Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christian Hoover (1776-1850) (52 Ancestors Week 52) Theme: "Resolution"

When asked about her ancestry, my maternal grandmother Idella Edwards always mentioned the "Pennsylvania Dutch". This Pennsylvania Dutch line was through her father Charles Edwards' maternal Hoover line.

When Iowa genealogist Alice Hoyt Veen discovered Charles's mother to be Barbara Hoover, early online searches led me to believe that perhaps we could follow these ancestors back through George Hoover to immigrant Andreas Hoover (or Huber) who emigrated to America in about 1758 from Ellerstad, Bad Durkheim in what is now Germany.

Further research, however, has led me to doubt this connection. The repetitious use of the names Andreas/Andrew, George,  Christian, Philip and Samuel have created much confusion around who is part of which family. Resolution of this matter remains elusive as 2015 draws to a close. For this reason, I will focus on Barbara's grandfather (my 4th great grandfather) Christian Hoover, a connection of which I am more confident.

Christian Hoover was born in Pennsylvania 10 February 1776. At around the age of 20 he married Maria Barbara Harmon, daughter of Christian Harmon and Christina (or Anna) Magdalena Lenhard. The couple had at least 5 children: Samuel born 1796, George born 1799, Catherine born 1800, Philip born 1802, and Christian (my 3rd great grandfather) born 1809. The family were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Crooked Creek in 1810.

The 1820 census for Plum Creek, Armstrong County, PA lists Christian Hoover with the total number of family members being 7. Ten years later, he is still in Plum Creek; he and his wife's ages are both given as between 50 and 60; there is one male under 5, one male 10-15 and one 20-30 as well as one female between 10-15.

Location of Plum Creek, PA
Google Earth Image
We don't know much about the particular details of their lives in Plum Creek, Armstrong County, PA, but Christian would eventually die there on 20 February 1850 just after his 74th birthday; his wife outlived him by a couple of decades. He is buried at Saint John Lutheran Cemetery, Sagamore, Armstrong County, PA.

Photo Courtesy Burke Stoughton
Find A Grave website

Christian and Maria Barbara were part of the group called the "Pennsylvania Dutch". Contrary to how it sounds, this does NOT mean they were from Holland. Rather, it refers to early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. To say that they were "from Germany" is also not correct, since Germany did not exist as a country at the time. The majority of them came from what is today southwestern Germany, the Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wurttenberg region, while others were Swiss, Alsatians and French Protestant Huguenots. They traditionally spoke the language known as Pennsylvania German or "Deutsch". This group of settlers arrived in America in waves in the late 17th century through the 18th century.

Area for Origins of Pennsylvania Dutch Emigrants
Google Earth Image
They were not all of one religious affiliation. As we know, Christian's family were Lutheran, the most common group. Others might have been Reformed or Anabaptist and some were Mennonite and Amish. Many were persecuted in Germany for their Protestant religious beliefs.

In addition to religious persecution, the area from which they came was ground zero for numerous wars over the years. During the Thirty Years War and again during the War of the Grand Alliance, troops ravaged the area, burning homes and crops, pillaging and plundering. The result was similar to what is happening today in war-ravaged regions - thousands, if not millions, of refugees.

To add to the misery, the winter of 1708-9 was the harshest for 100 years. Many of the vineyards and farms suffered severe losses. At the invitation of Queen Anne of England, the first wave of refugees sailed down the Rhine to Rotterdam. The intention was to head to Pennsylvania, but some found themselves in England or Ireland. Eventually, some 32,000 of the refugees took advantage of the offer, but the English couldn't handle any more and issued a Royal proclamation in German that any immigrants arriving after October 1709 would be sent back where they came from. (Once again one is reminded of today's Syrian refugee situation with borders being closed to those trying to escape.) There is no indication that our Hoovers were included in this first group.

Pennsylvania under Quaker William Penn was a much more welcoming place than most. As a result, as further waves of German-speaking immigrants made their way down the Rhine and across the Atlantic, that was most often the destination of choice. We don't know if our Hoovers arrived directly in Pennsylvania where we first find Christian and his family. We don't know if it was Christian's parents, or, more likely, his grandparents, who made the journey across the ocean.

Whichever family members were the immigrants, they would have made their way down the Rhine to Rotterdam. The passage down the Rhine itself took 4 to 6 weeks, with tolls and fees being demanded at every turn. (Again, one is reminded of today's refugees enduring extortionate rates to sail to freedom.)

The Pennsylvania Dutch settled primarily in the southeastern and south central part of the State. By the time of the American Revolution, nearly half the population of Pennsylvania consisted of the Pennsylvania Dutch. They tended to side with the Patriots, but many (including some Hoovers) refused on religious grounds to take part in the fighting.

This posting closes my "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" for 2015 with the Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry being unresolved. My New Year's Resolutions must include finding parents and grandparents for Christian Hoover and finding where they came from in the area that is now Germany.


  • Find a Grave website for Christian Hoover
  • Wikipedia Article on "Pennsylvania Dutch" accessed 4 December 2015
  • "Palatine Germans to America - their History of Immigration" accessed online 4 December 2015 at
  • Jim Sutcliffe pedigree chart first provided 8 August 2010
  • Kris Hocker website on the Hoovers at
  • US and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 on
  •, Pennsylvania, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1772-1890

Saturday, 19 December 2015

John Machell (1509-1558) (52 Ancestors Week 51) Theme: "Nice"

The holiday season is traditionally a time for getting dressed up nicely to go out on the town. It seemed like a good week to feature my 11th great grandfather John Machell of London, England, who was, among other things, a haberdasher. Don't let the simplicity of that job title fool you - John was not just a shopkeeper!

Even the name "haberdasher" evokes nice images of refined dressing. A haberdasher is someone who sells small items for sewing, things like ribbons and buttons, and can also be a dealer in men's furnishings such as suits and shirts. Sadly, we don't have haberdashers, as such, in Canada today.

No, this isn't John Machell, but is representative of men's fashions in Tudor times
Portrait of a Young Man by unknown artist, in the Public Domain  from Wikimedia Commons
John Machell was born about 1509 and led a nice, if short, life. By the time he was 40, he was a wealthy wool merchant living at the elegant red brick Tudor-style Sutton House which had been built a decade or so earlier by Sir Ralph Sadleir, one of Henry VIII's Privy Councillors. The house is considered today to be haunted. Dogs are often heard wailing in the dead of night. These are thought to be the dogs that belonged to John Machell when he lived there. Whenever dogs come into Sutton House, they often stop short at the foot of the staircase, hackles raised, staring at something on the staircase invisible to the human eye. Another ghost is thought to be that of John's daughter-in-law who died giving birth to twins in 1574. The house is now restored and under the auspices of the National Trust; a visit would seem to be in order.

Sutton House, Hackney, London September 2005
Photographer : Fin Fahey, Wikimedia Commons

John married Joan Lodyngton, daughter of Henry Lodyngton and Joan Kyrby. They had three sons - John Machell the younger, Matthew (my 10th great grandfather) who was born about 1535 and Thomas, the youngest.

