How much do we really know about the world our early colonial ancestors left behind?
Do we see them only as primitive uninformed pioneers carving out the New England landscape and building new homes, creating pastures, orchards, and gardens, and eventually villages?
Or do we see them as a bit more sophisticated? A bit more worldly?
After all, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian explorers had poked and probed the North Atlantic coast for well over a hundred years before the earliest colonists stepped foot on sandy soil. Even longer than that, fishermen were well-versed in the sea bounty to be found off the coast of Newfoundland and as far south as Nova Scotia.
The notion that our ancestors had no idea about what the New World held for them is pure nonsense.
One prime example comes from the Library of Congress, the Theatrum orbis terrarum, a map book of the charted world published in 1570 by noted Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius.
The first map section, which shows New France, including what are now known as the Atlantic Provinces, and the one that follows, which shows a more detailed view of the north east, especially Canada and New France, come from a global view of the world.
Note the French missions north of the St. Lawrence River in Canada and further south, scattered east-to-west across North America, north of Florida.
The second map prominently depicts the land of Norumbega, the Northern New England Frontier.
It is identified as “Americae”, North and South, as it was known in 1570, long before many of our immigrant ancestors were born.
. . . . .
. The Library of Congress call number for the map book is G1006.T5 1570, and it is located in the Library’s Geography and Map Division in Washington, D.C.
. Emerson W. Baker, et al., eds., American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega (1994).