Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village Gathering is POSTPONED till 2021!

It truly is breaking my heart to make this decision…but feel it is the best thing to do…. After talking to town official’s, donors and those planning on attending – they have all stated it would be best to postpone our upcoming 2020 Barkhamsted Lighthouse gathering.

Due to several factors: virus, economy and many people not going to be able to attend due to loss of jobs and or money not available… We feel this is the best decision to make.

I truly am sorry about this… Want to post it now so that those that made reservations can cancel and get money back before time is up for refunds.

I will be updating event calendar with new dates once I get it all planned.

Once again I apologise for any inconveniences this might bring.

Many hugs,
Coni Dubois


Join other researcher’s & descendant’s in our group on Facebook Group’s at: Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village

A small change to this blog~

HI everyone!
I am just updating a few things and wanted to let you know that my blog has changed a little bit… It is still called an “Ever Widening Circle,” but it is now called a “Quest for our Ancestral Roots.” (

Doing genealogy for well over 30 years now (started at 17 and I’m almost 53 now – so for a very long time), I have uncovered many wonderful stories, and it involves Colonial & Native American along with so much American history. Consequently, with that said, I am broadening my blog to include all I find and not just the Native American research I do. I have so much to share. Will be updating more once I get through the 2020 Lighthouse Gathering I am hosting in July~

I want to note: My blog also has my cousin – John Gilbert, as an Author, who has been researching the Gilbert side of us (Maternal line). He has uncovered so much & I can’t wait to see what he finds in the future.

Can view more on his other work on his blog:
Gilbert research:
Wikipedia Links he created:

Question of William H Barber Burial/Tombstone?

I have been informed of a comment via JoannBarberClupper on Find A Grave. She has stated in her comment that the tombstone posted on his Find A Grave (# 62768815) “is not his tombstone. I would like to clear up this issue of William Henry Barber tombstone!


I personally took the photo she has questioned and the photo WAS taken at his grave site along with confirming it with the office personally~

I spent the weekend researching and visiting the grave site and that of other Ancestors in the area. Even visited the “Barber homestead” along with visiting with living family member’s that were at the funeral along with spending a day in the records to dig up all we could find.

Photo notes in my records.

Reason for the confusion: The tombstone was bought several years later (confirmed by family) and the wrong birth date was put on it at that time – He was born in 1857 and it states 1861this was done by uncertain dates and family being incorrect on the date.


Cathy Genella has also ‘re-confirmed’ info herself and received an email with this info for us.

Via Cathy to me: I asked him where does he get the info from, he stated the previous Sexton put it all on a spreadsheet.

Via the now Sexton? to Cathy:
I apologize for my timing I hope this will answer any questions.
William Barber owned 8 sites, 6-11-A through 6-11-H.

Burials are as follows.

6-11-A Open 6-11-E Beulah Barber
6-11-B Maryette Barber 6-11-F George Barber
6-11-C William Barber 6-11-G Open
6-11-D Allen A Barber 6-11-H Allan A Barber Jr.

The Township has no record of sale for sites, Allan A Barber was buried in 1926. That is the earliest burial there. I found no reference to a baby being buried unless that is Allan Barber Jr.

Note from Coni: Just adding his info I have along with obit & death certificate here for you also~

Oak Grove Cemetery
Location: on South Branch Road north of South Branch, Ogemaw, Michigan. Oak Grove Cemetery is located on E. County Line Rd. in South Branch, Goodar Twp. The nearest major town is South Branch, MI.

latitude – longitude: coordinates of N 44.4789 and W -83.88638.

Barber, William Henry 8/22/1857 – 1/12/1945
Father – Age 87 – Husband of Mary

Other’s buried here:
Barber, Allen A 22 y 1926
Barber, Clia Marion 1 x 1919
Barber, Jackie William 3dys x 1930
Barber, Melvin L 60 y 1980
Barber, Myron Allen 61 y 1988
Barber, Olive M 80 y 1983
Barber, Peggy Rosella 15 y 1949
Barber, Stacy ng y ng
Barber, Verna 2 hrs x 1972
Barber, William H 88 y 1945
Barber, William Henry 70 y 1962…/ogemaw/cem…/cem_oakgrove.txt

William Barber, 87 Of Hill Township Buried January 9
Left 12 Children, 62 Grand and 50 Great-Grandchildren
Funeral Services for William Henry Barber, an early settler of Hill township, were held from his late farm home between North and South Dease lakes at 2:00 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon of this week, January 16, and from the South Branch Church at 2:30 P.M. Rev. Frank H. Collin Officiated, and burial took place in the South Branch Cemetery, His age was 87. William H. Barber died at 7 o’clock Friday morning of last week, January 12, from the infirmities of age. He was born in Pennsylvania on August 26, 1857, and came to Ogemaw about fifty years ago from Owosso, where he married on November 13, 1881, to the former Maryette Clark.
He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Margette Clark Barber; 12 Children; Grant Barber of Bay City; Matthew, of Newberry; Judson, of Jackson; William and Stacy of Long Lake, Iosco County; George, of Hale; Erwin, of Goodrich; Mrs. Ada Thayer, of Curtis, Mich.; Mrs. Mary Rowbottom and Mrs. Minnie Craiger, both of Flint; Mrs. Anna Riley of Selkirk; Mrs. Nellie Ballard, of Bay City; one sister Mrs. Rose Short, of Mancelona, Mich.; 62 grandchildren and 50 great-grandchildren.

Roxanne Wehnes response to the comment sent to her from JoannBarberClupper.

The July 2020 Gathering has been postponed till 2021!

Hey Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village Descendants & Followers:

Due to what is happening in this world… we have postponed our event for next year.

The July 2021 Gathering Newsletter will be updated soon~

Please SHARE to your families so we can get it out there~

Everything abt the 3 day event is in THIS newsletter~

Note: There is A LOT of links in this PDF & I am finding a few I need to correct… please let me know if you run across any. Please include the page # and link/title~

ALSO more exciting NEWS!!

Post Commander of the Riverton American Legion Post 159 (Ted Sweeney) called me yesterday about the 2020 Barkhamsted Lighthouse Gathering’s 3 day event… He is wanting to take our group on a tour of Pahke’s Cave after our July 2nd event at the Lighthouse site 😁 Orrain (Orrin) Wright married Mercy Elwell (Cooke 1st marriage) (of the Lighthouse) and lived and had several children in Pahke’s cave for many years (children were later taken and indentured out) I have yet to make a actual connection to any of the 12 children’s descendants~

View MORE on this on my Facebook Post

Super excited to finally be able to visit the site! I will be adding this to the newsletter and updating soon!

All are free to join in on the tour!!! (AS with all other events!)

Some other links for you:

Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village Facebook Group

Barkhamsted Newspapers Collection done by Coni Dubois

James Chagum Chief of the Barkhamsted Lighthouse (this is my 661 page research book)

If you are a descendant then make sure you sign in at our Roll Call!

Is Henrietta (L) Webster that married Rev. A P Viets a Lighthouse Descendant?

Answer is NO…. by my research…

Both Henrietta Webster’s (YES there is 2 of them) they were both born in Litchfield Connecticut abt 1838 – One was born to Montgumery Webster – wife Sybil Elwell of the Lighthouse Tribe in Barkhamsted CT & the other one was born to David Sanford Webster – wife Clarissa Wattles in Bethlehem, CT

ONLY record found for Barkhamsted Lighthouse Descendant Henrietta Webster is a 1850 Census which she was 12 years old via this census
Note: Census was taken in NOVEMBER of 1850
Also by 1851 Sybil (Elwell) Webster past away
I am unsure as to what happen to all of the children…
Henrietta would of been abt 13 at the time of passing.
As you will see in my research; the 2nd Harietta L Webster was well documented throughout history – I was able to find A LOT of info on her and the Viets family.

Now let’s take a look at some important records:

Rev. A P Viets in the Connecticut, Town Marriage Records, pre-1870
(Barbour Collection)

Name: Rev. A P Viets Marriage Date: 4 Sep 1848
Marriage Place: Barkhamsted, Connecticut, USA Residence Place: Canton
Spouse: Hannah Webster Spouse Residence Place: Barkhamsted

Note: Hannah could of been a ‘nickname’?

I want to note: this is actually 2 entries – my best guess is they got the license in Sept. and married in Oct. (Was a mistake on original document which states her name as “Hannah “(which could of been a nickname) the spelling of her name appears to be Henriette vs Henrietta via this record but in all other records; it is recorded as Henrietta so went with this spelling in my research.

Rev A P Viets in the U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930
Name: Rev A P Viets Event: Marriage Marriage Date: 9 Oct 1848
Marriage Place: Pleasant Valley Spouse: Henrietta Louisa Webster
Spouse Father: D Sanford Webster Newspaper: Christian Secretary
Publication Date: 13 Oct 1848 Publication Place: Connecticut, USA
Call Number: 486549

Publication Date: 13 Oct 1848 by the Christian Secretary
As you see in this record it states she is the daughter of D. Sanford Webster

Rev A P Viets in the U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930
Name: Rev A P Viets Event: Marriage Marriage Date: 9 Oct 1848
Marriage Place: Pleasant Valley Spouse: Henrietta Louisa Webster
Spouse Father: D Sandford Webster Newspaper: The Hartford Times
Publication Date: 14 Oct 1848 Publication Place: Connecticut, USA
Call Number: 486551

Henrietta Louisa Webster in the North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000
(Pg 103) Viets Genealogy
Name: Henrietta Louisa Webster Gender: Female
Birth Date: 11 Jun 1830 Birth Place: Bethlehem, Conn
First Marriage Date: 9 Oct 1848 Spouse: Apollos Phelps Viets
Ellsworth Phelps Berkley Viets
Wordsworth Bertrand Viets
John Charles Viets
Mary Louisa Viets
Beulah Ruth Viets
Henrietta Claribel Viets

Now let’s take a look at the burial of the family:

All mentioned below are buried at Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury, CT.

Apollos Phelps Viets in the Connecticut, Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934
Name: Apollos Phelps Viets Age: 89 Birth Date: 1819 Death Date: 1908
Burial Place: Connecticut, USA Cemetery: Riverside Cemetery

AND right below them is her PARENTS: David S. & His wife Clarissa and her sister Mary (Webster) & her husband Wilfred L. Horton
This confirms that David S & Clarissa are Henrietta L. Webster’s parents and she is NOT the Henrietta Webster of the Barkhamsted Lighthouse Site.

