Music – “A Delightful Entertainment”

This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is about music, which is near and dear to my heart. My family is very musical; I play the flute and piano, my brother plays the piano and drums, my mom plays the piano, my grandmother plays the piano, and so did my 2x great grandmother, Jessie Robinson, and her sister Bertha. I know that another 2x great grandmother had a piano, so she likely played as well.

Of all of my family, my great great grandmother, Jessie Preston Robinson, was by far the most accomplished. She played the organ at her church in Nashville for many years, and when she was younger, she often performed at musical events. I had heard family stories for years about her talent, but I didn’t realize the extent until I found some of the pieces she played at recitals.

Jessie was born on 20 January 1876 in Zanesville, Ohio to Charles and Cora Preston. Charles was a molder, and in 1881, he was hired by Phillips and Buttorff Manufacturing Company to be the foreman of their foundry. Charles moved to Nashville, and Cora and their children, Jessie and Walter, followed in 1882.

By 1886, Jessie was enrolled in a music course taught by Mrs. Cleveland, though she had likely been playing for several years. She, along with other piano students, exhibited their skills on 15 May 1886:


A Delightful Little Concert.

There was a delightful little concert last night at the residence of Mr. B. Franklin on Monroe street, given by members of Mrs. Cleveland’s musical class. When it is considered that many of these are children who commenced studying music only last fall, the excellence with which the different numbers were rendered is remarkable. The programme was as follows:

Instrumental duet – “Mountain Glee,” Miss Mary Lee Jones and Miss Jennie Sweeney.

Silver Springs Waltz, Miss Jessie Preston.

Chorus – See Saw Song.

Vocal solo – “Flee as a Bird,” Mr. Percy Cleveland.

Instrumental solo – “Highland Glen March,” Miss Mary Lee Jones.

Chorus – “Come where Flowers Bloom.”

Instrumental solo – “Woodland Echoes,” Miss Maggie Epperson.

Vocal quartet – “Moonlight will Come Again,” Mrs. Cleveland and Messrs. Cleveland.

Instrumental solo – “Blue Mozella Waltz” and “Faust March,” Miss Jennie Sweeney.

Vocal duet – “I Come, I Come,” Miss Edwards and Miss Epperson

Song – “My Cottage Home,” Mrs. Cleveland and sons.

Duet – Heel and Toe Polka, Miss Epperson and Miss Preston.

Instrumental solo – Sonata in E (Lichner) No. 2, Miss Jessie Preston.

Instrumental solo – “Chant de Berger,” Miss Maggie Epperson.


On February 10, 1888, when Jessie was 12 years old, she participated in another performance of her musical abilities as a student of Mrs. Cleveland. She performed “German Triumphal March” by Jacob Kunkel and “Il Trovatore.”

Here is the first page of the “German Triumphal March.” I was incredibly impressed that Jessie could play this at such a young age! It proves how talented she really was.

Below is the sheet music for “Il Trovatore, a musical selection written by Giuseppe Verdi and arranged for the piano by E. Dorn. It is another complicated piece for a young girl to play.

By 1890, Jessie had left Mrs. Cleveland’s school and was receiving lessons from Professor Emmet Coyle. On 7 June, Jessie and other students performed at the Y.M.C.A.:



A Charming Amateur Entertainment at the Y.M.C.A. Last Night.

The pretty auditorium of the Young Men’s Christian Association building was well filled last night by a representative audience of Nashville’s most cultivated lovers of music. The occasion was a piano recital by the pupils of Prof. Emmet Coyle. Mr. Coyle is a young man of marked ability as a musician and instructor. He has already attained considerable prominence in musical circles with a reputation extending beyond the city. Those of his pupils appearing were Misses Sammie Warren, Jennie Sanders, Rosa Rosenzweig, Lizzie Corder, Lillie Veronee, Emma Englert, Nellie Hagerty, Jessie Preston, Hattie Clarkson, Clara Jungerman, Carrie Zickler, Annie Zickler, Sophie Levy, Ray Flattau and Fannie Flattau, and Masters Frank McDonald, Charlie Sanders, Abe Rosenzweig and Arthur Jungerman. The selections were from classic music and, in the main, quite difficult, but the piano work was good, reflecting praise on both instructor and pupils.

