Monday, April 30, 2012

Long Ago and Far Away....

How long ago is long enough?  And how far away is far enough?  I’m sifting through my ancestry, again, and now I’ve gotten back as far as 540 BC.  To me, that’s amazing.
Apparently, some of it has been easier for me because so many of my ancestors were dukes, or kings, or queens, or conquerors, or even pharaohs…. Who knew?  I guess, since the family sailed to the New World, in the early 1600’s and settled on Long Island, we’ve become a little more common…

Sitting here, clicking on leaves on my family tree, it has been fun to see how far back in time I could go, and who I would find as I journeyed farther back in time.  I found William the Conqueror several months ago: he was the husband of my 27th great grandmother, Mathilda of Flanders.

In the past two days, I have ventured even farther back in time, finding my 35th great grandfather, Charlemagne.  Then I found the 51st, Constantine.   Another great grandfather, the 65th, was Herod the Great of Judea.

Still traveling backwards, I ran into a rather interesting 73rd great grandmother named Cleopatra.  Poor dear, committed suicide at age 30.

The Rosetta Stone describes my 75th great grandfather’s coronation as Ptolemy V.   And, apparently, way back there in the annals of time, my 79th great grand uncle was a guy named Alexander the Great.

All told, there have been kings of England, Wales, Scotland, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Macedonia, Egypt, and who knows where else.  It gets confusing, at times, because royals usually married royals, so there are familiar names on almost every branch of the tree.  Cousins marrying cousins, etc.  It’s a wonder we turned out normal, or sort of normal….

And then, in the New World, titles were given up.  Lineage didn’t matter.  It was a brave new world, full of opportunities and fraught with danger.  A duke or earl or consort was no safer from the ravages in an unknown world than the common person.
My first great grandparent to arrive in the New World was apprenticed to a carpenter.  He was given the choice of being freed from his obligation and remaining in England, or sailing with his master to make a new life in the new colonies.  Of course, he chose to come to America.

The family settled in Long Island and lived there for nearly 300 years.  By the time my great grandfather died, at the ripe old age of 90-something, he was known as “Captain” and was an accomplished sailor, as well as a carpenter.

As the colonies became a country, my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I and II.  There have been, in addition to soldiers, sailors and marines, many physicians, newspapermen, and other noble occupations.  

My grandfather opened the first movie theater in New York City, according to my father.  He had two partners in the venture: Lord Mountbatten (I have a photo of him with my grandfather), and an actor named Charlie Chaplin.

Now, it’s nice to be able to “drop names” sometimes, but mostly, it’s nice to be proud of one’s own endeavors, even if they are not royal, or historical, or humanitarian.  We all came from somewhere, but that is not as important as where we are going….

Researching my ancestry is giving me a sense of being grounded.  But today, and maybe tomorrow, is what really matters….


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grandpa Jarvis...

(Wm. Shakespeare)

That’s the first thing that came to my mind, about an hour ago, as I was doing some family research online and came to a curious character named Jarvis Mudge.  It seems that poor Jarvis is famous simply because of his relationships.  No, not for being my seventh great grandfather, although that is a worthy reason to be famous…

It seems that Jarvis was married to the widow Elsen.  They had two children: Moses and Micah.  But that’s not his “claim to fame” either. 

You see, Massachusetts didn’t have a corner on the witch hunt market.  Connecticut had their share of witches, too.  Hence, the great Hartford Witch hunts of 1692-1695.  And poor Rebecca Elsen Mudge, a confessed and convicted witch, was hanged on Gallows Hill on January 22, 1693. 

Yup, my seventh great grandmother, on my father’s side, was a witch.  I don’t know if she had a cauldron, or not.  And I have to wonder if she read Shakespeare’s Macbeth….

I heard, for most of my early life, about my heritage.  The English sailors who braved the seas.  The Vikings and their conquests.  My grandparents and great grandparents life and times….  I don’t know if my father knew we were related to William the Conqueror or not. 

If he knew about Rebecca the Witch, he kept it to himself….