John was obviously a successful businessman. He was Master of the Clothworkers' Guild 1547, Auditor of the Clothworkers' Guild 1551-3, Alderman of the City of London 1556-8 and Sheriff of London 1555-6. The position of Sheriff of London today entails only nominal duties, but in John's time, it would have meant that he was expected to attend the judges at the Central Criminal Court Old Bailey and take on judicial responsibilities. Two sheriffs were elected each year, one of whom was an alderman (like John) and eventually that person was expected to become the Lord Mayor of London. This didn't happen in John's case - perhaps because he was not a well man by that time.

John Machell died in August of 1558.

Funerals at the time were elaborate events steeped in rules of pageantry. Each person's status determined what position in the procession he or she would occupy and what colours and items of clothing they were expected to wear. No doubt the haberdashers were kept very busy outfitting people properly for these events.

Thanks to an informative contemporary history written by fellow clothworker Henry Machyn, we know that John's corpse would have been covered with a pall of black velvet, borne by yeomen in black coats and assisted by gentlemen in gowns and hoods. The order observed by the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen and Sheriffs for their meetings and wearing of their apparel throughout the year was printed in Stowe's Survey and stated that the following was to be worn for the burial of an Alderman (such as John) as the "last love, duty and ceremony one to another": the Aldermen were to wear their violet gowns, except such as have black gowns or mourning. When an Alderman died, the master Swordbearer was to have a black gown and to carry the Sword in black before the Lord Mayor. The Master Chamberlain was not to wear his tippet (long ceremonial scarf) unless the Lord Mayor or Aldermen wore their scarlet or violet. For John's funeral, the arms were described as "Per pale argent and sable, three grey-hounds courant counterchanged, collared gules."

Machyn describes the offices that John had held and added that he was married to "Jone", daughter of Harry Lodyngton who then remarried to Sir Thomas Chamberlen, knight, and died herself 28 April 1565.

John had made his will on 26 July 1558 "in the 5th and 6th years of the reign of our sovereign Lord and Lady King Philip and Queen Mary." (Catholic Queen Mary I would herself die just four months later.) He obviously knew that he would be entitled to a special funeral for he makes this comment in the preamble to his will: "And my body to be buried in Christian burial after a decent and convenient order according to my Estate degree and vocation as shall be thought meet and convenient by my overseers."

He left one-third of his estate to be divided equally by his children, one-third for specific legacies (many to the poor and to his extended family) and the remaining one-third to his "well beloved wife Joan Machell". The estates that Joan received for her lifetime over and above any jointure or dower to which she would be entitled included among others the manor of Guilden Sutton in the County of Chester and all other lands there, his manor of Burneshed with the appurtenances in the County of Westmorland and all his lands in Hinton in the County of Southhampton and Dorset. His land holdings were extensive resulting in a will that went on for several pages. His three sons were left his jewellery including gold chains, rings and brooches. Quite clearly John Machell had led a very nice life indeed.


  • 573.html
  • "The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant Tailor of London from AD 1550 to 1563" accessed online 4 December 2015 at
  • "Aldermen of the City of London" website accessed online 4 December 2015 at
  • Will of John Machell posted to by MerilynPedrick63 based on transcription done by Bridget Machell 2011 accessed 4 December 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Captain George Denison (1620-1694) (52 Ancestors Week 50) My Theme: "December"

Wife of Captain George Denison - my 9th great grandmother Ann Borodell

My 9th great grandfather George Denison was the second son of that name born North of London in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England to William Denison and Margaret Chandler. He was baptised there 395 years ago this week on 10 December 1620. The first George had been born in 1609 and had died in 1614 as a young child. This second George would have a longer and more vigourous life, living into his 70's.

Location of Bishop's Stortford
Image from Google Earth
Young George had an early adventure when he crossed the Atltantic aboard the Lion with his parents and two brothers as part of the "Great Migration". There were many other children making the journey and no doubt the boys, being boys, found much entertainment. He was eleven years old when he arrived in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The early church in Roxbury records his father William as its 3rd member and names William's sons Daniel, Edward and George. Daniel had been attending university at Cambridge when he was recalled by his father to join the family's migration. Edward was about 15. Another son John was in his mid-20's, had been educated at Cambridge and so decided to remain in England where he was a minister.

Accompanying the family on the voyage was George's tutor, the Reverend John Eliot. Education was obviously important to this family. They were quite well off and brought a good estate from England. Young George's early life in America was probably more comfortable than most. His father William held a number of public offices including Roxbury constable, Deputy to the General Court and committee member for inspection of ships.

Life in New England was never without controversy, however. William was one of five Roxbury men to be disarmed on 20 November 1637 for supporting Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson. This was in regard to the Antinomian Controversy which raged in Puritan New England from 1636-1638. It pitted the majority of the Puritans against the adherents of a "covenant of grace" espoused by Cotton Mather and supported by Anne Hutchinson and her brother-in-law Reverend John Wheelwright. Apparently William Denison was also a supporter. The Antinomians were generally regarded as heretics against the established laws. Concepts of gender and politics added to the disagreement. We don't know whether George's mother Margaret was one of the numerous women who followed Anne Hutchinson's teachings. Eventually, the Antinomian leaders were tried and banished, so perhaps William was fortunate to have been only disarmed! Young George by then would have been a young man of about 17, but there is no mention of any involvement by him in this whole controversy.

We do know that George fell in love with a young woman named Bridget Thompson when he was about 19. He proposed to Bridget by writing her a love poem:

It is an ordinance, my dear, divine,
Which God unto the sons of men makes shine,
Even marriage, to that whereof I speak,
And unto you therein my mind I break.

In Paradise, oft Adam God did tell,
To be alone for man would not be well--
He in His wisdom, therefore, thought it right
To bring a woman into Adam's sight;

A helper that for him might be most meet,
To comfort him by her doing discreet.
I of that stock am sprung--I mean from him--
And also of that tree I am a limb.

A branch, tho' young, yet I do think it good
That God's great vow by man be not withstood;
Alone I am, a helper I would find,
That might give satisfaction to my mind.

The party that doth satisfy the same
Is Miss Bridget Thompson by her name;
God having drawn my affections unto thee,
My heart's desire is--that thine may be to me.

This with my blottings, tho' they trouble you,
Yet pass them by, because I know not how--
Though they at this time should much better be,
For love it is, that first has been to thee.

And I would wish that they much better were,
Therefore, I pray, accept them as they are,
So hoping my desire I shall obtain,
Your own true lover, I, George Denison by name.

From my father's house in Roxbury To Miss Bridget Thompson, 1640.

Miss Bridget obviously approved of his sentiments for marry they did. They went on to have two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, but Bridget died giving birth to Hannah in 1643.

George was devastated. He returned to England that same year and was a soldier under Cromwell, participating on the evening of 2 July 1644 in the Battle of Marston Moor where he did great service.

