Sheila, an English Facebook friend of mine has been researching her family history, inspired me to dig into the box of my grandmother’s family tree project. She had done quite a lot of work on her husband’s family which had migrated to the New World from England – though not a lot on her own Irish roots.
I think she was drawn by stories my grandfather told of his family, one of the early colonialist families in the Boston area. Several of his ancestors were at the battle of Concord Bridge. The family supposedly owned a livery stable that rented horses to Paul Revere. Romantic stuff. No wonder she was enthralled. Next to that kind of history her own dirt poor Irish ancestors from Galway and Mayo must have seemed not worth the effort.
I wish she had left more information on her parents’ family – one reason being I’m her mother’s namesake – but she did do a wonderful job of researching her husband’s roots, in some cases reaching back to the 15th century. Have to admit that I hadn’t given her work more than a brief look-see – until this morning when Sheila got me wondering where the English side came from.
Enter the magic unavailable to my grandmother who died in the early ’60s: the internet. I started with the Colonial names and worked backward searching for point of origins. Ships manifests. Burial records. Birthplaces and dates. There is quite a lot of information if you allow yourself to follow the various streams back to their sources.
What have I learned so far this morning? Grandpa was descended on his father’s side from a family named Kendall of Norfolk England. His ancestor Francis Kendall was the first of the family to come to the Colonies somewhere in the mid-1600s. But here’s where it takes a fun and slightly unsettling turn for me: Francis Kendall had an ancestor who was a Sheriff of Nottingham and who later died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 fighting for Richard III! I had no idea I had any familial connection with Nottingham or to Richard III before this day. Many of you know of my long-standing love for Nottingham – and how I’ve championed the burial of Richard’s recently discovered remains in York. And it’s gotten me wondering . . . could this be from whence my passion for Nottingham and for Richard springs? Is there such a thing as genetic memory? I shall dig deeper. Perhaps it has the makings of a time travel novel.