Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An American English Heritage

My Little Guy is just finishing up Third grade (Year 4). Typically, in many schools here, it's the year when they study the history of Chicago and delve into their own family histories. Years ago, when the teens did this, I managed to find a lot of my father's family tree dating back to the 1600's. (No royalty or infamous villains, unfortunately, and every single one of them came from England!)

This time, by dint of the Internet, I have found some amazing things about the kids' paternal ancestors. Both my father-in-law and mother-in-law grew up in Texas, and I knew their families had been here a long time. Not just a long time by American standards, but a long time. What I didn't realise was that we can trace at least a dozen branches straight back to boats coming over in the mid-1600's - all from England. My kids are more English than me it would appear.

For some reason I thought they'd be like many Americans - a smattering of this and that European ancestry. However, many Texan families moved across the country over the centuries, meaning that many of them have been here longer than anyone else. It's a fascinating history.

Apparently the first Hargis in the USA was one George Hargis, born in London in 1617 of French origin (grandparents, Louis and Louise Harguesse). He sailed over in about 1642. Another ancestor, William Benge/Byng, sailed over in 1619 on the "Marygold"; Samual Matthews, yet another great-grandfather, came over on the "Southampton" in 1622, and his wife Francis, was one of only four women in the Jamestown settlement. (She came over on the "Supply".)

The great thing about doing your family tree in the USA is that they kept records of a lot of people. We have names on passenger lists, names on land allocations, names on wills etc. Through sites like Ancestry dot com and others (this is not a paid post), it's quite easy to find people. You have to remember that the site content is from other people doing family history research, so there is room for error, but if you cross check enough times, and come up with the same tree, it's more than likely correct.

The best thing for the 8 year old however, has been the names that have come up. Shadrach Hargis, who fought against General Corwallis during the Revolutionary War. Obediah Benge, Ebenezer Titus, Thomas Americus Snell, and - (drum roll) from Iceland via Ireland, Valdimar Oddson and his wife Stefania Torfadottir (1600's).

I wish I'd had this list when we were trying to pick baby names!


  1. Lovely names. I always wonder if they give teachers a course on what to say if the kid reports "I don't know who my dad is" or some such.

  2. Some excellent names. There are some great names in modern America too, especially in the South, I've noticed! :-)

    Ancestry.com is a fantastic website. We used to supply it for free to customers when I worked for the library service in the UK. (Ancestry is probably the best thing the mormons have ever done, in my opinion!) :-)

    I am too lazy to trace my family tree. But one of my relatives did it and I've got virtually a book of printouts of relatives stretching back into the past. Nobody called anything quite as exotic as some of your folks though! :-)

  3. Woah! Great names for babies for sure!!!

  4. I tried to talk MrL into naming Son#2 'Archibald' after my Scots-Irish grandfather, but he (rightly, I suppose) pointed out that it probably wouldn't go over too well for an American boy growing up in the 21st century.
    I, personally, think he could have carried it off. ; )

  5. Ms Caroline - the only thing that would put me off that is that in the UK Archie, Alfie and the like are so popular right now it's almost painful. Obviously not here, but in the homeland - not an inspired choice any more.

  6. Fabulous names _ I would have grabbed that Shadrach for boy or girl. You practically have a Harry Potter school there.

  7. Americus is my favourite in that list.

  8. Fascinating stuff, Toni. I like the name Stefania. Good to be able to get decent information because of passenger lists etc.

    As you know, a relative of my husband has done some similar research for their side of the family. I'm not convinced by a couple of the links but of the bits that check out fairly accurately, there are some great stories. My favourite name, which I think you saw on my blog post, was Fulk the Rude!

  9. That is really cool! All that I can do is trace my family back to England, wales and Ireland. (yes, we are all Irish. I know) Post about your jubilee thoughts! how are you dealing? Do your kids sing one or the other of the songs? How are you dealing with it?


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