Sunday, June 16, 2019

Forefathers Day

This is a collage graphic I made in Photoshop, of five successive generations of Robinson ancestors. They are descended from Rev. John Robinson, the pastor of the (Mayflower) Pilgrims in Leiden, Netherlands, and his son Isaac Robinson, who emigrated to Plymouth Colony in 1631.

© 2019 Christy K Robinson

William Riley Robinson, a farmer, was born on November 27, 1791, in Goshen, Connecticut. He married Cynthia Stevens on October 28, 1819, in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. They had 19 children, 13 of whom were living at his death (10 were in their minority). He died on January 21, 1849, in Forkston, Pennsylvania, at the age of 57. I don't know his cause of death at such an early age, but influenza and cholera were epidemic in 1848-1850.

Stevens Allison Robinson, a farmer, was born on March 20, 1824, in Forkston, Pennsylvania. He married Harriet M Grist on September 9, 1843. They had 13 children. I'm not sure if he was a Civil War veteran or not. He died on August 9, 1911, in Hope, Kansas, having lived a long life of 87 years, and was buried in Dwight, Illinois.

Wesley Lyman Robinson, a farmer, married Mary Isabella "Belle" Hamner on April 3, 1878, in Marion, Iowa. They had eight children. He died on November 20, 1934, in Lovilia, Iowa, at the age of 82, and was buried there.

Leonard Robinson, a WWI veteran and farmer, married Opal Carter on June 30, 1921. They had five children. He died in 1975 in Park Rapids, Minnesota, at the age of 89.

Kenneth Robinson, a wholesale foods distributor, was born in 1935, in Lake Hattie Township, Minnesota. He married Judith Anson and they had two children together. He died in 2012, in DuBois, Pennsylvania, at the age of 77. Kenneth was the grandfather of two grandsons and several step-grandchildren.

William Riley Robinson (first image above), back to 1520.

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click a highlighted title):

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Ayers: Miraculous survival of a family line

© 2019 Christy K Robinson

The Ayars/Ayers/Ayer/Eyre/le Heyr ancestors show up in Wiltshire in 1220. The earliest for whom I've seen records was a man who miraculously fought on crusade with King Richard Lionheart in the 1190s, and then was born in 1220. Neat trick, right? Unless some hobby genealogist can't do math but wants a royal connection. Yes, that's probably it.

Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Thomas Eyre (1549-1628) and Elizabeth Rogers
memorial in south aisle chapel of St. Thomas Becket
church in Salisbury.
The Eyres survived the horrible famine of 1317-1320, the great bubonic plague outbreak in 1347-1349, and many plagues thereafter.

After living for 300 years in the villages of Wedhampton and Urchfont, a branch of the Eyres moved a few miles to the city Salisbury to do business, probably something to do with leatherwork, wool production and textiles. Their wealth and trade in the East India Company elevated father and son into Parliament, aldermen of Salisbury, and they were elected mayors of Salisbury.

In a time (from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I) when it was perilous in turns to be Catholic or Protestant, the Eyres of Salisbury were Protestant, and then purifying separatists called Puritan. This can be seen in the inscription on their memorial sculptures in St. Thomas Becket church in the shadow of the great Salisbury Cathedral. They "lived virtuously and charitably gave to ye cittie of London and also this cittie for the erecting of an almshouse in this cittie and maintenance thereof for ever & for a weekly lecture in this parish for ever & being of ye age of 47 years: departed this life in ye feare of God hating idolatry." Hating idolatry is dog-whistling for hating the rituals and veneration of saints that Catholics and Anglicans practiced.

In 1608, thousands of people in England, on the European continent, and Russia died in the Great Frost and its famine, which were caused by a Peruvian volcano's ash ejected into the atmosphere.

John Ayer (descendant of Juliana Cockerel Eyre and son and grandson of Salisbury merchants and mayors) and his wife Hannah Evered Webb and their first six children left England in June 1635 because their Puritan religious beliefs and practices were under attack by King Charles I. Hannah was seven to eight months pregnant when they planned to arrive in Massachusetts Bay Colony. After a perilous journey of eight to ten weeks, very near to their destination, the ship James sailed into the worst hurricane ever to strike New England, and their ship was nearly destroyed off Maine and New Hampshire. All passengers and crew providentially survived. Their son John Ayer Jr., born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, was my ancestor. The baby Hannah was pregnant with, Obadiah Ayer, was born safely on October 1, 1635. Imagine being tossed in a wooden ship in a severe hurricane when you're seven months pregnant. Perhaps the other passengers surrounded and cushioned her against the shifting crates, barrels, and belongings needed during the voyage. They were hardy stock!