The programme was pleasingly varied by several of Nashville’s talented amateurs, whose appearance is always hailed with pleasure. Mr. Tom Norton McClure sang a pretty selection; Mrs. A. H. Stewart rendered Belline’s Bridal Song; Mr. Robert Nichol sang Verdi’s “Evi Tu Che Macchiavi;” Miss Lillie Pearl Levy sang “Madaline,” from White’s composition, and Miss Mamie Geary and Prof. Coyle rendered DeBeriot’s seventh concerto with piano and violin. Prof. Feliz Heinck, of New York, also appeared. He sings a rich and well cultivated baritone which won especial applause. He has been induced to consider location here.

The entertainment was, on the whole, one of the most thoroughly satisfying of the season.


Sadly, Emmet Coyle died in 1891, and by necessity, Jessie would have found a new musical instructor.

Another reference in the newspaper of a performance in which Jessie took part appeared on 11 February 1894:

Jessie was 18 years old when she played the piano in this recital. I just wish it included what pieces she played! An interesting observation for me was that another performer, Jennie Cassetty, was Jessie’s future husband’s first cousin. This is the first time where I have seen a connection between the two families prior to Jessie and Thomas’s marriage in 1897.

Charles Preston is the man on the left holding the violin.

After learning about Jessie’s musical talents, it made me wonder where her musical ability came from. I honestly did not think I would ever learn this, but then I found a photo in an old family album that answered this question: her father! Jessie’s father, Charles Preston, played the violin, as shown in the photograph below. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything further, and I don’t know who the other man is, but it gives a tantalizing glimpse into the Preston’s family life.


It was so much fun to find out that music connects the generations of my family, from the 1850s to the present. And it is very fitting for such a musical family to have lived in Music City! (Nashville)




Travel – Visiting Relatives

Newspapers are such wonderful resources, even more so when they have been digitized. They often contain important glimpses into ancestors’ lives that might not be available in any other resources. In the society sections of The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper, my 2x great grandparents, Nathaniel L. Althauser and Martha (Sears) Althauser appear fairly regularly between the years of 1906 and 1919. The society columns reported when they were visiting relatives or when relatives were visiting them. I have very little information about the everyday lives of Nathaniel and Martha, so these little glimpses in the newspaper give me some insight into their personalities and relationships with their families.

Nathaniel and Martha traveled quite a bit in that 13 year period according to the newspaper, and they probably traveled more than even was reported. The majority of the traveling was between Martha and Nathaniel’s home in Nashville to Pegram Station and to Greenbrier. Martha Althauser was born Martha Sears to Edward Green Sears and Isabella (Kellam) in Pegram Station in 1879. The Sears owned a large farm in Pegram and a beautiful old home with large windows and a porch.

In 1903, Martha married Nathaniel Lyons Althauser in Nashville. Nathaniel was the oldest living son of William Althauser and Mary Frances (Swift) Althauser of Greenbrier, Tennessee. Nathaniel attended Vanderbilt University and by 1906 was the superintendent of the West Station Post Office in Nashville.

Both Nathaniel and Martha were close to their families, so while they lived in Nashville, they often traveled back to Pegram Station and Greenbrier to visit their parents. Sometimes Nathaniel and Martha went together, and sometimes Martha and their daughters Martha and Frances would travel without him. Nathaniel, Martha, and their daughters visited around birthdays and holidays. Other trips were just for pleasure and socializing. Some of these trips lasted just for a day, and sometimes for as long as a month. The Althausers also hosted their relatives at their home in Nashville.

The following excerpts are from the newspaper, giving some details about their travels:

21 April 1906 Miss Willie Sears and Edward Sears, of Pegram Station, are visiting their sister, Mrs. W. D. (N. L. misprint) Althauser on Alabama avenue.

11 May 1906 Mrs N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, have returned from Greenbrier.

25 May 1906 Mrs. N. L. Althauser has returned from Pegram Station.

10 June 1906 Mrs. E. G. Sears, of Pegram Station, is visiting her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, on Alabama avenue.

13 June 1906 Mrs. E. G. Sears left Tuesday for her home at Pegram Station after a visit to her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

1 March 1907 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, are visiting relatves at Pegram Station.

6 March 1907 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, have returned from a visit to Pegram Station.

20 March 1907 Miss Willie Sears has returned to Pegram Station, after visiting her sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

1 May 1907 N. L. Althauser has returned from Sumner County. Edwin Sears, of Pegram Station, was the guest of his sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, last week.

