22 November 2011

Giving Thanks for Some Mayflower Roots

Courtesy Salem History Online

When I was little I played in the woods ALL the time. We built huts, climbed trees, navigated streams and played hide and seek. I'm sure the scenarios we created were far from authentic, but we always loved to imagine what it was like before the Pilgrims arrived. I wondered how the Native Americans lived, how they survived the long, frigid winters. What did they eat? How did they keep newborns warm and snug? We'd blaze trails, paint rocks with swampy water and search for arrowheads amongst the scrubby bushes. The Pilgrims did enter our play world, but they were more incidental. We re-enacted the meeting of the two cultures. How did they communicate; what did they trade, that sort of thing.


Pequot War
Courtesy of Wikipedia
In my teens, just around the time I was learning that the facts were not quite as idyllic as we had been taught, my genealogist mother, Priscilla (Barnes) FitzGerald, was wildly searching for a family link back to the Mayflower. I could have cared less. Lineage societies to me, in the early seventies at least, were nothing more than elitist clubs, their members all trying to out-impress each other. Eventually she and my aunt, Abbie (Barnes) Thompson, discovered that we are descended from Stephen Hopkins. Yeah! File it away for the future when I care or need to impress someone. I rejected the inherent snobbism out of hand.

Years later, the sisters were informed that the Stephen Hopkins line had been discounted by a later Mayflower historian. They could remain members of the Mayflower Society, but no one else could be admitted on that line. So they redoubled their efforts, and by collaborating across the North American continent, eventually found another Pilgrim ancestor: Degory Priest, through their father, William Otis Humphrey Barnes.

By this time I had become a genealogist myself and wanted the experience of submitting lineage papers, so I happily volunteered to unearth the proof. A few years later, Aunt Abbie discovered yet another Pilgrim, George Soule, this time connecting through their mother, Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes. I submitted this one as well, so we now all have two official Mayflower lines.

Courtesy of gutenberg.org
As a practicing genealogist I had come to realize that the excitement my mother and aunt felt was not because they wanted to distinguish themselves as blue bloods or ennoble the family name. No, they just loved that visceral link to history. Those were our relatives that came over here on that terrifying, dark, dirty, freezing, stinking ship. And when they got here they needed the wise counsel of the Native Americans to survive. With their help they managed to live long enough to produce children who also survived and had children, until eventually I came along to play in the woods twenty miles from where they landed. It is exciting because we've heard the stories told so many times and have already envisioned what life must have been like for them. It is a great way to open up the world of history to everyone, because we all have ancestors. 

It doesn't matter who your ancestors were. The joy we derive from studying history and genealogy is in witnessing the reassuring lesson that although life on this planet has been incredibly difficult for ages, it can also bring great joy. Life springs from death: something of each of our ancestors is alive today in us. We are who and where we are partly because of who our ancestors were. This is true biologically and psychologically––by nature and nurture. They are part of us. Every generation feels the same emotions. It is just the circumstances that change. The Pilgrims had their obstacles, as did my father's ancestors who lived through the Irish Famine, and if they could thrive, then so can we.
Descent from Pilgrim Degory Priest*
Degory Priest (ca 1579 - 1 Jan 1620/1) and Sarah Allerton ( - bef. 24 Oct 1633)
John Coombs ( - 15 Oct 1646) and Sarah Priest (ca 1615 - aft. 1 Aug 1648)
Francis Coombs (ca 1635 - 31 Dec 1682) and Mary Barker (ca 1647 - aft. 15 May 1711)
Ebenezer Bennett (19 May 1678 - 13 Jan 1750/1) and Ruth Coombs (12 Mar 1680/1 - 11 Mar 1717/8)
Ignatius Elmes [Sr] (8 Apr 1706 - 8 Feb 1762/3) and Sarah Bennett (27 Mar 1707 - 30 Jul 1789)
John Elmes (23 May 1733 - 13 Jun 1811) and Lydia Ryder (5 Feb 1736/7 - 13 Nov 1830)
Reuben Damon (13 Feb 1759 - 26 Dec 1837) and Lydia Elmes/Ellms (14 Sep 1761 - 1826)
Joseph Clapp [2d] (1 Jun 1809 - 13 Jan 1878) and Lydia Damon (13 Jul 1799 - 1884)
William Otis Clapp (10 Jun 1840 - 7 Apr 1901) and Mary Gage Colby (14 Mar 1842 - 29 Apr 1903)
Israel Merritt Barnes [Jr] (11 Sep 1861 - 18 Jul 1920) and Bethia Augusta Clapp (13 Apr 1861 - 6 Feb 1928)
William Otis Humphrey Barnes (16 May 1886) and Vernetta Gertrude Jones (13 Jun 1892 - 1 Aug 1892)
My mother
Me

Descent from George Soule*
George Soule (bef. 1600 - aft. 20 Sep 1677) and Mary Bucket/Becket ( - Dec 1676)
Francis West ( - aft. 6 Sep 1687) and Susannah Soule (ca 1642 - aft. 1684)
Jeremiah Fones (1664 - 29 Apr 1747) and Martha West (ca 1676 - 2 Dec 1764)
Capt. Ebenezer Hill (1703 - 31 Oct 1753) and Mary Fones (20 Sep 1711 - ) [needs work...]
William Boone (22 Aug 1743 - 28 Apr 1829) and Ruth Hill (25 Feb 1744 - 12 May 1833)
Richard Jones (ca 1758 - 29 Jan 1842) and Mary Boone (26 Apr 1770 - 9 Mar 1840)
James Jones (27 Nov 1787 - 4 Dec 1877) and Sarah Crouse (30 May 1792 - 3 Mar 1876)
Darius Jones (30 Dec 1811 - 22 Mar 1887) and Rhoda Tripp (1827 - aft 1894)
Jared Smith Jones (3 Oct 1860 - 21 Jun 1943) and Georgianna Hagerman (3 Feb 1868 - 3 Jun 1932)
William Otis Humphrey Barnes (16 May 1886) and Vernetta Gertrude Jones (13 Jun 1892 - 1 Aug 1892)
My mother
Me

*Not recently verified. Guess I should work on these a bit!

4 comments:

Sheri said...

Polly I am with you - It just blows my mind whenever I stop to think that it took all of my ancestors (literally thousands) being in a certain place at a certain point in time for me to be here on earth today. The power of that concept is what makes me believe that I am here for a reason - to make sure they are not forgotten.

Heather Rojo said...

Hi Polly! Very nice post, and I'm glad you participated in listing your Mayflower ancestor. I included you in the compendium at http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2011/11/my-mayflower-passenger-ancestors.html

Midge Frazel said...

I am so glad to see that we are cousins.
Midge

Cheri Hopkins aka You Go Genealogy Girl #2 said...

Really enjoyed how well you did this post! My husband descends from Mayflower Howland/Tilley and we really thought this was told well.