A Pilgrim in the Family

I think I’m addicted to genealogy, specifically that of my family and now my husband’s family. I started researching my father’s family history in order to join the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). I already knew I had a Revolutionary War Minuteman for a fourth great-grandfather from a family history, which made completing the application for DAR membership less daunting than I anticipated. That done, I wanted to learn about his parents beyond their names and dates of death–were they born in Maine (which is where they lived when two of their sons ventured to Groton, VT)?; where are they buried?; where did their parents come from?;–the usual sort of questions you want answers to. But there isn’t much information on Ancestry.com, my main research site.

Not making much progress there, I moved on to the German side of my family. When I realized that I would need my German-speaking mother’s undivided attention for about six weeks to make any headway in that arena, I decided that my husband’s family might be easier to research. We already knew about the Civil War soldier who died at Andersonville Prison but we weren’t aware of the two Revolutionary War soldiers I unearthed.

"Mayflower Harbor" by Hans Holbein the Younger; in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England

“Mayflower Harbor” by William Halsall, 1882, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA

Then–JACKPOT!! I am 99% certain that my husband is a lineal descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony who arrived in New England on the Mayflower. With a Pilgrim in the family, Thanksgiving will never be the same.

My own research brought me to this conclusion and when I ventured out to Wiki Tree, a free genealogy website, there it was, printed boldly on the bottom of my mother-in-law’s record: “Mayflower Descendant (Gov. William Bradford). I immediately sent a text to my three daughters: “SOMEBODY CALL ME! I am hyperventilating.” Soon I was talking to one daughter on my cell phone (left ear) with another daughter on the home phone (right ear). I’d say they were excited as well–but not as much as their mother was. And it’s not even my own family.

"King Henry VIII" by Hans Holbein the Younger, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England

“King Henry VIII” by Hans Holbein the Younger, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England

One of my granddaughters was not impressed by the Mayflower connection. Her comment: “I don’t care. I just want to know if I’m a princess.” Hmmm…I think we would know if that were the case but just for fun I went looking for a royal connection. I’m certain I violated all rules of genealogy research when I just clicked away on every link to every father of the next male in the line until I reached a dead end. It just happened to be on Sir Edward Rogers, born in 1498, who served as a courtier to Henry VIII. Yes, that Henry VIII. Sir Edward may not have been a prince but he did hang out with a king! What remains to be determined is if he is a relative.

Real genealogists take their research seriously. Which is what I should be doing with my writing. Is this new hobby of mine just another means of avoiding writing? (That’s a rhetorical and, by now, annoying question. So don’t answer it.) I’m stuck in the saggy middle of my murder mystery–the saggy middle of my outline of the novel, not the actual writing of it. My latest goal is to generate the same enthusiasm for writing this mystery that I have for researching dead ancestors. Wish me luck!

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About Karen Whalen

A contemporary fiction writer with an accumulation of incomplete novels and short stories, I consider NH "home," spending the summer through Christmas there with my husband. My youngest daughter and her family live nearby (as well as my mother and other family members). January finds us venturing to VA to visit our middle daughter and her family before we make our way to sunny AZ to live with our oldest daughter and family. We spend time in VA on our way home. I am fortunate that my daughters live in places I would have retired to all on my own! My 87 year-old mother asks if I will finish my novel (which one, I wonder) before she dies.....Even with that for a goal, I manage to excel at procrastination!

Posted on September 13, 2016, in blogging, Karen Whalen, research, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Most likely on my mother’s side…the one I can’t decipher! The documents I have from Germany have the first and middle names reversed. At least I think they do. And my mother isn’t much help on remembering names.

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  2. I believe that in the old Russian nobility, all the offspring of princes were themselves called Prince or Princess, and this went on ad infinitum. So check for Russian ancestry. Somewhere back there….

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