By Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr.
At last! Jeremy Bangs’ long awaited comprehensive history of the Pilgrims, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation has finally been published.
Born in Oregon, Dr. Bangs has lived in Leiden (cumulatively) for 30 years. He received his doctorate at the University of Leiden in 1976. In 1985 he returned to the United States where he served several years as curator of the 1627 Plimoth Plantation. In 1996 he became affiliated for several years with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and relocated to Leiden where he founded the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum and wrote columns about the Pilgrims for NEHGS periodicals. His efforts were instrumental in saving Pilgrim sites in the Leiden town center from development. He has no known Pilgrim ancestor – his Bangs line is Norwegian.
His previously published Pilgrim books include Seventeenth-century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts; Indian Deeds, Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1621; and Pilgrim Edward Winslow: New England’s First International Diplomat, A Documentary Biography. Readers may also have read his articles which he has given to the Pennsylvania Mayflower Society to post on its website. These include articles debunking long circulated myths about the Pilgrims, and early drafts of this book’s introduction, and the first three chapters, posted the winter of 2006-2007.
Dr. Bangs has spent years researching in the Leiden Regional Archives. Fluent in Dutch and early Dutch script, he has read all the city records from c. 1475 through 1630, and the city treasurer’s accounts 1608-1630, as well as all real estate records. Some of the many additional records read are archives of other Leiden and Amsterdam church congregations, and all 24 volumes of the Plymouth Colony Records - 12 of which are unpublished. The bibliography comprises 107 pages. Who can be more qualified than he to “set the record straight?” Now we of the 21st century can come closer to understanding the Who, What, When, Where and Why of the Pilgrim Separatists. We learn how their belief in predestination ruled their lives.
When one reads some of the previously published Pilgrim history, it is something like looking at paintings in a museum, especially “history paintings,” where you get the viewpoint of the artist based on his or her biases and knowledge. What Dr. Bangs has provided is a step further; not presenting the “Hogwarts” framed images where the subjects move as they had in life, but rather he lets us step through the frame into the past. I have never been to Leiden, but when he describes the Pilgrims’ 1609 move up the Rhine from Amsterdam to Leiden, I find myself there among them as the boat makes its way, experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of the activities and places that they passed. When he describes the interior of a Pilgrim’s one-room Leiden house, I find myself in that room.
The book is well organized and well annotated. There are seven progressive thematic sections. Each chapter is written to “stand on its own.” Maps show known Pilgrim home towns in England and home locations in Leiden. The two-column 56-page comprehensive index includes all names (complete), places, ships and subjects making the book an excellent usable reference source.
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants is to be congratulated for publishing this momentous and monumental work. I invite you to obtain a copy and “take the trip” that I have taken twice, a trip that you will never forget. All Mayflower descendants should have a copy and discover the truth about their Pilgrim ancestor(s).
Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners – Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, published and distributed by The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 2009. 928 pages, illustrated, maps. Hard cover $65.00 plus shipping and handling.