Remember...

Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

They Came Across the Ocean, My Immigrant Ancestors

I am an English mutt. But don’t let the fact that they kept diligent records fool you. For as many names as you see here, there were so many more lines I could not trace out of America- I don’t have the international access to records on Ancestry. I am an equal opportunity mutt, mostly English and French and Dutch and Irish and German and Scottish.
Who are the people that gave this blood to me? The ones who travelled to an unknown world with little more than their bones and breath? They travelled across the ocean to an unknown world. They came with no guarantee of homes waiting for them. They came with what they could carry. They came across the ocean with hope and promise as their wealthiest possessions. I know from my research that they came as hired men, soldiers and freemen. They came as young girls, wives and mothers. They were all farmers and healers and teachers. They were what they had to be. They came across the ocean for freedom, for a chance.

I am,
that they were,
that they are,
that they will be.

I did a meditation this week where I copied all of their names and life information down into a notebook, and then typed it into the computer. It was an accidental meditation. It started as a necessity. But those names are etched into my skin memory.
I offer you the 261 names of my known immigrant ancestors. When I think about all of these names and how they belonged to people who lived and worked and loved and died, it is overwhelming. With the loss of just one of them, I would not be here. I call on them for strength in hard times.
I am Sarah Lyn,
Daughter of Margaret,
Daughter of Patricia,
Daughter of Margaret Loretta,
Daughter of Eliza,
Daughter of Mary, an immigrant from Ireland.

These are the names of those who immigrated before me, all crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat:

My paternal grandfather’s line…
  • [8x] James Skiffe (1610 Chelsea, London ENG – 1687 Sandwich, Barnstable MA) & Mary Margaret Reeves (1616 Chelsea, London ENG – 1673 Sandwich, Barnstable MA)
  • [8x] Jonathan Hatch (1625 Sandwich, Kent ENG – 1710 Falmouth, Barnstable MA)
  • [8x] Jan Willemszen de Duitscher (~1642 Einigen, Brabant NETH – 1689 Marbletown, Ulster NY)
  • [8x] Guert Hendrickse VanSchoonhoven (~1634 Schoonhoven NETH – 1702 Halve Mann, Ulster NY)
  • [9x] John Eaton (1611 Dover, Kent ENG - 1658 Dedham, Norfolk MA) & Abigail Gilson (1600 Faversham, Kent ENG – 1658 Dedham, Norfolk MA); they came to America in 1635.
  • [9x] John Gay (born before 1612 Ashford, Kent ENG – 1687 Dedham, Norfolk MA) & Joanna Borden (born before 1612 Ashford, Kent ENG – 1691 Dedham, Norfolk MA); John crossed from Plymouth, England to Watertown, Massachusetts in 1630 at the age of 14. Joanna arrived at Watertown, Massachusetts in 1635.
  • [9x] John B. Starr (1626 Ashford, Kent ENG – 1711 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Martha Bunker (1627 Odell, Bedfordshire ENG – 1703 Boston, Suffolk MA); she immigrated in 1634 with her parents.
  • [9x] Robert Parker (1602 St. Edmunds, Suffolk ENG – 1685 Cambridge, Middlesex MA) & Judith Bugbee (1602 ENG – 1682 Cambridge, Middlesex MA)
  • [9x] Thomas Hatch (~1598 ENG – before 1661 Yarmouth, Barnstable MA) & Grace <unknown> (~1608 WALES – ~1668 Eastham, Barnstable MA)
  • [9x] Henry Rowley (1598 Parham, London ENG – 1673 Falmouth, Barnstable MA) & Sarah Palmer (1609 Parham, London ENG – before 1633 Falmouth, Barnstable MA); he immigrated in 1632.
  • [9x] Samuel Allen (1596 Braintree, Essex ENG – 1669 Braintree, Norfolk MA)
  • [9x] Sarah Tracy (1624 Holland, NETH – 1708 Duxbury, Plymouth MA)
  • [9x] Edward Hazen (1614 Cadney, Lincolnshire ENG – 1683 Rowley, Essex MA) & Hannah Grant (1631 Cottingham, Yorkshire ENG – 1715 Haverhill, Essex MA); he immigrated in 1647.
  • [9x] Thomas Crosby (1635 Spaulding Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1702 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Sarah Ffytche / Fitch (1631 Bocking, Essex ENG – 1719 Fairfield, Fairfield CT)
  • [9x] Wilhelm Jansen de Duitscher (1615 Einigen, Brabant NETH – 1673 Kingston, Ulster NY)
  • [9x] Cornelis Leenderts (1615 Einigen, Brabant NETH – 1666 Long Island, Queens NY)
  • [9x] Abraham Pietersen VanDeursen (1607 Holland, Noord-Brabant NETH – 1678 Albany NY) & Tryntje Melchoirs (1611 Groningen, Groningen NETH – 1678 NY, NY)
  • [10x] William Gilson (1572 Freeing, Kent ENG – 1639 Scituate, Plymouth MA) & Hanah Tower (1577 Faversham, Kent ENG – 1649 Scituate, Plymouth MA)
  • [10x] Comfort Starr (1589 Cranbrook, Kent ENG – 1659 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Elizabeth Mitchell (1590 ENG – 1658 Boston, Suffolk MA)
  • [10x] George Bunker (1600 Bengeo, Hertfordshire ENG – 1664 Malden, Middlesex MA) & Judith Major (1604 Odell, Bedfordshire ENG – 1646 Charlestown, Suffolk MA); they immigrated in 1634 with their daughter Martha.
  • [10x] William Palmer (1587 Parham, London ENG – 1637 Duxbury, Plymouth MA) & Frances Blossom (1591 Parham, London ENG – 1635 Duxbury, Plymouth MA)
  • [10x] Benedict Arnold, Sr. (1615 Ilchester, Somerset ENG – 1678 RI) & Damaris Westcott (1621 ENG – after 1678 RI); he immigrated in 1635 at age 19 to Hingham MA. At the time of his death he was the Governor of Rhode Island. His son is the more famously known as a traitor of the Revolutionary War. So much so that his name became a synonym for it- my 9x great-uncle.
  • [10x] Thomas Lawton (1614 Bedfordshire ENG – 1681 Portsmouth, Newport RI) & Elizabeth Salisbury (ENG – 1654 RI)
  • [10x] Thomas Tenney (1615 Great Limber, Lincolnshire ENG – 1700 Rowley, Essex MA) & Ann Mighill (~1618 Rowley, Yorkshire ENG – 1657 Rowley, Essex MA); he immigrated in 1638.
  • [10x] John Boynton (1614 Knapton, Wintringham, Yorkshire ENG – 1669 Rowley, Essex MA)
  • [10x] Jonathan Hyde (1626 London ENG – 1711 Newton, Middlesex MA) & Mary French (1632 ENG – 1672 Newton, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] James Kidder (1626 East Grinstead, Sussex ENG – 1676 Billerica, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] Richard Sears (1590 Amsterdam NETH – 1696 Yarmouth, Barnstable MA) & Dorothy Jones (1603 Dinder, Somerset ENG – 1677 Yarmouth, Barnstable MA)
  • [10x] Thomas Bird (1613 ENG – 1667 Dorchester, Boston MA) & Anne <unknown> (1617 ENG – 1673 Dorchester, Boston MA)
  • [10x] Richard Williams (1606 Magna Witcombe ENG – 1662 Taunton, Bristol MA) & Frances Dighton (1611 Gloucester, Gloucestershire ENG – 1703 Taunton, Bristol MA); they immigrated in 1636, and lost their first son at sea.
  • [10x] Capt. Roger Clapp (1609 Salcombe Regis, Devon ENG – 1691 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Joanna/Joan Ford (1617 Dorchester, Dorset ENG – 1695 Boston, Suffolk MA); they immigrated in 1630 on the Mary & John.
  • [10x] Mary Dyer (1620 ENG – 1710 Dorchester, Boston MA); she immigrated in 1630 on the Mary & John.
  • [10x] Simon Crosby (1608 Holme-on-Spaulding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1639 Cambridge, Middlesex MA) & Ann Brigham (1607 Holme-Upon-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1672 Quincy, Norfolk MA)
  • [11x] Thomas Mighill (1575 York, Yorkshire ENG – 1654 Rowley, Essex MA) & Ellen <unknown> (1578 York, Yorkshire ENG – 1640 Rowley, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Elizabeth Jackson-Boynton (1581 Wintringham, Yorkshire ENG – 1651 Salisbury, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Elizabeth Jackson (1581 Wintringham, Yorkshire ENG – 1651 Salisbury, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Joseph Bell/Pell (1599 ENG – 1650 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Elizabeth James Wright (1606 Hareby, Lincolnshire ENG – 1643 Boston, Suffolk MA)
  • [11x] Francis Moore (1592 Maldon, Essex ENG – 1671 Newbury, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Thomas Ford (1589 Bridport, Dorset ENG – 1676 Northampton, Hampshire MA) & Elizabeth Chard Cooke (1589 Bridport, Dorset ENG – 1643 Windsor, Hartford CT); they immigrated in 1630 on the Mary & John.
  • [11x] Robert Pond (1597 Groton, Suffolk ENG – 1637 Dorchester, Boston MA) & Mary <unknown> (1596 Suffolk ENG – 1637 Dorchester, Boston MA)
  • [11x] George Dyer (1579 Dorcester, Dorset ENG – 1672 Dorchester, Boston MA) & Elizabeth Capen (1580 Dorcester, Dorset ENG – before 1636 MA); he and his wife immigrated in 1630 on the Mary & John. George was employed as a weaver.
  • [11x] Edward Wood (1598 Norwich, Norfolk ENG – 1642 Charlestown, Suffolk MA) & Ruth Lee (1602 Norwich, Norfolk ENG – 1642 Charlestown, Suffolk MA); he was a baker.
  • [11x] William Hunt (1604 Halifax, Yorkshire ENG – 1667 Marlborough, Middlesex MA) & Elizabeth Best (1607 Halifax, Yorkshire ENG – 1661 Concord, Middlesex MA)
  • [11x] Francis Moore (1592 Maldon, Essex ENG – 1671 Newberry, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Thomas Crosby (1575 Holme-on-Spaulding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1661 Rowley, Essex MA) & Jane Southron (1581 Holme-on-Spaulding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1662 Rowley, Essex MA)
  • [12x] William Jackson (1585 Hunsley, Yorkshire ENG – 1688 Rowley, Essex MA) & Joan <unknown> (1617 Rowley, Essex ENG – 1680 Rowley, Essex MA)


