December 12, 2017

My Ancestors’ (not so great) Interaction with the Church (Part 1 – Reginald Fitzurse)

Thomas_Becket_MurderPull up a chair, and put up your feet. It’s story time! I don’t know if you have ever researched your family tree, but I have had some success in finding out a fair bit about mine. Among the more interesting stories have been tales of conflict with the church. This is the first of what will be a series of three.

Let me start with the story of my great, great, great, etc. uncle, Reginald Fitzurse. If you have read or seen the play “Murder in the Cathedral”, by T.S. Eliot, you may very well already know the story. Reginald was a knight in the court of King Henry II of England (among other territories), way back in the 1160s. King Henry had an ongoing intensifying conflict with the Archbishop of Cantebury, Thomas Beckett. They spent the better part of five years trying to make life increasingly difficult for each other. Things came to a head in 1169 when Henry needed the services of the Archbishop.

By 1169, however, Henry had decided to crown his son Young Henry as king of England. This required the acquiescence of Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, traditionally the churchman with the right to conduct the ceremony. Furthermore, the whole Becket matter was an increasing international embarrassment to Henry. He began to take a more conciliatory tone with Becket but, when this failed, had Young Henry crowned anyway by the Archbishop of York. Becket was allowed to lay an interdict on England, forcing Henry back to negotiations; they finally came to terms in July 1170, and Becket returned to England in early December. Just when the dispute seemed resolved, however, Becket excommunicated another three supporters of Henry: the King was furious and infamously announced “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!” (Wikipedia – Henry II of England)

Reginald overheard that outburst and decided to take matters into his own hands. He and three other knights set off from France where the court was located, and met up again in England to plan their moves.

The conspirators crossed over to England, and gathered at Saltwood Castle, near Hythe. Saltwood was a possession of the Archbishop, but it had been usurped by Randolph de Brock, another of Beckets enemies. On the 29th of December, the Knights and their men rode forth from Saltwood to Canterbury, and sought out the Archbishop in his palace adjacent to the Cathedral. Bitter words and recriminations were exchanged in a fruitless interview. Later in the day the Knights again approached the palace with their weapons under their cloaks. The monks, anxious for their own safety as well as for their master, endeavoured to drag Becket through the cloisters into the sanctuary of the cathedral. He resisted, but they succeeded in getting him into the Northwest Transept, which is still known as the Martyrdom. They bolted the door behind them, but the Archbishop commanded it to be unbolted, lest the House of God be made a fortress. He began to make his way up the steps into the choir, where vespers were being sung, but as the knights burst in, he turned to meet them.

There was an altercation and a struggle in the gloom of the Transcept. FitzUrse called Becket “Traitor!”, and Becket retorted with “Pander”. The knights endeavoured in vain to drag the Archbishop out of the church. FitzUrse struck the first blow, a glancing one which injured the arm of an attendant monk. Tracey followed, and Le Breton smote the Archbishops skull with such violence that his sword was shattered on the stone of the pavement. Becket fell to the ground and was dispatched. The fourth knight, de Moreville, who had not struck a blow, was keeping back the townspeople who were pouring in from the knave. After the deed, the knights rushed out of the cathedral, waving their swords and shouting, “King’s Men…King’s Men”. They pillaged the palace, and rode away to South Malling, near Lewes, where he had a manor. From thence they withdrew to Yorkshire, and took refuge in de Moreville’s castle at Knaresborough. (Barham Family History)

“Christendom was outraged while the King publicly expressed remorse and engaged in public confession and penance” (Wikipedia – Reginal Fitzurse.) All four knights were excommunicated by the Pope on Easter day and were sentenced to do a pigrimage to the Holy Land. There is mixed evidence about what happened to Reginald after that. Some sources say that he died soon after in the Holy Land, while others state that returned to Ireland where he founded the McMahon clan.

The rest of the family became increasingly uncomfortable over time with the Fitzurse name. They owned a manor in a hamlet in Kent, England called Barham, which was in fact named after the family. Fitzurse means Son of Bear, and they lived in Bear Hamlet, shortened to Berhem or Barham. It wasn’t long before the family adopted the name “de Berham”, which eventually became Barham.

Barham is my Mother’s maiden name, and unlike “Bell” it is not a very common name. This has made it relatively easy to trace the name back from generation to generation.

So my most famous ancestor murdered an Archbishop and got excommunicated by the Pope. Next week I will talk about a “Barham” meeting a “Frey” and how another excommunication ensued over the wearing of a tie!

