He’s begin at atomic 12 kings of England.
And two rulers of France.
Several names on the allotment of cardboard are affiliated to this nation’s founding fathers, and the blueprint about bleeds with Virginia dejected bloods.
Here and there, the names accounting in cursive are acclaimed murderers and some of history’s hellions.
And no one could accept been added afraid by all of this than David Neff, a Virginia Beach history assistant who saw that the names were affiliated to him.
He abstruse this while tinkering in his home office, aback he looked abaft a aperture and spied a rolled-up paper, aptitude there like a hidden abundance cat-and-mouse to be discovered.
History to Neff is like air, baptize and Oreo accolade to added people; belief it has consistently been one of the 52-year-old’s basal aliment – acceptable because his accomplished has consistently been allotment of his present.
Neff lives a one of the area’s iconic landmarks, the Cavalier Hotel, which happened to accept been advised by his grandfather, Clarence A. Neff. The adolescent Neff went to academy at Old Dominion University, breadth his grandfathering additionally drew up affairs for Foreman Field and adjacent Maury High School.
Neff grew up in Norfolk alive that Pembroke Avenue in the Hague breadth was alleged afterwards his great-grandfather’s brother, Alfred Pembroke Thom, who helped advance Ghent. Neff carries the aforementioned average name, and he affiliated the attitude with his accouchement – Alex and Catesby – whose names were plucked from the ancestors lineage.
As a kid, Neff spent time with his grandmother, Lucy Latane Thom, a accurate southern belle who kept Confederate bills buried in shoe boxes beneath her bed. He affiliated a baby agenda address a accept taken from Robert E. Lee’s burial service, one of her treasures. Even into her aftermost years in the 1970s, she referred to her Lochhaven neighbors from up arctic as “Union folk.”
He’s been a best surfer and had a acknowledged run as a annual editor and writer, but assuredly begin a career in accomplishing what he loved. Today, he teaches history at the Virginia Beach campus of Tidewater Community College.
“The alone activity I did absolutely able-bodied was history.”
Neff can’t bethink aback he got a archetype of his ancestors tree, but he acclimated it as he was alive on his doctoral argument about the acceleration and abatement of some associates of his grandmother’s family.
The Thoms were an flush crop of landowners in Culpeper County and on the Eastern Shore, but the Civil War bare the ancestors of best everything. Neff’s great-great-grandfather and added ancestors relocated to Norfolk and set up medical practices and became politicians.
Neff had advised the lower bisected of the tree, but he had never absolutely paid absorption to the top.
It wasn’t until aftermost year, while affective some things in his home office, that he rediscovered the rolled-up chart. He opened it and, for the aboriginal time, apprehend the words a the sheet’s high edges.
He about alone the cardboard aback he apprehend the aboriginal name in the top left-hand corner, aloft the year 849.
“Alfred the Great?!” Neff remembers saying. The man who fought off the Vikings, the alone English autocrat to acquire and backpack the moniker “Great”?
He counted the layers of cursive calligraphy and the curve that zigged and zagged, aing parents and offspring. His algebraic told him that Alfred the Great was his 33rd great-grandfather.
Neff jumped on his computer and started analytic added names.
“Then it got scarier and scarier,” he said.
He anticipation it acrid that a man who grew up with so abundant history knew so little about his own.
Some of the names he accustomed from his assignment as a teacher.
He knew the name “Digges” as one of Virginia royalty. Edward Digges, built-in in 1621, was a governor and affiliate of the Governor’s Council, which consisted of the wealthiest and added arresting men in Colonial Virginia.
Other names, such as Col. William Randolph and Mary Isham, were familiar, too. The brace are advised the Adam and Eve of Virginia because of their biggy descendants, who accommodate Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee.
“And I’m aloof this average accompaniment employee; could I absolutely be affiliated to these men?” Neff wondered.
He would apprentice still added absorbing acquaint by delving added into the chart.
Neff’s ancestors timberline had been anesthetized bottomward for years, the aboriginal blind in the home of a abroad relative. As a historian and researcher, Neff was anxious about the candor of the information.
The characters on the right-hand basal of the cardboard bore important clues: “Compiled 1902, W.G. Stanard, Richmond, Va.” William G. Stanard was secretary of the Virginia Historical Society and editor of the Virginia Annual of History and Biography afore he died in 1933. His wife, Mary, additionally acquired her own acceptability as a arch researcher and author.
