From the Fortress of Solitude
I'm hoping this post finds you all sugared up from your Easter celebrations. Things are quiet at the Fortress, leaving me a few hours of quality time to continue the search for our family's history.
I started my historical wanderings this morning with Selina Dandridge Jeffries, mother to our common ancestor George Matthew Williamson. I'm sad to say that after an hour or two I have nothing to report. Selina's ancestry remains a mystery, except for a few clues. From her name I know that her mother was probably a Dandridge, yet I can find no records of a Jeffries marrying a Dandridge in Virginia at the time her parents would have wed. What is more interesting is that George Washington's wife (Martha Washington) was a Virginia Dandridge. There may be a link then to the founder of our nation, if I can only find Selina's parents.
I gave the up search on the Jeffries line and jumped over to Matthew Williamson, father of George Matthew. You'll notice a "?" by the name of his parents on the family tree. That means I'm almost certain he ties into the Cuthbert Williamson family line - but don't have absolute proof. That being said, I decided to explore further up this Williamson line and have discovered some interesting things and people.
In our digital family gathering this Easter we shall learn about our Great Uncle, Sir Thomas Gresham (with the caution that I'm almost sure this is our line but, as in many cases of genealogy , I can only go on the evidence available if the smoking gun isn't present).
Sir Thomas Gresham
We begin with the Relationship Chart:
11th Great Grandparents Sir Richard Gresham and Audrey Lynn
Christian Gresham and Sir John Thynne (Sir Thomas was Christian's brother)
Dorothy Thynne and Sir John Strangeways
Grace Strangeways and Edmund Chamberlayne
Edmund Chamberlayne and Elanor Coles
Thomas Chamberlayne and Mary Wood
Rebecca Chamberlayne and John Williamson
Cuthbert Williamson and Elizabeth Allen
(?) Cuthbert Williamson and Susanna White
Matthew Williamson and Selina Jeffries
George Matthew Williamson and Margaret Ann Willis
Vennie, Ima Inez, Lillie, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice Williamson
Uncle Thomas was born in London and descended from an old Norfolk family. He was one of two sons and two daughters of Sir Richard Gresham, a leading London merchant, who for some time held the office of Lord Mayor, and worked as agent of King Henry VIII in negotiating loans with foreign merchants. He was given a knighthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Either before or after this he became apprentice to his uncle Sir John Gresham, also a merchant, who founded Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk in 1555: we have his own testimony that he served an apprenticeship of eight years.
In 1551 the English government entered a period of financial embarrassment due to the mismanagement of funds. The King called in Thomas to give advice, and then chose him to carry out that advice. He called for the adoption of various methods — highly ingenious, but quite arbitrary and unfair — for raising the value of the English pound sterling on the Bourse of Antwerp. This proved so successful that in a few years King Edward VI was able to pay almost all of his debts. The English government sought Gresham's advice in all their money difficulties after that, and employed him in various diplomatic missions. He had no stated salary, but in reward of his services received from King Edward various grants of lands, the annual value of which at that time amounted ultimately to about 400 pounds a year.
In 1553 Gresham went out of favor for a short time when Henry VIII's daughter Queen Mary took the throne at her father's death. But soon Gresham was re-instated; and as he professed his zealous desire to serve the Queen, and manifested great abilities both in negotiating loans and in smuggling money, arms and foreign goods, his services were retained throughout her reign (1553 - 1558). In addtion to his salary of twenty shillings per diem, he received grants of church lands to the yearly value of 200 pounds. Under Queen Elizabeth he was made the Ambassador to the court of Margaret of Parma, receiving a knighthood in 1559 prior to his departure. The unsettled times preceding the Dutch Revolt compelled him to leave Antwerp on 10 March 1567; but, though he spent the remainder of his life in London, he continued his business as merchant and financial agent of the government in much the same way as formerly. Overall he made himself one of the richest men in England. (reigned 1558 - 1603).
Queen Elizabeth also found Gresham useful in a great variety of other ways, including acting as jailer to Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey), who, as a punishment for marrying Thomas Keyes the sergeant porter, remained a prisoner in his house from June 1569 to the end of 1572.
In 1565 Gresham made a proposal to the court of aldermen of London to build at his own expense a bourse or exchange — what became the Royal Exchange, modeled on the Antwerp bourse — on condition that they purchased for this purpose a piece of suitable ground. In this proposal he seems to have had an eye to his own interest as well as to the general good of the merchants, for by a yearly rental of £700 obtained for the shops in the upper part of the building he received a sufficient return for his trouble and expense.
The grasshopper is the crest above Gresham's coat of arms. It is used by Gresham College, which he founded, and can also be seen as the weathervane on the Royal Exchange in the City of London, which he also founded in 1565. The famous Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, later borrowed the emblem.
According to an ancient legend of the Greshams, the founder of the family, Roger de Gresham, was a foundling abandoned as a new-born baby in long grass in North Norfolk in the 13th century and found there by a woman whose attention was drawn to the child by a grasshopper. A beautiful story, it is more likely that the grasshopper is simply an heraldic rebus on the name Gresham, with gres being a Middle English form of grass (Old English grœs). The Gresham family motto is Fiat voluntas tua ('Thy will be done')