"positive science" update

Since my last update two years back, there's been another iteration of my Ancestry DNA result. And I took a Y-DNA test to help me break through the brick wall of my Burnett line. Get comfy, put on your lab coat, and let's do some science!

First, the Ancestry update, pictured here:

Yes, that is a lot of purple.

As before, in 2020, Ancestry has made some changes in their categories. Finland is entirely new (tell that to the Kalevala poets), and Sweden has gained Denmark without the tragic nuisance of invading. And of course, graphics can be deceiving. That massive purple blob, "Eastern Europe & Russia," that takes up so much of the map represents just 1% of my DNA, and that all coming from just one of my 2x great-grandmothers, Annie Miller (28 Jan 1865 - 2 Jul 1921), who was born in Szczecin, Poland to Polish parents. Anyway. Looking at the actual numbers, it breaks down like this:

Sweden went up from 36% to 46%
England & Northwest Europe went way up from 10% to 32%
Norway stayed more or less the same
Scotland plummeted from 32% down to 7%
Germanic Europe also dropped, from 12% to just 2%
And Finland and Eastern Europe/Russia both popped up at 1%

Of course, my DNA hasn't changed. And some of it is due to Ancestry gathering more data and consequently refining. But it is still baffling, which leads me to a few questions and observations.

My current Scandinavian mix is definitely odd. I am legitimately 37.5% Swedish and Danish; those countries represent three of my eight great grandparents. Ergo, 37.5%! But that's it, no other ancestors are geographically close. So even if all of their genetic contribution made it into my DNA, a near statistical impossibility, it really should be closer to that previous 36%. And that doesn't even take into account Norway, which I mentioned in my previous update.

England/Northwest Europe and Scotland did a flip flop, but their combined totals are still nearly the same at about 40%. Fair play, as my Brit cousins might say. Germanic Europe and Eastern Europe/Russia are also pretty spot on. 

But what's the deal with Finland?

Anyway. Ancestry's DNA test is an autosomal DNA test, which takes into account both sides of your family tree, but only for about five or six generations.  Which makes those geographic anomalies all the more perplexing if you have a well-documented family tree for the last couple hundred years. Apart from some brick walls, mine is. And between what's documented and what's historically known about migration patterns (e.g., if you find three consecutive generations born in Sweden in the 1800s, for example, it's pretty likely the previous generation was from there too) there shouldn't be too many geographic surprises.

While waiting for Ancestry's last biennial update, I was also persuaded to take a Y-DNA test, which only tests Y (male) chromosomes. So rather than including your entire family tree, it basically goes from your father to his father to his father, and for centuries rather than a few generations. With my Burnett line coming to a dead end in exactly six generations at Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860), I need help.

Isaac had ten children, and they--and their spouses and children--are all accounted for. His wife, Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - bef 1870), through her mother, Hannah Lowell (23 Jan 1759 - 1802), leads me back to my "Gateway" ancestor, whose line takes me all the way back to English royalty, which I wrote about here. Yet, despite researching for years to find Isaac Burnett's parents, or a sibling, or anyone, I'
ve had no success. He just shows up in Maine in 1780, apparently out of nowhere. 

So I mailed off for my kit, did the swab, and waited. When my results became available, I was thrilled... for about ten minutes. Then absolute frustration took over. Not only was I trying to learn an entirely new website that is not exactly what they call "intuitive," I was also faced with a slew of genealogical jargon, with words like clades and haplogroups indiscriminately used as if they were common enough to appear in "Goodnight, Moon."

When I finally stumbled onto a page of the website I thought I could understand, a list of my Y-DNA matches, I was practically palpitating. Now my questions would be answered, my Burnett ancestors revealed! The long list of names was mostly comprised of multiples of names like Martin, Donnelly, Mullican, O'Toole.... Admittedly, there were two Burnetts.

Diligent readers will note a couple things: that these are Irish surnames, and I have no Irish DNA. And that out of over two hundred matches, just two had the surname Burnett, when the majority should have. Your father then his father then his father, remember?

Grasping at straws, I remembered that in my family tree there is a Janett Mullickan (bef 1718 - ?), the wife of a maternal 6x grand-uncle, William Steele (1710 - 23 Feb 1788). Father, then his father, then his father...? Nope. An aunt, by marriage, on my mother's side. Wrong three ways.

Luckily, I had a mentor who helped me understand how the website is laid out, and what some of the most relevant lingo means. What she couldn't answer is where my Burnetts were. 

Despite the "Burnett Project" having 37 distinct Haplogroup categories, with further subgroups ("Descendants of Thomas Burnett b 1785 Workington England & Sarah Outterside," or  "John Burnett and his wife Lucretia"), 
I fit into
none of them. No other Burnetts son of Burnetts match with me. So either I was a fascinating anomaly, an entirely new line!--possible, but unlikely, as Grandpa Isaac had ten children, and they all had between four and ten (so many Nathaniels and Isaacs and Marys and Deborahs), the broods decreasing slightly through the generations--or... 

My mentor did have one suggestion, and out popped another bit of genealogical argot, this one an acronym: "NPE." It's short for "Non-Paternal Event," a polite way of saying "oopsie." Or bastard. That one I understood. 

Apparently that is one of the most common consequences of a surprising, if historical Y-DNA test result. It's like an episode of "Springer," but on PBS. She discretely asked if I had considered this--which I hadn't.  

I hadn't, in part, because I share autosomal DNA with descendants, both male and female, of four other children of Isaac Burnett and Deborah Grindle, beyond just their son, my 3x gg Nathaniel Spalding Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885). So unless Grandma Deb cheated on Isaac so often that almost half their children weren't his, that didn't seem likely. 

What then? The next suggestion was to try to locate another living, male Burnett descendant (through male descendants) 
of Isaac Burnett, and have them get a Y-DNA test as well. If we matched, then we were a brand new Burnett line! It seems like more of an honor than it is, though, because it would get us no further in our lineage. I've tried a few leads, but none of them have responded.

