Book Review: The Planters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1620-1640, by Charles Edward Banks, 1930, Reprint 2006, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, MD.
I find a genealogy book that is referred to by the author’s last name rather than the book title to be a good addition to my personal library. I hear “Torrey,” and I know the reference is to Clarence Almon Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700. For me, Banks falls into this category because his work has been so well regarded for 90 years.
The Planters is a study of emigration in colonial times (1620-1640). It includes lists of passengers to Massachusetts (including Plymouth Colony), the ships which brought them across the sea, passenger place of origin when known, and the initial place settled in Massachusetts. It includes the names of 3,600 passengers on nearly 96 ships. It is the most complete and authoritative collection of passenger ships from this period ever published. The book has invaluable indices of surnames, place names and ship names.
Banks’ preface clarifies the use of the word “Planter,” which during this time was used not in an agricultural sense, but rather they were men (and often their amilies) who came to “plant” an English colony.
This book, however, is not just passenger lists. In one section Banks breaks down the immigrants by county of origin, with Sussex having the heaviest emigration. One interesting example is the parish of Hingham in Norfolk only had a few hundred families, yet 35 families migrated to found the town of Hingham, Massachusetts.
Another aspect of this book I appreciate is that Banks includes information on ships even when the passenger list is unknown. If you have a rough idea of when your ancestor migrated, you can come up with some possibilities by perusing the book.
In my research I often see the ship and year an ancestor emigrated, but Banks often fleshes that out with other facts such as the master of the ship, where it departed from, and length of the voyage. It is also worthwhile to look at a passenger list to see other surnames that might be connected to your family. I made a great discovering reading the book…the name of a 9th great-grandmother I have long-neglected jumped off the page. She was listed with her unknown (to me) parents. Bingo!