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Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Earliest Immigrant Ancestors

A little while ago we were challenged to find out which of our ancestors was the earliest arrival in America. Not having a drop of Native American, that meant I needed to search among my English and Scottish ancestors of the 1600s. I knew my German ancestors were two hundred years later, in the 1830s. For my husband, the task was much easier, so we found his first.

My husband comes from all Mormon immigrant ancestors in the 1800s. The earliest to arrive on the American continent were Thomas and Elizabeth (Davis) Campbell, arriving in 1855. They were put in the Milo Andrus Company to cross the plains, the last of the PEF (Perpetual Emigration Fund) companies that year. That meant that they drew the money for their passage and trip from the Fund, and after they arrived, they paid it back into the Fund to help others who were too poor to pay their way themselves. Here are pictures of Thomas and Elizabeth.


They came with their three little boys, and tales passed down by the family say that Elizabeth cut up her fur coat somewhere on the Plains to make shoes for her boys to walk in when their old shoes wore out. They walked with the company from Missouri to Salt Lake City, over 1,000 miles. The company had left “Mormon Grove” (near present-day Atchison, Kansas) on August 1 and were pushed extremely hard by Captain Andrus to escape the first of the winter snows in the Rocky Mountains. They did not completely escape; they pushed through a storm that left three inches of snow near South Pass (the Continental Divide in present-day Wyoming) in early October. Many people ran out of provisions in the week before they finally arrived in Salt Lake City, which was October 24th. The Campbells still had some provisions left. They located in southern Utah at first, but after a year or two they moved to Heber City and Thomas eventually went to work in the silver mines near present-day Park City, Utah, and became a very wealthy man. Elizabeth bore ten children in all. The first little girl died before they came to America and was buried in Scotland. Another little boy died at the age of three, but the other seven lived to old ages and had large families themselves. Elizabeth went blind the last seventeen years of her life; her youngest daughter took care of her until her death.

My son and I looked long and hard to figure out this puzzle. We are descendants of dozens of immigrants to New England in the 1600s through my paternal ancestors. The earliest arriving immigrant ancestors were members of the John Winthrop Company and came with his fleet of ships to Salem, Massachusetts, in June 1630. They are: Robert and Mary (Mason) Seeley, parents of Nathaniel Seeley who was with them when they landed; Jehu and Sarah Stedman Burr; and Andrew and Hester (Sherman) Ward. Here is a drawing depicting John Winthrop’s fleet.


Meanwhile, my mother wanted to find who was the earliest on her side. We found her earliest immigrant ancestor seems to have been her 6th-great grandfather William Munro, born in Scotland in 1625, a member of the Munro clan of Castle Fowlis on the Firth of Cromarty. Here is a picture of the castle there, rebuilt in the 1700s, with my son standing in front. This is an old picture now!


William Munro fought with the Scottish clans in the Battle of Worcester in 1651. He was taken prisoner by the English and was banished by Cromwell’s government to Boston. He settled at Cambridge Farms, now Lexington, in the region still called “Scotland.” The first probable mention of him in the Cambridge records is in 1657, when “William Row” and another man were fined “for not having rings in ye nose of their swine.” In 1690 he was made a freeman and was often connected with the town affairs. The cellar of his house could still be seen in 1933 in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Who was your first ancestor to arrive in the country where you live? If your people were there before records began, you can be excused!

1 comment:

  1. I have to add a note here. I studied Old English and Middle English in college, and found out the word "ye" used before a noun was actually the word "the" spelled with an old letter that was pronounced like our modern "th"; the letter was called a thorn and looked a little like a small letter y and sometimes a little like a small letter p. Now you know. "Ye Olde" Whatever is really "The Old" whatever!

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