24 May 1907 Mrs. Willie Sears is the guest of Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

13 October 1907 Mrs. E. G. Sears, of Pegram Station, is visiting her daughter, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

23 October 1907 Miss Martha Althauser is visiting relatives at Pegram Station.

11 December 1907 Miss Willie Sears, who has been the guest of Mrs. N. L. Althauser, has returned to Pegram Station. Little Miss Martha Althauser accompanied her home for a visit.

29 December 1907 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and little daughter, Martha, went to Greenbrier Saturday to visit relatives.

15 Jan 1908 Miss Lucille Lyles has returned to Pegram Station, after visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

29 March 1908 Miss Lucille Lyles has returned to Pegram Station after visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser, in Sylvan Park.

25 October 1908 Miss Martha Althauser has returned from Pegram Station.

16 December 1908 Mr. and Mrs. Althauser and Miss Martha Althauser have returned from a two-weeks’ visit to relatives at Pegram Station.

30 August 1912 Mrs. N. L. Althauser is visiting in Pegram Station.

28 December 1913 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are spending the week-end at Pegram’s Station.

18 October 1914 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are spending the week-end with relatives at Pegram’s Station.

29 November 1914 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children spent Thanksgiving with relatives at Pegram’s Station.

30 April 1916 Miss Willie Sears of Pegram is the guest of her sister, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

21 May 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children are guests of Mrs. Sears at Pegram for a few days.

4 June 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and children have returned from visiting Mrs. Althauser’s mother, Mrs. Sears.

18 June 1916 Miss Lucile Lyles of Pegram Station is visiting her aunt, Mrs. N. L. Althauser.

20 August 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and Miss Frances and Martha Althauser have returned from Pegram Station where they spent a month with Mr. E. G. Sears.

3 September 1916 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and daughters, Frances and Martha, have gone to Greenbrier to visit relatives.

29 July 1917 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two daughters, Martha and Frances, have returned to Nashville, after spending two weeks with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

5 January 1918 Mrs. N. L. Aulhouser and two daughters, Martha and Francis, of Nashville, are with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

17 March 1918 Miss Francis Althauser of Nashville spent sunday with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

30 June 1918 Mrs. N. L. Aulhouser and daughters, Martha and Frances, of Nashville, are the guests of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

25 August 1918 Mr. and Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two little daughters of Nashville are the guests of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

5 January 1919 Mrs. N. L. Althauser and two daughters, Martha and Francis, of Nashville, are with Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Sears.

After 1919, their travels were no longer recorded in the newspaper as the inclusion of small affairs like these were gradually replaced by more attention grabbing social events. Also, in 1922, Edward G. Sears died followed by Isabella Sears in 1928. By 1918, William Althauser had moved to Nashville to be closer to his children; he died in 1922. The Althausers still visited their Sears relatives in Pegram, especially as Martha inherited part of the farm, though perhaps not as frequently when her parents were alive. William Althauser was the only member of the Althauser family still living in Greenbrier by 1917, so when he moved to Nashville, there was no reason for them to visit that small town.

Very often with ancestors, I have found that I know a lot of details about major events in their lives, but much less about their everyday lives, personal habits, and relationships with each other. I still don’t know many personal details from these traveling habits, but they do seem to suggest that Nathaniel and Martha were close with their parents, and that they encouraged their children to be so as well.










Independence – Albemarle County Declaration of Independence

Happy Independence Day! I am very proud to say that quite a few of my ancestors were involved in the Revolutionary War in some capacity. Some served in local militias, others in the Continental Line, and others gave money and other possessions. While none of them signed the Declaration of Independence, one did sign Declaration of Independence!

William Shelton Sr., my 7th great grandfather, was born in Henrico County, Virginia, but by the 1740s, he was living in Albemarle County, Virginia. He married twice and had children with both of his wives, including my ancestor, William Shelton, Jr. He died in 1789 and left a will diving his estate.

He was a little old to serve as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, but he found another way to serve. On 21 April 1779, William, along with other male members of Albemarle County signed the Albemarle County Declaration of Independence. It reads:

We whos names are hereunto subscribed do swear that we renounce & refuse all Allegiance to George the third King of Great Britain, his heirs & successors & that I will be faithfull & bear True Allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia as a free & independent state, & that I will not at any do or cause to be done any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or injurious to the freedom & independence thereof as declared by congress & also that I will discover & make known to some one justice of the peace for the said state all treasons or traitorous conspiracies which I know or hereafter shall know to be formed against this or any of the united states of America So help me God

William Shelton signed his name, which indicates he was literate.

