Rule number one

If your ancestor had no children, he’s not your ancestor. Period. Let’s say Henry married Judy, a widow with 5 kids. If you’re a descendant of Judy, that does not make Henry your ancestor.

Over the “free UK records” weekend, I have lost a big branch of my genealogy tree. Bummer. Eliza Florence Shelley, my 2nd great grand mother was born in England. That’s all I will ever know. I was hoping to dig up more, but what I found was several women with the same name, born the same year. How do I choose which one is Grandma? It’s simple: I can’t. There are no indications if she was born in Ludlow, Herefordshire, or Handbury. I checked Google maps to see how far away these places are, just in case. Too distant.  There are mentions of a 2 year old Eliza Shelley in Census records, who grows up to be 12, then 23 in further censuses. She has the same batch of siblings, so I believe it’s the same girl. But I am not sure she’s Grandma.

I looked at passenger manifests and immigration documents since the 1920 Census notes she migrated around 1880 and was later naturalized. Nothing.

I even looked directly into the UK government’s website to see if I could order a birth certificate. There, I must have done something wrong because I found zero people by that name. Strange.

It would be easy to pick the one that matches my mood of the day. Don’t we all secretly dream of being royalty? Of owning of the piece of the pie, or the crown? It’s also easy to work your genealogy tree retroactively: find the good old Edward Shelley, baronet, and say he’s grandpa. Unfortunately, if you read in details the history of the Shelley family, the ones who own the castle, Edward died “without issue”. So you’re probably related to “a” Edward Shelley (the thief maybe?), but you’re not getting a piece of the Shelley property!

And since it was that branch that was leading me to the Bush family, and unto Edward III, I have to admit, proudly, that I am a still only commoner!

The thieving Baronet

This weekend is “free access to all UK records” on Ancestry.com. This is a nice break for me since I have hit so many dead ends on the American side of my tree. Free is always good!

I found out really early in my research that my second great grand mother, Eliza, was born in England. She’s the ancestor who would lead me to be somehow related to the Bush family. But since the records were unavailable unless you paid for an additional membership, I couldn’t fact check anything further.

British records are so much more fun that their American counterparts. On the US side, my family members are farmer. Or farm laborer. Or farm hands. There is the occasional coal miner since we are from North West Alabama, but there really isn’t much variety. We grew stuff.

My British ancestors, (or those I believe are my ancestors) were book binders, train car conductor, school masters, cigar makers (a women only profession apparently), lace makers, lace menders, dress makers, millners, tailors, teachers, model makers. I have also seen, though they were neighbors only, an office boy, lace manufacturer, shoe makers and scholars, which I think means student. It seems that the trades existed around neighborhoods, since most people on the same street had a job somehow related to one another.

And prisoners. That’s one thing we have in our blood: crime! Dear Edward was convicted of “larceny on the person” in 1856 and sentenced to prison. But I need to double and triple check this one: although I have no doubt that my great…grandfather could have been simultaneously a thief and a baronet (yes, we have our own page on Wikipedia), I want to make sure that:

  • 1- I am indeed related to them (I don’t need any more criminals than the ones I already know);
  • 2- that he is the same Edward S., in all the records, as it is a very common name.

If that is the case, here’s a picture of “our” property:

tiara-matching-castle(image found on Google)

I think it matches my tiara!

They built this city…*

My ancestors were busy bees. They made babies and built cities.

I have had to scratch out most of the work I had done when I found out I was only copying incorrect information, hearsay, family legends and falsehoods. I have forced myself to only write down facts that can be backed up with proper documentation: census, wills, marriage and military records. That applies to vital statistics: name, spouse, parents and offsprings, or “issue” as they’re called. That has scaled back my stack of index cards from over 100 to about 25. That’s a lot of culling, and it’s depressing! I still haven’t found the missing link between my own little self and the Mayflower passengers but I haven’t given up yet.

But there are a lot of stories within the wills, and in the historical archives around the country. My lot is responsible for the creation of 4 towns: Rogersville, Morgantown, Hoschton and Double Springs.

