Thursday, June 15, 2017

Jamestown 1

I novelized my family history for a while a year ago.  It seemed like some people enjoyed it. In the end, I got tired of making stuff up. I've let it sit for about 9 months. Thought I'd try again with a factual approach.
1. When I was a child, my grandmother passed on a tradition that had been passed down by her mother's family before her. The tradition was that we had an ancestor who had come over to America with Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame. Such traditions are a matter of pride in a family.

As it is with most traditions, there would seem to be at least a kernel of truth in the story. My mother's mother's mother's mother's father's father's father's father's father's father seems to have settled in Jamestown in the early 1600s. That is my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (8th great grandfather).

In this day when you can connect to other people's genealogical quest, I was intrigued to find another person out there relating a similar family tradition. "It is tradition among VA families that the first Shelburne, Thomas, came to Jamestown in 1607 and settled there." So we have a tradition I can trace to my great, great grandmother that her ancestor came over to Jamestown in 1607, and I have been able to connect it to the family traditions of others who claim the same thing about the same person.

2. So did Thomas Shelburne come over with Captain John Smith in 1607? It would be nice to think so. It is at least possible. The problem is that his name does not appear on any manifest in those early years. The lists were not exhaustive, especially if Thomas were a young cabin boy who was there only to play a subservient role.

Still, we know of other boys. There was a boy named Milman who was the cabin boy of Captain Newport. And another boy named Helyard was cabin boy to Captain Waldo. Both boys would be dead within a year.

According to some memory, Thomas was Welsh. There was a Welshman named Captain Peter Wynne on board. No doubt we could write a novel where a naive young Thomas Shelburne somehow ended up at the last minute serving as Wynne's cabin boy at the age of twelve.

But there is no record of it. There is no record of Thomas in those dark years of Jamestown where so many died. We have so many names from those early years, but Thomas' is not one of them.

So while I would like to think that he came over in 1607 and while it is indeed possible he slipped through the cracks, I have to consider another option as perhaps more likely for the time being. It seems more likely that, as another family's memory has it, he was born in Great Britain during the reign of King James (1603-25). He then emigrated at some point in the 1630s and married Elizabeth Augustine around 1640 in Jamestown.

3. My DNA supports an ancestry that is some 64% British. How a young Welshman found his way to Jamestown is lost to history. We do know that southern Wales faced significant flooding in 1607. If Thomas really was born in 1595 and came to America at the age of twelve, perhaps here was a possible cause.

The London of 1607 was the London of King James I. It was the London of Shakespeare. The King James Version was underway and would be published in 1611. London Bridge at the time not only had houses on it, but the heads of former enemies of kings, like William Wallace of Scotland fame, as well as Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, both of whom were put to death by Henry VIII.


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