Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor", William Halsall, 1882

I have always loved Thanksgiving for its delicious food and autumn-hued decorations. My first - very fond - memories of Thanksgiving are of creating Thanksgiving turkeys in art class, the more colorful their feathers, the better. Like all grade schoolers across the country, we learned about the First Thanksgiving on American shores.

It is a holiday that I keep separate from Christmas madness, believing it should be given the complete attention it deserves as a secular holiday enjoyed by all Americans, without the frenzy of gift giving, and with an emphasis on family and friends.

This year, Thanksgiving is even more special to me because of my discoveries through At present, I know of at least two ancestors who came to the New World  for religious freedom. I'm not saying they came over on the Mayflower, the first ship that landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. No, I have no claims to being a Mayflower descendant -  not yet, anyway!

Records show that my ancestor John Churchill from England arrived in Plymouth in 1643, 23 years after the first settlers. His wife was Hannah Pontus, from Leiden, Holland. I'm thinking that John probably met Hannah after he left England for the more religiously tolerant Holland.

I also have a bunch of ancestors who settled Jamestown Colony, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America. Again, I'm not saying that they came over on the first ships - Discovery, Godspeed and the Susan Constant - in 1607.

Lt. Col. Henry Meese

An interesting ancestor of mine making his name in the Jamestown area was Lt. Col. Henry Meese. Born in 1600 in Oxfordshire, England, he was a one-time London merchant who immigrated to America but made many trips between his home country and the New World. He owned land in Virginia, served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and earned his military title from the Indian-fighting militia. He died not long after making a last trip back to England.

What makes Henry so interesting to me is his daughter Grace Frizer Meese, and the fact that he had a couple of Native American wives. "Mary" (Christian name) and her sister Keziah were daughters of Wahaganoche, Chief of the Patawomeck Nation (Patawomeck = Potomac). It is very difficult to tell if Grace was the daughter of either woman and therefore half Native American.

Jamestown settlers trading with Virginia Indians

Many families with trees on claim that Grace is the daughter of Mary. However, the birth dates for Wahaganchoe, Mary and Grace are so wildly differing in each case that it becomes a tangled mess. I can't believe how many family trees list Grace as born 1627 and her so-called mother Mary as being born in 1640. C'mon people, use your brains!

In the end, Grace may have had a white mother. Therefore, just like I am not claiming to be a Mayflower descendant, I am not claiming to be the descendant of an Indian princess, just of a man who had Indian wives. It would be a matter of great pride for me to claim Native American blood in the people who were contemporaries of the more famous Pocahontas and her father Powhatan.

Pocahontas saving John Smith

It has been a long, long time since I studied Early American history. But upon learning of my heritage, I had a few questions:

What is the difference between Puritans and Pilgrims, if any?

Were there any differences between the settlers of the Plymouth Colony at Plymouth, MA and those from the Massachusetts Bay Colony centered around Boston and Salem, MA?

Were there differences between the New England settlers and the Virginia settlers?

Who celebrated the first Thanksgiving?

"The First Thanksgiving", J. L. G. Ferris

The first thing I learned was how important upper-case and lower-case letters were in naming groups of people involved in the making of America. ALL people who make religious trips are pilgrims with a small "p". Therefore both the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers were pilgrims. But the ones who came to be known as Pilgrims with a capital "P" were the settlers at Plymouth. A small group of English people who arrived in 1620, they were aided by Squanto and his tribe, who, as I remember from picture books, helped the settlers plant maize and fertilize their crops with fish. These Pilgrims are the ones who celebrated what has become known as The First Thanksgiving.
Of course, I realize that The First Thanksgiving has become mythologized and the story contains assumptions, half-truths and downright lies. For example, no one knows if they served turkey. The only written report says they had "fowl". But this is the Thanksgiving tale that is ingrained in our American psyche.

