Sunday, September 7, 2014

Roots & Wings

I've never done much geneology research, but over the past long winter I decided to see what I could find out about my English ancestory. Every family is a part of the history of the world and I like to see where my little piece fits into the whole of it.


I knew only the name of my great-grandfather and was surprised how easy it was to go from there on the Internet. Well, it was easy to trace them on this side of the Atlantic anyway. Beyond that, things got quite confusing because of two men with the same name.


My 8X great grandfather, Thomas Graves, was born at Gravesend, Kent, before 1585. He married Sarah Scott in 1615 or 1617. Sarah was born in Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, about 1595, and together they raised five children. Sarah's father was Christopher Scott, yeoman, of Hatfield Broad Oak.


Thomas and family lived for a period of time in Stepney, London, in the area of St. Dunstans Church. The drawing above is of a Puritan family living in London about the same time. The etching on the right, by Antony van Wyngaerde (1550), is of the area of London that includes Stepney. Thomas was considered a well-educated man and an outstanding "engineer".


With other Separatists, Thomas left England in 1629, under contract as a land surveyor for the Massachusetts Bay Company, travelled with his wife Sarah, five grown children, and servants on the George Bonaventure, and landed on the Charles River in Salem, Massachusetts.

He lived in settlements in Massachusetts and on the Connecticut River for the rest of his life and is buried in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

The master's mate of The George Bonaventure was another Thomas Graves who made several subsequent voyages to America, but died and is buried in England. Beyond this, amateur genealogists have thoroughly confused and combined the two men, and sadly, I can't sort out many facts of his earlier life in England.

The Bonaventure, part of a fleet of six ships commissioned by Governor Endicott of the Massachusetts Bay Company, was armed with 20 pieces of ordinance and carried 350 men, women, and children, their goods, and 115 head if "cattle" (horses, cows, and oxen), 41 goats, and some rabbits. It set sail from Gravesend on April 24, 1629, and arrived in Salem around the 1st of June.






Thomas and his sons, along with several other families, periodically disagreed with religious practices and moved to other towns further and further into the frontier. They were relied upon for their skills in surveying and were instrumental in laying out and administering the towns of first Hadley, then Hatfield, Massassachusets.



Traveling about 50 miles by ox cart with their possessions and animals, in October 1661, they halted by the Connecticut River and quickly built crude log homes for the winter. There were no saw mills to manufacture lumber, and the only way to saw planks or boards was by digging a pit and using a 2-man cross-cut saw, with one man on the top of the log, and one man working from below in the pit. In this way a few boards were made that could serve for tables and doors. Thomas, in his late 70s, and Sarah lived in this home with their son Isaac for about a year, when Thomas died. Sarah died December 17, 1666.









Grave marker in the Hatfield Cemetery for Thomas, Sarah, and John Graves.

In 1677, trouble escalated between the new settlers of Hatfield and the Indians of the area and a stockade was built around the settlement. On September 19 two of Thomas's sons, John and Isaac, were roofing a home for John's son outside the stockade when an Indian attack occurred and both men were killed. A total of twelve men were killed and scalped that day and 17 women and children were captured. John Graves was my 7X great grandfather.

I first started reading British history and literature when I was 13 and discovered historical novels in the adult section of the public library. It's been a consuming interest ever since. I will be in England again soon, soaking up some more, and I can't wait!



  1. Cynthia, wonderful post about your family. I have known what do you feel -your English roots. It is fantastic that grave mark has survived for centuries.So you love the land of your ancestors.
    I love American literature and history because most of my ancestors lived in America and some of them lost their life in their dream land. I started to learn English when I was seven because I would like to visit US. But now I believe it would be possible when my daughter is independent. When are going to visit England?

  2. Interesting history.
    Have a nice time in UK!
    Hope the weather co-operates!!!!????

    1. As we say here - "Up, Up and away"
      I will be tracking on Flight Tracker - FI 656 tomorrow - from midday here.
      Enjoy all " Mate" ( we use mate here for males and females) - looking forward to all news.
      I will also keep watch on "Pommie" weather. You never know, the sun may shine and I sure
      hope so.
      Cheers and happy holidays

  3. We have some friends who have traced their families back to some 8 or so generations, and they have visited cemeteries all over the US. Along the way they have discovered some long shirt tale cousins, and have had lots of fun. I just haven't gotten into it, but applaud those of you who do.

  4. Good for you! You have lots of information already...and interesting too! :)

  5. I admire you for taking the plunge into ancestry. It is something I keep putting off.

  6. How wonderful, It is something my husband intends to do trace our ancestry when he has more time. Hope you have a wonderful trip.

  7. Get here quickly - the weather is wonderful this morning!

  8. You found a lot of history about your family, amazing that the gravestone is still there and so well maintained. Interesting to read this like a history book.

  9. That is good you have gone back so far. It's interesting to find out where we came from. I have done a lot of Family Tree which is certainly made easier via the internet. Good luck with it.

  10. Yep, quick get here before it rains! x

  11. That is interesting. My oldest daughter has done a lot of work on our family tree and learned some interesting facts. I would be so excited to be going to England!

  12. How amazing that such a large grave marker has not sunk into the ground . . . or fallen. Enjoy your trip!

  13. Your research has really paid off. Many gravestones here are not so easy to read due to erosion. Have a good flight and the next time we communicate will be in person! See you on Thurs.

  14. Just to clear up the reason for the excellent condition of the grave stone -- it is fairly new. There are a couple possibilities, but the best explanation is that it was erected by the town to replace one that had deteriorated. There is also the possibility that it is just a memorial in the town of Hatfield and the actual burial was in Hadley because there wasn't a dedicated church cemetery in Hatfield yet. I haven't been able to track that info down yet.

  15. History comes alive when we are related to it. It's fascinating to study and do family research. I hope your upcoming trip to England will help you to learn even more. xx

  16. What an amazing history. This is so fascinating to know where your family came from and what their lives were like.