My own current activities in 17th Century Virginia are a mixture of “harvesting” and verification. “Harvesting” is collecting the pedigree charts that have been posted by other family historians. While these can give one a sense of direction, they vary greatly in reliability. I started my most recent round of collecting information on the families I thought I descended from in early Virginia last summer in Salt Lake City at the Family History Center Library. I continued in January at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Library in Boston. This latter institution is sometimes called “HistGen” by insiders. Sarah Jessica Parker visited this library in the first episode of WDYTYA as she began to move back her line to her Salem witch. I have continued to add information to my piles from Internet searches for pedigree charts, family focused forum such as those found on GenForum, and sites about early Virginia.
Now I am trying to organize and evaluate the piles of data and perhaps create a priority research “to do” list for a June trip that will take me to the DAR Library in DC and possibly the Library of Virginia in Richmond.
So far I have convinced myself of the following, at least until I can disprove these hypotheses:
1. I had a European ancestor in North America prior to the arrival of the Mayflower;
2. Thomas Jefferson was a third cousin-eight times removed. Perhaps this explains my fascination with Jefferson and Monticello. However it is more likely this fascination grew out of the tales told by of a high school history teacher who waxed so reverently in talking about Tom that she made us wonder if she used to date him; and
3. King Henry I, of England (abt. 1068-1135) is my 30th great-grandfather.
Of these three “finds”, the cousin connection to Jefferson and the biological link back to Henry seem to be pretty well documented. The links in my connection to Thomas Farmer who arrived in Jamestown in October 1616 seem to be credible but I continue to look for more solid documentation.
One other connection that is somewhere between fantasy and possibly true is a biological connection to John Clark(e) who was pilot of the Mayflower. Clarke Island in Plymouth Bay is said to be named for him. He made several voyages across the Atlantic prior to his death in the early 1620s in Jamestown where he had apparently decided to settle. I may never know if he was one of my ancestors. His line of descent is still much debated.