by Connie S. Hall
I traveled to a land far away to visit the homeland of my heroes, to walk in their footsteps and see the things they left behind. This new experience will help me as I write their stories. Many of my ancestors left England searching for religious freedom.
Walking down the same paths they left behind did give me a new perspective. There is nothing as good as seeing the scenes with my own eyes. I was grateful for the few days we left the normal touring road and went in search of the small villages where my ancestors were born. Most of the older thatched roof homes were gone, but the churches where they were christened still stood solid. We found the church and graveyard in Henlow where one of my Mayflower Pilgrim ancestors Henry Sampson left as a young lad in the early 1600’s.
My most treasured morning was the one spent in Tisbury at the St. John church where my great- great grandfather Thomas Mayhew of Martha’s Vineyard was christened as a baby in 1593. We were blessed to have the parson approach us and inquire why we were there. He assured us that the church we were looking at did indeed date back to the 1500’s. After visiting for several minutes outside he invited us in saying, “I have something inside I would like to show you.”
Once inside he proceeded to a narrow door, which he opened. He had us look up a worn stone staircase. “The priest use to climb these stairs every night to the tower to spend the night,” he told us.
The doorway was tiny, not as wide or tall as those built today. The steps were solid stone and extended up to a room above. The center of the steps was worn down almost to the step below while the outside of the steps were as firm and tall as the day they were built. He showed us the oldest sections of the church and then excused himself to go about his business telling us, “Take all the pictures you would like.”
We visited other sites where our ancestors had a large part in the history of England such as Raby Castle, Bernard Castle, Warwick Castle, Chepstow Castle (in Wales), Wentworth Manor House, and the Tower of London. Going from village to village, we found the old churches in Scrooby, Grantham, St. Faith, Horstead, Caltishall, Wroxham, Sailhouse, Arsley, Wymondham, Dinton, Woodbastwick, and Attleborough.
This trip gave me a great appreciation for those who came before me as I walked in their footsteps. Unlike my ancestors, I arrived in America to a husband waiting to take me back to my home while they had no home or family to greet them. Because of my ancestors, I am blessed to live in this great land America.