I remember being a young girl and dreaming that one day my family would be notified that we were a long lost line in an ancient royal family. We’d be whisked away and we would live happily ever after together in a beautiful and exotic palace. I would have a canopy over my bed, and one of those cute tiny little chase loungers.
I’ve always wondered “what if” in regards to my familial roots. Where did we come from? Who are we?
There were family stories passed down from generation to generation. I’m sure they have been skewed by time. Others have probably been completely made up.
I’ve studied my genealogy off and on for about a decade and a half. I remember logging on to our old dial up internet and searching for hours on end to trace our ancestry. In those days, we didn’t have the technology we have today or access to a free family tree maker, and documents were a little more difficult to find.
Nonetheless, I traced portions of my tree back on a few branches fairly far. Some as far back as 1500. This time, I decided to focus on a branch in the family tree that never interested me much. My paternal grandfather’s grandmother, Dora T.
In photographs I can see the family resemblance. My dad’s family definitely inherited her dominant genes. We have her eyes and her smile. Her face shape, too. She was plump and happy, despite living through The Great Depression, 2 World Wars, and life as a farmer’s wife in the panhandle of Texas.
I never thought much about her line of ancestry. It was discovered that my 4th great grandfather Aaron English (Dora’s grandfather) went AWOL during the Civil War while he fought for the Confederacy. I always kind of thought they were losers… but through my discoveries, I found that Aaron’s wife, Sarah Anne Garland, didn’t come from a family of losers at all.
I followed Sarah’s lines back to 850 AD. I kept uncovering more and more about my family with each generation, and it only got more and more interesting. And it all started with one man.
My 9th great grandfather from the Dora T line was Roger Williams. He was the founder of the first Baptist Church in “The New World”, arguably the first abolitionist in America, and advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans, among many other things.
Roger was an outspoken separatist. He and his young wife set sail on the Lyon’s Whelp, bound for Salem in 1629. Once he arrived, he began to see that a lot of the churches in the colonies weren’t really separate from state at all. His then “outrageous” opinions that church and government should be completely separate didn’t sit well with many people and he was tried and convicted of sedition and heresy… basically modern day inciting a riot and being vocal against the church’s teachings.
He was ordered to be banished, but he slipped away just before a big snow storm and took up with the Wampanoag people, where they offered to shelter him for the winter. He subsequently founded Providence (Rhode Island)–the first place in modern history where the government was completely separate from religion.
Years later, he wrote a book titled A Key Into the Language of America (1643) where he offered observations on Indian life, explained how to greet them, translated many common Indian words, and made clear that their lives were just as valuable as English lives. Here’s an excerpt I love:
Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,
As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.
His book was the first dictionary of any Indian tongue into the English language.
Roger Williams University in Rhode Island is named after him because the university is “dedicated itself to the ideals advocated by Roger Williams himself: education, freedom and tolerance,”.
Next time–my Royal family ties. 🙂
Have you ever traced your ancestry? What did you find? What stories does your family have about your roots?