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A family name that is sprinkled throughout my daughter-in-law’s ancestry is Scrimshire or Scrimshaw. It is an Anglo-Scottish surname of Old French origins. The derivations are from the French word “eskermir” meaning to fence or fight hand-to-hand. It was then transposed to the Middle English “skrymsher” from which the surname comes.

Fencing masters always found plentiful employment during medieval times although fencing schools were forbidden in the city of London due to their dangerous influence.

One of the first Scrimshires to arrive in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire England was Harrold who is recorded having purchased land and property there sometime in the 16th century. This land came as a direct result of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and most of the land was previously divided between Lenton Priory and Swineshead Abbey.

Harrold  quickly established himself as a country squire and his offspring became notable figures in the area over the next two centuries, serving as Rector, Churchwarden, Constable and other key positions. But by the end of the 18th century, most of the Scrimshires had sold off their land and departed.

Now, the only remaining sign of their once formidable presence, is Scrimshire Lane, a relatively short stretch of road between Plumtree Road and Risegate. It represents one of the oldest named streets in the village.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out my recent TEDxEustis talk:  https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

The Randolphs of Virginia

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My aunt’s 6th great-grandfather, William Randolph, is often referred to (along with his wife) as the Adam and Eve of Virginia. Though he arrived in the colony with an axe and no money, he accumulated wealth and land quickly, becoming one of the most influential figures of his time. He was a member of the house of burgesses; active in the work of civilizing the Indians; was a founder and trustee of William and Mary College; and built his lofty domed mansion on Turkey Island (near Richmond) using imported bricks carried over from England aboard his own ships.

And while he had a large brood of children who lived to adulthood, so vast were his holdings that he was able to bequeath to each of them substantial land grants. So much so that his children’s names became associated with the territory they had been given. One of them, Isham Randolph of Dungeness, became a estimable ship’s captain; served in the house of burgesses; was a planter of some renown; and was also known to be a man of great scientific culture, being honorably mentioned in the memoirs of Bartram the naturalist. He, like his father before him, built for himself a grand mansion on his land at Dungeness.

But perhaps it was Isham’s daughter, Jane, who made the greatest contribution of all. She gave birth to one of the most influential figures in all of American history. Her son was Thomas Jefferson, who like his grandfather and great-grandfather, made the construction of his mansion a lifelong project. He named it Monticello.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. Also be sure to check our our TEDxEustis talk available now on YouTube. https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

A Colonial Love Story

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John Wentworth, my wife’s 6th great grand uncle, lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  And even though he was smitten with his cousin, Frances Deering Wentworth, who felt the same affection for him, as a loyalist, John had political aspirations.  And so to Frances’ dismay, he “went to England, no positive pledge of marriage passing between them.”

In his absence, another cousin, Theodore Atkinson Jr., wooed Frances, winning her heart.  He proposed to her, and they married on 13 May 1762 when she was 16 years old. She sat for her portrait at the age of nineteen.

Sadly, a few years later, Theodore developed a “lingering illness,” and was expected to die.  During that time, John Wentworth had returned to the Province of New Hampshire as the newly appointed royal governor of the colony.

The Wentworth and Atkinson families lived in houses within view of each other. If the ancient gossip is true, Frances had various methods of communicating to John how her husband’s health was faring, by hanging a handkerchief out of her window.

On 28 October 1769 Theodore Atkinson Jr. died.  The event that followed caused at least a few colonial jaws to drop.

On one day Theodore breathed his last. His burial took place on the following Wednesday; by the Governor’s order all the bells in town were toiled, flags were hung at half-mast, and minute-guns were fired from the fort and from the ships-of-war in the harbor.  On Sunday the weeping widow, clad in crapes, listened in church to the funeral eulogies; on Monday her affliction was mitigated; on Tuesday all the fingers of the seamstresses of the country roundabout were flying; and on the next Sunday, in the white satins and jewels and fardingales [hooped skirts] of a bride, she walked up the aisle the wife of Governor Wentworth.” [from New England Legends by Harriet E.P. Spofford, 1871]

The colonists’ victory in the American Revolution made John the last royal governor of the New Hampshire colony. After fleeing the country, Frances was appointed a lady-in-waiting at the court in England, and John was given the governorship of Nova Scotia as a reward for his loyalty.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, film, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And be sure to check out our TEDxEustis talk at https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8.