I think.

I am still not convinced. I do enjoy the stories, the high I get when I find an interesting anecdote, but when you take into consideration how common for instance the surname “Morgan” is, it is easy to believe you’re a descendant of “James Morgan” or any other popular names. If Edward Morgan had 10 children, and James is one of the most common names of the time, you’re pretty sure one of his sons will be a James. Does it make him your thrice-removed grandfather? I don’t think so. But a lot of these tidbits of information are available on the internet.

I have always imagined my ancestors, not on the pages of history books, but as the extras in the documentaries you see on the history channel (before it became about pawn shops). My people were the people in the background, the ones no one notices. The secondary characters no one remembers from Steinbeck’s novels. The ones with unmarked graves and without wills, but with loved ones who mourned them nonetheless.

The pictures of my grandmother’s generation look like Dorothea Lange’s work, and I am proud of that.

*on rock and roooooollllll……

 

Grandma Mary

She was about four when she boarded the boat in Leiden, in Holland, maybe wearing a tiny bonnet, a dark colored skirt probably made of wool to sustain the cold weather they were about to face on the long journey. She was holding her mom’s hand, a few feet behind her dad. They had always lived in Holland, but now had made this gigantic decision to move over to the new unknown continent. It was not a famine, it was not an economic move that drove them away; it was a deeply religious and spiritual resolution for her parents and their church group. They were the original Puritan setting sail on the Mayflower in 1620.

They left Leiden in Holland, stopped in Southampton in England to pick up a few more passengers for the New Land. Two languages, one boat. The Puritans, and their servants.   A few pigs, some dogs, and chickens.

The voyage, according to historians, was rough. A few people died. A couple of young men who where paid hands returned to England on the Mayflower’s voyage back. One set sail again later to the Bahamas this time, and died there of starvation with his crewmates. Lovely.

It must have been awfully scary, less maybe for Little Mary than for the adults. At that age, you just do what your parents tell you. They had brought some of their home food to make the transition into whatever new crops grew in the New World, corn of course being the most famous of them all. Were they the exact group who shared the first turkey with the Natives, culturally mandating that I eat turkey, which I don’t like, on Thanksgiving every year?

The Puritans from the Mayflower and settlers in Plymouth were a tight knit community, kinda like hippies, just a bit more strict! Although they were not the first European settlers on the new continent (contrary to what I was taught in school), they didn’t have much choice in terms of spouse. So they intermarried. Little Mary married James Cushman, who came from England a year after she did, on a different boat. They had 8 kids. When she died, at the age of 83, she was the last survivor of that faithful trip.

Mary Allerton and James Cushman’s son was Thomas Cushman. His son was Robert Cushman who named his son Robert Cushman. His daughter Ruth Cushman married Luke Perkins. They had a son, James, who had a daughter Eunice. Eunice married Joseph Morgan. Their son, Edward Morgan had a son, JM. His son, RM, had a daughter EM. EM married JH who had a daughter AH. Her son JL, is my father.

CQFD: I am a descendant of the Mayflower people!!! Let’s party!!! After a week of 5 to 10 hours of research daily, I hit the jackpot, and that’s not even what I was looking into! (I am still searching for our Indian roots).

Not so fast.

There is one broken link. I made a rookie mistake. I am still using the 2-week free trial, so I shouldn’t be too upset, but the trained scientist in me is ashamed to admit that I copied the information posted in family charts (individually posted by other members of the site), and not exclusively documents proving ancestry. In other words, when I did the research correctly, insisting on existing birth, death and marriage certificates, I have a missing link. Just one!

I tried the reverse method: going from the old to the new, which is easier since the descendants of the Mayflower passengers are clearly established, many simply found on Wikipedia. But around 2 am, I got tired. I was bummed. A bit humiliated. I went to bed pouting, and decided I would take a couple of days off this new obsession and chill. Clean the house maybe. And the genealogy gods must have agreed with me because I lost Internet for 2 days. I am posting this from Starbucks.

When I get Internet back, I am going to order a bonnet on Amazon. I deserve it!

