Cousin Trip–In the Shadow of My Ancestors

My Uncle Dick Mesle was the family historian.  Until I found family photographs, Bibles and other evidences of generations’ past, I had little knowledge of my family history.  For my parents, it was religion that bound us together as a family, not the ancestors whose blood flows through our veins.  But I have long wanted to know “who is my tribe”, where do I belong in this great world.  As a result, when I began to find windows into our family past, I was anxious to pursue them. I have done so from that day to the present, a quest that has continued more than 9 years.

I am not looking for lost treasures, nor am I interested in kingdoms or proof of nobility.  But I am fascinated by the values that unite us as family.  Surely family values, beliefs and even professional interests are likely to continue from generation to generation.  Bankers are likely to raise bankers, teachers are likely to raise teachers.

With my husband I have travelled to find where John Lewis was buried in 1691 under an asphalt patch of land in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Now my sister, my cousins and I have walked Section A of Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Norwich, NY.  Here rest generations of Lewis and Terry ancestors: my family.  While I can incorporate these photographs of their gravestones into my genealogical research, for now, the photographs themselves document the close ties that bound the family together in Norwich for more than 100 years.  Here are some of the ancestors I found:

Elnathan Terry (1758-1840): American Revolutionary Soldier.  Served under Captain Gorton, under command of Lt. Caleb Lewis.

Mary Kinyon Terry (1768-1858): Wife of Elnathan Terry.  Mary is a direct descendent of Thomas Rogers, Richard Warren, Francis Cooke and John Cooke, all of whom arrived on the Mayflower.  Elnathan and Mary moved to New York before 1810.

Freeborn Lewis (1784-1822): Married Esther Terry (1787-1865) daughter of Elnathan Terry and Mary Kinyon Terry.  She remarried on Freeborn’s death and is buried in Little Sioux, Harrison County, Iowa.  Freeborn also moved to NY with other Terrys and Lewises by 1810.

Lorenzo Lewis (1808-1855) is the son of Freeborn Lewis and Esther Terry Lewis.  Lorenzo married Mary Ocelia Smith (1815-1879). Lorenzo owned a saw mill in Norwich. He died when his son, Horatio,  was only a year old.  His sons continued and expanded the milling operations.

Daniel Horatio Lewis (1854-1917):  I was elated to finally locate the tombstone of my great-grandfather, Daniel Horatio Lewis. He is the son of Lorenzo Lewis and Mary Ocelia Smith.  He married Victoria Belcher Lewis. He and his brothers Herman and Harris Lewis were in the lumber business, were builders, and owned and operated saw mills in and around Norwich. Herman and another brother, Willard, served with the Union in the Civil War.  Willard died of disease in a prison camp in New Orleans in 1855.

Horatio was also a temperance lecturer.  Victoria was a teacher.  Horatio and Victoria moved with their family to Boston and ultimately moved to Sherrill, NY where they died.  They are buried in Norwich in the Lewis family plots.

After years of research, Mt. Hope Cemetery in Norwich was a wonderful day of discovery.  All along the way, i was aided by the ground crew of the cemetery, who were gracious and enthusiastic about our adventure; and abetted by my sister and cousins, who seemed to thrive on every discovery as much as I did.  A quest, an adventure and a bonding experience.

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Chasing the Mayflower

I am fascinated by what I call “my tribe.”  Meg and I are part of a great family and I have always wanted to know more about it: countries of origin, religious affiliations, and all the factors that influence a family through the generations.  When mom and dad moved out of our long time family home, I came upon family records and photographs about which I had no previous knowledge.  Among the records was a copy of my grandmother’s family tree tracing her Lewis family back to Westerly, Rhode Island in the late 1660’s.  I began researching the Lewis and Mesle families and was hooked.  My brother-in-law gave me a subscription to a genealogy research site for Christmas that fed my interest.

Grandmom considered joining the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but disagreed with its refusal to allow Marion Anderson sing in Constitution Hall in 1939.  Knowing we had ancestors who served in the revolutionary army spurred my interest even further.  Many months of painstaking research established in my mind the accuracy of grandmom’s family tree and helped me locate proof that Elnathan Terry had served in the Revolution.  Researching his family led me to Sprague Project, a wonderful internet source, Sprague Project Database. Through the Sprague Project, I traced Elnathan Terry back to Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Richard Warren and Francis Cooke.  The book, Revolutionary War Veterans, Chenango Co. NY, provided significant information, confirmed Elnathan’s service and  confirmed his relationship to my Lewis family.

With evidence in hand sufficient to establish for me the Mayflower connection, I decided to apply for membership in the Mayflower Society, one of the many historical organizations focused on the Mayflower and its passengers.  The proof necessary to join the society is far more rigorous than the proof necessary to satisfy me.  (Once I found my great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis was buried in the family plot with Elnathan Terry, my questions were answered).  But it required 6 months or more contacting libraries, genealogy societies and researching on-line records to find the proof that should satisfy the Mayflower Society.  Some members of the family were easy to trace, because of grandmom’s family tree, but others eluded proof.  One ancestor, Freeborn Lewis, who married Esther Terry, died very young, leaving his widow and their children.  She married again and moved to Iowa, where she died.  Records related to Freeborn and Esther and their son, Lorenzo Lewis, were the hardest to trace.  The last piece of the proof came from Myra Shattuck’s Bible, located in the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich, NY.

Six years after beginning my family research, I am ready to finally submit my Mayflower Society application.  Relying heavily on Mayflower histories, DAR records, family records, and the wonderful assistance of staff in genealogical libraries, I have found and copied my records, completed the Mayflower Society application and am ready to submit it.  Wish me luck.

For those interested in genealogy, my direct lineage, through Rogers’ Mayflower family to the present, in chronological order: Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Hanna Rogers, Benjamin Terry, Benjamin Terry, Private Elnathan Terry, (who married Mary Kenyon, a Mayflower descendant from the Warren/Cooke families), Esther Terry, Lorenzo Lewis, Horatio Daniel Lewis, Mary Ocelia Lewis, Frank Carl Mesle, Catharine Ann Mesle, Meghan Ann (Meg) McCollister.