Monday, February 7, 2011


As anybody who knows me will attest, I am all too happy to wax eloquent on one or more of my ancestors (eminent or otherwise). As was the intent and dedicated efforts of my Mother, her Mother, my Father, his Father and Grandfather, I want to preserve our family's unique story for all time (or as long as our databases remain intact and viable and until the sun goes super nova). I’m not looking to fabricate a kinship and descent from some august ruler or noble in the distant past or to matriculate my own personal coat of arms [the Buxton Family Association (BFA) arms serve me very well, thank you]. Though I haven’t as yet come across any cattle rustlers, and am sure they exist, I would be equally proud to claim them (the Scots Lowland Armstrongs?). The record is what it is - good or bad by whatever standards. I am not trying to create what isn’t, rather just reflect our reality though that is sometimes difficult in our politically correct and charged environment.

The bottom line is that we are all what we have made of ourselves and I want to ferret out that data and pass it on to any interested parties, especially son Geb and grandsons Quinton and Cameron. The historical record will speak for itself though we do have to clean up our records and the ramblings of wannabe’s who in the act of trying to create a pedigree and “distinguished” Family history literally pollute the genealogical landscape. Along with the elusive nature of accurate genealogical data (especially from the 16th century back) that remains a major challenge. There shouldn’t really be any such thing as a “leap of faith” in my search though that seems to be contained in some of the more remote oral history of our Family (and many others).

While the World Wide Web has allowed for the incredible, expedited transfer and sharing of much relevant and accurate data from Family to Family there is a downside. I see many errors embraced by one line and then gleefully or ignorantly promulgated by them at their (and the record’s) ultimate expense. For example, I recently noted several lines descending from one of our ancestors where we have a definitive, confirmed date of birth. Somewhere back in time a family historian (not ours) transposed two digits where 1601 becomes 1610. That error has been passed down through several generations casting doubt on the credibility of their overall records. With that said if you are want to embrace someone else’s work – beware and use extreme caution though you may come up with that one pearl (that date of birth or Father, Mother, etc.) from that source that may allow you to expand on a line.

When I was a lad of ten years, perhaps earlier, I remember my Mother’s Mother, Mary Richmond Seabury Littlefield (1889-1967) working on the Family genealogy at 29 Cottage Street in Pawtucket, RI. Granny’s work contains scores of handwritten notes and narrative about the Family and we are still trying to interpret and place in context. It is amazing that she was able to accomplish so much with so few resources. I often wonder her potential had she access to the Internet...

The Buxton Family Association was founded by my Great Grandfather Dr. G. Edward Buxton (1849-1925) in 1903. Dr. Buxton also designed and assumed the coat of arms for the BFA though with the full knowledge (maybe chagrin) of the College of Arms. The distinctive Buxton coat of arms contains a unique charge (element) that has been attributed to a, “curious achievement” of a certain Seneschal de Buxton of Bordeaux at the time of Richard II (1377-1400) and found in the arms of the Buxtons of Belefield, Dorset Co. (Sir. Thomas Fowell Buxton); Buxtons of Dickleborough and of Tibenham, Norfolk Co., England, “Argent a Lion rampant tail elevated and reflexed over the head Sable.” The rampant lion with tail elevated over the head does not appear in any other instance of heraldry and exclusively remains with the Buxtons. I have communicated with genealogists and one distinguished heraldic artist in the Court of Lord Lyon who are aware of this charge but not of its origins. No doubt that Dr. Buxton carefully and laboriously researched the Buxton genealogy that allowed a platform for discussion and debate long before the Internet and any rapid transmission of data was available.

This writer has not seen a verifiable and documented link to the aforementioned Seneschal though the UK Archives cast doubt on the pedigree claimed specifically by the Tibenham Buxtons which is different from that researched by Great Grandfather Buxton. Another UK Archive validates that following those times of the Conquest (1066 and beyond), the lord of the latter (Norfolk) was Bertram de Buxton who is noted in the Domesday Records of 1086. So the work continues…

When Dr. Buxton was consumed with his quest to define the Buxton Family History the best and most reliable sources for genealogical and historical data were Family Bibles; old census records; grave markers; local, state/provincial and national public (vital) records/archives, military records, poll books, property records and civil and ecclesiastical court records among others. Grandfather Buxton had to ferret out the desired information, individually identify and approach each source, research his query and then manually extract those records. It was time consuming and horribly tedious at the least.

