I’ve been gone all day today doing genealogical research in Devon. It was very fruitful.
I went to see what I could dig up about the only ancestors on my father’s side with whom I have made a connection from the US back to the UK. I still don’t know when my great-great-great-grandmother immigrated, but I know that she was born in 1807 in Arlington, Devon and died in 1874 in Owensburg, Indiana. I don’t even know when she got married, but she was having children in Ohio by 1831. I knew the name of her father and mother, and her paternal grandparents and great-grandparents and a few dates.
Thanks to some wonderfully indexed and transcribed parish registers, I was quickly able to dig down much further. I found one set of her great-great-great-great-grandparents. That’s my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents John and Agnes (in the baptismal record of their son, “Agnis” in the burial record) Moor. Don’t let the last name make you think they were Spanish Muslims. Spelling being rather non-standardised in the 17th century, they are buried as Moor but baptised their son as Moore. Likewise their grandaughter was baptised as Moore, but married as Moor (becoming a Taylor).
In terms of dates, the earliest I could reach was the baptism of their son, my great (x8) grandfather Francis in 1635. Most people who can get back much further than this have an ancestor with a long-established genealogy, usually a peer of the realm or some such.
People really like having famous ancestors. I remember when I broke the news to a recently met distant cousin that we were not descended in a particular line from the Earls of Northumberland (before that title was raise to a dukedom) – that the dates made it a chronological impossibility – and she was neither happy nor buying it.
The ancestors I found today seem to be rather common folk as far as I can tell. I couldn’t find any wills because the Luftwaffe took care of those in their very thorough bombing of Exeter. All the wills were keep in the ecclesiatical courts there at the time. My great-great-great-grandfather James Taylor was not a famous folk singer, but rather a shoemaker. Likewise his daughter is Elizabeth was not married eight times, but rather had eight children, the fifth of which was my great-great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth McWhirter. She in turn had 13 children. I belief the ninth one was my great-grandmother, who died the year of my birth and whose voice I have recorded from 1948.
But back to my day. . . I drove out through the tiny winding country lanes of North Devon to the little church at Loxhore where the ancestors I found today were hatched, matched, and dispatched. The font cover in the church dates from the 16th century – very possibly the cover removed to baptise each of my ancestors. It is a very small church and the acoustics were fabulous. I know because I used the opportunity to sing the Trisagion Prayers before commending the souls of my long-departed ancestor to safe-keeping of the Heavenly Father. After all, they may have been dead for over 300 years, but once they enter eternity, there is no time. It is just as if it were yesterday. I kissed the font as I asked God to remember their baptisms.
I don’t know how long it has been since anyone has even thought of them – how long they have been lost to the passage of time. Probably many, many years. I have found them. Now may their memory be eternal.