Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding A Cousin -- Kismet, Karma, Fate or Simple Serendipity Made Possible By The New Golden Age of Genealogy??

The modern era of digital genealogy research, and the growing popularity of genealogy as a hobby, leads to many stories of discovery that would have been almost impossible in years past absent a near obsession with genealogy -- and some serious wealth that allowed the luxury of time and travel to indulge the obsession!  It is fun to read about the discoveries of previously unknown family connections made by others, but it is quite a different matter when you get to experience it yourself.  This is the story of how I found a 9th cousin 1x removed through the modern world of genealogy blogging! 

The January 11, 2012 issue of NEHGS’s The Weekly Genealogist, Vol. 15, No. 2, introduced a new occasional feature by Editor Lynn Betlock.  Based on a popular article by Randy Seaver about blogs and blogging in the November 30, 2011 issue of the newsletter, Lynn decided to feature, from time to time, blogs that focus on genealogy.  The first featured blog was one based in New Hampshire, but that also covers other parts of New England.  Because I was born in New England and lived for more than six years in New Hampshire, I immediately checked out the inaugural featured blog.  Since I was new to genealogy blogs, I spent some time perusing some of the postings to familiarize myself with the content and lay out.  Much to my surprise, I discovered the surname links under the blog’s “Labels” list included a link for the Tew surname – a fairly rare, but always welcome discovery in a genealogy resource.  Following the link, I found a posting about the Rhode Island Pirate, Thomas Tew.  Ol’ Thomas was my entry character into genealogy back when I was a teenager.

Meeting between Thomas Tew and the Royal Governor
of New York, Benjamin Fletcher, as imagined by American
 illustrator Howard Pyle (1853 – 1911) 
It was discovery of the huge success of Thomas Tew, coupled with the fact that Ol' Thomas was known to be from Newport, Rhode Island, that captured my interest long ago.  My 8x great grandfather, Richard Tew, came to Newport from Maidford, Northamptonshire, England in 1640 – about 50 years before the storied piracy exploits of Ol’ Thomas!

A street in the small village of Maidford, Northamptonshire, England 
Maidford, Northamptonshire, England still surrounded by farmland

English road sign to "The Tews" -- three villages in Oxfordshire
adjacent to Northamptonshire and roughly 20 miles from Maidford 
English road signs to the villages of Great Tew, Little Tew and Duns Tew 
Great Tew is known for its fine examples of thatch roofs.
This shows the thatched roof of the Great Tew Post Office
At the linked Tew post, the owner of the featured blog raised possibilities about descendants of Thomas Tew, the Rhode Island Pirate.  After reading the post I engaged in some email exchanges with the blog owner and the exchange resulted in a kind invitation to me to do a guest post on the blog about the mysteries surrounding the genealogy of Thomas Tew.  I noted in passing that the blog owner mentioned personal descent from Seaborn Tew and her husband Owen Higgins, but to be honest, I was focused more on drafting a readable guest post for the blog than on the implications of the revelation about Seaborn Tew.  In my Tew tree, I only showed Seaborn as having two daughters by her first husband, Samuel Billings, and the blog owner was revealing a descent from Seaborn and her second husband, Owen Higgins, about whom I had little information.   Seaborn came by her unusual but entirely appropriate name because she was born to Richard Tew and his wife, Mary (Clarke) Tew, on the voyage to America in 1640.  Seaborn was the older sister of my 7x great grandfather, Henry Tew, a Deputy Governor of colonial Rhode Island.

My guest piece on the mysteries of the genealogy of Thomas Tew was posted on the featured blog on February 16, 2012 and I then became immersed in other projects on my genealogy “to do” list.  One of the top items on the list was to consider starting my own blog based on inspiration from the featured blog and the invitation to write a guest post there.  My blog, “The Prism,” was born on the very last day of 2012 and one of the earliest posts on The Prism (January 2, 2013) was an approved re-posting of The Genealogical Mystery of Thomas Tew, the Rhode Island Pirate.

Last week I finally contacted the owner of the featured blog to inquire about sharing a full lineage from Seaborn Tew and Owen Higgins to the present.  The response providing the requested lineage arrived within three hours!  After entering the lineage information into my database yesterday, my suspicion was confirmed by the thorough nature of the lineage facts.  The featured blogger I stumbled across due to a lead from Lynn Betlock in The Weekly Genealogist . . . the blogger who had invited me to submit a guest post . . . the blogger who introduced me to the world of genealogy blogging and inspired the creation of The Prism turns out to be my 9th cousin 1x removed!