My paternal grandmother’s line…
  • [2x] Charles Evan Ruston (1847 Chatteris, Cambridgeshire ENG – 1933 Niagara County NY) & Ruth Ireland (1861 Doddington, Cambridgeshire ENG – 1940 Niagara County NY); Charles was from a wealthy family and Ruth was a maid in another home. They married for love in 1881 and he was disowned, and they immediately left for America. 
  • [7x] William Wicker (1690 Seaton, Devon ENG – 1769 Leicester, Worcester MA)
  • [8x] Thomas Whittier (1620 Millchill, Wiltshire ENG – 1696 Haverhill, Essex MA) & Ruth Rolfe Green (1626 White Parish, Wiltshire ENG – 1710 Haverhill, Essex MA); he immigrated April 1638.
  • [8x] Capt. John Kittredge (1630 Oulton, Lowestoft, Suffolk ENG – 1676 Billerica, Middlesex MA) ; John was a ship captain known for his ability to set bones and he practiced his art without a medical license, which was illegal, so he was forced to flee to America to avoid prosecution.
  • [8x] John French (1635 Halstead, Essex ENG – 1712 Billerica, Middlesex MA)
  • [8x] Francois LeSueur (1625 Challe-Mesnil, Dieppe, Normandy, FR – 1671 Harlem, NY) & Jannatje Pietersen Hildbrand (1639 Reusel de Mierden, Amsterdam NETH – 1678 Kingston, Ulster NY); he immigrated in 1657 with his sister Jeanne. He was a Huguenot refugee and a civil engineer who helped design New Haarlem.
  • [8x] Albrecht Zabriskie (1637 PRUSSIA/POLAND – 1711 Hackensack, Bergen NJ); he immigrated in 1662 on the Fox, fleeing from involuntary military service. Papers state he was from Eastern Silesia.
  • [8x] Hendrickje Stephense Van Voorhees (1659 Hees NETH – 1692 Hackensack NJ); female.
  • [9x] John Winslow (1597 Kempsey, Wocestershire ENG – 1674 Boston, Suffolk MA) & Mary Chilton (1607 Sandwich, Kent ENG – 1679 Boston, Suffolk MA); he arrived on the Fortune in 1621. She arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 as the youngest passenger. Both her parents died the first winter and lore says she was the first passenger to step on land. He was brother to the famous Mayflower Separatist, Edward Winslow.
  • [9x] Sgt. Humphrey Johnson (1620 London, Middlesex ENG – 1693 Hingham, Suffolk MA)
  • [9x] John Leavitt (1608 Beverly, Yorkshire ENG – 1691 Hingham, Suffolk MA) & Sarah Gilman (1622 Hingham, Norfolk ENG – 1700 Hingham, Suffolk MA)
  • [9x] Hannah Smith (1638 ENG - 1666 Reading, Middlesex MA)
  • [9x] Deacon John Pearson Sr. (1609 York, Yorkshire ENG – 1693 Rowley, Essex MA) & Dorcas Pickard (1621 Holme-on-Spaulding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1702 Rowley, Essex MA)
  • [9x] Daniel Thurston (1631 Cransbrook, Kent ENG – 1693 Newbury, Essex MA)
  • [9x] Thomas Thurlo (1632 Holme-on-Spaulding-Moor, Yorkshire ENG – 1713 Newbury, Essex MA)
  • [9x] John Rolfe (1589 White Parish, Wiltshire ENG – 1664 Newbury, Essex MA) & Joane Coles (1591 White Parish, Wiltshire ENG – 1638 Newbury, Essex MA)
  • [9x] Francis Littlefield (1619 ENG – 1712 Wells, York ME) & Jane Hill (1619 ENG – 1646 Woburn, Middlesex MA)
  • [9x] William French (1603 Halstead, Essex ENG – 1681 Billerica, Middlesex MA) & Elizabeth Godfrey (1605 ENG – 1668 MA)
  • [9x] George Fowle (1610 Sandhurst, Kent ENG – 1682 Charlestown, Suffolk MA) & Mary Tufts (1613 Concord, Middlesex ENG – 1676 Charlestown, Suffolk MA)
  • [9x] Capt. John Carter (1616 ENG – 1692 Woburn, Middlesex MA) & Elizabeth Kendall (1613 Hereford, Herefordshire ENG – 1691 Woburn, Middlesex MA)
  • [9x] Hilldebrand Pietersen (1613 Amsterdam, Noord-Holland NETH – 1639 New Amsterdam NY) & Femmetje Albertse (1615 Noord-Holland NETH – 1667 Kingston, Ulster NY)
  • [9x] Joost Huybertszen Vander Linde (1635 Wageningen NETH – New Amsterdam NY) & Fytje Roelofse Van Gelder (NETH – New Amsterdam NY); he was in America by 1661.
  • [9x] John Washburn (1621 Worchestershire ENG – 1686 Plymouth MA)
  • [9x] Robert Latham (~1623 ENG – before 1689 Plymouth MA); he showed himself to be a bad man. There will be a separate post about him later.
  • [9x] Humphrey Johnson (1622 ENG – 1693 Plymouth MA) & Ellen/Eleanor Cheney/Chaney (1620 ENG – 1678 Plymouth MA)
  • [9x] William Raymond (1637 St. Johns, Somerset ENG – 1709 Beverly, Essex MA); immigrated in 1651.
  • [9x] John Kettle (1621 ENG – 1685 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [9x] John Balch (1604 Kilmington, Somerset ENG – 1648 Salem, Essex MA) & Margery Lovett (1603 Wells, Somerset ENG – 1682 Beverly, Essex MA)
  • [9x] William Blackmore (1640 Northam, Devon ENG – 1676 Scituate, Plymouth MA); he was slain by Indians in a raid.
  • [9x] John Richmond (1627 Amesbury, Wiltshire ENG – 1715 Taunton, Bristol MA)
  • [9x] Walter Deane (1612 Chard, Somerset ENG – 1693 Taunton, Bristol MA) & Eleanor Strong (1613 Chard, Somerset ENG – 1693 Taunton, Bristol MA); he worked as a tanner.
  • [9x] Thomas Casswell (Somersetshire ENG – 1697 Taunton, Bristol MA); he was in America by 1643.
  • [9x] William Throop (1636 Nottingham, Nottinghamshire ENG – 1704 Bristol RI)
  • [10x] Francis Cooke (1583 Kent ENG – 1663 Plymouth MA) & Hester Le Mathieu (1582 Caterbury ENG – 1666 Plymouth MA); he immigrated on the Mayflower with his oldest son in 1620. She arrived in 1623 on the Anne. She was a French-speaking Walloon. Her family was originally from Belgium.
  • [10x] John Johnson (1595 River Lee ENG – 1659 Roxbury, Boston MA) & Margery Scudder (Darenthe ENG – 1655 Roxbury, Boston MA)
  • [10x] Edward Lillie (ENG – America) immigrated in 1635 on the George.
  • [10x] James Chilton (1560 Canterbury, Kent ENG – 1620 Cape Cod MA) & Mrs. Chilton (1564 Canterbury, Kent ENG – 1621 Plymouth Bay MA); they arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 with their 12 year-old daughter. He was the oldest passenger and one of the first to die during winter aboard the ship. She also died the first winter aboard the ship.
  • [10x] William Cheney (1603 Lambourn, Berkshire ENG – 1667 Roxbury, Suffolk MA)
  • [10x] Percival Levitt II (1580 Beverly, Yorkshire ENG – 1691 Hingham, Suffolk MA) & Margaret Linkley (1589 Beverly, Yorkshire ENG – 1691 Hingham, Suffolk MA)
  • [10x] Edward Gilman (1587 Hingham, Norfolkshire ENG – 1655 Exeter, Rockingham NH) & Mary Clark (1590 Hingham, Norfolkshire ENG – 1681 Hingham, Suffolk MA); they immigrated in 1638.
  • [10x] Deacon Thomas Parker (1609 Browsholme, Wiltshire ENG – 1683 Reading, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] Deacon Thomas Kendall (1614 ENG – 1681 Reading, Middlesex MA) & Rebecca Paine (1618 ENG – 1703 Reading, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] Edward Littlefield (ENG – MA) & Annis Austin (1596 Exeter, Devon ENG – 1678 Wells, York ME)
  • [10x] Peter Tufts (1589 Wilby, Norfolk ENG – 1700 Charlestown, Suffolk MA)
  • [10x] Thomas Carter (ENG – 1652 Charlestown, Suffolk MA) & Mary Parkhurst Dalton (1582 ENG – 1665 Charlestown, Suffolk MA)
  • [10x] Edward Bishop (1620 ENG – 1646 Salem, Essex MA); immigrated in 1639.
  • [10x] William Allen (1602 Allen Hall, Stratford WALES – 1679 Manchester, Essex MA); immigrated 1639.
  • [10x] Richard Banks (1607 Dover, Kent ENG – 1692 York, York ME)
  • [10x] Daniel Hovey (1618 Waltham Abbey, Essex ENG – 1692 Ipswich, Essex MA); immigrated 1635.
  • [10x] John Richmond (1594 Crichlade, Wiltshire ENG – 1663 Taunton, Bristol MA) & Elizabeth Nicholas (1596 Camden, Berkshire ENG – 1642 Taunton, Bristol MA); immigrated 1637.
  • [10x] John Rogers (1606 Watford, Hertfordshire ENG – 1692 Duxbury, Plymouth MA) & Anna Churchman (1618 Huntington, Hertfordshire ENG – 1673 Plymouth MA)
  • [10x] Jacob Barney (1601 Bradenham, Breham ENG – 1673 Salem, Essex MA) & Elizabeth Catesby (1605 Buckingham ENG – 1673 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [10x] John Witt (1612 ENG – 1675 Lynn, Essex MA) & Sarah <unknown> (1616 ENG – 1680 Lynn, Essex MA)
  • [10x] Ralph Chapman (1615 Southwark, Surrey ENG – 1672 Marshfield, Plymouth MA) & Lydia Willis (1618 ENG – 1671 Marshfield, Plymouth MA)
  • [11x] Lawrence John Cheney (1566 Lambourn, Berkshire ENG – 1643 Roxbury, Suffolk MA)
  • [11x] Sir Edward Bishop (1601 Sussex, Suffolk ENG – 1695 Beverly, Essex MA) & Sarah Wildes (1601 ENG – 1673 Beverly, Essex MA); they immigrated in 1639.
  • [11x] John Moore (1614 ENG – 1677 Windsor, Hartford CT) & Abigail Pinney (1618 ENG – 1677 Windsor, Hartford CT)
  • [11x] John Bradley (1578 Gloucester, Essex ENG – 1642 Dorchester, Suffolk MA) & Katherine Bexwicke (1596 Gloucester, Essex ENG – 1633 Dorchester, Suffolk MA)
  • [11x] Robert Andrews (1560 Hastings ENG – 1643 Ipswitch, Essex MA) & Elizabeth Franklin (1572 Suffolk ENG – 1671 Ipswitch, Essex MA); he immigrated in 1635.
  • [11x] Robert Andrews (1593 Hastings, Sussex ENG – 1643 Ipswich, Essex MA) & Elizabeth Franklin (1595 Of, Suffolk ENG – 1671 Ipswich, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Thomas Rogers (1572 Watford, Hertfordshire ENG – 1621 Plymouth MA); Thomas arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. He died in January aboard the boat. His wife remained in the Netherlands.
  • [11x] Hugh Churchman (1592 Broomehall, Sussex ENG – 1644 Lynn, Essex MA) & Anne Mary Whistance (1596 Huntington ENG – Lynn, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Isaac Willis/Welles (1595 Welches Dam, Cambridgeshire ENG – 1671 Barnstable MA) & Margaret Luce (1599 ENG – 1675 Barnstable MA); he immigrated in 1638.
  • [11x] Thomas Moore (1584 ENG – 1645 Windsor, Hartford CT) & Elizabeth Young (1588 Southwold, Suffolk ENG – 1639 Windsor, Hartford CT)
  • [12x] Thomas Moore (ENG – 1645 Windsor, Hartford CT) & Elizabeth Young (1588 Southwold, Suffolk ENG – 1639 Windsor, Hartford CT)
  • [12x] Humphrey Pinney (1588 ENG – 1683 Windsor, Hartford CT) & Mary/Marie Hull (1596 ENG – 1684 Windsor, Hartford CT); she immigrated in 1630.
  • [13x] Sir George Hull (~1580 Crewkerne, Somerset ENG – 1659 Windsor, Hartford CT) & Thomasina/Thamzin Mitchell (~1580 Stockland, Bristol ENG – 1655 Fairfield CT)
  • [14x] Richard Elwin/Elvin (1555 Southwold, Suffolk ENG – 1647 Boston, Suffolk MA)


