Ancient History

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I discovered Elizabeth over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as I helped Aidan with another startlingly involved school project. She was to research her first ancestor who arrived in what is now the United States. Luckily we have distant relatives who are obsessed with geneology and they like to share. It was easy to determine who was the first person off the boat. His name was Samuel Eddy. puritans

Samuel sailed into Plymouth harbor on October 29th, 1630 aboard a ship called the Handmaid. He was 22 years old and the son of the the Vicar of St. Dunstan Church in Cranbrook, just south of London. Despite his obvious Anglican upbringing, Samuel and his brother, John, joined the Puritan movement and left merry England for good. Soon he met and married Elizabeth Savery. How and when she arrived is a mystery. I calculated she is my great-times-nine grandmother, on my mother’s father’s side.

Elizabeth and Samuel had numerous children, including Zachariah, from whence little-girls-with-big-school-projects spring. Once Samuel’s inheiritance was gone, he worked as a tailor and a farmer.

As I explained these facts to Aidan it was clear Samuel and Elizabeth Eddy, the Puritans, failed to entrance her. I think she secretly wished her first ancestor in America was a cross between Betsy Ross and The Queen of Silky Bejeweled Unicorns, arriving in a shimmering pink and lavender hot air balloon. The moment I told Aidan she was done, she bolted out of the room. I continued researching, however and found myself thinking about Elizabeth, in particular.

She was summoned to appear in court, twice, for the same offense. One of the few bits of information regarding Elizabeth has been preserved: on “Oct. 7, 1651, Wee further present Elizabeth Eeddy, Sen’r of the towne of Plymouth for laboring, that is to say, for wringing and hanging out clothes on the Lord’s day, in time of publicke Exercise.” She was fined ten shillings, but this fine was remitted. (Court Orders, Vol. II, p. 73.)

Elizabeth would have known better. She was a Puritan and knew doing laundry on the Sabbath was illegal. What would compel her to wring and hang out clothes on the Lord’s day? I pictured one of those scenes when it is imperitive to do laundry STAT (or, as the Puritans used to say, STATTETH). I thought of nights when I had laundry going at 2am because children were leaking. I thought of how easy it is to get behind on chores and tasks. I have been known to forget what day it is, especially when all the kids are home on school vacations and they stay in pajamas just a little too long.

It’s impossible to give my foremother an excuse for her crime. I found myself wanting to defend her actions. But she doesn’t need my defense or my modern-styled excuses. She was Puritan, and she roared like a lamb. She would marvel at the ease in which I live my life. When my kids are sick and they empty themselves colorfully and fragrantly, I don’t have to worry if they will survive the fever.

She did.

So during this holiday season, when I get too wrapped up in the things I think I must do to make it perfect, I can call on my knowledge of Elizabeth and ask myself these questions:

Did Elizabeth worry whether the Christmas newsletter was going to be boring or too depressing?

Did Elizabeth debate whether better bargains are found online or at the mall?

Did Elizabeth count her calories and feel guilty because she ate nearly all the fudge she intended to give to the neighbors?

Did Elizabeth worry about a toddler tipping over the tree, the dog drinking the water intended for the tree, or the ornaments being perfectly arranged on the tree? Did she have tree issues?

Did Elizabeth have numerous functions to attend which required casseroles, white elephant presents, and black-tie apparel? Did she worry about dangly earrings or showing too much cleavage?

Did Elizabeth let the true meaning of the season somehow slip away between the cracks of baking, wrapping, stuffing, hanging, decking, driving, buying, hiding, wrapping, buying, baking, eating, weighing?


Then I won’t, either. And I will try harder not to do my laundry on the Sabbath.

7 comments to Elizabeth

  • Julana

    That is a great post. What a good idea to study this around THanksgiving.
    Do you have time to do a meme of 7’s? I tagged you at my blog, where there are instructions.

  • Ok, that was AWESOME! I just love history, not the kind in school books, but the kind from the real lives of the real people. Doesn’t it just make you wish you could meet her? And I love the whole WWED? (what would Elisabeth do) thing. Once again, you bring perspective to all of us.

  • Shayne

    Wow, that is so cool! I do wonder what folks from the 17th century would think of our lives now. Thanks for the interesting perspective and the history lesson!

  • What a super post, Mopsy!

  • You are so blessed to have such great family records! I have almost nothing except for names and I don’t know where to start. Someday when I have more time I would like to research my family history!

    Great post!

  • hamster

    cool. do you really have a black tie event to attend?

  • Valerie

    Nice; but Samuel and Elizabeth gave their kids to other families as servants. My ancestor, when he was 9. I’m glad we are doing better now.

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