Can Path Of Our Knowledge Be Traced To Our Ancestors?
- Found at
Ball is the name engraved across the top of a large headstone in a
cemetery I pass by often. It never meant anything to me until last week.
Now the past haunts me. Not my own life's past, but my antecedents
whose DNA and God-knows-what-else I carry. I have many questions.
Mom always told me, offering no evidence, our antecedents came over on
the Mayflower. As it turns out, that family legend was not far from
the truth. I recently contacted a long-lost first cousin who
investigated our shared genealogy. David was not lost and neither was
I, but we are a scattered family, with little contact beyond our
primary relationships. He seemed glad to hear from me and to share the
So my many-greats grandfather John Ball did move from Wiltshire,
England, to Watertown, the third large settlement in Massachusetts, in
1632. His son, John Ball, married an Elizabeth Peirce, who was deemed
to be insane. That explains that.
After the death of Elizabeth, John married another Elizabeth. Both
were killed in Lancaster, Mass., in an Indian raid that was part of
King Phillips War in 1675. I remember learning about that war in
In the meantime, my many-greats grandfather William Still moved to
Coram, N.Y., and had a family farm there. Both he and another John
Ball (the Stills and Balls would eventually merge) fought in the
Revolutionary War, Still in the Battle of Long Island, and Ball in
Quebec and at Fort Ticonderoga.
David had lots of information on the Still family, which is his last
name and was my mother's maiden name. Her mother, Florence Still, was
a Storms before she married my grandfather. We joke about that change
In the meantime, my Dutch Storm (the `s' was added later) ancestors,
Dirck and Maria, sailed from Amsterdam in 1662 to New Amsterdam. A few
years later, the English captured New Amsterdam and changed the name
to New York.
David has many stories about Dirck and Maria Storm. Dirck worked as an
innkeeper, the town clerk of Brooklyn and Flatbush, the secretary of
Orange County, N.J., and was precantor at the Brooklyn and Flatbush
Dutch Reformed churches. The couple eventually settled in Sleepy
Hollow, a few miles north of the city.
One thing that's striking in these pages of genealogy is the number of
children these folks had. Dirck and Maria Storm had nine. John and
Lydia Ball had 13. In all those hundreds of years, the couple with the
fewest children had four.
Even though these folks were farmers, clerks and carpenters, with not
a whole bunch of money or means, the primal instinct to perpetuate the
race was strong. That's the opposite of nowadays, when working couples
are (relative to history and the rest of the world) rich, well able to
raise a large family, but prefer to remain childless or have a child
What happened, Darwin? Your theory has broken down in the wealthiest,
healthiest nation in the earth's history. The fittest have no interest
in survival, just appearances.
My grandmother, Florence Elizabeth Storms, was an only child, born on
March 3, 1897. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Smith Storms, died three
days later. My grandmother was raised by her aunts, her mother's
sisters. I met some of these women, Aunt Mae and Aunt Caroline and
others, a few times growing up and at my grandmother's funeral. They
all lived upstate, along the Hudson. I have no contact with any of them.
David has also included lots of information and stories on the
families that married into the Balls. I can see now why he has a
"love/hate" relationship with genealogy, because that raises questions
about all those who married into the Storms and Stills as well.
Curiosity could drive you down every genealogical trail along the
path. It's clear he's spent an awful amount of time at this, visiting
cemeteries, churches, county seats.
So what do I do with all this?
In biology class a few years ago, I learned we all carry our mother's
mitochondria. It is passed down generation after generation.
I wonder, do we inherit other non-physical aspects of our foremothers
and forefathers? What about memory? What about the things I think and
ways I feel that I do not understand? Is who I am today a result of my
own life experiences or is it tied in to my mother's and grandmother's
and great-grandmother's and great-great-grandmother's experiences,
How can I know? Does it matter?