My last line of inquiry is still inconclusive. Looking more closely, I noticed that my ancestor, Nathaniel, was (now) believed to be the last of Isaac and Deborah's ten children, born twenty-two years after their first child, Margaret "Peggy" Burnett (17 May 1804 - 7 Feb 1884), and after a four year gap from his next oldest sibling. Isaac and Deborah's next two children were girls as well. The three eldest sisters would have been between 22 and 18 years old when Nathaniel was born. None had married--yet. Is it possible that Nathaniel is the illegitimate child of one of them, passed off as their mother's and father's?

That would explain the autosomal DNA matches to Isaac's children; the DNA would be from wife Deborah, or possibly even Isaac, as he would actually be my 5x gg, not 4x. But the male to male to male Y-DNA would no longer be Burnett.

I dug through the US Federal Census pages for Newport, Maine for 1820 and 1830. The population now of Newport is about 3500; it was even less then. I expanded my search to the few neighboring cities, looking for any likely Grandpa 
Martin, Donnelly, Mullican, O'Toole.... I didn't find any.

Newport, Maine a few generations later.
No Burnetts, or any other relevant surnames.

I may never know. Science keeps improving, more records get discovered and digitized every day, more people are becoming interested in finding their roots. So I'm hopeful.

If nothing else, we've got another Ancestry update next year to look forward to.

"given up by traitors"


In my previous post, I wrote about my English royal family connections. This time I'm going to share the stories of two common folk, whose lives were changed tremendously because of their support of the English monarchy--all the more interesting because they were both Scottish.

These men are also notable because they are proper Scots laddies, unlike the many Scotch-Irish families I have in my tree, who lived in northern Ireland for several generations before immigrating on to North America. Readers of this blog will recognize such Scotch-Irish names as Steele, Morrison, Ketchum, and Tolliver.

Even my two closest surnames, those of my mom and dad, Brown and Burnett, are believed to be of Scottish origin, but neither is proven. They continue to be among my highest brick walls

So my two subjects, Daniel Cone and James Claghorn, share a couple interesting qualities: Scots who were loyal to an English king, and who came to colonial America directly from Scotland. But it's the how and why they came that is the most interesting--along with what came after.

First, though, some historic background. (Context is king!) But what king, or is there a king at all? That was the real question. The English Civil War raged for almost ten years during the middle of the 1600s. Complex enough to have involved England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland in various combinations, it has been called by different names and even subdivided into three parts. But ultimately it came down to a battle between the Royalists (sometimes called Cavaliers), who favored the monarchy, and the Parliamentarians, AKA the Roundheads, who wanted a republic.

Scotland had long been a separate kingdom from England, and Charles I had ruled over both countries, as had his father, James I before him. When the problems began, the Scots initially supported the Parliamentarians (during the First English Civil War), then switched sides (now we're up to the Second English Civil War) to support Charles I--that is, until his beheading in 1649.

Our fellas show up in the third section, also known as the Anglo-Scottish war, which took place from 1650 until 1652. With the monarchy dissolved, a new republic was formed, the Commonwealth of England. Its head--so to speak--was Oliver Cromwell, who, along with his parliamentary supporters--whatever shape their heads--were wary of Charles I's heir, Charles II coming to power.

Left: Oliver Cromwell, c 1656 by Samuel Cooper
Right: Charles II, c 1653 by Philippe de Champaigne

The Scottish government declared Charles II as King of Scotland in May 1650, then raised an army to fight on his behalf to restore him to the English throne as well. The English army, sixteen thousand men strong, crossed into Scotland that July.

On September 3, 1650, a clash came, and the Battle of Dunbar occurred. It was a resounding defeat for the Scottish Royalists. Outnumbered by over twenty-five percent, many of their best soldiers not present, the Scots were routed. Although only a few hundred died, many more were wounded, and some five thousand Scottish soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, according to accepted history.

A year later--to the day!--was the decisive Battle of Worcester, the end of Scotland as a distinct kingdom, and the end of the "War of the Three Kingdoms," yet another name for the English Civil War. Ultimately, Charles II was restored as King of Britain in 1660, Cromwell having died--in a tremendous, but well-documented coincidence--also on a September 3, this one in 1658.

Where do my ancestors, Daniel Cone and James Cleghorn fit in to all this? They were both at the Battle of Dunbar, and both became Scottish prisoners of war.

Little is known about either of their lives prior to the battle. So little is known about Daniel Cone, one of my 9x great grandfathers, that we don't even know if that is his actual name. Nonstandard orthography accounts for part of it; he is also known as 
Daniel Mackhoe, or Daniel Colquhoun. There is also a theory that he might have changed his name once in America, as that is where all records show Cone, or, as it appears in his only surviving signature, "Conn." At any rate, he was believed to be born in Edinburgh in 1626, and may have been an officer in the Scottish army. Whatever his rank, he was taken prisoner at Dunbar.

James Claghorn (or Cleghorn), a 10x great-grandfather, provides a bit more detail. He was baptized in Edinburgh on 4 November 1624; his parents are given as Henry and Elspeth Claghornher maiden name may have been Herriot or Adamson. The Claghorns of Edinburgh were mostly merchants. James may have been a professional soldier, and may have been living in Yarmouth prior to his capture at the Battle of Dunbar.

So both these men fought, their side lost, they were captured. What next? According to the Scottish Prisoner of War Society,

Captured soldiers traditionally would be ransomed or exchanged, but military leaders feared that healthy men would return to the Scottish army and fight again. The English also did not want to deport Scots to Europe or Ireland, for fear they would join the armies of the Commonwealth's enemies. 

The severely wounded were dismissed, and the remaining prisoners--including Daniel and James--were marched south to Durham. Accounts vary, but it is believed well over one thousand men died en route, and about fifteen hundred were imprisoned at Durham. 

But what happened to the remaining prisoners? Presumably the strongest and healthiest, from Durham they were marched to London, a trip taking almost two months on foot, mistreated and nearly starved along the way. Many died. Once in London, those that were still healthy--perhaps just two hundred or so men!--were sold into slavery or indentured servitude, to be taken to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

One hundred and fifty of those men were put aboard the ship Unity, which departed the port of Gravesend on 11 November 1650 and reached Boston about a month later. Daniel Cone and James Claghorn were two of those unwilling passengers. 

Once arrived, they were sent their separate ways; they had no choice. Daniel Cone was sold to a John Gifford, of "The Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works of Lynn," a business venture founded by John Winthrop the Younger, son of the founding Governor of the Massachusetts Colony, John Winthrop. The first successful iron works in North America opened in Lynn (now Saugus, Massachusetts) just a few years earlier. The history website MassMoments writes:

There, under oppressively hot, noisy, and dangerous conditions, men turned ore into cast and wrought iron. Although the Saugus Iron Works lasted only 22 years, it laid the foundation for the iron and steel industry in the United States.

It was abandoned and fell into disrepair. In more recent years, it has been restored and open to the public as Saugus Iron Works National Historic Monument. Daniel Cone worked there, or possibly another nearby iron works for almost six years. Records of the time are scarce and inexact, the more so as Scots were considered almost less than human. An order from the General Court in May 1652 states, "all Scotchmen, Negroes, and Indians inhabiting with or servants to the English" were to receive military training, presumably to defend--or be cannon fodder for--their betters. 

Your humble blogger at
Saugus Ironworks National Historic Site
in August 2019.

Although alien, they were still part of the community. Historian and genealogist William Saxbe, Jr writes:

Relations with the surrounding Puritan communities were not always smooth: a local observer noted that "At the Iron Works wee founde all the men wth smutty faces and bare armes working lustily.... The headmen be of substance and godlie lives. But some of the workmen be young, and fond of frolicking, and sometimes does frolicke to such purpose that they get before the magistrates. And it be said, much to their discredit that one or two hath done naughtie workes with the maidens living thereabouts."

I cannot vouch for Grandpa Cone's behavior while under indenture. After fighting a bloody battle, imprisonment, and slaving at a foundry, perhaps he deserved a little frolicking. We do know, however, that after being freed (c 1657), he married a young woman from Lynn, Mehitable Spencer (1642 - 1691) in 1661. 

Mehitable was one of the daughters of Gerard Spencer (1614 - 1685). He was born in Bedfordshire, England, and at twenty years old immigrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was granted four acres. Within a few years he was married, and living in Lynn, where he operated a ferry. 

By 1662, the Spencer and Cone families moved on, being among the earliest inhabitants of "30 Mile Island," now known as Haddam, Connecticut. They were among twenty-eight families who received this land grant from the Connecticut Colony. I'm glad to say that the land was purchased--not stolen--from the original inhabitants, the Wangunk people.

An early map of Thirty Mile Island, now Haddam, Connecticut.

In 1685, the Cone family, now complete with ten children, moved on again, and were among the earliest inhabitants of East Haddam. Their son, Stephen Cone (1676 - 1 Dec 1758), my 8x gg, went with them, of course, and on 5 February 1702 he married Mary Hungerford (1681 - 17 Mar 1683), daughter of another of East Haddam's founders, Thomas Hungerford (1648 - 11 Jan 1713) and Mary Green (1650 - 1706). 

Below the names of ancestors Daniel Cone and Thomas Hungerford 
are Samuel and William Spencer; they are in-laws of Cone's.

The original Cone home was a log house. "The Old Chimney Stacks of East Haddam," by Hosford B Niles, published in 1887, shares this story:

The settlers in those early days used to assemble at times and surround the wolves, starting as far as Middle Haddam, and driving them down on the Neck, where they became good targets for the hunters.

Stephen used to interest his grandchildren by relating how the family often sat on the back door-step and listened to the howling of the wolves as they were driven through the forest. 

I was lucky enough to see the book when visiting the East Haddam Museum & Historical Society in 2019. In a happy coincidence, the docent there who located the book for me was another descendant of Daniel Cone!

Daniel Cone, despite many tribulations, ultimately lived a long, prosperous--and I hope happy--life, dying at age 80 in East Haddam. He is buried in the old cemetery there. Try as I might I could not locate his grave, although I did see those of some of his descendants.

RIP Daniel Cone.

James Claghorn's life took a different path. Upon arriving in Massachusetts, he was indentured to Bernard Lombard, of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Three years later, on 6 January 1654, Claghorn married Abigail Lombard (1634 - 21 Aug 1677). Yes, James married his master's daughter. But the marriage was probably a necessity, as their son, also named James, was born just twenty-three days later. Clearly not Puritans.

While that sinks in, let me tell you about Bernard Lombard, an 11 x great-grandfather, however unwilling. Like others of his era, there are many variations on his surname: Lumbar, Lumbert, Lambert, etc.... Future generations settled on Lombard, so I shall too. He was born in Thorncombe, Dorset, about 1608 to Thomas Lombard. His mother's name is unknown, as Thomas had married three times by that point. Ultimately he had one more wife and at least eight more children, one of whom is another of my direct ancestors, making Thomas both my 11x and 12x great-grandfather on different lines. And this, gentle readers, is what is called "pedigree collapse," a topic I will save for another time. 

Thomas' son, Jedediah Lombard (20 Sep 1640 - aft 1683) is a 10x great-grandfather of mine. Ultimately, Jedediah's great-great grandson, John Lombard, married his brother Bernard's 3x great-granddaughter, Priscilla Harding; so their daughter, Mary "Polly" Lombard (11 Feb 1784 - Oct 1843) is a grandmother of mine two ways. As I've written before, the old joke goes "I'm so New England, I'm my own cousin." Indeed. 