Battle of Marston Moor, English Civil War
Painting by John Barker in the Public Domain

He was slightly wounded, taken prisoner but was able to make his escape and rejoin the Parliamentarians. He was more seriously wounded on the morning of 14 June 1645 during the Battle of Naseby and was then sent to Cork, Ireland to recuperate at the home of John Borodell, a wealthy English leather merchant. Body and heart both mended when he fell in love with his nurse - John Borodell's beautiful daughter Ann (my 9th great grandmother). They were married shortly thereafter and returned to New England later in 1645.

It was said that George and Ann were known for their magnificent personal appearance as well as for force of mind and of character; she was always known as "Lady Ann" because of her personal attributes.

George and Ann had several children including  my 8th great grandmother Margaret Denison (1657-1741), John Borodell Denison (1646-1698), Ann Denison (1649-1706), George Denison (1653-1711) and William Denison (1655-1715). Their descendants are plentiful; George lived to see his family include 3 sons, 6 daughters and 58 grandchildren. On the television program "Finding Your Roots", Professor Gates uncovered the ancestry of comedian David Sedaris back to this family.

The couple lived in Roxbury near George's parents prior to moving to Connecticut - first joining John Winthrop, Jr. at New London on the Pequot River. This was done in an attempt by Massachusetts to claim control of the land that would eventually become eastern Connecticut. In 1651 George was named captain of the train band and was given a house with 6 acres of property; he established the defenses for the town. In appreciation for services rendered, he was given 200 acres east of the Mystic River in the town of Stonington (then called Southertown) where he surveyed the boundaries and laid out a road from the ford at the Pawcatuck to the ferry at the Thames. At first, he and Ann lived in a rough lean-to surrounded by a stout stockade for protection. (This is now the site of the historic Denison Homestead of Mystic, CT.) George was appointed "clerk of the writs".

Location of Stonington, CT
Google Earth Image

Even after the whole area was absorbed into Connecticut, George and his family remained there and he remained active in both military and civil affairs. His service included: Deputy to the General Court from both New London and Stonington, War Commission for New London in 1653, Captain during King Philip's War, second in command of the Connecticut army under Major Robert Treat. He was instrumental in the capture of Canonchet, helping to put an end to King Philip's War. It was said that as a soldier, no citizen of his day was more conspicuous except perhaps for John Mason.

He and Thomas Stanton set aside 8,000 acres of land for the scattered Pequot tribe as the first reservation. The Pequots, largely to their detriment, had sided with the English during King Philip's War.

George's estate grew. He was rewarded for his services with large land grants by both the Town of Stonington and the Colony of Connecticut. The Mohegan chief Oneco gave him a great feast and 2000 acres of tribal lands. The resulting peace enabled him to take down his stockade and build a great house where his wife Ann hosted famous dinner parties for family and friends. Life was good.

He died in Hartford, Connecticut 23 October 1694 while discharging his duties at the Massachusetts General Assembly. Ann would long outlive him, dying at the age of 97. Both are buried at the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford.

Photograph of Tombstone for George Denison from the 1881 book
"A Record of the Descendants of Captain George Denison of Stonington, Conn."
  • Denison Homestead website located at
  • Anderson, Robert Charles, "The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633", Volume 1; Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995
  • U.S and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index for William Denison, 1500's-1900's
  • "Some Descendants of Captain George Denison" accessed online at on 05/04/2009
  • Hurd, Hamilton D (comp.), "History of New London County, Connecticut, with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men", 1882; Philadelphia: Lewis & Co., accessed online at Google Books on 30 November 2015
  • Poem by Captain George Denison from Appendix in Baldwin, John Denison, "A Record of the Descendants of Captain George Denison of Stonington, Conn.", Worcester, Mass.: Tyler & Seagrave, 1881, 298 accessed online through Google Books on 30 November 2015

Friday, 4 December 2015

Anna Ericksdatter Elton (1849-1938) (Week 49) My theme: "Saudade"

Several years ago, my husband and I had the pleasure of sailing our boat through Gwaii Haanas Park on the southern end of Haida Gwaii (former Queen Charlotte Islands) off Canada's west coast. This National Park is unique in that it is jointly managed by Parks Canada and the Haida people. To oversee and protect the delicate ecology and history of their traditional territories (and sometimes to offer tours and talks to visitors), "Watchmen" are stationed at the various historic locations for a few weeks at a time. These are regular Haida people of all ages left in a very remote region with no television, roads, internet or cell phone coverage. Contact with the outside world is made by VHF radio in short conversations, which in their case meant using a list of shorthand "code" numbers. When we visited Hot Spring Island (before a 2012 earthquake put the three hot pools in jeopardy) two women were acting as Watchmen at the site. As we were the only visitors there that day, they kindly invited us to join them for lunch after we soaked in the hot pools. The thing that stands out in my mind (aside from the nice hot lunch that they shared with us) was how one woman was so badly missing her grandchildren back home. She had an ache in her heart that showed on her face and in her voice; she needed to see her grandchildren. Apparently she had called her supervisor using something like "code 9" on the VHF radio, but there really was no code number to effectively express her problem. There simply is no adequate word in English either.

I claim no Portuguese ancestors, but the Portuguese do have such a perfect word for this strong emotion - "saudade". Saudade describes a deep nostalgic or melancholic longing for an absent person or place that one loves deeply. Sometimes it can include the knowledge that you will never see that person or place again. I think it could even extend to family members one has never met. It can include terrible sadness and feelings of loss or absence, but it can also include the recollection of happy times past and bittersweet joyful recollections. If you have experienced it, you know that it is a much stronger emotion than merely missing someone; perhaps it most closely resembles a bad case of homesickness.

The closest thing in Norwegian (the mother language of my great grandmother Anna Elton) might be lengsel etter fravaerende familie.

Anna Elton c1890
Having children and grandchildren of my own in distant places sometimes leaves me with saudade of them. But I know I can talk to them on the telephone or by Skype or quite easily go to visit them. Such was not always the case for my ancestors. When they left their homelands to emigrate to America, they must have known in their hearts that they would probably never again see family, friends and the community they were leaving behind. Sometimes family groups travelled together and that no doubt eased some of the anguish, but even once in America, families often dispersed into new areas. Many people grew up never meeting their grandparents or aunts and uncles. Many grandparents never knew the joy of watching their grandsons and granddaughters grow up. Saudade must have been common. 

When my paternal grandparents decided to uproot and move across the border to homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada, it meant they were too far from their own parents in Minnesota to have them involved in their children's lives. The result was that my Dad only met only one of his 4 grandparents and that was during one single visit to Minnesota when he was just 4 years old. The grandparent he met was Anna Elton, his paternal grandmother ("bestemor" in Norwegian, or even more specifically, "farmor" to distinguish his father's mother from his mother's mother who would be his "mormor").

Anna (sometimes called "Annie") Ericksdatter Elton (sometimes spelled "Ellent" or "Elson" or "Eltun") was born in Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Norway on 14 March 1849.

