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  • Two by Two: In Search of Immigrant Forebears

    Charles W. Grover

    Published Date : March 1988
    When I became interested in family history 20 years or so ago, my goal was simple enough: to identify the names and other basic data on immigrant forebears - husbands and wives, two by two.

    A number of these pairs, I realized, had arrived many generations back. But New Englanders kept good records, and our family, the Grovers anyway, moved less than 50 miles in 10 generations, from Salem-Beverly, Massachusetts, in the 1630s to Hampstead, New Hampshire.

    Simple, indeed! I thought a few afternoons at the Library of Congress would suffice. I then added a few weeks of time at the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. Next, I scoured libraries of opportunity, intensified sojourns into overgrown cemeteries (poison ivy loves New England limestone and slate), and joined and exploited NEHGS, the Orange County (N.Y.) Genealogical Society, and the New Hampshire Historical Society. For six years, I regularly received books in Chile and Ecuador on loan from NEHGS. After retirement, I discovered the Mormon collection in Salt Lake City and the Washington branch library. Twenty years passed and I was still a long way from my goal.

    For one thing, there were a lot of strangers along with the Grovers and Wymans. Every generation revealed a doubling of the strangers but only one new Grover and one new Wyman. Each of the new names initiated a new investigation.

    The problem is better expressed mathematically.

    Ten generations ago, there are a possible 512 grandparents, and 12 generations back, 2048 grandparents. A large number of our ancestors arrived in the “Great Migration” (1620-1640), 10 or 12 generations ago. Suddenly it is easy to understand why every “old” New Englander is, at the very least, his neighbor’s 10th cousm.

    Who were these hundreds of pairs of ancestors? We are to some degree a product of their combination. We know something about the principals among them by their titles (Captam. Deacon, Reverend, Ensign, etc.), where they lived and died, and sometimes how they died (Ephraim Chaffee was killed by Indians near Glens Falls in the French and Indian War; Joseph Chase was “lost at sea,” etc.). What dramas lie behind these scant details? And who were the larger number for whom we have no record? The problem is not only mathematical but a series of engrossing stories. The investigation, surprisingly but happily, has no end. More research in Orange County, New York, central Vermont, and the Newark, New Jersey, area could provide additional information on the Sears-Hawkins lines, the Fish-Jones families, and the elusive Wheeler family. A number of lines in this table need further validation.

    Although the names are overwhelmingly English and, where information is available, from the south of England (Norfolk, Suffolk, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Devon), there are some intriguing exceptions. Bastian Gazeau, a French Protestant, found refuge in Boston at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It was not his fault that Boston’s East Anglian accent added an “R” and the name became Gosier, Goosier, Gessere, and Gaussure before stabilizing a generation later as Sears. Hieronimus Weller and his bride Anna Juliana Cons/Kuhns were refugees from political instability and warfare in Germany, part of an early migration from the Palatinate. The other German names in Orange County - Kimberg, Koch, Buchstaber, Menges, Sensebaugh - are probably from the same migration, around 1712. There is also the Dutch sailor Jan Dirckse Amerman, who established a family in New Amsterdam in the days of Dutch hegemony.

    Note: In an ancestor table, note that the number of the father is twice that of the child, and the number of the mother is twice the child’s plus one. Both birth and death places are given, when available, and if neither is known, the chief place of residence is listed. For the last two generations (XI and XII), the places listed are residences after marriage, taken from Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700. The number 1 in superscript identifies an immigrant forebear; sometimes father and sons immigrated together. An asterisk indicates an ancestor appearing more than once in the [10] table. Readers may submit additions and corrections from their own research to the NEXUS and to the author at 5702 Beech Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20817

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