A Grim Discovery

I made a grim discovery today in my genealogy. Another ancestor was burned at the stake. his horrible death occurred on July 15th, 1627 in Smithfield, London. I don’t jnowwhat her crime was – witchcraft? religious beliefs?

My Aunt Ruth

I have a lovely picture of my Aunt Ruth as a young girl/lady. No date is given for the photo. She was born in 1888 and lived a long life, marrying twice and living to the age of 97. She was born in Peoria Florida as her parents spent 10 to 12 years there for reasons of my grandfather’s health. The family returned to their base in Ohio when my grandfather became terminally in 1898. Aunt Ruth would have been about 10 years old when her father (my grandfather) died.

So she spent the remainder of her formative years in Newark Ohio. She became a teacher and taught school in both Newark and then Indiana. In Indianapolis Indiana she first married John H. Hilkene, a widower with one child. She was 42, he was 55. This was in 1923. He subsequently died in 1930. One thing that struck me about him is that he served in the Spanish American War in 1898, and he also served in the 1st World War. He was very active in the American Legion in Panama. He (they?) were living in Panama when he became seriously ill and subsequently returned to Indianapolis to die.

Five years later in November 1935 she married James S. Milligan in Indianapolis. (Her younger brother my father married for the 3rd time in December 1935). She was in her late 40’s when she married James. He was a widower with 2 children.

At some point she moved from teaching to work as an underwriter for the Sun Alliance Insurance Company. She worked for that company until retirement.

She spent her final years between Indianapolis, Raleigh North Carolina and Florida with her sister Myrtle and her mother, She died at age 97 in 1984.

I might have met Aunt Ruth in the fall of 1948, but I doubt it. I was 11 years old when my sister Ruth and I went south (by train) to Raleigh North Carolina to visit our Grandmother and our Aunt Myrtle. My only recollections of that trip are in photographs and my only real memory is of the suit I wore – a lovely brown and white suit and so-called sport shoes.

Why would Aunt Ruth have been there in North Carolina – possibly visiting her sister and mother? Doubtful, I’m sure she was busy enough in Indiana.

James Davis Knowles Willis, My Great Grandfather

James Davis Knowles Willis was my Great Grandfather. The following account of his life was written by Florence Reid Willis, another one of his great grand daughters

His story

The parents of James Davis Knowles Willis were members of the Second Baptist Church of Boston.

James Davis Knowles was a clergyman, born in Providence Rhode Island, in 1798, died in 1838 in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. James was placed in a printing office at the age of 12, and while learning the trade he studied French and Latin. When he was 21 he became associate editor of William G. Goddard”s “Rhode Island American”. Entered the Baptist Church in March 1820. He was licensed to preach in the following autumn, and studied theology in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. There he also followed a collegiate course in Columbia College, after graduation he was appointed a tutor. On December 28 1825, he was ordained pastor of the 2nd Baptist Church in Boston.

In 1832 he was compelled by failing health to resign, and from that time until his death, which was due to small pox, he filled the chair of pastoral duties and sacred rhetoric at Newton Theological Seminary. At the same time he conducted for over two years the “christian Reiew”, a quarterly magazine. Besides addresses he published “Memoir of Mrs. Ann H. Judson” (Boston,1829), and “Memoir of Roger Williams, the Founder of the State of RhodeIsland”.

I have paraphrased the above submission by Florence Reid Willis who in turn extracted the account from Appleton’s Encyclopedia.

Occupations of My Ancestors

Sir William Harpur, my 13th Great Grandfather, 1496-1573. He was Lord Mayor of London

Thomas Lumley, 1408-1485. The husband of my 13th Great Grandmother, Baroness Margaret de Harrington, 1416-1475. He was the Governor of Scarborough Castle for Life

James How Sr., 1598-1702 James was a weaver from Hertfordshire. He came to Massachusetts in 1635, first living in Roxbury. He moved to Salem in 1649. He died 1702, age 104. His daughter-in-law was accused of witchcraft. She was tried and executed in 1692.

Thomas James Bate – King’s Haberdasher for King Edward IV. He also lists Knight as his occupation. He was my 14th Great Grandfather. He lived from 1440-1485

Sir Robert Perrot – 14th Great Grandfather , 1485-1550. He was a composer at Oxford.


Scene of Horror

In searching for more information about my ancestors,I find that one of them, a female, was burned at the stake.  She, Lady Margaret Oswald, was my  13th  Great Grandmother.  She followed the Lollard faith, which was considered heretical in the 15th century.  She was born in 1448, died on December 12th 1476 in Cambridge England.  Death at the stake was not a new form of execution.  But it was persistently used in the 15th and 16th centuries. Many many men and women suffered and were executed for their faith in this horrific manner in earlier times


Joan of Arc  (credit to Wikipedia)

Notable Ancestors

This is the first of a planned series of blog posts about specific ancestors.  The first ancestor I have chosen is Sir Henry Norris, c. 1482-17 May 1536.  The cause of death was Decapitation – he was beheaded on Tower Hill, London.  He was among those accused of treason and adultery with Anne Boleyn.  Most historical authorities argue that the accusations were untrue and part of a plot to get rid of Anne.  Henry Norris’ occupation was listed as Groom of the Stool to Henry VIII.  He lived and died in turbulent times.  He was my 12th Great Grandfather.

Sir Henry Norris Sir Henry Norris   (google image)