It always saddens me when I disprove a line…

The “only way plausible” is if there is 2 Rev./Clergyman A P Viets also…..


Gilberts at Hastings

On October 14th, in the year 1066, an army from Normandy fought a single battle against the Anglo-Saxon defenders of England near Hastings in East Sussex.  By that very afternoon, the English king was dead, William the Bastard became William the Conqueror, and the Normans were in England to stay.  What followed was the wholesale dispossession of the Anglo-Saxon ruling class in favor of Norman aristocracy.  The newest among this class were Normans of relatively humble birth who had accompanied William during his great victory.  While it is certain that hundreds of high-born Normans (as well as Flemish, Breton, French, and others) were among William’s companions that day, thousands of much more humble origins served in the rank and file.  To share in such glory was to immediately propel one’s family into high status and new opportunity.  To this day, 953 years later, studies show that English families bearing Anglo-Norman last names are financially slightly better off than their Anglo-Saxon-named countrymen.  The names of some of these men who were there on that fateful 11th century day were said to have been written on a list. Called the Battle Abbey Roll, it supposedly hung in an abbey William had erected on the very spot King Harold was killed during the battle.  The original (if not a complete fiction) has been lost since the 16th century.  What we have are incongruent and partial lists of varying reliability.  On one of those lists is the name T. Gilbard.

The Battle of Hastings, from the Bayeux Tapestry

There is a fantastic renaissance work called The church-history of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year M.DC.XLVIII, written in 1655 by Thomas Fuller.  In it, Fuller pulls together a collection of supposed Battle Abbey Rolls and other references to the companions of William.  It is on the list provided by one Mr. Fox, an alias of an antiquarian named Thomas Scriven, we see T. Gilbard astride 243 other names.  Gilbard, of course, is one of the many early spellings of Gilbert (pronounced something like jeel-BARE then and in France today).  Immediately there appear to be several problems with the claim that someone with a Gilbert surname was on the Battle Abbey Roll.  First, hereditary family names in such a first-name-last-name format were rare in 1066 Europe.  Second, this is the only mention of a Gilbert on any of the other versions of the rolls I have seen (outside of the well-known and probably-not-related Richard and Baldwin Fits-Gilberts).  Third, construction of the Battle Abbey itself took until 1094, so any list would have been at least 18 years after the battle.  Finally, any remnants of rolls we have can only be sourced to the 1500s at best. 

The last of the two problems cannot be well addressed here because of the immutability of the facts.  However, scholars have established beyond doubt that between 20 and 40 individuals appearing on the various lists were indeed at Hastings.  That suggests the rolls contain at least some measure of truth.  The problem of only a single mention of Gilbard from among the several versions of the lists is a bit of a tough one, but not insurmountable.  Again I point to the very low numbers (scores out of hundreds) of named individuals who have actually been verified as having been at Hastings.  This only points to the importance of those individuals, being mentioned elsewhere in contemporary accounts and rosters – such venerable names as Robert de Beaumont, Walter Giffard, and Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.  It is entirely possible that the combination of nonstandard spellings and lack of fame could cause individual names to fall off of some lists and be included in others.  Either way, a lesser-known or lower-born member of the soldiery would not be as likely to show up in other records of the time.

Looking into the problem of hereditary names brought to light some surprising lessons, modifying my own view of when the usage of such took place.  Studies strongly suggest that the oldest true heritable surname in Europe is O’Brien, having origins in the early to mid-1000’s in Ireland.  Even Fuller notes that, while not universal in Europe until the late 1100s, these kinds of family names predate Hastings buy as much as 40 years.  Importantly, he asserts that this new widespread use of surnames was a French invention.  The claim seems to be supported, at least a little, by my earlier studies of William Gilbert de Ragoles, Bishop of Poitiers from 1117 to 1124, whose siblings shared the last name Gilbert.  To further investigate the matter, I counted up how many ‘modern’ surnames appeared on Mr. Fox’s list.  I found that 46 out of 244 had surnames without the older-fashioned ‘d’, ‘de’, ‘de la’, ‘Fitz’, or other titular and place references.  That amounted to about 19%.  Studies of other near-contemporary lists of names showed similarly small, yet definitely real, percentages that we might consider modern surnames.  Therefore, it is at least possible that someone with a name like T. Gilbard could have been at Hastings in 1066 without being an anachronism. 

Briefly onto the first name, the initial ‘T’ is tantalizingly without explanation in Fox’s list.  Luckily for our research, French first names at the time seldom started with ‘T’, so it is easier to narrow down.  Typical of the era are Thomas, Thosetus, Trutgaudus, Tassilo, Theoderic, Theudebald, Thorismund, and Toustan among a few obscure others and variations of each.  Out of pure popularity, Thomas seems the most likely candidate for our T. Gilbard. 

So, while not verifiable, it is at least plausible that a Norman-French warrior of lower status named Thomas Gilbard came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.  This Thomas would be of about the same generation of Bishop William Gilbert’s parents, possibly being at least distant kin of this Parthenay family.  Whereas there is no evidence of name-bearing progeny from the Bishop or his siblings, it is some fraction of possible that Thomas established himself and the Gilbert line in England after Hastings.  Thirty years thereafter, tax records start showing Gilberts like Richard, Walter, Robert, and William transacting around Wiltshire and Devonshire.  Eventually, some of this clan may have started marrying up into the venerable Champernowne family beginning in the early 1200’s, establishing the Gilberts of Compton.  Acknowledging this has as many points of data as your typical conspiracy theory, it is at least not out of the realm of possibilities.  Whether or not even being in the line leading to the Gilberts of Compton, the existence of Thomas Gilbard would push the origin of the surname back to about 950 years ago.

Colonial Gilberts

I was recently delighted to find that a small company out of Markham, Virginia, would print me a hard copy of J. Wingate Thornton’s 1850 Genealogical Memoir of the Gilbert Family in both Old and New England.  Setting aside the forgivable retransmissions of errors found in earlier works by Westcote and Prince, this little 23 page gem inspired me to compile a brief sketch of some of the lesser-known, but still notable Gilberts from history.  In doing so, I consciously decided to omit the more famous Sir Humphrey Gilbert (who claimed Canada for England) and his half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh (who hardly needs introduction here).  Further, Thornton’s enthusiastic view of the bravery and industry of the Gilbert family tempted me to produce a romanticized rescript of past nobility.  This I also resolved to avoid, leaving in the sometimes savage and sometimes sorry behavior that still follows our little clan and marks us as human.

Sir Adrian Gilbert of Compton

Among the more ‘human’ of us, and the one I feel most akin to, was Sir Adrian Gilbert of Compton (1541-1628).  At his lowest low, he was called “the greatest buffoon in England” and “cared not what he said to man or woman of what quality soever”.  Like his brothers Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh (especially when they were in Ireland), Adrian was accused of “great fury” and “savage cruelty”.  Nonetheless, he was noted for his intelligence in mathematics and alchemy, something he shared with noted mathematician John Dee.  In the 2000 book Following the Ark of the Covenant, authors Kerry and Lisa Boren go so far as to say Dee charged Adrian with carrying the Ark of the Covenant to the Americas!  Less far-fetched is that Adrian became “a great favorite of Mary, Countess of Pembroke” due to their shared interest in alchemy, he becoming her laboratory assistant.  What is certain is that Adrian was of the same ilk of Devon explorers as his many Gilbert relatives, having received a patent from Queen Elizabeth I for the discovery of a northwest passage to China, the document being titled “The Colleagues of the Fellowship for the Discovery of the North-west Passage”.

Another of these Devonshire explorers was the sea captain Bartholomew Gilbert, who arrived in America in 1602.  His mission was to establish a colony in the New World, which he did in Cape Cod (named by him).  Captain Bartholomew apparently did not inherit his uncle Adrian’s mathematical acumen.  The colony failed after a few weeks when it was discovered that he had miscalculated the overwinter provisions, having brought only six weeks’ worth of food.  The entire party packed up and was back in England by late July.  Captain Gilbert cannot, however, be discredited for lack of bravery.  The very next year, on May 10th, he set sail from Plymouth, England, determined to discover the fate of brother Walter Raleigh’s famously-vanished Roanoke Colony.  Upon anchoring off the desolate former site of Roanoke on July 29, Captain Gilbert and four of his men formed a landing party.  Once ashore, they were attacked by a band of Algonquians and killed.  The seal of Northampton County, Virginia, today bears the date 1603 in commemoration of Captain Bartholomew Gilbert’s courage.

Another Gilbert, a son of Sir Humphrey, also engaged in what Thornton called the Gilbert’s, “hereditary scheme of peopling America with Englishmen” in 1607.  In that year, two ships under the command of Sir George Popham and Captain Raleigh Gilbert, set out from Plymouth, England.  They arrived with one hundred men, weapons, and supplies at the mouth of the Sagadahock, or Kennebeck River, on the coast of Maine.  They built a fortified store-house they called Fort Saint George, and the two ships returned to England for supplies.  The forty-five men who remained were under the presidency of Popham and the admiralty of Raleigh Gilbert.   Over a harsh winter Popham died, leaving Raleigh as president.  At some point, news reached the colony that Raleigh’s older brother, Sir John Gilbert (another son of Sir Humphrey) had died.  With that news, and in the face of “nothing but extreme extremities”, the colony unanimously voted to return to England.  It is said that they were so resolute in this goal that they built a ship to facilitate the return voyage, which would probably be the first oceangoing vessel built in America – built under the direction of a Gilbert.