The Church/Synagogue/Temple was/is the backbone of much genealogical research. Since the greater majority of folks could not read nor write until recent history we had to depend on the church’s learned clergy and the priests, monks and scribes of all religious persuasions who created and maintained many of these critical records dating from the advent of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the world’s other great religions. Unfortunately war, religious persecution (Henry VIII and others of that ilk) and political convenience have resulted in the decimation or corruption of many genealogical records including the Bible.

But all that is changing and there is a keen reawakening in our society for all matters genealogical. NBC and’s critically acclaimed and very popular hit TV show, Who Do You Think You Are? is back for its second season in 2011 and appears to be yet another portal for stimulating individual awareness of our Family history and origins. This show is suspiciously similar to the PBS series, Faces of America, hosted by one of my personal heroes, Harvard professor and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates also created and hosted the enlightening and very popular African American Lives and African American Lives Two which also highlights the latest tools of genealogy especially including genetics (DNA) to explore the family histories. We look forward to more enlightening and inspiring offerings from Professor Gates and PBS. Because of the Gates inquiries (not unlike Alex Haley’s Roots), the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and other like organizations and the general availability of genetic testing, we have just started to again scratch the surface.

Through my Mother Elisabeth Alden Littlefield Buxton I am a hereditary member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) a charitable, nonprofit educational institution located in Boston, Massachusetts. NEHGS is the oldest (1845) and one of the largest genealogical societies in the United States and maintains active archives and a state of the art research center that "collects, preserves, and interprets materials to document and make accessible the histories of families in America."

There are many credible genealogical resources available and that includes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church aka the Mormons) who place great emphasis on genealogical research. I have been to their Family History Library in Salt Lake City and found myself and my Family. We are all there “waiting to be saved.” By way of explanation LDS Church doctrine states that "saving ordinances" (including baptism and confirmation), “must be made available to every individual who has ever lived. To make these ordinances available to people who did not have the opportunity while living, Mormons identify their ancestors and arrange for baptism and other ordinances to be performed for them by proxy—that is, with a living person standing in for the deceased person—in a temple. Often referred to as temple work, this search for ancestors is an important part of the Mormon faith.” Maybe we will all ultimately end up on the rolls as Mormons... Whatever, they can be a valuable resource and I intend to continue using them as a resource and thank them profusely for their hospitality.

For all you Family historians and would be genealogists (that’s me) know that you have resources easily available to you in on-line data bases that literally include much of the recent history of Man. But be cautious of your sources and double check all your data and use accepted genealogy protocols for the collection and input of all your data. Know that most European records will take you back to the sixteenth century and earlier. Also note that the first census in the united States was 1790 and try not to use USA when doing searches prior to the formation of the United States (know your history). Also be curious about different spellings of the same names. Surnames evolved through the centuries and you may have a direct descendent with a different spelling of the same name (e.g. Buxton v. Bukestuna).

If you are trying with a wink and nod to prove direct lineal descent from the god Woden, have fun and good luck! If you are trying to engage a more modest genealogy, then surround yourself with all the tools you will need. We chose as our major on-line resource and our results will be available for all to see and use. We also intend to collaborate with NEHGS and as many people of good faith as possible though it may eventually all come down to genetics (show me your genome and I’ll show you mine) per Henry Louis Gates Jr. and that’s OK. It’s a work in progress…

So, why go through all this effort in a society that seems to only care about NOW and what’s in it for them? Beyond the pleasure of discovering and celebrating who your great grandmother was and perhaps some of the contributions she may have made to Humanity, there is a higher calling that screams from the US National Archives – The Past is Prologue.” Let’s learn from whence we came so we can better prepare for our future.

Aside from all these often repeated platitudes we can appreciate that, “though the spirits of these people have moved on, their personalities their descendants. By researching ones ancestors, one may come closer to understanding oneself, 'the noblest undertaking of Man', according to Socrates.”


Ned Buxton

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