Roots — I descended from seventeenth-century Salem puritans!

July 15, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog

If you’ve read Alex Haley‘s great book Roots, you know the incredible emotion you feel when after telling the stories of many people who came or were brought to America from Africa — gripping stories — and seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of a story about some woman she gives birth to him!, Alex Haley himself. It’s an amazing literary transformation from history to memoir that makes history come alive.

I just had such an event.

Years ago my grandmother made me a quilt whose pattern included leaves on which she wrote names, dates, and places, some going back to the 1500s, Norway, and England; others being relatives on my mom’s side. I never researched them, but wondered about them.

Suddenly I’ve learned some of their stories.

Recently my mom, who had the quilt to clean it (she can do better than I can without ruining what her mother wrote on it), followed up. She found a site that traced the descendants my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather and mother (that’s eight “great”s, if I counted right, I’m in their 11th generation), George and Hannah Varnham (Varnum).

So on my grandmother’s paternal side, the first of my ancestors to come to North America (the United States didn’t exist yet) in 1635 came from Northhamptonshire, England and settled in what is now Massachusetts.

I can’t tell you the emotions this makes me feel. Reading the brief sketches of my ancestors, imagining their lives and how their stories may have filtered through their descendants to my ancestors to my grandparents, my mother, and me; comparing their stories with what I learned in history books — it’s amazing. Knowing my connections to them and my country’s history and before makes it feel closer and more relevant to me.

Some notes on from that page on my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather George:

George Varnham was among the earliest settlers of Ipswich, MA. He came over from England among the Puritan emigrants who early settled Salem and Ipswich, who are distinguished from the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth. With him came his wife Hannah and their children, Samuel and Hanna, Samuel being about 16 and Hannah next in age. He was a Puritan who emigrated from England in 1635 (These were called the Salem Puritans as differenciated from the Plymouth Puritans of 1620. The word Pilgrim was invented 100 years later) ! He was one of 71 people who emigrated from Lilbourne Parrish, Northhamptonshire, England.

Wow, and the generations from my grandmother on up (where the numbers are the generations from George Varnham): Marjorie Rebecca9 Varnum, James Perkins8, Richard MARTIN7, Daniel Porter6, Benjamin5, Abraham4, John3, Samuel2, GEORGE (Varnham)1.

George’s son Samuel was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, who came from England at 16 years old with his father. Notes on him:

3. Samuel2 VARNUM ([II]) (GEORGE (Varnham)1), born abt. 1619 in Lilborne Parrish,,Northamptonshire,England; deceased 1683 in Dracutt,,Massachusetts. He married abt. 1645 in Ipswich,,Connecticut, Sarah LANGTON ([II]) , born abt. 1635 in Ipswich,,MA ; deceased 1698, daughter of Roger and Goodie () Langton .

Notes for Samuel Varnum ([II])

Immigrated to USA in 1635 with his parents at age 16. Indians killed his two oldest sons while crossing the river to milk the cows on 18 Mar 1676. Originally settled in Ipswich, Essex, Massachussetts. Owned farm on North side of Merrimac River (Drawcutt), purchased in 1665. Lived on South side of Merrimac River (Chelmford) on Military Fort. Refhh: Purchased 1100 acres of land in “Drawcott upon Merrimack”. Served in Narraganset Campaign (King Phillip War) 1676 B) Sgt, West Reg’t of Essex, 1691 – 1692. VOD: On 11/25/1698, Samuel VARNUM’s sons Thomas, John and Joseph VARNUM divided up land with Edw. “Coleburn”‘s sons Thomas, Daniel, Ezra and Joseph “Coleburn”. On 9/16/1703 (when Anne was Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland), Capt. John Bowers of Chelmsford conveyed to Thomas, John and Joseph VARNUM 500 acres of the Wamasett Purchase, bounded by the Merrimack River on the south and Beaver Brook on the East. On 3/4/1711, Joseph and Ruth VARNUM convey to John VARNUM one third of 340 acres, bounded by the Merimack River on the South, Capt. Sewell’s land on the West, Long Pond on the North “Colburne”‘s farm on the East and South-east. On 7/29/1712, Thomas, John and Joseph VARNUM divide up lands purchased by their father Samuel VARNUM, Capt. Webb and Thomas Richardson (see below) bounded on the North side by Old Meadow Brook. On 10/29/1713, Thomas and John VARNUM convey to Joseph VARNUM land bounded on the North side of the Merrimack River, Joseph’s farm on the West, except 100 acres of the 500 acres that was already owned by Joseph from a parcel sold to him by John “COLEBURN”. On 6/13/1735, Henry COLBURN of Dracutt, conveys to John VARNUM his 1/73 share of a previous conveyance (lot 26 in the 300 township Northwest of Rutland).

Following the lineage downward gets complicated so I’ll have to come back and update this page after disentangling it. For now, it’s easier to work backward.

My grandmother Marjorie Rebecca Varnum was born in 1921 in Centerville, South Dakota. My grandfather Robert Skotvold was born in 1919 (doesn’t say where). He died two years before I was born. I don’t know much about him except that he served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II on a boat called the Pensacola.

420. Marjorie Rebecca9 VARNUM ([IX]) (James Perkins8, Richard MARTIN7, Daniel Porter6, Benjamin5, Abraham4, John3, Samuel2, GEORGE (Varnham)1), born 26 Aug 1921 in Centerville,,South Dakota. She married Robert SKOTVOLD ([IX]) , born 24 Mar 1919; deceased Nov 1969.

Some notes on my great-grandparents, who farmed the homestead established by my great-great-grandfather in South Dakota. My great-grandfather James Perkins Varnum was born in 1871 in Le Mars, Iowa and my great-grandmother Susan Caroline Ayer was born in 1875 in Centerville, South Dakota. He died about a year before I was born. She died two years before I was born. Both were in Rapid City, South Dakota.

 320. James Perkins8 VARNUM ([VIII]) (Richard MARTIN7, Daniel Porter6, Benjamin5, Abraham4, John3, Samuel2, GEORGE (Varnham)1), born 15 Dec 1871 in Le Mars,Iowa; deceased 6 Mar 1970 in Rapid City,,South Dakota. He married on 10 Oct 1900, Susan Caroline AYER ([VIII]) , born 17 Sep 1875 in Centerville,,South Dakota; deceased 9 Aug 1969 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Notes for James Perkins Varnum ([VIII])

! Pic: Picture ! Emp: Farmed the Homestead established by his father. ! Loc: Moved to Centerville, South Dakota in 1942 Retired to Glendale, CA and 4 other CA locations Moved back to Centerville Retirement Home !Ref: VG p77 {III}

Notes for Susan Caroline Ayer ([VIII])

!Picture Misc: She Painted, Knitted, Crocheted & Tattied Ed: Attended 1 year College

I still hear my mom talk to my relatives on her side about Centerville and Rapid City, although I think of Sioux Falls as where my mom grew up.

My next step will be to trace another generation up to my great-great-grandparents and down to my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.

UPDATE: one of my readers found my mother’s sister’s family’s Family Tree page and printed a copy of the Varnum Family Tree with me, all eleven previous generations, and a bunch of other relatives.

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5 responses on “Roots — I descended from seventeenth-century Salem puritans!

  1. Pingback: Why I stopped eating meat, part 2 | Joshua Spodek

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