Stories of Our Past
A fraud and a deserter,
Thomas Marshfield lost everything when he lost God.
The ghosts of my ancestors have haunted me since childhood, an affliction, it appears, I have handed down to at least one of my sons, probably both. Even more than me, they believe that our ancestors ' actions reverberate and shape the people we have become. New research in epigenetics suggests they may not be far off as it documents how experiences in life can alter how your DNA is expressed and passed on to the next generation.
My interest in my ancestors is closer to curiosity. I have tried to imagine the frontier lives of the New England settlers who dot my family tree. As I broke new earth for a vegetable garden of my own, I wondered if I was digging the same soil, or hauling water like they did to irrigate plants. I wanted to know them, to know what thoughts played in their heads as they repeated their daily tasks.
These ancestors' lives coincided with momentous events that shaped history but few had a direct role in them. Without diaries or written record, it is impossible to know how they lived each day or treated other people, although we all like to believe that they acted honestly at all times. I know for sure that is not the case for at least a few of mine.
For convenience, I have limited my search for ancestral meaning to the past four hundred years after my forebears arrived to the New England Colonies. (See the blog section for a list of their surnames.)
I started with the families that were already charted, the Eldridges, the Reillys, the Hickeys and the Peckenhams, then spread out from there. As I searched back through the centuries to the early Puritans in America, I found preachers and the profane, soldiers, sailors, farmers, and a few who remain an enigma.
Here are some of their stories, as best as I could cobble together from the historical record. I have organized the stories in three rough categories, which you can access below.
I will be adding new stories as I finish them, so check back often, or subscribe to new postings below.