The ship James lost its masts, anchors, and sails in the August 1635 Great Colonial Hurricane off Maine, New Hampshire, and Boston Harbor. They miraculously survived and limped into Massachusetts Bay.  Among the families on board were the Ayers and the Evered-Webbs, as well as Increase Mather, an important official in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Salem/Ipswich/Haverhill, Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Ayers and Evered-Webbs settled on several properties in the area of Salem, which was even more zealous and fanatically Puritan than Boston or other communities, having had a succession of hellfire and brimstone ministers and been governed by the hotheaded John Endecott, who was the sometime governor of the colony and whose personal seal was a death head. The first minister of the first church in Salem, Rev. Samuel Skelton (1592-1634), was so extremely conservative that he refused to allow Communion to the members of the ultra-Puritan Winthrop Fleet when they arrived in Salem in 1630. Skelton was my ancestor.

Rev. Roger Williams was their minister for a short time, but he was ousted and fled for his life in 1636. Another minister, Rev. Hugh Peter, was among the inquisitors at Anne Hutchinson's trials, and in the later 1630s and 1640s was involved in child trafficking and adultery. He was executed for treason in 1660. In the 1650s and 1660s, Salem, still under Endecott's local influence and rule as colonial governor, persecuted Baptists and Quakers with great zeal, including nearly-fatal whippings, crippling fines and confiscations, and attempting to sell teenagers into slavery.

Of the Ayers' large family of children, their eldest daughter was Mary Ayer, who would later marry Nathan Parker. After Nathan died in 1685, Mary Ayer Parker, who was in her late 60s by this time, would have lived a comfortable life with farms, domestic animals, and numerous adult children to keep her financially secure. But in late summer of 1692, Mary Ayer Parker and a daughter were indicted in the Salem witch scandal. Mary was hanged despite her protests that she was only one of several Mary Parkers in the area and they had falsely accused her. (Of course, all the Salem "witches" were Christians, without a hint of enchantment, curses, or satanic congress.) Her daughter, though imprisoned, was reprieved as the hysteria of the trials faded and the remaining women were released.
Wm Barker has affirmed to ye grand inquest that Mary Parker did in company with him sd Barker afflict Martha Sprage by witchcraft ye night before sd Barker confessed, which was ye 1 of Sept 1692. 
Hannah Evered Ayers' brother, John Evered-Webb, was in charge of Mary Dyer's execution on Boston Neck. He was a supporter of Gov. John Endecott, who ordered Mary Dyer hanged.

Swansea, Massachusetts Bay Colony
The John Ayer who had survived the hurricane as a boy lived in Haverhill, Massachusetts, until his death in 1657. His eldest son, Capt. John Ayers (my 11th great-uncle), was scalped and killed on 2 August 1675 in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in one of the early battles of King Philip's War.
My branch of the Ayers family, who had at some point  (perhaps in the 1650s or 1660s) become Baptists and either witnessed or experienced severe persecution  by the Salem Puritans, moved south to Swansea, Mass., a Welsh Baptist enclave, in time to survive the first massacre of King Philip's War there. If they had stayed in Salem, surely more of their nonconformist family would have been accused and hanged as witches in 1692, but living in Swansea didn't prove to be very salubrious to their health, either. In June 1675, nine Englishmen died, were scalped, and their heads and hands were placed on poles nearby. After their cattle were slaughtered, their food stolen, and farms and a stockade were burned out by Wampanoag Indians, Swansea was abandoned, and many southern Massachusetts people fled to Newport, Rhode Island, which was a haven because Rhode Island was a pacifist society and refused to join the armies of Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies.

During their time in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Ayers came into close association with a Seventh-day Baptist woman named Tacy Burdick Maxson, who later became a Quaker. In an era before middle names were common, they actually named their Baptist child Tacy Burdick Ayars, so the original Tacy, who had died 20 years before Tacy Ayars was born, must have been quite an interesting person. As I learned recently, Tacy Burdick Maxson is my 9th great-aunt on my maternal side. Small world, in colonial times!

There was a Seventh-day Baptist meetinghouse in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Ayer/Ayars family may have attended the congregation there. I visited the Newport Historical Society, which is housed in that church. The current building was erected in 1730, after the time the Ayers were there.

