Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Thinking about hiking through the ancestral lands of Devon, England, whence one branch of the family fled circa. 1780, so looking into the known genealogy. I can trace the paternal line back 7 generations with pretty good certainty (other people, including my father, did all the research on this). Then it becomes a little looser. Was Thomas b. 1742 the son of John b. 1703? This John was born in Lustleigh parish, and his son was a Thomas, but the same Thomas who crossed, or circled, grim Dartmoor to marry in Tavistock parish in 1760? If so, then we get a few more generations, including three Georges in a row, the earliest born 1586. Eleven generations, mostly farmers, and, in the Boston area, carpenters. My great grandfather was brought to the US in 1872 when he was six, but not from England. His father and grandfather had been born on St. Helena, that distant island in the South Atlantic where Napoleon died in exile. The family name isn’t unusual, but there aren’t huge numbers of us here in the US. It looks like a lot of them went to Australia, including the famous explorer (“Hurray for Captain Spaulding, the African explorer/did someone call me shnorrer?”)

My parents had three sons; my paternal grandparents had four sons (one died in infancy; there’s a clipping of a newspaper photo of him being greeted by the wife of the mayor of Boston c. 1916); my paternal great grandparents had five sons; the pattern is broken by my paternal great great grandparents, who had nine children, five boys, four girls;
you have to go back one more generation, to my paternal great great great grandparents, to find the girls outnumbering the boys: three to one.

Also, on St. Helena, paternal great great great great grandfather Richard owned at least one male slave, which he deeded to his only son in his 1833 will. When I heard that great great grandmother Sophie, who was born on St. Helena, father unknown, was considered awfully dark by the lights of the racial hairsplitters in Boston, I began to wonder… where did all the women on St. Helena come from, anyway? The island is 50% black African today (as it was in the middle 18th C.), so you’ve to figure that African genes have been in the mix for centuries.

No comments: