Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top Ten Most Romantic Stories from my Family Tree

detail from the tombstone of Ann Kelso,
Forest Hill Cemetery, Derry, New Hampshire

It’s February 10th and time for another Top Ten blog post.  Since it is so close to Valentine’s Day I thought that I’d search for the top ten romantic things I’ve discovered about my family during my genealogy research.  Some of these little stories I remembered off the top of my head because they became classic family stories I’ve repeated at reunions and get-togethers, and other stories I searched and found in my data base.  A few of these I have blogged about previously, so I included the link so you could read the long versions.

In reverse order (ranked by how romantic I thought each story should be, down to #1 my very favorite story):

#10:   There were not too many Valentine’s Day birthdays in my family tree.  The earliest I found was Ebenezer Wilkinson, born 14 February 1762 in Dedham, Massachusetts.  The latest was a cousin, Onno Pieter Hogerzeil, born on Valentine’s Day in Marseille, France in 1951.  Fortunately, I didn’t find any Valentine’s Day death dates.

#9:  I found lots of Valentine’s Day marriages in my family tree, starting with Elizabeth Andrews and Samuel Symonds in 1662 in Salem, my 9th great grand aunt and uncle, and all the way down to my grandparents who were married in Hamilton, Massachusetts in 1925 on Valentine’s Day.  You can see a big list of these Valentine’s Day anniversaries at this blog post:

#8:  I found over a dozen people named Valentine in my family tree.  For example Valentine Schupp, born 10 February 1788, a first cousin five generations removed.  His grandparents were immigrants to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia from Litrelinden, Wielbourg, Germany (my 5th great grandparents).  Perhaps Valentine is a more common name in Germany than here?   My 13th great grandfather, Valentine Lawrence, born about 1544 lived in Gloucestershire, England.   There were various Valentine distant cousins in the family tree in the 1600s (odd for Puritan families?), and even a VALENTINE family in Watertown, Massachusetts that intermarried with some of my cousins.   My HOLT cousins in Hawaii have a custom of naming generations of descendants the same name over and over, and would you guess that “Valentine” was one of those names?  Valentine Stillman Holt, born 1887; James Valentine Holt, born 1896; and Valentine Grover Holt, born 1919.  (Valentine Grover Holt was also married on Valentine’s Day in 1951!) 

#7:   Is having a big family with lots of children and grandchildren romantic?  There must have been a bit of romancing going on to start all those descendants!  My 10th great grandparents Deacon Samuel Chapin (1598 – 1675) and his wife Cicely Penney had eight children and 72 grandchildren!  Mayflower passengers John Howland (1591 – 1672/3) and Elizabeth Tilley, my 9th great grandparents, had ten children and 88 grandchildren (No wonder their GSMD Silver Books of descendants are still unfinished! Imagine how many descendants would be represented in the first five or six generations, and how many volumes will be needed?).  My 7th great grandfather , William Munroe (1625 – 1718), had three wives, 14 children and over 70 grandchildren even though he was about 40 years old at his first marriage!  

#6:  Thomas Drew (1665 – 1744) and his wife, Mary Bunker are both distant cousins to me nine generations back in time. They lived at Oyster River, New Hampshire which was attacked by Indians many  times during their lifetime.  As newlyweds in 1693 they were both captured by Indians and marched towards Canada.  Their story has been romanticized, but here is the version by Fritz Wetherbee from his book I’ll Tell You the Story, 2006. Thomas was released by the French, but four years later he went to search for his wife…  “Thomas Drew was there, too, looking for Mary.  He asked all the Native Americans he met if they heard of her. No one did. Then he began to sing.  We don’t know what song it was, but it was a song that Mary had loved.  Thomas sang it and waited.  And then from a young Indian maid he heard the melody sung softly… yes, it was Mary.  Neither spoke, and Thomas left.  With a few days a ransom was negotiated and Mary and her son were returned to her home on the Oyster River… Thomas and Mary survived to have fourteen children.  The couple died within two days of each other.  Thomas was 93 and Mary, 89. They were buried next to one another in the same grave.”  This story is romantic and repeated in several other books, but I haven’t found the documents that prove this ever really happened.

