Colony Research Group
Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology
Colonist Families in England
One of the
enduring mysteries of the Lost Colony, aside of course, from the
ever-present question of whether the colonists survived, is the question
of why we can't seem to find any, or many, records of the colonists
nearly 120 English people who disappeared. We know their approximate birth
dates, given that they were not "old" nor were they children,
except for the ones noted as such. They would have been born between about
1547 and 1566, assuming that they were no older than 40 and of legal age,
21. Even if they were age 50, which is approaching the age that they would
no longer be considered an asset, they would have been born no earlier
than 1537. Given this, and given some of the unusual given and surnames on
the colonists list, you'd think we would be able to find birth records and
in some cases marriage records. And in some cases, we have, but these are
few and far between. Those cases where we have are in London, and
unfortunately, London was the land of many churches. So while we find a
record here and there, tracking the family in other church records in the
same location is not productive.
was a land of commerce, of immigrants, and of second homes. Anyone who was
anyone socially or economically had a home on London that they visited
when they were conducting business, but their "real home" was
wherever they came from throughout the British empire. As they traveled
back and forth, they also took their servants with them. Anything needing
religious attention in London received it in a local church, and when they
went back home, wherever that was, they attended their own church. This
means that in many cases, the London records are fragmentary, at best, but
so are their home records. Finding these records, and these families, is
that with a plethora of missing records for reasons spanning fires to
wars, records stores in inaccessible locations, records never microfilmed
or copied, and illegible records, and multiply this throughout the British
Isles, and you can see the scope of the problem. In the states here, we
know that all records from the county are at the county seat, and if not
at the county seat, or sometimes in addition, they are at the state
archives. Not so in England. There is no standardization you can depend on
to find records there. In many cases, records are wherever they got to,
and finding the location alone can be a huge challenge. Never mind trying
to find some to access them who can red old English secretarial script and
translate it to something we call "English".
feel the frustration? It's very real.
there's the issue of class. For a very long time, I had a poor
understanding of gentry, the manorial system, and the peasant class.
Thanks to a book that just happened to arrive in a box with other family
records from an elderly family member who is "retiring" from
genealogy, I read the book, "The Common Stream". What a
wonderful gift this was, because I now understand what probably happened
with the colonists, and why, and subsequently why we can't find any
records surrounding them.
reader's digest version of this situation. There were three
"classes" of people involved with the Roanoke Voyage. There were
the financiers who hoped to strike it rich. These people were monied, we
know who they were, and they did not travel to Roanoke Island, the new
"Citie of Raleigh". These families have coats of arms and were
gentry, greater or lesser nobles.
group is the upper echelon of the Roanoke voyages themselves. These would
be the people like John White and Ananias Dare, both important men and at
the "management level". One of the ways they were compensated is
that coats of arms were drawn up for these men. In other words, they got a
promotion to the corner office with windows. They had not been the gentry
level previously, but they were being promoted and given the official
"business card", coats of arms.
rest, the people we so desperately seek, they were the working class. They
were expected to bring along supplies to be able to last a year. So these
people would have sole anything they had in order to bring what they
needed to begin farming. Unfortunately, much of their food was ruined on
the voyage, so they began their adventure not only behind the 8 ball from
that perspective, but also in that they were supposed to settle in a
location at the Chesapeake. So they would up on an island where they did
not expect to be, dangerously low on food and supplies.
settlers were farmers, workers, not people in "management".
These people, when they were determined to be "dead", which
appears to be about 7 years later given the John Dare, son of Ananias,
lawsuit, no one really cared, financially, because they had sold anything
of value before leaving. So there were no wills, no probate, not in any
court....and believe me, we've checked, looked high and low.
determine where any of these people were born, and which baptismal records
were theirs, if any, because we have nothing to connect these people to
their family....nothing at all. When we do find someone born about the
right time, in some British location, Nancy in particular, tries very hard
to connect the family line together from the church records, and looks for
some connection, any connection, to any other colonist surname and/or
location....but so far....we're empty handed.
this be? How can these people not only disappear here, but their families
in England as well? How can these people be so anonymous? Aren't there any
British families at all that have stories of their family members who went
to America? The answer is, of course, that these stories don't exist
simply because their descendants, if there are any, are not in England,
but are in the states. The stories of an aunt or uncle who disappeared in
the new world weren't very exciting or unusual in the days where infant
mortality and death visited constantly. And so, if they existed, they
disappeared fairly quickly. Certainly before anyone in contemporary times
order to help myself understand what happened in England, why, and how,
and how this assuredly affected who came on the voyage and why we can't
find them, I've compiled quite a bit of information, some from "The
Common Stream", which was the beginning point, but also from other
sources. I've also asked Andy Powell and Nancy Frey to review this
document and both have had additions and corrections, and for that, I
thank both of them. I hope this helps you to understand the social
situations surrounding not only the colonists, but any ancestor you had
who was from anyplace in the British Isles.
