When my grandfather was in his late 60s, his poor health forced him to retire. He needed something to keep himself occupied so he wouldn’t drive my Grandma Momo nuts. Being a history buff, he immersed himself in genealogy.
Not sure why he chose to trace Momo’s family instead of his own, but her history was incredible. With the help of Lucy, a distant cousin Grandpa discovered in England, the two of them were able to trace our family roots to 990 AD, and eventually to northern Yorkshire County, England.
(I can only imagine where his research would’ve led if he had access to the Internet.)
Arkefrith, our family progenitor, was a Danish Viking who arrived in England with King Canute during the Invasion of 1016. In recognition of his military service, he was presented an estate and given the title of Lord of Dent, Sedburg and Askrigg. I’m sure somewhere there is a castle in England that I should be living in, but I hear they are terribly drafty.
The estate included land situated on the second of a trio of hills called the Three Calves. When the King of England required his subjects to take a surname, my great-grandfather (27-times removed) chose Adam De Midd Calf (died 1252), in reference to that original property. Over the generations, the name was anglicized to Metcalf – Momo’s maiden name.
My children represent the 37th generation of our family. The fact that I even know this is an honor.
Before he died, Grandpa took all that he had learned in his research and wrote each of us a family history. As new generations are added to our family I continue to add chapters to the story.
In this history, a family tree that spans more than 1,000 years, there are Lords and Ladies, High Sheriffs, explorers and riverboat pirates. From one branch of the family we discovered that a direct descendent, Richard Warren, was a passenger on the Mayflower.
When my daughter was in fourth grade, she made a set of paper dolls for a history project. Each outfit was based on a different ancestor, one of which, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Richard Warren. She was also nine when she made the voyage to America in 1623 – 376 years earlier.
In one entry Grandpa wrote:
Sir James Metcalf, of Askrigg and Nappa, born 1469, died 20 September 1539, knighted 1528, High Sheriff in 1525, married 1512 to Margaret, daughter and coheir to Thomas Pigot (Bigot) of Cotherane. In the year 1513 he led three hundred men in the “Battle of Flodden Field,” every one of them was named Metcalf and each a son, brother, cousin or an uncle, all of them mounted on white horses.”
That would have been a sight to see. During this Battle, the English army, under the command of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, defeated the invading Scots led by King James IV. The Metcalf family motto was in play that day – “Conquiesco – I conquer.”
Many Americans take for granted that we are ourselves immigrants. Despite the long generations my family has lived here, we are not natives. That I was born here doesn’t make me indigenous. I think knowing about my ancestors, and where they were from, helps me to appreciate history and my place in it.