For privacy reasons, I use initials only to identify people born or living in the 20th century. As for references, most of this information is available on Wikipedia.

 

Elizabeth who?

This is becoming a little repetitive. How many James Averys does one family tree need? And Joseph Morgans? And Elizabeths? I already have 21 women direct ancestors named Elizabeth.

And inter-family marriages? Your wife dies a week after giving birth and you marry her sister that same year? Hew…. And multiple marriages: how many times do you need to get married? The most popular spouse I found was married five times.

It’s also interesting to see the number of applications for membership into the Sons (and Daughters) of the Revolution. If my records are correct, I am pretty sure I would qualify. Someone explains what are the benefits and I may consider it.  One grandpa fought in the Battle of Long Island and the Battle of White Plains. I haven’t found anyone killed in battle yet, though one ancestor received a pension for being wounded as a soldier during the Civil War. 

In conclusion, it’s a bit of a mess. I tried to only record data when I could find specific documents to back it. That works fine when there is Federal Census data, but before that time, I admit I rely on the work of other people on the website.

I am a lazy princess!

 

 

The addiction begins

I spent the first 25 years of my life not knowing I am Cherokee. Then, I met my father, a 6’7” blonde man with blue eyes, who told me the story of his mother: born on an Indian reservation in the South, kidnapped by missionaries and put in an orphanage to become white. 25 years later, it took one afternoon on a genealogy website to kill that family myth. We are white. Snow white. From England on one close relative, but otherwise settled around Jamestown as far back as the 1600’s.

My cousins and I are still reeling over the fact. “But grandma said”, “But they look so Indian” (and they do). We are disappointed. Being Cherokee, or Choctaw, or even Hopi according to whom we talk to, was a nice story, something we held on to, as family folklore and as a part of our identity.

To be honest, that myth is not dead yet, more like in a deep coma. I have one relative whose origins are unknown. Maybe she’s our Pocahontas.

It’s funny what genealogy will do to you. If you get the bug (and I didn’t catch it the first time, about 20 years ago), you will plant your behind on your favorite chair, eyes riveted to the screen, clicking on hints and reading scanned copies of old hand written documents on your phone screen. You won’t shower, won’t get the mail, won’t answer the phone unless you recognize the number, and eat tater tots passed their prime that you found in the back of the freezer, because there is no food in the house and you’re too mesmerized to go shopping. I don’t even really like tater tots!

I started this genealogy research on a whim. A TV ad got me. Free trial they said. As long as you sell your soul to the gods of dead ancestors.

Oh, but the things you will discover. For a second, I was on the boat with the Pilgrims, but I quickly lost track of that ancestor in the mist. No Mayflower for me. My great….grand father was a traitor to the Confederacy. Oh the shame! I am a distant cousin to the Bush family, as in Bush 41 and 43. Not my fault! And since someone was kind enough to trace their genealogy and publish it in a book about ancestors to the US presidents, I know I am a descendant of King Edward I. Ha! I knew it, I always knew it, I am a princess! However, when I went on Wikipedia to read his bio, there isn’t much to be proud of. But who cares, I am a princess!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes you find photos. I sent one of a great…grandmother to my cousin who instantly called her “Resting Bitch Face”! Not very nice but she’s indeed quite “homely” (the grandma, not the cousin, the cousin is cute as a button). “RBF” may have had a reason or two to not be pleased. First, it was her husband who was the above mentioned traitor, and, she had 19 kids in 28 years. 19 kids. Competing with the Duggars here. If you had over 20 people to feed, with Confederate soldiers planted in front of your house to make sure your husband wasn’t selling away the South, you probably would look rather, let’s say, morose.

I was also told we were Irish on my grandfather’s side. That was trying to explain the blond genes. Not. We are from England. Leicester. Suffolk. And we were ladies, and lived in castles. But that is far back and I want to double-check the data.

And I found out this morning that one head of household owned five slaves. Welcome to the history of this country.

To make me feel better, I am on my way to buy myself a tiara!!!!!!!!!