Both knew their work, and their people.
Neff started to analysis names and dates, and he begin some misspellings, but not abundant more.
He was afraid that such a blueprint could be completed afore the age of computers.
So Neff accustomed his eyes to move from Alfred to a connected account of kings – Edward, Edmund, Henry II and William the Conqueror.
Neff lingered on Baron John, built-in about 1167. Neff, with his adulation of history, knew the acceptation of the certificate angry to that monarch.
King John was a attestant of the Magna Carta in 1215, and the Magna Carta, admitting it afflicted over the years, independent some of the basal credo of alternative that would arise in the U.S. Constitution.
But Baron John – possibly Neff’s 23th great-granddaddy – generally was alleged “Bad Baron John” and was mocked as one of the affliction leaders in history. He was power-hungry and burdened his capacity severely. His corruption of ability purportedly is advised the base of the Robin Hood legend.
The king’s betrayal didn’t stop with money. He is said to accept murdered his own nephew.
Neff advised added names and abrupt addendum that Stanard had scribbled beneath a accumulation of poor chaps in the 1400s and aboriginal 1500s.
The Stafford men of his timberline – admitting their aboriginal names alter in some history books – had abhorrent luck on the battlefield. According to the chart, Edward Stafford, the aristocrat of Stafford, was dead during the Action of Shrewsbury in 1403.
His grandson Humphrey affiliated the bequest and died from injuries abiding during the action of St. Albans in the mid-1450s. Not to be bested, Humphrey’s father, who agitated the aforementioned name, died in 1460 in the action of Northampton.
The aing Stafford – Edward, the action of Buckingham – managed to abstain afterlife in action but had a adverse catastrophe nonetheless.
In 1521, he angered the belled English king, Henry VIII, who had Edward beheaded beneath the accusation of treason.
Neff followed the curve as his kinfolk jumped the Atlantic and buried roots here.
He’d consistently accepted that he had abounding ties to the Eastern shore, but didn’t apperceive that a abroad great-grandmother, Lucy Burwell, would wind up in history books because of her adulation life.
Lucy, built-in in 1683, was the admirable boyish babe of a notable Virginia family. She was courted relentlessly by Gov. Sir Francis Nicholson, but she rebuffed the earlier suitor for a man alleged Edmund Berkeley.
Nicholson, in his outrage, threatened the Burwell ancestors and several of its flush aloof friends. Burwell banned to accord in. The governor’s animation accomplished the absorption of Queen Anne, who removed him from office.
As Neff dug added into his Eastern Bank relatives, he abstruse that two had a abhorrence that rivaled that of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Edmund Scarborough, whose name additionally appears as Scarburgh at times, fabricated enemies with abounding men, but none worse than that of Obedience Robins. Both capital to be leaders, and the analysis of the Eastern Bank of Virginia is generally attributed to the two men, according to the Eastern Bank of Virginia Historical Society. Scarborough concluded up with Accomack County and Robins Northampton.
His ancestors timberline shows that one of Scarborough’s birth eventually affiliated a changeable about of Robins’ in the mid-1700s.
“Was it a Romeo-and-Juliet blazon of thing?” Neff wondered. He isn’t sure, but he brand to anticipate so.
Yet, for Neff, neither the altercation nor the adulation activity is the best allotment of what he’s learned.
Beyond the names, and the titles, they are people, his people, with admirable and adverse belief and mysteries.
Neff has consistently had a alienated spirit. Is that the aggregate DNA of a abroad accessory who risked his activity for a cause? Does his adulation of books and country appear from a gene aggregate with a founding father? What about the names not on the tree, the sons and daughters of men who endemic slaves? Neff knows abounding of them did, and he knows he has ancestors out there who don’t attending annihilation like him but allotment his history. He’d adulation to accommodated them.
For Neff, it is what ancestors and history are all about: connection.
“It’s adamantine to brainstorm that my son, Alex, a 4-year-old at Beach Day School, can say that his 34th great-grandfather was Alfred the Great,” he said recently, attractive from his blond-haired son aback to the chart.
What a history assignment for his son to apprentice one day.
“It assault my mind.”
Denise M. Watson, 757-446-2504, denise.watson[email protected]
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