These stories are a reminder that European colonization in Native American lands immediately locked the two cultures in a complex, brutal war that came in waves of violence lasting nearly 300 years.  An example of this comes from the tale of Mrs. Rowlandson’s captivity from the book Tragedies of the Wilderness, by Samuel Gardner Drake, 1844.  Mrs. Rowlandson and her three children were made slaves for eleven weeks by Narragansett, Wampanoag and Nashaway/Nipmuc Indians led by Monoco after their attack on Lancaster, Massachusetts. Later, after being purchased out of slavery for 20 pounds sterling, she wrote about her encounter with young John Gilbert, son of my many-great grandfather Captain John Gilbert (first of my line to come to America).  Mrs. Rowlandson writes, “I went to see an English youth in this place, one John Gilbert, of Springfield.  I found him laying without doors upon the ground.  I asked him how he did; he told me he was very sick of a flux with eating so much blood.  They had turned him out of the wigwam, and with him an Indian papoos, almost dead, (whose parents had been killed,) in a bitter cold day, without fire or clothes; the young man himself had nothing on but his shirt and waistcoat.  This sight was enough to melt the heart of flint.  There they lay quivering in the cold, the youth round like a dog, the papoos stretched out, with his eyes, nose, and mouth full of dirt, and yet alive, and groaning.  I advised John to go get to some fire; he told me he could not stand, but I persuaded him still, lest he should lie there and die.  And with much ado I got him to a fire, and went myself home.”  I have found no further record of the fate of young John Gilbert.

The unfortunate young John Gilbert’s father, Captain John Gilbert (1626 – 1690, and one of many with that name), soldiered on along with his brother, Jonathan Gilbert, in establishing Hartford, Connecticut.  Of John we know he married Amy Lord, daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Lord, on May 6, 1647, and had probably arrived from Yardley, England, in about 1645.  He and his brother Jonathan, the latter being a linguist of Native American languages of the region, are recorded as acting as emissaries between the Governor in Hartford and the local tribes.  In 1653, Jonathan was even so important as to be made a ‘marshal’ of sorts, receiving a special warrant from the Colony to “rayse such considerable forces as hee sees meete”. 

It was Jonathan’s younger son, Captain Thomas Gilbert, who rekindled the maritime adventurism of his recent ancestors.  Born about 1655, Thomas was said to have been “a brave and successful officer, and a leading man in the primitive navy of the colony”.  For several years, Thomas commanded the twelve-gun Swan during a turbulent time of war on the high seas.  During King William’s War, Thomas and his associates captured the French ship Saint Jacob.  The Swan’s luck ran out in 1695 when it was overtaken by a French privateer of 20 guns.  Even in this defeat, a witness’s account prompted Thornton to write that Thomas displayed, “fortitude and self-possession in difficulty, manly and generous heart, and desperate and unflinching defense against superior force”.  This Captain Gilbert was said to be self-confident enough to freely weep when moved by the scene of two companions being joyously reunited after the Swan went down.  He spent the rest of the war a prisoner in France, released afterwards during a prisoner exchange.

Captain Thomas Gilbert’s uncle, Captain John Gilbert (1626-1690), is from where my American line descends.  What follows is what I consider to be typically and woefully American:  eight or so generations of virtually no family history.  I know very little about the men and women of my line from Captain John’s son Joseph through my grandfather, Robert.  However, despite my earlier self-admonitions against romanticism, I cannot resist putting the stars of my father and my grandfather up among the constellation formed by my ancestors.  Notable to me, and just as bravely, my grandfather Robert James Gilbert recrossed the Atlantic to help defeat the Nazis as an infantryman in Europe.  The best I can tell he fought in some of the most harrowing battles in Italy – and had the artillery-shrapnel scars to prove it.  My father, Bernard James Gilbert, spent eight years in the Army and National Guard during the Cold War, only to spring back into volunteer service to rescue victims and recover bodies during the lethal Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak.  After that, he spent fifteen more years in the Civil Defense helping flood and disaster victims without taking a dime.  Precious little is known about my female ancestors, and I do not mean to neglect them here.  I submit that whoever and wherever a Gilbert may be, man or woman, we belong to a family of singular daring.

Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village ROLL CALL & Welcome Packet!

Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village Descendants:


Please click this link to download BLV Welcome packet – to be completed by all descendants.

–Please click this link to sign in–

I need EVERY descendant to please join our group and sign in to our Roll Call! If you are unsure of lineage – I have many of the lines done and would love to help figure it out~

We have a lot exciting things happening for the Lighthouse People so make sure you join to keep up to date! And feel free to post about your family’s, their stories, photos & memories.🥰

Please share this post to your boards 😘

I can’t wait to see how many of the descendants are still living~

The Man: Bernard James Gilbert

“Bernard James “Jim” Gilbert, Olive Trail in Marshall County, IN, about 1969

Having come to a point of diminishing returns (which is how I describe a wall) in investigating the origins of my line of Gilberts, I think it’s time to focus on the individuals. So much is lost about the people, themselves, when generations of friends and relatives move on to join our eternal ancestors, I find it a nearly urgent matter to preserve what we know about each of them for posterity. While there are no lack of anecdotes and facts I could write about my father, Bernard James “Jim” Gilbert, it is a bit difficult to just write a biographical blurb.

Of course, anyone who knew him also knew he had been a soldier, was a long-time volunteer in the Civil Defense, mostly worked as a cowboy hat wearing trucker, loved fishing, was a master archer and marksman, possessed movie star good looks, was a CB radio hobbyist, and could fix any car with a coat hanger and a hammer. Beyond those bare facts, I knew him to be a hard-working family man who was quietly dedicated to his children. Again, these seem mere facts to a boy trying to understand his father. There was something else about him, something a bit intangible and mysterious, that I could never quite grasp when I was younger. For example, I once saw him outdraw an angry man who already had his gun out – and the thing ended in a cordial conversation. On another occasion, a man who I knew to have been harassing dad at work ended up drinking coffee and laughing with him at our kitchen table one day. At dad’s funeral, the same man tearfully said “He was like a father to me.” Well, he was like a father to me, too!

