winds of 135mph, from the descriptions of damages. Depending on which calendar historians used, Julian (old style) or Gregorian (new style, which we use now), the date for the hurricane is as early as August 13 or as late as August 26. Either way, the damage to shorelines and forest was still visible for many years.

Some historians have said that the eye of the storm passed between Boston and Plymouth; others have said that it came north from Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island). Native Americans in Narragansett Bay climbed high into trees to keep from being swept away by the waves. Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony wrote, “Diverce vessels were lost at sea, and many more were in extreme danger… It caused ye sea to swell about 20 foote, right up & downe, and made many of the Indeans to clime into trees for their safetie.” 

US National Weather Service Boston MA A study was conducted using more modern numerical models. When the impacts within the models approximated the reported impacts from the historical records, the track, wind and pressure information was taken directly from the model. It's the best we can get. More information about how this study was conducted can be found at

The 400-ton Great Hope, a ship full of passengers and their possessions, was just sailing into Massachusetts Bay when the gale struck them. They were driven aground near Charlestown, but when the wind shifted, they were blown back out on the Bay, and with the storm surge, pushed back aground at Charlestown. Those people survived, but a small pinnace broke up at Marblehead, and two families were washed away. On the pinnace, only Mr. and Mrs. Thacher survived, injured, but they lost all their children and goods.

Imagine leaving your home country, and being in sight of the shore of the Promised Land--and losing your entire family.  

An English passenger ship, James, full of new immigrants (including my ancestors Hannah and John Ayers), nearly foundered as they came south along the New England coast, making for Boston.
Rev. Increase Mather wrote, "At this moment,... their lives were given up for lost; but then, in an instant of time, God turned the wind about, which carried them from the rocks of death before their eyes. ...her sails rent in sunder, and split in pieces, as if they had been rotten ragges..."

Wikipedia: They tried to stand down during the storm just outside the Isles of Shoals, but lost all three anchors, as no canvas or rope would hold, but on Aug 13, 1635, torn to pieces, and not one death, all one hundred plus passengers of the James managed to make it to Boston Harbor.

There would have been search and rescue parties looking for survivors up and down the coast and small islands. I haven't found records of salvage operations, but the colonists were fully aware of their rights to salvage wreckage and possessions lost in shipwrecks.

Were the Dyers at sea in that prime time to arrive in Boston? Had they come earlier in the year and were they building their house in Boston? We don't know. But their son Samuel was born in the autumn or early winter, and was baptized by John Wilson of Boston First Church in December 1635. In a time when the Massachusetts churches were not hasty at adding members, the Dyers had been accepted.

Some of my research indicated that Puritans leaving England at that time had to swear loyalty to the King (the Dyers were royalists, so no problem there) and pay a large tax (or bribe) to be permitted to leave the country, so there’s speculation that some emigrants sneaked out on trading ships by way of Barbados and the Caribbean, and then up to Boston, which might be why not every emigrant shows up in passenger lists.

Ships rarely traveled alone. For armed protection from pirates, and to share resources (like physician or midwife), or if another ship needed repairs, they traveled in convoy. The ships carried not only the colonists and their many children, but their servants, the materials and tools the colonists needed to build homes, some livestock, seeds, furnishings, enough food for 18 months, clothing, guns and powder, and goods they couldn’t get or make in the wilderness of the New World. Privacy might have consisted of sheets hung from ropes. Imagine being heavily pregnant or giving birth in a 300-400-ton ship rolling around in the Atlantic Ocean in hurricane season. I’ve not seen a description of hygiene, but imagine that some passengers were seasick, others had diarrhea, there was animal waste, and children in nappies. Probably pregnant women and gassy men whose diet consisted of legumes and salted fish or meat. Although they could wash themselves with basins and towels, there weren't tubs or showers.

For John Winthrop's account of his fleet's 1630 arrival in New England, see

The Memoir of Captain Roger Clapp said that on board the ships, there were two sermons every day of the 70 days they were upon the deep. From the other paragraphs of his memoir, Capt. Clapp (my uncle about 14 generations back), describes this intensely religious sequestering as joyful and grace-filled, nothing like we’d consider with dread. He wrote of the frights and starvation of landing in Dorchester and trying to survive the polar vortexes of the Massachusetts winter, but Capt. Clapp was a silver-linings man of deep faith.
“For was it not a wondrous work of God, to put it into the hearts of so many worthies to agree together, when times were so bad in England that they could not worship God after the due manner prescribed in his most holy word, but they must be imprisoned, excommunicated, etc., I say that so many should agree to make unto our sovereign lord the King to grant them and such as they should approve of, a Patent of a tract of land in this remote wilderness, a place not inhabited but by the barbarous nations? And was it not a wondrous good hand of God to incline the heart of our King freely to grant it, with all the privileges which the Patent [Massachusetts Bay Colony charter] expresseth? And what a wondrous work of God was it, to stir up such worthies to undertake such a difficult work, as to remove themselves and their wives and children from their native country, and to leave their gallant situations there, to come into this wilderness to set up the pure worship of God here — men fit for government in the magistracy and in families, and sound, learned, godly men for the ministry, and others that were very precious men and women, who came in the year 1630.”

If the Dyers and other early colonists were anything like Capt. Clapp, they took their difficult experiences as a challenge and necessary discipline as God’s chosen people, building the New Jerusalem society.

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title): 
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aug. 9-16: Chance to win a Dyer book at Unusual Historicals

Yes, you'll have to click another link, but there, you'll be able to read two articles on the Unusual Historicals website:
1. an excerpt from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, and
2. an author Q&A with Christy K Robinson. (Click the highlighted words to go there.) Clicking will open new tabs, so you won't have to leave this site.

On either of the posts, you can leave a comment (or question), with your email, to be entered in the drawing. The Unusual Historicals team will choose the lucky winner. The prize is an autographed paperback to US postal addresses, or a Kindle edition to US or international readers. After the drawing is made, the two articles will remain on their website.

Thinking about reading the Dyer books? You should, if you enjoy escaping to a different time and culture, and being entertained while you learn. And if you're a descendant of any of the following notable people, you could learn a lot about what your ancestors were doing and how they affected history.
William and Mary Barrett Dyer
William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Edward Hutchinson
Katherine Marbury Scott
Roger Williams
Sir Henry Vane
Nicholas Easton
Rev. John Cotton
Gov. John Winthrop Sr.
Capt. John Underhill
Gov. William Coddington
Nathaniel Sylvester of Shelter Island
Rev. John Davenport
Rev. John Wilson
Gov. John Endecott
Rev. Obadiah Holmes
Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick
The first Quaker missionaries

I recommend the paperback editions because they have character lists, maps, and extensive end notes. They're easier to refer to than the Kindle versions, though the Kindle contains exactly the same material.  Where to find the books?

If you've read the books and would like to discuss them, why not hold a discussion group about them in your home, book club, or church hall? The author can speak with your small group by phone or Skype.