Our man in Hawaii! Greg Shepherd is a professor of music and theatre at Kauai Community College in Hawaii, USA. He tells us how Covid gave him the opportunity to research his genealogy and discover his connection to Lydiard Park. He tells us:
‘I was completely unaware of any connection to the St John branch of my family tree until I made use of the 2020 Covid lockdown in Hawaii to begin some in-depth research of my genealogy. To that end, I joined the Ancestry website and began digging. I’d always known I was descended, through my father, from the Mather family of early Puritan settlers, and with that as a starting point, I discovered a distant cousin in North Carolina named Ruth Mather who maintains the extensive Mather family tree in the U.S. I told her that I wanted to learn more about my Mather lineage, and she got back with the news that, not only was my family descended from the Mathers, we were also direct descendants of William Brewster, one of the spiritual leaders on the Mayflower and the author of the Mayflower Compact.
One thing led to another, and I eventually was accepted into the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD). In the course of vetting my application, the GSMD historian emailed out of the blue one day to inform me that my 5th great grandfather, Moses Mather (1719-1806), had married a woman named Elizabeth Whiting, who was the great-granddaughter of one Elizabeth St John Whiting. Elizabeth St John Whiting, my 8th great-grandmother, had given up a life of noble privilege to migrate with her husband, Rev Samuel Whiting, to Massachusetts in the mid-17th century.
The 1873 book Memoir of Rev. Samuel Whiting, D.D., and of his wife, Elizabeth St. John by William Whiting, a descendent of Rev. Samuel, contains all manner of fascinating details about Elizabeth, including the following:
“One of [their] parishioners, the honest and truthful Obadiah Turner, thus writes of her in his Journal:
‘His (Rev. Samuel Whiting’s) wife was a right comelie dame, and belonged to a great familie, being Chief Justice Saint John his daughter [sister]. She was a godlie woman and did much to cheer and help her husband. By her learning she was able to give much instruction to the damsels of the parish, and they did all love her as she were a tender mother. She died some two years agone , and he did greatly mourn for her.'”
The memoir also includes details of Elizabeth’s illustrious ancestry:
“Through the Beauchamps she descended from the Earls of Warren and Surrey, from the Earls of Warwick, from William the Conqueror, and from King Henry I of France. Indeed, her pedigree is traced to William the Norman in two distinct lines; and in her were united the lineage of ten of the sovereigns of Europe,— a confluence of noble blood not often witnessed. And yet she appears to have passed her days here at Lynn [Massachusetts], undisturbed by ambitious yearnings, cleaving lovingly to her worthy husband, and sedulously performing the duties of a laborious pastor’s wife. Surely, here is an example of humility for some of the worldlings who now traverse our streets, swelling with pride if they can trace their lineage to an ancestor who bore, however ignobly, some small title, or who happened to possess, however unworthily, a few more acres or a few more dollars than the multitude around them.”
Through the above information from the memoir, I learned that Elizabeth was descended from Margaret Beauchamp, and thus I can trace my own ancestry back to Margaret as well: my 15th great grandmother. My visit to Lydiard Park and St Mary’s Church in July of this year with my wife and other relatives was a high point of my amateur search of my family history. Seeing the portrait of Margaret both at St Mary’s Tregoze as well as in the stained glass window at St Mary’s Battersea gave me a literal sense of kinship to medieval England. Since I’m relatively new to the world of genealogy, I look forward to many more years of discovery of the details of this amazing family’.
Greg is the author of two novels, both published by Permuted Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster): Sea of Fire and its sequel Rings of Fire. His original musical, Siddhartha: Seeker of Truth had its premiere in May, 2023.