This week, Sam’s Song received its 800th review. I can still recall my sense of wonder at reading the first review. Someone actually liked the book and gave it five stars 😱 Sam’s Song was supposed to be a one-off. Nineteen books later…
My direct ancestor, Philippa of Hainault 24 June 1310 – 15 August 1369, Queen of England, wife and political advisor of Edward III. More importantly she was popular because of her compassion. This is an ancestor I can definitely relate to.
Many of my London ancestors worked on the River Thames. Here’s a scene from 1895.
My direct ancestor, Isabelle Capet born 1292 in Paris, died 22 August 1358 in Hertford Castle. Isabelle was noted for her diplomatic skills, intelligence and beauty. She also overthrew her husband, Edward II, and embarked upon an affair with Roger Mortimer. A feisty woman.
The Gadsden branch of my family were millers, travellers, traders and latterly grocers. And in John Gadsden they were involved in ‘Popish plots’.
In 1650 a report stated that John Gadsden, a miller, possessed ‘a very ill character and is a very dangerous person and was very busy in a Popish Plot.’ He left his home ‘for fear of being taken up upon some matters against the government.’ However, he was easily found, betrayed by neighbours, and the deputy took him into custody. John’s fate was not recorded, but his death on 18 August 1666 in Newport Pagnell suggests that he survived that immediate crisis.
John’s son, Richard, my direct ancestor, was born on 6 July 1613 in Stoke Goldington, Buckinghamshire. In Newport Pagnell on 28 October 1633 Richard married Catherine Wright. The couple produced six children.
Around this time various members of the Gadsden family were travelling and trading in America and the West Indies. Some sources suggest that Richard died in St Kitts and Nevis, c1690.
In 1690, a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the city of Jamestown, the capital of Nevis. The damage was so extensive that the survivors abandoned the city. It’s reputed that the whole city sank into the sea. To date, I have not been able to establish whether Richard witnessed this earthquake or was a victim. It’s possible that this might be a family legend with no basis in truth. Before stating the story as true I would like to discover more evidence. Colonial and shipping records show that the Gadsdens were definitely in the region during this period, but more research is required.
Richard and Catherine’s son, William, my direct ancestor, was born on 30 July 1642 in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. William married Mary Nicholl on 6 January 1668 in Stoke Goldington, Buckinghamshire. The couple produced eight children.
Again there is a suggestion that William died abroad, in 1691 in West Nimba, Liberia. What was he doing in Liberia? To answer that question, we need to look at Liberia’s history.
Portuguese explorers established contacts with people living in what later became known as Liberia in 1462. They named the area Costa da Pimenta, the Pepper or Grain Coast, because of the abundance of melegueta pepper, a highly desired spice in European cooking.
In 1602 the Dutch established a trading post at Grand Cape Mount, but this was destroyed a year later. In 1663, the English established new trading posts on the Pepper Coast and it would appear that William was involved in them. Again, before confirming this as fact more research is required, but the patterns of the Gadsden’s lives and their interest in trade suggests the tale might contain a grain of truth.
The above generations of the Gadsdens illustrate the fascination and frustration of genealogy. The fascination is there on a personal level because these people are my ancestors and also as a storyteller I’m entranced by their stories. However, sometimes there are gaps in the historical records, which makes definitive proof impossible to find. Sometimes it’s tempting to follow this quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, ‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’ As a storyteller, this appeals to me. However, as a social historian I like to base my family stories on fact.
After John, Richard and William Gadsden, we move on to firmer historical ground with Christopher, Robert and William. Their stories also involved travel, to America and Australia, and they featured in dramatic trials at the Old Bailey. More about them in future posts.
My next blog post will appear after Christmas Day, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a healthy and happy Christmas with this Christmas card from 1876.
As ever, thank you for your interest and support.
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