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Our DNA has Memory

Our DNA has Memory

In the beginning, I didn’t understand where the desire came. I just knew it was there.  The desire quickly became a passion and consequently an addiction.

Nine years ago, looking for my husband’s ancestors, I came across a woman whose allure was irresistible. As a genealogist, I find many significant people with vital stories throughout history.  Why was this one so overwhelmingly important?

Her name was Margaret Cornish.  She was one of the first Africans to arrive in the English settlement of Virginia in 1619.  The desire to understand where she came from and how she found herself in an English settlement became intoxicating.  Every hour of every day filled with questions overwhelming my senses.  My husband’s 9th generation great-grandmother had captured my mind like she was captured by the marauders of her kingdom almost four-hundred years ago.  Some 20,000 + hours of research turned into a series of novels with the first book winning a national gold medal.  But, the grandest surprise was yet to come.

As my own 97-year-old grandmother’s health began to fail, and with her tireless urging, I collected her DNA.  Then in June of 2014 her spirit passed into the land of our ancestors and I said goodbye to a woman of unwavering faith.  Simultaneously, I received her DNA results and the explanation of my addiction quickly became crystal clear.  Margaret Cornish wasn’t only my husband’s ancestor, but mine as well.  With tears of joy streaming down my face I began to understand. The addiction I felt was a scream from within myself.  A memory from within my own DNA begging to be heard.  Finally, I understood my fate which freed me from the grasping hands of a time long ago.

Join my journey as I take you down the path of Margaret Cornish’s life, one of FATE & FREEDOM.

First Africans to arrive in English America

First Africans in English America

First Africans to arrive in English America

First Africans to arrive in English America

continued…..Unveiling the First Africans in English America
Next, we must explore the men who owned and captained the three intersecting ships on that fateful day.
The San Juan Bautista was captained by the Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna. Known to be of the powerful Acuna family to which Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuna, the Count of Gondomar also belonged.
The Treasurer’s ownership was shared between the powerful Earl of Warwick, Robert Rich II and the current Governor of Jamestown, Samuel Argall. In early 1618, Captain Daniel Elfrith was hired once again by Warwick to Captain the Treasurer. Elfrith, an active and known privateer in the West Indies as early as 1607, had captained the Treasurer before. Elfrith and the Treasurer left England in late April or early May 1618 and arrived in the Settlement of Virginia just as the Neptune, carrying Lord Del la Warre to retrieve Argall back to England was making its way into the mouth of the James River. Questions of foul play arose quickly. The Neptune’s Brewster accused the Treasurer of foul play and bad air. Lord Del la Warre, Sir Thomas West was dead. Governor Argall would in turn order his Treasurer, Elfrith and crew to the West Indies, to plunder what they may with the marque of Charles Emmanuel I, a commission Rich obtained from Count Sarnafissi, Emmanuel’s ambassador to England.
The White Lion was owned and captained by the Reverend John Colyn Jope, a Calvinist Minister from Merrifield in Cornwall England, just miles northwest of Plymouth. In 1619 on the captain’s maiden voyage, Jope would leave his wife, the well-connected Mary Glanville and the Port of Plymouth, heading for the West Indies with a Dutch Marque, a commission acquired through Prince Maurice.

The Bautista’s Cargo
In early 1619, the Kingdom of Ndongo in the Central Mountains of Angola, under siege by the Portuguese Governor Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos, is ransacked and men, women, and children are enslaved and marched to the Port of Luanda to be transported to the silver mines of Mexico.
Of the six slave ships leaving the port of Luanda in the summer of 1619 for the Port of Vera Cruz, only one would report a raid by English pirates. The San Juan Bautista, captained by the Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna.
Just weeks later in mid August 1619 the White Lion arrives with “twenty and odd” Africans. The Captain, carrying a Dutch marque, claims he took them from a floundering Spanish warship.
Documents recently discovered by Historian John Thornton determines they were the Northern Mbundu people who spoke Bantu, from the Kingdom of Ndongo. Only one other possibility exists. There was a report of some Portuguese Christian porters who accidently became caught up in the Imbangala’s slave march to the Port of Luanda, their port of origin and point of sale.
Of the three hundred fifty sold to the Bautista’s Captain Acuna there would only be “twenty and odd” blessed souls to make it to Englands’ young settlement of Virginia. Will the “twenty and odd” continue to be slaves as they were when they left Africa? Or do they find their freedom? Could God’s hand have been involved? Over the centuries many have said “God must have been involved.”

