Yankee Destinies

The Lives of Ordinary Nineteenth-Century Bostonians

By Peter R. Knights

310 pp., 6 x 9

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1377-2
    Published: November 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2016-9
    Published: March 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8662-0
    Published: March 2017

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This book reconstructs important milestones in the lives of 2,808 white, native-born men who resided in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1860 or 1870. Selected systematically from the census for those two years, these men represent two cross-sections of those viewed by contemporaries as "typical" Bostonians.

Using a broad array of sources--manuscript census returns; tax assessments; city directories; birth, marriage, and death records for more than twenty states; cemetery records; newspapers; and family genealogies--Peter Knights traced these men not only back to their origins in hundreds of small New England towns but also (for those who left) onward from Boston. He determined changes in their occupations and wealth and after they arrived in Boston, the fates of their marriages, their production of children, and--in all but seventy cases--their deaths and the causes thereof. The result is a comprehensive quantitative study of important aspects of the lives of what are probably the largest sample population groups for any North American community.

About the Author

Peter R. Knights is associate professor of history at York University.
For more information about Peter R. Knights, visit the Author Page.


"Well written, exceptionally well documented, and authoritative, this book is a must buy for college and university libraries."--Choice

"A unique scholarly work, a triumph over the barriers and obscurities of the historical records of the population of the United States. Although we pride ourselves on being a mobile people, we have in fact very little detailed information about how we have moved about. Thanks to Peter Knights, a scholar who has been devoting his entire life to these Boston studies, we now have in this book a benchmark for connecting the actualities of family life to interpretive studies of the family, the labor force, and urbanization."--Sam Bass Warner, Boston University

"No one else has captured the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary nineteenth-century people as Peter Knights has, because no one else has had the ingenuity and persistence to trace a large sample of them--wherever they moved, whatever they did. Often charmingly written, deftly combining quantitative and qualitative information, lovingly detailed, Yankee Destinies is part detective story, part genealogy, part sociology, and all fascinating."--J. Morgan Kousser, California Institute of Technology