When I was a child, I really had no interest in my family’s history, to me it seemed like just a long list of names of people I didn’t, and would never know. My dad however, was fascinated and spent years tracing his ancestry, writing to various registry offices, churches, (back before the internet), and then travelling back to Ireland to find out more about his family when he came to a dead end though the correspondence. Unfortunately, he never got past the late 18th century, the information he was looking for, if it did exist, was destroyed by fire or lost and remains so to this day. Many years later, my brother and I have picked up his search, (he died while we were in our early teens), and my brother was able to find out much more about our ancestry by taking a different route. Instead of looking into our directly paternal roots, our grandfathers, grandfathers, grandfathers, etc., he looked into our paternal great-grandmothers family and that’s when we discovered things about our ancestry we had no idea about.
Jacob Holder, our great-great-great-great-grandfather was from the States, this was a surprise as we had believed that everyone on our fathers side had emigrated from Ireland directly to Canada, when we found the story on how Jacob came to Canada.
Our dad knew about this story years ago, it had been passed down through the family for, well centuries. We may have heard it but back then it was just another boring family history tale and we probably weren’t paying it any attention, but now it’s sort of interesting. Jacob was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in August 1757, in 1777 he joined the Bucks County Volunteers and later with the Queens Rangers. In 1781, he was captured at Yorktown, Virginia, (or so I’ve read), but escaped. He was a Loyalist, fighting on the side of the British, during the “American Revolution war”.
The story we’ve had passed down was that he was captured alone and put into a barn that was servicing as a temporary prison. Somehow he made his escape from the barn and managed to evade recapture by splitting his boots along the length and putting them on backwards, tying either laces or rope around his ankles to keep the boots onto his feet. His escape was noticed and he was pursued but by the time they found his tracks they looked like he had headed back to the barn, and so back they went following the false trail allowing Jacob enough time to make his escape. He wasn’t far from his captors, hiding in a wooded area at night, close enough to hear that his ruse was successful, and he eventually made his way to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. He returned to the US in 1789 to marry our great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Sharp, and returned to Canada with her. How they met in the first place I have no idea but something I’d be interested in hearing about.
Jacob’s mother was Rebecca Custer, one of her siblings was an ancestor of the guy who thought he was a soldier, and we traced both his, (Jacob), parents family back to Germany, mainly the Kaldenkirchen and Hessen areas. Mary’s ancestry led us to Marie Prower who was apparently a passenger on the Mayflower, and possibly Alice Martin Bishop who holds the dubious honour of being one of the first women to be executed in the Colonies, for PPP, (Post-Partum Psychosis), she killed one of her children. There’s also a woman who was murdered at the Salem Witch Trials, can’t recall her name at this moment though.
While my brother was looking into that side further I delved into our mother’s ancestry, I already knew a bit, our mum’s dad had begun looking into his, and I’ve been able to get as far back as the early 17th century, quite a number of publicans actually.
On my mother’s mother side, there’s a great-great-grandmother who was born an orphan in the heart of the Industrial Revolution in the mid 19th century, she might not seem all that interesting but having read quite a lot of Charles Dickens I can’t help but think of her as one of his characters, or at least think of her life in his words.
I got quite a way back on this side of my family, and at first it seemed like what I expected, but then I saw where one was from, Pomeroy, Devon, Berry Pomeroy to be exact.
We’ve been there, twice to be exact before I discovered this bit of information, so I knew the place fairly well, but then I found out more about this particular family.
This is the mansion that Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset had built at Berry Pomeroy Castle, but it wasn’t until I saw where he died, Tower Hill, that I began to understand just who this was, (he was executed here, which seems to be a theme in my family).
Seymour was the brother of Henry VIII’s third and favourite queen, Jane Seymour, and in 1547 became ‘Lord Protector’ of his nine-year-old nephew, King Edward VI, and thus effectively ruler of England.
So, that was interesting.
How does this affect me? Does it define me? I care nothing about Monarchy or the nobility except I find that it’s historically interesting, and I do like to roam about in their mansions and castles. I do enjoy visiting a pub very much. While I’m not fond of having to pay high taxes, I’m very happy to not have to worry if I can afford to visit the Doctor. Be it scarves, collars, or jewellery, I’ve never been able to stand anything close around my throat.
No, they’re not me no matter how interesting their lives were, or seemed to have been, what I can take from them is to learn from them, their mistakes, their triumphs.