William Welles Grant Report
Caryn Goldenberg, September 27, 2003
On June 8th, 2003, as I was sitting on the plane at Newark International Airport, waiting for it to take off. I was full of anxiety and anticipation, and I was not sure of what I was going to find in England, pertaining to my Brearley Family Research. I have spent years studying the family both before and after they arrived in America in 1682, and I was curious to find more information about where and how the Brearleys lived in England, before coming here. As I checked over my itinerary for my ten-day expedition, visiting Liverpool, York, and London, I knew that what I did and found on this trip would be an experience that would change my life. My mother was my chaperone and she was as eager as I was to learn more about this interesting family, and we were both looking forward to enjoying the sights and sounds of England.
After traveling for twenty hours, I finally reached my first destination, Liverpool. That first day I went to the Central Library. There I spent several hours researching any and all books involving emigration in the late 1600s that might have contained the name or any variation of the name Brearley, Wood, Clows and Pownall. The book I looked through was a collection of all the books written on Englishmen going to America in the late 1600s. I learned that I would also be able to find most of the references the book mentioned if I went to a large central Library either in London, or back home in the States. Since I was going to London at the end of my trip, I wrote down or photocopied all of the important information about the other books and their page numbers. I left the library that night feeling that I would be successful on this trip, and that I would not disappoint anyone.
The next day, I took a bus to the Family History Center at the Mormon Church of the Latter Day Saints. I was given the opportunity to look through microfiche and use a special computer program that would allow me to input specific information about an individual. The computer would match that information with names that corresponded with the similar information. I was then able to narrow down to just a few places the towns and cities that the Brearleys might have come from. I was also able to piece together information that I had with information that the computer had. Now I was able to start a small timeline of the relatives of John Brearley. I wrote down the microfiche numbers that pertained to information that would help me with my research, and once I returned to the United States, I would be able to order the microfiche and use it at a local Mormon Church. During my last day in Liverpool, I returned to the Central Library to double check all the information I had before taking a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to York. We found Liverpool to be a somewhat outdated city with a very quirky charm. We discovered the Albert Dock waterfront to be recently renovated and a nice walk from the center of the city.
Unlike here in the states, most of the stores and shops close at dinner- time in places like Liverpool and York, and so when we arrived at the city centre of York, everything except a few restaurants and pubs were closed. A walk around the city on its ancient walls revealed a really beautiful town. The bed and breakfast where we stayed was only a ten-minute walk to and from York’s city centre. The York City Archives had information relating to the town and anyone who had lived in that town, and since I believed one of the places the Brearleys might have lived was in York, I decided to try and do my research there. The first thing the next day, I went to the York City Archives where I had the privilege of looking through a four hundred year old book. I attempted to read the old English handwriting, but one of the archivists was needed to help interpret. At one point, I thought I had found a person that was related to the Brearleys, but unfortunately the dates did not match up.
After a few hours, I decided to try another archives place, which had information relating to more towns the Brearleys might have lived in. When I finally reached the Borthwick Institute, it was already a half hour before closing time. I was able to search through some microfiche that mentioned another town that I suspected the Brearleys might have originated from. I did find information on a few Brearleys in a nearby town named Elland. At this point, the trip to yet another town would have to wait until morning. After checking bus and train schedules to see if it was possible to get to Elland the next day, I discovered that this archival office would not be open again until Tuesday of the following week. Unfortunately, we would be leaving for London on this afternoon for the last four days of our trip, before returning home on that very same Tuesday! I left York feeling somewhat disappointed that I was not able to visit the actual town that the Brearleys came from. I had come so close to this key piece of information, but a reserved bus ticket for a four-hour ride to London and bad timing were factors that I could not ignore. I was disappointed that I would not be able to visit Elland, but I knew that there would be more opportunities to study the Brearleys in London, and I was going to make the best of it. While in York we also visited York Minster, the largest still standing gothic church. It was amazing and really beautiful to see how it survived through almost 1000 years, several wars, fire and lightening strikes. Every different section of stained glass windows was created by a different group of people throughout the city’s rich history. Also interesting were the York History Museum and Clifford’s Tower.
By the time, we arrived in London, it was past dinnertime, but to my surprise, unlike in Liverpool and York, shops and stores were still open until ten or eleven at night! That night we checked out the neighborhood and even had the chance to visit the famous Covent Gardens and enjoy some of the street entertainment. The next day included a long walk to the Society of Genealogy, where I spent most of the day doing research. Since I now knew the town that I believed the Brearleys originated from, looking for the appropriate microfilm was not a problem, however I did spend many hours reading them. I was so excited with the information I found. I was able to verify that the Brearleys came from Elland and I was able to find birth dates, baptisms, marriages and death and burial dates. Unfortunately, most of the baptismal names are in Latin, and I have since learned that Johes could be a baptismal name for John, Joseph or Jacob. However, most of the information was piecing together very well and I didn’t have too many names and dates that conflicted with each other. As I was leaving the Society of Genealogy, I was very satisfied with what I found and how much work and effort I put into all of it.
Since the following day was Sunday and most of the archival offices were closed, I decided to call the British Library in London to find out about their operating hours and fees. To my surprise, the Library was only open to college students with specific research projects and I was not allowed to enter. However, the man on the phone said that chances were that most of the books I needed could be found in the New York Library or at the Library of Congress since some of the authors were American. Even though I was let down by the regulations of the Library, I knew that I would have an easier time getting to the libraries in the United States and I would be able to get to them more than once. A brief visit to the Guildhall Library was also unsuccessful, as it did not have the type of information that I needed. I spent the remaining day and a half exploring the gorgeous city and visited the Tower of London, Big Ben, watched the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, and even had the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister’s guard at 10 Downing Street. We found London to be very exciting. The architecture and history are really amazing. We walked most of the time and only traveled by bus when in a hurry. We really wanted to see as much as we could. One evening we had the chance to have dinner with Annie Richards, a Lawrenceville Alumni, who was able to give me some useful information about London and where to go for more research before I returned home. I was having such an amazing time and I did not want to leave on the 18th, but I knew that what I had learned and saw there was an incredible opportunity that most people don’t have the chance to experience.
The next day, as I sat in my seat waiting for the plane to take off from Heathrow International Airport, I was recalling the entire trip and trying to remember every detail and visualize everything that had happened. I was thinking about the places and buildings I saw, the people I met and the work that I had accomplished. I had high hopes for this research trip to England and doing this research and studying meant a lot to me, although I knew that I might not be able to find the golden key. I do believe that I found more information than I expected to, and all I have to do is continue to piece the puzzle together. It’s really fascinating to me that a man can come over from England as an indentured servant, with no money or belongings of his own, earn his freedom and practically start the town of Maidenhead. This man’s family also started the Presbyterian Church here and one of his grandsons was a signer of the New Jersey Constitution. His family helped to fund the Lawrenceville School and become a dominant family in local society.
I may not have solved the puzzle, but I do believe that I have contributed many large pieces, and I plan to continue doing so.