What interesting stories lie in your past? Have there been any interesting stories of conflict with the church going back several generations? As always your thoughts, comments, (and of course your own stories) are welcome.

Update: I have had a very busy day at work today with a big project due so I have not been able to comment. I have however been reading all your comments and have absolutely loved your stories!

Comments

  1. The murder of Becket was a vile thing, but to be fair, he was a politician and courtier extraordinaire (Henry’s chief advisor) before taking holy orders. Their big falling-out had to do with Henry insisting that priests and other religious who had committed crimes under English law should be tried in the civil courts, rather than being able to seek refuge in ecclesiastical courts. The latter protected more than a few clery who by rights should have been tried and convicted by the civil authorities. Becket was completely opposed to this.

    I wonder how sincere he was about religion, given that he quickly moved up through the ecclesiastical ranks to a position of great power and influence. I don’t think he ever stopped being a politician and kingmaker, but that he switched allegiances from the state and king to the church.

    • Note: my bad – Becket was ordained not long before he became Lord Chancellor of England.

      • A rather sad addendum: A shrine was built to honor Becket; the shrine was the goal of Chaucer’s pilgrims (spelling approximate):

        “Then longen folkes to go on pilgrimages…
        And specially, from every shires ende
        Of Engeland, to Canterbury they wende,
        The holy blisful martyr for to seke (seek)
        That hem (them) hath holpen (helped) whan that they wer seke (sick).

        Later, according to Wikipedia,

        “The shrine stood until it was destroyed in 1538, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, on orders from King Henry VIII.[1][20] The king also destroyed Becket’s bones [he had them dug up and thrown in the Thames] and ordered that all mention of his name be obliterated.[21] ”

        How’s that working for ya, Henry?

  2. I am related to Giles Corey, who was pressed to death during the Salem witch panic. I suppose he qualifies as someone who had a conflict with the established religion.

    • I suppose he does!

      I always felt bad for Giles – hanging is bad, but pressing is really bad.

  3. Vega Magnus says:

    My great-grandfather probably worked for the Pittsburgh mafia. His restaurant was probably a front for mob activity. You don’t immigrate from Greece back then and do as well as he did without doing some people some favors. My grandfather had some minor involvement too as he played trumpet for some pretty swanky places back in the day, even in Havana pre-Castro, but I’m obviously never going to ask him any specifics. I am a bit hazy of more specific info as it has been a couple of years since it was discussed last, but the evidence is pretty compelling.

  4. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    Several stories in my ancestory:

    On my mother’s side I am related to the Gilpins from the north of England. One of these, Bernard Gilpin, was a leading light during the Reformation, and for his gentle ways got called the “Apostle of the North”. Summoned by Mary Queen of Scots to London, with the likelihood of a decapitation in sight, he went nevertheless. Falling of his horse during the journey saved his life, because during his convalesence from a broken leg, Good Queen Bess removed Bloodt Mary and my bloodline was saved :). But the family did manage to lose their estates during the Civil War, as they were loyal to the crown, and had to leave the country less Cromwell attempted another decapitation. Eventually, one of the family, by then living in Leeds, left as a missionary for South Africa, taking his young bride with him. This was mid-late nineteenth century. And so they entered my ancestry, with her name, Mary Ann, still being a family name.

    On the other side my name sake had to flee France in the late 1600’s after the Edict of Nantes was revoked. Being a protestant from Southern France, his life was at stake. He fled to the Netherlands and then, ar the invitation of the Dutxh East India Company, landed at the Cape (South Africa) in 1688, where he was, among other things, one of the early wine farmers. The farm still exists.

    Lastly, another ancestor was the first Lutheran minister at the Cape colony, Andreas Kolver. There were a number of German settlers in the early days, but the Dutch East India Company only allowed the Dutch Reformed Church. One of the Germans was a wealtht merchant- he built a warehouse next t his house were some Lutherans would secretly meet and celebrate Holy Communion. But his services being of great value to the Company, he eventually asked and got permission to build a church at the same site. A pastor was duly called – and he was a Lutheran from the Netherlands, not Germany. A my dad’s mother is a direct descendant – her one brother still carried the full names: Andreas Lutgerus Kolver. He preached his first sermon at the Strand Street Lutheran Church in Cape Town on Dec 10 1780.

    • Queen Mary of England (Bloody Mary) is not the same as Mary Queen of Scots (though they were cousins and the latter did claim the English throne after the former died).

      For myself fair number of Quaker ancestors (including a couple, William and Grace Sykes, who died while in prison in Yorkshire for their beliefs admittedly some 30 years apart [1652 and 1685]). Also have a fair number of Scottish Presbyterian ministers (18th and 19th century until their descendant my great grandmother became an atheist and moved to England in the 1880s) and at least one Anglican bishop (Samuel Peploe, Bishop of Chester 1726-1752, had guts [he allegedly preached a sermon against the Jacobites occupying the town where he was parish priest during the 1715 rising] but not otherwise the most admirable of people).

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Quite right there. Momentary lapse … I was of course referring to Bloody Mary, NOT Mary Queen of Scots, who was tormented by Knox 🙂

  5. All my grandparents came from Ireland but we traced our lineage back to Protestant England and Germany. Never knew about the connection until my brother did some exhaustive research. That’s the only church related tidbit among a number of fascinating stories. One thing which we learned, knew to be true even today and which can really mess with your research, is that the Irish and the English, and perhaps everyone else in days gone by, were free and easy with the last names. They’ll change them up at the drop of a hat, probably due in large part to illiteracy or just bad spelling. When my grandfather passed through Ellis Island the Chritopher, of Seamus Christopher, became Christford. I’m sure that was due to the brogue. That’s the way the person heard it and that’s the way they wrote it. My grandfather probably thought that’s the way the Americans write it or didn’t even know how to spell it. What the heck difference did it make? He was in the coontry.

  6. Hmm…

    I do have a famous relative who conflicted with the church, and he did so early enough to show up in the New Testament. He was a great persecutor of the church, personally watched the first known martyr die, and receive a warrant to broaden the persecution of the time to other cities. Thankfully God had other plans and recruited him, so he ended up writing a good deal of the New Testament, too! Even as a Christian, he did have some church conflict, including something of a head to head with the apostle Peter!

    Unless my family lore is just wrong about what tribe we hail from, I can think of no more famous church conflicting relative than St. Paul. =) He definitely outranks my puritan ancestors.

  7. I do genealogy as a hobby trying to look equally into my wife’s ancestry. Query: if “one flesh” applies, are they mine? I research as if they are.

    In folks I knew while living, “conflict” isn’t the right word. My paternal grandmother was raised Anglican, and became sufficiently set in her denominational identity that as they moved around following granddad’s job after WWII, she would find a church and regularly attend it and volunteer consistently, etc… without ever becoming a member because the churches were not Anglican. Even after she moved into an assisted living facility a hundred or two miles from their final home, she was still sewing crafts for the last church’s summer fundraiser, without having ever been a member of the church. I sometimes wonder if this has influenced my decision to attend the church at which I was saved for 14 years and counting without ever becoming a member of it.

    Going much further back, I have ancestry among the dissenters/non-conformists/Quakers who settled Rhode Island. A sibling of one of these ancestors was Mary Stanton, one of the Quaker women whipped in Boston for advocating for her faith.

    Both my wife and I have ancestry that runs back to the Salem witch trials. She is descended from a brother of two of the women who were hung, Rebecca (Towne) Nurse and Mary (Towne) Esty. One of my connections there is via J. Alden, who escaped arrest and didn’t return until after the spectral evidence was ruled inadmissible, thus escaping serious punishment.

    My connection there, is via Robert Pike, Esq. He is an interesting character who sometimes was one of the authorities, and sometimes was in conflict with them. He was several times, beginning 1658, deputy to the general court of Massachusetts and later assistant (for deputy think lower house of the state legislature, for assistant think upper house, we use weird names…), a magistrate judge, and a Major in the militia, as well as holding town offices.
    1) It is believed that he spoke and voted in the general court against the persecution of the Quakers in 1658, however the earliest known documentary source for this is from 1896, so the truth of this is uncertain.
    2) About 25 Dec. 1652 he definitely was involved in giving early release to three Quaker women from a sentence to be publically whipped in eleven towns of Essex county.
    3) In 1653 the general court passed a law restricting preaching. He spoke out against it. At the next session of the general court they both rescinded the law he had criticized and order him to stand trial before them on charges of having criticized them for passing it. In August he was ordered “desenfranchise, prohibited from holding public office, and forbidden to plead any court cases but his own, and also fined 20 marks”. After this sentence, citizens of the region circulated and signed petitions for revocations of the sentence, which were presented to the general court. The general court recorded “The Court cannot but deeply resent that so many persons of several towns, conditions, and relations, should combine together to present such an unjust and unreasonable request as the revoking the sentence passed the last court against Lieutenant Pike, and the restoring him to his former liberty, without any petition of his own, or at least acknowledgment of his offence, …” and appointed a commission to investigate the petitioners. At the end of the investigation 15 of the petitioners were reported to the general court and bound over for penal trial in the county courts, but that trial never happened. Some historians believe that the clause in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment “and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” derives in part from memory of this incident.
    4) Possibly as soon as 1661, and definitely in 1665, what is now the town of Amesbury, Mass (then west Salisbury) asked him to become their minister. He didn’t.
    5) In February 1676 he was excommunicated during a major church dispute in the Salisbury church that apparently originated in a dispute about the split of the Amesbury congregation. A commission from the general court condemned both him and the pastor for their conduct during the dispute and ordered his restoration to membership in September 1677.
    6) In 1692 he took depositions related to the Salem witch trials, and on at least one of them observed that if true the evidence could have been presented to him decades earlier but that it had not been so presented.
    7) On 9 Aug 1692 he wrote a “famous” letter attacking the use of spectral evidence in the Salem witch trials, which is the first written attack on that evidence.

