I've been watching Who Do You Think You Are? this season. I wasn't particularly impressed by it when the show first aired but I've come around. Maybe it's all the interesting stuff I've managed to find in my own tree or maybe it's that they've done a better job of making it obvious that professionals have done a lot of research long before the featured person walks through the doors of some a huge genealogy facility or archive. Early on it made it appear all one had to do was show up and someone would magically hand you the answers to all your questions. And I like that there's now more emphasis on the story connection between the family been traced and historical events. You know me...I'm all about the story. All the episodes I've watched this new season have been both interesting and entertaining.
None, however, come close to the one I watched tonight. I have the show set to record on my DVR and then I watch it whenever I find time but when I got a little email tease about last night's show that mentioned a name I knew was in my family tree, I was eager to find the time sooner rather than later.
Holy cow! It was as if I was the star of Who Do You Think You Are? instead of supermodel Cindy Crawford...well, after the first ten minutes or so. She was curious about whether her great-grandparent's Hemingway name was the same family of Ernest Hemingway. Turns out it was; her grandmother and the author were eighth cousins. But the professionals helping her were far more excited about her connection to the Trowbridge family. Thomas Trowbridge, to be exact; Cindy Crawford's 10th great-grandfather. The exact same Thomas Trowbridge who is my 11th great grandfather!
So I watched as she learned he was a Puritan who came to Massachusetts in the early 1630s to escape religious persecution in England. I knew that. And after relocating to New Haven, Connecticut, where his wife died, he went back to England, leaving his three sons behind. I knew that too. What I knew very little of was his life in England after he returned so it was cool to learn that he was a captain in the Parliamentary Army and was part of the Siege of Taunton in the English Civil War. So while he fled England for the values he held dear, he ended up fighting for them upon his return. The siege lasted seven months and the town was seriously damaged in that time so Trowbridge stayed to help rebuild and get it back on its feet, never returning to America.
I was fascinating to see the bits and pieces of the town of Taunton as Cindy Crawford made her way around it. I could almost imagine myself walking the narrow streets with her. And I loved learning another story about our common ancestor.
While the show had another surprise up it's sleeve, I knew long before Cindy did. This is the family line with connections back to royalty, including Charlemagne. I did, however, lean forward with keen interest when she went to the Charlemagne's palace chapel in Aachen, Germany. It was amazing. And the professional helping there not only recited Charlemagne's military and political feats, she told of his characteristics too...his personal appearance, his demeanor and his ability to rule his subjects with respect and not force. Fascinating.
The episode didn't put Thomas Trowbridge in the best light although they did offer up the theory that circumstances in England may have prevented him from returning to his sons. While I hardly qualify as an expert, I can share with cousin Cindy the fact that Thomas left a sizable amount of property in America, more than enough to pay the debts mentioned in the records found. His son James, through whom we both descend, received his share when he reached majority and went on to be a very respected and influential citizen, serving in numerous capacities in Newton, MA, a city he helped become independent from Cambridge. Being raised without his father didn't seem to have adversely affected him.
James had two wives; my family descends through the first and Cindy Crawford's through the second. Without entering all the names to be sure, I think that makes us tenth half-cousins once removed. However we're related, I'm just thrilled she turned up on Who Do You Think You Are? and let me discover more family history through her.
For those family member on my dad's side who want to watch this (or anyone else who'd just like an interesting story), you can view the full episode here.