And who is this featured blogger and my distant cousin?  She is none other than Heather Wilkinson Rojo, genealogy blogger extraordinaire of Nutfield Genealogy fame!  Heather is the 9x great granddaughter of Richard Tew and Mary (Clarke) Tew through their daughter Seaborn.  I am the 8x great grandson of Richard and Mary (Clarke) Tew through their son Henry.

It is indeed a small, interconnected genealogy world – but this serendipitous discovery is one that in all likelihood would never have been discovered before this new digital golden age of genealogy! 

Heather’s and my lineage from our common ancestors Richard and Mary (Clarke) Tew:

                        Richard Tew                        m.                        Mary Clarke
                        (1605 – 1673)                                                   (1618 – 1687)

1.             Seaborn Tew (b. 1640)
2.             Elnathan Tew (b. 1644)
3.              Mary Tew (b. 1647)
4.             Henry Tew (b. 1654 – d. 1718)

Seaborn Tew m. Owen Higgins                                    Henry Tew m. Dorcas _?_ (2nd)

Mehitable Higgins m. John Mayhew                              Richard Tew m. Ruth Sisson

John Mayhew m. Ruth Davis                                         William Tew m. Jane Carr

Mary Mayhew m. Caleb Rand                                        John Tew m. Hannah Stafford

Mary Rand m. Asahel Bill                                              John Tew m. Anna Kenyon

Ingraham E. Bill m. Isabella Lyons                                Adam Tew m. Susan A. Walker

Caleb R. Bill m. Ann Margaret Bollman                        John A. Tew m. Margaret Conner

Isabella Lyons Bill m. Albert M. Wilkinson                  Arnold Tew m. Huldah
                                                                                      Hasselbaum [my grandparents]
Donald M. Wilkinson m. Bertha L. Roberts
[Heather’s grandparents]
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The Howard Pyle illustration above is from the Time-Life Seafarers volumeThe Pirates (p. 68).

Photographs above of Maidford, Northamptonshire, England; road signs to the three villages known as The Tews in nearby Oxfordshire; and, the Post Office in Great Tew, are by the author, John D. Tew (2004).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Copyright 2013, John D. Tew

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  1. Very exciting! Congratulations on your new cousin connection. I too found a cousin because of my genealogy blog. And she is a fellow genealogy blogger, Julie Cahill Tarr at

    1. Thank you Jana! I might have to contact your cousin Julie since my Great Aunt (my grandfather Tew's older sister) was married to Edward Clifford Tarr of Wallingford, CT. :-)

    2. John, I just wanted to let you know that your blog and this post are listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

      Have a great weekend!

  2. A wonderful finding, John. Bloggers WANT - maybe NEED - to share with other like-minded far-off relatives! Your post is wonderfully written, and the photographs really capture the flavour of the Tew origins. A joy to read. I'm sure with all this information, another cousin or so will turn up too!

    1. Celia: As always, thank you for your kind words! It was one of those posts that was a joy to write.

  3. Congratulations as well John. As you continue along in the blogging world, you'll find many connections. I'm connected to about 3-4 for at least 20 cousin connections. It sure is fun. So continued good luck in finding more.

    1. Many thanks Barbara! I am quite new to genealogy blogging having only begun on December 31, 2012. It is fun indeed and I only worry that it might prove to be addictive too. :-)

  4. Theres a thing I knew some one from Duns Tew, a woman who married a mate of mine.

  5. John, I’m a bit delayed in making a response to your posting on February 11th. But, I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading your several postings about the “pirate” Thomas Tew. I was drawn to your posting by the Howard Pyle illustration of Thomas Tew and Benjamin Fletcher. Over many years, I have researched on Gov. Benjamin Fletcher, as I suspect a familial relationship. In the process, I have also done some reading on Thomas Tew – interesting fellow! I haven’t been able to pin down my connection to Benjamin Fletcher, but I’ve enjoyed the pursuit. My 7xgreat-grandfather, Peter Mathews, lived in Benjamin Fletcher’s household in New York and served as his secretary. There are several things that point to a likely family relationship between Peter Mathews and Benjamin Fletcher. I can’t help wondering if my grandfather met Thomas Tew. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This makes such a great point (and congratulations on making the connection!) I have found cousins through blogging as well and so often they provide pictures and details that can not be found in any research repository.