The Common Stream
book, "The Common Stream," published in 1976 by Rowland Parker
(now deceased) is chocked full of history. This book is about the town of
Foxton, in Cambridgeshire, East Anglica, shown on the map at right, but it
could well have been about any and every village in England.
book is available both new and used on Amazon.com, and I encourage anyone
who wants to understand English history a little better, not to mention
enjoying a wonderfully written book, to purchase a copy for themselves. I
read the book twice, the second time for details I might have missed the
first time. It took Rowland 13 years to research this village using all of
the records available, and a few more to write this book.
there, and when he finished, he knew not only who lived in every cottage,
but who lived in every cottage, when it was built, when it burnt, when it
was rebuilt, by whom, and why things are located within the cottage where
they are. I wish I knew half as much about any of my ancestors.
is particularly interesting because it combines a lot of history with
archaeological finds that are then interpreted in the lives of villagers.
You can see your own ancestor in a similar village someplace in England.
If you have early Virginia or North Carolina ancestry, then you have
English ancestry too. England settled most of the eastern seaboard of
America beginning at Jamestown in 1607, if not on Roanoke Island in 1587.
So this is the story of your people.
to extract portions here that relate to specific periods of English
history and that are particularly relevant. I'll be interspersing comments
and other information as well.
start with what Rowland said in his introduction. His story begins with
and is about the common stream - that's the stream that runs through every
village or farm anyplace. The giver and sustainer of life.
"Part of its significance lies in that
very fact, that it [the stream] is a symbol of decay. Part lies in the
very distant past, long before that story begins, when every spring of
water and every stream born of those springs was the object of veneration
by groups of primitive men who knew, as surely and instinctively as the
birds and beasts still know, though most men have forgotten, that the
water of those springs and streams was Life itself. The unfailing flow of
that precious commodity, over which man had no control, could only be the
bounteous manifestation of a divine power, indeed the very abode of
divinity itself. And so the mind of man peopled the springs and streams
with spirits, nymphs, goddesses - always female, for the notion of
fertility was inevitably linked with the perennial flow of water. Then
later, when man ceased to wander, developed the art of living always in
one place, that place was determined by one of those springs or streams.
Every location in part at least to the proximity of availability of water.
Nymphs and sprites faded into the background, only vaguely remembered if
at all, and considerations of practical common-sense took their
attempt to find the location of the house where my ancestors lived,
assuming I'm lucky enough to find their land at all, I always look first
for the stream, then for the hill. The house and barn will not be far from
the stream, and the hill often holds the cemetery. The house, it's always
someplace in between.
people to live in Foxton were probably either Celts or Anglo Saxons.
Rowland can't determine the source of the name of Foxton, but Andy Powell,
a British historian, tells me that the suffix, 'ton', is the Anglo-Saxon
word for settlement. 'Wick" is the same for a Viking area. Wiki tells
us that the name means "farmstead where foxes are seen."
a pagan cemetery is found in Foxton. Depending on where you are located in
the British Isles, the earliest people could be Pictish (North Scotland),
Celtic (England) or Anglo-Saxon (ousted Celts in parts of England). The
people themselves likely don't know, but their DNA does, but that is
another story. In 1976, when Rowland wrote "The Common Stream",
DNA for genealogy wasn't even a gleam in someone's eye.
longer than any of them could remember the People had lived by the Brook,
and if you had asked them who they were and whence they came it is
unlikely that they could have told you. Many years before, their ancestor
had lived in the northern part of what we now call Belgium.
and settled on the Brook, the common stream. They lived in farms,
scattered up and down the Brook. There were no fortifications, because
none were needed. But then, new people came and settled across the Brook.
These were not "their people", but new people.
Brook people, having no alternative, tolerated this violation of their
territory. Likewise they were more curious than resentful when the other
people used the south side of the river for their burial-ground. What did
come near to rousing them to protest was the discovery that the
People-Beyond-the-River, instead of burying their dead decently in the
chalk like every sensible clan made a practice of burning their dead on a
great fire of wood and putting the ashes in pots, which they then buried.
This wasteful practice, it seemed, only applied to the richer and more
important members of their clan; the richer a man was when alive, the
bigger and better the pot in which his remains were buried. The Brook
people came to this conclusion after digging up as many of the pots as
they could find in the dark. Of course, the People-Beyond-the-River soon
discovered what was going on and they put an abrupt stop to the
pot-stealing by breaking the pots at the time of burial and placing them
inside larger pots, likewise rendered unusable. A rare and attractive
Arretine bowl, found fragmented inside of an amphora was reconstructed and
is now in the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology."
was a large earthenware vessel used for storage and carriage of oil and
wine. Most interestingly, Arretine was a name given to a type of fine
pottery made at Arezzo in Italy in the first centuries BC and AD; of
pinkish clay coated with dark red slip made in a mold and decorated in low
relief. How did it get to Foxton in England?
the People belonged to the federation of tribes which we call the Iceni or
to the Trinovantes, or to some other group, I cannot say.
reason to believe from what little is known about the political situation
in England before the coming of the Romans that our People of the Brook
lived through a period of anxiety as a result of the aggressive expansion
of the group of Belgic tribes called Catuvellauni to the south-west of
them. The People-Beyond-the-River may have formed part of one of these
archaeological evidence found evidence of an early Belgic site at Foxton.
The Catuvellauni were known to be ramping up about the time of Christ.
Julius Caesar defeated the Belgic chieftan in about 45 or 55 BC.
established was the contact with the Roman world that when, in AD 43, a
Roman army again invaded Britain, many of the Celtic population in the
south-east actually welcomed the invaders, possibly feeling that they had
less to fear from them than from their own turbulent neighbors and racial
kinsmen. Such opposition as there was, led by Caractacus, one of the sons
of old King Cunobelinus, was rapidly overcome, and Colchester became the
capital of a Roman province. Within a few months the People of the Brook
would be made aware of their new status as subjects of the Emperor. What
it meant to them was that from then on they would pay their tribute of
corn, hides and wool to the agents of the Roman Governor and their young
men would be liable for enlistment in the auxiliary units of the Roman
Army. It might also have meant that a quota of their womenfolk was
demanded for service as slaves; but if that were so, it was not a Roman
innovation. Any memory of their tribal origin and allegiance could now be
allowed to lapse, for tribal hostilities were a thing of the past. Having
been conquered the People ran no risk of being attacked by anybody, and it
seems reasonable to suppose that in the early days of the Province the
Roman soldiers aroused more admiration than fear in the native
during this time that the construction of the Roman roads in England was
begun. Many of those roads are still in existence today.
of the soldiers had completed their 25 years of service and were due for
discharge. Rather than return to their homes - if they had any
"home" after marching all over Europe for the best part of their
lives - many of them chose, or were ordered, to stay in Britannia. Some
had no doubt taken British wives; others probably intended or hoped to do
governor, whilst needing every available man in his army, also needed to
leave behind in the Province a nucleus of trained men in case further
trouble should break out. So he established what was called a colonia,
based on and administered from Colchester. To each time-expired veteran
was allotted a plot of land in the vicinity of the capital, where the old
soldiers could become new farmers. The officers naturally expected
something on a grander scale, and their gratuity took the form of quite
considerable grants of land, which was obtained by the simple expedient of
taking it from the British. The size of these officer's holdings meant
that they could not be concentrated near the capital as was the colonia,
and that they would be widely scattered over the whole province, even in
the remotest parts."
have happened about the year 48 AD. However, as determined from
archaeology, the Roman soldiers did not build English houses, or huts,
they built villas like they built in Italy. Rowland tells us...
I would say that the collaboration was facilitated in no small measure by
the novelty of the whole affair. The villagers would be fascinated as they
watched the mortar being made, the timbers being cut to shape and fitted
together on the solid foundations of flints and cement. The bags of iron
nails must have aroused their cupidity and several must have been stolen
to be converted into knives. Before their wondering gaze the walls of the
villa rose to a height hitherto unconceived for house walls. Then the
rafters were fixed into position with those tantalizing nails, and the
tiles laid on them."
terribly displaced in England also included something that was a novelty
to the English.
villa was at last completed, along with stables, barn and outhouses,
including a little shed with a cobbled floor in the garden where the
master, once installed, took a bath every day. When the villagers learnt
of this strange habit, they no doubt soon did from one of his household
staff, it must have confirmed the doubts which had arisen earlier in their
minds as to his sanity. True, there was no lack of water in the Brook, but
to use it for such a purpose as that was unheard of."
that time in history, the English bathed once or twice a year whether they
needed it or not.
us that the Romans who remained or had mixed parents, technically called
'Romano-British' are accepted as having become the new tribal leaders. It
is widely accepted that "King Arthur" was one of these leaders.