(PS - The travelers on the Mayflower in 1620 were headed for the Jamestown, Virginia, colony when fierce storms caused them to turn course and land at Cape Cod, MA. Good luck for them, as it turned out, with both the Pilgrims and the New England Native Americans being of a  more harmonious nature than their Southern counterparts.)

Covering all bases, this caption says "Puritans and Pilgrims
arriving in the New World during the early 1600s"
(Artist Unknown)

Now on to another "small p, large p" definition. The group of people in England known as puritans with a small "p" were those who wanted to purify or reform the Anglican Church (Church of England). Therefore, members of both the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were "small p" puritans.

However, the Pilgrims of Plymouth wanted to break completely away from the Anglicans and consequently were known as Separatists. The Massachusetts Bay settlers, a much larger group who arrived in America about 1630, had no intention of totally breaking away from the Anglicans and became known as Puritans with a capital " P".

The two New England colonies merged in 1691 and the differentiation between the Pilgrims/pilgrims and the puritans/Puritans became lost in the mists of time. (The Puritan witchcraft trials at Salem being a discussion for another time.)

Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard
I don't think these are Puritans -
he looks like a Cavalier!

But what about the first 100 settlers of the Virginia Company at Jamestown? They were more the entrepreneurial type rather than the religious freedom type. They were aristocrats who were ill prepared for the new life they faced. They arrived during a time of drought and were too late to plant crops the first year. Famine, disease and conflict with the Indian tribes brought them to the brink of failure. They were "rescued" in 1610 by a new group of settlers with a good store of supplies.

But who's to say the Jamestown settlers didn't have "a" first Thanksgiving (as opposed to "The" First Thanksgiving? Coming from England, they were familiar with the harvest home celebrations of their native land. I think that when they finally had a good harvest they did sit down to a good  meal and thank God.

Therefore I salute both my Massachusetts and Virginia settler ancestors on this Thanksgiving Day.
Another vintage Thanksgiving postcard.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Have you ever been obsessed by someone or some thing? I can't say that I have, until just this past October. I spent nearly the entire month under the spell of searching for my ancestors.

I have been bitten hard by the ancestry bug, and it IS a sickness. It all came about because of two things. Dan's nephew Erik took out a trial membership on this summer and was able to fill in some key information on his tree, which is also in part his Uncle Dan's tree. Then, serendipitously, I heard from a distant relative of Dan's whom I had not been in contact with for years. She and her sisters are the tracers of the Sudie Sheppard line (Dan's paternal grandmother).

Seeing both their trees inspired me to take out a trial membership too. I have mentioned before that I have been lucky in the genealogy department. My cousin Kevin is searching the Norwegian Wangen line of our maternal grandmother. My second cousin Shirley from Scotland is searching the Munro line of Highlanders. I have a second cousin from Iowa who is tracing the Rockney/Cody line of my father.

Although the Rockney line goes way back to the 1600s in Norway, the Cody line stops abruptly with Bridget and John Cody, born in the 1830s in Ireland. But I thought I would try my paternal great-grandmother's line and see if it would take me anywhere.

And has it ever. All through October, I followed links, adding name upon name. Every coffee break and lunch hour at work, I was adding names. Every evening, I was adding names. Every weekend, I was bound to the computer, adding names.

I no longer watched TV (a good thing), didn't follow my friends' blogs (a bad thing), didn't snooze on the couch (a good thing). I didn't even read (a very, very bad thing). Luckily, Dan is low maintenance. He had his TV shows to watch - his sports and his "weird" shows (Swamp People, Storage Wars, American Pickers, Pawn Stars).

It finally got to the point that instead of being extremely excited to see those wavy green leaves ('s clues to familial links), I became dismayed. I was actually happy when some lines ended early. Ultimately, I realized  that it would be taking me far, far longer than a month.