I am proud of all of my patriot ancestors, but it was especially fun to find an ancestor who signed a Declaration of Independence!


Same Name – Ursula

My German line on my Dad’s side is one of my favorite lines. I really try not to have favorites because I want to give my attention to all of my lines, but sometimes I just can’t help it! I am not sure what it is about them, but I feel more connected to that side, possibly because I look like my grandfather’s clan more than any other part of my family.

The German side placed a lot of value in naming patterns, so it is not unusual to find a mother and daughter or a father and son with the same names. What was especially interesting was finding multiple branches with four generations of people with the same name! And what a fun name it was – Ursula.

My Germans loved to use the name Ursula, even though all I could think of when I saw it for the first time was The Little Mermaid. The root of the name Ursula is the Latin word “ursa,” or “bear.” This was also the name of Saint Ursula, who was allegedly killed by the Huns. Ursula became a popular name during the Middle Ages.

The Four Ursulas


The first of the four Ursulas was my 9th great grandmother Ursula Stäuble. She was the youngest daughter of Johann and Anna Gilgmann born about 1659 in Opfingen, Baden. Very little is known of her early life, except she had at least 3 other siblings. On 28 April 1684, Ursula married Joseph Göltzlin when she was about 25 years old in Opfingen. Ursula gave birth to 6 children: Anna, Johann, Johann, Ursula, Anna Maria, and Johann. All of the children except Ursula the younger died as children. Anna died at age 7, Johann at 7 months, Johann at a few weeks, Anna Maria at age 6, and Johann at age 4.

Joseph and Ursula were part of the middle class in Opfingen. In 1700, their property was valued at 380 florins, they had 2 oxen, and employed 1 maid.

Ursula and Joseph were both living when their only living child, Ursula, was married on 30 January 1714 in Opfingen. Her husband was Paul Pfistner also of Opfingen. Ursula Stäuble was alive for the births of her first two grandchildren, Barbara born in December 1714 and Ursula born on 7 August 1717. In 1717, 3 generations of Ursulas were living in Opfingen: Ursula Stäuble Göltzlin, Ursula Göltzlin Pfistner, and Ursula Pfistner.

Ursula Stäuble Göltzlin died on 21 September 1718. Her husband Joseph died 9 years later in 1727.

Ursula Göltzlin Pfistner was born on 21 January 1692 in Opfingen. She was married to Paul Pfistner when she was 22 years old. Paul was a judge in the local court. Ursula gave birth to 4 children, including Ursula the third. But sadly, Ursula the second died on 17 March 1726. She was only 34 years old. Ursula the third was 8 years old.  Her father Paul had two girls to care for (the other two children died before Ursula the second’s death), so he remarried quite quickly. His second marriage took place only 7 months later. Ursula’s father’s second marriage produced 6 children, all half siblings to Ursula. Paul’s second wife died in 1740, and he remarried 8 months later. This marriage produced two more children.

The death of Ursula’s step mother and the second remarriage of her father took place in the same year of her own marriage. Ursula the third was married on 16 Feb 1740 to Martin Fiand when she was 22 years old. Ursula and Paul had 5 children: Johann Martin, Anna Maria, Jakob, Ursula the fourth, and Johann.

Ursula the fourth was born on 21 April 1747. Like her mother and grandmother, Ursula was married at 22 years old on 20 February 1770. Her husband was Andreas Krieg, also of Opfingen. Ursula the fourth and Andreas had 6 children: Andreas, Martin, Andreas, Johann, Ursula, and Anna. In 1779, Andreas and Ursula’s house was valued at 200 florins. Andreas died at the end of 1794, but Ursula lived another 20 years. She was able to witness the marriage of her only living son Martin to Barbara Mörch, and she was able to interact with her first 5 grandchildren. Ursula the fourth died on 1 February 1815 in Opfingen.

My ancestor was Ursula Fiand Krieg’s son Martin (1772-between 1840 and 1850), so my line of Ursulas stops there. However, Ursula the fourth named her daughter Ursula, so technically there are five Ursulas in a row! And when I checked Andreas Krieg’s side, his mother was also named Ursula!

Does this mean that because I found 6 Ursulas, 5 that I am descended from, that I will name my daughter Ursula? Probably not. But I do love how devoted one side of the family was to that name for about 100 years.

Father’s Day – John Bray of London

For the Mother’s Day post, I wrote about my female ancestor who had the most  children (that I know of). This Father’s Day post is somewhat similar, but the subject matter is quite sad. Of all of the ancestors I have found thus far, John Bray lost the most children. For him, as with many men, fatherhood was mixed with great joy and great sadness.

John Bray, my 12th great grandfather, lived and worked in the City of Westminster in London for the majority of his life. No baptismal record exists, and his parentage is unknown. The earliest mention of a John Bray in Westminster is in the will of Edward Dudley, also of St. Margaret’s Parish in the City of Westminster, on 1 July 1542. Dudley made the following bequest to John: “Item, I bequeth to John Bray, my horsse, brydell and saddell, and my new colloryd cloke.” This is likely my John Bray, but other than similar names and location, no other identifying information can prove it one way or the other.

St. Margaret’s Church in the City of Westminster, London

The first record absolutely associated with my John Bray is the record of his marriage at St. Margaret’s Church on 13 August 1553 to Margaret Haslonde. St. Margaret’s is a beautiful church that served (and still serves) the parishioners in Westminster. It is located next to the famous Westminster Abbey and is the church for the House of Commons. The church was largely rebuilt in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and this “new” church makes up the majority of the present church today.

Interestingly, this church and my ancestors who lived in the parish have a connection with another of my ancestors, William Seymour Duke of Somerset (15th great grandfather). In 1540, William planned to dismantle the church and use the building materials in Somerset House, his mansion on the Strand. He was prevented from doing so by armed and angry parishioners. If the Bray or Haslonde families were living in the parish in 1540, they may have been some of the protestors protecting the church.

Martyrdom of William Flower

John Bray became very involved with St. Margaret’s and was appointed a churchwarden in 1554, 1555, and 1556. In 1555, he gave witness testimony in the case of William Flower, a protestant man who assaulted a priest of St. Margaret’s Church on Easter during a service. John was attending church during the incident. Flower was convicted, his hand was cut off, and he was burned alive in St. Margaret’s churchyard.

John was also a successful tailor and a member of the Merchant Taylor’s Company, the most prestigious guild in London. In 1607, John provided some of the wine for a dinner held by the guild for King James I and his family, which John most likely attended.

He was also involved in local government, serving as a Burgess for the City of Westminster in 1585.

Interior of St. Margaret’s Church

John and Margaret’s first recorded child was John, likely named for his father, baptized on 30 Dec 1554. Sadly, little John only lived to be almost 4 months old. He was buried on 28 April 1555.

Their next child was a girl, Margaret, baptized on 17 Feb 1557 at St. Margaret’s. She only lived to be about two weeks old and was buried 2 March 1557.

In about 1558, Margaret gave birth to her third child, Lawrence, who was baptized at St. Margaret’s on 11 October 1558. Lawrence was the first child to live to be older than 4 months old. This must have been such a happy change for John and Margaret.

Margaret and John’s fourth child, Joan, was likely born in June 1560. Joan lived long enough to be given a name, but not long enough to be baptized. She was buried on 27 Jun 1560, probably a few days after she was born.

Thomas, the couple’s fifth child and third son, was most likely born around 1562, although his baptismal record has not been located. He also lived past his first year.

Mary, my ancestress, was baptized on 24 December 1564 at St. Margaret’s Church. Mary was John and Margaret’s only child who lived to adulthood and had children of her own.

John and Margaret’s last two children, both boys and both named Henry, also died young. The older Henry was baptized on 6 October 1566, and younger Henry on 4 Feb 1568. The older Henry must have died prior to the birth of the younger Henry, and the younger Henry likely also died young as no other record of him has been found. He was certainly dead by 1615, but likely much sooner.

By 1570, John was the father of 3 living children – Lawrence, Thomas, and Mary – and possibly 4 if the younger Henry was still alive. However, 1570 would prove to be a difficult year for a father. Thomas died at the age of 8 and was buried on 22 March. Lawrence died within days of his brother, and was buried two days later on 24 March at the age of 12. Thomas and Lawrence likely died of the same disease.

John was the father of 8 children, 7 of whom died as children. Only Mary lived to be an adult, married, and had children herself. Similarly to her parents, only 3 of her 9 children lived to have children of their own.

Margaret was buried on 28 March 1588, and it seems that John never remarried. He continued to live in Westminster until his death which took place before 6 December 1615. Mary (Bray) Whitney and her husband Thomas were named as executors of John’s will. Unfortunately, the will no longer exists. But it does show that Mary probably continued to have a relationship with her father, and I hope that it was a good one. I hope that John was a good father to the only child that he saw grow up. He certainly worked hard to provide for his family, even if it wasn’t as large as he would have hoped.

John, having no living sons of his own, seemed to take quite an interest in his namesake, his grandson John Whitney. in 1607, the same year as the guild dinner for James I, John Whitney entered into an apprenticeship to be a tailor just like his grandfather. As an adult, John Whitney also became a full member of the Merchant Taylor’s guild. Even though John’s father placed him in the apprenticeship, his grandfather John probably had a hand in it.

Some fathers experience more hardship than others, and John was certainly one of those. Loosing so many children (as well as his wife) would naturally be hard on any father, but I hope that he found some solace and comfort in his daughter and his grandchildren.

Going to the Chapel – Reverend William Squire

Last week’s post focused on an Anglican minister who lived during the 18th century. The focus of this week’s post is another Anglican minister who lived during the mid 16th century.

Reverend William Squire (died 1567) is my 12th great grandfather, and the grandfather of my 10th great grandmother, Edith (Squire) Adams, who immigrated to Massachusetts with her husband Henry Adams in about 1632.

St. Mary the Virgin, Charlton Mackrell, Somerset, England

Little is known about Reverend William Squire prior to 1542. He was likely from Somerset and his wife, Alicen, was probably from the same area. No evidence of formal religious training has been discovered, but in 1541 he was appointed the rector of the church at Charlton Mackrell in Somerset. He was mentioned as a reverend in the will of Revered George Levermore, the minister of the church at Barton St. David, on 21 September 1545. Barton St. David was just 3 miles down the road, and 50 years later, William’s granddaughter Edith would marry Henry Adams, a native of that town.

St. Mary the Virgin Church, Charlton Mackrell, Somerset, England

William was appointed as the Charlton Mackrell minister during the end of the reign of King Henry VIII, who had broken with the Catholic Church and created the Church of England. Ministers were now allowed to marry, and William took full advantage of that by “going to the chapel” and marrying Alice Skarlett in about 1551.

In 1553, Queen Mary I ascended to the throne, and she ordered that all married clergymen in England divorce their wives. Fifty-two year old William refused to divorce Alice, so on 10 April 1554, William was deprived of his position as minister.

On 2 May 1561, William was again appointed as the minister of Charlton Mackrell. Queen Elizabeth I had been ruling England for several years, which is most likely why William was able to return to his position.

No death record for William has been found, but he was dead by 15 September 1567 as on that day, Reverend John Sprynt, moved into the rectory after the death of the last minister (William).

Baptismal font where Reverend William Squire baptized congregation members.

I think William was very brave, refusing to divorce his wife even if it meant losing his livelihood. William spent his life going in and out of the church in Charlton Mackrell as a minister, for his marriage, and when he was deprived and reinstated in his position. A few years ago, I was fortunate to travel with my mom to Charlton Mackrell to visit the St. Mary the Virgin Church where William preached for years and where his children and grandchildren were baptized. All of the pictures in this post are from that trip!

So Far Away – From London to Bermuda to Virginia

This ancestor, Reverend William Swift, is one of my favorites because I have been able to conduct so much original research on his life and family. After spending so much time with William (even visiting England for research and to see places associated with his life), I feel as though I know him fairly well! Or as well as I possibly can without actually meeting him.

William’s life was a quite interesting one, even though it was short. He sadly only lived to be 39 years old. His grandfather and father were both gentlemen of some means from southern England. William was the middle son, and as such, he did not inherit the leases held by his father. Instead, he was slated for a career. At the age of 15, he was sent to London to attend the Merchant Taylors School. It was a famous public school that by the early 18th century was competitive to enter as it almost guaranteed the pupils would attend a university after their training was complete. William was one of the 33 fortunate boys to matriculate on 7 March 1710/11 under the guidance of Headmaster Thomas Parsell. As William was not from London, he boarded at the school while it was in session.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

After finishing school, he was accepted to Emmanuel College at Cambridge University as a sizar on 16 June 1714. This meant that he was essentially a scholarship student. He likely assisted wealthier students in some way or performed other jobs around the college as a way to pay for his education. William studied divinity, and he graduated with a BA in 1718.

Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester

He received his deacons order on 8 June 1718 from Bishop Francis Atterbury, a Jacobite who openly supported Bonnie Prince Charlie over the Hanoverian rulers. Atterbury later examined William for his ordination on 5 December 1719.






Bishop John Robinson

William passed his examination, and 15 days later, he was ordained a priest by Bishop John Robinson at the newly rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.






William accepted a curate position in Kent, which he held for several years until he accepted a ministerial role on the island of Bermuda as the rector of the Southampton, Sandys, Warwick, and Paget parishes. After living in Cambridge and London for many years, Bermuda would prove to be a huge challenge for William. On 8 May 1722, he received the King’s bounty of 20 pounds for his appointment in Bermuda. Two months later, on 6 July 1722, he married Dinah Hodgkins at the St. Dunstans in the West Church in London. William and Dinah likely sailed for Bermuda soon after their marriage. William and Dinah traveled 3,447 miles to Bermuda.

William and Dinah were first mentioned in public records in Bermuda on 7 January 1723/4, where it was recorded that he was paid for his services in the parish of Southampton.  In September of 1726, it was recorded in the minutes that William had still not taken the oath of allegiance to King George I, and on 2 April 1728, he was allowed to carry a pistol to the Devonshire Church.

Living conditions were not very good on the island, and William was being paid very little. He and Dianh became unhappy with their situation after just four years in Bermuda. To make matters more difficult, William and Dinah’s oldest children, William and Thomas, were both born in Bermuda. Sometime in 1726, William requested to be transferred to a new parish somewhere other than Bermuda. The Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, granted his request, and he was supposed to wait in Bermuda until his replacement arrived. But by May 1728, William was no longer willing to wait, and he and his young family sailed from Bermuda to Virginia. This was a journey of 759 miles.

Sir William Gooch

His arrival in Virginia was reported by Governor William Gooch to Bishop Gibson in a letter written on May 26, 1728 from Williamsburg:

“The last week came in hither the Revd: Mr: Wm Swift from Bermudas: He shew’d me his orders, and a Letter from your Lordship…Upon which I told him that I was sorry to find he had not complied with your Lordship Instructions. He is much esteem’d by Those that are acquainted with him, and appears from the little knowledge I have of him, to be a Gentleman very deserving. I must confess from the general Character of that Place (Bermuda), where all sorts of Provisions are very scarce, and consequently dear, and the allowance to Ministers but small, how he could stay there so long as he did, which he said was wholly owing to your Lordship’s letter, that abated both my wonder & resentment, especially as he had a Family to provide for. I hope therefore your Lordship will not blame me, if to relieve a man from such circumstances, I immediately sent him to a Parish in this Country St. Martin’s in Hanover County, where I am confident he will be very easie, and faithfully discharge his duty in the care of souls.”

Reverend James Blair

Reverend James Blair, the minister of the James City Parish in Williamsburg and founder and president of William and Mary College, also wrote to Bishop Gibson of William’s arrival and character:

“Williamsburgh in Virginia, June 8, 1728

There is lately come into this Colony from Bermudas a Clergyman, who seems to promiss well. He has a wife and three children, I have a good character of him from some Gentleman that knew him in that Country. He gives a good description of the … straits to which he was reduced in it. His name is William Swift. His deacons orders are June. 8. 1718. from the late Bp of Rochester and his Presbyters orders Dec. 20. 1719 from Bp John Robinson. I find by a letter of your Lordship to him about two years ago, you was acquainted with his design of removing out of that Countrey; but but he had not then your Lops positive permission. I thought it my duty to acquaint your Lop of this.”

William and his family settled into the new parish, which had just been created that year in Hanover County. Throughout 1728 and 1729, William also ministered at the King William Parish in Goochland County, where he purchased 2000 acres of land in 1730. A few years later, he purchased an additional 800 acres, and sold off a few smaller portions.

Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London

Sadly, William did not enjoy his life in Virginia for very long. William died between 1 April 1734, his final land transaction date, and 11 August 1734, when his death was reported to the Bishop of London. Reverend James Blair wrote:

We have lately lost two Ministers, the first Mr Swift, who came some years ago from Bermuda with a wife and several children, whom he has left in very poor circumstances.”

Although William died when he was still young, he traveled an impressive 4,206 miles, from London to Bermuda to Virginia during his life, plus travel between his home town and London, and Cambridge and his home town, and his travels throughout Virginia. He and his wife died very far away from the places of their births, and due to the struggles they endured during their marriage, I wonder if they thought traveling so far from home was worth it in the end.