I suppose I never really started understanding what my dad was like until I understood what it was to actually be him. While becoming a father myself helped this process, it wasn’t until catching a glimpse of my own shadow on a nighttime march during Army basic training that I was suddenly teleported into his skin. In an instant, I viscerally knew that he must have felt exactly as I did at that moment – once upon a time during his basic training. So, I wrote a story some time later that I think sums up what I knew my dad to be:

            I was six, and my dad had just purchased a beautiful, near-new station wagon.  I was too young to notice the make or model, but my mom was impressed enough, so that sufficed for me.  Growing up poor, I never really had much in the way of material things to be proud of.  This car, though, seemed to make my dad walk a little taller, and my mom seemed to dress a little prettier.  It was strange how such a simple thing as a car could make our family seem a little warmer- a little closer.  I remember that it was blue, with wooden trim, and was a lot shinier than anything I ever remembered us having before.  It seemed solid, like the strength in Dad’s arms, and as graceful as Mom’s hair.  I felt good about it because it made them feel good.

            We were into the second week of our newfound pride when Dad decided to take ‘the boys’ fishing.  I never really liked fishing, but it seemed to be how my dad bonded with my older brother.  I was always outside of that particular arrangement, but it didn’t bother me much.  I always occupied myself with excursions along the riverbank and into the woods nearby the Tippecanoe.  I had a fishing pole, but Dad or Brian usually took over the task of fishing with it as I became distracted by a snake or an interesting bug.  They were happy to have an extra line in the water, and I was happy to finally be free of the monotonous waiting.  It was kind of a little unspoken ritual that satisfied everyone in the expedition.  To this day, I cannot see the excitement found in staring at a bobber for hours on end.

            The fishing trip of this afternoon was to be, mercifully, a short one.  Mom needed us home for some reason or another, and dad was always loath to break-down the poles and return earlier than, say, eleven at night.  As it was, though, he was more loath to disappoint Mom.  At least, he was not willing to withstand her scorn.  (“Hell hath no fury…” etc., etc.)  Dad was always good at pushing the time envelope, though, having been a coast-to-coast trucker for some years before my creation.  I responded to his beckoning and watched the final moments of bobber-watching tick away.  The scene was always the same: Dad would crouch on the clay banks of the river, the three or four poles propped up on Y-shaped twigs, eagerly switching between wristwatch and bobbers.  He had the trip home timed to the second, and always held out for that “big one” that could bite at the last second.  Alas, the final tick-tock would come and the poles would, with much ‘gosh darn it’ regret, be broken down and stowed in our beautiful carriage.

            We children, too, would be stowed as fishing equipment.  Such is the way men transport their young.  I, as always, was first in the car.  This was not to hurry the others along, though.  It was only that the ride home was my favorite part of any fishing trip.  I loved the feel of the wind as the corn whistled past the open window.  The sun always shone on the way home, even if it had been raining during the actual fishing.  (This always upset Dad!)  Brian would be smiling at having once again out-fished the Old Man.  The Old Man, too, would be smiling- he loved to drive.  A certain peace would always come over his face as he took the wheel and hit the open road.  I would eventually learn the many reasons for this solace, but at age six I had no idea.  The feeling in the car would always be cheerful and positive on these rides home- in that quiet male sort of way. 

           This day I sat in the front, between Brian and Dad, because the back seat had been folded forward to accommodate the long fishing rods and the numerous boxes of worm-smelling tackle.  Mom always hated it when Dad put wet, seaweed-encrusted fishing stuff in her beautiful car.  The family car always became ‘her’ car somehow.  The family truck always became ‘his’ truck.  Things just worked like that.  Nothing, though, could spoil this warm afternoon’s whimsical ride through the country.  Dad took the long way home, and put extra pedal into those little dips and hills that put the “tickle in your fancy”, as he called it.  There was a certain safe feeling with dad behind the wheel- the kind of feeling that only comes from knowing that your pop is in control of things.  Nobody else can ever quite equal this.

            There was a blue-gray mass that lumbered into the roadway from the left.  Before I could register what it even was, Dad was hard on the brake and spinning the wheel to the right.  Before I knew it, I was picking myself up off the floorboard, Dad’s firm hand helping me back onto the seat.  I had bounced off the metal dash, somehow, but my body had the resiliency of youth.  I reassured dad that I was fine.  I got a brief looking over, and he was out the door in a second.  I had seen my dad angry a few times before, and I knew that he would be angry this time.  Our beautiful chariot had been fiendishly smashed by the carelessness of another.  I could see through the windshield that we had gone off into the ditch and squarely crashed into a solid-looking telephone pole.  I looked for damage to the other people’s car, but strangely saw not a scratch.  My six-year-old brain was hard at work trying to figure out just what had happened.

