Jodie always knew that she had a Canadian background, and one that was potentially well established. But she had no idea that tracing her roots would take her to America.
We followed William Hazen's trade route from Saint John 300 miles south to where he was born in Haverill, Massachusetts, USA. Haverill is in the heart of New England and was once described by George Washington as the 'pleasantest village' he had passed through.
We arranged to meet local historian Thomas Spitalere. When visiting former communities of ancestors, it is always useful to gain local knowledge from historical experts or genealogists in the area. It is usually possible to find someone in advance, either through genealogical websites or by contacting local archives or family history societies before travelling to ask for their advice (see Related Links).
Thomas asked us to meet him at a road junction in Haverill, and had brought some documents to show us.
The early records of New England towns are often very well preserved. In the 19th century, amateur historians transcribed the details of vital records (births, marriages and deaths). These records mean that it is possible to trace family lines right back to the first settlers in the town.
Since the earliest days of settlement, the town clerk of the community has been responsible for vital records. He or she is usually the best person to approach for advice about how to access the records.
Thomas brought some of Haverill's vital records with him; birth records in particular. Through examining these records we discovered that William Hazen was born in 1738 to Moses Hazen and Abigail White.
The records also revealed that Moses was also born in Haverill, to Richard and Mary Hazen in 1701. This was an exciting discovery, as we were beginning to trace Jodie's family right back to the earliest period of European settlement in the area.
Jodie noticed that we were talking to Thomas on the corner of Hazen Avenue. Thomas then revealed that a red brick house across the street was called the Hazen Garrison House, and had actually been built by Richard Hazen hundreds of years ago!
For New England settlers, the allocation of land was very important. The promise of owning one's own land and home was a major factor in people's decision to leave Britain and travel across the Atlantic to America. As a consequence, it was important for communities to keep accurate records about which piece of land had been allocated to whom.
When searching for land owned by your ancestors, it can be helpful to look at local street directories (usually kept in local archives) for street names or house names that incorporate your family name. You can also search through deeds to find the exact location of your ancestor's land. In addition, wills and inventories can reveal the location of property held by certain individuals.
Not only did the Hazen family home stand at the corner of Hazen Avenue, it was known locally as the Hazen Garrison House, and had Richard Hazen's name recorded in its deeds.
So Jodie was able to step inside the house that her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Richard Hazen had built. She learned that the Hazen Garrison House was built with bricks, as opposed to wood, in order to defend the family and surrounding community from Native American attack.
During Richard's life, Haverill was a frontier community surrounded by nothing but a vast expanse of open land. As the European settlements expanded, they encroached upon Native American territory, provoking attacks from tribes like the Abenaki. In one famously savage assault at the end of the 17th century, the Abenaki burnt many of Haverill's wooden houses and killed 40 people.
The Hazen Garrison House had been built to provide a fortified refuge for Richard's family and their neighbours as a response to this massacre.
Thomas also gave Jodie a document which referred to an even older Hazen, who could possibly have been Richard Hazen's father. The document stated that Edward Hazen died in a place called Rowley in 1683. Rowley is only a short distance from Haverill, so we headed to the town to look for proof that Edward really was Richard's father.
In Rowley we went to the Town Hall, where the local records are kept. Rowley was one of New England's earliest settlements, founded in 1639. Like Haverill, it was originally inhabited by a small group of Puritans who emigrated from England.
The Town Hall holds a book called Early Settlers Rowley, Massachusetts. Within the alphabetical lists in the book, Jodie found an entry for Edward Hazen. She also found Richard's name amongst the details for his children. The books stated that Richard was born in 1669 and went on to live in Haverill where his 11 children were born.
We wanted to know whether Edward had been born in Rowley too, but there was no date of birth recorded for him there. The earliest mention of the Hazen name referred to the burial date of Edward's first wife, Elizabeth, in 1649. The Rowley archivist presumed therefore that any birth records for Edward would probably be found back in England.
But before we left, the archivist directed our attention to Edward's second wife Hannah, who was the mother of Jodie's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Richard Hazen.
Hannah had been born Hannah Grant to Thomas and Jane Grant, who were original settlers in Rowley. We learned that the Grants were one of Rowley's founding families who arrived on the ship John, just two decades after the Mayflower brought the Pilgrim Fathers to America.
Jodie discovered that a Puritan minister called Ezekiel Rogers had founded Rowley. He had gathered together 20 families, including the Grants, from his Yorkshire parish of Rowley in England to establish the American Rowley.
We now wanted to find out what had made the Grants and Ezekiel Rogers come out to America.
We went to visit Reverend Bob Hagopian, Reverend Ezekiel Rogers' modern-day counterpart in Rowley, to see whether he had any answers.
When groups of people have migrated across oceans and continents, it is likely that a common belief or interest bound them together and determined their communal history. Such experiences can be passed down in written and oral testimony and are often still commemorated today. In the Grants' case, their religious faith was what led them to become part of a small, embattled Puritan community.
In the 1630s, during the reign of Charles I, Puritanism was not tolerated. The group of 20 families, led by Ezekiel Rogers, escaped this religious persecution to face a dangerous journey and harsh conditions in a place where they had to build a community from scratch.
Jodie had travelled thousands of miles to Canada and America to discover that ancestors on one of her paternal lines were originally from Yorkshire. Back in England, we went to the original Rowley in Yorkshire and visited the church where the Reverend Ezekiel Rogers had ministered 400 years ago.
Jodie met Reverend Angela Bailey, together with East Ridings archivist Lizzy Baker. Lizzy had brought along some incredible parish records to show her.
Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials, and are a key resource when searching for ancestors prior to 1837, when civil registration began in England and Wales. They are usually held in county archives, and some can also be consulted online (see Related Links).
If you are tracing Puritan emigrant ancestors it is worth searching through neighbouring parish records as well as those for the parish in which they lived. Puritans would often travel to attend services led by preachers who reflected their own views, rather than attending the local church.
In a parish register for neighbouring Cottingham (the records for which go back to 1563), we found a baptism entry for Hannah Grant, daughter of Thomas Grant, in 1631. So Hannah was only six or seven years old when her family and their community made their epic journey to America. In a second volume, we found a record in Latin for the marriage of Thomas and Jane Grant, which took place on 21 September 1624.
With the assistance of documents nearly 400 years old, we had proved that Jodie's ancestor Hannah Grant really did come from Yorkshire, and that before leaving for America she and her family worshipped in the Rowley church.
Before we left the church in Rowley, Reverend Angela showed Jodie a window that commemorates the communal exodus from Rowley in 1638.
The window incorporates images of the church, of Reverend Ezekiel Rogers, and of the men, women and children who joined him to leave Yorkshire forever. The window also features an image of Rowley church's chalice, which the church still treasures. Jodie held the chalice, dated 1634, from which Thomas and Jane Grant would probably have drunk.
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