Most of us strive to plan ahead for work, for vacations, for doctor appointments. It’s important to plan ahead to stay on track in our fast paced lives.
I think it is also important to know from whence we come. Discovering what or rather who came before us can be informative, fun, time consuming and downright addicting.
Back in the late 1970s I took my first official step into seeking out my paternal roots. It was a possible college history class assignment that I had chosen because it sounded interesting.
There was no Ancestry.com back then to aid in finding out information about my paternal grandfather or his father, etc. Instead I talked to my father, my aunts and uncles and I wrote letters. To whom, you may ask? Well, to the historical society in Bar Harbor, Maine, because I knew my grandfather had been born there, at least as I’d always been told. Those family stories had also said he died from heart disease. Both proved false.
He was born in one of the surrounding villages on Mt. Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is located, and lived most of his adult life in Bar Harbor and is buried just outside of that town.
So I wrote to the historical society and a very nice gentleman from there wrote back, helping with whatever information he could. I also wrote to any town in New England that was named Norwood, asking why the town had that name. The best answer I ever received to that question was because there were not Is to dot and no Ts to cross.
In talking with my Aunt Margaret at that time, I discovered that she had also tried to trace the family history and had come across a book that seemed to sum up all the ancestors, at least from the first Norwood to arrive in the New World. It even put forth the theory that the first Norwood in my family tree to come to the New World was a sea captain and that was the connection to the family line in England.
I thought I’d hit the gold mine but years later I discovered that the sea captain theory did not hold water. But the tale that those long ago Norwoods in England came to the New World because of their participation in a plot to kill the king of England and put his son upon the throne persisted. I’ve traced the line back beyond that particular ancestor but have found that while history has already happened, what we think can continue to change.
The story had been that the regicide plot had been discovered and the elder Norwood had been placed on house arrest on his estate. He had secretly sent his son to the New World to save him and that was the first Norwood in our line to land here. He owned a lot of land and a tavern, so he definitely would have had money, unlike many who arrived in the New World. But a recent dive back into researching the family history has found others who have determined through their research that that was not quite the case. It is now claimed that the father and son sailed to the New World to land in the New England area, in southern Massachusetts to be exact. Other information says Francis Norwood’s father was one of Cromwell’s judges who condemned King Charles to death. And so the search for the truth continues.
I haven’t, however, limited my search to just the male ancestors on my Dad’s side of the family. I’ve also added in their wives and searched back through their history, because we are the sum of both not just one side of a family. Some of those searches from decades ago have also been challenged in recent weeks. A little leafy hint symbol lead me to one person who believes the wife was not the woman mentioned and that the records had confused the issue. Who the wife is, is anyone’s guess at the current time but the interesting theory of thinking the husband was from a Quaker background. The theory notes that another Quaker settlement was near to where he is reported to have lived and his wife likely came from there.
It’s like riding a roller coaster some times. You find someone who seems to be the link to an ancestor and follow the line through other people’s searches and census records, etc. And then suddenly there are two identical names but different birth dates and different birthplaces. Which is the correct person is anyone’s guess without further research.
Who knew that our family history could be such a mystery? It’s like reading a mystery novel that never ends but keeps throwing a new twist into the story right when you think you have it figured out. For now I’ll continue to search out my roots, hoping that it will give me a glimpse of the ancestors from which I come.