by Bill Miller

When you are doing genealogical research there is nothing more rewarding than returning to the original sites of your ancestors. For me that was a trip back to Solihull, England to visit with my 11th great-grandparents, William and Ursula Hawes. Were we in for a surprise. We really went looking for their son, our immigrant ancestor, Edmund Hawes. He had come as an English Puritan in 1635 and settled in Duxbury, MA. We were shocked to find that his parents were wealthy, powerful and devout Roman Catholics, and that their castle-like manor home, Hillfield Hall built in 1579, is still standing and in use. Above the front door still stands a 1595 Latin engraved stone with the reminder that “Here we are guests, in heaven citizens,” signed with their initials. In fact, their family portrait graces the chapel wall, where they are both buried, in St. Alphege Parish Church in Solihull. Edmund’s father was Lord of Solihull.

Then we found that after his father died Edmund moved with his mother into her dowager home – Shelly Farm – where he was raised. The beautiful home (1575) and barn (1600) are still standing and in use. (pictured below) The original house is now a lovely pub and the old, original barn is a fine restaurant. It is not every day that you get to eat dinner at your great-grandmother’s house. As a young child I got to do it with my 1st great-grandmother but this was my 13th, and we were privileged to eat in her barn. Better than that, we got to eat up in the hayloft surrounded by ancient, hand-hewn timbers. In spite of the fact that great-grandmother was 474 years old, the barn was clean, the food was fantastic and we enjoyed an emotional reunion. We were joined by two dear friends from Solihull, whose new home was built on the old family Shelly Farm, just around the corner from the restaurant.

Local resources soon revealed the rest of the story. Edmund became a Protestant and a Puritan. He left their faith and the farm, moved to London and was trained as a cutler. On April 6, 1635 he joined a large group of Puritans, including my 10th great-grandfather Morse, aboard The James of London and came to America. They were part of the great Puritan Migration of the 1630s. In 1644 he became one of the founding fathers of Yarmouth, MA.

You cannot have that same kind of experience on a computer, but the computer has made our search so much easier. To share discoveries, questions and precious stories from family trees you are invited to attend the Lake Lure Genealogy Club meeting the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 3 PM in Mountains Branch Library.