I got an email from Ancestry.com telling me they had found some “hints” about possible members of my family tree. I don’t have a membership with them … my sister does, and I think she gave me the link to the research she’s done, and I’m listed somewhere in there, so I got the email. I find this kind of thing interesting, without actually doing anything about it. In my mind, I go back to the turn of the 19th/20th century. My dad’s parents came from Andalucía in the 1910s, he was born and raised in Antioch, went to Cal, and met/married my mom, who was born and raised in Berkeley. Her mom was from Kentucky; I guess I didn’t know where her dad was from (Tennessee, it turns out). Beyond that, who knows? I suppose I thought my mom’s family came to America in the early 1800s or so, but I had no evidence of that.
Well, apparently the accepted evidence goes back two generations before my mom. Her grandparents on her mother’s side were from Kentucky and were born in 1868. That’s what is known.
So, what about these hints the email directed me to examine. I didn’t look real close, partly because I’m lazy, and partly because my access is limited since I’m not a member. But here is where the hint starts. My great-grandfather on my mom’s side, George Claybourne Thompson Cralle, was born in Louisville in 1868. According to the hint, a man named Isaac Shelby Cralle (born in Louisville in 1828) had nine children, one of whom was named George Claybourne Thompson Cralle. That’s a pretty good match, so I’d say they have found my great-great-grandparents on my mom’s side. I’ll skip all of the steps here … I don’t know if they are as clear a match as the one I just detailed … but the hints go back another six generations beyond George Claybourne Thompson Cralle. All the way back to one Robert Cralle, born in England in 1615. There’s not much info about Robert … he married someone named Margaret … but the hints suggest Robert and Margaret had a son, Thomas Cralle, who was born in 1637.
In Rappahannock, Virginia.
I’m not sure how I got to be 58 years old without knowing one side of my family could be traced in America back to 1637. And, of course, the hints may be misleading or even wrong … this isn’t an exact process. But someone has put together enough evidence from those hints to at least be somewhat convincing: Thomas Cralle of Rappahannock, Virginia, was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (I think I counted right).
1637. The first English settlers came to Virginia in 1607. Wars between settlers and natives took place in Virginia until around 1645. Until today, I never considered the possibility that some ancient relative of mine was there for these events.
1637. Four of the first five presidents came from Virginia, beginning with George Washington. By the time George Washington was born in 1732, Cralles had been here for close to a hundred years. In 1656, Thomas Cralle had a son, John. John died four years before Washington was born. John had a son, John II … he was in his late-30s when Washington was born. John the second and his wife Hannah had a son, Rodham Kenner Cralle. He was born the year before Washington. By the time the first president of the United States was born, Cralles had been in America for five generations (Robert/Thomas/John/John II/Rodham). (I don’t like using the men to designate this stuff, but for the most part, the men are what show up on the Ancestry.com chart.)
Virginia was a slave state, and part of the Confederacy. Kentucky, where the Cralles start turning up in the 1820s, was a border state. Depending on the socio-economic status of the Cralles, it is likely my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family were slave owners. (My mother’s father was from Tennessee, as were his parents. I don’t see anything before that time, so I don’t know for sure there were Harrisons in Tennessee before 1868. But I’d guess there were, and so again, if they had the money, the Harrisons were also likely slave owners.)
To find out that my family has probably been in America for more than 350 years is both exciting and creepy. It is also interesting, in that my father’s parents were born in another country, making me half-Spanish, 350 years or no 350 years. I wonder how my mother’s family and my father’s family ever came together at all.