Family tree lines are so interesting. There are so many variables. How is it, for instance, that there are so many folks saying their ancestors came over on the Mayflower? It’s kind of like saying that I was Cleopatra in another life. People nod, uh huh… Smoke another one lady.

But Stephen Hopkins’ daughter, Constance, from whom my line evidently descends, had TWELVE children and they ALL lived, incredible for the times really. It didn’t kill her either, all those kids. William Bradford says so. Another line from my tree has a William Sabin. Not much known about him before he arrived to the Americas from France via Wales. What is known about William Sabin is that 35,000 people can trace their lineage back to him. That’s a lot and the genealogists are impressed with William Sabin more than anyone I’ve come across so far.

This is Stephen. A pretty attractive man. Stephen was my 11th GG. He had 3 children by his 1st wife (my line) and 7 with his 2nd wife.  So, while there might not be 35,000, with Constance having 12 kids that lived, well, I bet there’s a lot of us Hopkins descendants too.

It suddenly becomes doable. I’ve triple checked. All of these folks condense to the Rosses of Spokane. All of them. It’s a very busy tree branch. All the other branches on my tree fizzle out without a sound. Pffft. Gone. The Ross line has a major history and while it splits at the Clark marriage and isn’t from the Mayflower, the Ross line is from the Winthrop Fleet and I was perfectly happy with that. It’s the Clark line that goes back to the Mayflower…

me > Gates > Parker > Ross > Clark > Millard > King > Snow > Hopkins


Edward Sherman Ross and Mary Place Clark Ross

These are the two people who bring all of this to a head; Mary Place Clark and Edward Shearman Ross. They are of the Spokane Ross family, of the Hopkins Mayflower family, descendants of the Mayflower and the Winthrop Fleet, American Revolution soldiers none of whom died, well to do farmers all, even in Spokane at the turn of the 20th century. Edward’s father founded much in Spokane and his sister, Frances, founded Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon and the first public kindergarden in Spokane.  How far down we’ve come….


Ross home, Spokane Washington

I wasn’t even going there, to the Mayflower. I only knew the Alden, Bradford, and Standish names from Plimoth so none of these names in my line meant anything to me as I puttered along, not expecting any grandeur after the whole Robert the Bruce thing. The Bruce line might be real, because ROSS, but it just wasn’t real to me you know? It was too much, too like the whole Cleopatra past life thing. So these unfamiliar names (interesting root for familiar) meant nothing to me in any way and brought no excitement.

I decided that I was happy with knowing who was in the Colonies and how early and that I wouldn’t waste my time in the Old World wading around. The gold nuggets were here on the east coast in the 17th century. It’s a good Quaker value to ditch the ego and so I did my best. I’m not a Quaker but my adopted parents are. I got good values from them for certain. So I let Robert go. I wasn’t even interested in the Clarks who married into the Ross line. Meh. Who cares, I said to myself, I’m happy with the Winthorp Fleet, that’s pretty frikking cool to have soooo many who came in the 1630’s (6) and who fought in the American Revolution (5). I was totally satisfied with the Rosses.

So when I started looking into the Clarks because I’d taken the other branches as far as I could, I wasn’t looking for anything much. Clarks… Booooring. LOL. That was my attitude. The opposite of grandiosity is indifference. I was very luke warm but I had some time on my hands so I dove in. I was thinking, as new names started popping up (unlike the Rosses who have a heavy patriarchal Ross line all the way back until you get to Matilda Bruce), that I was dealing with the women, the matriarchs of the Clark line, so the names were changing every other generation. I’m thinking none of these names ring a bell, they aren’t important. It seems few in genealogy look at the female lines because of marriage name changes. Don’t get me started on second marriages and the confusion they can cause….

So far no one seems to be directly from Salem, MA (although there appear to be some strong connections there but that’s another search on another day), they aren’t Alden or Bradford or Standish or Parrish or Warren or Nurse or Howe or any of the other names I’m so familiar with, so I was hardly paying attention.

