Thursday, January 29, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow: Philadelphia - Franklin Institute (S2E3)

This episode of Genealogy Roadshow aired on January 26, 2015 on PBS. You can view it online at

It took place at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this wonderful science museum, you should. It holds a dear place in my heart because as a child I had the opportunity to sleep there... Yes, sleep there ...with my Girl Scout troop. Yes, we spent a night in that museum, assigned to sleep in, of all places, the clock room. Tick tick tick tick tick - - all night. Not much sleep was had that night. But I digress...

In this episode the team of genealogists revealed many fascinating family histories including uncovering the validity of one mans claim to Viking ancestry;  the events that drove another man's family out of South Carolina and into The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia), events which also impacted change in the history of race relations in the U.S.; the facts about a Portuguese great-grandfather's romanticized journey to the U.S. as a stowaway; and another family's connection to a big financial scam.

The story which spoke most strongly to me though was one that genealogist, Mary Tedesco, revealed regarding Loyalist ancestry. 

If you read my blog you know that I recently became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Membership requires documenting one's lineage back to a patriot; an individual (not always a man but most often one) who fought or supported the efforts of the colonists to win the American Revolution.

Yes, I have Patriot blood in my veins. But if you know me, you know I have long standing roots in Long Island, NY. Roots that date back to the 1640s. And during the American Revolution, New York was a Loyalist stronghold; a location where most residents were loyal to the British Crown, the King of England. I have Loyalist ancestors as well as Patriot ancestors. In theory I had ancestors on my father's side shooting at ancestors on my mother's side. Makes sense.

The word "Loyalist" has entered my daily vernacular though as I currently have a friend rehearsing for a role in the musical 1776 in which he plays one of the most noteworthy Loyalist founding father; John Dickinson, of Pennsylvania. Yes, there were representatives at the Continental Congress who wanted to remain loyal to England.

Additionally, last week there was a 3 part mini-series that aired on the History Channel called the Sons of Liberty which portrayed the events of the American Revolution specific to Boston and Patriots such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Paul Revere, and George Washington; but marching around in that program were a lot of Loyalists.

So Loyalists and the American Revolution have been swimming around my head a lot lately.

In this family history reveal by Mary Tedesco, she presents a great deal of documentation solidifying the family lore of Loyalist ancestors absconding to Canada.Canada was indeed the land of refuge after the Revolution for those colonists who chose to stay loyal to the English. Not only did the colonists not want them around anymore, they didn't want to be around. So many went off to Canada.

The documents Mary shared revealed that the guest's ancestor was not only a Loyalist but really subversive in his efforts to keep the colonies British. He joined a colonial regiment of the army only to desert, he was found guilty of passing counterfeit currency in an effort to financially bankrupt the colonies, and ultimately he defected to a British regiment lead by the most notorious defector, Benedict Arnold.

You may know the name Benedict Arnold to be the most infamous traitor in U.S. History. Arnold started out as a General for the Americans' Continental Army, though. He actually fought at the Battle of Saratoga where my patriot ancestor also fought. 

Arnold was a very successful General for the colonists. We won the Battle of Saratoga; it was the turning point in the American Revolution. But after being passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress and having other officers claim credit for his accomplishments, Arnold became very bitter and decided to change sides. He began secret negotiations with the British to surrender the New York fort, West Point, to them. His plans were foiled and he narrowly avoiding capture. He lived out the remainder of his days in England labeled a traitor to America.

Having ancestry that was loyal to England during this time in American history is not uncommon. Many colonists consider themselves to be English, although the English did not consider them to be English citizens - they were merely colonists. If you wind up having Loyalist ancestors it is certainly not anything to be ashamed of, however, you probably wouldn't want it to be that Arnold guy.

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