Thursday, March 31, 2011

"More" Members of our Tree

I use just about everyday, searching, discovering, confirming all sorts of facts and information about our family history. One of the fun options they have included in their website helps you link your own family tree with famous people's trees. It completely depends on information people have entered there. All of the information hasn't been confirmed, but it's a great place to get hints and clues that can later be proven with source documentation.

In a previous blog, I wrote about a "devil" of an ancestor, Uncle Thaxter Underwood from the deviled ham company. Well, not only is there a devil in our tree, we also have a saint! According to my most direct famous ancestor is my 14th great grandfather Saint Thomas More, the heavenly patron saint of statesmen and politicians.

I hate to admit I knew very little about him until I read a little for this post. There are Thomas More fans and Websites all over the Internet. I had heard of him, of course, but apparently didn't listen too carefully in class that day. I did know that was the name of the church where my son Bill and his bride Kim were married in New Hampshire a couple of years ago.

St. Thomas More Parish Durham, NH
But, most of you probably know more about Sir Thomas than I do, so I'll just tell you a little of what I found out.

ggggggggggggggGrandpa Sir Thomas More
Thomas More was born in England in 1478. He had a highly developed sense of humor at a very early age and he was a very quick study in Latin and in Greek. He was educated in law and became a lawyer, a judge, was knighted and became very chummy with King Henry VIII. He was an Undersheriff, Lord Chancelor and served the King in several other highly respected offices.

Henry VIII
He toyed with the idea of becoming a monk, but really wanted to be married, so he rejected that idea. Good thing or there may have never been any descendants, including me! He wore a hairshirt most of his adult life, anyway.

He was busy with the law and the various offices he held, but he always found time to write and continued to do so throughout his life. He coined the word "utopia" and wrote many, many important books, essays and poems.

Sir Thomas was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation, defending the Catholic Church against Martin Luther's complaints while Henry VIII was trying to separate from the church at the same time. That period was really confusing for the church and when Thomas refused to sign a letter asking the Pope to annul Henry's marriage to one of the Catherines, it did not make the King happy. Then, Sir Thomas denied to agree that the King had supremecy over the church and that was the final straw that broke the back of the friendship he had enjoyed with Henry.
Henry and his wives

Making a very long story shorter, Thomas was tried and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason. But, Henry, feeling a little sentimental about his old friend, commuted his sentence to execution by decapitation. Nice of him, don't you think? One of his sons was John, is mentioned as having witnessed his father's procession from sentencing back to the Tower of London. "His children were waiting for him close by the Tower itself. John More knelt down in the street, and, weeping, asked for his father's blessing."  There were several accounts of his last words during the last hours of his life where he made humorous remarks in spite of his impending execution.

"When he came to the Scaffold, it seemed ready to fall, whereupon he said merrily to the Lieutenant, Pray, Sir, see me safe up; and as to my coming down, let me shift for myself. .. Then kneeling, he repeated the Miserere Psalm with much Devotion; and, rising up the Executioner asked him Forgiveness. He kissed him, and said, Pick up thy Spirits, Man, and be not afraid to do thine Office; my Neck is very short, take heed therefore thou strike not awry for having thine Honesty. Laying his Head upon the Block, he bid the Executioner stay till he had put his Beard aside, for that had commit­ted no Treason. Thus he suffered with much Cheerfulness; his Head was taken off at one Blow, and was placed upon London-Bridge, where, having continued for some Months, and being a­bout to be thrown into the Thames to make room forothers, his Daughter Margaret bought it, in­ closed it in a Leaden Box, and kept it for a Relique." Hall's Chron. Vol. 2. S. 2.

After they chopped off the poor guy's head, they parboiled it and put it on a stake on London Bridge, as was the custom. His daughter later bribed someone to remove it and give it to her. They had buried his headless body in the church at the Tower of London.
Here Lies the Headless Body of Thomas More

It's been said that Margaret was buried with the head folded in her arms. Now, that's daughterly devotion. Sir Thomas was beatified and canonized by the Catholic Church about 400 years later, because of his martyrdom. John, who wept for his father in the street that day, is in our direct line. Several Johns and Thomases later, another John Moore (now with two Os) was born in 1613 in England. He is said to have become a Protestant minister and the first of that line to immigrate here from England.

The whole family. John stands to Thomas's left.

After landing in Charlestown, John settled in Sudbury, MA. Some 300+ years after that, I was born and raised in that same little Massachusetts town. The funny thing is that the connection I have with Sudbury is through my father's ancestors, yet this is my mother's line. I never knew that her ancestors had any Sudbury connections before her. Small world even back then!

But that line only stayed in Sudbury briefly, on their way to Canada. There are 9 more generations between John Moore the immigrant and me, and another 4 or 5 other surnames are involved. From Sudbury, the tree wound through neighboring Lexington and Weston and Woburn. Abigail Merriam, 3rd great granddaughter of immigrant John Moore, married Abraham Bradshaw from Medford. They lived in Woburn, MA before they moved to Nova Scotia some time shortly before the revolution began. Loyalists perhaps?

From there, the family moved to Prince Edward Island, where they remained for 100 years, when a Lidstone married a Waters and moved back to Woburn, MA. My grandfather was Daniel Lidstone Waters.

It's very cool to think there may have been a saint in our tree, but after 16 generations I don't really think much of his saintliness made it through such a long filter to me. I find it even more cool to be in the same tree as a writer and someone who asked his executioner to "spare his beard" and warned him that he had a short neck.


Kathy said...

maybe he's related our Moore side of the family!!

LK said...


Your tree is just amazing. See, if you go back far enough, your family wasn't even wasPs!