I did a little math on my own and then looked up the info online to confirm my calculations. After just 20 generations, we have 1,048,560 ancestors. If you don't believe me, look at this:

1 YOU (1 Generation)
2 parents (2 Generations)
4 grandparents (3 Generations)
8 great grandparents (4 Generations)
16 gg grandparents (5 Generations)
32 ggg grandparents (6 Generations)
64 gggg grandparents (7 Generations)
128 ggggg grandparents (8 Generations)
256 gggggg grandparents (9 Generations)
512 ggggggg grandparents (10 Generations)
1,024 gggggggg grandparents (11 Generations)
2,048 ggggggggg grandparents (12 Generations)
4,096 gggggggggg grandparents (13 Generations)
8,192 ggggggggggg grandparents (14 Generations)
16,384 gggggggggggg grandparents (15 Generations)
32,768 ggggggggggggg grandparents (16 Generations)
65,536 gggggggggggggg grandparents (17 Generations)
131,072 ggggggggggggggg grandparents (18 Generations)
262,144 gggggggggggggggg grandparents (19 Generations)
524,288 ggggggggggggggggg grandparents (20 Generations)
1,048,576 gggggggggggggggggg grandparents (21 Generations

Of course, you don't have that many identifiable ancestors. Thank god. And of course, this number doesn't mean you have that many unique ancestors in.  What is happening is repetition of ancestors, that is, the same ancestors appearing over and over again in a pedigree.  Repetition seldom appears within the first ten generations, but the further back you go, the more repetition you are likely to find.

The same evening I discovered the above chart, I decided the madness had to stop. I had to get my regular life back. I had to start reading again, and I did  (I have another five books under my belt now.)

This is going to be a lifetime job - and too bad I didn't start in on it earlier. Because not only do I have to (NEED to) list all the names I can, I must now go back and fill in the blanks that made these ancestors interesting people.

I have decided that I can afford to purchase 6-month packages at only $12.95 a month. I don't go to movies or rent movies, Dan and I don't dine out, I buy my clothing at thrift shops, I drive an old car. I can justify this one expense, for I believe this will be a satisfying hobby for the rest of my life.

And PS, I have already discovered some very interesting people so far. Know this fella?

If so, you know how shocked and amazed I was to find him at the end (so far) of one of my Great-Grandmother Malinda's lines.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


"The Guardian", by Sarah Butcher-Burrier

This painting speaks to me a great deal. The woman of golden brown hair and dress of typical green, being comforted once again by her Celtic guardian/warrior angel, is me. He has been my life-saving guardian angel several times, like the occasion when I escaped death from a water-filled, sinking car, and again, when I miraculously escaped what seemed to be a certain head-on collision at an intersection.

The first occasion, I merely thought, "That was a close call." (I was young then.) The second time, I consciously realized that something or someone had PREVENTED that accident. I had seen the crash coming, mere seconds from collision, and then all of a sudden, I was on the other side, myself and my car totally unscathed.

My angel has been, at other times, the fierce she-warrior with the long Celtic broadsword, instilling courage in me, such as when I confronted a bully of a boss. He/she has prevented me from physically harming another person. Guardian angels have saved my daughter's life several times over.

The angel craze, you may remember, really caught fire in the 90s, with the publication of many books on the subject. I was so proud that I, as a reporter at the Bismarck Tribune, wrote a story on angels a week or two BEFORE Newsweek and Time published their angel editions. In my story, I interviewed Sophie Burnham, whose book, "Angel Letters", had just come out.

But more importantly, I interviewed several North Dakota people whose had seen or felt the presence of angels. One lady, in fact, had been one of the letter writers in Burnham's "Angel Letters". She told of seeing guardian angels surrounding her dying grandmother's body. Another man told of being prevented from entering a certain room by an unseen hand when he was a soldier fighting overseas in World War II. A few moments later, the room was blown to bits. Another man told me of facing a dangerous confrontation on a Native American reservation. Later, after the other side had backed down, people asked him who the intimidating "big fella" was who came with him and stood closely by him while he faced down the crowd. Puzzled, he replied, "No one was with me."

