Lesson 19b: Lexington in 1775: Who Am I? Family Life
Materials and Resources
• Handout: 30 Lexington children role cards (15 boys and 15 girls between the ages of 5 and 15), 1 side(fold and laminate for extended use) and general directions for use of role cards
• Handout: Who Am I in 1775?
• Handout: Families in 1775 and Today
• Large pieces of paper for family portraits
• Pencils, crayons or markers
1. “Meet” a young person living in Lexington in 1775. Each student will continue to explore the life of this young person for several lessons.
2. Explore this individual’s place in the household structure.
Background for the Teacher
In 1775, about 800 people in about 120 households lived in Lexington. A household might include parents, children, grandparents, hired help (such as farm workers and servants), slaves, and sometimes other relatives, such as aunts and cousins. In New England, families were the basic social and economic unit. This was different than in the southern colonies, where the majority of people—slaves—were not able to live in family groups, or in the middle colonies, where both slavery and indenture made family life more rare. Anyone living in the New England household—even if not a blood relative—was considered the responsibility of the household head, and therefore part of the “family.”
In the 1770s, the average age for marrying was 26 for men and women. Women typically gave birth every two years, producing many children. Large families were normal, and since every household member was expected to work to contribute to the family’s survival, many children meant lots of helpful hands. Many Lexington families were related to each other. As long as enough land was available for farming, parents tried to settle their children nearby. Over generations, people married neighbors and neighbors became kin. Families like the Munroes, Harringtons, and Parkers, who had lived in Lexington for many generations, must have felt a deep sense of belonging, continuity, and permanence. Unlike today, when our society has more old people than young people, Lexington in 1775 was full of young people.
Activities and Teaching Sequence
1. Discuss lesson 19a’s homework assignment of finding current usage of the names Estabrook, Clarke, Fiske, Harrington, Loring, Mulliken, Parker. Explain that these were the name of families who lived in Lexington in 1775, and the class will be learning more about them.
2. Distribute the first page of one role card to each student. Show them how to fold it in half (or do this before hand and laminate it so that you have a permanent classroom set).
3. Ask the students to read only side 1 of the role card: the side that lists family members and describes the family.
4. Have each student fill out the worksheet, “Who Am I in 1775?”
5. Ask students to compare their families in 1775 to their families today. What is the same, what is different? (For instance, ask, are you the same age as your character? Do you both have an older sister? Does your grandmother live with you? Do you have 6 younger siblings?) Use the handout, Families in 1775 and Today, if you wish. In your subsequent discussion, make sure your students see that families in 1775 tended to be larger, with more children (later they will see that children were an important work force on the farm). The comparison between your students’ real families and their 1775 families should help them identify with their counterparts from long ago, and make them curious about why things were different.
6. Group students by 1775 family (there are nine different families represented in these role cards). Ask each group to imagine what the members of their family looked like, telling them that we don’t know what any of these people looked like in 1775. Then have each group of students create a group portrait of their 1775 family.
7. As homework, ask students to write a paragraph-long biography of their 1775 characters, following the instructions on the bottom of the “Who Am I?” worksheet.