Pin marks location of Vang, Oppland
Google Earth image

She was baptised 9 April 1849 at the local Lutheran church at Vang. The church was at that time quite new, having been completed just 10 years earlier. The church records also show her being vaccinated for smallpox on 19 September 1851 at the age of 2 3/4 years.

Vang Kirke
Photo Courtesy John Erling Blad on Wikimedia Commons

Øye i Vang in Valdres, Oppland, Norway
Photo courtesy John Erling Blad, Wikimedia Commons

When her parents Erick Anderson Elton and Sarah Holien emigrated to the United States in 1854, young Anna was listed in the church records as leaving for America with her family. She was 5 years old.

Her father died tragically the following year after being crushed by a falling tree. Times must have been very difficult for Sarah and her young family. We don't have any details of how they survived, but it has been suggested by a descendant of Erick's sister Sigrid Andrisdatter (who had come to America with her brother's family and who also became a young widow) that the sisters-in-law probably banded together for support. No doubt saudade was a common emotion for missing both their deceased husbands as well as their traditional family support systems back in Norway. But the women would have had to soldier on, day after day doing what it took to raise their children. This was the situation in which Anna grew up to young womanhood.

It appears that Anna gave birth to a son Erstein (or Steve) at Canon Falls, Renville County, MN in September of 1868 when she was 19. Unlike the Norwegian church records, American records do not provide us with the name of Steve's father. (The only surname ever associated with him was "Bardahl", the name of Anna's future husband. Even Steve's death certificate names Hans and Anna as his parents. However, it is highly unlikely that Hans was Steve's birth father since there would have been no reason for him not to marry Anna at the time of her pregnancy rather than waiting until 5 years later.) (2018 updated information: Steve was born 8 September 1868, named for his father Osten Ostenson. He was baptized 20 December 1868 according to US Evangelical Lutheran Church Records, Transcribed and obtained from , record 10 for 1868 births and baptisms, Holden Lutheran Church, Goodhue Co., Minnesota.)

In 1873, Anna married Hans Bardahl in Goodhue County, MN. The witnesses to their wedding give us some idea that Anna had been among extended family: her older half-brother Hans Asbjornsen was one witness and the surname given for the other witness was Elson, quite possibly also a relative or at least a close friend from Norway. The newlyweds soon moved to Renville County where they farmed and started their family.

Anna would give birth to 10 children over her lifetime, 7 of whom survived infancy. Sarah was born in 1876, my grandfather John in 1879, Ole in 1883, Susie in 1886, Hanna in 1887 and Ella in 1890.

Bardahl Family late 1890's: Top row left to right - Hannah, Ole, John, Susie;
Seated left to right - Sarah, Hans, Ella and Anna; Steve is absent

The same year that youngest daughter Ella was born, the family moved to Grant County where they farmed 3 miles south of Barrett, MN. Upon their retirement in 1918, Hans and Anna moved into the village where they were living when two of their young adult daughters, Susie and Hannah, died tragically in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Four years later Hans died too.

Anna age 81 with sons Ole and John, 1930
This was the only time that Anna met some of John's children
and she appears delighted to be with two of her three sons
After her husband's death, Anna continued for awhile to live in Barrett. At the time of the 1930 census, son Steve was living there with her; she owned her own house, valued at $2800 (which sounds low to us but this was the most valuable house listed on that page of the census).  It was in the early summer of 1930 that Anna's son John and some of his family made the visit during which my father Ken, age 4, got to meet his grandmother for the first and only time.

Kenneth Bardahl (age 4) lower left in front of his oldest sister Joetta;
2 Christenson cousins on right side during the visit to Minnesota in 1930

Anna Elton Bardahl summer 1930 with some of her grandchildren
Eventually she moved to live with her youngest daughter Ella and Henry Christenson, first in North Dakota and finally in Appleton, Swift County, Minnesota. Although she didn't get to see much of son John's children, she would have had other grandchildren to offer her joy.

Anna Elton Bardahl July 1935

Anna passed away 77 years ago this week on Saturday 3 December 1938 just before midnight at the Christenson home. Her death was attributed to old age (she was aged 89 years, 8 months and 19 days). Her obituary said that she and her husband Hans had been active members of the Lien Lutheran Church and that "their home radiated with true friendship and with a hospitality which their hosts of friends will never forget." Funeral services were held at the Lien Lutheran Church on the afternoon of Wednesday 7 December. The Lien choir sang "Sweetly Resting" and Karen Samuelson sang "Den store hvide flok". She is buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery near Barrett, Grant County, Minnesota beside her Hans.

Headstone for Hans and Anna (Elton) Bardahl
Photo by Ken/Elinor Bardahl


  • Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002; Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Records 1875-1940; Minnesota Find a Grave Index 1800-2012; 1930 United States Federal Census
  • State of Minnesota Marriage Licence and Certificate for Hans Bardahl and Anna Elton
  • State of Minnesota Certificate of Death 4733 for Anna Bardahl
  • Kirkeboker for Vang, Oppland, Norway (microfilm 307321) and Norwegian digital archives

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thankful Winslow (1715-1758) (Week 48) Theme: "Thankful"

The obvious choice for this week's American Thanksgiving theme might have been my 8th great grand-uncle Edward Winslow (1595-1655), Mayflower passenger and early governor of Plymouth Colony. He has long been associated with Thanksgiving because of his famous letter describing the "first American Thanksgiving".

Instead, I have chosen a less well-known Winslow, my 5th great grand-aunt named Thankful. Her name, unusual to modern tastes, was not unusual in her day. Early New Englanders often gave their children names of virtues that they hoped their children would emulate as they matured. Names such as Thankful, Temperance, Resolved, Mercy, Patience, Prudence, and Experience were commonplace. Others sound very odd indeed to modern ears. Imagine being called Silence or Freelove or Hallelujah! All of these are names I've encountered while researching my family tree.

Snippatuit Pond in the Rochester Area
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

Thankful Winslow was born 2 April 1715 in Rochester, Massachusetts, to my 6th great grandparents Major Edward Winslow (1681-1760) and his wife Sarah Clark (1681-1767). (Edward's father, Kenelm Winslow was said to have been one of the earliest landowners in the Rochester area, but may not himself have ever lived there.) The house of Edward Winslow in Snippatuit was mentioned in 1726. The year prior to that, Major Edward Winslow of Sniptuit had been empowered to set up an iron mill on the Mattapoisett River.

Location of Rochester, Massachusetts
Google Earth Image

Thankful's father Edward was captain, and later major, in the local militia and took an active role in civic affairs in Rochester. He was also both a farmer and a maker/forger of iron.

Edward had married local girl Sarah Clark in the opening years of the 18th century. Their family started in 1703 with the birth of yet another Edward Winslow, followed by Mehitable in 1705, then my 5th great grandmother Sarah Winslow (1707-1771), Lydia, Mercy and Thankful, the youngest. One wonders whether Sarah had had a difficult pregnancy and was thankful for its successful outcome. Perhaps they simply wanted their young daughter to grow up remembering to be grateful for what life had to offer. However, the name Thankful does appear from time to time in this family and could simply be a family tradition.

