August 29, 2003

Personal Histories

An idea I have been toying with for quite some time was to invite readers to send in their own personal history...anything ranging from genealogy to military stories to anecdotal history about their Great-Aunt Ada. We all have history in our lives, whether we served in Vietnam, watched the Twin Towers fall, or recorded the stories our Grandma told us.

If you have a story/anecdote you'd like to share but don't have a blog or don't think it "fits" with your own blog, I'd be happy to post it here. If there is enough interest, I may rededicate the old place to such a pursuit.

Bob from Modular Parrot sent me a nice e-mail about his own Irish history. With his permission, I am posting it here:

I share your interest in things historical. My fascination with English and Irish history actually stems from an interest in, of all things, my family genealogy. About 15 years ago I received an original copy of a book written in 1906, outlining the Whalley/Whaley family history in England, Ireland and America going back 900 plus years to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. I belong to a genealogical group who has made an in-depth study of this writing and we have not been able to connect the dots all the way back to 1066 and probably never will. That trail went cold long ago, in spite of the Domesday Book, commissioned and completed by William the Conqueror, which documented ownership of every inch of English soil shortly after the Norman Conquest. We have, however, been able to trace the Whalley family as far back as the 14th century. But, I'm straying off topic. Can't help myself.

My research is focused on the English Civil Wars during the 17th century. In particular, two gentlemen; Major General Edward Whalley (first cousin of Oliver Cromwell) and Whalley's son-in-law, Major General William Goffe. Both were regicide judges and signatories of the King Charles I death sentence. The story becomes even more interesting when the monarchy was restored in 1660; both men secretly escaped to America to avoid the wrath of Charles II. Whalley left behind his family and a great family fortune, the lands and money later confiscated by Charles II and others. Whalley and Goffe remained hidden and protected by sympathetic Puritans in New England, avoiding capture by agents of the king, for the next twenty years. Most of the 59 regicides who did not escape England were not as fortunate and many lost heads, legs and arms.

I've collected reams of documents and writings concerning this period of Irish and English history, including accounts of the decimation, relocation and deportation of ¾ of Ireland's population and the official redistribution of Irish lands to individuals in Cromwell's army and English "adventurers".

Then, jump ahead to a very mysterious settler in Virginia and later Rhode Island, who my family tradition says, was related to General Whalley. Living under a presumed alias, first in Virginia and then Rhode Island, this well educated but reclusive individual is the progenitor of my line in America.

Next, enter modern genome technology.

I am presently translating an Irish Chancery Court case from 1699 (extremely rare since many written Irish records were destroyed in a fire in 1921), in which Edward's youngest son challenges the will of Edward's brother. This case has led me to Ireland and in turn to a modern day branch of the Whaley family now living in America. With the new Y-chromosome analysis that is available today, it is possible to genetically connect males of a direct lineage back thousands of years. I am presently working with these modern day Whaley members to solve the mystery of my Rhode Island Whaley. I suspect he is Edward Whalley's oldest son but smarter folks than I have remained baffled over this man's true identity for well over 300 years. We'll see what turns up.

While researching this story, I've made many friends in England, Ireland and America. Some are authors, some are academics but most are just plain old novice historians like me. If there are particular questions you have about this period in Irish history, I'd be glad to answer your questions or at least, point you in the direction of an answer. There exist wonderful and copious sources of information that have become available to the average researcher in the new digital age. And more comes on-line every day.

This is one of the things I do in my spare time, what little of it there is. Hope your eyes haven't glazed over.

Once again, this was submitted by Bob from Modular Parrot. Thank you, Bob.

If you would like to send in a piece of your own personal history, please e-mail me.

Posted by Jennifer at August 29, 2003 03:13 PM


That's a great idea. A few years ago my sister did an "interview" with our grandmother (now aged 86; sharp and with a pleasant bouquet). Born in'17, child of the '20's, worked her way through the '30's, marriage and babies and war in the '40's, boomer teenagers in the '50's, grandkids in the '60's and '70's, remarried in the '80's (grampa died after raking some leaves in the fall of '77 at the age of 62). Every family (re)union we have is because of her. She's a matriarch if there ever was one. I'll see if I can get the text and send it along!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at August 29, 2003 11:30 PM

That would be excellent. :-)

Posted by: Jennifer at August 30, 2003 11:26 AM