The Cavaliers and Servants
by Sue Roe
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
A four-part series on the largest groups of emigrants from the British Isles to Colonial America.
They were: the PURITANS who came, primarily, from East Anglia to the
Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1629 and 1640; the CAVALIERS AND SERVANTS who
came, primarily, from the south of England to Virginia between 1642 and 1675; the QUAKERS who
came, primarily, from the English Midlands to Pennsylvania between 1675 and 1725; and the SCOTCH-IRISH who came, primarily, from the English/Scottish border counties (sometimes via northern Ireland) to Virginia (via Pennsylvania) between 1717 and 1775.
In ALBION'S SEED, David Fischer referred to this second group of
immigrants as "Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants". As we go along,
I think you will see why. These were a group of people who emigrated mostly
from the Southwestern English Counties of Gloucestershire, Somerset,
Devonshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and several others to the Chesapeake
Bay area of Virginia and Maryland between 1642 and 1675, the peak period being
the 1650's. The reason for this migration was a bit more complicated. The
Puritans had gotten control in England and the Anglicans were now being
persecuted. So some of the people who left did it for the reason of religious
persecution, just as the Puritans had. But there was a secondary motivation
for some. The laws of inheritance in England gave all real property to the
eldest son of the family. Some of those who left England were second or third
sons of "elite" families who wanted to go to a place where they could have
land of their own.
In the beginning, Virginia attracted people of mixed religious backgrounds.
But the main religion was the Church of England (Episcopal). After Virginia
became a royal colony, the Assembly passed laws making the Church of England
the State Church in Virginia (1632). Over a period of time, it became more and
more difficult for persons of dissenting religions to remain in Virginia.
About 25 percent of the persons in this second migration were from the
English "elite"--they had wealth, social standing, and education in England.
They were members of the Anglican Church and they were Royalist in their
politics. The other 75 percent were from the lower classes and came as
servants, many as indentured servants, to work on the large plantations
established by the "cavaliers". These were poor, illiterate, and unskilled.
Right away, there was a class system established in Virginia that did not
exist and would not have been approved of in New England. In this migration,
males outnumbered females by about 4 to 1. A majority of those who came were
unmarried males between the ages of 15 and 24.
The family feelings were just as strong in this group as among the
Puritans, but different in substance. There was much more emphasis on the
extended family. Members of the same extended family tended to settle together
and stay near each other. The unit of residence was the nuclear family, but
the unit of association was the extended family. They flocked together in
neighborhoods and buried their dead in family plots. (Unlike New England where
there were common burial grounds in each town.) The terms "brother" and
"cousin" were used more loosely--and can't always be taken literally when
found in records. Households often included servants, lodgers and visitors.
All were treated as family as long as they were in the household. Virginians
didn't seem to be suspicious of strangers as New Englanders were.
In Virginia, families tended to be smaller--mainly because the death rate
was much higher. There were more step-relationships for the same reason. This
group shared the Puritans' strong imperative to marry. Bachelors and spinsters
were condemned as unnatural and dangerous to society. But marriage was not a
contract as in New England; it was a indissoluble union, a sacred knot that
could not be untied. All marriages were performed in the state church
(Anglican) and divorce was not allowed. There were 5 required steps to
marriage: espousal, banns, religious ceremony, marriage feast, sexual
consummation. Written permission from parents was required. Love was not
thought to be necessary before marriage. When it didn't occur before, it was
expected to follow. Parents had an active role in marriage decisions but
didn't usually force a child to marry against his/her will. First cousin
marriages were okay in Virginia and often happened. This followed their
pattern of "keep it in the family". Marriage feasts were elaborate--unlike New
England where they weren't allowed. The average age at marriage for a male was
about the same as in New England, 25-26, but for females it was younger,
18-20. Some men did not marry because there simply weren't enough women to go
around. Sexual relationships were supposed to be confined to marriage, but
punishments were not so severe as in New England and females were punished
more severely than males.
The naming patterns for children followed the customs of Southwest England.
Children were often named for family members, but in a different pattern than
New England. The eldest son was named for his paternal grandfather, next son
for the maternal grandfather, next for the father. The same pattern was used
for girls. They used fewer Biblical names than in New England and often named
children for Kings and Knights--favorites were Robert, Richard, Edward,
George, and Charles. They also used names of Christian saints not found in the
Bible and English folk names--favorites were Margaret, Jane, Catherine,
Frances, and Alice. But the Biblical names of Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah were
just as popular as in New England. Infant Christening was practiced.
The parents in Virginia were more indulgent than the parents in New
England. Children were actually encouraged to be self-willed, but they were
also expected to observe some rather elaborate rituals of self-restraint. The
elder patriarch idea was very strong and much ritual surrounded it also. There
were few schools. Children of the elite class were educated at home and the
poor remained illiterate. There were no townships as in New England. People
settled on plantations and there were small market villages.
The best source of records is the Episcopal Church, where all baptisms,
marriages and deaths were recorded. There was a period of about 100 years when
everyone had to do these things in the state church, even if not a member.
<< Sue's Genealogy Recipes
If you would like to study these groups in more depth, I recommend that you read the book, ALBION'S SEED: FOUR BRITISH FOLKWAYS IN AMERICA by David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Much (but not all) of the material in this "Recipe" is from that book.