My maternal grandfather’s line…
  • [3x] Albert Durant (1841 Quebec PQ – 1920 Chittendon VT) & Rosella LaValley (1843 Providence PQ – 1921 Burlington, Chittendon VT); he immigrated in 1850.
  • [4x] Francois Xavier Lavalle (1818 LaPrairie PQ – 1889 Dannemora, Clinton NY) & Rosella LaRoche (1805 Lacolle PQ – 1871 Burlington, Chittendon VT)
  • [5x] Josiah Boots (1796 Ewhurst, Sussex ENG – 1873 Royalton NY) & Harriet Gower (1806 Sussex ENG – 1886 Royalton NY); her parents were Welsh.
  • [5x] Thomas Berry (1782 IRELAND – 1818 Mayfield, Fulton NY)
  • [5x] Alexis Lavallee (1793 Chambly PQ – 1868 Rouses Point, Clinton NY)
  • [6x] Thomas Riddle/Ridel (1739 Tyrone Co IRE – 1809 Monson, Hampden MA); he immigrated in 1758.
  • [6x] John Berry (1762 IRELAND – 1820 Mayfield, Fulton NY) & Nancy Machet (1767 IRE – 1844 Mayfield, Fulton NY)    
  • [7x] Baltus Goedemoet (1722 NETH – died in America)
  • [7x] David Calhoun (1690 Donegal IRE or SCOTLAND – 1769 Washington, Litchfield CT)
  • [8x] William Calhoun (1664 Crosh House, Donegal IRE – 1752 CT) & Alice Cunningham (1670 Donegal IRE – 1712 CT)
  • [9x] Nicholas La Groves (1645 Isle of Jersey – 1701 Beverly, Essex MA); he was a Huguenot refugee.
  • [9x] Thomas Chaffee (1610 Stepney, Middlesex ENG – 1683 Swansea, Bristol MA) & Dorothy Thomas (1620 ENG – 1683 Swansea, Bristol MA); immigrated 1635.
  • [9x] Richard Martin (1609 Ottery, Devonshire ENG – 1694 Rehoboth, Bristol MA) & Elizabeth Salter (1616 Bicton, Devon ENG – 1649 Rehoboth, Bristol MA); immigrated 1659.
  • [9x] Isaac Etienne Paquet dit Lavallee (1636 Clermont FR – 1702 Montmorency PQ); he crossed in 1665 as a soldier in LaMotte’s regiment. He helped clear roads, protect the civilians, and build multiple forts in what would become Quebec.
  • [10x] Robert Moulton (1616 ENG – 1665 Salem, Essex MA) & Abigail Goode (1620 St. Helen, London ENG – 1666 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [10x] Henry Francis Cooke, Sr. (1615 Doncaster, Yorkshire ENG – 1661 Salem, Essex MA) & Judith Anne Birdsall (1616 Yorkshire ENG – 1689 Salem, Essex MA); he immigrated in 1638 at the age of 22. She immigrated in 1635.
  • [10x] Deacon Henry Baldwin (1623 Aston Clinton, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire ENG – 1698 Woburn, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] Obadiah Ward (1632 Clerkenwell, London ENG – 1718 Marlborough, Middlesex MA)
  • [10x] Jeremiah Gillett (1608 Chaffcombe, Somerset ENG – after 1650 CT); he immigrated in 1630.
  • [10x/11x] Thomas Wheeler (1620 Bourne End, Wooburn, Buckinghamshire ENG – 1676 Concord, Middlesex MA); he immigrated in 1637.
  • [10x] Richard Holbrook (1618 Glastonbury,Somerset ENG – 1670 Milford, New Haven CT)
  • [10x] John Smith (~1600 Hertfordshire ENG – 1684 Milford, New Haven CT) 
  • [10x] Edward Lee (1610 Stoke Canon, Devon ENG – Windsor, Hartford CT) & Elizabeth Kelland (1610 ENG - Windsor, Hartford CT)
  • [10x] Stephen Hart (1614 Ipswich, Suffolk ENG – 1683 Farmington, Hartford CT) & Elizabeth Symons (1617 Barnstable, Devon ENG – 1678 Farmington, Hartford CT)
  • [10x] John Warner, Sr. (1615 Chelmsford, Essex ENG – 1679 Farmington, Hartford CT) & Margaret Earley (1614 Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire ENG – 1679 Farmington, Hartford CT)
  • [10x] Thomas Canfield (1623 Hitchin, Hertfordshire ENG – 1689 Milford, New Haven CT) & Phebe Crane (1626 ENG – 1690 Milford, New Haven CT)
  • [10x] Nathaniel Briscoe (~1624 Little Missendon, Buckinghamshire ENG – 1683 Milford, New Haven CT)
  • [10x] Mathurin Paquet (1610 Clermont FR – 1678 Chauteau-Richer PQ) & Marie Freemillion (1619 Poiton FR – ~1670 St. Jean de Montaigne PQ)
  • [10x] ‘Joseph’ Mathurin Meunier/Lemonier (1619 Clermont FR – 1676 Chauteau-Richer PQ) & Francoise Fafard (1624 Argences FR – 1701 Beaupre PQ)
  • [11x] Robert Moulton (1590 Southwark, Middlesex ENG – 1655 Salem, Essex MA) & Deborah Edwards (1599 Eastern ENG – 1656 Charlestown, Essex MA); Robert was hired by the English Company to build ships in New England. He and his wife crossed aboard the George Bonaventure in 1629.
  • [11x] John Goode (1587 Ipswich, Suffolk ENG – 1609 Salem, Essex MA) & Abigail Downing (1590 Ipswich, Suffolk ENG – 1665 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Edmund Cooke (1568 Northclay, Canterbury, Kent ENG – 1619 Salem, Essex MA) & Elizabeth Nicholls (1573 Northclay, Canterbury, Kent ENG – 1632 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Henry Birdsall (1578 Birdsall, Yorkshire ENG – 1651 Salem, Essex MA) & Judith Agnes Kempe (1589 Walbrook, London ENG – 1632 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Michael Sallows (1596 Shadingfield, Suffolk ENG – 1646 Salem, Essex MA) & Ann Wilson (1598 Bletchley, Buckinghamshire ENG – 1646 Salem, Essex MA)
  • [11x] Peter Wolfe (1606 ENG – 1675 Beverly, Essex MA) & Mary <unknown> (1610 ENG – 1657 MA)
  • [11x] Capt. Richard Walker (1592 Marlborough, Wiltshire ENG – 1687 Lynn, Essex MA) & Jane Talmage (ENG – Lynn, Essex MA); she and her husband immigrated in 1630. He was a soldier.
  • [11x] Ezekial Richardson (1606 Hertfordshire ENG – 1647 Woburn, Middlesex MA)
  • [11x] William Ward (1603 Warrington, Cheshire ENG – 1687 Marlboro, Middlesex MA) & Elizabeth Phillipus (1613 ENG – 1700 Marlboro, Middlesex MA); she and her husband immigrated in 1638.
  • [11x] Andrew Warner (1595 Great Waltham, Essex ENG – 1692 Hatfield, Hampshire MA) & Mary Humphrey (1601 Great Waltham, Essex ENG – 1672 Hadley, Hampshire MA)
  • [11x] Jeremiah Gillette (~1610 Chaffcombe ENG – Dorchester MA); he came to America on the Mary & John in 1630.
  • [11x] Thomas Canfield (1596 Hitchin, Hertfordshire ENG – 1679 Milford, New Haven CT)
  • [11x] Jasper Crane (1599 London, Middlesex ENG – 1680 Newark, Essex NJ) & Agnes Leave (1608 Bath, Somerset ENG – 1675 Newark, Essex NJ)


