Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 1, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I want to share with you something I’ve just stumbled upon. It’s a document in which Churchill’s grandson and namesake describes his use of the Internet to search his family tree. Here’s an excerpt, after which I make a few brief comments below the star line:

While compiling The Great Republic I read that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, had made available thirty years of their researches on both sides of the Atlantic (www.familysearch.org ), dumping on the Internet the records of some 300 million individuals who had been born, been married or had died on either side of the Atlantic.

The system is somewhat quirky, in that it refused to recognise my grandfather's name, but when I punched in the name of Jennie Jerome and her parents, suddenly an amazing family tree sprouted forth, detailing some 255 ancestors on the American side of my family, of whose existence I had previously been unaware.

Many of the branches run back to before the time of Columbus, one even through twenty-eight generations to the West Country to one Gervaise Gifford born in 1122 at Whitchurch, Dorset.

That particular branch of the family barely moved fifteen miles in the space of fifteen generations before William Gifford, born in 1614 at Milton Damerel, Devon, and who married at St. Martins, London, on 4 March 1683, sailed for America, dying soon afterwards at Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1687.

Of these 255 ancestors I discovered no fewer than 26 who were born in England but died in America. To me they are true heroes‹for these were the men and women who founded the America of today.

In the course of my researches, I suddenly stumbled on the fact that one of my ancestors, John Cooke, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1694, had been born in Leyden, Holland, in 1607.

Aware that nearly half the Pilgrims on the Mayflower had been known as the "Leyden Community"‹Walloon Protestants escaping religious persecution‹I was prompted to wonder if any of my forebears had made that momentous voyage.

Within seconds, using an admirable Internet search engine straight out of P. G. Wodehouse, appropriately named www.askjeeves.com, I was able to call up via the Mayflower website the full manifest of all 102 passengers and was fascinated to discover (assuming the Morman (sic) database to be correct) that Winston Churchill, ten generations removed, had not one but three ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower and who, more importantly, were among the mere fifty who survived the rigours of that first cruel winter on the shores of Massachusetts.

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As I read his grandson’s account of using the Internet, I thought of how much Churchill would have loved using it.

The Churchill genealogical information is fascinating, isn’t it?

Churchill’s spellings of “recognize” and “rigours” are neither wrong nor quirky. They're the British form of those words.

I know you know that. I just mentioned it to but I wanted to let you know I do too.

Churchill’s entire document is here.

2 comments:

inman said...

With due respect to the pursuit of one's heritage and the joy in finding the identity of one's ancestors, I caution that much of what one finds on the internet is, well frankly, garbage.

My grandfather was a professional and well-respected genealogist who was meticulous in proving descent or ancestory. Often, the Latter Day Saints and others publish patently false information regarding lineage.

Just a cautionary note.

Anonymous said...

I have had the pleasure of meeting Churchill's grandson and he is a fine gentleman and keeper of the Churchill name.