But this is really meant to be James Claghorn's story. So, he had married his erstwhile master's daughter, and had a son very shortly after.  A few years later the family relocated to Yarmouth, a nearby town, and more children followed. Over the generations, the Claghorns prospered and were "very high in social standing," according to one account. Another work, New World Immigrants, Volume 1, edited by Michael Tepper, says this:

He [James] was the ancestor of Colonel George Claghorn, who built the Constitution. It was good sturdy stock that lent its sterling qualities to the native New England strain, and they rendered good accounts of themselves in the Indian, French, and Revolution [sic] wars, in defense of the Colonies. 

Alas, the Lombard stock was not quite as sturdy, or stable. James' wife Abigail, also known as Abiah, is believed to have suffered from an unknown mental illness in her later life. She died by suicide, hanging herself from a beam in their attic on 21 August 1677. She was discovered by two of their children. If you're inclined, you can read more about it in the photo below, beginning midway down the page.

James Claghorn never remarried, and died just a few years later.

from Records of Plymouth Colony,
Court Orders, Volume 5, 1668 - 1678

Showing just what a small world colonial New England was--the entire population was less than 120,000 in 1670--two of the names seen at the top of the page above in an unrelated record are also in my family tree. Constant Southworth (1614 - 1685) and Thomas Huckens (1617 -1679) are a 10x great-uncle and 11x great-grandfather, respectively, although those two lines would not come together until a little over two hundred years later, when on 1 September 1879 Charles A Burnett married Ella Swarts in Spring Lake, Minnesota; they are paternal 2x great-grandparents of mine.

Remarkably (or perhaps inevitably) Charles and Ella are also the direct descendants of this post's subjects, James Claghorn and Daniel Cone, respectively. I am deeply curious if James and Daniel ever actually met. Did they speak on the long march to London from Scotland, or on board the Unity, curious about what might come in the new world? And what might they think that their descendants would, generations later, find each other--in Minnesota!

Of course, not every life is full of second chances, or coincidental meetings and marriages. It was just a few years ago that the world learned what happened to the other, unnamed and unknown Scottish prisoners of war, who were confined at Durham.

In 2013, excavations just outside the Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin, and St Cuthbert of Durham, more commonly known as Durham Cathedral (a World Heritage site) revealed a skull, and other bones. As Archaeology tells us:

Further excavation made clear that the remains were part of a mass grave. "A large number of burials were tightly packed on top of each other with absolutely no artifacts at all--not a pin with them," says [Richard] Annis. "It looked like they had been dropped naked into a pit in some disarray. Some were face up. One was face down. A couple were on their sides, tumbled in." A few feet away, separated by an area that had been disturbed in recent times, the archaeologists found another mass grave. In all, they excavated the remains of somewhere between 17 and 28 people, all male and generally aged 13 to 25, with the majority toward the younger end. "There was very little evidence of healed injury, " says Annis, "so they weren't a bunch of battle-hardened soldiers or anything like that." All of this fits in with what was known of the Scots who had fought in the battle of Dunbar.

Durham Cathedral, and remains of an unknown soldier
photo courtesy "The Daily Express" 24 August 2016

I began this post by glibly saying it was going to be about commoners. Reflecting on the extraordinary lives and experiences of Daniel Cone and James Claghorn, the things they lived through, and the amazing coincidence that their descendants would come together, I realize how very uncommon those men really were.

                                    *                *                *                *           

[For those of you who are more visually inclined, below are two charts that will show the interlocking descendancies of both Charles Burnett and his wife Ella Swarts. One shows how James Claghorn, Jedediah and Bernard Lombard, and Thomas Huckens connect to Grandpa Charles. The other shows the connection Daniel Cone and Constant Southworth have to Grandma Ella.]

"English pluck" update

O, to be in England (at last), now that April's May is there....

As mentioned in a previous post, a much-planned-for trip to England was eagerly anticipated, and I am happy to announce that it finally came to pass, albeit a few years later than we wanted and a month after that evoked in Browning's famous verse. Leaving aside irrelevant stories both humorous and horrific about our trip, I will focus here on sharing a few highlights that relate to, well, my relations.

Edward I (1239 - 1307), a 21x great-grandfather, looms largest, long shanks and all, but other royals, aristocrats, and commoners like myself, appear as well. As so it should be.

One of my pre-trip preparations, beyond a wall-size map with pushpins, photos, and strings--not unlike those seen in movies about obsessed detectives--was creating sheets showing where ancestors of mine had lived in England. I used two filters: one, that each was the earliest immigrant ancestor, the first to go from there to here; and two, that their information was verifiable. I ended up with about thirty candidates, knowing we could not see them all, at least this time. I next plotted out which of their locales matched destinations we planned on visiting. Happily, three of our "tentpoles," London, the Cotswolds, and Manchester all had historic kin suitably close by.

Pictured below is an example of one of the pages I made, this one for 10x great-grandfather Thomas Norton (1609 - 1648) and his wife Grace Wells (1611 - 1648), who arrived with their daughter Grace Norton (1634 - 1704) sometime before 1639, and settled in Guilford, Connecticut. 

One of my pre-trip planning sheets.
Each had the who, when, and most importantly, where!

Well, more than settled: Norton was one of Guilfords' founders. The website Visit Guilford says this:

On June 1, 1639, more than a month before Guilford's founders reached the New England shore, 25 Puritan men bound their lives to each other in a Covenant, setting forth their vision for the community they would create together. Aboard the English ship St. John, these men signed their names to a document that stated their intentions to settle with their families as a group near the plantation of Quinnipiack (later New Haven), and to help each other survive and prosper in the New World.

Thomas Norton was one of the signers of the Covenant, along with another ancestor, 11x gg Francis Bushnell (1580 - 1646). Norton's grandson Caleb Seward (1662 - 1778), about whom I have written before, married Bushnell's grand-daughter Lydia Bushnell (1661 - 1753); they are paternal 9x great-grandparents.

