Thursday, April 20, 2023

Finding Another
Founding Immigrant Ancestor


As I push back through the generations of each ancestor, it always calls forth wonder in my mind—wonder at just how long I will continue on this research path in my own country before I find the terminal position, the founding immigrant ancestor.

For the most part, my assumption is that that discovery will happen by about the mid-1800s. That, at least, was what my mother-in-law expected regarding her forebears. Sometimes, I find a really extended line which persists in this country up until the last few years of the colonial period, like those of my family's ancestors who qualified us as potential members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. And, of course, there is that one tantalizing line which, if finally proven through adequate documentation, would gain us entry in the Mayflower Society.

This line I'm working on today, though, seemed like it might keep going beyond the date of the Mayflower's arrival near Cape Cod late in 1620. After all, the region I'm researching with this month's plan lies far to the south of what is now the state of Massachusetts. The adventurers who landed in such an area as this first arrived as early as 1607 for the Jamestown settlement. What if...?

In pursuing the ancestors of my mother-in-law's fourth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Howard, we've already seen that Elizabeth's mother was listed as Rachel Ridgely, wife of Joseph Howard of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Rachel, in turn, was daughter of William and Elizabeth (Duval) Ridgely.

With that discovery—and the handy detail that my mother-in-law's son has already taken a mitochondrial DNA test—I realized that I can pursue her matriline, all the way from my mother-in-law to the farthest extent to which it reaches, unmutated. If you have never conducted such a study, let me tell you: the power of the mtDNA test can reach back far further than the autosomal test that many of us have taken. Even though I'm now talking at the level of sixth great-grandmother for my mother-in-law—and seventh for my husband, the test taker—it could be possible that I will locate exact matches with descendants of some of the women living in this earlier era.

And yet, we push back even farther. While I have found some information for Rachel, what about her mother? Finding records for women in that era of colonial history can be challenging. What can be found on Elizabeth Duval, wife of William Ridgely and mother of Rachel?

Returning to the records we checked yesterday, it's time to read between the lines. In the passage we read yesterday from the 1905 book by Joshua Dorsey Warfield, which listed those ten sisters and three brothers of Rachel Ridgely Howard, there were some other helpful details. One was that Rachel's father had married his cousin Elizabeth Duval. Furthermore, the author gave this Elizabeth's father's name: Lewis Duval.

With that information, and while reading the book in its digitized format online at Internet Archive, I searched for all entries listing that specific surname, Duval. One entry that came up for a Lewis Duval through this search process mentioned that "Lewis Duvall married Martha Ridgely, only daughter of Hon. Robert Ridgely, of St. Inigoes, in 1699."

That sentence was embedded within a paragraph listing all the siblings of this Lewis Duval—or, more specifically in this English-speaking colony, Duvall—and led to the answer to my next question. Who were the parents of Lewis Duvall?

While from his vantage point at the publication of his book, Joshua Dorsey Warfield was unable to state the name of Lewis Duvall's mother, he did explain that Lewis' father was parent of twelve children, five of whom married before their father's death in 1694. Thankfully, Lewis was among those who were already married. My next task will be to locate his father's will to see how the family was actually listed there.

As it turned out, the Duvall children were born to a Huguenot refugee fleeing persecution in his native France. Born Marin Duval in 1625, he arrived in Maryland in the company of one hundred fifty "adventurers" in 1650. In records from his new home in Anne Arundel County, he was recorded as Mareen Duvall.

Thus, following the men affiliated with my mother-in-law's matriline, I've at least found the founding immigrant father for this one set of her eighth great-grandparents.

Mareen Duvall—or Marin Duval—has been the inspiration for the forming of a family history association, known as The Society of Mareen Duvall Descendants. Established in December of 1926, the organization is nearing its hundredth anniversary. While many of their four hundred-plus current members descend from Mareen's son, Mareen the Younger, and membership files are organized by name of the specific child of Mareen from whom a member descends, there are yet two of the Duvall children for whom no one has claimed membership. I wonder if one of those two children might be Lewis. I might need to test this application system to see whether any members belong to his line.



  1. So cool! I read your genealogy adventures like I am reading a novel.

    1. Well, that's fun, Miss Merry! I'm having a blast stumbling across all these bits of information, too.


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