The Mason Dixon Line

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Prior to 1760, there was a considerable amount of controversy that existed between Lord Baltimore and William Penn regarding the boundary lines between Pennsylvania and Maryland. This actually led to armed skirmishes between settlers who were trying to lay claim to parcels along the contested area. On one occasion the sheriff of Lancaster County had to raise a posse to act as a militia to try and restore peace.

The dispute was finally resolved in 1760 when the English crown insisted that the Baltimore and Penn families adhere to the articles of agreement signed decades earlier. In it, Baltimore ceded to Penn a large territory which contained the counties of Philadelphia, Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, among others. The articles of agreement stated that the boundary would be fixed along Mason and Dixon’s line, two English surveyors hired by the families to determine the actual demarcation line. They laid out their “line” by placing stone markers one mile apart with each fifth mile having a crown stone with an “M” engraved on the Maryland side and a “P” on the Pennsylvania side along with the two coat of arms. Many of these stones can still be found today, right where they were placed two and a half centuries ago.

With the disputes effectively ended, permanent settlements began to arise in what was previously wilderness. Among them, Harbaugh Valley, situated in the northeastern part of Frederick County, Maryland not far from the Mason Dixon line. Nestled up against the Catoctin Mountains (now best known as the site of Camp David), its natural elevation was appealing to Swiss immigrants as it would have reminded them of their homeland.

The very first to settle were three brothers (George, Ludwig, and Jacob Harbaugh), whose family provided the name of the valley.  Ludwig was the 4th generational great grandfather of my aunt.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

And don’t forget to check out our TEDxEustis talk about some interesting discoveries we made during our genealogical research. https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

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Around 1772, Daniel Boone once again crossed paths with some of my family members. My 8th great grandfather, Shadrach Inman, along with his brothers Meshach and Abednego joined Boone in exploring the wilderness west of the Cumberland Mountains, an area now known as Tennessee. With their provisions depleted, they relied on their hunting skills for what little nourishment they received. It was not an easy feat as winter was upon them.

While camping near the Nick-a-Jack cave, they were surprised by an Indian ambush. Most of the party was killed, including my great-uncle Meshach. Abednego received a tomahawk wound to his forehead but survived, crawling into a hollow of a tree where he stayed, in and out of consciousness for nine days, before finally emerging and somehow finding his way back to his North Carolina home.

Shadrach and Boone were among those who escaped, stealthily navigating their surroundings like the experienced woodsmen they were. Boone, on account of his superior skill and knowledge of the Indian wiles, escaped unharmed. The Indians pursued him keenly through the dense forest but, like a fleeting shadow, he eluded them and led the few survivors safely back to their homes. Shadrach did receive a non-fatal wound in his side from an Indian spear which he kept. His descendants have it still in their possession, kept on display under glass.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out my TEDx talk! https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

James and The Silver Mine

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Col. James Harrod, one of Kentucky’s greatest pioneers and the founder of Harrodsburg KY, was the father-in-law of my aunt’s 5th great-grandfather. His death in 1792 is still somewhat of a mystery.

In those early days of settlement, there were numerous land disputes and court cases involving Kentucky settlers who were forced to protect their land rights from newcomers. James was involved with a number of them, many against a man named Bridges. Despite these disputes, Bridges asked James to accompany him in his search of a supposed Silver Mine thought to exist in the area. His wife, Ann, not trusting Bridges, begged him not to go but James could not be persuaded. Finally Ann just asked him to take another friend which he did.

According to that friend, James had gone upstream to check some traps and Bridges disappeared from camp. He heard a gunshot, but thought one of them had just shot their next meal. Suddenly Bridges comes running back into camp shouting about seeing many Indian footprints and that he had seen James get killed. He convinced the friend not to go search of James due to the many Indians that were around them.

James was said to have been wearing a shirt with distinctive silver buttons engraved with the letter H. Some time later, it was told that Bridges tried to sell those buttons at a distant trading post. Family members then returned to the campsite and while they did find a skeleton in a cave nearby, positive identification was not possible.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out our TEDx talk! https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

The Oregon Trail

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1852 was a standout year for American emigration. Thousands if not tens of thousands took advantage of a treaty engineered by Thomas Fitzpatrick Broken Hand which all but eliminated the danger of Indian attacks, allowing pioneers to safely cross the Indian territories and head west. Eyewitness accounts of that year testified to wagon trains that stretched out to the horizon “as far as the eye could see.” My daughter-in-law’s 5th great granduncle (Thomas Banks) and 5th great grandaunt (Suzannah Jarvis Banks) happened to be in one of those wagons.

