Colonial America was indeed a land of opportunity in the 17th century but also a land of hardships and dangers. The winters were often severe and many of our very early Henderson ancestors suffered greatly through the cold seasons. In late summer and fall of the year, they cured or smoked meats and pickled various types of vegetables. They stored vegetables and fruits in cool dry cellars. By the end of the long winter our people lived mainly on a diet of meat and bread.
Native Indians were a constant threat to these new settlers, and families living in remote areas often were murdered, their houses burned and livestock and crops stolen. Throughout the 17th century, conflicts between the Indians and the colonists continued due in part to infringement by the settlers further and further beyond treaty lines, into what was considered Indian hunting ground.
Epidemic diseases ran rampant among the settlers in America. Yellow fever, small pox, measles and even the bubonic plague were most feared. Infant mortality was high among the colonists and there were few trained doctors for those needing medical attention. All too often, a young wife would die from complications during childbirth.
On arrival in the American colonies, our 17th century Henderson immigrants became part of a three-tiered class-system. At the top was the ruling Aristocracy. These wealthy landowners were characterized by their large land holdings granted by the crown or the colonial government. It was from this upper class that the members of community and provincial governing bodies were chosen.
The large Yeomanry class, the common small independent farmers or “planters” as they were called, constituted the middle class. They were by far the most numerous but lacked the political and economic power held by the aristocracy. Many had been merchants or craftsman back in England, Ireland and Scotland.
At the bottom of the class system were the indentured servants and slaves. With field labor in such high demand, many a wealthy land owner paid the passage of an immigrant if he would be bound by contract to work a period of four to seven years – during which time he would not earn wages, but in return for his labor be given food, clothing, and shelter. Many folk back in Ireland and Scotland, including some of our Henderson ancestors, entered into this business arrangement in hopes that after the period of their indenture, they would be able to secure a better life in America.
Due the expense and temporariness of the indentured labor, the wealthy planters soon turned to a cheaper and more permanent source of labor – black slaves – and thus began the slave trade, which dominated the American colonies through the latter part of the 17th century. Reflecting the attitudes of the colonies as a whole, some of our Henderson ancestors were slave owners, some thought the practice to be a sin.
Listed below are the names of some of our 17th Century First Hendersons in America. We invite you to review our information in detail by entering the table full screen.
There are a number of ways Henderson genealogists can use this unique genealogy tool offered by Clan Henderson Society. You can look in the table for someone you know. You can compare the family tree of the First Henderson in our table with your own family tree. If you do not find your First Henderson, you can add his name and family tree to our database. Contact the project administrator for instructions on how to join our project at