Sunday, March 31, 2013

Familiar Sights through Foreign Eyes

I met Jill Ball, the Australian Genealogist, at RootsTech last week.  We had been "virtual friends" online for a long time, but there is nothing like finally meeting another blogging friend in person.  When we found out that Jill and her husband would be in Boston this week we asked if they would like to spend an afternoon touring the sights nearby with us.  I'm so glad they said yes!  I've taken many foreign visitors to see Lexington, Concord, Salem and Plymouth, but usually these were Spanish cousins and I didn't quite understand their questions, or know how to explain the history.  This time it was so much fun to have not only English speakers, but friends with a common British heritage. 

Jill had expressed an interest in seeing Harvard University, Harvard Yard and Harvard Square.  We drove along the Charles River, and first saw MIT and then the brick neo-classical buildings of Harvard along the banks,  the famous boat houses and crew teams rowing on the river.  It was quite fun to see Harvard Yard again and to point out the buildings where I took classes, or where I used to hang out when I was dating my husband more than thirty years ago.  It was a trip down memory lane for me, and fun for Jill and Robert to see the scenes they had only seen before in movies and on television.

The Lexington Minuteman 

In Lexington we stopped to see the Munroe Tavern, where my Munroe ancestors and relatives had lived during the Revolutionary War, but it was closed for the season!  Most of the visitor centers and historic homes were closed until April 1st!  (So close!)  The Munroe Tavern, home to ardent patriots and rebels during the War of Independence, in now the home of the "Museum of the Redcoats" in Lexington.

I laid a bunch of flowers at the grave on Lexington Common where the first seven Colonists died in the famous battle on 19 April 1775, because most of those seven were cousins to me through the Munroe or Harrington families. I have ancestors who were on both sides of the Revolutionary War and our Australian friends understood that this was just like a Civil War that separated families. They had just spent the morning at the Tea Party Museum in Boston, learning the politics behind the decisions that made the Colonies rebel against Mother England. 

Robert Ball posed on a milemarker we found along Battle Road, between the towns of Lexington and Concord. We had met up with Jill and Robert at their hotel right on Boston Harbor that afternoon.  The milemarker reads 14 miles.  Imagine the Continental Army marching from Boston Harbor to face battle and then return to Boston again all in one day, facing defeat and sniper fire from the Colonists all the way back on the return.  It must have seemed like an endlessly long trip! 

At the Old North Bridge in Concord we met up with a re-enactor dressed as a British Regular by the grave to the "Unknown British Soldier".  Every time we visit here, there is someone dressed as a Redcoat here to answer questions, standing at attention by the grave site. Even American tourists are surprised to see the thoughtful attention given to the fallen British dead.  Although the Victorian era language on the American plaques to the Minutemen seems inflammatory and archaic, this quiet gesture towards remembering our British common heritage is always touching to me. It was fun to see Jill and Robert pose with the soldier. 

The Concord Minuteman statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French.  It shows the common farmer ready to leave his plow in the field to answer the alarm "at a minute's notice".  This is a much nicer statue, and more famous than the one on Lexington Green.  

We ended the day at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, made famous by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and philanthropist Henry Ford.  At the Wayside Inn, the British Union Jack flies over the door until April 19th every year, and then the American flag flies later.  We enjoyed a few drinks in the old fashioned tavern room while waiting for our table for dinner.  What a wonderful day to share with a bunch of history minded friends! It was also so much fun to spend time together with a very fun couple, and we hope to see them again at another genealogy event or even in Australia maybe someday. 

Jill Ball is the author of the Geniaus blog:

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Heather,

    Thank you for writing up our day and thanks Vincent for the beaut photos. I had been thinking of writing it up for my blog but was worried I might get some facts wrong.

    Yesterday was an incredible learning experience for us that was even more meaningful because you, our tour guide, are a descendant of so many people from the places we visited.

    Taking the trip down memory lane in Cambridge with you and Vincent was so much fun.

  2. I remember visiting the Old North Bridge at Concord! I also was impressed to see the "thoughtful attention given to the fallen British dead."

    I someday to be able to meet a blogging friend in person.

  3. Very nice, and what a lovely day you had to visit my old hometown, Lexington. Heather, what ancestors do you and Jill share? Is it the Ball line that I have? I'm sure they had a lovely time seeing those sights.

    1. Robert Ball and I discussed the Ball line in Massachusetts but we have no idea if we have a common ancestor. Do you know where the Balls originated in England? I don't have any information on their origins or what ship they arrived on. Interestingly, Robert also has a Munroe/Monro ancestor, too, but from the Hebrides in Scotland.

  4. Heather, I have John Ball, the father of John and Nathaniel as being from Wiltshire, England, but no other information.

  5. Robert's Ball Line Came From Rochdale In Lancashire.

    1. Oh, dear, they are not even close are they? (I had to google some maps to see that!) Too bad we couldn't find a cousin connection...

    2. No cousin connection yet :) ........


  6. How very generous wonder Jill & Robert had such a great time. Genealogy really is a sharing kind of hobby.