speculates that these very early Roman villas may have been the foundation
for the later manor system. He felt that they would have had a number of
slaves in full time service and that the villa owner would have called
upon some or all of the villagers for seasonal tasks such as plowing and
one day in the early spring in the 7th year of the Emperor Nero's reign,
the trouble which for years had been smoldering beneath the surface of
affairs broke out into the open. Once again, the point of eruption was in
the land of the Iceni.
which were supposedly handed in 10 years previously were brought out from
concealment, [Queen] Boudicca rallied her forces, placed herself at the
head of a rebel army and marched on Colchester, which was an easy
I just love
this story of the rebel Queen. What Rowland didn't say was that Boudicca's
husband left her his kingdom on his death, and when he died, the Roman's
treated her and her people as conquered. She was beaten and her daughter's
raped, and Queen Boudicca just wasn't taking any more. She eventually did
lose to the Roman army, but not before burning three Roman cities,
Colchester, London and St. Albans, in which some reported 60,000-70,000
people were killed. She also handily defeated several Roman legions, but
she was no match for the entire Roman army when it amassed. The majority
of the Roman army had been distracted in Anglesey, busy wiping out the
Celtic opposition. Boudicca killed herself or became ill and died before
she could be captured. Reports disagree, but regardless, she was never
Rowland does tell us is that the Iceni burned the Roman villa in Foxton,
and later, in a shallow grave, archaeologists found two skeletons hastily
buried who are believed to be the Roman villa owner and his wife. No
evidence of children was ever found at the villa.
Boudicca's revolt, the Iceni disappeared forever. The Romans
systematically went through the countryside exacting revenge, district by
district, under the name of justice.
massacre of some 70,000 Romans had to be paid for. All those who had taken
any part in the revolt - and many who had not - were to be punished. We
don't know the details, but we do know that Paulinus carried out his
policy of vengeance with such ruthless ferocity that he earned a rebuke
from his own compatriots and was eventually removed from office by the
Emperor Nero - an indication perhaps not so much of compassion as of
concern for the fiscal revenue."
the villagers had scavenged the remains of the villa, some bricks and
tiles, and used them to rebuild their cottages. Some had been burned when
the villa was burned. However, when the Romans came looking for the villa
and the Roman officer, and discovered that the Iceni had killed them, they
extracted their revenge on the villagers who they apparently believed were
involved. They burned the village. These misplaced bricks and tiles, along
with the burned huts, were subsequently found during archaeology digs.
village it would seem, remained deserted for a time. Then it was
reoccupied once more; not all of the huts, about a quarter of them, as
though a band of stragglers had returned. For maybe two generations, there
were people living on the site; not a community, not the People, just some
people. When those few died out or moved elsewhere, the site became
derelict. The Brook flowed on, placid and unconcerned."
One has to
wonder if those stragglers were new people who wandered in one at a time,
or as a group, or some part of the original families returned.
too flowed on. The Romans restored the situation to their own liking and
reorganized a bigger and better Province on a new structure, the framework
of which was a system of roads and towns, a system adapted to military
control and commercial exploitation. More villas were built, and rebuilt,
both by Romans and by Britons who fitted into the Roman pattern of life.
These villas and town provide the only evidence we have of life in Roman
Britain. Within the framework of that structure there were innumerable
dark areas into which the remnants of the native population, those not
subjected to slavery, were allowed to retreat and survive if they could.
They did undoubtedly survive, sometimes in quite considerable numbers, yet
of their existence hardly any trace at all is to be found. They were
utterly cowed, without identity, without organization, without spirit.
There was never another revolt; nor the slightest likelihood of it in
eastern Britain. That is why, when the Roman shield, the upper crust, was
removed, the land was an easy prey for whoever felt inclined to take
invasion was a silent one, as compared to the Romans.
Angles, Saxons and Jutes began their piratical raiding whilst the Roman
legions were still in control. There is more than a hint that their
presence on this side of the sea was welcomed by some, just as the Romans
had been welcomed. Certainly the surviving Britons, those peasants
lingering on in the dark areas of the countryside offered no resistance
when in the early years of the fifth century, the [Roman] legions having
been withdrawn, the Teutonic invasion began in real earnest.
would have been both impossible and futile, for the invaders had spears,
swords, axes strong arms and quick tempers to enforce their claims. The
towns they either looted, destroyed or simply ignored. The roads they
avoided as much as possible. They had no use whatever for mosaic floors,
heating systems, painted walls, paved streets, mains drainage and all that
nonsense. They were countrymen, not townsmen. They wanted land, not to
enhance their prestige by the possession of it or to exploit it for
political reasons, but to use it as it should be used. And here, in
Britannia, abandoned Roman province, was land asking to be taken