The Road Less Travelled
Today was a memory maker. Today was a 10! Perfect in many ways.
We arrived in Wainfleet, England (150 miles North and East of London), the last home village of our direct ancestors in England. The morning sky was blue, the air was fresh, the fields were green and agriculturally lush, filled with either grazing cattle or healthy crop. Wainfleet is everything you would expect in an English rural and agricultural countryside.......and more.
Today we we were seeking to learn more about our ancestors that left this rural town in the mid 1800’s to immigrate.
In 1851 James Anderson (my Great Great Grandfather) along with his wife and 2 year old son, and brother John, left Wainfleet and immigrated to the United States. James is the reason why we are Americans today.
James brother William immigrated years earlier to Australia, and the result was a terrific family extension throughout Australia that remains strong today.
Each of of these men left an area their family dwelled in for 250 years. Leaving was rare. Plus, immigrating in the early to mid 1800’s wasn’t easy. No trains, no cars, no planes.
Today we we were seeking answers to questions.
Where did our Anderson family live in Wainfleet?
Where did our family worship, get baptized, married and buried? Where are the tombstones?
Why did our family leave?
Wainfleet parallels well to any good Central Nebraska town. Population 1,000, terrific people, great agricultural soil, and great, friendly people.
Today we learned and soaked in the experience. Thanks to our volunteer guide and caretaker of Wainfleet St. Mary’s church John Seymour, and our museum guide David.
Today John also helped us find ‘Haven Bank’, the last known census address for our family prior to 1851. Haven Bank is located 1.5 miles by foot, horse or buggy from their Wainfleet St. Mary’s parish church.
Haven Bank is a 1 mile stretch upon the river Haven. This is where our relatives walked, played and held residence. We were on their footprints.
We visited Wainfleet St. Mary’s, the church our latest ancestors were baptized, married and whose parents are buried at.
The original structure was built by the Norman’s around 1000 AD. The highest tower structure was added to in the 17th century and the sanctuary was added in the 18th century.
It was this platform where our latest 2 ancestors, brothers James and William, were baptized and later married to their wives. My Great Grandpa David (for which my middle initial is derived) was baptized here before coming to the US at the age of 2.
Perhaps the the most emotional part of the trip is knowing we were standing on hallowed ground. It is these cemetery grounds where family is buried. Our ancestors were too poor to afford tombstones, and likely their grave site would have been relegated to a simple wooden cross. This photo shows what appears to be empty grave sites, however, this graveyard is completely full. The empty looking locations are where wood cross structures would have deteriorated. Our ancestors James and Sarah, the parents of James and William, are there, somewhere.
Our ancestors likely attended the funerals and burials of many fellow parish members of the time. Our ancestors walked this yard. As did we today.
A good friend and I always appreciate seeking the ‘Road Less Travelled’. Today Raymond and I found one.
John Seymour helped us with an additional experience of a lifetime. We were able to enter, ascend a Norman built 10th century rounded stairwell, and view the church property from the highest tower level. It felt like a scene out of National Treasure. It provided great perspective on the absolute beauty of Wainfleet St. Mary’s church and the surrounding property and countryside.
Thank you John!
In the background on the horizon is our Saturday morning destination, Toynton, where we will visit another long time church of our ancestors, Toynton St. Peter.
Our ancestors were likely trying to leave the England economy of the time to achieve a ‘better life’. Rural England in the 1800’s was difficult if you were not a landowner, or landlord. Agricultural wages were depressed, a challenge and a hard way of life. The land is beautiful, and would have been hard to leave unless there were greater reasons to do so at the time.
Today, for many reasons, was closure to a long time search we have had for answers. To step on ‘hallowed ground’ of our ancestors was a memorable experience.
Find your ancestors history if you haven’t already......it’s a true joy.