#5: My 9th great grandmother, Sarah Whipple Goodhue (1641 – 1681), wrote a letter during her pregnancy to her children.  She must have known she was not going to survive childbirth.  This letter is full of motherly instructions to her children, who were to be fostered out among the relatives.  But her letter is also a love letter to them and to her husband.  I dare you to read her letter without a hankie or tissue.  It is one of just a few surviving letters from women in 1600s Colonial America, but it is famously romantic and full of love for her husband, as well as the children.  Here are a few lines to her children…  ”You that are grown up cannot but see how careful your father is when he cometh home from his work to take the young ones up into his wearied arms; by his loving carriage and care towards those, you may behold as in a glass, his tender care and love to you every one as you grow up. I can safely say, that his love was so to you all, that I cannot say which is the child that he doth love the best.”  And a few lines to her husband “Further, if thou couldst ask me why I did not discover some of these particulars of my mind to thee before, my answer is, because I knew that thou wert tender hearted towards me, and therefore I would not create thee needless trouble. Oh, dear husband, dearest of all my bosom friends, if by sudden death I must part from thee, let not thy trouble and cares that are on thee make thee to turn aside from the right way: O dear heart, if I must leave thee and thine here behind, Of my natural affection here is my heart and hand. Be courageous, and on the living God bear up thy heart in so great a breach as this.”  If you can stand to read more of this emotional letter, click here for the full blog post:

#4:  My first cousin five generations removed, John Owen Dominis (1832 – 1891) was the son of a proper Bostonian – my auntie Mary Lambert Jones (1803 – 1889).  He was raised in Hawaii from a young age, since his sea captain father took the young family there in the early 1840s.  Their family home was next door to the Royal children’s boarding school, and little John would peek at the young princes and princesses over the wall. Romance bloomed.   He grew up to marry one of those little princesses, who in turn grew up to become the last queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii- Queen Lili’uokalani.  Their marriage faced much prejudice, even from his mother, in an age when mixed race marriages were frowned upon or illegal.  The newspapers in America were cruel, even in Boston.  When my cousin brought his Hawaiian wife home to Boston for a visit, some of the family welcomed her openly, and the rest were only cordially courteous to the Princess.  There must have been romance, and also a lot of heartbreak in this marriage.  They were childless, and John had an illegitimate child with one of his wife’s lady’s in waiting.  This child was welcomed by the Queen and became her legal heir and ward.  [I have blogged many, many times about the Dominis cousins in Hawaii.  You can see these posts by clicking on the keyword DOMINIS or this link: ]

#3:  In the early 1600s, in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, Massachusetts, a little boy named William Cogswell saw some men trying to help a cow who was choking on a potato.  Apparently several other children were there to watch the proceedings.  The men asked a small girl to help out by reaching in and pull out the potato with her little hand.  William was so impressed with little Martha Emerson’s bravery, that he vowed “That young miss, by and by, shall be my wife”.   They were married in 1685.  You can read my previous blog post on this tale here:

#2:  Peter Folger (1617 – 1690) and Mary Morrill were my 8th great grandparents- and also the grandparents of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin!  Mary was the indentured servant to Reverend Hugh Peters.  Peter Folger fell in love with her, and saved his money for 7 years to buy her for 20 pounds.  He declared “it was the best appropriation of money he ever made!”  Now you know how Ben Franklin inherited his sense of humor.  The Folgers were married nearly 46 years and had twelve children.  In Franklin’s autobiography he wrote about his grandparents with much admiration and love.  I’m lucky that they had a famous author as a grandson, or some of the fun and romantic tales about my Folger ancestors would be lost forever.

#1:     In 1662 Salem, my 9th great grandmother, Deborah Buffum Wilson (1639 – about 1668) protested the Puritan Sunday meeting by appearing naked.  This was a protest several New England Quakers tried in this time period, and all were severely punished by the Puritan authorities.  Poor Deborah, who was under suspicion of being “mad” (probably post partum depression), was sentenced to be whipped.  Her husband, my 9th great grandfather Robert Wilson, bravely put himself and his large felt hat between her body and the lash. This story is about a love greater than public humiliation and the law.  You can read the details at this blog post:


Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Top Ten Most Romantic Stories from my Family Tree", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 10, 2016, ( accessed [access date]).

1 comment:

  1. You have such exciting family connections - these are all wonderful stories!