How Many Patriot Ancestors?

Many people think there are only two possibilities concerning ancestors who played a part in the American Revolution. Either you had one, or you had none. And the odds of having one are not very good.

Fortunately, that is not the case. There is a very colorful past behind each of us, and it is full of numerous exciting possibilities when looking back more than two hundred years.

For instance, one of the people I recently entered into the Founders & Patriots Family Forest is now lineage-linked to twelve S.A.R.-qualified Patriot ancestors (6 from NY and 6 from MA). He was born in the middle of the last century. If he (or any of his siblings, children, or grandchildren) married someone with a similar amount of Patriot ancestry, it means there can be people today with dozens of Patriot ancestors (even without counting the spouses, who also played an important part in the birth of our nation).

I can’t help but wonder how many of his Patriot ancestors might have known one or more of the other eleven Patriot forefathers. Might some of them have sat around the same campfires? What if one of those soldiers could have known then that a century into the future, one of his great-granddaughters was going to marry the great-grandson of the guy sitting next to him on the log by the campfire (or crouched next to him behind the log, dodging musket balls)?

“You Know My Name”

Last night Kristine and I watched the new movie on TNT called “You Know My Name”. It was set in the 1920’s in Oklahoma and starred Sam Elliott as the legendary lawman Bill Tilghman (William Matthew Tilghman).

I knew the Tilghman family was prominent on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, because I had entered many of them in the Delaware Family Forest. When I checked the database, I found William Matthew Tilghman (b. July 12, 1820) who had moved West, married a woman from Keokuk, Iowa, and had at least four sons. One of those sons was William Matthew Tilghman, Jr., presumably the legendary Oklahoma lawman.

William Matthew Tilghman is lineage-linked to many prominent early American ancestors from the Delmarva Peninsula in the Delaware Family Forest. They include, in addition to Tilghman, surnames such as Bowers, Boynton, Carvill, Gill, Grundy, Harris, Hyson, Lloyd, Neale, Osborne, Phillips, Tilden, and Wilmer.

Bill Tilghman’s Colonial Maryland ancestry leaps across the Atlantic in the Presidential Family Forest. One connecting point is Alice Berkeley (pin# 26668). A 40 generation ancestor view of her fills in 5,969 boxes. They include a large number of nobility, royalty, and historically notable figures.

Many of these same ancestors have descendants who will also be featured in an another new program from TNT. It is about Princess Diana, and it was advertised during the “You Know My Name” movie. Who would have guessed that that crusty old lawman Sam Elliott portrayed is connected to Princess Diana?

Kristine and I both find that it enhances our enjoyment of movies such as “You Know My Name” when we use Family Forests to see just where the characters fit within the actually unfolding of history. It puts their lives in meaningful and helpful context and perspective.

Could He Be One Of Yours

A teenager is abruptly and unexpectedly startled from a peaceful sleep in the middle of the night.

Before dawn, he will leave on an adventure that is certain to be filled with danger and life-threatening hazards. Although he has no way to know, he will not return for four or five years.

It is 1756, and the location is New England. Benjamin is only sixteen. Now, before the sun rises, he finds himself among a company of men heading off on an expedition. They are marching off through the wilderness to Canada in the French and Indian War.

Benjamin is the second child, and the oldest son, in a large family. Some of his ancestors came to America more than a century earlier. Others of his ancestors have lived their entire lives in New England. A number of his ancestors have lived into their seventies and eighties.

But at this moment in time, the odds of Benjamin living a long life are not very promising. Even less so, if the crystal ball could reveal that after surviving his brutal initiation into manhood, he would go on to be a soldier in the American Revolution and participate in the battles of Bunker Hill, Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Monmouth, and others.

But he did beat the odds. Not only did he survive the expedition and the Revolutionary War, he lived a long and prosperous life. He became a successful farmer, married twice, and fathered thirteen children. All of his children married. They gave him at least 87 grandchildren, and maybe more.

Before the end of the nineteenth century, his descendants had spread into a great number of families. In addition to being profusely scattered throughout New England, some were in the Mid-Atlantic states, some in Mid-West states from Kansas to Wisconsin, and some had even reached California.

How many little (or large and dramatic) twists of fate during Benjamin’s life had impacted the lives of all those families?

Five of his children were born before the Revolutionary War, three were born during the war, and five were born after. How many times could part or all of the subsequent chain of events of the unfolding of family history been eliminated by an arrow, a musket ball, disease, accidents, or nature’s wrath?

What I wonder is, how many of his own descendants know that Benjamin even existed?

By now, his genes could be shared by many thousands of families, most of which, because of marriages of so many female descendants, have surnames very different than Benjamin’s. Some of the ones I have entered in the database (as of more than a century ago, 1885) are Ames, Avery, Batchelder, Boardman, Bowers, Chamberlain, Clark, Cotlee, Culver, Dorchin, Fessenden, Hillyer, Hobart, Hodge, Howell, Kendrick, Lyon, Martin, Miller, Mower, Perry, Phillips, Pratt, Raymond, Richards, Robinson, Ryder, Twitchell, Wadsworth, Waite, and Willson.

Could Benjamin be one of your great-great-great-great-grandfathers?