The angel craze was overblown and overdone, and I, for one, became tired of all the angel statues and pictures for sale everywhere. But my guardian angel has never deserted me. Yesterday, I felt him again. I had just been wheeled into surgery when a bundle (more than necessary) of warmed blankets was tucked around me. Everyone else may have seen blankets, but I saw billowing, comforting, strong white angel wings enveloping me, and I knew I would be fine.

I had previously been quite afraid. I'm a lot older than the last time I went under the knife for a C-section 30 years ago. It's been 46 years since I had general anesthesia. But yesterday I went under totally calm and ready, no matter the outcome.

To back up a bit, until I was hired by the Secretary of State August 1, I hadn't had insurance for five years. After a one-month waiting period, I embarked on a series of long-needed medical check-ups including a mammogram and a Pap test, which were fine, and then to a gynecologist for a pelvic ultrasound for a pesky problem. All of a sudden that progressed to appointments for a uterine biopsy (not fun) and the ovarian cancer blood test (scary).

Both of those came back fine - no sign of cancer, which was a great relief. The only thing left was a follow-up ultrasound six weeks down the road. It is an understatement to say that I was shocked by what my doctor told me on Nov. 5. I totally expected to hear that I would be given a prescription and sent on my merry way. Instead, I was told that I needed surgery for a hysteroscopy, a D & C and removal of an ovarian cyst and uterine polyps. These are, she said, "seldom cancerous". What a loaded word, seldom. I was just gobsmacked.

After the surgery, I came out of anesthesia rapidly, with no wooziness, dizziness, weakness or nausea. I felt great yesterday, probably euphoric. Today I don't feel as great. I have three - yes three - incisions. I'm quite sore. The two small laparoscopic incisions are painless but the large one burns. I am very bloated, with the pumped in carbon dioxide trying to find a way out. My throat is raw from the breathing tube.

But, I am going back to work tomorrow and over the next week, while I await these new biopsy results, I will be calm, because I still feel those great white wings surrounding me.

I hope you all have at least one guardian angel to watch over you, to protect you and care about you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Band of Brothers - Brothers in Arms

Band of Brothers from Golspie, Scotland - Willie, Archie and Jack

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms"

"Brothers In Arms", Dire Straits

On this Veteran's Day, I celebrate my own Band of Brothers/Brothers in Arms - the four Munro brothres from Scotland, the three Munro brothers from Crosby, ND, and others too - my brother, my husband, my father and his father.

Great Uncle Archibald "Archie" Munro, Canadian Army,
WWI, gassed April 1915,
Ypres, France, died in 1921 as a result

Great Uncle John Alexander "Jack" Munro,
King's Own Scottish Borders (Scotland), WWI,
Killed April 12, 1917, in France.
Awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry.

Great Uncle William Munro,
Seaforth Higlanders, Scotland,
WWI, killed Nov. 13, 1916,
in Beaumont Hamel, France

Maternal Grandfather Duncan Munro, Canadian Rifles.
WWI ended before he could be sent overseas.

Paternal Grandfather Clarence Bartell Rockney,
 (no photo available), U. S. Army "doughboy",
Served in France, WWI

Father Forrest "Sonny" Rockney, U.S. Navy, WWII

Uncle Donald Alexander Munro, U.S. Army
Served in Germany in WWII

Uncle James "Scotty" Munro, U.S. Army
Served in Germany in WWII

Uncle David Allan Munro, U.S. Army
Served in Germany, peacetime

Husband Daniel Bruce Fredericksen,
U. S. Navy, Served in Vietnam, 1968-1969

Brother John Allan Johnson
82nd Airborne (paratrooper),
U. S. Army, served in peacetime. 

For Veterans' Day 2009 I wrote an entire post devoted to Archie, William and Jack. To read it, click here:

Postcard created by my Scottish 2nd cousin Shirley,
featuring William and Jack Munro and the WWI monument
in Golspie, Scotland with a backdrop of Golspie.

"At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember"