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The docks of seventeenth century London and Bristol funneled yeomen, thieves, whores, and stolen children by the thousands onto tiny, crowded ships bound for Virginia. For decades, second sons of lesser nobility, merchants factors, and land speculators herded sickly throngs aboard, betting that the purchase of these laborers and their landrights would establish them as wealthy planters in the New World. Governor Berkeley of Virginia called them all “a wild beast multitude.” Only a small fraction of the whole survived their journey and a year in America. The seasoned survivors persisted, prayed, and multiplied. For millions of Americans, today, they are the source of distant family connections.

Becoming Americans is the fictional history of one such family. Richard Williams came to Virginia in 1658, thirteen years old, orphaned, and bound to his planter master until the age of majority. He was one of that “wild beast multitude,” representative of his generation. For over a hundred years Richard, and four generations of his descendants, cut paths in the wilderness, buried grandparents and celebrated grandchildren before there was talk of an American revolution. Some daughters married gentry, some pirates, and some were killed by Indians. Sons explored the deep forest while their brothers preferred Williamsburgh. Others drank, gambled, and lost. Some preached the Gospel. These people, and their stories in that century before the Revolutionary War, are the story of Becoming Americans.

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