Mango, Florida, 2016 – As mentioned elsewhere, I am a 13th-generation American of Anglo-Celtic-Norman-Greek ethnic heritage. I have much gratitude for the efforts of my cousin, Bob Aswell, who uncovered a wealth of ancestral information and shared it with me and my cousin Lannis who shed light on my mother’s side of the family. I am also grateful to my sister Lisa, who has devoted much effort to understanding the lives of our later ancestors, and who introduced me to Bob, my sister, Denise, who kept records that helped immensely with some later family history, and my father, Dennis (Mac), who drove me and my sisters around Tennessee and Alabama to show us the places our family helped form. Much credit goes to my wife, Berni, and my daughter Heather for their encouragement, transcription, and proof-reading in this effort. Lastly, I am thankful to my mother, whose efforts to compile our family history before the age of computers, was an inspiration to me.
Four Centuries of American Heritage
My most recent known immigrant ancestor is my 4th-great grandfather, James Wilson. James was born in 1740 at Benholm, Kincardineshire, Scotland, and built a life in Effingham County, Georgia, until his death in 1825.
My earliest known immigrant ancestors are:
Edward Ketcham, who was born in 1590 in Kent England and immigrated to the the Massachusetts Bay Colony some time between 1630-37 and Ann Poole Street (married to Nicholas Street) who was born in 1589.
Other notable immigrant ancestors are:
- Nicholas Street, who was born in 1603 in Somerset, England. He immigrated to Taunton, Plymouth Colony, arriving around 1635 as part of the Great Puritan Migration and became the second Reverend of the in New Haven Colony where he settled.
- Robert Campbell (b: 1673 in Colleraine, Ireland, m. Janet Stuart), who immigrated in the late 1600s to Connecticut Colony, a descendant of King Robert I (de Bruce) of Scotland.
- William Polk (b: 1664 in Donegal, Ireland, m. Nancy Knox), who immigrated in the late 1600s to Somerset, Plymouth Colony, also a descendant of King Robert I (de Bruce) of Scotland.
I should put to rest a family legend that My 4th-great-grandfather, James Wilson, was one of the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A fellow of the same name did sign the Declaration but, alas, this is a common name. My 4th-great-grandfather, Captain James Wilson, of Effingham, Georgia, was involved in the American Revolution as an officer in the Continental Army but he isn’t the guy seated at a table to the far-left of the back of the two-dollar bill.
As of this writing, I am aware of 37 immigrant ancestors and, presumably, 548 native-born American ancestors over a period of 426 years. My sister, Denise, kindly had DNA testing done for me that revealed my maternal and paternal haplotypes and provided corresponding geographic heatmaps which show the ancient migratory paths of our distant ancestors along with modern concentrations of people with these genetic markers:
Maternal Haplotype Heatmap | Paternal Haplotype Heatmap
One benefit of all of this research is the discovery of ancestors of noble and royal heritage. Though this heritage is common to most people, it remains undiscovered for those who have little interest in ancestral heritage. I mention this to emphasize the fact that there is nothing special about it, although the discovery of such opened many doors to the rich European history of some of my ancestors. When looking back several hundred years, the history of our peasant ancestors, rich though it may be, was rarely recorded and was usually lost due to their abject poverty. The nobles and royals were able to record and preserve many of their stories. When we find them in our ancestry we often find much more than simple birth, marriage, and death records. It is also a bit of fun to discover connections to these historical figures beyond the dry pages of history books. These connections have stoked my personal interest in European history, both in Europe and the Americas. Since much of that history involved enslaved people taken from Africa, and an apparent majority of people who claim my surname are Americans of African heritage, my history is also an African history though I cannot claim it as an ancestral home. The African heritage of the McClendons will be explored in its own section of this writing.
Two principal features of noble and royal Europeans are that they usually married within their social strata and the history of their lives has been preserved. This means that finding one noble or royal ancestor usually opens the doors to more such findings!
My most surprising discovery happened when I was randomly searching through pedigree charts on RootsWeb. I was simply looking for lines that went way back to see if there were any particularly old ones. I found a few. Many of these old pedigree charts suffer a dearth of specifics regarding the individuals listed and I was accustomed to this. Then I came across an old line reaching back into Scotland that ended with a fellow whose birthday was listed as July 11, 1274. Such specificity being unusual for a record of that age, I guessed that this must have been a person of some importance. I did what anyone with little to no knowledge of Scottish history would do… I Googled the name, “Robert de Bruce”, a Norman-sounding name. Of course, this revealed Robert de Bruce as the champion of the Scottish Wars of Independence who became Robert I, King of Scots! This also confirmed an oral family history of such descent that resulted in men along my Campbell family pedigree who were named Robert Bruce Campbell.
As previously mentiond, this piqued my interest in both my ancestry and the history of the times and places in which they lived! I discovered a wonderful trilogy titled, “The Rebel King“, by Charles and Carolyn Bruce. The books are historically accurate and use fictional prose to fill in the gaps and fill out the interpersonal relationships in a way that is consistent with the history.
I researched the many connections linking de Bruce to various noble and royal families. This quickly became far too cumbersome to navigate via regular descendancy charts, so I made a 1-page quick-reference to help myself and my family members determine the connections.
Dennis McClendon XIV
Oral histories and family legend are often based on loose connections to historical facts and are many times embellished through the generations. It is am amazing stroke of fortune to be able to access so much information in the early 21st century to put to rest and even confirm these stories of old.
A curious legend passed along in my family oral history is the idea that my name, Dennis McClendon, would be designated the 14th, or “XIV”. This was a complete mystery to me until my Cousin, Bob Aswell, shed light on the details through his genealogical research of our family. Before that, I only knew of four ancestors with my name that I could be descended from with any certainty. My mother, Vivian, had uncovered information about an immigrant with the name, who showed up in the Carolina Provence in the late 1600s. He had a son by the same name and, considering the rarity of the name, I assumed a connection but could never verify it until Bob made his discovery.
I took it upon myself to identify as many historical Dennis McClendons as possible. This resulted in the compilation of a list of 3,721 people who were descended from this immigrant along with spouses of those descendants. I was able to determine that there are no other McClendon lines aside from this immigrant as the name originated with him concurrent with his immigration to this side of the Atlantic. In this process, I was also able to trace my name as it was handed down to sons and nephews over the years. By determining the ancestral and geographical proximity of so named parties I mapped a probable procession of the name which concludes with the “XIV” moniker assigned to me by legend.