Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day with Roger Thompson

I have been a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society for a long time.  Every year I receive the invitation to the Annual Meeting Gala Dinner, and we drool over the famous speakers, and wish we could afford to go schmooze with the esteemed genealogists at a luscious dinner in Back Bay.  This year we read about a special opportunity this same weekend, on Sunday April 22, 2012, named the 2012 Annual Meeting Trustee Seminar.  It was a chance to spend from 9:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon with Roger Thompson.

The only Roger Thompson book I had previously read was Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649 – 1699.  I had used it for reference when I looked up an ancestor, and I read the entire book because was written so well and the stories were so compelling (and the title was so interesting, too!)  I knew he had written other books, and the Middlesex County book as well as three others were the subject of his seminar.  Two of these had been published and advertised by NEHGS journals and flyers.  His other books were about the Middlesex Towns of Cambridge and Watertown, and the neighboring town of Charlestown in Suffolk County.

I have several ancestors from the early days in these towns, and I was curious about the subject matter and time period advertised in the advertising for these books.  It was interesting to me to spend an entire day listening to one author, so I signed up for the seminar.  It would be five lectures for $85, which seemed like a reasonable price.

Roger Thompson is emeritus professor at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England.  He taught American Colonial History for thirty years, and is married to an American.  He has written ten books, including the one on Middlesex County, as well as the books about the Middlesex Towns of Cambridge and Watertown, and the neighboring town of Charlestown in Suffolk County.  During his discussion of these four books he also mentioned a book on East Anglia migration to New England.  I’ll list all the titles below.

Too bad for you if you missed this seminar on Sunday, April 22nd!  You missed a great day!  Roger is such a compelling story teller that the whole day slipped by before I knew it, and suddenly it was 5 PM and time to go home.  He kept his audience captivated, including my husband who had tagged along and thought he could sneak in an after lunch siesta.  For one man to keep everyone interested without the use of a single illustration or power point image is a real achievement.  His engaging speaking style translates to his writing, and so although his books look like textbooks you would find them very readable.

I sat near several members of the NEHGS board of trustees and councilors.  One or two explained to me that they take suggestions from members very seriously.  Earlier in the year one of them heard Roger Thompson speak in England, and thus NEHGS brought him all the way from East Anglia to Boston for this seminar.  The recommendation was taken seriously, and the invitation was extended to all members as an all day event.  I suggest that next time you hear about one of these seminars you should take advantage and attend!

My non-genealogist husband bought all four of Roger’s books!

These four books were the subjects of Roger Thompson’s series of lectures:

Cambridge Cameos: Stories of Life in Seventeenth-Century New England,  NEHGS, 2005

Divided We Stand: Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630 – 1680, University of Massachusetts Press, 2001

From Deference to Defiance: Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1629 – 1692, NEHGS,  2012

Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649 – 1699, University of Massachusetts Press, 1986

Other books by Roger Thompson mentioned at this seminar:

Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629 – 1640, University of Massachusetts, 2009

Women in Stuart England and America: A Comparative Study, Routledge and K. Paul, 1974

The New England Historic Genealogical Society 

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I would have love to have gone. And I would love to buy all his books! How many people turned up? Glad you enjoyed the day!

  2. Marian, it was an excellent rainy day event! His books were heavily discounted, and sold out before lunch. He was very gracious and autographed all of my books, too, during one of the breaks. There were many people, which is why they changed the location from the NEHGS rotunda to the New England Center a few blocks away. Most of the seats in the auditorium were taken.

  3. No PowerPoint, no naps!!! That's the amazing thing to me. Heck, I nod off 10 minutes into the sermon every Sunday.

    I have Sex in Middlesex, will look at the others since I have those towns in abundance.

  4. All those books are indexed in my New Englanders of the 1600s, FYI.