As y’all may have heard, if you have seen my posts on twitter or facebook, or have been anywhere in the immediate universe, I am going to England next week. Yes, Anglophile that I am and ever will be, I am finally getting to make my first (of many, I hope!) trip back to the home country.
Being a Southern woman, I don’t really appreciate anything fully until I have researched its connection to my family tree. When a certain type of Southern girl reaches a particular age, she will just get eaten up with a desire to trace her genealogy back into the dim mists of time. And when you add to that a lifelong love of history, well – I have a bad case of what my aunts and cousins call “the tombstone twitch.” Give me a few hours in a cemetery full of Sessions, Stokes, Holley and Easley graves, and I am a happy chickadee.
So, in preparation for THE TRIP, I pulled out my ancestry.com stuff last night. I wanted to verify exactly which of my ancestors made the voyage from England, and when, so that I can toast them as I fly for a few hours back along a route that took them weeks to cover. The first of my paternal lineage to immigrate was one Samuel Sessions, born in 1614 in Wantage, Berkshire. Wantage, I have learned, is the ancestral home of my father’s family as well as the birthplace of Alfred the Great. Obviously, great things come from there!
So young Samuel, at age 16 or so (1630), sailed over to Massachusetts, where he settled and established the American branch of the family. He served as property manager for one Mr. Dudley, the first Governor of Massachusetts, and had previously been a man at arms for the King. He was a massive man for the times, standing 6’3 and weighing in at 250 lbs.
But the really amazing part of Samuel’s story, was the name of the ship which brought our boy to the Colonies: The Puritan leader, John Winthrop’s ship the Arabella. Four centuries ago, my family’s fate was intertwined with the name I would serendipitously choose as my pen name when I began writing historical fiction. Now, I chose Arabella because it was my great-grandmother’s name, but that was on my mother’s side. The relationship between Arabella and my father’s family was a pleasant surprise.
So next Friday night, I will be looking down on the waves that Dear Old Samuel crossed so many years ago, and I will lift a toast to him, and to all the brave souls who left home forever in pursuit of the American Dream.