Saturday, October 31, 2009

Family Traditions

I think everyone knows of at least one family tradition that's been passed down from generation to generation. A popular one is that "two brothers emigrated to America, one went North, one went South..." or something of that sort. With my family there really wasn't too much information passed down on earlier generations. There were no spoken traditions on where we came from, on either side, and no one spoke of those before then. Probably the closest thing I had growing up was the story my Grandpa told me about how he and his father and grandfather had been in a car in 1921 and they drove across the train tracks right as a speeding train was coming. My Grandpa, then about 4 years old, was in the backseat and got thrown through the windshield. His father, who had been driving, made it through the crash with only some minor scratches and bruises. His grandfather however (that would be Ira Gilkison for those who read about my search for a surviving photo of him), was severely injured and died at the hospital. I don't know how much of a family tradition it is, but it was information passed from one generation to another so I guess it applies.

So there wasn't much in the way of family traditions in my family. I would find out a little bit about why later on. But once my Mom and I started looking into the family history, it didn't take long for us to connect with some Stevens cousins who clued us in on that family's tradition. I think I may have gone over this one before, but I can't remember for sure so here it is again. As usual, it surrounds our alledged immigrant ancestor, Charles Thomas Stevens. The story, as recounted by one of his many grandchildren, is that Charles was born in Bristol, England around 1755. He was a mariner who sailed around the world "several times" and was a naturalized citizen of many countries. He came to America during the Revolution and participated in that rebellion, as well as the War of 1812. He spent time as a POW during both of those wars, first on a galleon and then in a POW prison in England (more specifically, in Bristol, England-the town of his birth). After being released from prison, he returned to America and settled in Dover, NH. The story ends by saying he was the last person buried under the Old North Church in Boston in 1843.

There's quite a bit in this little gem. I've really only scratched the surface on Charles but I have been able to find some facts within this rather grandiose tale. He is in fact buried at Old North and died in 1843 at the age of 88, though he was not the last man to be buried there. He also settled in Dover, NH at least from 1805 which is the earliest I've been able to find him as a grantor in the land indexes there. On that deed however, he was described as "of Dover" which implies that he had been living there prior to this transaction. So I haven't been able to establish exactly when he came to Dover yet. Keeping in mind the story that he was a POW for a time, there is always the possibility that that played a part in the break between records of residence. But there are really quite a few other possibilities to look into as well and quite a bit to investigate about his life too. Sounds like an interesting guy for sure though.

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