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Category: History

Famous explorers often kept diaries about their travels and experiences which make it easier for historians to study their experiences colonizing the Americas. However, many ordinary people were illiterate making it much more difficult to study the lives of ordinary men and women who moved to the colonies. One item available to us are the passenger manifests used to document the names and basic information of those traveling on these ships to the new world. In this discussion forum, we will study a set of these manifests in order to draw conclusions about the people who colonized North America in the 1600s.


Let’s review what we do know about the context of the time for these colonists: 

  • Between 1150-1650, England’s population increased from 3 to 5 million.
  • The colonies provided an outlet and an opportunity for people who needed jobs or who lost farmland in England.
  • Many of these people became indentured servants but the number of indentured servants differed from colony to colony.
  • 75-80 percent of the English men and women who came to Virginia/Chesapeake in the 1600s were servants.
  • 35 percent of those who came to New England were servants. (You might want to point out these different areas on a map).
  • In 1634, the King of England told officials in London to record information on all the people sailing abroad. He didn’t want England to lose its wealthier subjects and he wanted to make sure that passengers were loyal to the King and Church of England.


Today, we are going to look at two passenger lists from ships headed to the colonies. To begin, open the passenger lists and analysis sheet. You should use the analysis sheet to help you break down the information in the passenger lists before posting in the discussion forum. 

Forum Posting

After you’ve analyzed the passenger lists, I would like for you to answer at least 3 of the following questions in the discussion forum. 

  • What are the biggest differences between the two ships?
  • What does this information tell you about the differences between New England and Virginia in the 1630s?
  • What do you think will change once plantation owners in the Chesapeake area begin replacing indentured servants with African slaves?
  • Imagine the setting: Officials are collecting this information as passengers board the ship. Is the setting noisy or orderly? Are officials guaranteed to get accurate information? How do you explain the fact that all the passengers swore allegiance to the Church of England (we know that many immigrants were religious dissenters, like the Puritans who were escaping because of religious persecution)?
  • What more do you want to know about these passengers? What information is missing from these lists? How might you go about finding that information?

Overall, our goal is to determine whom these ordinary people were moving to the new world and what their purposes may have been in migrating. The last requirement of this forum is to conclude your posting with hashtags summarizing whom you think these people were and their purposes for migrating. You can add as many hashtags as you would like so long as they are relevant to the discussion.



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