Brokets of the USA - The Broket Archive

Brokets of the USA

Broket migration to North America began in the 17th C and has continued ever since.1 It began from England. The first known Broket immigrant from Scotland wasn’t until 1784. The sea journeys could be perilous. Conditions on the American side were often harsh and early death was probably common, especially in the Chesapeake Bay area. Passenger lists—if they existed—gave few clues to origins.

This page provides some general background. For details of individuals see the separate pages about early Broket immigrants to the northeast and the southeast, and later ones in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Contents of this page:

Historical background
+++Phases of the immigration
+++Voluntary and forced
+++Northeast and southeast US
Research so far
Next steps

Historical Background

Some simple general information to provide a context for immigration by Brokets:

Phases of immigration

Fischer categorized the immigration into 4 phases:2+

1. An exodus of Puritans from the east of England to Massachusetts 1629-40—the ‘eleven years’ tyranny of Charles I and Archbishop Laud.
2. The migration of a small Royalist elite and large numbers of indentured servants from the south of England to Virginia c 1642-75. The peak was in “the 1650s, when perhaps as many as 7,200 individuals, many of them servants, went each year from England and Wales to the American colonies”.3 “According to some estimates, about 40 percent of those who arrived in these regions died during their terms, many in the first year”.4
3. A movement from the north midlands of England and Wales to the Delaware Valley c 1675-1725.
4. A flow from the borders of England and Scotland and from northern Ireland to the Appalachian backcountry mostly during 1718-75.

Voluntary or forced

Most Brokets came voluntarily, with only a few as convicts.

Voluntary emigration

“Indentured servitude allowed people to travel to North America or the West Indies without paying for their passage or by paying only a part. As a result they became bond servants for a period of years, usually through an agent who arranged for their passage. The practice of indentured servitude was well established by the seventeenth century and lasted until 1785. In addition to their passage, indentured servants received their keep and sometimes a reward when the period of the bond expired. The period of service was usually four years but could be longer if the servant was less than 18 years of age.”5

Forced emigration

“The practice of transporting convicts who would otherwise have been executed, dates back to at least 1597. By 1660 transportation was an accepted form of punishment following a royal pardon. An Act of 1718 established transportation to English colonies in America as the standard sentence for many less serious offences. One of the most common crimes for which people were transported was the theft of a handkerchief. … By 1718 most convicts were taken to Maryland or Virginia and this continued until 1775. … After 1787 convicts were sent to Australia. … Transportation was for a period of years, usually seven or fourteen years or for life. … Convicts to be transported were handed over to agents who could dispose of their services to local land owners. Ship masters certified receipt of the convicts and obtained landing certificates on arrival in America from the governor or chief customs house officer. These landing certificates were returned to the courts as evidence that the sentence had been carried out.”6

Northeast and southeast N America

Before the 19th C only one Broket immigrant to northeast N America is currently known. All the others were to the southeast.

New England

“Most emigrants to New England crossed the Atlantic in family groups from the same town or parish, with only perhaps 25% as hired servants. They made new towns with schools and churches and created a society with the same social stratifications as they had left behind. Few Gentlemen came—although as many as 11% of male heads of households in the Winthrop fleet were identified as Gentlemen. Some other men called themselves ‘Gentlemen’ late in their lives; they achieved the honorary title, not as a birthright as was normal in Old England, but by self-anointment after years of developing good reputations in the community. The great majority of emigrants to New England were of the ‘middling sort’—yeomen, artisans and merchants. Discipline, hard work, and the harsh climate, together with the fact that they developed more than a one-crop economy, gave the Puritans a solid society. In town records, and in diaries and books, they recorded the important events of that society.”7


