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University of Massachusetts - Amherst

ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst
Research Report 07: The Genetic Structure of an Historical Population: a Study of Marriage and Fertility in Old Deerfield, massachusetts 12-2-2008 Anthropology Research Reports series

Chapter 1, Background of the Study
Alan C. Swedlund
Prescott College

Swedlund, Alan C., "Chapter 1, Background of the Study" (2008). Research Report 07: The Genetic Structure of an Historical Population: a Study of Marriage and Fertility in Old Deerfield, massachusetts. Paper 3. http://scholarworks.umass.edu/anthro_res_rpt7/3

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CHAPTER I BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY Introduction Data for the present study are derived fro. vital statistics and genea1olica1 records of the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Fie1dwork, w.. done during the su...rs of 1968-1969, and consisted primarily of library research in the Deerfield area, and re-recording the information for computer use. The period of time covered by

these records is between 1680 and 1850, or, 170 years. Massachusetts provides IOod opportunities for historic population research, since reaistration of births, deaths, and marriages was made compulsory in 1639 (Spiegelman, 1968:3). Deerfield was

selected aa the co..unity for study after a nu.oer of a..11 towns in northwestern Massachusetts were considered. The reason Deerfield

was chosen is because available records appeared to be very complete. The community of Deerfield's own emphasis on its long history, and efforts by such specific aroups a. the Pocumtuck Valley Me.oria1 Asaociation (f~unded

in 1870), and the Heritage Foundation, provide Although

for a good library with .any ve11 preserved records.

several references concerning Deerfield and Massachusetts are consulted, the major sources for the information presented below are Baldwin's Vital Recorda of Deerfield, Massachusetts to the Year 1850 (1920); and Geor.. Sheldon's Hi.tory of Deerfield (1896). The major emphasia i. on the ca.plate records liven in Baldwin

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(1920) with supplementary information being added from Sheldon's published genealogies (pp. 4-407, Vol. II). Sheldon's work is con-

sidered by many colonial historians to be a very well written and thorough local history. The vital statistics compiled by Baldwin

appear to be very complete considering the time period covered and are based on grave inscriptions as well as town and parish records. These statistics include 4943 births, 1485 marriages, and 2204 deaths. In an effort to test the accuracy of the records, the local cemeteries around Deerfield were sample surveyed, and virtually 100 percent of the cemetery markers checked are found in Baldwin. Descri~tion

of Deerfield

Deerfield is located in northwestern Massachusetts at the confluence of the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers, approximately 30 miles north of Springfield (Figure 1.1). The town was formally

established in 1673 and has been a rural, largely agricultural community since its founding. Today the town is most well known for its

fine preparatory school, Deerfield Academy, and for its attractive and excellent restoration as a colonial town (see McDowell, 1969; Phelps, 1970). During the early settlement period of the Deerfield region loods and supplies came to the Connecticut Valley (Pioneer Valley) by way of the River; however, many of the early communities were settled by families who trekked through the forests from eastern Massachusetts. Many of the founders came from the Massachusetts Bay Colony or its...
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