Under the Family Tree

john livermore 0419
Inscription: Here lyes the body of John Liuermore aged 78 years decd April 14 1684.

Yesterday, as part of the on-going quest to begin to prepare to get ready to move, I set out to clear the top of a dresser. That sounds simple, right? And I didn’t expect it to take very long, because there wasn’t very much stuff on top. But part of the repose was a stack of file folders, and so this one project ended up taking an hour.

A lot of the folders contained treasures from high school, including my Speech and Debate original oratory speech that I discussed awhile back. I had some score sheets from meets, too: one judge gave me high marks in everything, and yet ranked me fourth in the round (where there were usually four to six competitors). Another judge, clearly irritated by my topic and mad that I was picking on football, described my organization as “jumpie.” Spelling skills were apparently not criteria for judges.

I also found papers from my junior year in English, and you can feel my teacher’s exasperation emanating off the page all these decades later. She was my Speech and Debate coach, and while she kept giving me good grades, she was bent on trying to erase the colloquialisms and asides that abounded in my “formal” papers. In one comment she assured me that I would not be able to “get away” with this during my senior year.

It turns out, she was mostly wrong. As I keep finding papers and essay answers for both high school and college, and running across newspaper commentary I wrote — and, as you might have noticed as you read this blog — I never stopped filling my writing with colloquialisms and asides. And generally I “got away” with it. I probably was never destined for a career as a literary scholar, but that’s all right: when I once toted up the sum of my education, I decided I had laid the foundation for a career as a TV critic. I never got there, but that’s what my studies all pointed toward.

But the real find from the top of the dresser yesterday was a paternal family tree put together by my Aunt Marilyn in 1971.

I knew I had this, but I hadn’t seen it in awhile. My sister Terri, who I think is doing some nosing around on Ancestry.com, had asked me for this some time back, but I didn’t know where it was to give to her.

This is why cleaning and sorting takes me so long: I stopped to re-read about my ancestors.

There isn’t a whole lot to read in these hand-typed pages, probably done with multiple sheets of carbon paper and the typewriter set on “heavy,” so that my aunt could give copies to her four siblings without having to type it all again. These several pages are mostly just a list of names, each generation of Livermores in America, who he married and all his children. After that is a second list, this one with changing last names — my grandmother’s lineage back to her forebears who emigrated to the United States from England in 1850.

My aunt based her work on the paternal side of my paternal side on a book published in 1902 by Walter Eliot Thwing, whose mother was a Livermore. He spent 20 years — can you imagine? — working on what was assuredly a labor of love rather than a bestseller, despite the title: The Livermore Family of America.

The Livermore presence in America starts in 1634 (I may have said 1632 in an entry earlier this year — sorry if I led you astray) when John and Grace Lyuermore, perhaps later Leathermore, apparently even later Livermore, embarked at Ipswich, England, on the sailing ship Francis, bound under Master John Cutting for the New World.

I can’t tell if it’s where the Francis made land, but my aunt reported that most of the ship’s passengers settled in Watertown, Mass. But she doesn’t say if that’s where our relatives set up shop.

While Mr. Thwing apparently went on at length about this founding patriarch, I don’t learn much about John. He was 28 when he left England with his wife, who must have been 19 or so, and their infant daughter Hannah. Altogether John and Grace had 10 children, five of each, including sixth child and third son Samuel, who was born May 11, 1640, in New Haven, Conn.

The next two children were also born in New Haven, but the ninth, who only lived a couple of months, was born in Watertown in 1659. Fifty years to the month after he arrived as a colonist, John died in Watertown. His wife Grace outlived him by six years, and she died in Chelmsford, Mass.

Here’s the most intriguing part of the report on this first generation: Grace was an obstetrician. Perhaps that means midwife, but either way, it implies that she worked outside the home despite what I assume was devotion to the Puritan faith and while producing 10 children of her own over a 27-year span.

We learn the most about my many-greats grandfather Samuel, who apparently moved to Watertown around age 10 and never left. It seems, reading between some lines here, that his father had been granted land by the Plymouth Company, which Samuel inherited, perhaps as the oldest surviving son. His trade was “maltster,” and this land, on Chester Brook, included a grist mill (thus offering grist for my mill).

The part that confuses me was that he was “made a freeman” in 1671, just after his 31st birthday. Does that mean he was an indentured servant? Or an apprentice? To whom? I can only read so far between the lines.

Samuel only lived to age 50, but he seems to have made much of his time, serving as surveyor, tythingman and selectman while also getting paid by the town to kill “destructive birds and animals.” He and his long-lived wife Anna (she made it to 81) begat 12 children, the youngest one born the same year her father died.

I am among the 12th generation of Livermores in America, and what struck me yesterday was how many of those generations came before America became the United States. The fifth Livermore, Daniel (son of Edmund, son of Samuel, son of Samuel, son of John) either was at Lexington in April 1775 or joined a regiment in support in the immediate afterward. Start doing some math, and the Livermores had already been here for 141 years before those first shots in the name of freedom were fired. That’s pretty cool, huh?

Alas, the name Livermore will not pass to a 13th generation in my immediate family. Of my father’s siblings, his two sisters’ children already have names other than Livermore. One brother begat four daughters (one of whom may have a daughter with our last name) before two sons arrived, and the other brother has one son. Unfortunately, I do not know if my three male cousins have children.

There are still plenty of Livermores left in America, and plenty of others, like Walter Eliot Thwing and my cousins and niecphews, with Livermores in their lineage, so it’s not like we’re going away, but it’s still a trifle sad to stand on the line where a name handed down in direct lineage for 385 years on this continent alone gets relegated to history.

One thought on “Under the Family Tree

  1. That is totes cool! This alone makes your move worthwhile. We should easily be able to build on Aunt Marilyn’s info with some help from Ancestry.com. How fun!

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