English Roots

Welcome to English Roots, most families in the United States who are able to trace their roots back into the colonies during the 1600's will find they have roots in England. The first immigrants --- the ones who stepped off the Mayflower in 1620 and thereafter --- were overwhelmingly English. Most Americans --- 82 percent, in fact, can trace at least one line to English ancestors. The first of five million English immigrants to America arrived in Jamestown in 1607, adventures and artisans sent by the London Company for the purpose of colonizing. They managed to gain a foothold on the swampy Virginia land. Surviving starvation, Indian troubles, and personal squabbles, they unknowingly set the stage for future disaster by buying the first black slaves, twenty persons from a Dutch trader in 1619.

In 1620 an even more famous group landed to the north at Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims, who were separatists from the Church of England. Barely half the company of 100 survived the rigorous first winter, but during the next thirty years about 20,000 English immigrants arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which gradually overflowed into what was to become Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

One group of English immigrants came involuntarily, in chains. From 1717 to 1775, 50,000 English convicts quite naturally chose deportation to the colonies for seven years rather than hang. Don't judge these convicts harshly, in those days the penalties for crimes were very hard. 150 crimes were considered capital offenses, including stealing a sheep, cutting down trees in avenues, sending threatening letters, or merely standing mute in front of one's "betters". The convicts were not unwelcome in America. Southern planters were eager to pay 10 pounds to acquire their services, and many achieved positions of responsibility. George Washington, for instance, was taught by a convict servant his father bought for a schoolmaster. For many, what was intended as punishment turned out to be their good fortune, and many a person transported as a felon became rich.

Another group of English people who arrived in this country before the Revolutionary War were indentured "bond" servants. Many respectable but destitute people actually sold themselves into temporary slavery to reach this country. In fact, half of all English who emigrated came under a labor contract called an "indenture". This was an agreement, in exchange for passage to America, to work as a servant for a number of years (usually four). Upon arrival in America they were auctioned off by the ship's captain to the highest bidder.

In 1780's, a group of English emigrated from the newly created United States. Americans loyal to the English King fled in numbers estimated to be as high as 100,000. Since families were split, with son against father and brother against brother, many descendants of Loyalists, as they were called, still live in America. If it is possible your ancestors were Loyalists, look for them in records of England, Canada and Nova Scotia.

Research in England has it's advantages, the language is familiar and records are plentiful. It is helpful to have a basic understanding of the lay out England and it's counties. I've found a rather nice map (it's large) of Great Britain. It is divided up by counties. If you wish to view it please click on the link below.

Map of Great Britain

If not I have a smaller map with less detail, see below:

Regions of Britain

If you want to find out more about England, and perhaps answer those questions such as "what is the difference between a shire and a county?, or what is meant by a hundred or a poor law union?" I suggested that you check out the following page for everything you wanted to know about British Counties, Parishes and etc... but were afraid to ask. British Counties and Parishes

Also be sure to check out the US GenWeb England site, from it you can jump to pages for most of the counties in England and find tons of other information.

US GenWeb England

Our English Roots

In my husbands family of ancestors there are many names of English origin. One of these lines goes back into the middle ages, which are defined as the years between the fall of the Roman empire in the West in 476 and the onset of the Renaissance in Italy about 1500. .


Delaplaine Ridgeway is my husband Tony's 5th great-grandfather. Delaplaine is the 2nd great-grandson of Richard Ridgway and Elizabeth Chamberlain. According to the "Book of Arrivals" for Bucks County, Pennsylvania Richard Ridgway and Elizabeth Chamberlain, his wife, of Welford in the County of Berkshire, England, Taylor (tailor), arrived in the Delaware River in the ship, Jacob and Mary, from London on the 12th day 7th month 1679, with their son, Thomas.

The Jacob and Mary probably landed its passengers near Burlington, a few miles below below the falls in the river. Richard's first home was on 218 acres at the Delaware River Falls on the Pennsylvania shore just opposite the east end of Biles Island. (See Jasper Dankers' 1679 map). He sold the land to Daniel Gardner and John Luff, Jan 2, 1681, moving to a new tract about two miles upstream, in or near what is Morrisville, opposite modern-day Trenton. The locality of these two homesites was then know as Crewcorne (variously spelled), named by William Penn whose estate was ajoining.

Richard Ridgway's father was Robert, the fourth son and youngest child of the second Earl of Londonderry. He was baptized, August 24, 1631, at Torre Church, County Devon, and as the fourth son and youngest child of an English noble family, his position was of comparatively small consequence. Little of him is known except that he was married during the Protectorate, about the year 1653. He had only one son, Richard.