Thomas, having been drafted into the war of 1812, survived by paying another young man to serve in his stead. The young man unfortunately became a casualty of that war while Thomas, newly married with children, moved to his father’s home in Kentucky and then further west to Arkansas where he started a lumber business.

And then came 1852 and the promise of opportunity. Now 68 years old, Thomas Banks sold his mill in Arkansas and after gathering his wife and sons (along with other family members), he joined a train of 102 Conestoga wagons which were making their way west towards the promised land of Oregon. And while Indian attacks indeed did not occur, that did not mean the journey wasn’t fraught with peril. Neither Thomas nor Suzannah would survive the trip.

The real enemy turned out to be disease. It was most likely cholera that caused the deaths of so many emigrants along the Oregon Trail. Suzannah died first, in September of 1852. She was buried along the banks of the Burnt River. Thomas followed his wife a month later and was buried beside the Umatilla River. Years later attempts were made to find their gravesites but the temporary markers that were originally used had long since disappeared.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out our TEDx talk! https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

A Knight To Remember

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By all accounts, it would appear that Sir George Beeston led an incredible life. Born in 1501 to gentrified parentage, he inherited the family estate at the young age of 22. He became a considerable landowner, not only in his home borough of Chelsea, but he also held leases in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Lincolnshire. 

He became a member of the Parliament, an advisor to the Queen and, most importantly, served in the English Navy under four monarchs. He was one of the captains ordered to “keep the Narrow Seas.” He is buried in Bunbury Church which states his age at the time of his death to be 102. His eulogy, carved in his tomb, is as follows:  

“Here lies buried George Beeston, knight, a promoter of valor and truth. He, having been brought up from his youth in the arts of war, was chosen one of his company of pensioners by the invincible King Henry VIII when he besieged Boulogne. He merited the same under Edward VI in the battle against the Scots at Musselburgh. Afterwards under the same King, under Mary, and under Elizabeth, in the naval engagements as captain or vice-captain of the fleet, by whom, after that most mighty Spanish fleet of 1588, had been vanquished, he was honoured with the order of knighthood. Now, his years pressing heavily on him, when he had admirably approved his integrity to princes, and his bravery to his adversaries, acceptable to God, and dear to good men, and long expecting Christ; in the year 1601 he fell asleep in Him, so that he may rise again in Him with joy.”

Sir George Beeston was one of my 15th generational great-grandfathers.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out our TEDx talk! https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

The Ten Eyckers

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Conradt Ten Eyck, one of my 10th great grandfathers, was born in Moers, Germany in 1617, at a time when that area was under Dutch control. He was listed as a shoemaker’s helper (apprentice) when he married his wife but by the time he made his way to America, he was known as a master tanner, one of the first to operate in New Amsterdam.  The origin of the name Ten Eyck is more German than Dutch and means, “near the oak,” an apparent reference to his trade as oak bark is rich in tannin and essential in the tannery business.

Conradt purchased land on the west side of what is now Broad Street, extending from the East River, along a canal which ran through the center of Broad Street to Beaver Street. He was quite wealthy by the standards of his day and, as a successful businessman, was soon an influential figure in the development of the area which was to become NYC. He was appointed by the courts to inspect complaints and settle disputes and was named one of four “Ouerzeers” who were tasked with laying out and paving of the streets.

His children followed him in the family business and became successful in their own ways. Members of the Ten Eyck family would serve as Albany Mayor, New York State Senator, U.S. Representatives from New York and U.S. Senator from New Jersey. The Ten Eycks also formed several businesses, including the Ten Eyck hotel and the Ten Eyck insurance group.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And don’t forget to check out our TEDx talk! https://youtu.be/uYlTTHp_CO8

How Looking To The Past Can Change Our Future

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Last January, I was privileged to take the TEDx stage to share my “idea worth spreading.” It was a great experience and one that I will always remember. I am happy to say that the video of my TEDx talk has just been released and is available for viewing. It might help explain how it is that I am able to find all these stories about my ancestors. The link is below.

If you find any value in it, please take the time to like, comment or share. I’d love to hear what you think.