Sunday, March 16, 2014

A CENTENARIAN'S TALE: 1635 Immigrant George Geer (9th GGF)

(GEER/Williams/Button/DeiadamiaThomas-Titus Dort)
Centenarian GEORGE GEER (1635 emigrant from Heavitree, Devon, England) lived to be 105 years old.  (1621-1726)
Old Heavitree Church

Here is his story -be it folklore or fact- handed down through the generations of our Geer family line:
The Geer family of Devon are said to have been wealthy landholders in Heavitree, near Exeter, Devonshire, England.  Upon the death of his father, teen-aged George and his brother Thomas became wards of their uncle who was in charge of their inheritance of considerable property.  
Now here's where the story gets interesting:  to "prepare" for the eventual possession of their inherited property, their dastardly uncle arranged for the two young heirs to 'see the world' and booked their passage to America in 1635 soon after their father's death. Little did they know, however, that it was intended to be a 'one-way-trip' the bottom of the ocean. With a considerable estate within his reach, it appears the uncle needed only to remove 14-year old George and 12-year old Thomas from the equation so as to acquire their tempting inheritance.  To accomplish this task, the uncle wrote to the captain of a ship ready to set sail for America, requesting the boys' passage. George and his brother were given instructions to take the letter to the captain and remain on board until they received a reply.  In his communications with the captain, the boys were to be detained on board as the ship left the harbor, without ability or means to return.  (The devious plot was supposedly meant to include their 'disappearance at sea,' which fortuitously did not occur.)  Imagine their situation as the ship arrived in Boston and two penniless 'castaway' boys disembarked with no friends to meet them and no place to go.  Or so the story goes.  I can just imagine my 9th great grandfather George at the extraordinary age of 105, sitting by the fire retelling this adventure tale to countless wide-eyed great-grandchildren's children.  

The fact remains that George and his brother were orphaned around the time of their passage to America (both mother and father died in, or before, 1635.)  Were they heirs to a fortune, duped by an unscrupulous uncle and left in a foreign country to fend for themselves?  And, if they came from a family of means -and, therefore, opportunity for an education- why did they always sign documents with 'X'?  Until more pieces of the genealogical puzzle are connected, we can only sit back and marvel at this legacy of lore.

Although there are few clues available to detail George and Thomas' first years in America, it is evident by later records that both enjoyed productive lives as first-generation Americans.
The following biographical sketch is from Walter Gear's book, The Geer Genealogy: a historical record of  George and Thomas Geer and their descendants in the United States from 1623 to 1923, published in New York, 1923 (pages 13-15)


In The Name Of God, Amen. June 5, 1723. I, George Geer, of the town of Groton, now residing in Preston, in the County of New London, in the Colony of Connecticut in New England, being weake in body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be giving unto God for it, calling to mind the mortality of my body, and knowing that it is apinted for all men once to dye, do make and ordain this my last will and testament: That is to say princably, and first of all, I give and recomend my soul into the hands of God that gave it, and my body I recomend to the earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial, at the descretion of my Executors; and as touching such worly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give, demise, and dispose of the same in the following manner: Imprimis, I give and bequeath to Sarah, my dearly beloved wife, the use and improvement of one third of my estate during her natural life, and then to be divided among my four daughters, Sarah, Hannah, Margaret and Anne, and my daughter Mary's two daughters, Hannah and Mary, and the rest of my estate I dispose of as followeth: To my son Jonathan five shillings, and to my son Joseph five shillings, and to my son Daniel five shillings, and to my son Robert five shillings and to my son Isaac five shillings, and to my son Jeremiah heirs five shillings, which is their full portion with what they have already had. And to my four daughters, and my two granddaughters, Hannah and Mary Mainer all the rest of my estate of cattle and horse kind, and all the moveable goods, to be equaly devided among my four daughters and two granddaughters, Hannah and Mary Mainer shall have their mother's part. And I hereby make and apoint my love son Robert Geer, and my son-in-law Thomas Gates, full and sole Executors of this my last will and testament; hereby making nul and void all former wills and bequeths, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal.


