Looking into my family history was never intended to reach beyond my great grand parents. In the box that my three sisters delivered to me here in the Ozark Hills years ago were childhood pictures taken with our black box camera, hand written letters and poems, and other odd memorabilia they had saved over the years about our parents and our life as children when we lived in a working class suburb sandwiched between Kansas City and Independence, Missouri.
Somehow, curiosity led outside of the box into family history as far back as the fifteenth century. We had wealthy bankers and gifted architects on my mother’s side, with a few rogues thrown in. On my father’s side in that same century we had wealthy English cloth merchants and educators, with a few lawyers in the mix who loved to litigate.
This 23rd blog reminds me that we have 23 pairs of chromosomes carrying thousands of genes that control our physical characteristics and more personality traits than we might want or expect. Now I look at the pictures in the box of my mother and realize how truly regal and beautiful she was, how easily she would have played the role of countess in a Florentine household. I look at the photos of my father and try to imagine photo shopping his image into photos I’ve now seen of founding father Roger Sherman and General William Tecumseh Sherman. The physical similarities are not easy to see, but his adventurous personality would have linked my father to Samuel Sherman, who eagerly boarded a ship to come to the American Wilderness in 1634. I look at my sisters now, and try to imagine which parent they physically resemble more; though it’s obvious to anyone who knows them they have our mother’s inner strength and resolve. And I wonder about my poppa bear brother, who had the warm countenance of my mother, but doesn’t seem to fit any of the other ancestors. I’m amazed at the similarities we all share with ancestors, and at the same time the differences that makes each of us unique.
I realize we’re all linked with traits that determine our health, physical characteristics, and yes, maybe even personality traits that make us shy or outgoing. Go back far enough, and there’s probably some undiscovered Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal cave painting authored by one of our ancestors who would prefer to stay indoors. Blowing blood and pigments through a hollow reed to paint a picture on the cave wall was safe. Let those extroverts go out with the gang to chase mastodons.
I think it’s exciting to see younger relatives become interested in their heritage. My sister, Judy’s granddaughter, Megan, and the grand daughter of my middle sister, Sherry, just returned from Florence, Italy, where they walked on some of the same cobblestone paths trod by their ancestors. They also crossed the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that spans the Arno River close to the fifteenth century homes of their medieval Alberti family. Their adventure yielded some tantalizing clues that may help solve the parentage of my great grandfather Albert Anatole Alberti. In April, my daughter, Trish, and her husband, Chip, will visit Italy and look for further clues, and maybe test the local wines and view the beauty of Florence without the inconvenience of the black plague or a medieval ceramic pot beside their hotel bed. Last week, I find that my sister Ruth’s son Doug, and his wife Chelle, are kayaking, hiking and working smack dab in the middle of Sherman history on the New England Coast. I’ll elaborate on that down page.
There are a few mysteries and questions yet to be solved – one big one for me is when and where did my mother get a pilot’s license and why didn’t she reveal it to any of her children. There is an intriguing clue that my wife Sharon found regarding a program for female pilots during the Second World War. Was my mother willing to go to war to defend the country and her family if needed? The joy of flying, apparently shared by both my parents, lives on in the DNA of my sister Sherry’s son Michael, and her grand daughter Kara.
The blog has been an interesting tool in that it lets my brother’s boy Ben read it from his phone in Ecuador, and allows another of his sons, David, to follow on his device in Puerto Rico. A third son, Danny, along with his mother Bess, my brother’s widow, read the blog from their home near Saint Louis. There are definitely some advantages to sharing a blog on Facebook, but then I wonder why someone in Kyrgyzstan might be reading it, and it’s intriguing that there are some Italians that check in from time to time. The blog statistics show which countries blog lookers are from, and even which device they are using, but no names or locations are revealed. Anyway, I’ll continue to blog unless I think someone from Russia is stealing my identity and voting for a candidate I don’t approve of. There were 17 page views from Russia one day last week. I hope it was a single bored Russian deep into a bottle of vodka with nothing better to do.
I mentioned upstream in this blog that my nephew Doug and his wife Chelle ended up living right in the middle of their Sherman history on the New England Coast. Doug is a chemist and on the board of the Conservation Commission in North Stonington, Connecticut, dedicated to planning and regulating the natural and historic resources of the area. Chelle works at the Pequotsepos Nature Center in nearby Mystic, site of the epic Indian massacre of the Pequot Indian tribe in 1637.
Doug and Chelle live about 80 miles down the coast from Watertown, Massachussetts, where Samuel Sherman , Doug’s 11th great grandfather, lived for several years when he first arrived from England at the age of 14. They live approximately fifty miles from Weathersfield, Connecticut, where Samuel first set roots in a small Puritan Village. Samuel left after the Pequot Indians murdered some of his neighbors and took two village girls hostage. Doug and Chelle live about an hours drive north of Stratford, Connecticut, which was Samuel’s final residence for fifty years, until his death in 1670. Chelle works directly with some of the descendents of prominent players in the Pequot War, like John Mason, who led Puritan forces against the Pequot Indians in Mystic, which led to their final demise. Doug and Chelle kayak and hike many of the same inlet waterways and trails used by their Sherman ancestors and their Indian adversaries nearly 400 years ago. This Sherman history just recently came to light for me, so I’m thinking that Doug and Chelle may be just as surprised as me to find that they put down roots in the same area as their ancestors.
Doug and Chelle's kayak is a bit more modern than this.
Below is a list of some new information brought to light from links Chelle has sent me.
1. It appears our Sherman history is heavily tangled with that of the Whiting and Gould families, beginning with the first Puritan colonies established in New England. Mr. Whiting was on the committee with Samuel Sherman that declared war on the Pequot Indians. Mr. Gould was on a war committee with Samuel Sherman some years later, when the colonists were on high alert expecting a coastal attack from the Dutch. I suspect the connection with the Whitings and Goulds may have originated in England.
2. Samuel Sherman was appointed to a position in the General Court at Weathersfield at the young age of nineteen. He was selected over a score of older men, his own father Edmund among them. His excellent education in Dedham, England must have made a very favorable impression on his Puritan neighbors.
3. Samuel served three successive years in the General Court in Stratford, Connecticut, beginning in 1662. For his capable service, the Court rewarded him with two hundred and fifty acres of land. Fifty acres was outside the bounds of Stratford in the county of Fairfield, Connecticut. Over the years he acquired additional land, and gave much of it to his children before he died. As an old man, he moved in with his son Samuel, then living in Woodbury, Connecticut.
4. In 1672, at the age of 64, Samuel Sherman was granted liberty from service. He, along with Lt. William Curtis, Ensign Joseph Judson and John Minor, received a grant to erect a plantation at Pomperaug, Connecticut, which eventually became the town of Woodbury, Connecticut. With permission from this grant, Samuel Sherman and the other three men purchased a large, fertile, four mile long tract of land from the Pootatuck Indians. The land was purchased for one homespun gray coat, one hatchet, and ten pounds of powder and lead. I found the sale agreement and the signatures (marks) of the three Indian elders who sold their tribal land.
5. Just as I’m about to post this blog I ran across some more information on Samuel Sherman and some of his sons in Woodbury, Connecticut. I posted earlier that I had no substantial information on Samuel’s sons, but I found Cothren’s “History of Ancient Woodbury,” which promises to fill in some missing details on some of Samuel Sherman’s eight sons.