Genealogy in Jamestown: Living Our Family History

Replica of the Susan Constant at the Jamestown Settlement

Replica of the Susan Constant at the Jamestown Settlement, one of the three ships that first came to Jamestown.

One of the best things about doing genealogy in Virginia is the opportunity to go and live history. I can go into my back yard, dig a hole, run my hands through the red clay and know that 150 years ago Civil War soldiers were here fighting the Battle of the Wilderness.  I love the fact that I can enrich my boys’ lives with educational outings so that they can live, see, feel, and experience what they learn in the classroom about our early-American ancestors.

This summer, I signed each of my sons up for a history-based summer camp in the Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown) called the Broadside Camp.  They spent a few days at the Yorktown Victory Center and then the Jamestown Settlement learning about the colonists and their history.  For my boys, this exciting experience is comparable to my childhood dream of going to space camp.

My eldest is thrilled by his three days at Jamestown.  His age group always does a mini-performance for the parents, and this year it is a scene from The Tempest, by William Shakespeare.  The Tempest is supposedly based on the real shipwreck of colonists that were heading to Jamestown.  Interestingly, from what I have found, my husband is a descendant of one of these families.  My son has already talked the ears off of his camp teachers, explaining to them our family genealogy.

Stephen Hopkins  and his son Giles set sail to Jamestown in 1609 on the Sea Venture.  It shipwrecked in Bermuda, where they were stranded for 10 months.  Stephen and several of the other passengers organized a mutiny against the governor to try to force him to leave the island.  When their plans were discovered, Stephen was sentenced to death.  Fortunately, his sentence was not carried out and, after building a new boat, the colonists continued on to Virginia.  Though the Hopkins family soon returned to England, it is thought that Stephen had every intention of coming back to Virginia.  His return was made on the Mayflower.  Yes, his family is considered a founding family of Virginia, and he is a Mayflower Compact signatory.

I took the picture for this post at the Jamestown Settlement.  The photo shows a replica of the Susan Constant, one of the three ships that first came to Jamestown.  This ship was one-third the size of the Sea Venture, which – I have to admit – would have been a much roomier ship to sail on.

My research led me to determine my husband’s line is most likely:

Stephen Hopkins (Mayflower and Jamestown)

Giles Hopkins (Mayflower and Jamestown)

Mary Hopkins

Mary Smith

Mary Hamilton

Elizabeth Mayo

Slatheil Nickerson

Polly Nickerson

James Cunningham

Eliza Cunningham

Charles Greely

Frances Maude Greeley

Elise Crabb

His mom

My Husband

I have been considering submitting it to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants to see if I am correct. For now it makes a great story, and traipsing around Jamestown was the first time since I began doing genealogy that we have been able to visit a place where our immigrant ancestors may have once lived. Unfortunately, I couldn’t point out the exact places they would have been, but at least the theoretical answers were well accepted.



One thought on “Genealogy in Jamestown: Living Our Family History

  1. I have done more reading and would like to correct a statement. In an article I read on line, it stated that he came with his son Giles to Virginia. Further study has me wondering where they found that information as I can only find records of Stephen coming over alone on that ship.

    The more I read, the more fascinated I am by this man. He was an interesting person to say the least. I have a new book about the Sea Venture to read.

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