Posts Tagged ‘William De Graham’

Grantham family lineage to William the Conquerer

November 23rd, 2008 No comments

I forgot whether it was my junior or sophomore year in high school, but at the end of class one day, Mrs. Wright asked me if I knew anything about my family tree. I told her I did not, and a few days later she told me she believed I was a descendent of William the Conquerer. This was in 1988 or so. I never believed it and had always gotten a kick out of it.

One thing I’m learning as I explore my family tree is the English kept damn good records, and it seems they tried to impress this upon early American settlers. Maybe life was too tough then, or maybe the constant accounting of life is what they fled for a more simple life in America. The early settlers did enough record keeping to get by, but it was way more than the pioneering generations that soon followed.

Over the past couple of weeks, my family tree has sucked me into a rich family narrative woven into some of the most fascinating moments in history. My weekends have become consumed with exploring one family member or another, imagining their life’s challenges or pondering their noted failures. It’s even more profound seeing some of these ancestors with their own Wikipedia entries.

Last week an email came from saying records were recently added that showed the Warren line in my family tree now going back to the First and Second Crusades. I opened up the family tree and went back in time to my 30th great grandfather Fulk the Younger, King of Jerusalem. His battles in the Crusades, his involvement with the Knights Templar, his appointment to King of Jerusalem and burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are documented. So is his lineage, and it was just a matter of someone entering it into before the Warren line in my family tree was recognized as a match.

The Warrens who colonized early America trace their ancestors back to the son of Fulk, Geoffrey of Anjou, who is also the father of King Henry II. It was that online bio that made me do a double take. King Henry II is the great grandson of William the Conquerer.

I could not believe that when I read it and went back to my family tree. Geoffrey’s wife, Matilda the Empress, is the daughter of King Henry I who did not have an heir and passed the thrown to Geoffrey and Matilda’s son. King Henry I’s father was William the Conquerer, also know as William the Bastard because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

Part of my family descends from there through Geoffrey’s illegitimate son named Hamelin (de Warenne) Plantagenet who begat the Warrens. The descendant Thomas Warren, who died in Surry, Va in 1670, was the great, great, great grandfather of Catherine Proctor who married my 8th great grandfather Edward Grantham.

How could Mrs. Wright have known this 20 years ago? Even after two weeks of research, I can see how certain surnames have a known traceable history like a well worn path back in time. I assume she knew something about parts of my own family from her studies of English history and literature. Maybe certain points in my surname’s family tree take those well worn paths.


November 11th, 2008 No comments

I spent virtually all of my Sunday on discovering my roots. I was sucked into it by the commercials they’re running on TV. It’s a pricey service, but it’s worth it so far.

I was amazed at the actual copies of documents Ancestry had access to that confirm dates, locations and who these people are. I could see old hand written census documents, ship musters (listings of passengers and inventory), divorce documents, birth certificates and more. The picture I have emerging of my family has made a big impression on me, and my evenings now turn to hours of discovering a bigger picture family narrative.

Take a look at the part of the family tree isolated above. If you can read it, these are the ancestors of James Grantham – my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Several of these names pop up in popular history of the founding of our great nation through the charter companies that gave land grants to English share holders.

The stories of all the troubles early settlers faced is haunting. John Proctor’s story in particular is one I spent last night reading about. John’s wife Allis was one of the settlers who defended Jamestown from “savages” in the Jamestown massacre of 1622. Apparently, she refused an order of the council to leave her settlement home.

According to a ship muster, John had come here in 1607 and his wife Allis came in 1621. But John had traveled back to England for the funeral of his brother. When he returned, he was abandoned in Bermuda (an accidental colony) and later brought back to Jamestown only to face murder charges for fighting with a servant who later died of his injuries. Their great granddaughter eventually gave birth to James.

What I’ve been uncovering over the past couple of evenings are several other lines of founding families whose children eventually headed east into Kentucky and south into North Carolina meeting up with other Granthams who had also made the journey from England.

So far, I’ve been able to go as far back as the 1200s on the Grantham side of the family, all of which presumably go back to William De Graham whose family castle is in Grantham, England. He is the founder of the Scottish Clan Graham, for whom the city of Grantham is named. I’m still trying to figure out how Edward Grantham came to America during the colonization and whether it was by choice or as an indentured servant. Here is some copy of a document purporting to be the will of his son, Edward Grantham, Sr., for an estate in Surry County Virginia.

Here’s more about Edward Sr whose grandson James eventually marries John Proctor’s great granddaughter mentioned above. I got a chuckle out of this:

In 1687 his name appeared on the list of the Virginia militia. In 1694 he was the subject of a presentation by the Grand Jury for “Entertaining Indians contrary to Law & for not comeing to church” which probably meant he was trading with the Indians on Sunday. In 1694 in Order Book No. 4 he is described as “Lame and impotent person” and relieved from paying public levies.

On my mother’s side of the family, I don’t have a lot of information at the moment. What I do know is we are German immigrants, blacksmiths that came to America in the 1800s to the Midwest where they merged with the Paddock family, a family of merchants (stores, hotels, etc.). I’m still too deep in the woods of history to have fleshed all that out.