    • Husband’s family came over from Bruton, England very early and may be the folks after whom Amesbury was named. They founded the Ames Sword Company, which later became the Ames Shovel Company, an economic move when people no longer used swords, thereby beating their swords into plowshares…. I understand that one branch of the family also gave their name to the town of Ames, Iowa and donated some or all of the land on which UI was built.

      Dana

      • Dana, I’ll be in Amesbury for a few days after Christmas. My daughter works there. Nice little wooden boat shop there too, since 1793.

    • Rebecca Nurse, according to almost every source I’ve read including The Devil in Massachusetts, was a truly fine and devout person. It would be a blessing and honor to have her ancestral bood in your veins.

  8. Richard Hershberger says:

    Thomas Jefferson is a n-greats uncle. He had his share of disagreements with the church. My ancestor (on my mother’s side) is Dabney Carr, who was Thomas’s best friend and who married Thomas’s sister Martha. Dabney died before the War of Independence, which is why hardly anyone has ever heard of him, leaving several small children, whom Thomas took in. Now fast forward several decades, to after Thomas’s presidency. He was perpetually broke. To some extent it was the normal condition of Virginia planters to be land rich and cash poor, but his was an extreme case. Congress wanted to help him out, but the idea of a pension for former presidents didn’t yet exist, and they had to find an honorable way for him to take the money. The solution was that they bought his library, which is the core of the modern Library of Congress. The family connection is that Thomas was so strapped because he had a bunch of relations sponging off him. Those were my ancestors. So for anyone who has ever used the Library of Congress, you are welcome.

    • I have spend many long hours doing research in the Library of Congress. Thank you, Richard.

      • *spent

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The postscript to the story is that he took the money and used (some of) it to buy books. The man had serious flaws, but how can we not love him for that?

        The post-postscript is that some years back when the Sally Hemmings question was a hot topic of debate, the Jefferson descendants insisted that it was absolutely impossible that Jefferson had sex with his slave. They suggested that Dabney Carr Junior was the culprit. The Carr descendants’ reaction was that this sounded pretty much like the family lore about young Dabney. Then DNA testing came along, and samples were taken of both lines…

  9. My grandmother Florence Crawford was at Azuza Street and later founded the worldwide Apostolic Faith Church headquartered in Portland Oregon. Luckily my father was the black sheep in the family and became a Presbyterian who loved his scotch and cigars.

  10. I did a little research on my mother’s family. My father’s has been traced out and while there were icky by contemporary standards (taking bond servants as wives probably without much in the way of consent), they pretty much stayed Jewish and didn’t seem to have much in the way of conflict with the Rabbis, though as they were early pioneers, they often didn’t have access to one.

    On my mother’s side I see a grandfather who was duly baptized into the Catholic church in County Fermanagh Northern Ireland and then migrates as a young man to the US where he never seems to have any contact with any church again. In fact, his descendants are just about all non-religious, so I don’t know if it was a conflict he had with the church or if he just slipped through the cracks as part of the migration process.

    • Actually that should have been great-grandfather. My grandfather (his son) was a hearty, cheery soul that didn’t seem to have a religious bone in his body. In fact he positively did not like clergy folk.