Cumberland County, New Jersey
In 1687, the Ayers moved on to Cumberland County, New Jersey, and their descendants were Baptist or Seventh-day Baptist from then until now. The Cohansey Baptist Church was organized in 1690 in a log house. After merging with the Bowentown congregation in 1710, a frame meeting house was built between Sheppard's Mill and the Cohansey River. 

Obadiah Holmes Sr. was whipped nearly to death by
Salem Puritans in 1651. The Ayers would have known
this could be their fate.
The New Jersey Ayers family definitely knew Rev. Obadiah Holmes Jr. (Baptist minister), whose father was well-known to the Dyers in Newport. The senior Holmes had been beaten in Salem for visiting and giving Communion to an elderly, blind Baptist there. Holmes Jr. was a Baptist minister in New Jersey.

The Ayers intermarried with the Bowens, Jenkins, Davis, Swinney, and other Baptist and Seventh-day Baptist families, and many were buried in the Cohansey Church cemetery. To read a bit more on their associations, see my article, Nathaniel Jenkins, Another Brick in the Wall

In my lines, the Ayers "girled out" and married into the Swinneys, who were farmers and remained Seventh-day Baptists until the 20th century at least. I recently discovered a DNA relative whose Carter ancestors are Seventh-day Adventist. A Swinney married a Carter, which produced my paternal grandmother, Opal Carter Robinson. I remember that Grandma Opal felt some slight disdain for one of those seventh-day cousins' families, but I don't know which. She attended a country fellowship in the 1930s, and in the 1970s she was a Methodist. When she was in her late 90s she lived with her daughter, whose husband was an Evangelical Lutheran minister. Grandma didn't make waves.

Learning and retelling the stories are why genealogy and history are fascinating to me. It personalizes history, and whether white-hat or black-hat ancestors in our 21st-century eyes, nobody gets to be a flat cartoon--they take on dimensions and we carry them on in memory. 
DNA Painter map of my shared DNA with distant cousins on 23andMe. This includes both my parents.
About 34% of my DNA is mapped so far.

When I was writing the Dyer and Hutchinson books, I didn't want to make a caricature villain of Gov. John Winthrop, I wanted to understand and respect him. I intended to do the same for Gov. John Endecott, but honestly could not find one nice shred about him, even in the writings of his descendant, so I decided not to try to get into his head, and just see him through the eyes of Edward Hutchinson and William Dyer. 

But all my research from hundreds of books and papers and colonial records give me an insight into what kind of people lived and died and eventually resulted in thousands of descendants, including me. From a life that's not related to me, I can find details of what ancestor lives were like and who knew who 400 years ago. It's fascinating to wonder which strands of their DNA influenced who and what I'd become.

So there you have it: 800 years of survival in one family line, from medieval times to the present. They survived through severe famines, the Black Death, the English Reformation and its burnings, the Great Frost, immigration in a small wooden ship that was all but destroyed in a hurricane, religious persecution, the outbreak of King Philip's War right in their village, a journey to New Jersey where there were fatal measles and influenza outbreaks, and eventually a move to Indiana, where they lived as farmers in such poverty that they didn't have as many plates or chairs at the table as they had mouths to feed. They served in the War of Independence, the Civil War, and two world wars. By Providence, they made it through those trials and tragedies. Whether the Ayers/Eyres were your ancestors or not, your forebears must have survived the same events or you wouldn't be here, safely reading this article from the comfort of your computer chair.

It's easy to think that I could never have made it through such adversity. But they sent their DNA down to me: I could survive and thrive with that strength and courage. It makes me straighten my spine and throw my shoulders back, ready to stride into the unknown.

Let's go, cousins. We can do this.


Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Carter for 600 years -- "by whom he had seven sons and ten daughters"

©  2019 Christy K Robinson

My grandmother Opal was born a Carter in Iowa. She was part of a small family of two daughters. But she had more cousins than one can count because her father, Alonzo Calvin Carter, had 12 siblings, and her grandfather, Alonzo Jackson Carter, had 9 siblings. The next generation up had 5 Carter siblings, then the one above that had 15 children!
Alonzo Jackson Carter, wife Lucetta Derringer,
parents of 13, with daughter Della May, about 1900.

You don't even want to know the many siblings on her mother's and grandmothers' lines. I have a large computer monitor and have shrunk the pedigree screen, and it still won't fit into a screenshot.

I had my DNA tested at both Ancestry and 23andMe, and am curious about where the DNA matches they predict might fit on my pedigree chart. The DNA companies have held some rather good sales lately and I've received numerous emails saying that I had 70 new cousin matches in one company, and 200 in another. Most of those matches are fourth to sixth cousins, which are pretty far distant, considering that a fourth cousin would share a pair of great-great-great grandparents out of 32 great-great-greats. But a third cousin, while still distant with 16 shared great-greats, is more interesting because at that level, it's still possible to break down just who you got certain chromosomes from.

