Some genealogy people shake their tree for an Indian princess or a French baron, or whatnot.
Some are looking for any family at all.
Me, I'd just like to know the stories. The begats are all well and good, but what else happened to these people?
On a wide-ranging tangent recently, I zoomed into early New England as its history exists on the internet.
Transcribed letters (my favorite is this long one here), journals, official documents, state histories, recollections, maps, and all.
It started with my great-grandfather Charles's grandma, who sports the lovely New-Englandy name of Pamelia Carrington Riggs (1791-1884).
Her grandfather was Levinius Carrington born in the New Haven Colony in 1712, died 1770.
His great-grandfather was Benjamin Wilmot (1589-1669), who probably came over to the New World with the Winthrop fleet.
Under the leadership of John Winthrop, these eleven boats brought one thousand Puritans away from England in 1630. For some, it's a point of pride to have been among this first wave of English settlers.
But anyway, Benjamin Wilmot, born in 1589 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and his wife Ann Ladd (b 1593) are my 8th great-grandparents.
It's not necessarily the upright citizens whose stories appeal to me. Instead, an unhappy marriage in this distant and alien time is the thing that caught my imagination.
One of Benjamin and Ann's kids, my great-something Aunt Ann, married a man named William Bunnell in Watertown, Massachusetts Colony.
Although he stood for jury duty in September of 1630, William doesn't look like a successful addition to the Colony. He didn't build on the land given him, and he couldn't seem to make ends meet.
The safety net also ended up being a bit of a cage: The Massachusetts Colony needed for Aunt Ann and the children –– left without means –– to be claimed by a responsible man. Someone like her father Benjamin Wilmot over in New Haven Colony.
So, as has happened since immemorial, the daughter moved back in with her folks.
Signs of that time: two of the kids (Ben, aged 10, and six-year-old Lydia) were sent into indentured servitude.
Fast forward three years, and William Bunnell returned to North America, following his wife to New Haven.
He petitioned the town of New Haven (the Town) for tax relief as he was "old and infirm."
...But not so infirm that he couldn't reconcile with Aunt Ann and have a new baby (Mary), whose birth he neglected to properly register with the authorities. And was fined 4 shillings for the transgression.
Within a few months, William was back in court with a dispute about rent not being paid. He tried unsuccessfully to get his children out of their indentures, but he still needed a handout from the Town to keep food on the table.
Imagine how claustrophobic that cozy little town might have been for a family on the down side of luck.
The second Bunnell son, Nathaniel, who had not been sent in to servitude, "who now for want of due nurture growes rude and offensive,"* caught the attention of the authorities.
One of the neighbors offered William a cow in exchange for indenture of the boy. William refused the deal, and so the Town stopped his allowance.
William and Aunt Ann had another child, Ebenezer, who, along with poor Ann, died in 1653. Poor things.
William shortly thereafter decided to return once more to England.
Here's your hat and what's your hurry...and William Bunnell fades from the pages of history. His children (cousins of my ancestors) went on to multiply and (mostly) prosper.
*Lazy scholarship, I quote this passage from the Ancient Records Series of the New Haven Historical Society 1649- 1662, edited by Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Volume 1 and the Vital Records of New Haven as cited by William R. Austin in his profile of William Bunnell/Bonnell from The Bunnell/Bonnel Newsletter, Vol 1, No 1, January 1 1987, p 3-5. Here's the weblink.