Thankful would have been just a child when her older sister Sarah (my 5th great grandmother) married Thomas Lincoln and had three children with him prior to his death in 1730. Widowed Sarah then married my 5th great grandfather James Whitcomb and went on to have 10 additional children including my 4th great grandmother Mary Whitcomb. Other siblings would also have married and started their own families leaving Thankful as probably the last to leave home. The family all tended to remain in the Rochester, Massachusetts area.

Snappatuit Brook would have been a familiar sight to Thankful Winslow
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

At the age of 20 Thankful married Josephus Hammond (1703-1779) and started a family of her own in Rochester. Children were born in 1736 (Parnal), 1738 (Edward), 1740 (another Thankful!), 1742 (Zuriah) and 1744 (Josephus).  She also suffered losses of her brother James Winslow in 1744 and sister Mercy in 1757.

Herring Run - Thankful would have been familiar with this terrain
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA 
The following year Thankful herself died on 2 October 1758. She is undoubtedly buried near Rochester, Massachusetts but her grave site has not been located.

(Bonus) Not Thanksgiving Turkey but Another Feast Story:

Not wanting to be deprived of a Thanksgiving feast story (after deciding NOT to tell the Edward Winslow story of the "first Thanksgiving" at Plymouth Colony) here is another story of a great early American feast that occurred years before the birth of Thankful, during the lifetime of her grandfather Kenelm Winslow:

I discovered this story while researching the early history of the Winslows in the Rochester, MA area. It comes down to us from Church's "Entertaining History of King Philip's War" which is described in Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts on pages 13-15.

In 1676, Awashonks, the female sachem (chief) of the Sogkonate tribe invited Captain Church to join her people in a feast and races being held on the "Sands and Flats." At the supper, "a curious young Bass was brought in on one dish, eels and flatfish on a second, shellfish on a third, but neither Bread nor Salt was to be seen at table."

Even more memorable than the all-seafood feast was the after dinner entertainment.
"A great pile of Pine knots and Tops was fired and the Indians gathered in a ring about it. Awashonks and the oldest of her people kneeling down made the first ring, and all the stout lusty men standing up made the next, and all the Rabble, a Confused Crew, surrounded on the outside. Then the Chief Captain stopped in between the people and the fire, and with a spear in one hand and a hatchet in the other danced round the fire and began to fight with it, making mention of all the several nations and companies of Indians that were enemies to the English; and at every tribe named he would draw out and fight a new fire brand, at finishing his fight with a fire brand he would bow to him and thank him." 

When he finished, another chief would step in to repeat the performance, and then another and another. They told Captain Church that they were making soldiers for him and the ceremony was a swearing in of all the young able men. This was obviously, then, not so much an entertainment as a significant ceremony. At the close of the performance, Awashonks presented Captain Church with a very fine firelock and in return received assurances of protection of the English. As a result, her tribe was protected by the English during the subsequent King Philip's War but her leadership among the Native Americans also suffered for being seen as too closely allied with the English. The feast may well have been a turning point in the eventual outcome of King Philip's War, something for which the English settlers of Rochester would no doubt be very thankful indeed.


  • "Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts: Being a History of These Towns", New York: The Grafton Press 1907
  • "The New England Historical & Genealogical Register", 1851
  • Scott, Henry Edwards (ed.), "Vital Records of Rochester, Massachusetts to the Year 1850", Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914;
  • "Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Jan 2014), Edward Winslow in entry for Thankfull Winslow

Friday, 20 November 2015

Joseph Wilkinson (1683-1740) and Martha Pray (c1693-1784) (Week 47) Theme: "Sporting"

Not remembering a single ancestor who was much involved in sport, I did recall one male ancestor who was known to have used a hunting lodge near Providence, R.I. Another story I recalled was about a female ancestor who had saved the family's apple harvest by shooting a bear. Whether or not hunting to provide food for the family qualifies as "sport" or was simply a question of survival, I went looking for these ancestors in my family tree. Imagine my delight at finding that the two were husband and wife! This is their story.

Joseph and Martha, my 7th great grandparents, both came from solid Rhode Island stock. He was born there 22 January 1683 to Samuel Wilkinson and Plain Wickenden. She was born there about a decade later to John Pray and Sarah Brown. Both families had been well settled in the Providence area since at least the mid 1650's. Both of their mothers were granddaughters of some of the earliest Baptist settlers who founded Providence - William Wickenden and Chad Brown.

Earliest Providence settlers include Joseph's great grandfather William Wickenden
 and Martha's great grandfather Chad Brown
Joseph and Martha were married in Providence in 1713 and would go on to have a large family of 15 children. (I descend from daughter Susannah born between 1720-1725; she would marry Oliver Westcott, great grandson of Stukely Westcott whose lot is also shown on the map above).

As the population of Providence increased over the generations, new settlements were set off from the old. Joseph had already moved to the northwest part of the nearby town of Scituate, R.I. by 1703 before it was officially set off and when it was known by the name of Chapumiscook. He had been granted 137 acres of land there in 1700. There was just a crooked trail leading to his property from Providence at the time and travel would have been done on horseback.

Joseph was a prominent man in the early years of Scituate, often elected to town council and chosen deputy. He erected the first barn there, brought the first cow to town, and was a surveyor who was kept very busy in town activities. His home was on the most northern turnpike and was considered to be a very good farm. When the barn was erected, a barn-raising bee had been held and a fermented honey beverage called metheglin (mead with herbs or spices added) was consumed by the happy barn-raisers. One relative named Hopkins who attended the barn-raising could still recall his enjoyment of the event several decades later when he was a very old man!

Locations of Scituate and Providence, R.I.
Google Earth

Joseph was known to have used the hunting lodge that was built at Scituate for the convenience of hunters from nearby Providence. The lodge was situated near a brook and in an area with  tender grass and berries that attracted deer and other game, plentiful in the region at that time.

Early in their married years, Joseph and Martha often had to keep guard over their sheep at night to protect them from bears and wolves. The sheep were kept in log enclosures near their house and one night Joseph and Martha were awakened by the sound of logs being rolled away. The couple had to get up to rescue their sheep. (The sheep would have been vital to provide the wool for Martha to spin and weave into cloth for the family's clothing needs.)

Another time, a bear came to visit when Martha was home alone. She had just one much-valued apple tree full of ripe fruit that the bear was shaking from the tree. As this was their only source of apples (probably for pies and, even more importantly, for the cider that was a mainstay beverage among these early settlers), Martha knew she had to act. She took her husband's loaded shotgun (kept handy for just such an eventuality), aimed and took one shot to frighten away the bear. This so frightened Martha herself that she dropped the gun and raced back into the house and shut the door. When her husband returned home, he found the bear dead under the apple tree. Not only had she saved her fruit, but she provided the family with a good supply of meat. As far as we know, however, this one shot was Martha's one and only attempt at hunting.

