Americans search Local Roots

Americans search Local Roots

“What would have taken your ancestors away from here to go so far away to America?” is the question we hear often as we explore the local countryside! We’ve found many places where our ancestors lived; the Eltons at Croft Cottage, Fromes Hill, Kendricks at Hill House in Bosbury, Philpotts at Starve Crow Cottage, Jenkins at Moorend Cross, Woodcocks in Kempley Green, Philpotts at Green Hill, Cradley and more.

What a thrill to walk the paths they walked and breathe the fresh country air! So many kind people let us photograph and even come inside, to get a feel of those ancestral hearths and homes. What lovely people!

In February we went to Liverpool where thirteen direct ancestors left British shores to sail for America. Most of their families had lived in the same villages for many generations. The story of two ancestors with local ties, Thomas Jenkins and Jane Elton, unravels some of the mystery.

Thomas Jenkins, a skilled thatcher, raised his family in the hamlet of Moorend Cross, Mathon parish. He was a non-conformist Primitive Methodist, but broke off and joined a group calling themselves the United Brethren. They licenced their homes as meeting places and built the Gadfield Elm chapel near Staunton. They sought for the principles and practices of Jesus Christ’s original church.

In March of 1840, they were introduced to Wilford Woodruff, a missionary and Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They talked into the night about the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ with its modern-day Prophets and Apostles. This was what Thomas and his friends were looking for! Six days later, he was baptised by Wilford Woodruff at the Hill Farm pond on a cold spring day, followed by almost all of the 600 United Brethren during the next months. Within a year, over 1800 people in surrounding areas joined the Church. Thomas and his family sailed for America in September 1840. He is my 4th great grandfather through my father’s side of our family.

Jane Elton, from my mother’s side, grew up in Castle Frome. Her brother John worked for John Benbow at Hill Farm. She, too, listened to Wilford Woodruff and was baptised in June 1840. She married a Samuel Philpotts but rather than emigrate Jane stayed behind to take care of her widowed mother.

Her daughter Caroline was widowed young, but married a handsome young widower, John Kendrick, from Bosbury, with three children of his own. He and Caroline had six more children together, the youngest being my grandfather, George Kendrick. As a young boy, he sailed with his family to America, to be with fellow members of the Church.

Those two stories illustrate the answer to the first question, but I gave the shorter answer to a kind man at Moorend Cross last week when he asked, “What would have taken your ancestors away from here to go so far away to America?” I blurted out, “Because of this wonderful church!”

What a great experience for me and my husband to serve for 18 months in this beautiful area as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are around 6,200 senior missionaries like us and 75,000 young missionaries serving around the world. What a privilege to come here! We have even met some wonderful second cousins from the Malvern area.

We will return home to our family with many happy memories and connections to our Herefordshire and Worcestershire roots.