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Besides our direct ancestors, we honor and seek to remember other courageous near-kinfolk who likewise turned their backs on the comforts and familiarity of the Old World and came to Middlesex County to prepare a newly-ordered place for us. Or, for that matter, whose stories I find otherwise instructive, moving, or entertaining. My Book of Uncles dips into one sub-category of these, but here are a few more who brought additional distinguished family surnames to our heritage and who particularly deserve that we remember them with gratitude:
  • Grandpa Thomas Hooker would soon lead a major exodus from Cambridge via Watertown to the Connecticut Valley to found Hartford and the Connecticut Colony, leaving his son-in-law our 8-greats-uncle Thomas Shepard to be the Towne’s first settled minister and a celebrated founder of Harvard College. Much of our family in the New Towne area joined this secondary migration.

  • We used to claim Captain Robert “The Pioneer” Seely as a ninth great-grandfather. His name does appear on the Founders’ Monument in Watertown, with those of several well-documented ancestors. My Mammy’s a Seely, after all. But we were wrong. ’Twas an easy mistake, inasmuch as our 8GGF Obadiah Seely (1614-1657) may have immigrated with him, lived in his household, and/or inherited from him. Or maybe not: the records are fuzzy, and I can’t claim to have consulted or remembered them all. Unless we’re still mistaken, though, Grandpa Obadiah, who does belong to us, was only about ten years younger than Captain Robert, and the kinship is unclear. Current scholarship has Obadiah taking up residence in Stamford, Connecticut 25 August 1637; so, if he ever lived in Middlesex County, we can’t prove it.

  • Matthew Bridge, who married our cousin (1C10R) Abigail Russell, was surely a distinguished Middlesex pioneer, even if several decades too young to fit comfortably with all these 17th-century kinfolk. Their beautiful stone in the old Lexington burial ground extends him pioneer status by noting that “HE WAS THE FIRST OF THE LINE BORN IN AMERICA, AND FROM HIM THE FAMILY HAVE ALL DESCENDED.” Not to mention their (also beautiful) portraits, still displayed in the Buckman Tavern on Lexington Green. Cousin Matthew and the Reverend John Hancock, even more distantly related to us (his brother Nathaniel married Cousin Abigail’s sister 1C10R Prudence Russell), are properly credited as the founders of our Treasure City, Lexington. Which was settled decades earlier, of course, by nearer kin of ours.

  • The other John Hancock, the one you’ve heard of, the The other Reverend John’s grandson with the beautiful signature and the monumental ego, was indeed a cousin of ours by marriage. We owe him a lot for his financial support of our Revolution (even though he did it with his Aunt Hancock’s money), and so perhaps it behooves us to forgive him the episodes in which his spectacular and un-Republican pride nearly cost us the game. His trunk in the Buckman Tavern, for example, or the breakfast fish he insisted on finishing in the parsonage before fleeing to Billerica for safety. Or his insistence that he, not Washington, should be in charge of the Continental Army.
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