Adopted cousins discovering heritage
Among the Carter matches, I've found I'm 3rd cousins or closer with at least four people who were adopted and are searching for the heritage of their birth parents. One person emailed that thanks to my research, they'd been able to find the link; another person discovered her birth father's connection from the way I triangulated our mutual DNA matches and narrowed down the possibilities by emailing the distant cousins about their immediate parents and grandparents, which gave some maiden or married names that eliminated some and pinpointed others. I'm still sleuthing on behalf of a DNA cousin on my Robinson line, after I eliminated the Carter possibilities. We know the common ancestor we share because of mapping the DNA for overlaps, but we haven't learned which of the potentially hundreds of Robinson descendants might be her birth father. The few details she's been told don't seem to match with known characters. However, as more people are tested every year, it will probably happen.

Jumping the pond
One of the known Carters with whom I'm 4th cousins asked by email how I'd made the leap from colonial Virginia where the Carters were so heavily concentrated on several tobacco plantations, to the Carter homeland in Bedfordshire, England. I found it years ago, and in 2006 was able to drive from London to Bedfordshire and visit the church where they were buried and the lands where they lived. There was no GPS available at the time, so I navigated by an atlas. Finding the small city of Bedford was easy. Then I followed signs to the large church of Kempston All Saints, which is surrounded by a large graveyard, and is on a hill near the River Great Ouse. I seem to remember from somewhere that this river was one of the highways of the Danish Vikings who harried the Saxons. There were at least two great battles, in 917 and 1010, between the Danes and the Saxons of Bedford.

The surname
The Carter name came about when people started using surnames in roughly the 1100s-1300s. Carters were the transportation companies of the medieval society. They were the domestic truckers and teamsters who moved goods by wagon or cart between countryside and cities or ports. Because it was an occupational name, we can't say that there was just that one guy... There were many unrelated men around the British Isles who were carters by trade. By 1400, almost everyone in England used a family surname. And Henry VIII, more than a hundred years later, decreed that births be recorded by the surname of the father.

But THESE Carters
My records of the Carters show a William Carter in Barford, Bedfordshire in 1425. Henry V died young, leaving an infant son as King Henry VI, with the Duke of Gloucester acting as regent. During this time, various wealthy nobles owned the properties in and around Bedford, along with Elstow Abbey, a royal foundation.

Carter pedigree from 1781 (Charles Carter's death) back to 1425
My yeoman (landowning) Carters improved their fortunes when another William married the heiress Elizabeth Glover who owned property in nearby Cranfield. Records show that he took the name Cranfield upon their marriage, so if you look them up online, she shows up as Elizabeth Cranfield. The inheritance, along with whatever resources he held, was enough to acquire Oakes Farm about three-quarters of a mile north of the Kempston church. Besides the house he took possession of several closes, two cottages, and 70 acres of open land and meadow, perhaps 100 acres in all. William Carter died in 1569, when the manor was called Oakes Farm, worth 2 pounds yearly, and the estate, which comprised other lands in Kempston worth 17s.4d a year, descended to his son and heir William.

Where were these Reformation-era Carters buried? We don't know. Perhaps they were buried in the crypt of Kempston All Saints, in a family vault, or somewhere in the churchyard with no marker. I've found several Carters who were not direct ancestors, who directed in their wills of 1500 and 1544 that they be buried in the Kempston All Hallows (All Saints) churchyard. 

A Victorian-era report on the Bedford-Cranfield area said the crops were beans, peas, wheat, and barley.
This is a field near Cranfield.
The next Carter was William Carter who married Mary Anscell, and beginning the Carter dynasty, he had 17 children with her. On the Oakes Farm property, they built or added to an H-shaped house of two or three stories in the late 1500s. The bones of the house survive today despite many changes over the centuries. Today, the house is known as Box End House; it sold for more than £700,000 in 2015 (that's where I found the image). Carter descendants inhabited the house until about 100 years ago.
Box End House, on Oakes Farm land where the Carters lived for centuries.
In 1977, when renovations were being made in the house, a wall painting was found on the ground floor that dated to the early 17th century. It could have been painted when William Carter was alive, or perhaps it was made by his heir.  It shows a bull baiting with a charging bull surrounded by dogs, horsemen and hunters, in monochrome with the bull's and dogs' tongues colored in red. 
Wall painting from early 1600s. Source:

