This wasn’t one of my Childhood Family Stories

Back when I first started researching my family genealogy, I created a list of the “family stories” I could remember my Mom telling me when I was young. There were items on the list that included :

  • Great Aunt/Uncle that died as a child and buried in the Mediterranean Sea, along with a red ball.
  • Xth Great-grandmother (unknown which one) was supposedly captured by Indians and raised as an Indian princess.
  • Grandma Liz [Christina Elizabeth (Nicolle) Vincent] wanted to live to be 100
  • Cecilia (Still) Vincent’s first husband died on the Titanic – his name was unknown.
  • There was an Irishman who was a horse thief, came across on the Mayflower (or Mayflower II) as a stowaway, changing his name when he arrived in the new world (dropping the Fitz- from FitzGerald)

In my 25+ years of research, some of the stories have been easily proven true. For example, my Great Aunt Florence Vincent, second child of Charles and Christina Elizabeth (Nicolle) Vincent [my Dad’s aunt] died of a fever on board the R.M.S. Crocodile, while her father and his family was traveling from Gibraltar to East India. She was buried at sea in the Mediterranean and her death reported when the ship arrived at port.

Frederick and Cecilia (Still) Ware on their wedding day

Another story I was able prove, was learning the name of Cecilia (Still) Vincent’s first husband – Frederick Ware, who did indeed die while traveling back from England to New York, when the Titanic sank. His body was never found, but evidence of his passage is found on the ship’s manifest.

Grandma Liz probably did want to live to be 100, but actually died at 94, not 97 as my Mom used to say. She lied about her age on every record I have for her, except one – her birth record! She was born in 1855, not 1852-3, as stated on her marriage record, death certificate, headstone, Census forms, etc.

Christina Elizabeth Nicholls (Nicolle)’s Birth Record


Other stories will most likely never be proven, such as the Great-grandmother who was captured and raised by Indians. I do know that no Native American DNA appears in either my AncestryDNA sample or my 23andMe sample, but the story was she was captured, not born, so there wouldn’t be DNA present.

But the one story I have worked on the longest is the Irish stowaway – did he arrive on the Mayflower / Mayflower II?
Maybe, maybe not. One thing is very certain, I have Mayflower ancestors on my Mom’s family tree – in fact, at last count, I have FOUR of them: Elder William Brewster and his wife, Mary Wentworth Brewster and John Alden and his wife, Priscilla Mullins Alden. I am a descendant of the Brewsters via my maternal grandmother (and namesake) Nancy Ella (Gerald) Gardner and a descendant of John and Priscilla Alden via my maternal grandfather, LeRoy George Gardner.

Nancy Ella and LeRoy George Gardner on their wedding anniversary

I’ve known about the first Mayflower Ancestors since August, 2018, when I learned that my newly discovered 4th Great-Grandmother, Lydia (Burrill) Gardner was a descendant of John and Priscilla. The brick wall separating my family tree from the Burrill family took me many, many, many years to break through. I was overjoyed when I learned the connection via Lydia to the Mayflower.

My discovery of my connection with William and Mary Brewster is much more recent – March 28th of this year, when I learned due to a potential ancestor on the new
ThruLines feature on Ancestry.com – of my 5th Great-Grandfather Joseph Greenleaf and his wife Dorcas (Gray) Greenleaf. Subsequent research on that line gave me the connection between my Grandma Nancy and the Mayflower.

Since none of these four Mayflower ancestors are of Irish descent, I can’t say that this answers the question about my Irish horse thief. I’m still trying to find the elusive connection between my Gerald Great-grandparents: Rose Ellen (Gerald) Gerald and her husband Orrin Fitz Gerald. I have a new hypothesis that asks if Rose’s Great-Grandfather George (1748-1825) and Orrin’s Great Grandfather David (1740-1820) were brothers, who separately came over the the USA from England in the 1770s and fought in the Revolutionary War? Could one of them be my Irish horse thief, since they both emigrated from the Emerald Isle?

Only Time (and a lot more research) Will Tell.