My maternal grandmother’s line…
  • [3x] Adam Art/Arth (1828 Hesse-Darmstadt GERMANY – 1896 Pendleton NY); immigrated with his mother and brothers on the Columbia in 1853. His wife is either Ana Catherine Blume or Katherine Maria Schmeelk, both of whom immigrated from GER in 1848.
  • [3x] John F. Pils (1827 GER – 1911 Lockport NY); he immigrated in 1855 at the age of 17.
  • [3x] David Conners (1838 IRE – after 1903 Lockport NY) & Mary Dowd (1837 IRE – after 1903 Lockport NY); they possibly immigrated in 1850.
  • [4x] Wilhemenia Wernersbach-Arth (1798 GER – Pendleton NY); she travelled to America as a widow with her three sons on the Columbia in 1853.
  • [4x] Barney Dowd (~1800 IRE – NY)


I am Sarah Lyn,
Daughter of Margaret,
Daughter of Patricia,
Daughter of Margaret Loretta,
Daughter of Eliza,

Daughter of Mary, an immigrant from Ireland.
This is the Britannia, a replica of the Columbia, the ship my German Arth ancestors took to America.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Childhood Heroes

I wrote this the night Carrie Fisher died. But my heart hurt too much to finish it. When her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the next day, I couldn’t put my thoughts to words. So I waited until mother and daughter were laid to rest and put to peace. My heart is broken due to the passing of Carrie Fisher. She was only sixty years old.
           
I remember when George Harrison died in 2001. As soon as I heard the news I called my dad. I knew he would be upset at the passing of one of his heroes. Of course he was. I grew up knowing how the Beatles impacted his young life and shaped his musical tastes. They played the soundtrack of his world. I didn’t feel grief then, but I had sympathy. I knew that someday I would lose a hero.
It’s another type of rite of passage. It’s another moment that changes us. Maybe people think it’s silly that I should grieve for a celebrity. Especially one I never knew and, sadly, never got to meet. I know Carrie was more than a space princess. She was a fierce warrior for mental health awareness and her openness later in her life about her struggles endeared her further to me. She was a strong writer with a quick wit and a sharp tongue- honest to a tooth. She was funny and crass.

My gateway to Carrie Fisher was Star Wars. Princess Leia was my first idol. She’s been with me my whole life. As a child I often faced difficult dilemmas with the question, what would Leia do? But that character was just words on paper until Carrie brought them to life. And she did.
I am an obsessed Star Wars fan who read all of the (now non-canon) books outside of the movies. And every book I read, when Leia spoke, it was Carrie’s voice I heard in my head. It was her eye rolls and eyebrow raises I saw in my visualizations. 

Like a lot of fans, I had all the Princess Leia action figures as a kid and I still have most of them. I played with them liberally, and often all at once. I gave each version of Leia its own personality. Bespin Leia was the most refined and princess-like while Hoth Leia was the tomboy. Endor Leia was the leader/soldier who made all the decisions and Boushh Leia was the I-don’t-follow-orders badass. The original Leia was always my every person, the Dorothy/Alice/Wendy character. In my play they were sisters, navigating the world together.
Early on my favorite was Hoth Leia. I thought her hair was pretty and I liked her outfit. I liked her so much I took her to school for show and tell. My mom told me to keep her in my bag but I didn’t. I lost her in the snow by the mailbox a block away from my house. I was young and foolish enough to wait until the snow melted, assuming I would find her again. I never did, but a decade later, my dad surprised me with a loose version of her he found at a toy show.
I still have her.
My overall favorite by far was Bounty Hunter Leia, dressed as Boushh. I loved her because she was badass. She snuck into Jabba’s Palace and freed Han Solo. For the first time in my young life I watched a Princess save the Rogue Pirate.
It changed my world.

There’s a good book- though no longer canon- called Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry, which takes place immediately preceding Return of the Jedi, following the lengths Leia and Chewbacca went to in order to find and save Han.
Tattoine Ghost by Troy Denning was another good one for me. It follows Leia as she wrestles with the truth of who her father was as she visits other planets, trying to hold the pieces together after the fall of the Emperor.
There are dozens of books of the saga of Han and Leia (and everyone else) including some massive heartache for both of them, and how they struggle through that… together. When the books were dismissed as non-canon before The Force Awakens was released, it was hard for me. I lived the literary timeline with and through them and it got fairly brutal for our heroes. I was in it with them.
But, I am also a Doctor Who fan and I like all things timey-wimey, so a new storyline where some beloved characters are still alive but other ones never existed… I came to terms with it. I can love both versions. It’s more Star Wars world and what can be bad about that?

Last year, along with millions of others, I watched Carrie Fisher breathe new life into Leia, in a new chapter of Star Wars where we learned what happened after Return of the Jedi. I was with her journey, with her heartache. To revisit with my idol in her later years felt like a homecoming. As someone of middle-age, it felt sadly reassuring to find that they had destroyed two Death Stars and saved the Republic, but not even the Princess was assured a happy ending.
After the movie came out I picked up the book Bloodline by Claudia Gray at the local library. It takes place in the new canon-world, between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s Leia-heavy and layered. A lot of the non-canon books brush Leia off as the Princess, the Senator, the Leader of the Republic… always some kind of figurehead, stuck in her position (although in the New Jedi Order series, she trains to earn her own lightsaber). But Bloodline understands Leia’s place in the Star Wars Universe.
She was the bravery and the heart of the Rebellion.