Joseph must have been away working his land quite often for another story is also told about Martha's adventures when she was home alone. A large party of Native Americans arrived at her doorstep. Although she didn't understand their language, she understood that they wanted food, so she obliged. They returned in a few days with some nice fresh venison for her. After this, they were frequent welcome visitors at the Wilkinson household where there would be friendly bartering of moccasins and other leather goods for food.

Joseph died 24 April 1740 in Scituate, leaving Martha with several children still at home. She would outlive him by 44 years, dying 22 May 1784. The site of Martha's grave is unknown, but Joseph is buried in the Westcott-Wilkinson Lot also known as Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Scituate #14 on the Hartford Pike. Only 14 burials were made here including Joseph and Martha's grandson Reverend John Westcott and his wife Amey Clarke Westcott, my 5th great grandparents.

Westcott-Wilkinson Lot
Photo courtesy Gene Kuechmann from

Much of the town of Scituate as Joseph and Martha would have known it is now submerged under the Scituate Reservoir, built in the early years of the 20th century to provide water for Providence. Driving through the area leaves one with an uneasy sense of quiet foreboding, perhaps a reflection of the tragic consequences for many displaced residents. Although some were happy to resettle, many left unwillingly. Some were said to have committed suicide as a result of their homes, farms, barns, schools, churches and numerous cotton mills being destroyed for the project. Many cemeteries were also flooded. Although no Wilkinsons could be found in the list of displaced landowners, the unfortunate consequence for descendants of these early Scituate settlers is that it is challenging to find surviving subject matter for photographs of ancestral locations.

Scituate Reservoir, RI
Google Earth Image

Sources and Further Reading:

  • "The History of Scituate, RI" accessed online on 13 November 2015 at this link
  • Beaman, C.C., "An Historical Sketch of the Town of Scituate, RI" published by order of the town council and delivered at Scituate, RI on 4 July 1876 accessed online here
  • Wikipedia article for "Scituate Reservoir"
  •, Rhode Island Births 1636-1930; Rhode Island Vital Extracts 1636-1899; Rhode Island: Find a Grave Index 1663-2013
  • Yates Publishing, U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
  • Find A Grave website: Westcott-Wilkinson Lot on
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd, "Genealogies of Rhode Island Families volume 1", New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1989
  • Scituate Reservoir Condemnation Map Index accessed online 19 November 2015 at this North Scituate Public Library website.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Charles F Edwards (1869-1941) (Week 46) Theme: "Changes"

The suggested theme for this week in Amy Johnson Crow's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" is "Changes - Highlight an ancestor that went through many changes or that you had to change your research strategies to find." Either way you look at it, my great grandfather Charles F. Edwards fits the bill.

Charles F Edwards, age 27
Born 22 February 1869 in Keokuk, Iowa, Charles changed both residence and career numerous times over his 72 year life.  We know that he lived in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Washington, and in Saskatchewan, Canada. Before his marriage license and certificate were issued for his Great Falls, Montana, marriage to Mary Jane Wescott on 01 October 1896, records for his early life in Iowa and Kansas remained elusive.

The details that Charles divulged to his family about his early history included the following:
  • His mother was named Rachel Hoover and she had been married 3 times: once to another Hoover, once to an Edwards and finally to a Payton.
  • He had a half-brother named Sam Hoover and twin sisters named Minnie and Grace Edwards.
  • The family were strict Quakers.
  • His mother was a relative of President Herbert Hoover.
  • He was orphaned young and raised by his sister Grace in Coffeyville, Kansas.
  • He started working on the railroad when he was 17, starting as a call boy and later a brakeman
  • It was while working on the railroad that he met his future wife who was working at a restaurant in Great Falls, Montana.

I spent more than 10 years following up on these clues, searching rolls of microfilm for census records in both Iowa and Kansas, searching microfilm and microfiche Quaker records for logical locations for the family and researching the family history of President Herbert Hoover to see if I could find Charles and his mother Rachel. Online searches were conducted. Letters were written. Nothing. This was a true brick wall yielding few results no matter what was tried.

When the 1880 US Census was available online in a searchable format, I was able to find a family grouping with distinct possibilities located in Howard, Elk County, Kansas:

1880 US Census for Kansas
We had been told that Charles's mother had married a Payton and here was a Payton family grouping with 3 Edwards stepchildren: Martha and Mary (not Minnie and Grace) both 14 and Charles 11, all born in Iowa. But the mother of the household was named "Barbary", not Rachel. Had Charles's mother Rachel died by now and had George Payton already remarried?

Another record yielding new clues was the marriage license for the marriage of Charles and Mary Jane.

Marriage License of 1896 marriage of Charles and Mary-Jane

According to information provided in his license application, the names of Charles's parents were Martha Hoover (not Rachel and not Barbary either) and Louis Edwards. Finally I had some documented parental names to work with!

More years would pass without further significant finds regarding his early years, notwithstanding various ongoing attempts. The years following his marriage to Mary-Jane Wescott are easier to follow.  What we know about their family life:

  • They were living in Great Falls, Montana, when first child, daughter Idella Marguerite Edwards (my maternal grandmother) was born in 1897. 
  • Charles headed North to Alaska in 1898 in search of his fortune in the gold fields, but returned home empty-handed.
  • He resumed working for the Great Northern Railroad.
  • Although records consistently report that birth of second child Everett was in Montana, Everett himself had been told that he was actually born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada with his birth recorded later when the family returned to Great Falls.
  • He returned to Alaska in 1900 for another attempt at the motherlode, but again returned within a few months with no riches to show for his efforts.
  • For the next dozen or so years, they had a comfortable family life in Great Falls with the addition of three more daughters (Ora, Marion and Grace) and one other son (Merton or "Chuck").
  • Charles made good money and they could afford a nice home, a hired girl, and railroad passes that enabled the family to travel. When he returned home from his work on the railway, his family felt as if it were a holiday. 
  • The family lived right across from the school and Charles built a merry-go-round in the back yard for the entertainment of his own children and all their school friends.
  • Wanting to stay closer to his family, Charles changed careers again, trying his hand at fruit farming near Kalispell, Montana.
  • Because freight rates were so high, Charles couldn't afford to ship his fruit so he changed jobs again - back to working on the railroad.
Charles's womenfolk during their settled life in Kalispell, Montana:
wife Mary-Jane ("Mayme") and daughters Idella, Ora and Grace (with Bobbie the dog)
  • When the Great Northern Railroad went on strike in 1914, he went to Canada to work for the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
  • While in Canada that same year, he decided on another change: he took up a homestead to farm near Lancer, Saskatchewan.
Sandy arid prairie land presently show the former site where Charles homesteaded in Saskatchewan
  • Being late on the homesteading scene, the land he was able to get was sandy arid land, but in 1915 Charles moved his entire family there (except for eldest daughter Idella who remained in Kalispell to complete high school). 