            Tearing my unbelieving eyes off of the wrinkled hood, I saw Dad stride over to the other car.  He was not a mean person, and I had rarely ever been spanked or otherwise roughly handled by the man, but I feared his anger.  That’s not to say I feared him- it’s just that he had a masculine power that you knew lurked under the surface.  That power would be alien to me for at least another six years, so for the time being it only made him seem mysterious.  With mystery comes fear.  At that age, I only knew that Dad was somehow different than Mom on some profound, arcane level.  His masculinity stayed locked in a carefully guarded closet like some dangerous demon, which Dad could summon up at any time to smite those who would arouse his rage.  True, I had never seen the demon, and therefore had no proof of its nature, but I could sense it. 

            I watched the old couple get out of their still shiny car, which had appeared from out of nowhere to destroy our pride.  Dad crossed the last few feet towards them, and I awaited the demon.  I wanted to see it- to finally know what it was that fueled my apprehension.  What was this beast that made Dad, who was kind and gentle in all ways, so different from our kind and gentle mother?  Mom was tender through and through.  There was no secret closet in her mind.  Her temper was plain to see without any hidden source.  I could feel from her no tremors from any hidden fault lines.  She was like me, I thought to my age-six self, and I could understand that.

            The moment had arrived.  Dad was near the old couple, who were standing together with worried looks.  Their own ignorance had cost our poor family an irreplaceable $800, and we would never be happy again.  Dad loved that car- he finally had something nice to show for all his hard work.  He would be angry and the demon would be summoned.  Dad’s last steps were swift, almost a run, and his arms went out in a manner I had never seen before- this was it.

            Dad threw his arms around the couple and held their short frames to his chest.  I heard some sobs from the lady, who grabbed Dad about the body and repeated over and over again, “I’m sorry!  I’m so sorry!”  The elderly gentleman had tears in his eyes.  I could hear him explain that he had no insurance.  I didn’t know what that was, exactly, but I knew it was bad not to have.  I heard Dad’s deep, consoling voice over the other’s, “Don’t worry.  Don’t worry about it.  It’ll be alright.  Don’t worry a bit.  It’s just a car- everyone’s alright.”  He held them there for a long time- until the weeping stopped and the man decided that he’d better move the car out of the road.  Before the lady left, she kissed my Dad on the cheek and said, “You’re such a nice man.  You are such a good and nice man.”  He kissed her cheek in the same awkward and tender way he kissed us goodnight, and that was that.  All this I witnessed through the windshield of our ruined car.

            Dad walked back, pulled the fender away from the tire, and started up the car.  It worked well enough to take us home, but that was the last I ever rode in our magnificent set of wheels.  That last fishing trip, though, was the most important ride I had ever taken before or since.  I saw the demon, and it was no demon.  What Dad kept locked up in the closet of his mind was, indeed, a power he could summon at will, but I feared it no longer.  I saw it for what it really was.  It was the same power that made me feel secure when Dad was at the wheel- and when he tucked me in at night.  This was a power I still respected, for I knew that it could be dangerous, but I also wanted to have for my own someday.  I was beginning to learn what it was to be a man.

The Noble Gilbert Women

To this point, my genealogical studies have focused on the patrilineage from William Gilbert, the earliest suspected progenitor of the Gilberts of Compton, through my son.  However, this following of the male line is a vestige, a reflex (if you will), arising out of an interest in a surname – almost matter-of-factly passed through the male line.  However, this is only one way to see one’s heritage.  One’s father-to-son bloodline is virtually no more a contributor to one’s genetic makeup than one’s mother-to-son (or mother-to daughter, for that matter) line.  Indeed, any combination of relatives leading from the past to the present contribute roughly equally to one’s ancestry, regardless of the transmission of a name along with the DNA.  Therefore, it is time to look at the women who married into and contributed to the ancestral line I have been examining. 

In these times, it might be tempting to think that women have been marginalized, with great contempt, from the earliest times – an ugly outgrowth of our male-dominated tribal past.  However, my readings of medieval property records, along with other historical documents, suggests that this undeniable second-rating of women and their accomplishments has had most of its momentum in only the last few hundred years.  Speaking only broadly of the parts of Western culture I have studied, women often had central roles in society and government.  Tellingly, mentions of these women were not accompanied by footnotes of astonishment or exception, but in the ho-hum, common drone of any legal document of any epoch.  This hints at the common-place nature of powerful, influential, and important women.  For example, archeological evidence supports the idea that early Celtic tribes were routinely under the leadership of powerful women – Boudica of the Iceni comes to mind.  Famously, Viking women had a right to divorce.  In the Anglo-Norman times of my studies, it was the marriage of the obscure Geoffrey Gilbert to Lady Joan Compton that bestowed upon him Compton Castle and propelled his line into modest nobility.  This was not because it came as a dowry, but because in the 14th century Lady Joan was an heiress.  Geoffrey’s great-grandfather, William, himself emerged from historical obscurity with his marriage to the high-born and well pedigreed Elizabeth Champernowne of Clist, who could trace her bloodlines back to King Henry I, William the Conqueror, and all the Dukes of Normandy.  A hundred years later, another William Gilbert would marry another Elizabeth Champernowne, this time of North Tawton, Devon.  Two hundred years after that, Katherine Champernowne would marry Otho Gilbert of Greenway (in a separate line), giving birth to notable explorers Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh. 