I know that the death of Carrie Fisher doesn’t mean the end of Princess Leia. But it’s the death of her face and her voice and that matters. Leia’s legacy will outlive us all, for a while anyway. I will spend my days grateful to Carrie for gifting me with Leia. I wish her family space to grieve and peace when they find it.

Carrie Fisher herself said, “I like Princess Leia. I like how she handles things. I like how she treats people. She tells the truth. She, you know, gets what she wants done. I don’t have real problem with Princess Leia. I’ve sort of melded with her over time.” May the force be with them both.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just Like Harry Potter

Last year I woke Christmas morning in my private rehab room, legs thickly bandaged. My head was laying on a handmade pillowcase decorated with ivy and mistletoe. It was one of a few dozen gifted to the hospital to be gifted out to the long-term patients, of which I counted. I opened my eyes and reached for the cup of water I kept on my hospital table, along with my lotion, my gifted iPad mini, my glasses, Kelley's chapstick that she gave me, and a small notebook and pen... all lined up carefully before sleep, within easy reach.

But on Christmas morning there was also a stack of presents on my table! The first thing that went through my head was, just like Harry Potter! In the first book he wakes to find presents at the end of his bed at Hogwarts. Not having had any family who cared about him, it was an unexpected moment of pure joy.

In the hospital, I recognized that same feeling behind my breastbone. I had been so saddened to have to be there for the holiday. I had not anticipated or expected the hospital to acknowledge it at all. But there were four presents, wrapped in bright paper, waiting for me.

I later learned there was a woman who organized it every year. She came onto the floor with two carts full of games and toys and books the day after Christmas, and put them in storage until next year. I asked her to thank Santa Claus for me and she smiled.

It was a small kindness for her and a huge uplifting moment of childhood wonder and hope. The fact that someone did such a kindness for isolated people in painful recovery, it gave me new courage and strength. People are good. People are kind. Remember that as the love of the holiday season gives way to exhaustion and winter.

People are good. People are kind. Be among them. Where you see moments of possible random acts of kindness, take them. Be the catalyst for joy in the world. Pour that into the world and create one you want to leave behind for your descendants.

I will.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Modraniht, id est matrum nocturum

“the Modraniht, that is, in the night of the mothers[=matrons?]”

History
I came across this celebration when I was researching the pagan roots of my German ancestors. Early Germanic peoples celebrated the night before Winter Solstice as Mothers Night. The Venerable Bede, a Christian monk from the 8th century wrote about it in his description of the pagan calendar. In Old English they called it Modraniht. More than 1100 votive stones and altars have been found through the centuries, dedicated to the mothers, or matrons, and half of these altar stones were inscribed and dedicated with Germanic names.
The main areas of worship have been uncovered in ancient Germania, northern Italy and eastern Gaul. There are a few larger cult centers with temples found along the Rhine. Many of these altars were found near rivers, wells or springs. The dedicated altars and votives reached as far as present day Scotland, southern Spain, Frisia and Rome. There is reference to the Germanic Mother Cults in the writings of Bede in 725 AD: “And the very night that is sacrosanct to us, these people call modranect, that is, the mothers’ night, a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies which they performed while watching this night through.”
Altars and votive stones, as well as temples, were often carved with images showing three women of matron age and appearance, often holding baskets of fruit and a baby. Based on the inscriptions found, it is thought that these altars were dedicated as offerings of thanks for abundance, gifts and blessings that soldiers and sailors had already received. They believed the Mothers had responded to their prayers and this was their way of acknowledging them, burning incense and leaving sacrificial offerings of food.
Many of these goddesses or spirits were named for the family that was dedicating them, as well as being named for the river or spring that watched over the local town or village, such as the Albiahenae matrons of the town of Elvenich or the Renahenae of the Rhine. Of the 1100 votive stones found, over 360 different ones name the same sets of matrons, the Aufaniae, the Suleviae and the Vacallinehae. Based on the age of the stone inscriptions, it appears that the cult of the Matrons began to die out in continental Germany around the fifth century CE, and Modraniht fell out of favor as Christianity gained foothold.

Home
The Night of the Mothers was the time to honor the familial and tribal “soul” mothers who watched over them. It was intended to honor those who had crossed over, not for those still living. On Mothers Night we honor the sacrifice of life so that the ancestral matrons might become a source of wisdom and strength for those still living.
I begin my celebration by creating a small rock cairn on a temporary altar. I honor first those of my mothers who have crossed over, inscribing their names on stone in chalk. I light a candle for each of them. I remember them and tell what I know of their stories. I do also choose to honor the strength of the mothers still living, that they may become part of that ancestral current when it is their turn to pass through the veil.
I drink a cup of tea and invite them to share my cup. I crochet, something my Great-Grandmother taught me on the front porch over the summer when I was younger, gifting me her hooks when she could no longer use them. One way to honor the mothers is to honor their work and pass on the skills that have been taught to you by your mothers, and their mothers, that they live on through you, and the crafting of your hands.
What was special to them? Before dusk falls on Modraniht, I sit and hand-sew, darning old clothes. With each stitch, I pray. Tonight I stitch runes of rebirth, recovery, and courage into cloth. Each stitch is a small prayer of hope, a way of pushing forward despite the adversity.
This night is the night for daughters and sons to honor the line of birthings that occurred throughout history, that opened the way for their births. That made their presence in the world. It does not matter what current feelings might be complicated around maternal relationships.
You are because they were. Do not rewrite the past. Honor the journey.

Heartsong
A year ago I prayed to my mothers from a hospital bed on the rehabilitation floor. I thanked the spirit women who stood by my bedside on the Burn ICU. I thanked the faces I recognized from photos and the ones I may never identify.
            Again, I pray for them. I thank the ICU nurses who mothered me back to health and back to myself. I thank and pray for everyone who had hands in easing my recovery, brightening my heart, or tended to my body needs in any way. And this year I thank the courses my brain stories took that enabled me to step out of the fire without succumbing to madness.
            In light of that new prayer, I light a candle for the mythological goddess Frigga, who sheltered me in the darkest moments by wrapping what was left of my bones in a cool cloth and tucked me away from the glare of the blinding sunlight. In the next moment, in my ICU bed, I knew a moment of relief.

Hearth
I am Sarah,
daughter of Margaret,
daughter of Patricia,
daughter of Margaret,
daughter of Eliza,
daughter of Mary of Ireland,
daughter of mother unknown…

Daughters of daughters back to the first mother,
I pray to you in stitches.

The needle between my fingers devolves into metals of various kinds, into bits of bone, until my hands roughen, becoming one with the first hands of my line to stitch skins together. Whoever is unknown to me, whatever countless number of generations of mothers led to my birth, we are joined in this familiar act.

I pray for health for my loved ones.
I pray for my continued healing and recovery.
I pray for happiness for all who walk the earth.
I pray for moments of joy for all who are grieving.
I pray that the echo of the wisdom of the mothers who have come before is remembered.
I pray for the earth, for our Great Mother, whose bones and minerals and animal DNA gave us life.
I pray for all mothers who came before me, all who walk with me and all who will come after... though my line ends with me.
May my life touch others while I am living it.