The Guilford Covenant.
The original is one of the few documents of its kind in the collection of the
Massachusetts Historical Society.

Photo courtesy the Guilford Free Library Archives

However interesting, it turns out that that Thomas Norton would not be someone whose English birthplace or home we would visit whilst in England. But his grandfather, also named Thomas, was definitely--and inadvertently--on our itinerary.

Catching up with an episode of the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are that first aired in late 2018, we learned about some of the ancestry of actor Josh Duhamel (although I suppose if he were more famous I would not need to explain who he is). My ears pricked up when they mentioned that Guilford's Thomas Norton was one of his ancestors as well.

Cousin Josh. 
(Photo courtesy of The Learning Channel)

The show skipped quickly over immigrant Thomas Norton's father, Robert Norton (abt 1575 - 1635), which is a shame. He was an an engineer and author, who wrote such books as The Gvnner: Shewing the Whole Practice of Artillerie: With All the Appurtenances thereunto Belonging, among others. He was also a poet. He wrote one of the introductory "panegyricks" for his friend John Smith (yes, the Pocahontas one!) to use in Smith's General Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. Smith returned the favor, and wrote a verse with the unctuous title "In the Due Honor of the Author Master Robert Norton." You can read it here.

Yet we still have not reached England, or Robert Norton's father, the Thomas Norton whose haunts we would visit. The portentous narrator of Who Do You Think You Are had a lot to say about him.

Although born to a London grocer (also named Thomas!), Thomas Norton (1532 - 1584) definitely made good. He went to Cambridge, studied law at the Inner Temple, got involved in politics, and even had the ear of Queen Elizabeth I. WDYTYA covered all those bases, albeit quickly.

One tidbit that particularly excited me was that Norton co-authored a play (with Thomas Sackville) that was performed for Queen Elizabeth in January 1561. The play was called The Tragedie of Gorboduc, later revised by the authors and retitled The Tragedie of Ferrex and Porrex. I had to track down a copy, of course, which I purchased second hand. I found it included in a hefty volume called Elizabethan and Stuart Plays, edited by the imposingly named combo of Charles Read Baskervill [sic], Virgil B Heltzel, and Arthur H Nethercot.

Gorboduc is not much of a read these days (although according to elizabethandrama.org, it features the first appearances of the word "motherland" and phrase "gaping wound"), and the last record I could find of a full performance was this:

Students at the Hull Municipal Training College [Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England] perform the play (13 December 1928), with an almost all female cast, under the direction of Dr A.E. Parsons. Repeat performance on Wednesday, 27 February 1929.

But despite that, it is important for two reasons: it is the first English history play, and the first to use iambic pentameter blank verse. And this almost thirty years before Shakespeare's first plays! The Bard borrowed heavily from Gorboduc for the plot of his King Lear as well; both plots revolve around kings who divide their kingdoms between their offspring, with tragedy following close behind.

Still intrigued by  Thomas Norton, I got another book--this time from the library--The Tudor Parliaments: Crown, Lords, and Common, 1485 - 1603 by Michael A R Graves. A scholarly text from 1985, I have to admit I only read the sections on Grandpa Norton. There was this: 

Foremost among them was Thomas Norton. He was a lawyer, the lord mayor's first 'remembrancer'...."  
As a formidable debater, an inexhaustible committee man, a prolific parliamentary draftsman, and a popular Common's man, he was the lord treasurer's ideal instrument to further his ends.... (p 149)

Interesting. But also this:

He was a moderate puritan, but it was his obsessive hatred of popery which made him a political activist.... (ibid)

Or, as Wikipedia puts it more vividly:

Norton's Calvinism grew, and towards the end of his career he became a fanatic. Norton held several interrogation sessions in the Tower of London using torture instruments such as the rack. His punishment of the Catholics, as their official censor from 1581 onwards, led to his being nicknamed "Rackmaster-General".... 

We arrived at Heathrow International Airport midday in late May. We picked up our rental car and made our way to our lodgings in London, stopping briefly at IKEA on the way (one of the only stops my other half requested, despite the entirety of the UK available as options). It was fun; they had photo ops with a cutout of Queen Elizabeth throughout the store in honor of her Jubilee. 

L: His only contribution to the planning map. R: a sign within IKEA.

Our first full day in London began early at the Sky Garden, giving us extraordinary views of many of the city's landmarks. Aptly, the first site we spotted was The Tower, where Grandpa "Rackmaster" Norton executed--so to speak--his craft over four hundred years ago.

Our first view of the Tower, from the Sky Garden. 

Perhaps the less said about that part of the Tower, the better. It balanced the scales somewhat to learn that Norton himself was briefly imprisoned there himself, Elizabeth's council forced into it by English bishops. He stayed just a few days and was released due to ill health, returning to his native Bedfordshire and dying soon after.

A more salutary ancestor, Edward I, also spent time at the Tower. I'm pleased to mention that while there he was neither torturing nor imprisoned. In fact, like his father, Henry III (1216 - 1272) before him, he expanded the site, adding what is known now as the Medieval Palace, including St Thomas's Tower, which was used as the royal apartment. There was a fantastic display there recreating Edward's bedchamber, along with many artifacts. I felt an incredible frisson being there, connecting with an ancestor from so long ago. Almost seven hundred years! 

L: Edward's bedchamber, suggesting that how I make my bed is genetic.
R: thick walls and long shadows.

It was lovely and strangely reassuring, the permanence and tradition, compared with so much of American culture, which, even putting aside our relative youth as a country, seems only to value the new; anything over even a mere hundred years old is  vanished, obsolete, or looked on either with pity or, less often, awe as a relic, behind ropes or with a plaque. Anyway.

