This week’s #52Ancestors prompt is “Longevity.” I’ve already written about Sophie (Roberg) Wilson, the only great-grandparent still alive when I was born, who lived to the age of 97. So instead, I’ll write about the branch of our tree that has been traced back the farthest: the Kerrich family.
If it weren’t for the original investigations of second cousin David Johnson, I might never have heard of the Kerriches, but he passed along a treasure trove of information that helped me get started on my research in earnest. Part of this treasure trove included many families that originated in Suffolk, along the east coast of England, then eventually moved to the New World and became associated with the Seventh Day Baptist Church. The Kerriches were one of these families.
William Kerrich, my 17G-grandfather, was born in Saxtead, England, in 1418. His son, also named William, was born in Saxtead around 1450, and his son, a third William, was born about 1480, again in Saxtead. Still in Saxtead, this William’s son, Robert, was born about 1505 and died in 1578 in Bedfield, Suffolk. Robert’s son (another William) was born about 1540, in Saxtead once more. Here we finally know the name of a Kerrich wife: Robert’s wife was named Margery.
William and Margery had a daughter, Rose, my 12G-grandmother. This is where the Kerrich name itself ends in my line. Rose’s husband, though, was Thomas Clarke, born in 1570 in another Suffolk village, Westhorpe. Most of Rose and Thomas’s numerous children emigrated to America. Joseph Clarke, our direct ancestor, was born in Westhorpe in 1618. Joseph’s brother, John, was was part of the group responsible for the founding of Rhode Island and, later, with a group of dissenting leaders, the town of Newport; by 1639, Joseph had been admitted as an inhabitant of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Joseph was the only one of the Clarke brothers emigrating to America to leave children. His son Joseph, born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1643, married Bethiah Hubbard, whose parents, Samuel and Tacy (Cooper) Hubbard, hailed from another Suffolk village, Mendlesham. Joseph and Bethiah’s daughter Judith was born in Newport in 1667, marrying John Maxson when she was twenty. Their daughter Elizabeth, born in Westerly in 1695, my 8G-grandmother, married John Davis in 1715. Here we finally link to a more familiar surname. John and Elizabeth’s 4G-granddaughter, Lucinda Blanche Davis, was the mother of Carl Ozro Wilson, who, in 1907, married Sophie Roberg, whom I would one day meet in her nursing home in Winner, South Dakota.
A few years ago Mom and I went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Suffolk, managing, in spite of the relative remoteness of some of the villages as well as a bus that forgot to drop us off in the correct place, to visit churches in Saxtead, Westhorpe, Mendlesham, and also Finningham, an early residence of the Clarkes. It was a little unreal to visit the churches where our direct ancestors lived so many centuries ago and where, it seems likely, they still rest in peace.