Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bittersweet last day in London...

Today was our final day in London. I'm excited to explore a new place but sad to leave London as I really love it here. I love the big city feel, the accessibility of public transportation, the focus on green spaces, the respect for bikes and walking, the healthy food and the local emphasis. I love how a complete stranger will offer their seat on the tube and give it to you even when you decline. I love how a person on the street will hear you talking about what bus to take and immediately jump in to help. I want to live in a city where people value childhood and interaction. I want to live in a city with thriving culture and diversity. I want to live in a city where a stroll through a park will reveal five or more different languages being spoken around you.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't some idyllic city. There are things I didn't love. I didn't love having to pay for public bathrooms, although, I guess at least they had public bathrooms. It was weird not having available trashcans at every corner, although, there wasn't a huge amount of litter, so I guess it works for them. I'm struggling to find things not to love, in case that wasn't obvious.

On our final day, we started by walking down to the famous Portobello Road Market, touted as the world's largest antique market. It couldn't have been a more perfect day. The sun was shining. The air was warm. The crowds were packed, as promised.

Street performers were every couple of blocks, everything from rock to jazz. On one corner, a man played "traditional instrumental chinese music" (his words not mine). On another, a lone sax player belted out the latest hits. 

After the antiques, you happen upon the food carts and farm stands, packed with the delicious smell of sausages, rows and baskets of fluffy baked goods, and the most vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables.  

After the market, I split up from the rest of the family to head for the National Archives in Kew Gardens. I hopped a bus first, then a train for the 40 minute ride out. Once I arrived, it was as short walk and then a check in process to acquire a reader's card before I could request any documents. I had the names of past ancestors, the furthest back I could find ready to go so that I could delve into the research.

Prior to the trip, I had use to trace my lineage as far back as I could on both sides of my family.

This part of the trip has been dedicated to my father's side. For this part of the trip, the English part, I am exploring the lineage I discovered through my great-great grandmother Effie Goodwin Johnson, who although being born in the US, had family who immigrated to the US in the 1500s. I'm sure others do as well, but I ran out of leads to trace back that far. She was one of the few people I could actually find a point of entry into this country in her genealogy. So, Effie Godwin Johnson. Instead of trying to explain that point of entry, the tree may be better. So, Peter Godwin and Elizabeth Weeks are Effie's parents. You can take it from there.

Stephen Deacon Hart was born in Suffolk, England but died in Hartford, Connecticut. In my digging, I believe his name was actually Deacon Stephen Hart, who actually quite a bit has been written about, but nothing was available at the National Archives. There does appear to be a book written about him though by Alfred Andrews and is available for free online. I need to dig into it, I suppose.

Upclose of Founders' Wall. 
There is an updated webpage as well from Richard Hart that has maps and images from Farmington, the town where Deacon Stephen Hart lived. The page has a link to original Hart records as well. Apparently, he was one of the original 54 original settlers in what is now Cambridge (formerly Newtown), Massachusetts and was the founder/proprietor of Hartford, Connecticut. On another website, it states, "His name is found on the founders monument in the Center Church burial ground in Hartford. It is said Hartford derives its name from a crossing of the Connecticut river he discovered, known as Hart's Ford. However, another explanation is that Hartford was named after the English town of Hertford. Stephen served as a soldier in the Pequot Indian War in 1637 for which he was later granted a lot in Soldier's Field, in Hartford."

I found this image on the internet of his name on the founders' wall for Connecticut.

Full Founders' Wall

I couldn't find anything about his parents though, here in England. Most likely, I would need to travel to their places of birth and explore the records there. I was able to find a little, just a little about his wife Elizabeth Symons, who is apparently his second wife. I was also able to find some info about his grandson, William Henry Hart as well, that may be worth looking into further.

Another website with info about Hart. Really just putting this here for myself later.

It doesn't seem to matter who I search in the Mary Hart line, nothing comes up via the National Archives. Deacon Stephen Hart married Elizabeth Symons, whose mother was Ann Farmington and she was maybe married to someone named "Symon Symons" or it is just listed as such because they couldn't find his real first name. On a side note, is Ann's last name where the name came from for Farmington, Connecticut, as Hart was one of the proprietors of this town as well. A total guess, by the way. Could be nothing.

My father told me a story about the Benson's, who lived in Johnston County, NC. The brothers were William Henry, Ashley and "Doc", and apparently William broke one of the others out of prison, who was there for killing his wife and lover. Now, the family legend says there is a family castle in England. I can't find any evidence of that either. William Benson was born and died in the states. I don't have any current leads on his family or when they came to the US. There is town named Benson near Oxford, so maybe when I'm at the Ashmolean Museum, I'll see if anything besides what is on the webpage comes up. There are plenty of William Bensons in England, but that would be assuming the William Benson in my family line had a father of the same name.

I left the National Archives a bit bummed that nothing came up, but alas, this is research. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you leave empty handed. The search continues!

After the train ride back to London, I decided to snag a bike share and make my way to meet the family at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design with over 4.5 million objects. Holy crud. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. We couldn't even begin to see all of it. We walked around aimlessly and below are some of my favorites.

Seated Buddha

Cybele by Rodin

Rotunda Chandelier by Chihuly

Near the end of the day, and about 30 minutes before the V&A closed, we headed out to the courtyard so the kids could splash around. The view as amazing and the weather had held out for the day.

We could see that the clouds were starting to roll in, so we decided to roll out in hopes of taking cover, if in fact the rain did come, in a restaurant for a bite to eat. Instead what happened is after about 20 minutes of aimlessly walking around the neighborhood, the rain started and was relentless. Unprepared, again, we decided we had better walk home and change. None of us had escaped the downpour.

A quick break and change of clothes, then we headed out the door for Covent Garden where we would finally try a Cornish pasty, these delicious meat, cheese and/or potato filled pies. They were well worth the hustle. We spent the rest of the night walking around Covent Garden admiring the street performers, then for a sunset view of the Thames and London Eye before heading home to prepare for tomorrow's departure. It was an amazing last day...

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