Christmas Day 1921 on the Edwards homestead at Lancer, Saskatchewan
Charles Edwards rear left with his family including son Everett and son-in-law Ingwald Anderson
Daughters Marion, Ora (holding baby Bob Anderson), Idella (Anderson), wife Mary Jane and daughter Grace

  • Disaster struck with poor crops and a fire that burned their home to the ground in 1922 (including some original paintings and sketches by his Great Falls artist friend Charles Russel)
  • Charles lost his land in 1922 and changed back to his railroad career in the northwestern states, making a home for the family at Kelso, Washington.
  • In his 1922 "Declaration of Intention" to renounce allegiance to the British Crown, we learn that he was 6 ft. 1 inch tall, weighed 190 pounds and identified himself as "farmer"
  • His wife Mary died in 1926 after extraction of a number of teeth, leaving him a widower.
  • Charles lost a leg while operating a switch on the railroad - his foot became caught and the train wheels severed his leg (apparently he had also lost a thumb at some point). (His granddaughter Helen recalls her horror at being asked to hit him hard in the leg, and, when she demurred, he did it to himself. She hadn't realized he had a wooden leg!)
  • The accident resulted in a railroad pension, enabling him to buy property at Castle Rock, Washington.
  • In the early 1930's, hearing of plans for the building of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, Charles sold his Castle Rock property and built a service station near the dam site, one final career change for this man who never seemed to permanently settle throughout his life of many changes.
  • He died at Moses Lake, Washington 04 November 1941 of a heart attack.
  • He was cremated in Portland, Oregon - once again leaving no tombstone or other mark for descendants to find.
But what about his early life? Details remained elusive. Maybe I needed to try something different in my searches, make a change of my own. Not being sure whether the "Keokuk, Iowa" where Charles said he had been born was the town of Keokuk in Lee County or whether it was somewhere in Keokuk County, I decided to join the Iowa Genealogical Society to see if I could learn something through membership in a local organization there. I read through their journals and continued my search. One of the benefits of membership was the ability to post queries in their journals so I sent off my inquiry by regular mail as required. Nothing happened and the supply of journals dried up. I asked their webmaster Alice Veen what had happened and was told that financial troubles were at the root of the society's problems. However, she told me that she was working on her professional genealogist accreditation and needed another project. She thought my mysterious great grandfather might be just the project she needed and asked if she could do the research for me, free of charge? Oh, yes, please, Alice!

Although I am sad to report that it wasn't through my own efforts, this significant change in bringing in a fresh set of "almost professional" eyes finally brought results. Alice would painstakingly piece together some of the mystery of those early years. Charles had not been orphaned. He was born in Iowa 3 years after his mother's Edwards husband had died (from tuberculosis contracted during his service in the American Civil War) and 4 years before she married her Payton husband. We have not yet been able to learn who Charles's father was. However, Alice was able to find a mother for Charles: her name was Barbara Hoover (not Martha nor Rachel but apparently one and the same as the Barbary in the 1880 census record). All the name changes and changed family details were no doubt a cover-up for what Charles must have seen as the shameful reality of his birth. How my heart breaks for him! Other things Alice uncovered about those early years:

  • Barbara Hoover had indeed been married 3 times - to William Hoover by whom she had a son Sam Hoover, to Lewis Edwards by whom she had twin daughters Minnie and Grace (sometimes called Mary and Martha) and finally to George Payton.
  • Being just 3 or so years older than Charles, sister Grace did NOT raise him - his mother was still alive until Charles was an adult.
  • There was no evidence that the family were Quakers.
  • There was no evidence that Barbara's Hoover family were related to the President Herbert Hoover family.
Like his mother who seemed to have gone by various names (Barbara, Barbary, and Margaret to name those on official documents, never mind Rachel and Martha that Charles had called her!), Charles himself played a bit fast and loose with his own middle name. His immediate family thought his middle name was "Francis", but his Declaration of Intention (to renounce his allegiance to the British King) has him signing his name as "Charles Franklin Edwards" and his more reliable sister Grace told her family that the name was Charles Franklin Edwards. (Could this be a clue about his father? Did Charles ever even know who his father was?)

One final matter came to light in the obituaries for mother Barbara. Charles had had yet another career, this time in the hospitality industry. He was called "Clerk of the Caldwell House". A bit of a chameleon, my great grandfather! Always looking for the next break that would improve his lot, he made numerous changes throughout his life. Unfortunately, he often seemed to make the changes too late and miss the tide that would have carried him to his much-sought-after fortune.


  • Cascade County, Montana, Marriage License 1141, Charles Edwards and Mary Wescott
  • Various sources, including census records, marriage records, newspaper records, copies of which were provided to me by Alice Hoyt Veen, CGSM, Prairie Roots Research of Bouton, Iowa, now professionally qualified, whose website can be found at 
  • Obituary for Barbara Payton from "The Morning Reporter" for Independence, Kansas, Sunday 23 November 1890
  • Miller, Marion, "My Memories", self-published memoir, a copy of which is in the possession of the author

Friday, 6 November 2015

Chad Brown (c1600-c1650) (Week 45) My Theme: Religious Freedom

For a man with such an ordinary surname, my 10th great grandfather Chad Brown led an extraordinary life.

Born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England in about 1600, the first record that can be found for him is for his marriage there on 11 September 1626 to Elizabeth Sharparowe. Their first son John (my 9th  great grandfather) was born in High Wycombe about 1630. We know this because the three emigrated from England to Boston on the ship Martin in 1638 when young John was stated to be 8 years old. Clearly the motivation for their move was the proverbial desire for religious freedom that led so many of my ancestors to America.

After first arriving  in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it quickly became apparent that Chad's Baptist beliefs were running against the Puritan tide in that colony: no religious freedom was to be found here either. He soon moved with his family to Providence in Rhode Island, recently purchased from the Naragansetts by Roger Williams as a separate settlement for his Baptist group of followers.  Brown and 12 others signed an agreement called the Providence Plantation Compact. He was on a committee of 4 men who compiled the first form of government for Providence Colony - set out to separate church and state and to provide for religious freedom.

As a surveyor, he was on the committee that set out the original lots of the settlers along "Towne Street" in Providence.

Chad Brown's lot (shown in pink 3 lots south of ancestor Stukely Westcott
and a few lots away from another ancestor William Wickenden)
In 1642, Chad Brown was ordained as the minister of the First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. There is some dispute as to whether he should be called its first minister or second (after Roger Williams himself) but it is agreed that he is certainly the first ordained minister of the Baptist Church in America. During his pastorship, the congregation worshipped in a grove or orchard and in the homes of its members. The iconic building that stands today wasn't built until later.

First Baptist Church, Providence, R.I.
Chad Brown was a man of cool temperament and was well known as an arbitrator of disputes in the colony. He was a well-respected leader whose advice was often sought.

Chad and Elizabeth had a family of about 9 children, some born in England and some in Providence. Chad continued as pastor until his death, which may have been as early as 1650. (Other records give the date of his death as 1663 or 1665 and that of Elizabeth as being the 1650 death.) First buried on the site at the corner of College and Benefit Streets, his remains were removed later to the North Burial Ground where a memorial was installed in 1792.

