The Small World of the 17th Century


By Carolyn L. Barkley



I was born in Massachusetts, but have lived in Virginia for almost 40 years. My early history education had stressed the Pilgrims, Plymouth and 1620 almost to the exclusion of Jamestown and 1607. As I became active in the planning for events celebrating the 400th anniversary of the First Landing, I realized my lack of knowledge of this seminal event and so I began to read in order to gain a richer understanding of Virginia’s history as well as that of our nation. That enjoyable experience then led me to realize that my knowledge of the Pilgrims and their voyage and experiences in the new world was also less than what it could be.


When I read Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War (Viking, 2006), I was struck by the connections that existed between the Jamestown settlers and those voyagers who arrived in Plymouth aboard the Mayflower. The Virginia Company provided funding for both settlement ventures. The intended landing site in 1620 was the mouth of the Hudson River, described as “northern Virginia.� John Smith had been approached by the Separatists in London, but his knowledge had made the potential colonists fearful of a loss of control over their voyage. They may have been aware of his map of New England carefully drawn during his 1614 voyage, but it is not clear that they made use of it. The most interesting connection, however, can be found in Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins was making his second voyage to the new world, having made his first, to Virginia, in 1609 aboard the Sea Venture. This latter voyage ended in shipwreck in Bermuda and provided the basis for Shakespeare’s Tempest. Hopkins would eventually reach Jamestown and remain there for two years before returning to England. These three events, normally viewed as independent of one another, illustrate the small world of the 17 century. As this year of commemoration of the 400th anniversary of English settlement in Virginia draws to a close, Genealogical Publishing Company has many titles that will assist historians and genealogists in their research in both Virginia and Massachusetts.

A new title, released early this year, Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary by Martha W. McCartney, brings together a variety of primary sources regarding Virginia’s earliest European inhabitants and the sparsely populated and fragile communities in which they lived, resulting in the most comprehensive collection of annotated biographical sketches yet published. Ms. McCartney conveys the basics about many of these original colonists: their origins, the names of the ships they sailed on, the names of their spouses and children, their occupations and their position in the colony, their relationships with fellow colonists and Indian neighbors, their living conditions as far as can be ascertained from documentary sources, their ownership of land, the dates and circumstances of their death, and other details about their personal lives. Maps identify the sites of Virginia’s earliest plantations. An introductory chapter includes an overview of local and regional settlement and provides succinct histories of the various plantations established in Tidewater Virginia by 1635. An every name index provides access to names within the individual entries.Other Genealogical Publishing Company and Clearfield titles of interest to Virginia researchers in this time period include:

Those with an interest in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies may want to check the following:

Additional Virginia materials: David Price’s Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation (Knopf, 2003); James Horn’s A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America (Basic Books, 2005); Aleck Loker’s Fearless Captain: the Adventures of John Smith (Morgan Reynolds, 2006; Helen C. Rountree’s Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown (Univ. of Virginia Press, 2005); and Ed Southern’s The Jamestown Adventure: Accounts of the Virginia Colony 1605-1614 (John F. Blair, 2004) to name only a few.



Carolyn Barkley is a retired public librarian who now spends her time doing genealogical research for clients as well as indexing and editing for genealogical authors. She writes and coordinates blog articles for GPC. She lives in Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.


  1. GPC has long been a leader in genealogy publishing.WELCOME to the wonderful world of blogging for genealogists! You all have a lot of information to share with online genealogists.

    Thanks for spotlighting titles that focus on 17th century Virginia. I look forward to reading more blog entries!

    Your friend in genealogy.

    Quote | Posted January 24, 2008, 3:25 am

  2. This is great. I am excited for this blog, and this first article is of particular interest because my family traces back to the Pilgrims and my wife’s to both the Pilgrims and the early settlers of Virginia. The title of the blog “a small world” is so true, and it is related to a question I have asked without finding an answer as of yet. Is there any data on what the population of early colonial settlements/colonies were in the 17th and early 18th century? How many colonists were in Virginia around 1700 for example. Or Pennsylvania, or Rhode Island etc..

    I’m sure this will be a success. Thanks for launching it.


    Quote | Posted January 24, 2008, 9:21 am

  3. Hi
    This is wonderful for those Americans who have a long History here. A lot of them may not realize that their Ancestors could have come to America via the Caribbean Islands and information from there (except for Barbados) is hard to come by.

    Many of the Settlers from the Islands settled in Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and vacinity when they arrived from there.

    There is a Barbados Family Genealogy Forum Website, but those who are searching there are not looking far enough back to help me find my Ancestors.

    I wish there where more books on Caribbean Island Genealogy. There is the “Caribbeana” Series, but only rich people and Institutions can afford to buy them.

    Good luck with your Blog Site, I hope it becomes a great Genealogy tool for searchers and researchers.

    Beth Hill

    Quote | Posted January 24, 2008, 11:21 am

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.