It’s partly about the math…

(May 29, 2018) Here’s the thing: If my calculations are correct by the time we get to our 10th great grandparents, there should be 4096 of them. My teachers taught me to show my work (how I derived an answer to my math problems — which, in all honesty, I hated math; but it does come in handy). So, here is my calculation based on the assumption that everyone has two (biological) parents, and the generations grow exponentially by a factor of two; so I am listing the number of people in each generation:

1 – me (born in 1961)

2 – my parents (born: 1930s)

4 – my grandparents (born: 1887-1901)

8 – my great grandparents (GGP) (born: 1870s – 1880s)

16 – my 2x GGP (born around 1840s)

32 – my 3x GGP (born around 1810s)

64 – my 4x GGP (born around 1780s)

128 – my 5x GGP (born around 1740s)

256 – my 6x GGP (born around 1710s)

512 – my 7x GGP (born around 1670s)

1024 – my 8x GGP (born around 1630s)

2048 – my 9x GGP (born around 1590s)

4096 – my 10 GGP (born around 1560s)

I have not documented all of these 6,144 people; so far I have focused on my paternal side and as far back as the 1560s in England. And this calculation does not factor in aunts/uncles, cousins, or step families. All of whom are part of my heritage. In my ancestry, there are families that had 10-20 siblings per family. It’s nearly incalculable to estimate how many people I am related to biologically, and who also come from the early migrants into Massachusetts.

Here is how the explosion of the continuous line of migrants into Massachusetts developed as best I can tell:

1620 – 102 people on the Mayflower arrive; but half of them die in the first winter.

1630 – 506 migrants (390 in Plymouth)

1640 – 8932 residents (1020 in Plymouth),

NOTE: the chart indicates that this includes “White and Negro” persons – but does not indicate Indigenous people who are already here.

1650 – 14,037 residents (1566 in Plymouth)

1660 – 20,082 residents (1980 in Plymouth)

1670 – 30,000 residents (5333 in Plymouth)

1680 – 39,752 residents (6400 in Plymouth)

1690 – 49,504 residents (7424 in Plymouth) – after this, Plymouth merged with Massachusetts colony.

1700 – 55,941

1710 – 62,390

1720 – 91,008

1730 – 114,116

1740 – 151,613

1750 – 188,000

1760 – 202,600

1770 – 235,308

1780 – 268,627

This is what sociologists refer to as “rapid social change” and it can generate a great deal of stress in the lives of those who are living in the midst of it. Consider these stressors: infrastructure for feeding and housing a growing population; setting up businesses and commerce for communities to emerge; establishing schools for children to become literate and capable; harvesting natural resources (timber, for example) to build economies; and the list continues.

My ancestors did that. If I were more statistically oriented, I could calculate the probability of each generation having been involved in the production of institutionalized chattel slavery given all of this information. But, that’s not really my thing. I can say that the probability is very high that my early colonial ancestors participated in, endorsed, and perpetuated in laying the foundations of the racial caste system we still see present in modern society.  That makes me nauseous.

On the other hand, a point of pride is that my ancestors were instrumental in setting up the first “public school” in 1645. According to the genealogy compiled by my distant cousins in 1972, “The minutes of the town meeting at Marshfield, held August 1645, report, “on motion being made for one to teach school, we, whose names are underwritten, are willing to pay yearly besides paying for our children we shall send, viz. Robert Carver, — 10s.”” There is also evidence that my 9xG grandfather, Robert Carver, was granted 40 acres of land to cultivate. He and his wife had one son, John Carver.

What I do not know yet is what they cultivated and how many people they had working for them and under what conditions. I will try to find that out as the journey continues.

I also do not yet know how many of my early (1620s-1700) ancestors participated in the slave economy, or how many enslaved people were living in Massachusetts in the Colonial period, were enslaved by my family members. But, I did find this information: “From fewer than 200 slaves in 1676, and 550 in 1708, the Massachusetts slave population jumped to about 2,000 in 1715. It reached its largest percentage of the total population between 1755 and 1764, when it stood at around 2.2 percent. The slaves concentrated in the industrial and seaside towns, however, and Boston was about 10 percent black in 1752.”

Thanks for reading this.

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