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Wealth and Migration in Massachusetts and Maine: 1771–1798

  • John W. Adams (a1) and Alice Bee Kasakoff (a1)

We use a genealogical data base to question the idea that the frontier was a “safety valve” for Americans in the years of the founding of the republic. Our findings about the relative wealth of members of nine families show how the frontier affected their migration patterns. We find that it was the middle class, not the poor, who seemed to make best use of the opportunity of the frontier.

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1 Jones Douglas, Village and Seaport (Hanover, N.H., 1981). See also Atack Jeremy, “Farm and Farm-Making Costs Revisited”, Agricultural History, 56 (10. 1982), pp. 663–76;Danhof Clarence, “The Farm Enterprise: the Northern United States, 1820–1860's”, in Uselding Paul, ed., Research in Economic History (Greenwich, Conn., 1979).

2 The nine genealogies used in this paper are: Bisbee Frank J., Genealogy of the Bisbee Family (East Sullivan, N.H., 1956);Chaffee William, The Chaffee Genealogy (New York, 1909);Holman Mary Lovering, Ancestors and Descendants of John Coney of Boston, England and Boston, Massachusetts (Concord, N.H., 1928);Farwell J. D., The Farwell Family (Orange, Texas, 1929);Faunce James Freer, The Faunce Family: History and Genealogy (Akron, Ohio, 1973);Greely G. H., Genealogy of the Greely-Greeley Family (Boston, 1905);Pelton J. M., Genealogy of the Pelton Family in America (Albany, N.Y., 1892);Shedd Frank E., Daniel Shed Genealogy (Boston, 1921);Weilman Joshua Wyman, Descendants of Thomas Weilman of Lynn, Massachusetts (Boston, 1918).

3 Pruitt Bettye Hobbs, ed., The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771 (Boston, 1978). The list, in machine readable form, is available from The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.

4 Income rises with the age of the household head until he reaches his sixties because there are usually increasing numbers of sons contributing to the family's income. When zero incomes are excluded and income is logged to the base 10, the number of rateable polls accounts for 14 percent of the variance in incomes in our sample. But age alone explains only 3 percent, and when both age and polls are included in the equation, age is less important.

5 Gorn Michael H., ed., Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax Census of 1798 (Boston, 1979), on microfilm.

6 These findings remain the same even if we remove from our calculations the twenty-three people who appear on both lists.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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