  11. I am descended on my father’s side from French Huguenot Chretien DuBois. Fearful of persecution under Louis XIV, three of his children (Franchoise, Jacques, and Louis) emigrated to Holland and Heidelberg, Germany and then to New York in the 1660s. Much of the family initially lived in die Pfalz (later New Paltz) New York, a settlement of Huguenot families, where the “DuBois Fort” still stands. So, that branch of my family are participants in the much larger story of religious dissidents of all types appearing on the North American continent.
    The family also participated in America’s early travails over race. They were involved in a war with the Esopus Indians, which led the capture of four family members (who were later recovered by Dutch soldiers). The Huguenot settlement also had several slave owning families.

    I am often asked, “You’re a DuBois? Like W. E. B. Du Bois?” The unfortunate answer to this “yes”: W. E. B. Du Bois traced his ancestry from one of the slaveholding descendants of Jacques DuBois, which makes us distant relations. That connection is dependent on the veracity of W.E.B.’s family’s memory, but I see no reason to doubt W. E. B. about this fact.

    • *immigrated

      My mother’s family, if traced from her father, were Austrian, and I married into the fourth generation of a family out of Russian-German stock who left Russia to get out of the way of the Bolsheviks. I don’t know any more than this about the Austrian or German-Russian stories. Were we to recover those stories, probably my son won’t be imaging himself as being out of the north of France, but will tell a tale centered much further east. After all, he takes is surname from the Germans.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      You can’t choose your relatives, but if you could, you could do worse than W.E.B. Du Bois.

  12. (First, Grammar police alert…Isn’t there a missing apostrophe in the title? i.e. “My Ancestor’s…”)

    What I find most interesting in your story, Mike, is that the sentence for murdering an Archbishop was merely excommunication! Though maybe back then that was a fate worse than death.

    As far as I know, I have no notorious or infamous relatives, but I haven’t dug deep, either.

  13. Patrick Kyle says:

    My mom and sister are the big geneologists in my family, so I have only gleaned a few highlights from our past .

    My great, great, grandfather, Charles Chilson , was the drummer boy for the 1st New York Dragoons in the Civil War. He fought at the battle of Appomattox Court House, and was there for the surrender of Robert E Lee.

    Apparently, I am also distantly descended from two brothers (of the name Kyle) who fought for William Wallace against the English.

    In college, I did my senior thesis on ‘Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.’ There is an addendum to this work carried on by his disciples for a couple hundred years after his death. It consists of dates followed by a brief description of events or births /deaths of various people, kind of an abbreviated running history of the next couple of centuries. Imagine my surprise at this entry: 750AD ‘ A battle fought over the field of Kyle.’

  14. Brianthedad says:

    One side of my family got here fleeing the forced unification of the reformed and Lutheran churches by Wilhelm in the 1840s, like many German descendants here in the states. Those Lutherans settled in St. Louis and worked their way east to south central Illinois’ fine farmland and quietly settled in, keeping the faith. Now, the other side of the family (not Lutheran) hails from a long line of bootleggers, counterfeiters, and used car salesmen. Southern Illinois in the 20s was quite a wild place with tommy guns, armored cars, and gangs dueling over illegal liquor and gambling. The first recorded use of an aircraft in a felony? Yes, that’s my relatives, dropping dynamite on rival Charlie Birger’s headquarters from a biplane. Which bunch is more fun at family reunions? What do you think?

  15. OldProphet says:

    Don’t know much about my ancestors. What I do know that is that a distant relative of mine in my lineage was a Castilian prince and a Spanish Conquistador to boot. He owned slaves that he brought back from Central America.

  16. Since I am adopted, I have no knowledge of my “blood kin.” I’m very content with the family in which I was raised; that’s my “real” family.

    I know of no one in my family that ever had any conflict with the Church; as far back as we know, they were Catholic on both sides. For my dad’s part, he told me once that in his youth he was told to his face that the only thing lower than a n_____ was a Catholic… As a young man he was ambivalent about church, and his family was not interested in passing along stories of heritage, family documents, etc. He enlisted in the Marines before the start of WWII, and when he was finally sent overseas to the Pacific Theater he decided to make his infant baptism “official,” since he had no paper record of it. (If he was given a Certificate of Baptism at that time, that has been lost, too.) He was (re)baptized at a Catholic parish on Maui; a native Hawaiian woman, the priest’s housekeeper, was his godmother, which was quite ironic, as my dad was always quite prejudiced against any people of color. It was also ironic that he married my mother; her family was from northern Italy, and she was just barely “white enough” for my grandfather. As far as I know, the rest of my paternal cousins are Protestants; the only one who was close to my dad was a Baptist, and was the Director of Ministerial Affairs at Forest Lawn for some years. If there was conflict there, it has faded into the mists of history. All I know about possible luminaries of any kind on my mom’s side is that one was a university music professor.