When I got to Constance Mayflower Hopkins Snow my only thought was, “aww, isn’t that sweet, someone named their kid after the first ship.”  But Constance was born in England on May 11, 1606 as Constance Hopkins so how would her middle name be Mayflower if it had anything to do with the ship? Pfffft. Another fizzle I thought. I figured it was some stupid goose chase again, they are legion. Until I decided to look for her parents. They popped up immediately. No search at all. Who the heck is Stephen Hopkins? Mary No Name who? Wait, Stephen Hopkins came on the Mayflower? Wait, what? There you go again, Cynthia, looking for the grandiose. *sigh* I was truly skeptical after my willing gullibility when I first started. Because it turns out that Stephen Hopkins is actually more important than any other traveler on that ship (except for Mary Chilton who is my 11th GG and supposedly the first person/woman to step on Plimoth Rock). And the other travelers knew it. He was hired to be a bad ass. They were very lucky to have him. Bad Assery was called for in the new world. My husband has been reading “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick and he’s a bit impressed too, which is saying something.

There are lots of Quakers in the Ross/Clark lines. I know this because they were fined and thrown in jail for being Quaker and not toeing the Pilgrim party line, some more than once. I also now know that some of this branch got into trouble for a variety of offenses including selling water as a cure for scurvy, overcharging for bad beer, getting people too drunk at their tavern (Stephen and his family owned shops and inns over the years, they were not Pilgrims), getting drunk themselves, mutiny, sentenced to execution, insubordination, jail, stay of execution… Stephen Hopkins’ mother in law was fined for tippling. Stephen got in trouble for kicking out his female servant for getting pregnant by a man who was eventually executed for killing an Indian, after the court had ordered him to care for her for 2 years. He was in jail until another Plimoth resident took the maid in for her 2 remaining years of indenture. Well then. Thank goodness he was a friend to the Natives, my white privilege makes me super uncomfortable, this helps a bit for some reason. I like knowing that most of my ancestors appear to have been, for the time and to the best of their ability, not a bunch of deadly racists. I come from a long line of folks who refuse to toe the line whichever side of the line they were on.

Stephen survived a Bermuda shipwreck, helped build 2 ships on that island that took them to Jamestown, mutinied, was sentenced to die, talked the new governor of Jamestown into his own stay of execution, hung out in Jamestown then back to England, on to Plimoth, befriended the Natives, surveyed the new world, the first horrible winters of Plimoth and starvation… It takes a very hardy soul to consider one trip to the America’s back then but twice? After all that? We are talking bad assery of the highest order here.

Will I ever feel completely confident that this is the true line? Probably not. But it’s been a wild ride of discovery. It’s so funny. I spent my whole life dreaming and fantasizing over Plimoth and the Mayflower and the early colonies. I cried over the wars, the hardships, the beginning of the American slave trade, I made reproduction clothing, treasure my cooking pot/cauldron, feeling like I lived in the wrong time. Wondering why I was called to that time and place so strongly. I figured I was just another adopted kid without a familial past, that I would have taken any fantasy just to have a past.

A heartfelt thank you to my son for the best mother’s day present EVER. And another heartfelt thank you to my half brother who wrote me when our DNA matched up.

I’m not going to take it for granted that this is my history but after 60 years as an adoptee being fully aware that my hunger for a history was from the void, it makes me cry sometimes. I’ve never, ever, felt like I belonged anywhere. I felt like such an outcast in my adopted family sometimes. There was love aplenty but my parents never really understood me. They tried but without much success. Conflict galore. I felt loved by not liked. I spent a lot of time looking at their family lines simply because it was my only choice. My adopted mom has major history from Salem and Barbados. The Phillips have their own published genealogy, there’s a copy in storage. I was happy to make that mine. There’s some good stuff there, founders of Salem MA, rum runners in Barbados, rich plantation daughter ran away with the overseer… But now I have something to pass to my son instead of, “sorry, I haven’t a clue.”  So much about me makes sense. I’m intense, I’ve been fearless (and reckless), I could drink, I could charm, I could convince, I did things people thought were crazy… I never, ever, rested on my laurels (unitl now, I’m exahusted). I think Stephen would have liked me. I think he would have thought I was a bad ass too.

Thank you to my birth mother, Marilyn Jean Gates. For your interest in genealogy that really sparked this journey, for hoping that I would find a good life even if you would never witness it, for being brave enough to have another child, my brother, for being my conduit to art, whimsy, and history. Bless you and may we, perhaps, meet again in another time, another place.

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