1792 Memorial to Chad Brown, North Burial Ground, Providence, RI
Photo courtesy Jen Snoots of
Chad's son John Brown (my 9th great grandfather) ably filled his father's footsteps in being a Baptist pastor in Providence and in involvement in community affairs and responsibilities. John married Mary Holmes, daughter of Obadiah Holmes, another prominent Baptist in early Rhode Island.

Brown University, an Ivy League university named for Chad's descendant Nicholas Brown, is situated primarily upon Chad's original homestead in Providence. It was established in 1784 and was the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of their religious beliefs. Religious freedom here prevailed!

Location of Brown University, Providence, RI
Google Earth Image


  • "The Chad Brown Memorial 1638-1888"
  • Genealogical Publishing Co., "Genealogy of Rhode Island Families", Baltimore: 1983, 2 volume set
  •, "U.S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Lists"
  • article dated 9 May 2013 for "Rev Chaddus Brown"

Friday, 30 October 2015

Captain John Marchante - Pirate or Privateer? (1540-1596) (Week 44) Theme: "Frightening"

It is said that they who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

This week is Hallowe'en and there will probably be some frightening sword-wielding pirates at our doorsteps expecting booty. Their swashbuckling threats will be part of the fun, but real pirates are another matter altogether. Whether or not he was particularly frightening, this seems like a good week for featuring my ancestor privateer/pirate Captain John Marchante.

Pirate Ship Painting by Ambroise-Louis Garneray
Photographed by Poecus
In the Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons

My cousin Michael entertained us by singing a grand version of Stan Roger's "Barrett's Privateers" at our 2000 family reunion at Waterton Lake. Perhaps if Michael had known of our 11th great grandfather John Marchante, he could have adapted the lyrics accordingly. No doubt he will do that for our next reunion.

Technically speaking, a "pirate" is someone who seizes a ship or its cargo from its rightful owner while a "privateer" is someone who does the same thing but is authorized to do so by a government. Labelling someone as either a "pirate" or "privateer" is often a question of perspective. From my admittedly biased perspective, Captain John Marchante was a "privateer".

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I marked the golden age of piracy and privateering. Authorizing private vessels to serve on her behalf saved Elizabeth the cost and trouble of expanding her own navy. She was also able to enjoy her share of the spoils brought back to England. Many of England's greatest heroes were actually privateers - Sir Martin Frobisher, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake included. Their famous explorations were actually secondary goals to their plunders.

John Marchante was born about 1540 in Yeovil, Somerset, England. There he married Eva Cominge on 18 July 1568. In September of 1571, their son John Marchante (my 10th great grandfather) was born and would live out his life in the Yeovil area. Father John ranged much farther afield. He spent his life as a ship's captain, though we don't have any details of just where his voyages took him until he was in his 40's. If he was already serving as one of Queen Elizabeth's privateers, there is no early mention of such activity.

Yeovil, Somerset (marked by red pin) from Google Earth
What we do know is that Captain John served as captain of a ship under Sir Francis Drake beginning in 1585. Francis Drake had been born in about the same year as John and had been a politician, sea captain, privateer, navigator and sometime slaver. By the time our Captain John served under him, Drake had circumnavigated the globe and had been awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth I.

Sir Francis Drake is, of course, a hero to the English, but the Spaniards called him a pirate. No doubt they attached the same label to those who served with Drake. That would have included our Captain John who was one of the captains serving under Drake in the 1585 expedition.

The 1585 expedition was a pre-emptive strike ordered by Queen Elizabeth after Phillip II of Spain had declared war on England. In September of that year, Sir Francis Drake and his fleet (including Captain John aboard the Hopewell) sailed from Plymouth (see map above), first attacking Spain and then the Cape Verde Islands before sailing across the Atlantic where they sacked the port of Santo Domingo and captured Cartagena in what is now Colombia. Not content with that, on their return voyage to England they raided the Spanish fort of St. Augustin in Spanish Florida. They also made a friendlier stop at Roanoke (North Carolina), the settlement started by Sir Walter Raleigh, before returning home to heroes' welcome on 22 July 1586.

Rumours of a planned invasion of England by the Spaniards caused Elizabeth to order another pre-emptive strike in 1587 when Drake sailed into and occupied Cadiz and Corunna and "singed the beard of the King of Spain". John Marchante was Sergeant-Major in this expedition in which 37 Spanish ships were destroyed.

The expedition was not without controversy. At one point Sergeant-Major John Marchante was serving on the Golden Lyon under William Borough and replaced him as Captain after Borough's insubordination. The Golden Lyon had to be evacuated when Borough reportedly attempted mutiny. After this, our Captain John was found aboard the Spy. Drake called a court-martial and sentenced Borough to death, but after Borough blamed the whole fiasco on our Captain John's lack of strength and command, Borough was eventually set free.

Following this, Drake and his fleet patrolled the Iberian coast disrupting ships on the Spanish supply lines. Nevertheless, in 1588 Phillip proceeded with the planned invasion of England by his Spanish Armada. Drake was vice admiral of the English fleet when it pursued and overcame the Armada as it attempted to make its way up the English Channel. Captain John took part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The actions of the English seafarers were not primarily acts of patriotism as it is apparent that plundering the Spanish ships was probably their real motivation. There was much ill will when Sir Martin Frobisher complained bitterly that Sir Francis Drake had claimed more than his fair share of the spoils. We don't know what Captain John Marchante obtained as his own share of the plunder.

Presumably, Captain John was content with whatever payment he was receiving for his services. In 1595 he was still accompanying Drake when they failed to conquer the port of Las Palmas and suffered a number of defeats in Spanish America including San Juan de Puerto Rico.

Both Drake and Captain John were to lose their lives during this expedition. After failing to seize a Spanish treasure ship in Puerto Rico, they made their way to Panama where they took the town of Nombre de Dios. They were hoping to intercept Spanish gold being brought over the isthmus but when Drake's men marched up the hill, they were surprised to discover a Spanish fort on the top. The Spaniards were ready for them and some 20 English men were killed in the action. (Drake would die of dysentry a few weeks later.)

Captain John Marchante was one of the 20 who died at Nombre de Dios on 02 January 1596. It was a sad but not surprising end to the eventful life of English privateer Captain John. He had lived by the sword and had indeed died by it.

Nombre de Dios, Panama, site of death of Captain John Marchante
Google Earth Image


  • Wikipedia articles on "John Marchant (seaman), "Sir Francis Drake" and "Privateers"
  •, Global, Find a Grave Index for Non-Burials, Burials at Sea, and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current
  • Andrews, Kenneth R., "The Last Voyage of Drake and Hawkins", Cambridge University Press, 1972
  • Marchant Family website accessed online 28 September 2015 at
  • "A List of the Participants in the Roanoke Voyages" accessed online 28 September 2015 at