Heading up the Thames, we next visited Westminster Abbey, imposing on the outside, overwhelming once inside. The size, the scale, the history! There are countless memorials to many of the grandest name in British history. I especially enjoyed "Poet's Corner," where authors from Browning and Dickens to Auden and Wodehouse are memorialized. Although the site is much older, the current Abbey was begun under the direction of Henry III in 1245.

Along with a myriad of royal marriages and burials, the Abbey has been the home to every English coronation since 1066. I have four of those monarchs in my family tree. I mentioned two already, but here's my royal line: 

Henry II (1133 - 1189) +  Eleanor of Aquitaine (c 1122 - 1204)

     He reigned 1154 - 1189; they married 1152. Their son:

John (1166 -1216) +  Isabella of Angoulême (c 1189 -1246)

     He reigned from 1199 - 1216; they married 1200. Their son:

Henry III (1207 - 1272) + Eleanor of Provence (c 1223 - 1291)

     He reigned 1216 - 1272; they married 1236. Their son:

Edward I (1239 - 1307) + Eleanor of Castile (1241 - 1290)

     He reigned (1272 - 1307); they married 1254.

(You may have noticed the ten year gap between the reigns of Henry II and John. That spot was held by Richard I aka Richard the Lionheart (1157 - 1199), Henry II and Eleanor's third son, John's older brother, and so my 23x great-uncle.)

Nifty as it would be to count Edward II as another great-grand, I descend from his sister, Elizabeth of Rhuddlan (1282 - 1316), who married Humphrey de Bohun (1276- 1322) in 1302, at--guess where!--Westminster Abbey. She was the eighth and last of Edward I's daughters, and closest in age to Edward II. 

And as an aside, does anyone else feel how mind-boggling these dates are? Perhaps I sense it more strongly since I am thinking about my connection to these people and their time. Anyway.

About those coronations. The chair itself was ordered by Edward I to be built, after he brought back the Stone of Scone (which delightful name sounds like something from a fairy tale) from Scotland in 1296, and was believed first used 1308. The chair has seen a lot of wear and tear, additions and repairs, and even the return of the Stone to Scotland in 1996, although it will be brought back to Westminster for the crowning of King Charles III later this year.

It has lasted through bombings and suffragettes, was hidden during wartime, and even subjected to schoolboy graffiti. Yet it endures. Even behind plexiglass, it was thrilling to see, the more so because some of my family's bums have sat upon its majesty.

It is hard to pick a highpoint from Westminster Abbey. Although we spent several hours there, it was not enough to take in everything. Of my four royals, two are buried there, and we did find their tombs. I especially liked that of Henry III, monumental, as befits the monarch who had so much of the Abbey built. We will definitely go back. 

The tomb of Henry III.

We would meet up with Edward and his father again at another destination, visiting Winchester, about sixty miles southwest of London, in Hampshire. We skipped that Abbey (I know! Next time...) and went instead to the Great Hall. The Hall is all that remains of Winchester Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror and demolished in 1649 under the orders of Oliver Cromwell. 22x great-grandfather Henry III was born in the castle, and added the Great Hall, an endeavor that took many years, beginning in 1222. 

There was a lot to see, and for me, two particularly rich genealogical treats. The first was a bank of beautiful stained glass windows, added in 1874, at the height of the period when all things medieval were coming back in vogue. They showed coats of arms for the Plantagenet kings and many of the nobles of their time, including some of the Magna Carta barons from whom I also descend.  The section pictured below features Henry III, and also Saher de Quincy (abt 1155 - 1219), a 24x great-grandfather.

DeQuincy's crest is in the middle of the right-hand column.

Also from 1874 was a huge mural, showing the lineages of many of those same families, beginning high up under the eaves with Edward I, and continuing beneath him--in every sense. 

There were two other parts of the Hall we especially enjoyed. The first was Queen Eleanor's Garden, an even newer addition, added in 1986, named after
two Queen Eleanors: the wives of both Henry and Edward! Perhaps the apostrophe is misplaced? In any case, it was nice to see women represented, and it was a truly beautiful English garden, recreated in the medieval style. We lingered for some time, enjoying the sights and scents.

The crowning glory--no pun intended--and something that had been on my England Bucket List since before folks even said "bucket list" was the Round Table. Whether it was hearing the Camelot LP playing on my folks' turntable, or seeing The Sword in the Stone at the drive-in, the legends of King Arthur and his Knights were profoundly wrapped up in my childhood. One of the first "big" books I read as a child (and have reread almost annually since) was T H White's The Once and Future King. Although purely mythic, seeing the Round Table moved me more than almost anything else on this trip.

What I had not known all those years was that the iconic table I had seen photos and drawings of for so long was actually created by Edward I! For reasons most likely personal and political, Edward--like me--was a fan of all things Arthur, and commissioned the table to be displayed at a Round Table themed tournament in about 1290, to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters. 

For many years the table was purported to actually be from King Arthur's time (whenever that may have been), then later was believed to be a much more modern creation. More recently, carbon-14 dating methods have shown that it is made of English oak, and in fact dates from Edward's time. It was built as an actual table, but has hung on the wall, legs removed, since the mid-1500s. It was Henry VIII who had it painted as we now see it, complete with Tudor Rose.

Don't let it be forgot....

The next stop on our Arthurian quest was Glastonbury, the ancient town steeped in all types of mythic lore and legend. Just the other day while channel-hopping--television, that is, not English--I came across an interesting episode of some program (Ancient Aliens, perhaps?) revealing the "truth" about the Glastonbury Zodiac. Look for it when you're not feeling too skeptical.

Back to the Matter at hand, Glastonbury Tor is believed to have been Arthur's Avalon, or at least the inspiration for it. Indeed, in photos of the Tor in fog, rising high above the Somerset plains, it does resemble an island. Beyond the Tor, there is another connection to King Arthur in Glastonbury. And once again, it involves Edward I.

