Pilgrimage

This Thanksgiving is going to be especially significant for our family. Our genealogy research has just uncovered a member of our family that was part of the Plymouth colony some 400 years ago.

Experience Mitchell (how’s that for a name?) sailed across the Atlantic aboard the ship Ann, the third vessel to bring colonists to the new world. The first, as all know, was the Mayflower. It was followed by the ships Fortune, Ann, and St. James. When Experience arrived at Plymouth as an unmarried man, he found himself in a strange position. Due to the many illnesses and deaths of the original Mayflower colonists, there was a considerable shortage of eligible women. At that time, there was a ratio of just one single woman for every six single males. Despite those odds, Experience managed to wed Jane, the daughter of one of the colony’s leaders, Francis Cooke, who had arrived on the Mayflower a couple of years earlier. 

After Jane passed, Experience remarried a Mary Prior. While the maternal parentage of their resulting children continues to be debatable, it is clear that, from his two wives, Experience fathered a total of thirteen children. One of whom was Jacob Mitchell, my wife’s 9th great grandfather… which makes Experience her great grandfather number 10.

Eventually, Experience joined with 53 other colonists, among them Miles Standish and John Forbes (who had married his sister, Constant Mitchell), to purchase from the native Americans “the Bridgewaters,” which was originally a part of Duxbury. Bridgewater, Massachusetts now has a population of over 27,000 people.

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

Go West Young Man

Patterns tend to emerge whenever we trace our origins. Back in the day, families would establish a home base and entire generations thereafter seemed to stay close to that same area. But eventually an enterprising soul would spot an opportunity and venture from the familiar into the unknown. For most of us, this is exactly how we came to be born and raised in America. One or more of our ancestors took the chance on the opportunity of a new life in a new world.

But once settled in America, the pattern repeated. Generations would remain in the area where their parents lived, and their parents before them. Eventually, other opportunities would arise that would cause people to venture beyond the homes they had always known. One branch of our family is an example of this. They were, for generations, firmly entrenched as farmers in the Cove Creek area of West Virginia. But in the late 1800s, evidence of the family name began to be seen showing up on the other side of the country… in Oregon.

Looking deeper, we find an explanation. The federal government, under the Homestead Act of 1862, released public domain land to the general public. it was made available for people to be granted ownership of land (up to 160 acres) in exchange for a willingness to work and live on said land for no less than five consecutive years. Governor D. Daniel, the great-great-granduncle of one of our family members, was among those who took advantage of this opportunity. Leaving his home in West Virginia he, along with his wife and seven children, traveled west by train and wagon to the untamed land of Wallowa County in Oregon. He was 39 years old. Once there, he built a home for his family as well as a school which he called Utopia. He even served as postmaster for the area for a few years while it got established. Today, Wallowa County has a population of 7008.

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.

The Old Corner Bookstore

If you ever find yourself along The Freedom Trail in Boston, you may stumble across a little piece of my family’s past. The Old Corner Bookstore, which stands at the corner of Washington and School Streets, was once the site of the home of Anne Hutchinson, famous Puritan dissident and religious reformer. While she was not a relative, after she was expelled from Massachusetts for heresy, her home was bought by Thomas Creese II, my wife’s 8th great-grandfather, in 1708. Although the original home was lost to the Great Fire of 1711, Creese rebuilt a structure upon the land to be used as an apothecary shop.

Over the years it traded hands, eventually to be turned into a bookstore and printing shop managed by Ticknor and Fields. They were the nation’s leading publisher in the mid 1800s and produced works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott, many of whom were frequent visitors to the building.

In the 1960’s it was in danger of being demolished to make way for a parking garage but was saved through a purchase by Historic Boston, a not-for-profit organization. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.

King For A Day

While researching one’s genealogy, it is very easy to chase shadows and jump to ill-advised conclusions.

For an entire day I traced a certain line from the Americas to England and found to my amazement and delight that I was descended from Charlemagne, king of the Franks, emperor of the West and founder of the Holy Roman Empire. We’re talking mid 700 AD. Suddenly, my family tree was filling up with ornate family crests; names and titles like Earl of Strafford and Wadsworth of Woolingsly. I discovered I had ancestors with multi-page Wikipedia entries and the stories they told could be made into a Game of Thrones sequel.

For example, I had a great uncle nine generations removed (Thomas Wentworth, known as “Black Tom Tyrant”) who was falsely accused of treason, locked up in the Tower of London, and eventually beheaded. The details of his story are amazing and filled with political intrigue.

I found myself floating amidst a sea of movers and shakers, firmly at the center of world history, rubbing elbows with kings and queens, bishops and lords… and then, as I was fact checking, ready to fly off to the UK to see if there was a castle somewhere with my name on it, I realized that, while compiling my family tree, I had somehow married off the daughter of an English lord to a 18th century Virginia farmer who never strayed far from his small parcel of land. Mind you,  I’m not saying that it is impossible for the two to have ever met, but even I have to admit that the likelihood is improbable. I’m still holding onto the dream, but for now I’ve removed all the royalty from my tree until I can find a verifiable connection.

Ah well, at least I got the wife to refer to me as “my lord.” Felt good. I may delay revealing the truth to her for another day or two.

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.