Pioneers, Settlers & Colonists

Over a period of nearly four centuries the Bliss name has spread out of England and around the globe.

It all began with the Portuguese and Spanish discoveries in the New World at the end of the 15th C. The horizons of the people of Western Europe were greatly increased but, for many years, Englishmen could only entertain dim hopes of colonising the new lands across the Atlantic. The power of Spain, backed by a Papal interdict, prevented other nations from attempting to explore and settle in the Americas.



English scholars, scientists, explorers and courtiers formed a lobby to plant a new colony in North America, to be called Virginia, in honour of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I.

The Queen's favourite, Sir Walter Raleigh, led the campaign to colonise Virginia. In 1585 an attempt was made to settle colonists at Roanoke Island, off Virginia. Their nerve was broken by a hurricane and they eagerly accepted the offer of a passage back to England from Sir Francis Drake, who was returning from a raiding expedition on Spanish strongholds in the West Indies. Raleigh sent out a second expedition to Roanoke in 1587.

The colonists were abandoned to their doom, when the Queen refused permission for a relieving expedition the following year. This was the year of the Spanish Armada and all ships were commandeered to repel the invasion. The lost colonists were never seen again.

In 1593 RICHARD BLISSE of Hingham, Norfolk, made his will, wistfully declaring his eldest son William his heir- 'should he return again to this country'. It is tempting to think that WILLIAM BLISSE was one of the lost colonists, particularly as one of the colonists, Ananias Dare, whose daughter Virginia was the first English child to be born in the New World, was also from Norfolk in England.

The English naval triumph over the Armada ensured that, eventually, Englishmen would return to the Americas and they would settle pemanently and prosper. In 1607 the Virginia company sent out 120 colonists to settle at Jamestown. Some sketchy records remain in the Public Records of early Bliss colonists who went to this new land on the Chesapeake Bay.

We would welcome any evidence that any of these Virginian Blisses survived and had descendants.

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West Indies

England took possession of the uninhabited island of Barbados, in 1627. Much prized for its sugar production, Barbados became a favourite destination for BLISS colonists.

Blisses can be found in the records of Barbados throughout the 18thC but we have no knowledge of Bliss inhabitants thereafter.

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New England

The settlement of New England, as everybody knows, began with the voyage of the Mayflower and the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts Nov 11th 1620. The future of New England was not however fully secured until Governor John Winthrop led his fleet of well provisioned pioneers into Boston Bay in 1630.

England was riven by political and religious dissention in those years. There was also widespread economic hardship and thousands began to cross the seas in search of a new and better life. About the year 1638 three Bliss families emigrated to Boston. The story of these three pioneer families and their many American descendants is told in the 'Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America' published privately by Aaron Tyler Bliss in 1982. The Bliss FHS recommends all American Bliss family history researchers to consult the above publication if possible. We are willing to do look ups for anyone unable to locate 'The Genealogy'.

One widespread and completely erroneous idea about the English roots of Thomas Bliss of Hartford, Connecticut should be laid to rest. The false genealogy is becoming ever more widely spread by the power of the internet and the trust still placed in the veracity of a hired researcher in Victorian times.


These are the first generations of the three Bliss pioneers in New England.

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United States

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Little is known about early Bliss settlers in Canada. Several Loyalist Blisses crossed over from the new USA after the Revolutionary war (or the war of American Independence as we know it in Britain). We welcome information about other Bliss arrivals in Canada.

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New Zealand

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