When History Becomes Family History

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine and loyal reader of this blog after a book review of mine had come out on one of the great books on New England colonial history by noted Atlantic historian Bernard Bailyn.  When I read and reviewed The Ordeal Of Thomas Hutchinson [1], I viewed it as history.  It so happened, though, that the person I was talking with was related to the Hutchinsons and wanted to find out if the book was about a relative of hers.  I looked up the genealogy in the book and saw that Thomas Hutchinson had been a direct descendant of the famous Anne Hutchinson who helped found the colony of Rhode Island in search of religious freedom.  She then mentioned that she was a direct descendant of Hannah Place, who had been the lone survivor of an Indian attack during early Rhode Island colonial history, which meant that the book I had read was family history for her, which made her interested in reading about the book herself because in talking about the Hutchinsons and their marital ties, she was reading about her own family history as well as the Hutchinsons were part of her family line.

It was at this point that I idly clicked on a button on geni.com to see if this Hannah Place and I were connected in the family tree, since I knew that through my maternal line I had family going back to colonial New England as well.  And lo and behold, we were connected in the following way:

Nathan Bennett Albright You → [private] your mother → [private] her mother → Elizabeth Jane Puffer her mother → William Puffer her father → John Puffer his father → Cornelius Puffer his father → Simeon Puffer his father → Lazarus Puffer his father → Elizabeth Puffer his mother → Mary Talbot her mother → Francis Gould her father → Phebe Gould his mother → Thomas Deacon, IV her father → Thomas Deacon, III his father → Thomas Deacon, II his father → Alice Deacon his mother → Sir Robert Spencer, of South Mylles her father → John Spencer, of South Myles his father → Robert Spencer, of Colmworth his father → Sir Thomas Le Spencer his father → Sir Henry G de Spencer, Esq. his brother → Sir John Spencer, Earl of Sunderland his son → William Spencer, of Rodburn his son → Sir John Spencer, Knt., of Snitterfield & Wormleighton his son → Jane Cope, widow Saunders his daughter → Sir John Cope, MP, Sheriff of Northamptonshire her son → Elizabeth Dryden (Cope) his daughter → Bridget Marbury her daughter → Anne Hutchinson her daughter → Susanna Cole her daughter → Hannah Place her daughter

It so happens, therefore, that the history I was reading was not only the family history of the person I was talking to but also an aspect of my own family history because we happened to be related.  Since we are close friends and I am treated by them as an adopted family here, we were very happy to find out that we were indeed blood relatives, albeit somewhat distant ones.  Somehow, in all of the wanderings of our two families, where her family traveled from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to New York and so on across the United States in search of a better life, and where my own family line listed above had stayed in Massachusetts until leaving to Ontario in exile after the Revolutionary War as Tories until one of their descendants married an American world-class track athlete, namely my great-grandfather, and eventually moved back to the United States, our family lines met once again after generations of separation through the deeply odd randomness of our existence.  Being someone interested in family history, I found it satisfying that people I was close to were actual physical family as well as family in other ways.  Not everyone would be as satisfied with this, but I am.

But there’s more to this as well.  It so happens that the point of connection between my friend and myself occurs in a very fateful family, one that is of great personal interest on both sides of the Atlantic.  Geni.com noted that the Bushes and Coolidges are both related to the same Spencers from which my friend and I are descended, but it so happens that these Spencers are the same Spencers that are the founders of the Spencer and Spencer-Churchill family that are notable for such figures as John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Winston Churchill, Princess Di (as well as her sons Prince William and Harry).  These people are therefore family as well, and their history and stories are also part of my extended family history, which I find very fascinating as well since I was already interested in the history of the Spencer-Churchill family [2].  To be sure, none of these famous people likely care that we are tenth cousins or what-not.  To be sure, I don’t expect the descendants of the famous Hutchinsons, or of the Spencers or Churchills or Coolidges or Bushes or anyone else who is vastly more famous than I am among our common relatives to start inviting me to family reunions and other fancy soirees, but for the record I find it fascinating that we are all so deeply interconnected and that I can count so many notable people in history as my kin.

It does fascinate me how differently one looks at history when one sees oneself as a part in it.  This is something that happens frequently for me as a historian of my own family’s interesting history.  Members of my family have made themselves obnoxious because of their political or religious beliefs, and I have found that to be the case for me as well.  I have found that my own natural ways of serving and developing my talents are related to ancestral ways of serving in the Bible, for example, and I have found it fascinating how interconnected we are if we will only take the time to explore those connections.  Perhaps there is some sort of intuition that helps people connect with those they genuinely are connected with.  Is it possible that I should be automatically drawn to people with whom I have unknown connections with as a way of recognizing kindred souls even before I know they are kin?  It is an interesting thought to be sure, but suffice it to say that I am now even more deeply interested in the various historical matters of these people whom I have now discovered are my relatives, my own flesh and blood, even if distantly so.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/06/05/book-review-the-ordeal-of-thomas-hutchinson/

[2] See, for example:








About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When History Becomes Family History

  1. Pingback: When History Becomes Family History: Part Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: And If Your Friends Jump In There’ll Be More Dead | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Something Tells Me You’re Not Famous Anymore | Edge Induced Cohesion

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