“Virginia was different (as were other colonies in the Chesapeake, such as Maryland and, later, the settlements on Albemarle Sound, which were the beginnings of North Carolina). Virginia developed a one-crop economy: tobacco, the production of which required many hands. The wealthy and well-connected of the colony acquired large acreages, and they imported thousands of indentured servants, mostly young men between the ages of 15 and 24, to work the farms. English servants composed at least 75% of the 120,000 emigrants to the Chesapeake during the 17th C, most were illiterate. Women constituted only about 10 to 20% of the servants. The Chesapeake area had few towns, few churches, and virtually no schools. Most housing consisted of windowless huts built of green lumber, measuring about 16 by 20 feet, with dirt floors. The climate was hazardous, and the mortality rate disastrous, largely due to typhoid, malaria, and dysentery. The colony survived, but normal family structures almost disappeared. More than 75% of children lost at least one parent before reaching the age of 18, and grandparents were virtually unknown. Lacking the influence of town and church authorities, and living in great poverty and ignorance along the creeks and rivers that carried tobacco to the Chesapeake ports, the transplanted Englishmen usually lost most of the civilization which they had brought from home within a generation. Records of births, deaths, and marriages were not maintained, diaries not kept, and histories not written, so that present-day historians and genealogists have a very difficult time learning and proving anything about the people who lived there.”8


Researching the early centuries of Brokets in the USA presents some challenges:

1. The keeping and survival of primary records was far worse than in England at the time, especially in the southeast. Thus the useful genealogical tool of negative proof which for Brokets in the UK is usually fairly reliable—dependent of course on new evidence contradicting it—has to be used with much greater caution and less likelihood for N American bearers of the name. For New Haven the situation is better, however some original early records have been lost there too, and we have to depend on secondary sources.
2. Broket or Braket? In the UK there have been a few isolated instances of the misspelling or idiosyncratic transcription of Broket by Braket, and one—possibly two—found so far of it as a variant or alias. But as far as we know, they haven’t passed on to another generation. In the USA however, mostly for the New Haven clan, records show that Broket and Braket often alternated with each other for at least the first 100 years of their immigration—or 3 or 4 generations. It’s curious and difficult to explain. Perhaps as schooling became more commonplace by the 19th C, which spelling you used crystallised—whether Braket or Broket. But it’s clear that today some cousins have now been Brocketts for generations and others Bracketts. DNA evidence proves it. Disentangling the two is again more difficult in North America as Braket is far more common than in the UK. There were at least 13,000 Brakets estimated in North America in 2014 as against only 163 in the UK—83 times as many!9 By the way, it is interesting how historically in England Brakets have been fewer than Brokets, but in the States if the figures are reliable they are now 3 times as numerous.
3. Mobility. People wherever they are have always relocated looking for a better living. However, the drive to settle new areas in North America, especially after the first two centuries of colonisation, means that there are more cases of untraceable Brokets appearing in places out of the blue as it were, than in the UK. Both the numbers involved and the potential distances were also of course greater, adding to the uncertainty.

Research so far

Much more research is needed into the Brokets of the USA; please let us know what you think of it so far.

Next steps

A 2014 rough estimate of the number of Brokets in North America was around 4,393—a little over six times as great as their rough estimate of 724 for the UK.10 See better estimates here. Keeping track of 724 people and their ancestors is hard work. Keeping track of six times that many is …! So the decision has been made, that with one or two exceptions, this Broket Archive will just attempt to document the ancestry of those USA Brokets who participate in the Broket Y-DNA project.

Page Last Updated: April 6, 2020


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] The spelling 'Broket' is used in this website as a kind of lowest common denominator when no specific variant is being referred to, like Brocket, Brockett, Brockette.

[2] Albion's Seed, 1989, p 6.

[3] Sacks 1991 ch 9.

[4] Sacks 1991 ch 8.

[5] From in 2005, nut now no longer available. See now (accessed 27 May 2017).

[6] (accessed 21 Jan 2018).

[7] Fischer 1989 pp 13ff, esp pp 27-8.

[8] Fischer 1989 pp 207-36.

[9] and (accessed 27 Apr 2018).

[10] at and (accessed 17 Oct 2018).

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