A quotation from the Ridgway Family Manuscript by James Ridgway:

The period of time between the baptism of Robert Ridgway, 24th August, 1631, and the arrival in the Delaware River of his son Richard, 12th September, 1679 - forty-eight years -- is veiled in obscurity. Several thing contributed towards that condition. In the first place, Robert was the fourth and youngest, therefore the most unimportant son of Robert, the second Earl of Londonderry, who died in 1649, before this son was nine years old; his eldest brother Weston, succeeding to to the Earldom, when twenty years of age.

Robert married, probably about 1652 and Richard was born about 1653, in which year, 1653 Robert's brother Weston, then thirty-three years old, and three years married, sold the famous family home of Torr Abbey--for reasons which historians regard as most unaccountable--and died in the year 1670, when his son Robert became the fourth Earl of Londonderry. The period in question was one of great commotion and trouble in England. This Robert was thirteen years of age when the people had been preparing for the great uprising, and the storm broke out into Revolution and open war and the battle of Marston was fought. He was aged fourteen at Maseby, and was married when Cromwell had been in full control of the government for three years after the death of King. Roberts son Richard, the emigrant, was only about five years old when Cromwell died; and was married when Charles II had been on the throne about fifteen years.

The feeling of forthcoming trouble and insecurity was coincident, in its inception, with the birth of Robert Ridgway, in 1631. Already had the tide of emigration to the New World set in. Cromwell, then thirty-two years of age, with John Hampden, Pym and others had comtemplated going thither, but were prevented by the government. Sir Henry Lawrence, Lord Robert Brooke and Lord Say and Seal, with their associates, who had obtained a tract of land on the Connecticut River, sent out, in 1638, John Winthrop, Jnr., who had been commissioned by them to be their Governor for the Colony of Conecticut.

The same causes which led to that movement, continued to pervail, and increased in energy as the years rolled on, until Robert Ridgway's son Richard, in 1679, joined in the Quaker exodus from England. At that time, Richard's father, if living was forty-eight years old. Born at Torquay, in Devonshire, the family home having been sold in 1653, he may have lost his life during the struggle. Alexander Ridgway (in 1884) accounted for Richard Ridgway coming from Berks County, on the theory that his father may have been in the Parliamentary Army and the army having been disbanded in the west of England in 1660, when Robert Ridgway was twenty-nine, and his son Richard about seven years old, would probably account for that branch of the family being settled in that part of the country possibly instead of returning to Devonshire. Richard, having married Elizabeth Chamerlyn, about 1675, at Marlborough in Wiltshire, he with her and their only child Thomas, left Welford, in Berkshire, and took passage on board the ship "Jacob and Mary" of London, in the summer of the year 1679.

The Ridgway surname extends back for many years, into the 1200's, when William Geun Rydeway, became the first of the family to assume the surname Rydeware. This is according to William Dugdale in his "History of Staffordshire, England". William Geun Rydeway made his manor in Staffordshire, his principle place of residence. From William the Ridgway line extends back thru the following individuals.

Asser Geun
Atsor who married the natural daughter of William the Conqueror
Algar III married Aelgifu Mallet
Leofric III married Godiva of Coventry
Leofwine married Alward of East Anglia grandaugther of Athelstan King of England
Leofric II
Algar II
Algar I
Leoric I Born abt 680 A.D.

The Ridgway line according to the Compendium of American Genealogy, can be traced back to King William I of England (1066-1087); Hugh Capet who was King of France from 987-996; Hugh Magnus of Vermandois who was a crusader to the Holy Land; Charlemagne who lived 742 to 814 and was King of the Franks (France) from 768 to 814 and later became King Charles I (Charles the Great) emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 800 to 814; and to Alfred the Great. The relationship to these individuals is through the maternal blood lines, all of them our grandmothers who married Ridway men. Because the Compendium of American Genealogy is a well known and greatly respected collection of genealogical data not given to frivolous,or un-verifiable facts, and is generally accepted as an accurate source of material.

The Ridgway line has many famous descendants, among whom are found Heber J. Grant, the seventh President of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints and Matthew B. Ridgeway General of the Army during Korea.

Working on these English lines has been very rewarding. I've made contacts with many "cousins and helped to further interest in our family roots. Also along the way I've learned much much more about the history of the colonies and England than I ever remember learning in school. If you think you might be connected to these lines please contact me, I'd love to hear from you. To send me an email click on my name below.

Copyright © 1997 by Lisa Baker - All rights reserved.

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