Thomas Clark 

Stephen Gates

This will was presented for probate Jan. 10, 1726-7, in New London. Amount of Inventory of Personal Estate, £48 19s. 2d. Jonathan Wickwere and Jacob Parke, appraisers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Family Names #3 (Z Y & X W)

  • PATERNAL GREAT GRAND UNCLES:  X W and  Z Y  BATES (Bates/Morgan/Glover)
On March 3, 1858, my second great grandfather Andrew Jackson Bates married Elizabeth Cordelia Smith in Doddridge County, Virginia, now West Virginia.  Of their ten children, two sons received the unlikely names of Z Y and X W.  Not initials.  No punctuation. These were their names.  In 1880, Elizabeth died at the early age of 39, leaving behind a 10-month old infant (X W) and his nine siblings:

  • Sevilla, 
  • Jacob Yeater (named after mother's foster father, Rev. Jacob Yeater), 
  • Missouri, 
  • Emma (my great-grandmother), 
  • Milton Underwood* (named after maiden name of mother's foster mother, Ruth Underwood). In 1933 Milton recorded family history based on the life and death of his ancestor, Montey Bates.

  • Byrd (or Bird)
  • Bridget, 
  • Z Y,
  • Ginevra
  • X W (aka "W") 
X W Bates married Levada Bell Watts in 1898; three years later, "W"s sister Emma Bates Morgan gave birth to my grandmother, Levada Mae Morgan

(*Milton's death certificate reads "Milton Ulysses Grant Bate" as recorded by his brother Z Y. )

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ETCHED IN OLD STONE: Family Names #2 (Epenetus)

  • EPENETUS Olney, 8th GGF ~ EPENETUS Olney, Jr., 7th GGF
“Salute Epenetus, my beloved: who is the firstfruits of Asia in Christ.” (Romans 16:5)
St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England
8th GGF Epenetus Olney was baptized in St. Albans, Hertfordshire on 14 February, 1634.  He was only a year old when he emigrated in 1635 from England aboard the ship "Planter" with his parents, Thomas and Mary Olney, and 3-year old  brother, Thomas.  Epenetus' family, like a number of our immigrant ancestors (especially the Dort and Winsor branches) would soon be "invited to leave" Massachusetts colony along with Roger Williams to make their home in Providence, Rhode Island as members of Williams' First Baptist Church.  This is where Epenetus grew up, married Mary Whipple, raised his children, and lived out his life.  Epenetus was a tavern-keeper in Providence, as were the Whipple brothers.

from 1635 Passenger List, "Planter"
 Of interesting note:  Soon after the family's arrival in Massachusetts, EPENETUS had a new American-born brother named DISCOVERED followed two years later by another brother, NEDABIAH.  Although subsequent siblings had the more traditional names of Stephen, James, Mary and Lydia, it appears significant that these given names of Thomas and Mary Olney's children deviated from the standard 'acceptable' names of the time ...something we often see with the Puritan dissenters of the 1630's.  As an additional note, Epenetus had a son named EPENETUS, Jr. (my 7th GGFather) who had a daughter named FREEBORN who married 6th GGFather Joshua Winsor*.  Freeborn had an aunt named FREELOVE Williams, (my 9th GGAunt).
Also interesting: it was not uncommon for siblings of one large family to marry siblings of another. This often creates an interesting family tree where a grandparent is technically an aunt or uncle, too.  Epenetus married Mary Whipple, sister of John Whipple, Jr. who married his sister Mary Olney (my 8th GGAunt through the Olney line AND my 9th GGMother through the Whipple line.)  Their sister Lydia Olney married Joseph, the son of Roger Williams, making them my 10th GGParents through the Roger Williams line.  So my Olney family descends from siblings who represent 8th, 9th, and 10th great-grandparents with pioneer roots in early Rhode Island.
"Stone-Ender-style" Epenetus Olney House, N. Providence, RI

* The WINSOR & DORT family connections
(WINSOR line: Olney/Winsor)
The ancestral families lines of Epenetus Olney and his wife Mary Whipple eventually united with the marriage of Epenetus' GGSon CHARLES WINSOR who married  2nd GGDaughter, MARY WHIPPLE, thus joining the Winsor/Dort families through their son JESSE WINSOR.
Likewise, our ancestral family lineage from Roger Williams sprouts from the marriages of FOUR of his children:
1. (___) JOSEPH WILLIAMS (3rd son of Roger Williams) married LYDIA OLNEY (daughter of Thomas I and sister of Epenetus I)
2. 8th GGM MERCY WILLIAMS (3rd daughter of Roger Williams) married REV. SAMUEL WINSOR (again connecting the two families of Winsor/Dort)
3. 8th GGF DANIEL WILLIAMS (2nd son of Roger Williams) married REBECCA RHODES (daughter of immigrants Zachariah Rhodes and Joanna Arnold)
4. (___) MARY WILLIAMS (1st daughter of Roger Williams) married JOHN SAYLES II  whose daughter Catherine married William Olney (son of Thomas II & brother of Epenetus I)