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

Fate & Freedom

Discovering Margaret…..

Twenty and Odd Africans arrive in Virginia in 1619.  Most of their names are unknown, or quite possibly they were concealed.  The less known about the incident would be best.  The names we have are from the ‘List of the Living’ compiled after the Indian massacre of 1622.  They were Angela, Anthony, Isabel, Frances, Peter, Anthony, and Margaret.  The others were identified as only male or female as much about the whole incident would be camouflaged to protect the few involved.

Documents show that the Africans arrived at Old Pointe Comfort, Virginia in the later part of August, 1619.   The Captain, a former Calvinist Reverend turned Privateer, reported his only cargo as being “Twenty and Odd” Africans he took (pirated) from a floundering vessel off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  Under the watchful eye of the crown the incident is quietly reported.   John Pory, the Virginia Company’s newly appointed Secretary, writes in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton dated September 30, 1619,

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

The San Juan Bautista’s battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

“Having mett with so fitt a messenger as this man of Warre of Flushing.”   The letter goes on to tell of the arrival of some “twenty and odd” Africans brought by a Dutch Captain.

Was Pory disguising the ship to protect its captain and crew? Probably not.

Oddly, the letter was sent to Sir Dudley Carleton via messenger, Marmaduke Reynor, the English pilot of the White Lion.  This information alone is telling of some sort of an association. 
Was Pory’s loyalty to the company, trying to diminish the association by the cover of a Dutch marque?  Or was his loyalty to the Earl of Warwick?  Possibly it was to the English Crown.  But, clearly Pory’s loyalties didn’t align with the White Lion who was sent back into the English channels with a letter suggesting a Spanish piracy, not to mention, a cargo that would confirm Pory’s words.

Why?  There are several reasons.

Just months before the African’s arrival, Samuel Argall, the acting Governor of Virginia, was ordered to return to England to face questioning from the King’s Privy Council regarding the suggestion Virginia was nothing more than a Pirate’s haven.   The thought of a Spanish Piracy by an English ship so soon might be the last straw to an English King’s already tarnished image with Spain.  Proof of a Spanish piracy would surely condemn the Virginia Company, giving King James good reason to revoke their patent.

Another reason…..there were two ships involved, two English Corsairs.  When the Treasurer arrived at Pointe Comfort carrying Africans just days after the White Lion, oddly the Treasurer was immediately turned away, or was the ship warned off?  The Treasurer, captained by Daniel Elfrith was owned by Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick, one of the most influential and powerful men in England.  The Treasurer would sail for Bermuda, an island known to be under the Earl of Warwick’s hand, where he could control the secrecy of the situation.

England would be tricky, as the White Lion was a common sight in the Port of Plymouth where the ship sat for years.  Reverend Jope had purchased the decayed White Lion from a member of his congregation, who captained the ship during the Elizabethan War between England and Spain 1585-1604.  In fact, it was the Port of Plymouth where Captain Jope re-launched the White Lion’s sails after the ten (10) years it took to refurbish the old war ship.    The White Lion, it’s captain and it’s crew were English, not Dutch as Pory’s letter would suggest and now their identities would need to be hidden under the association of a “Dutch” marque.

As fate would have it, the San Juan Bautista’s Captain Acuna, who reported the incident upon his arrival in Mexico, was kin to Count Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador who was in the inner circle of England’s King James.  When the Spanish Captain Acuna makes claim to his kin that two English Corsairs pirated his San Juan Bautista just off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico stealing some fifty or sixty African slaves, Virginia becomes the target of Gondomar’s rage and demands retribution. For an English Captain in the year of 1619 the act of Spanish piracy would be a death sentence, for it was less than two years earlier Sir Walter Raleigh was be-headed for Spanish piracy, a result of Gondomar’s insistence under the Maritime Peace Treaty.
 

Continue to follow this blog as I reveal my findings while discovering Margaret.