What follows is a catalog of all the women I am aware of who married into my line of Gilbert men, trying to account for their heritage based on surname and any actual genealogical data I have:

Elizabeth Champernowne, of noble Norman ancestry, having other Norman ancestors by the names of Valletort, Nonet, Dustanville, and Bret. Bret is an interesting name because it has roots in Old French, meaning ‘Breton’, or Celtic Bretons who likely escaped the early Anglo-Saxon conquest by coming to Normandy and ultimately helping to ‘reconquer’ England in 1066.

Lady Alice, with no record of her last name, but likely of Norman heritage based on the Old French origins of her first name.

Amy Thomas, with a last name that’s hard to pin down, but possibly Cornish or Welsh.

Joan Compton, mentioned above, she was heiress to the Norman family of de la Pole and of Compton, which may have been Anglo-Saxon.  Some of her ancestry includes Dalditch (probably Anglo-Saxon) and Peverell (Norman).

Elizabeth Champernowne of North Tawton, mentioned above, and likely the great-grand-niece of the previous Elizabeth Champernowne, of the same notable Norman family.

Isabel Gambon (Norman)

Elizabeth Hill (Anglo-Saxon)

Hanna Lacey, whose surname likely derives from the famous Norman de Lacy family.

Joan Hackett, where my Gilbert line diverges from the Compton line and into Somerset, is a Norman name nonetheless.

Jane Roberta Hayden, with her Anglo-Saxon surname, might be from the de Hayden family in Somerset.

Joan Pierce, corresponding to this Gilbert’s location in Somerset, is of an Anglo-Saxon family first mentioned in that place.

Margery Morken bears an ancient Welsh name that might even derive from Old Norse.

Elizabeth Bennett was the first Gilbert woman in this line to make the dangerous trip to America, likely following after her husband, Thomas, who had already arrived in Connecticut.  If this is true, she likely would have had the daunting task of caring for her young son, John Gilbert, along the way.  Elizabeth also had the children Ezekial, Josiah, Obadiah, Jonathan, and Sarah.  Judging by the sudden shift in first names from Norman to Biblical, and considering the time (mid 1600s near the English Civil War) we might surmise that these Gilberts were puritans fleeing persecution.  It’s hard to determine, but her surname seems English and is likely derived from ‘Benedictus’- common among people of Anglo-Norman descent.

Amy Lord has an ancient Anglo-Saxon name derived from ‘hlalord’ or ‘keeper of the loaf’, meaning ‘one responsible for feeding others’. 

Elizabeth Smith (Anglo-Saxon)

Lydia White, with a Norman surname, likely derived from Le Blanc.

Sara Bradshaw (Anglo-Saxon)

Sara Magruder, whose surname is an interesting one from Scottish Gaelic, derived from Mac Grudaire, a nickname meaning ‘son of the brewer’ – a name originating in Perthshire.

Matilda Todd, Todd coming from the Scottish Borders and northern Middle English.  Her last name and Midwestern location make a relationship to Mary Todd Lincoln a tantalizing possibility.

Isabelle Plew (Bavarian)

Sarah Jane Furrow (Ulster Irish)

Marie Tarant, wife of James Madison Gilbert, was my great grandmother.  Her parents were from Sadska, Bohemia, with Holem being her mother’s maiden name.  This Holem is likely a derivative of another Czech name.  Of great tragedy to our family, her nephew George Tarant, was a waist gunner on a B-24 liberator that was shot down over Denmark on June 21st, 1944, by the Luftwaffe’s Lieutenant Woeske.   

Mildred Marie Scheetz, my grandmother, bore a surname from the Rhineland in Germany, with ancestors named Nickerson (Anglo-Saxon), Williams (possibly Welsh), Platt (also Germany), Klein (again from the Rhineland), Muckley (Rhineland still), and Daum (also German).

Gloria Jeanne Elliott, my mother, bore a spelling of the ‘Eliot’ name that may have been ancient Pictish from the personal name Aelfwald – said to have originated in Liddesdale, Scotland.  Mom had ancestors named Kahl (Germany) Krouse (Germany – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name), Pease (Orkney, Scotland), Schnider (Bavaria, Germany), Allis (back to Norman once again), and White (a second instance of this Norman surname, from le Blanc, in the genealogy).

Johanna Katherine Henbest, my children’s mother, bears a rare French Huguenot surname associated through DNA services and online sources with a single county in England whose refugee Huguenot population underwent a near wholesale relocation to Missouri.  Ancestors include Pfiefer (Austrian), Sparks, (a rare case of an Old Norse word coming to us from Old English), and Ennis (Cornwall).

Now it is down to my daughter, who is about to marry into an Italian family having an Anglo-Norman or Scottish last name!  She will carry with her a massively complex background of Anglo-Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Bohemian Czech, a whole lot of German, French, a touch of Congolese, and a myriad of other origins! 

Angela Gilbert, Lady of Compton Castle and High Sheriff of Devon in 2016 – 540 years after my 17th great grandfather, Sir Otho Gilbert of Compton Castle, held the same office.
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