The man from nowhere

Warren Reed Buzzell, 1927-2013

When I first started working at NEHGS in November 2015 and was introduced to Gary Boyd Roberts, he shook my hand and said, “Tell me about your family.” I told him my mother was half Cape Breton Scottish and Yorkshire English, and half Croatian (see my previous posts). His eyes glazed over. When I said my maiden name was Buzzell and my paternal grandmother was an Ordway from Medford, I could tell that little wheels started turning in Gary’s head: Yankees!

When my father was alive, I often asked him where his family was from. His response was usually “nowhere,” but sometimes he filled this void of information with a romantic genealogical fantasy: perhaps they were Huguenots banished from France? I now know that Dad was, in a way, correct when he said his family was from “nowhere.” It turns out that, unlike my mother’s family, his ancestors had arrived so far back that no one had talked about it for a very, very long time.

Click on image to expand it.

After countless hours of research done by Gary and Julie Helen Otto, I learned that the Buzzells descended from the English immigrants Michael Emerson (b. 1627, son of Thomas of Lincolnshire) and Capt. William Gerrish (b. 1617, son of John of Somerset), both of whom settled in New Hampshire. Dad and I also have a direct line to the (in)famous Indian captive Hannah Duston. It was nice to know that Dad had in fact been 100% English. My DNA results seemed to go along with this: 64% Great Britain/Ireland, 16% Eastern European, 11% Western European, 4% Scandinavia (those marauding Vikings!). The only mystery was 2% from the Iberian Peninsula. What was that about?

I soon got my answer. As Gary and Julie dug deeper, another even more interesting link in the Buzzell family began to emerge. My father’s great-grandfather Edmund Coffin Buzzell’s brother was named Gerrish Lowell Buzzell. The two were sons of George H. Thacher and Abigail (Emerson) Buzzell of York County, Maine. When Gerrish was born and named in Buxton, Maine, in 1834, his parents surely were showing their pride in the family’s Royal connection through William Gerrish’s marriage to Joanna Lowell, great-granddaughter of Edmund Percival. The line goes back to Edward I “Longshanks” of England (d. 1307) through his daughter with Eleanor of Castile, Elizabeth. Now I knew where my Iberian Peninsula 2% came from!

As Gary and Julie dug deeper, another even more interesting link in the Buzzell family began to emerge.

It was because of the name of a sibling of a direct ancestor of mine that Gary discovered this royal connection. As I continue to research my other lines, I now take the time to include a list of the names of each couple’s children (I choose to limit my tree to my direct line). If there are any other clues in my ancestor’s siblings’ names, I want to be sure to find them!

I think Dad would be proud to know that he is a direct descendant of a 6’2”-tall Plantagenet king who fought William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, although I’m not sure how my Scottish ancestors would feel about it. Maybe I should have the inscription “21x-great-grandson of Edward I of England” added to his gravestone so the fact doesn’t get lost again?

Sharon Inglis

About Sharon Inglis

In nearly 30 years in the educational publishing industry, Sharon developed and directed the production of French, Spanish, Italian, German, social studies, science, and math textbook programs for secondary school and higher education. She is very happy to be at NEHGS and applying her editorial and project management skills to Newbury Street Press publications, theMayflower Descendant journal, and whatever else comes her way!

28 thoughts on “The man from nowhere

  1. I share the link to Edward I (through his daughter Joan!). Also directed to this knowledge by Gary Boyd Roberts many years ago.

  2. Concerning Hannah Duston, famous Indian captive – a travel companion’s late husband turned out to be descended from her, making this companion my cousin-in-law. On a bus tour of Spain in Feb 2016 a lady noticed the tomahawk I wear on my lapel in honor of Hannah, who is my 6 great grandmother, and proceeded to tell me about her late husband’s ancestor, Hannah Duston! It’s a small world out there . . . .

  3. Thank you, I found this very interesting. I have worked on my own personal Genealogy for over 60 years and found some very interesting results along the way. I have also discovered that many family tales carried down through the years were nothing but fables or myths. I do a great deal of research work for others connecting/proving them to an Ancestor for their own membership into a Lineage Organization.

    1. I wondered about that too. My great-great-grandmother was born in Los Angeles in 1843, a descendant of early immigrants from Mexico, and I got less than 1% Iberian Peninsula! Also no Native American, though my half sister, first cousins, first-cousin once removed, and second cousin (all descendants of the same woman) all have quantifiable NA genes.

  4. Thank you for this interesting article. I am also wondering where my 9% Iberian DNA comes from, as I know of no Iberian ancestors. All of my known ancestors are from Britain, Ireland, Germany, and The Netherlands. BTW, we are distant cousins. Thomas Emerson of Lincolnshire is my 9th great grandfather. I am descended from his son, Robert Emerson.

    1. Hi, Margaret — Re the Iberian 9%, don’t forget the travels of the Spanish Navy and the intermarriages of royalty! Your DNA is truly fascinating, Thanks for sharing!
      Betsy

      1. Thanks! I was also thinking that perhaps the Iberian DNA was introduced when Carlos V ruled parts of The Netherlands. Another idea was from trade – the Dutch East India Company, or the importing of port from Portugal, sherry from Spain, canary wine from the Canary Islands, Madeira from Madeira, etc. Maybe the Dutch, English, or German sea captain saw a pretty senorita who captivated him.

  5. Regarding your “Iberian” ancestry, I doubt that it is Queen Eleanor’s DNA that your autosomal DNA has detected — after so many centuries, extremely little if any of her DNA would likely have been handed on. Most likely your 2% Iberian comes from a 100% “Iberian” who lived over two centuries ago but within the past four or five centuries. The “Iberian” genetic designation, however, doesn’t just include the peoples of the Iberian peninsula, because over the past two or three millennia migration has spread the genes of Iberians into Western France, Southern England, Wales, and Southern Ireland. In my wife’s case, her “Iberian” genes apparently came from her Still and Axworthy ancestors from Dorset and Devon who came to Illinois in 1851. Given your dad’s English origin, my own guess is that your “Iberian” more likely than not comes from a similar Southern English (anciently Celtic) ancestry.

  6. All of your New Hampshire and Maine ancestors are certainly familiar to me: Buzzell, Waldron, Emerson, Gerrish, Leighton, Swain, and especially DREW. With many other researchers, I have been trying to sort all of them out for years, and there are still so many unknowns.

    As your tree indicates, Zebulon Drew’s wife’s maiden name has not been proven. Some researchers suggest Sarah Swain, some suggest Sarah Chandler. My bias is for Chandler because Zebulon’s son, Jonathan Drew named a son Chandler Drew. Wonder if we will ever know?

    Meanwhile, I am Still working on children and grandchildren of Clement Drew (first cousin of Zebulon) and his wife Mary Bunker. We can so far only presume that the Drew’s came from Devonshire, England, in the probable family of William Drew who died in 1669 at the Isle of Shoals off the coast near Portsmouth, NH.

    1. The names Gerrish, Emerson, Buzzell, Leighton, Reed, and Waldron also appear on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, with some frequency.

  7. Re: Iberian dna…I hve wondered about miscellaneous Mediterranean dna bits in basically British lines..could those Roman soldiers beought to the British Isles from all over the Empire have contributed, or is that too far removed? My own dna test was 89% Brit, 6% Scandinavian, and that other little bit Mediterranean.

Leave a Reply