    With the notable exception of my mom being very disillusioned by the scandals in the Church the last years of her life, my immediate family has had no church conflicts; most of them are still pretty devout Catholics. My oldest maternal aunt became Orthodox when she married my Greek uncle, but that was not such a big deal back in the 1930s.

    It’s interesting that you would bring this up now, Mike. In the Orthodox Church, this Sunday, the second week before Christmas, is the Sunday of the Forefathers, when all the ancestors of Christ (after the flesh), with special remembrance of Abraham, are commemorated. One of my favorite hymns specifically mentions the notable women in his lineage. Next week, the Sunday before Christmas, the genealogy of Christ from the book of Matthew is the Gospel reading, and special attention is given to the prophet Daniel and the 3 holy youths, who were faithful in the fire of the furnace, when the pre-incarnate Jesus appeared to/with them and delivered them. The Sunday after Christmas is especially devoted to specific relations of the Lord: King David, Joseph the Betrothed (Mary’s husband) and James his “brother” – the last of which certainly had conflict with the religious leaders of his day.

    Dana

  17. My family is a pretty typical family, religiously-speaking–that is, I’m a typical American Evangelical mutt.

    The family that gave me my name appears to have been Lutheran (which I’m strangely comforted by), though half of my greatx4-grandfather’s relatives who crossed the ocean at other times ended up becoming Schwarzenau Brethren, do I imagine there was some conflict there. Somehow, my grandparents wound up as Presbyterians (probably my grandma’s thing, being the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner). My maternal grandparents, meanwhile, are Campbellites, and I was raised in that ecclesiastical tradition, though that grandmother was actually raised Methodist Episcopal. Basically a rural Appalachian sampler here… maybe that’s why the Wilderness feels like home sometimes.

  18. Offtopic post for Headless Unicorn Guy and others of similar persuasion:

    http://www.polygon.com/2014/12/12/7381535/bioware-mass-effect-dragon-age-religion-death

    The first few comments are really worth reading too.

  19. That Other Jean says:

    I have no famous ancestors that I’ve been able to trace, but here’s a story about my great-grandparents, who lived in a little town in Iowa in the early 1900’s. My great-grandmother, who lived to be 99, told me about this episode in the church:

    Both were good Methodists. She sang in the choir, and he attended church every Sunday–barring medical emergencies, since he was the town doctor. Churchgoer he may have been, but he was not a patient man, and the minister was inclined to be long-winded. He was known for checking his watch, as surreptitiously as possible, when the service ran longer than an hour or so, and one day the minister caught him. From the pulpit, the minister gave Grandpa a steely glare and announced, “If anyone thinks we have gone on too long, he is free to leave!” So Grandpa stood up and marched down the aisle and out the doors. Grandma, naturally, was mortified, and let him know it when she got home. He responded, “But, Flora, surely you wouldn’t want me to lie in church!”

    There’s another story about his paying the town ne’er-do-well to ring the fire bell when services went on too long to suit him. I wish he had lived long enough for me to have known him; he sounded like the perfect grandparent.

    • I’ve got one with a similar story in my tree, but not a direct ancestor. This is a first cousin three times removed, on my mother’s side. He was not the best of church attenders. Married by he church pastor, and occasionally went to church. But one of his grandchildren remembers him outside, honking the car horn when the sermon ran too long. That was a big clan, when his grandmother (my great-great-great-grandmother) died there were 103 living descendants via the 13 children, with at least 13 already dead.

  20. Apparently, one of my great-grandfathers (the name eludes me) was a preacher who worked for Billy Sunday; beyond that, all I know is that my ancestors were a lot of naked, screaming pagans who gave the Roman Empire lots of heartburn.

  21. The conflict with the church is the unknown part of this story, but some of my ancestors were Lutherans who endured religious persecution in Germany in the 1600’s. They took refuge in Sweden, and one of my ancestors became a servant to the king of Sweden.

    Then, while studying in London, he was kidnapped and sold into the slave trade in the Americas. He was a slave for a family in Virginia and after some years gained his freedom. He traveled toward the coast, where he encountered Swedish Lutherans in Delaware. His knowledge of English helped the Swedes with civil matters. He petitioned the king of Sweden to send money and bibles, and a church was established. This church (now Episcopalian) claims to have the longest continually operating pulpit in the Americas.