Grandma Donna MacDonald (m.Riddle)

Grandma Ruth Emma Ruston (m.Eaton)
1xGG Minnie Estelle Wicker (m.Ruston)

1xGG Hattie Eva Smith (m.Eaton0

2xGG Ruth Ireland (m.Ruston), Grandma Ruth Emma Ruston, 2xGG Emma Angeline Whitcher (m.Wicker)

2xGG Hattie Eva Dutcher (m.Smith)
2xGG Theresa Cordelia Tenney (m.Eaton)

2xGG Frances Gillette (m.Riddle) back, far left, & 3xGG Jane Berry (m.Gillette) front, right

3xGG Eliza Marsh Bird (m.Dutcher)

3xGG Sophia Sears (m.Smith)

4xGG Mary Ann Boots (m.Gillette)

4xGG Elizabeth Ann Hill (m.Berry)



[Adapted from an article originally published December 21, 2011.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas Orange

In celebrating Christmas, my favorite family tradition involved the mystery of the orange in our stockings. While we waited for my Grandpa to drive over to our house to be with us while we opened presents, we would empty our stockings, filled with little toys and candies… and an orange. The memories are so strong that every time I hold an orange in my hands and smell the citrus fragrance of the rind, I think of Christmas morning, when I would peel it open and gobble the fruit down. There was an orange waiting for us every year.
My mom remembers having one some holidays, but not always. It was my dad who had an orange in his stocking every year. He said it sat on top of his stocking, hiding what was beneath it. And our oranges served the same purpose, to better hide the surprise of what prying eyes peeking around the top of the stairs would soon find inside.
In researching the tradition of the Christmas orange, the only thing that was clear was that its direct origins are still a bit of a mystery. Laura Ingalls Wilder references getting an orange in her stocking as a child in 1880, noting that it was a special treat. According to the Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia by Audrey Ensminger, with the advent of the new rail system, and the abundance of ripe oranges out of Florida and California, there was a fair supply of them available to the public in the 1880s.
What a special gift at a time of year when there isn’t a lot of other fresh fruit available. Lucky for us, winter is the peak of harvest season for citrus. In England, I found that putting oranges in the toes of stockings pre-dates World War II, but became a common tradition during the war. It must have been an especially delicious treat during rationing.
I found correspondences of the orange to the mythology of Bishop Nicholas, better known as Saint Nicholas, but nothing I could cite as factual. Nicholas was a good, wealthy man born in Turkey in the fourth century who spent his life helping the poor. Folklore says that he secreted money into three stockings of three daughters of a man who could not afford a good dowry and feared he would not find them good husbands. In the story, the gold melted inside the stockings where they hung over the fireplace and the young women pulled out three golden balls in the morning. It’s true that statues of Nicholas often show him holding three golden globes, but any claimed similarities to the Christmas orange as a symbol of Saint Nicholas’ generosity have been recently made.
I hold one in my hand and I smell Christmas kindness. I think any Santa or Saint would approve.

Making Decorative Pomanders
Pomander balls go back to the 15th century, used as natural air fresheners. To make them, you need oranges, a lot of whole cloves, and something you can use to pierce the skin like a toothpick, pin, nail, or wooden skewer. You can also use citrus fruits like clementines, lemons, limes, tangerines, or kumquats (kumquats make adorable tree-sized pomanders).
Some people like to make designs with their cloves and others cover it with them like a second skin. For best results, I recommend covering as much of the orange with cloves as you can as the clove oil acts as a preservative. Use your pointy thing of choice to poke in holes before inserting cloves (or your fingers will soon start to hurt). If you need a guideline for your rows, you can wrap a rubber band or masking tape around the center to get you started. Leave room in your pattern to tie ribbons around the orange for hanging and display. I use cotton cording that I can weave around the cloves. Then hang the pomander in a closet for a couple of days to allow drying time, as they can get moldy (one woman on-line said she puts hers in her fridge, but I’ve always shut them away in a closet). Scent-wise, these will last a few weeks.
If you want them to last through the season, you can coat your pomander with powdered orrisroot to help preserve it. For pomanders that both last longer and spice up your home, you can coat your pomander in a mixture of ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and powdered orrisroot; three tablespoons each.

            If you hang stockings, will an orange wait within it for you? Maybe another festive fruit? Or some tradition unique and special to your family?

Blessings to You and Yours
As part of my spiritual practice I celebrate Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, which falls on December 21. I grew up Catholic, celebrating Christmas with my family on December 25. As an adult, I observe both holidays. I still celebrate Christmas, just a different kind. I love Christmas. I am full to the brim of Christmas Spirit.
Happiness. Peace. Kindness. Compassion. I celebrate Christmas as the holiday of family and humanity. I light candles to honor and revere the goodness inside each and every one of us. I wish for peace on earth, that the good will shine through, that light will win out.
This is the year for compassion.
When someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Happy Holiday, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Happy Kwanzaa, say “You, too.” If someone wishes you a Merry Solstice or a Happy Yule, say “You, too.” It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s something you celebrate.
People are wishing you good tidings in the spirit of brotherhood and joy as dictated by their faith. Return the favor. Don’t be a Scrooge. Who can’t use more joy and light?




[Adapted from a post originally published December 11, 2013.]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Human Kindness

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is witnessing moments of kindness between strangers as these events occur with more spontaneity at this time of year. Allow me a moment to plug the notion that we can carry Christmas and Solstice with us through the whole year. Human kindness always moves me and makes me misty. The most memorable and heart-warming moment I remember happened during the holidays of 2001.
The day of the attacks on the twin towers happened the September day before I was to start training as a cashier at a local grocery store. We had recently moved to a new city and spent the day of the attacks glued to the television we hadn’t even had hooked before we heard the news. When I clocked in the next morning for training, everyone was in a state of horror and shock.
I hadn’t been there long enough to know any of the regular customers yet, but what I saw were couples and mothers shopping to feed their families, day in and day out. It was their only agenda. They all had different colors of skin and different styles of dress and each of these was widely varied. After the attacks, I saw the majority of my community respond fearfully to the women in their abayas and hijabs.
In their fear they were not kind, and they felt free to make horrid comments to the women shopping that I cannot even write out for you. They literally walked up to unveiled Muslim women shopping, minding their own business, and accused them of killing people in New York City. Of hiding weapons beneath their abayas and demanding to see what was hiding underneath them. And much, much worse. In front of their children.
And what will those children grow up thinking about their place in the world?
I am grateful that my grocery store allowed the cashiers to refuse service to those customers who would not cease in harassing the Muslim families. And I did. Often, at first. I have always believed in kindness. It is always heartbreaking to me how cruel people can be from a place of fear.
What is it that makes us lash out like wounded animals at each other? How does hurting other people make us feel better? I understand being afraid. I understand having fear. We are each allowed to feel the emotions we feel. But we are not allowed to inflict them on others. We are not allowed to wield them like weapons against other people. We are all animals. That is true. But it is supposed to be our human compassion and brains that lift us above our animal nature.
Every day, those interactions were the shadow that fell over my joy of getting to know the community here and its humanity. I saw too much ugly at first- which may have been true wherever I found myself then. One day, on a holiday shift, one man’s generosity renewed my faith in the goodness of people. One small act of kindness was enough to tip the scales.
A Muslim man and his wife came through with their young son, buying healthy grains and vegetables and fresh meat and milk and eggs. It was the healthiest display of food I ever saw anyone bring down my register in all of my time at the store. She wore an abaya and hijab but the old couple before them paid quickly and muttered about letting burkas in the store.  
The electronic benefits line was down, as it often was back then, and their EBT card was denied. They began to count out their cash and put things big extras back, like the asparagus and the turkey. When they took back the only other extra, the box of cereal for their son, he did not cry in complaint. That moment stayed with me. It was obvious they were struggling to decide what else to take away.
An older man behind them asked me how much more they needed, while they sorted through their groceries. They only had twenty dollars and I whispered apologetically to him that they needed another eighty to cover everything, and that our system was down- that it wasn’t their fault. I was so used to customers being impatient and wanted him to understand the technology glitch was no one’s fault.
The Muslim woman started to apologize nervously to everyone in line around the same moment. But the man behind them smiled compassionately and handed me a hundred dollars. All he was buying for himself was bread, lunch meat and milk.
At first the couple would not take it, but he insisted. I will never forget what he said. “You need help, and I am in a place to give it to you. I would like to think that when I need help, someone will be in a place to give it to me.” The family thanked him profusely and gratefully. You could see the surprise wash over them. As they were leaving, the husband turned around and told the man that he would never forget his kindness. And the man shrugged it off, “Just repay the favor some day.”
When they left, the man would not hear me say anything about it, waving my gratitude and tears away. He said it wasn’t a big deal. “It was to them,” I assured him. And it was to me. I have never forgotten it either. I have paid it forward innumerably.