Glastonbury Abbey's origins are unknown, but it may have begun as a monastery in the 8th century, perhaps on the site of an even earlier Roman or pagan place of worship. Of courseWealthy and prosperous, it was so well-established by the mid-12th century that a history of the Abbey was commissioned, liberally sprinkled with enough unsubstantiated claims as to read like a travel brochure. And indeed, the Abbey became a place to which the devout--or merely curious--made pilgrimages.  Until 1184, that is. That year, a tremendous fire destroyed much of the property, and although a new building, the Lady Chapel, was erected and consecrated within a couple of years, the Abbey was still not getting the tourists (and the money that came into Glastonbury with them) that they once were.

Then in 1191, there was an amazing "discovery": the tombs of King Arthur and Guinevere. And I use quotes around discovery because to this day scholars argue whether the Glastonbury clergymen actually believed their claim or if it was just a publicity stunt. A body, or two bodies were found, either under an oak or where a new grave was being dug. Accounts vary; one even claimed there was an iron plaque above the site which read "Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arturius in insula Avalonia": Here lies buried the famous King Arthur in the island of Avalon.

Either way, the pilgrims and other tourists returned, bringing in much-needed revenue for the restoration and expansion of the Abbey. Almost one hundred years later, aware of Edward's love of all things Arthur, and no doubt valuing the royal imprimatur such a visit would bring, the presiding Abbot invited the king and queen to a splendid ceremony at the Abbey to see Arthur and Guinevere reinterred in a new location.

You've got to give those monks credit. All these years later, in this Newer Age, Glastonbury is still a quirky, mystical tourist town. True or not, there was still something ineffable and magical in the ruins of the Abbey and sight of the Tor. I'm going to believe in it all.

Heading north, we next went exploring in the Cotswolds. Not only ridiculously scenic, this idyllic Area of National Beauty was also once home to another of my ancestors. 

James Whiton (1624 - 1710), an 11x great-grandfather came to the not-yet United States by 1647, when the first records show him in Hingham, Massachusetts. Later that year he married Mary Beal (1623 - 1696). 

Hingham was settled by the British in 1633, and was first known as Bare Cove. Within two years, the town was officially founded, given the name Hingham, due to the fact that many of the earliest inhabitants were from the English town of Hingham, Norfolk. Beal and Hobart were common surnames early on (both appear in Whiton's wife Mary's lineage), along with Lincoln. Yes, Abraham Lincoln's first American ancestor, Samuel Lincoln (1622 - 1690) was another Hingham, Norfolk transplant. In the next generation, one of James and Mary Whiton's sons, Enoch, married a Lincoln.

Anyway. What of James Whiton? Almost nothing is known about Whiton's life prior to coming to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But once there, he is well documented. A yeoman and freeman, he and Mary had nine children, although just five lived to adulthood. In 1676, Whiton's home--along with several others--was burned down by members of the indigenous Wampanoag, who were perhaps upset that they were not paid for the land Hingham was on until almost thirty years after it was "founded." Even despite the fire, by the time of his death Whiton was a wealthy man, one of the largest tax-payers in Hingham, due primarily to land ownership throughout the region.

He is considered the first of the surname Whiton (and its more common variant, Whiting) to have come to this country. And to this day the name lives on in Hingham: there is a Whiton Avenue, and one of the meeting rooms in the Hingham Library is named for the family.

James Whiton, though, was not from Hingham, Norfolk however, but instead the village of Hook Norton, in Oxfordshire. (Despite the coincidental name, there is no connection between Thomas Norton or his family and Hook Norton, or its larger neighbor, Chipping Norton.)

We have a fella named Walter Faxon to thank for uncovering this piece of James' past, in a submission to The New England Historical and Genealogical Register entitled  "Whiton, Hobart, Turner, Beal, and Jacob." The journal began publishing in 1847, but I have not been able to pinpoint when Faxon shared his research. It was before 1984, at least; I found the reference in an anthology from that year.

The John Beale and Nazareth Turner seen a few lines below
James Witon [sic] are James' wife Mary's parents.

The relevant passage:

Hook Norton, Oxfordshire --- 
James Witon [sic] the sonne of Thomas Witon was baptized the xxth day of March 1624.

Indeed. James was baptized at St Peter's Church, on March 22, 1624. According to its website, the church dates back at least to 922 AD, when it appeared in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Much of the current edifice dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, though a 12th century chancel is still extant. Older than all of that, however, is the baptismal font, which dates from the Norman era. It is where Grandpa James was baptized almost four hundred years ago, and I came to see it.

We were staying just a few miles from Hook Norton, and started our day by having breakfast at the Hook Norton Brewery, a rare, still family-owned brewery, its wonderful Victorian era building still in use, and still using shire horses to make some deliveries. The village of "Hooky," as it is known, is a delight; the houses not numbered, but named such quaint addresses as Anvil House, Farthings, and Goslings Cottage. We enjoyed walking through it tremendously on our way to St Peter's.

St Peter's Church, as seen from the graveyard. 

Reaching the church, I looked around the graveyard first, wondering if I might find tombs of ancient Whitons. Alas, most of the stones were too weathered to make out. I circled the church, taking it in from all angles, until I realized I was forestalling what I thought might be an emotional moment. It was.

The interior of the church was obviously ancient, but also clearly still in use by the parish. Modern plastic furniture and toddler toys clustered under a wall of centuries old stain glass. It was wonderful to see that the church remains a vital part of village life. And there, off to one site was the baptismal font. I looked at for a long while, circling it, and even reached out to touch its limestone carvings, although I can't say why. 

Even apart from my family connection, it is a curious thing, marking a particular moment in time. One side is adorned with crude figures of Adam and Eve (with pigtails!), their names carved on their torsos, apparently in case one could not identify them, while on the other are figures from the zodiac, among them a centaur representing Sagittarius and a figure presumed to be Aquarius. Christianity had taken hold, but the old ways still had to be honored. Then and now.

Two aspects of the font. Decency forbids sharing
Adam & Eve in all their naked shame.

