Thursday, August 30, 2012

Traveling through family history


Our travel to England and New England this month have had family heritage at its core.  After discovering a few months ago that my grandfather on my father’s side was born in England, and not Ireland as he told everyone, I’ve been using the trip to get a better sense of what that family history looks like.  In addition, I’ve been pursuing a long delayed dream to visit the pathway along which my Lary family made their way over a thousand years from France to England to America.

As a descendant of European royalty from the French Franks to the English Plantagenets, visiting Britain’s castles and churches has been an demonstration of family enterprise.  The country’s towns and cities were built by, and the characters and stories are about, the trunk of our family tree.  But following the lineage geographically isn't as simple as visiting Buckingham Palace.  First, our family route to William and Harry leads through both Diana and Charles.
The easiest and longest route starts where all modern monarchies begin, with Charles Pepin in France,  Father of Charlemagne, and an ancestor of William I the Conqueror.  When William I invaded England in 1066, his victory at Hastings carried at least 300 years of throne time to English soil.  Though our direct line from the throne ended when Henry III died in 1274, and his first son (Edward I) succeeded him (we're descended from his younger son, Edmund), the family line of our cousins continues to the present-day Elizabeth, Charles, and William and Harry.

Henry III tried to appoint Edmund to King of Sicily, and found the present King unwilling to give up the local throne.  So Edmund settled for being the first Duke of both Lancaster and Leicester.  The castle he took over, remodeled, and in which our family lived for 50 years is Grosmont Castle.    Edmund's grand-daughter, Eleanor, married into the Beaumont family (Viscounts of Maine, France) in 1250.  Her husband's grandfather had been the King of Jerusalem, Emperor of Constantinople, before his father emigrated to Aberdeen, Scotland and Lincolnshire, England in the early 1300s, where they stayed for almost 100 years.  
In 1480, a Beaumont granddaughter (Frideswide Lovel) married Sir Edward Norreys, head of a long line of Berkeshire Norreys.  Her great great granddaughter, Mary Norris, married Isaac Allerton, the 5th signer of the "Mayflower Compact". Mary and Isaac were among the Pilgrims to flee England to Leiden, Holland for religious reasons. They married there in 1611 and she was given the unoffical title of "Maid of Newberry" while living in Holland. In 1622, Mary and Isaac embarked on the Mayflower with 102 passengers, including three pregnant women. Mary was one of them. About a month after they arrived at Plymouth in the "New World", she gave birth to the first child born in the colonies, a stillborn child. She was still aboard ship in Cape Cod Harbor while houses were being built. Mary died about a month later.  She traveled to the Colonies with her husband and three children Barhlomew, Remember and Mary Allerton Cushman, who became the wife of Elder Thomas Cushman.  It is said that in the painting by Henry Sargent (1770-1885) entitled "Landing of the Pilgrims", Mary Norris Allerton is represented as having a fine face, rather beautiful, and as being of a "meek and quiet spirit". The painting was painted in 1818-1822 and is on permanent display at Pilgrim Hall Museum; Plymouth, Massachusetts. at the Cole Hill Monument.  It is reputed to be the scene of the secret night burials of those who died during the settlement's first bitter winter. Corn was planted over their unmarked graves so that the Native Americans should not know how many had perished.Mary Norris Allerton is the 2nd inscription on the monument.

Next week, we'll travel to New England, and resume the journey following my ancestors. They'll include the Cushmans, Hawkes, Coggswells, and Anthoines, before finding the Watsons and the Larys.  From English aristocracy to religious rebels to shipworkers to blacksmiths to farmers to mill workers to train and automobile mechanics to nurses and scientists to young professionals.