Sometimes kindness comes in the form of a simple smile. Making eye contact with your cashier during your holiday shopping. Taking a moment to saying thank you to all of your cashiers, to the waitress when she brings you a new drink, to anyone working in service for you. There are a lot of people in the world and we don’t know everyone. But at some point in our lives, even our closest friends were strangers to us. And every stranger is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, friend. We have choices every day in what face we show to the world. Spread compassion and kindness throughout your days. It is the simplest and most beautiful language we can share and it is a language that will shape the world around us into a brighter place.




[Updated from “Human Kindness” published December 4, 2013.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Whitcher Monument

Photo by Kerri Kaiser Newman
A few blocks north of the home where I grew up sits Glenwood Cemetery, bordering a public park where we spent many afternoons at play. When I was older I used to walk that cemetery, looking for the oldest tombstones. It was a surprise when my father told me he’d discovered the damaged gravesite of prominent ancestors of ours in that very same place.

The Whitchers
I’ve written previously about Bailey Harrison Whitcher and Ordelia deLozier, my 3x great-grandparents. Ordelia’s father Peter, of Connecticut, was a P.O.W. at the Battle of Tripoli in 1803. After his thirty month-long ordeal and release, he came to own a cabinet-making business in Lockport. Bailey was his apprentice. One of two things happened… either Peter abandoned his family and Bailey took over the business, marrying Ordelia, or Bailey and Ordelia married and Peter took that as his opportunity to leave and return to the sea, but he never returned.

Bailey and Ordelia had thirteen children, seven girls and six boys. Two sons died during childbirth and one drowned in the Erie Canal in 1836. Their remaining three sons were soldiers in the Civil War. I have letters from my 2x great-grandma Emma, written to another soldier in her brother George’s regiment, describing the day the first boy from Lockport died in the war, and the funeral march the city had for him. The Civil War changed everything for the Whitcher family.

George Harrison fought with the Michigan 7th at Gettysburg and died defending Cemetery Ridge. His body was never recovered. The inscription plate from his musket was dug up from the site, and returned to his family in 1889, by the same friend of George that Emma had been writing letters with- there is evidence in her letters that he was corresponding as well. His name was Charles Thompson and he had returned to the site as a personal pilgrimage. He discovered the plate among items being dug up. A monument now stands in Gettysburg to the regiment where the battle took place. George Harrison was 22 when he died.

What a loss this must have been to the family. It wasn’t the last.

Orville Bailey was mustered into the New York 8th regiment, heavy artillery. He was at the Battle of Cold Harbor in VA in May and June of 1864. He was wounded on June 3rd, which also happened to be his birthday. He turned 21. He died June 18, 1864 in Alexandria from his wounds. Ulysses S. Grant said in his memoirs of this last battle, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. ... No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”

The Whitcher Sisters, family archive. Back row, Emma (my ancestress), Mary, and Frances. Front row, Lucy, Ellen, Harriet, and cousin Flora. The photo is of their eldest brother Daniel, in his uniform.
The Union gained no advantage from the loss of their second son. How that must have affected the family, still in fresh grief from George’s death… Emma’s disposition seemed to change greatly. She had seemed to be courting George’s regiment buddy through their exchange of letters, but he also seemed greatly affected by the loss of his brother and friend. A few months after the death of her brother Orville, Emma Whitcher married a young businessman named Hiram King Wicker. They were my 2x great-grandparents.

Back to the Gravesite
The monument my father found in Glenwood Cemetery belonged to Bailey Harrison Whitcher, who died the year after his son Orville. Bailey had grown deaf in his old age and was struck and killed by an oncoming train he could not hear as he had grown deaf in his old age. The monument also included most of his family, including his two sons who died in the Civil War.

It was on a steep slope and the obelisk had toppled over, strewn precariously in pieces down the incline, obscuring two sides and their inscriptions from view. My father began to investigate how we might get it repaired, seeing how important the family had been historically to the city. It took a while.

Photo by Kerri Kaiser Newman
Mark and Dennis Devine brought it to the attention of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 268, who championed its restoration. Family and various local organizations helped raise the $2100 needed to repair it and on November 11, 2016, a ceremony took place revealing the restoration and honoring the fallen Whitcher brothers.

I wasn’t able to be at the rededication ceremony, but my father was, and various other descendants of the family showed up to help mark the occasion. Reenactors from the Colonel John B. Weber Camp, No. 44, the Reynolds Battery NY Light Artillery, the 155th NY Reenactment Regiment, the NY Volunteers 140th, and the Union Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps were all on hand to set the tone for the Veteran’s Day ceremony.

Gratitude

I wish there were words to express how deeply wonderful it is to see other descendants and groups take an interest in honoring the legacy of this Whitcher family. I can’t wait until spring, when they finish polishing the marble and the grave is renewed. It’s a privilege to count these men and women in my ancestral bloodline.

Thanks to my dad, for sharing his passion for genealogy with me, and for wandering old cemeteries and stumbling over graves. Thanks for following up inquiries with letters and e-mails and sharing Whitcher stories, and encouraging interest in seeing this restoration through to completion. I'm glad you were at the ceremony. Uncle Dave would have loved it. I'm sure he did.

A special thanks to Kerri Kaiser Newman, a Whitcher cousin, who was in attendance at the rededication ceremony, for the use of her photos! Both our families descend from Bailey and Ordelia's children. She's one of the closest Whitcher cousins I've discovered yet. If you have Whitcher ancestors, check out the facebook group Whitcher, Whicher, Witcher, Whittier, Welcher Global Family Tree. There are more of us out there.


Other blog posts of Whitcher interest:

A Death at Gettysburg 150 Years Later (July 3, 2013)

A P.O.W. from Tripoli (June 5, 2013)

The Story in the Life (May 2, 2012)

Emma's Letters (February 22, 2012)

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