Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Non nobis solum' (Not for ourselves alone)

Sir George Yeardley (1588 - 1627) was a plantation owner and three time colonial Governor of the British Colony of Virginia. A survivor of the Virginia Company of London's ill-fated Third Supply Mission, whose flagship, the Sea Venture, was shipwrecked on Bermuda for 10 months in 1609-10, he is best remembered for presiding over the initial session of the first representative legislative body in Virginia in 1619. With representatives from throughout the settled portion of the colony, the group became known as the House of Burgesses. It has met continuously since, and is known in modern times as the Virginia General Assembly.

Knight's Tomb--Sir George Yeardley
Jamestown, Virginia

My uncle Edward Eardley visited the Knight's Tomb in Jamestown when he moved to Virginia in the 1940s. Uncannily, he sensed a connection with the Yeardley and Eardley names, but without the Internet, he had no way of researching that relationship.  Years later (1985), after I bought my first computer, but before the Internet was what it is today, Edward asked me research Sir George and see if we were related.  I laughed, believing there was no link and if there was I would never find it.  Silly me.  Little did I know then where the road would lead.

In the 1990s when I was actively researching and compiling a book on my own Eardley family, a gentleman from Kentucky contacted me.  He was a retired psychiatrist named Jack Eardley who was also researching the Eardley name.  He had somehow found addresses and connected every living Eardley (male) throughout the world and had concluded that all of our ancestors originated from Audley, England.  That's right--the Eardleys of Audley.

Jack was organizing a great Eardley Millennium Family Get-Together to be held at St. James, the Audley parish church on 15 July 2000.  Jack's an ambious man. The Get-Together went off without a hitch and it launched numerous unexpected projects.  On Jack's web site, he has put information about all male Eardley marriages from the English Civil Registration from 1837 to 1998.  He has collected the actual marriage certificates of all Eardley men from 1837 to 1900.  Phew! His web site is highly unorganized (confusing) and has more information than I can grasp and I'm a genealogist!

Eardleys in front of St. James Audley, 15 July 2000

At the millenial reunion, the Eardley family members voted to pay to have the 300 year old stained glass window restored in St. James, Audley.  After two years, the money was raised (I think Jack paid most of it) and the best glass artisans in the area carefully restored the window behind the altar.  Members of the Eardley family from around the world joined together for a re-dedication service of the window, led by the Reverend Peter Davies, Vicar of this Parish, on Sunday 14th July 2002.

St. James, Audley
Restored Stained and Leaded glass window
Re-Dedicated 14 July 2002

Meanwhile, other projects were afoot.  Which takes me back to the original story of Sir George Yeardley. A family genealogist in England traced Sir George's family to Audley where the seeds of the rest of our Eardley progenies began. This is what they found:

George Yeardley was baptized on July 28, 1588, in St. Saviour's Parish, Southwark, Surrey (across the River Thames from London). He was the son of Ralph Yeardley (1549-1604), a London merchant-tailor, and Rhoda Marston (d. 1603). 

Ralph Yeardley was born in Audley, Staffordshire, England to William Eardley and Elizabeth Moreton.  For some unknown reason Ralph changed the spelling of his family name when he went off to London or more likely the clerks in Surrey changed the spelling.  In those early years the name was spelled in a variety of ways.  The family owned land and a manor in Audley parish which was known as Eardley's End, below. Unfortunately, it was torn down in the 1950s before I had the chance to see it,.

Moreton Hall, near Congleton, Cheshire, England was the home of Elizabeth Moreton Eardley, grandmother of Sir George Yeardley.

George Yeardley chose not to follow his father into trade, but instead became a soldier and joined a company of English foot-soldiers to fight the Spanish in the Netherlands. As a captain and bodyguard, he was selected to serve Sir Thomas Gates during his term as Governor of Virginia.

In 1613 Yeardley married Temperance Flowerdew, daughter of Anthony Flowerdew of Hethersett, County Norfolk, and his wife Martha Stanley of Scottow, County Norfolk. Temperance had also sailed for Virginia in the 1609 expedition aboard the Falcon, arriving at Jamestown in August 1609, and was one of the few survivors of the Starving Time.

Sir George Yeardley was knighted at Newmarket, England, on 24 November 1618, and six days later he was commissioned Governor of Virginia. He was granted 300 acres of land to help defray the cost of maintaining himself as governor.

In 1618, he patented 1,000 acres  of land on Mulberry Island. He owned another private plantation upriver on the south side of the James River opposite Weyanoke, named Flowerdew Hundred. Yeardley named the property after his wife, Temperance Flowerdew. The plantation elected two representatives to the first General Assembly in Jamestown in 1619: one was an ancestor of President Thomas Jefferson. With a population of about thirty, the plantation was economically successful with thousands of pounds of tobacco produced along with corn, fish and livestock. Yeardley paid 120 pounds (possibly a hogshead of tobacco) to build the first windmill in British America in 1621.

This brings me to the next descendants get together, this time in America on the Flowerdew Hundred plantation in Virginia.  I am NOT a descendant of Sir George Yeardley.  My Eardley family came to America 246 years after George.  But we do descend from common ancestors somewhere in the 16th Century.  So the Flowerdew Hundred organization kindly invited Eardley researchers (Jack Eardley and myself) to attend their shindig.  I accepted since I was going to be in Virginia at the time anyway. 

My cousin, her husband and I stepped out of the car at sweltering Flowerdew in August and were greeted by some women with southern accents who asked from which of Sir George's children we descended.  I sheepishly replied, "None."  They turned up their noses and headed in the opposite direction as one said, "Then what are you doing here."  We were like lepers, no one wanted to be near us.  Aristocracy in America? The only other thing I remember about the day was humidity and heat.

The Flowerdew Hundred Descendant's Gathering
24th of August, 2002

The Eardleys of Audley had made the link to Jamestown. With the Jamestown 400th Anniversary  approaching in 2007, the Eardleys decided to commemorate the event by sewing its own panel for the New World Tapestry. And so the Eardleys got together to sew. And sew they did.

The Yeardley/Jamestown Tapestry--20 January 2003

Close-up of panel in tapestry including Eardley shield

The Eardley Crest 

'Non nobis solum' meaning 'Not for ourselves alone' seems an apt motto for many of the Eardleys who are always 'doing for others'.

I'm writing this today because tomorrow, July 15, 2010, there will be another world-wide Eardley Get Together at St. James, Audley. I wish them well, hope for a good attendance and good weather. Wish I could be there!


Travelin'Oma said...

This is an awesome post! I wish I was an Eardley just for the cool stories.

Olive's Granddaughter said...

Marty, Every family has cool stories. It just takes a lot of digging to find them.