I was there, in the same spot as someone from my family had been, hundreds of years apart in time. But the kinship and sense of belonging there was absolute. Then and now. It's one of the reasons I love genealogy. The feeling caught me off guard, and is still hard to describe.

Although we don't know why James Whiton left Hook Norton--not for the religious persecution that drove all those from Norfolk to the New World--it was time for us to move on, because we had more to see. 

After another day in idyllic Oxfordshire, we headed north, making Manchester our next base for sightseeing and--of course!--more family history. 

In this case, however, the family connection is a little less clear. I know that Thomas Davenport (1617 - 9 Nov 1685) is one of my 10x great-grandfathers, and was my immigrant Davenport. There were in fact, three Thomas Davenports who all came to the nascent United States about the same time, all with wives named Mary, so what facts there are are hard to sort and verify. To keep things clear, they have been identified ever since by where the lived upon arrival, so my Grandpa Thomas is known in genealogical circles as "Thomas of Dorchester [Massachusetts]." 

The Davenports are a fascinating line. I've written about them often, in particular in posts about my 8x gg, a furniture maker also named Thomas Davenport (10 Dec 1681 - 16 Aug 1745), here, and my 4x gg, Stephen Addison Davenport (20 Nov 1806 - Dec 1850), who died trying to make his fortune during the California Gold Rush, here.

What I have not written about are Thomas of Dorchester's ancestors, because we don't know who they are. He is one of my solid brick walls. We know he was born in England about 1617, but like James Whiton, the only details we have about his life are after he immigrated. We are able to place Whiton in Hook Norton due to a citation of an ancient church record. It took modern science to helps us find Thomas Davenport's ancestors: DNA conclusively tells us that he was descended--somehow!--from Orme de Davenport.

Orme's birth and death dates are in dispute, but it was long enough ago that he was said to be a cousin of William the Conqueror. The Davenports were long a prominent family in northwest England, particularly Cheshire. By 1160 they were in charge of Macclesfield Forest, and acquired more land and power with each generation, finally acquiring our next destination, Bramhall Hall, in 1370, when a John de Davenport married Alice de Bromale.

The Davenport family occupied Bramhall Hall for the next five hundred years (!) until, in 1877, an impoverished Davenport sold it to a Manchester concern. It was purchased a few years later by another family, who ran into their own money problems in the early 1920s. First the furniture was auctioned, then the house was offered, with the possibility it might be torn down if not sold. An offer came, thankfully, and by 1947 a group, The Friends of Bramall Hall, was formed. They began restoring the home and replacing furniture. In 1974 a local government authority finally took over the home, and the house and grounds are now open to the public. 

And from the look of things, thoroughly appreciated. 
I was eager to get there, so we arrived early, and found the park already full of visitors, feeding the waterfowl that swam in the Ladybrook, or strolling the seventy acres of gardens, all that remain of the once much-larger estate. After we'd had another delicious classic English breakfast, the Hall opened.

Too early to enter, I passed the time taking a lot of snapshots
 of the beautifully timbered exterior.

Once inside, the first person I met was one of the onsite genealogists, who kindly offered to help try to connect Thomas of Dorchester with the rest of the family. I was hopeful, despite the fact that this has been a question descendants have been working on for years. Perhaps she had resources that weren't yet online, or published elsewhere? Alas, despite slogging through endless Thomases in every generation (amongst an awful lot of Williams), she was not able to find anything.

But it was the only disappointment of the day. Well, that and not getting to see Oscar the Otter, a taxidermized specimen that was not on display due to apparent refurbishment. I was hoping to get a picture to show our otterhounds, one of whom, coincidentally, is named Oscar.

Oscar was not present, but I got a photo of the placard at least. 

The Hall was a marvel in its own right, though, easily making up for the misplaced mammal. From the 16th century wall murals (some of the oldest surviving works of their kind in England) to the Withdrawing Room, with its astounding plastered ceiling, there was something to admire everywhere. I took a lot of pictures, and more than once felt that preternatural "my people were here" vibe. 

Your Humble Blogger, posing in front of  a portrait
of the fifth William Davenport. (There were at least eight.)
I like to think there's a family resemblance.

That feeling, not quite déjà vu, but a comfort and familiarity followed me throughout our English trip, even into places that had no apparent connection to my family. Wandering through book stalls in Portobello Road, or strolling the gravel paths at Eltham Palace felt easy and right, somehow part of my collective memory despite never having been there before.  

Nearly a year later, I'm still remembering, still thinking of these diverse things. Despite only visiting one of the ancestors for whom I made a fact sheet (again, those magic words: next time!), I feel I learned a lot about English history, my family, and myself. My lifelong Anglophilia, though: was it learned or purely genetic? Most likely some admixture of the two.

What did I inherit? Ancestral stories, of course. But more, starting with what I've come to call an "amiable eccentricity" that I saw mirrored in so many of the faces of the people we spoke with. A love of sausages, humor, Arthurian legends, gardens, Englishness, and even dogs. 

Yes, King John, who gets short shrift in this post
--as in history itself--was a dog lover. He is named in the earliest mention we have of otterhounds. John's son, Edward I appointed a Huntsman to lead the royal pack of otterhounds, and the hounds continue through history. Queen Elizabeth I was the first female Master of the pack.

In more recent years, the sport of otter hunting was banned, and along with other factors the once respected otterhound is now a vulnerable breed, risking extinction. We are lucky enough to have three of this ancient breed: the aforementioned Oscar, as well as our Huck and Buttercup. They are absolutely part of our family. When we first got our loveable goofs, I had no idea that they too would become a part of my ancestral story as well. Coincidence or a genetic callback?

So despite his bad rep as "Bad Prince John" (in another set of legends, for another day) I can excuse Grandpa John a lot. If he loved dogs, he can't have been all bad. 

L: King John and an unknown dog.
R: Our otterhound Oscar, AKA Lord Shovington.