Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back on the trail of my ancestors

I can't believe I'm going back to England in just two weeks! All my attention has been on the new bookshop, but I need to get back into the genealogy mindset. I'm going to a Quakers Uniting in Publications conference in Birmingham, but I added a precious few days in London at the end of the trip for genealogy research. My primary goal this time is to find out all I can about the Fredericksburgh Monthly Meeting.

Fredericksburgh, now known as Camden, South Carolina, was also known as the Wateree meeting (on the Wateree River) and even Pine Tree Hill. When my ancestor Joshua English moved there from Ireland in 1753, he brought his wife, Mary, and six children: Thomas (22), Elizabeth (18), Robert (16), John (~13), Mary (~11) and Joshua (~8). (Fellow historians think the younger four children came on a separate voyage because they weren't present at court for the land request. My research shows that no other Quaker families arrived in the four months before they did show up in the records, so I believe they traveled with their parents.)

Genealogists with Quaker lines are usually fortunate, because they kept meticulous vital records. However, living archivists and deceased authors alike assure me that no records exist for Fredericksburgh Meeting. Whether they didn't keep records, or the records were destroyed, or they sit lost in someone's attic, nobody seems to know. The meeting fell apart after only a couple of decades and was formally laid down in 1784. Apparently, wealth and slaves and plantation life drew several members away from their faith. Those who stayed true to Quaker ideals moved to Bush River Meeting, which was farther into the South Carolina backcountry, or to other states. Joshua's son Thomas, my ancestor, remained a Quaker and his son John moved to Bush River and then to North Carolina.

Two things inspired me to hunt for these records. 1 - I read in a book that Fredericksburgh reported directly to the London Yearly Meeting. Later on, they were under North Carolina Yearly Meeting, but seemed to have little interaction with other American meetings. 2 - Skimming through a Virginia heritage book, I ran across a letter from Fredericksburgh Meeting, signed by its members. I thought, if a Virginia meeting has a record - a snapshop in time - of this little group of Quakers, more records must exist.

The letter attests to the character of William Terrell and his wife Martha, who apparently moved from Fredericksburgh to Southriver Meeting in Virginia with their children in 1762. It was signed by Samuel Wiley; John, Henry, Robert, James and Rebecca Millhouse; John, Joshua, Robert, Joseph, and Mary English and Mary English Jr.; William Elmore; William Smith; Zeb. Gauntt; Timothy, Samuel, John and Mary Kelly; Mary Tomlinson; Sarah Russell; and Mary Cook.

Those names give me enough clues to hunt for more.

No comments: