Mayflower

The year 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower. No doubt we will be hearing a lot of history related to this anniversary.

The pilgrim story of the Mayflower began in the summer of 1620. But after several false starts the actual voyage of the Mayflower did not get underway until September 6th. It took 66 days or until November 9th for the Mayflower to arrive.

Plymouth was never intended to be their destination. But given their late departure and the rough seas along the Atlantic coast of the New World they ended up deciding, on Christmas Day 1620, to make their Cape Cod landing site of Plymouth as the site of their permanent plantation.

Here are the direct line ancestors we can count who came on the Mayflower:

Will of William Mullins

The will of William Mullins

William Mullins (10th Great Grandfather) – via the Westover-Smith-Alden line

William was born in 1572. William brought his wife Alice and children Priscilla and Joseph on the Mayflower; he also brought over 250 shoes and 13 pairs of boots, his profession being a shoemaker. He died on 21 February 1620/1, during the first winter at Plymouth, as did his wife and son Joseph as well. His original will has survived, written down by John Carver the day of Mullins’ death. In it he mentions his wife Alice, children Priscilla and Joseph, and his children back in Dorking, William Mullins and Sarah Blunden.

Resolved White (10th Great Grandfather) – via the Westover-Riggs-Snow line

Grave Marker for Resolved White

Grave marker for Resolved White

He was born 9 September 1615 in England to William White (1590-1621) and Susanna Jackson (1592-1664.) He came to America on the Mayflower with his parents in 1620, being one of the children on board the Mayflower to survive.

The Whites are believed to have boarded the Mayflower as part of the London merchant group, and not as members of the Leiden Holland religious movement. He was raised by step-father Edward Winslow following the death of his father William and remarriage of his mother in 1621.

They moved to Marshfield in the 1630s and later moved to Scituate where he married Judith Vassall, the daughter of William and Ann King Vassal. Resolved White moved his family back to Marshfield in the early 1660s and Judith died and was buried there on 3 April 1670. Resolved then remarried to widowed Abigal Lord in 1674 in Salem. He was a soldier in King Philip’s War of 1676, and became a freeman in Salem in 1680, before moving back to Marshfield a couple years later. He married Judith Vasssal 8 April 1640 at Scituate, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

John Alden (9th Great Grandfather) – via the Westover-Smith-Alden line

John  Alden house

Marker on the John Alden house

John Alden was born in England about 1599 and died 12 September 1687 at the age of 88 or 89 Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts.. He was a cooper by trade and hired on as a “Mayflower” crew member in that capacity at Southampton. The conditions of employment permitted him to either remain in America or return as a crew member to England. He chose to remain in the New World. He was one of the forty one signers of the Mayflower Compact.

It is said that John Alden was the first Mayflower passenger to set foot on Plymouth Rock. He was also one of the founders of the Plymouth Colony and the seventh signer of the Mayflower Compact. Distinguished for practical wisdom, integrity and decision, he acquired and retained a commanding influence over his associates. Employed in public business he became the Governor’s Assistant, the Duxbury Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth, a member under arms of Capt. Miles Standish’s Duxbury Company, a member of Council of War, Treasurer of Plymouth Colony, and Commissioner to Yarmouth.

Priscilla Mullins (9th Great Grandmother) – via the Westover-Smith-Alden line

Priscilla Mullins was born probably near Guildford or Dorking, co. Surrey, England, to William Mullins. She came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620 with her father, brother Joseph, and mother Alice. Her family, herself excepted, died the first winter. She was shortly thereafter, 12 May 1623, married to John Alden, the Mayflower’s cooper, who had decided to remain at Plymouth rather than return to England with the ship.They John and Priscilla lived in Plymouth until the late 1630s, when they moved north to found the neighboring town of Duxbury. John and Priscilla would go on to have ten children, most of whom lived to adulthood and married. They have an enormous number of descendants living today.

The romance of John and Priscilla Alden was made famous in later years. You can read about that here.

Edward Winslow (11th Great Uncle) – via the Westover-Riggs-Snow line

Edward Winslow

Edward Winslow

Almost everything we know about the first Thanksgiving comes from a letter written by Edward Winslow written in December of 1621.

Born in England in 1595 Winslow moved to Holland in 1617 where he united with John Robinson’s church at Leiden, and in 1620 he was one of the Mayflower pilgrims who emigrated to New England. His first wife, Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow, died soon after their arrival at Plymouth. In May 1621 he married Mrs. Susanna White, the mother of Peregrine White (1620–1704), who was the first child born among the New England colonists. Winslow’s marriage to Susanna White was the first in New England.

Winslow was delegated by his associates to deal with the Indians in the vicinity (the Wampanoag) and succeeded in winning the friendship of their chief, Massasoit. He served as a member of the governor’s council from 1624 to 1647, except in 1633–34, 1636–37, and 1644–45, when he was governor of the colony. In 1643 he was one of the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England and on several occasions was sent to England to represent the interests of the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies.

Winslow was a figure that was featured prominently in William Bradford’s journal and there is much written history about the man to be explored.

The Westovers are related to Edward Winslow via his brother, Kenelm Winslow who didn’t come to Plymouth until 1632. He had been delayed in part because he was living in London learning a trade. He was a joiner, which means he could make cabinets, coffins and other furniture by cleverly joining the wood without the use of any nails. This was obviously a useful trade that could provide him an adequate living in the colony, especially as there were not many other accomplished joiners in the early years.

John Howland (11th Great Uncle) – via the Begich-Welty-Carson line

John Howland was born about 1599, probably in Fenstanton, Huntington. He came on the Mayflower in 1620 as a manservant for Governor John Carver. During the Mayflower’s voyage, Howland fell overboard during a storm, and was almost lost at sea–but luckily for his millions of descendants living today (including Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt) he managed to grab ahold of the topsail halyards, giving the crew enough time to rescue him with a boathook.

It has been traditionally reported that John Howland was born about 1592, based on his reported age at death in the Plymouth Church Records. However, ages at death were often overstated, and that is clearly the case here. John Howland came as a servant for John Carver, which means he was under 25 years old at the time (i.e. he was born after 1595). William Bradford, in the falling-overboard incident, refers to Howland as a “lusty young man”, a term that would not likely have applied to a 28-year old given that Bradford himself was only 30–Bradford did call 21-year old John Alden a “young man” though. Howland’s wife Elizabeth was born in 1607: a 32-year old marrying a 17-year old is an unlikely circumstance. Howland’s last child was born in 1649: a 57-year old Howland would be an unlikely father. All these taken together demonstrate that Howland’s age was likely overstated by at least 5 years. Since he signed the Mayflower Compact, we can assume he was probably about 21 in 1620, so the best estimate for his birth would be about 1599.
John Howland had several brothers who also came to New England, namely Henry Howland (an ancestor to both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford) and Arthur Howland (an ancestor to Winston Churchill).

Our connection comes from his brother, Henry Howland, my 11th great grandfather, who came to the Plymouth Colony with his brother Arthur either in the ship Fortune c.1621 or on the ship Anne with William Pierce as Master c.1623.

The earliest Massachusetts record for Henry Howland is in the allotment of cattle in Plymouth in 1624, where he appears as owner of the “black cow.” He was made a freeman in 1633. He was an early settler in Duxbury, Massachusetts, was one of the largest land holders in there, and was chosen constable in 1635.

In 1640 Henry purchased five acres of upland and an acre of marsh meadow in Duxbury, the price paid being “twelve bushells of Indian Corne.” For several years he was surveyor of highways in the town, and for nine years served on the grand jury, but in 1657 he refused to serve further on the grand inquest, apparently because he had become a Quaker and could not conscientiously perform the duties required of him.

The law against heretics in general was first enforced against the Friends, and then special laws were enacted against them. A fine of 5 pounds or a whipping was the penalty for entertaining them, and for attending their meetings one was liable to a fine of 2 pounds.

Thereafter he was persecuted by the authorities of the Colony. On the 3rd of June 1657, Ralph Allen, Sr. of Sandwich refused to serve on the grand jury, and at the next session of the court three days later he was brought before the jury for entertaining Quakers, fined and imprisoned. Within a few weeks Henry Howland, his brother Arthur, and his son Zoeth met the same fate. On 2 March 1657/58, the same day that his brother Arthur was fined £4 for permitting a Quaker meeting in his house and £5 for resisting the constable of Marshfield in the execution of his office, Henry Howland was fined ten shillings for entertaining a meeting of Quakers in his house contrary to court orders.

Henry owned land in Dartmouth in 1652. In the original purchase of Dartmouth, he is assigned one share with William Bassett. Henry was one of the original twenty-seven purchasers of what is now Freetown, Mass., and finally ended his days in Duxbury.

Mapping Our Family History

Despite my inability to spend as much time as I wanted on family history last year it still was a productive time and one that helped to make solid family connections. I am thrilled to have established new contacts with Westovers in Canada, Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina in the past year.

Some of the most consistent feedback I get is that there needs to be a better way to tell the family story in a concise manner. It is nearly a universal desire to have a quickly accessible family tree online.

It is my desire to see as many family members from wherever engaged with the tree at Family Search. Getting there, however, is an obstacle for many.

To get started you need to get yourself into the tree, meaning that you need to enroll and manually input your information as well as that of your parents and grandparents.

I can help anyone with that. There is a “helper feature” that allows me to see what you see when you log in at Family Search. Through it I can attach you and your parents and grands into the existing tree.

If you are interested in that kind of help, please contact me and we’ll set up a time to be online together at Family Search.

I also know there we be many who for whatever reason just won’t go or engage at Family Search. Those I will need to try to reach via this website. I’m working on two tools right now to do that:

  • Westover Generational Map
  • — This page might be interesting for those who want to see how the generations of the family spread out on a map of North America after the arrival of Jonah Westover Sr.

    With each generation bearing a different color marker on the map we are attempting to show that migration by noting the location where each member of the family died and/or was buried. Linked to those markers is the profile page of each family member on Family Search as well.

    This is a tedious endeavor that I hope will eventually produce a nice visual view of how the family has both grown and migrated over time.

    Please bear with us as we work through all the individuals we know about. I think this feature might help sort out how some family ended up in different places such as Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and up into Canada.

  • Improved Westover Family Timeline
  • — The timeline page has an added element now that shows the patriarchal summary of each generation on an actual timeline.

    I’ve also added it below to this post.

    This gives a brief chronological look at the family, with links and videos to more specifics.

    We will be adding timelines for other branches of the family (think maternal lines and in-laws) that can possibly overlay with this timeline below.

    I’m worried about it becoming too cluttered and will watch for that. But I think this might be a simpler way for people to see how the family has evolved short of looking at the tree at Family Search.

    Also coming in 2020 will be a redesign of this site to make it more mobile friendly and to accommodate new features we want to employ.

    Westover Family History

    Sorry,You have not added any story yet

    Earlier this year I was contacted by an individual working on a project related to the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike associated with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Her goal was to share the history of residents local to Cache Valley who worked the railroad after it was completed. One such individual was John Henry Westover, son of Ann Findley and Edwin R. Westover, and a brother to my grandfather William.

    I was very familiar with John Henry. He’s one of my family history dead ends. This man is buried here locally and I was able to find a very, very brief obituary for him. And I even have a photo of him from his youth where he played in the band in Mendon, Utah. But that is where my knowledge of him ends. This great uncle is largely a mystery to me.

    He came to my mind almost immediately this summer while in discussion with two men who have grown dear to me – Don Westover and Jason Walker. Like John Henry, Jason, Don and myself are all descendents of Edwin Ruthvin Westover.

    We were at the Westover Family Reunion in Rexburg and engaged in conversation about Edwin. Together we openly mused about the possibility of holding a Edwin R. Westover family reunion.

    Since that time I have been beset with these thoughts almost constantly. I know enough not to ignore such promptings. The idea is not really about a family reunion so much as it is a gathering Edwin’s family.

    What’s the difference between a reunion and a gathering? Bear with me as I explain.

    We know who Edwin’s ancestors are. There are many who have contributed to that effort over the generations. But a “gathering” of Edwin’s descendents has never been done.

    As Jason, Don and I discussed this we agreed it was high time we bring the families of Edwin Westover together. Before we can do that we must gather them.

    Edwin can rightfully be called the patriarch of the modern Westover family. He was the first male member of the family to join the Church and his pioneer story, and life of trial and tragedy, were a beginning to an incredible family legacy. While we can account (and have done so) for his life we cannot fully account of his family.

    Edwin’s family was central to his life’s purpose. It drove him. He was promised in a blessing that his descendents would do the work of his family history and be present with him at a feast with the Savior.

    Edwin was married three times in his lifetime. His first wife died shortly after the birth of his first child. He remarried on his way west to Sarah Jane Burwell and over the course of their life together they had 13 children. He took Ann Findley as a plural wife in 1856 and had five more children.

    Altogether that’s 19 children. What happened to his children and how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren does Edwin have? What are their stories?

    That is the gathering we want to do. We want to develop Edwin’s tree backward and forward. We do not want anyone to be unaccounted for.

    So we have set a goal. We would like to hold an Edwin R. Westover family reunion in about five years — around the 27th of August in the year 2024 — Edwin’s 200th birthday. Between now and that time it will be our work to simply find and account for all of Edwin’s descendents.

    I propose a yearly meeting, if possible, built around Roots Tech in Salt Lake City each winter. There may not be many of Edwin’s descendents who actually attend Roots Tech but the technology exists for us to connect online. That time of the year is an excellent time to gather those we can find to share and update information. If successful, we can arrange for a physical gathering for Edwin’s 200th when the time comes.

    We will use this space to build the record of Edwin’s family. How we will do this and what information we will actually require will be discussed later.

    What I believe is most important is that we attempt to do this. We, as his children, do owe it to him to make a family record with every name of every child born since Edwin lived. We are his family.

    And this is a work of love that was dear to Edwin.

    In his final blessing, it reads: “…Thy power in the priesthood shall enable thee to do all the good that is in thy heart, even to accomplish and fulfill all the blessings that have been sealed upon thee pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, or at least to lay the plan in which thy children shall labor to redeem they father’s house that not one be lost…”

    “Not one be lost”, I believe is a worthy theme of this effort. Let’s find the families of Edwin R. Westover. Let’s put it together and share with every one of them. That is the goal.

    King Bluetooth of Denmark

    I am about to change your life.

    Hence forth, every time you pair an earpiece to your cell or a Bluetooth speaker to your smart phone, you will think of your ancient Norse grandfather, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

    King Harald Bluetooth of DenmarkYou can call him King Harald or, as many did in his time, simply, Bluetooth.

    Our relation to King Harald comes though the Murdock line – which flows through Ruth Althea Rowe Westover, wife to our William.

    King Harald was king of Denmark and Norway way back in the 10th century, some 34 generations along our family lines. He is most famous for uniting the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway and for bringing Christianity to those regions during his reign.

    What might we find in common with a European king?

    Both Harald and his father, known as King Gorm the Old, founded the Jelling Stones.

    These large boulders reside in the Denmark town of Jelling, where Harald was born.

    Jelling Stone

    Carved upon these massive rocks is a monument to the history of Denmark, marking the conversion of Denmark from Norse paganism to Christianity.

    The stone put up by Gorm the Old tells the story of conversion in Denmark and the stone put up by Harald commemorates his parents, Gorm the Old and Thyra, his mother.

    Imagine that! Some 34 generations and better than a thousand years separate us but even back then we have family doing family history.

    The conversion of Harald to Christianity is legendary and, of course, is accompanied by a minor miracle.

    He was taught by a priest named Poppa who challenged Harald to prove his faith in Christ. This Harald did by carrying a “great weight” of iron heated by fire without being burned.

    This event, coupled with his own baptism, led Harald to exhume the bodies of his parents, who were buried in large earthen mounds that contained worldly treasures, after the pagan practices of tradition in Denmark.

    He had their bodies reburied next to a church and then had the runestone in Jelling carved in their memory.

    Runestones are large rocks with runic inscription that memorialize an event or important people.

    They were a tradition for the 4th to the 12th centuries in Scandinavia. It was a way of marking history in the most permanent way possible. (Runes are symbols or letters commonly used on runestones. They derived from ancient Germanic languages that pre-dates the Latin alphabet).

    As with many European kings of these generations King Harald spent much of his time in battle, defending his kingdom.

    It was there that he was more commonly known as King Harald Bluetooth. Historians surmise that Harald must have had a conspicuous bad tooth that gave him the nickname. Some think Harold’s blue tooth came from eating too many blueberries or licorice.

    Whatever – he had a blue tooth and it set him apart.

    bluetoothIn 1997 the Bluetooth wireless standard was named after King Harald Bluetooth.

    The technology was designed to unify different kinds of devices, much as King Harald Bluetooth united Denmark and Norway.

    The modern Bluetooth logo is a combination of the two runic symbols for Harald’s initials, H and B.

    Below is how we trace our genealogy to King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark:

    34. (911) Harald Bluetooth Gormsson of Denmark/Queen Gynrith of Sweden (Denmark)
    33. (967) Thorgil Sprakling/Sigrid Haraldsdottir (Sweden)
    32. (980) Ulf Thorgilsson/Princess of Denmark Estrid Svendsdatter (Denmark)
    31. (1022) Roger II de Montgomery/Mabel Talvas Belleme (France)
    30. (1030) Eadnoth the Constable/Rissa De Montgomery (England)
    29. (1048) Harding Mayor of Bristol/Livida de Meriet (England)
    28. (1095) Robert FitzHarding/Eva Fitz Edmund (England)
    27. (1130) Maurice FitzRobert/ Alice de Berkeley (England)
    26. (1170) Thomas de Berkeley/ Joan de Somery (England)
    25. (1218) Maurice de Berkeley/ Isabella Dover (England)
    24. (1245) Thomas de Berkeley/Joan de Ferrers (England)
    23. (1271) Sir Maurice de Berkeley/Eva la Zouche (England)
    22. (1298) Maurice de Berkeley/Margaret De Vere (England)
    21. (1331) Sir Thomas de Berkeley II/Katherine de Bottelcurt (England)
    20. (1358) Sir Maurice Berkeley/Joan Dinham (England)
    18. (1400) Maurice Berkeley (England)
    17. (1433) William Berkeley Sir Knight/Anne Stafford (England)
    16. (1470) Sir Richard Berkeley/Elizabeth Coningsby (England)
    15. (1505) Sir Knight Maurice Berkeley/Katherine Blount (England)
    14. (1550) Sir Francis Berkeley/Catherine Cusack (England)
    13. (1592) George Crofton/Elizabeth Berkeley (Ireland)
    12. (1631) John Crofton/Sarah Crofton (Ireland)
    11. (1660) William Knox/Elizabeth Crofton (Ireland)
    10. (1691) William Knox/Elizabeth (Scotland)
    9. (1719) John Knox/Rachel Freeland (Massachusetts, USA)
    8. (1739) James Campbell/Jane Knox (Massachusetts, USA)
    7. (1779) William M. Campbell/ Elizabeth Curry (Pennsylvania, USA)
    6. (1800) Levi Murdock/Elisabeth Campbell (Utah, USA)
    5. (1826) William Rowe/Elizabeth Murdock (Utah, USA)
    4. (1861) William R. Westover/Ruth Althea Rowe (Idaho, USA)
    3. (1895) Arnold R. Westover/Mary Ann Smith (Washington, USA)
    2. (1915) Leon A. Westover/Maurine Riggs (California, USA)
    1. (1943) Kyle J. Westover/Susanne C. Begich (Utah, USA)
    0. (1963) Me (Utah, USA)

    Edward Griswold

    Henry Wadsworth LongfellowLast year I shared with you a family history connection we have with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – great American poet and truly one of the “rock stars” of the 19th century.

    We share with Longfellow the common ancestors of John and Priscilla Alden.

    Another common ancestor we share is “The Deacon”, as Longfellow referred to him in his famous poem, The Birds of Killingworth.

    Cousin Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is famous for a lot of things.

    He was very educated. He spoke ten languages and studied dozens more. He was not only a poet but also a famous educator, teaching for a time at Harvard.

    His published works not only showcased his knowledge of history and literature but they reflected well his sensitive nature about things as personal as love and family.

    As an artist, both then and now, he has had to endure the barbs of critics who felt his works were frequently too romanticized and filled with fantasy.

    I’m no critic. I’m also no expert on the high-minded world of poetry. I cannot write it, much less understand it well when I read it.

    But in studying the life of Longfellow I do know this: he knew his family history, whether talking about John Alden or The Deacon.

    The Birds of Killingworth is a poem set in the very real village of Killingworth, Connecticut – a very important place in early American Westover family history.

    It was, for a time, home to Jonah Westover, the first Westover in the New World.

    In the poem the story is told of a town meeting held in Killingworth where the farmers implore town leaders to do something about the birds that were feasting on the farmers’ crops.

    Even as the songs of those same birds wafted through the windows of the old church where the meeting was held the argument was made to kill the birds.

    The town elders were riled up. The Squire, the Parson, and the Deacon were there, which gave weight to the proceedings.

    Of the Deacon, Longfellow described him like this:

    And next the Deacon issued from his door,
    In his voluminous neck-cloth, white as snow;
    A suit of sable bombazine he wore;
    His form was ponderous, and his step was slow;
    There never was so wise a man before;
    He seemed the incarnate “Well, I told you so!”
    And to perpetuate his great renown
    There was a street named after him in town.

    Arguments were made in the debate from every side but for the birds, well, “Hardly a friend in all that crowd they found”.

    The town voted to kill the birds and as the poet tells the story they came to regret it. Without the birds the worms took over the crops and the insects devoured most of the grain and the leaves on the trees, leaving the fruit to be scorched by the sun.

    The farmers and the town indeed learned the lesson of that balance to nature that the birds provided.

    Many interpretations of this famous poem do not recognize Killingworth as a real place.

    But Longfellow did.

    Killingworth was a stopping point for Longfellow in his travels when he wrote The Birds of Killingworth in 1863. Why was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Killingworth, Connecticut?

    Because he knew it as an ancestral homeland.

    If Longfellow knew anything, it was his family history.

    His father was a lawyer and his maternal grandfather was a general in the American revolution as well as a member of Congress. Longfellow knew he was descended of at least four Mayflower Pilgrims.

    When he was 15 he attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine – a college founded by his grandfather and his father was a trustee of the institution.

    Longfellow was taught his family history and used his knowledge of his ancestors in many of his most famous works. They inspired him – even the Deacon.

    The Deacon was Edward Griswold, town father of Killingworth, Connecticut and father to Hannah Griswold Westover, wife of Jonah Westover, the first male Westover in America.

    Griswold was born in 1607 in Kenilworth, England, from which the name Killingworth is derived. He was born in a family rich in English history and famous for providing greyhounds for the King. He was educated and his family was connected.

    Edward Griswold married in 1629 and with his wife Margaret had about five children before immigrating to the New World in 1639.

    Edward brought with him younger brothers Michael, Francis and Matthew, all who would make historic contributions to the history of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

    Edward quickly became prominent in the affairs of Windsor, Connecticut. He served as Deputy to the General Court from Windsor and was also Justice of the Peace of Windsor prior to 1663.

    He was granted land from the King in Poquonoc (now Groton), about 4 miles west of Windsor, in 1642, but he didn’t move there until after the Indians were gone from the area. When it was safe, they settled the area with the families of John Bartlett and Thomas Holcomb in 1649.

    His brothers Francis and George came to settle there soon after. His homestead consisted of 29.5 acres, bounded at the east by the Poquonoc River, the south and west-northwest by Stony Brook.

    The house stood on the hill just to the north of the main road. Because of the potential dangers of the wilderness, the families were relieved of military duty so long as there was always a man available to stand as sentinel.

    In 1663 Griswold was appointed to a committee charged with developing a new area near a place called Saybrook.

    KillingworthIt took some time but within a few years Griswold had moved his family there, including new son-in-law Jonah Westover and his family. He helped to charter the foundation of a Church there and was named Deacon. In 1667 he was named deputy of Killingworth, a position he held nearly up to the time of his death.

    Over the course of his years there Griswold was influential in nearly every major civic action, collecting properties and settling claims with other area pioneers.

    Edward and Margaret had at least a dozen children. As such, Edward sits as head of a very large family tree, with some 20 million plus people in his downline. As a prominent individual with fairly well documented history there literally thousands who have been working on his history.

    I also believe, given his ties to the Puritan movement, that Edward Griswold had a very large influence upon the children of others.

    I cannot prove it but I strongly suspect his ties to Jonah Westover pre-date the marriage of his daughter Hannah to Jonah. The year of their immigration and the year of Jonah’s ascension as a married man, a Freeman, and a property owner coincide very closely with the movements of Edward Griswold.

    I believe Edward Griswold was as much a step-father and mentor to Jonah Westover as father-in-law. Their lives were that closely aligned. In both Simsbury and in Killingworth the Westovers were also neighbors to the Griswolds.

    I don’t think Longfellow was plagued much by imagination in his poetry. I believe he educated himself on history of both places and individuals.

    In fact, The Birds of Killingworth stirred the suspicions of experts long after Longfellow’s death. What was his inspiration?, they wondered.

    “The Birds of Killingworth” is the only episode in Tales of a Wayside Inn that Longfellow had not adapted from an older textual source.

    For many years readers suggested that Longfellow might have likewise based this tale, describing the massacre of pestilent birds by the citizens of the town in Connecticut, on some forgotten legend or historical incident.

    Shortly after Longfellow’s death a literary sleuth wondered whether the tale originated on the other side of the Atlantic, since Killingworth got its name from Kenilworth, in England. One person even went to great lengths to write the town clerk in Kenilworth, England to see if ever there was a town vote about killing birds. None was found.

    Nobody in the 19th century seemed to make the connection of Longfellow to Killingworth, though they never stopped trying.

    In 1890 a publication called American Notes and Queries published a letter from Longfellow’s brother Samuel, who claimed that he found a newspaper clipping reporting a debate in the Connecticut legislature upon a bill offering a bounty upon the heads of birds believed to be injurious to the state’s farmers. It was from this not-so-famous debate that it was concluded that Longfellow had to have used it as his inspiration for the famous poem.

    We know now that had little to do with it. Killingworth was a personal connection for Longfellow. While the story of the birds has no known basis in historical fact the characters within the poem were strikingly real when compared to what is known about Killingworth history — and Longfellow history (and, by extention, our history).

    On Longfellow’s 100th birthday in 1907 journalist William E. A. Axon reported in The Nation that, a year before Longfellow died, he had written to him, asking “whether this narrative had any basis of fact or was merely the fantasy of a poetic brain”— and the great poet himself had replied:

    The poem is founded on fact. Killingworth is a farming town, on Long Island Sound…of course, the details of the poem are my own invention, but it has substantial foundation of fact.

    That fact was family.

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family.