When William died in 1605, they buried him in a vault in the floor of Kempston All Saints church, and installed a brass plate over the vault. Floor burials were extremely common in hundreds of churches all over the British Isles and Europe. If a family had social standing in the community, and money for a memorial, it was desirable that the more prominent members of the family would be buried inside the church, whether in the crypt, or under the floor tiles, or in a tomb chest with an effigy on top. If the church had relics, or it was a collegial church with monks, there were more services and masses said, and the deceased person's soul had a better chance of prayers being said for them if they were close to the action.
Churchyard at Kempston All Saints
Center aisle of All Saints. Notice the brasses above the pulpit on the right.
The font where Carters were baptized for at least 200 years.

The Carter grave was located close to the front of the nave near the chancel. When I visited, I expected to find the brass plate at the front of the nave just before the chancel steps. But in the 1990s, the church floor was repaved with tile, and to conserve the brass, it was hung on the inside of the chancel arch above the podium. (See my  photo.)

Before the Reformation of the 1530s, the churches were, of course, Catholic. Some were administered by abbeys, convents, or a diocese. Kempston All Saints was commissioned by Judith, the niece of William the Conqueror, in about 1100. Like other churches, it was built in stages over hundreds of years. Church plan retrieved from
This is the couple memorialized in the brass plate found in the Kempston All Saints Church. The brass plate had originally been placed over the burial vault in the floor of the nave, but in the late 1990s, the floor was retiled and the brass, to conserve it, was mounted on a wall plaque, and placed above the pulpit. Photo by Christy K Robinson.

“Here lieth the bodie of William Carter Gent., who took to Wife Marie the daughter of Tho: Annsell Esqr., by Whom he had issue Seven Sons and Ten Daughters. He died the first day of September 1605. She surviving in Memoriall of her affection to Him living caused the monument to be made over Him under which she meanes...”
It looks like the inscription might have once said that Mary meant to join him in the vault when her time came. She lived another 14 years, to 1619.
Considering the date of the brass, it's interesting that the clothing of the men shows the flat collar and not a big ruff of lace as was common from Elizabethan years until the 1620s. My colleague says that King James I wore flat collars, so maybe William Carter wasn't as avante garde as I thought.

Among William's and Mary's 17 children were their heir, Thomas Carter, whose descendants stayed in the area and inhabited the Box End House until about 100 years ago, and William or Anscell Carter, who with his wife Jane and surviving children emigrated to Virginia and named their plantation Barford, after the village where many Carters had lived and died. They came to America sometime between 1631 and 1634, when William/Anscell Carter died. Jane lived another 30 years.
Barford Plantation historical marker,
Lancaster County, Virginia.

Down the tree, branch by branch, I have  
  • James Carter and Mary Brent, who owned slaves
  • Their son was Charles Carter, 1743-1781, who according to several researchers, married his first cousin Judith Carter. They had nine children in Goochland, Virginia. 
  • Their son was Pvt. Martin Carter, 1763-1842, who fought in the Revolutionary War and married Nancy Page. They moved to Mercer County, Kentucky.
  • Their son was  William W. Carter, 1800-1881, who married Phoebe Vanderipe and lived in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. 
  • Their son was Alonzo Jackson Carter, who served in the Civil War military at age 21 in Pleasant, Indiana. He married Lucetta Derringer in 1864, and they lived for years in Ripley County, Indiana, and had all those 13 children!
  • Their son was Alonzo Calvin Carter, 1865-1950, who married Nancy Evaline Swinney. They moved to Monroe County, Iowa.
  • Their daughter was Larna Opal Carter, 1897-1995, who married Leonard Robinson. They moved to the woods of Lake Hattie Township, in northern Minnesota, and purchased a log house where they were the parents of four children and an infant who died. 
  • One of those children was my father, Kenneth Robinson, who moved with his wife Judith to Phoenix, Arizona in the 1950s. 
Carter ancestor peregrinations, 1631-1957. They came from Bedfordshire, England,
to Lancaster County, Virginia (on the Chesapeake Bay), then moved west and north
until my parents moved from Minnesota to Arizona.

When my brother married the mother of his children, her birth father's surname was Carter. I don't know how or even if they connected to our Carters, but chances are that my sister-in-law is a very distant cousin.
Chestnuts I picked up from the ground at
Oak Farm in Northill, Bedfordshire. This is not the
same as Oakes Farm where the
Carters lived, but it is an ancient farm
with a guard-goose!

Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)