Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Family Tree: Genealogical Roots & The "Science" of Becoming

What was the year 1595 like? 414 years ago?

In that year William Blackstone (or Blaxton, as some spelled it), a future New World pilgrim to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and non-conformist Church of England clergyman, was born. By 1634 though, he had long left his homeland and was living across the sea as the lone European on a rocky peninsula known by the local native inhabitants as Shawmut. When ships such as the one he had arrived on began putting in at Back Bay with greater frequency, he decided to take his white bull and books and move on. After informing one group of the newcomers of the excellent spring on his stretch of gently rolling scrubland, sloping as it was from Beacon Hill to the tidal marshes of Back Bay, he managed to sell the entire tract -- some 50 acres -- to these Puritans. In 1635 he settled on a river -- known eventually as the Blackstone River -- many miles southwest of the settlement that the buyers of his former place came to call Boston, and it was said that old William only returned to that area to bring back a young wife (actually a widow).

It was after that marriage that William produced his only son, John, who years later would beget a son, John II, who would beget his own version, John III, who on May 18th, 1776, the year America was born, brought forth Ebenezeer Blackstone. Years later as a soldier Ebenezeer went West to fight in the Battle of Tippecanoe in the Northwest Territory. He then settled in the bustling Ohio River town of Marietta, marrying a local girl by the name of Sophia White. In 1809, just after Ohio had become the 13th state of the young nation, Ebenezeer and Sophia brought into the world a boy named Vestus. It was this Blackstone who was the first of many born in Ohio.

On January 9th, 1842, Vestus Blackstone, at the age of 32, and Matilda Ann White, a young girl who like Vestus hailed from hilly Southeastern Ohio, welcomed their own baby, the handsome Horace Pearl Blackstone. Renowned for his good looks, Horace Pearl didn't take long to attract the ladies, and in 1861, not long after Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was attacked by "rebels," he was said to have married Sarah Bright, the daughter of a prominent member of the Hocking Hills community of Logan. On March 26th, 1862, their union brought into the world Simeon Blackstone, just as America's Civil War began to rage (HP joined the conflict as a soldier for the Northern Army). Fifteen years later, in 1877, Horace Pearl and Sarah welcomed into the world another son, Wesley Rader Blackstone. It was Wesley, the skilled carpenter and part-time farmer who had a tendency to drink hard, carouse more than he should, and unleash a terrible temper, who married Ethel Elizabeth Poling near the start of the 20th century. They blessed the world with nine children, including in 1913, Jeremiah Franklin Blackstone, my grandfather, just before Ethel Elizabeth died in 1919 during the Great Flu.

Jeremiah, or Jerry as I always knew him, was a strong-willed and ambitious country boy who left home at the age of 17, after threatening to strike his inebriated father with a coal poke in defense of his youngest sister. Four years later, while prowling the streets of Thornville, Ohio, in a friend's roadster, Jerry met Carrie Elizabeth Cooperider, the pretty teenage daughter of Ira and Rachel, and within months she was pregnant with my own father, Wayne Franklin Blackstone, born in February 1935. Dad, a bit of an Elvis type with greased back hair and a penchant for singing ballads, was not much more than a teenager himself when he met a farmer's vivacious daughter at a country fair in Pleasantville. Martha Elder was the youngest child of a devout church-goer named William Elder and his faithful wife Edith. When they learned that their little girl was pregnant by the Blackstone boy from over in Thornville, well, all hell was about to break out.

In the end though, it was just me that was born.

What's the moral to this story? Time and lifetimes may be fleeting, but the roots of each one of us are very deep. What was the year 1595 like? Probably in many ways similar to today, with love and hope and hardship and pain as constants in the human experience. What can we take away from this?

As the combined passion of my many forbearers suggests, live each day with deep feelings. Don't take anything for granted. And follow your dreams ---for the sake of yourself, your children, and your children's children's children. They're right behind you.


Blackstone, J. W. (1907). Lineage and History of William Blackstone.

various Internet sources, family accounts & the human imagination


One World One Life---JCH said...

shotgun,hit 'em while runs now....shotgun...wouldn't have you any other way...I 'spose he too,was fresh from the Irish wars...

One World One Life---JCH said...

shotgun...hit'em while they run now...shot gun...Could and would not have you any other way...yeah..jc

One World One Life---JCH said...

shotgun...hit'em while they run now...shot gun...Could and would not have you any other way...yeah..jc

Ayu- your ex Es2007 student said...

"Live each day with deep feelings. Don't take anything for granted. And follow your dreams ---for the sake of yourself, your children, and your children's children's children. They're right behind you."-Nice one. I like.

Anonymous said...

It's really amazing that you know these 500-year old history. I have no idea what is my lineage. All I know, as my father claims, is that there are only 2 Escobars left when the Spanish left the Philippines and we are descendants of those guys. I cannot believe it because I look Filipino and would not want to claim Spanish heritage which is equivalent to aristocracy in those times in PH, but my grandfather says it's true.

Magic said...

Mr Blackstone, this is a fascinating account.

I can trace my own heritage only to Ellis Island. I myself am just second generation American (if you don't include my gradparents, who all arrived on Ellis Island as children). I know little about my European ancestors other than that they were persecuted by Catholics.

This puts your roots in America generations before mine. In fact, Mr Blackstone, you carry Native American blood in your veins. More than just your opportunity, as it was for so many European immigrants, America is your entitlement.

So I can understand your emotional extremes. Angry on one end (for the Bush years -- I mean, this guy FUCKED UP your entitlement, Man!!!) and hopeful on the other (the new President Elect may heal your entitlement). Only someone who feels America in their blood can feel these extremes as you do.

That you can trace your heritage so far back (pre-Puritan, by God!!!) in this day and age is highly unusual... and very special.

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad -- It turn out that we are long lost cousins! I, too, am descended from Ebenezeer through Vestus and Horace, but my g.g.grandfather was Simeon, not Wesley. I was wondering if you had any definite evidence linking Ebenezeer to the Reverend William. There's some controversy over the eventual destination of the Ebenezer descended from William, with a bunch of people thinking he ended up in Ohio, and another bunch convinced he relocated to New York State. I'd like to know for sure, and if you have info that ould shed light on thing, I'd love to see it.

I can be reached at daveblackston at gmail dot com. My wife has put together an extensive family tree at, and we'd be more than willing to share if you would like to see it.


Nth Cousin Dave

Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks, Dave, for the comment and your mail. I'll write to you.