Serving the Vermont Champlain Valley Area for 45 Years
Tuesday May 12, 2009 Edition
Main Sections
Front Page SportsValley VitalsIt's in the StarsStarwiseArchivesLinksAbout The VoiceContact Us

Coming Home After Seven Generations: Sharing Vermont Connections With Susan Griffin

Four generations of women, tracing their ancestry. Susan Griffin, her mother, her
daughter Amanda & her granddaughter Lilianna.
photo provided
Four generations of women, tracing their ancestry. Susan Griffin, her mother, her daughter Amanda & her granddaughter Lilianna.

Tuesday May 12, 2009

By Cookie Steponaitis

    When Susan Griffin and her family crossed the border into Vermont in 1989 she had the odd feeling that they were returning home. “There was this strange sense,” she recalled, “like a homecoming, even though we had never come to the Champlain Valley before. While we were stunned by the green and natural beauty, there was more of a sense of coming full circle.” Little did the Griffins know that in fact they were coming home and completing a journey their ancestors began dating back seven generations.

    Born and raised in Colorado and then living with her husband and family in such diverse climates as Colorado, Florida and California’s Mojave Desert, Susan was used to packing up a house like a professional mover. A new job resulted in Vermont becoming the destination of the family and she was really ready to put down some roots. “I told my husband that this was it,” she chuckled. “I simply wasn’t moving anymore. What ever house and land we put up this time was the family homestead and that I wasn’t leaving. At the time it was more about being in one place than anything else.”

    Settling in Waltham on a ten acre piece of land, the family quickly settled into the Champlain Valley community of schools and church. It was then that they discovered the new location was more than a transfer to another state; it was in fact a homecoming. During a phone conversation with her sister in Colorado she remarked that she felt at home, because Vermont was like the Colorado of her youth before the growth of the ski industry and other business changed life there. Much to her shock Susan’s sister replied, “You really have come home. In tracing our family, I found that some of our ancestors were in fact settlers in Vermont who came west with the migrations of people in the early 1800’s.”

    The phone call set Susan on a quest to find her ancestry and to trace the journey of both sides of her family across history, states and time. She began with the work done by her sister and expanded it to trace the family back into New England, the American Revolution and its roots in Europe dating back to 980 A.D. During her work, she found herself meeting her own seventh great grandparents and learning of their lives in before the American Revolution and Vermont statehood.

    “I have used a combination of, Internet archives, Google books, and trips to cemeteries and archives of several states to follow the path taken by my ancestors. I use birth certificates, tombstones, census records, military records and marriage licenses to follow my family’s journey and development. One set of relatives that really fascinated me was the Farrar family line, which I used to document my application to the Daughters of the American Revolution. In tracing them back, I found Jacob and John Farrar came to America in the early 1600’s. He was about thirty years old when he immigrated and married in England and sent for his wife once he was established here in 1640. There are town records that he helped mark the boundaries of the town he lived in. Jacob was killed by Indians during King Philip’s War along with two sons. The homestead was completely destroyed. His wife and two daughters-in-laws went to court to retrieve the land and to start over. It really is amazing to see the people come alive and to look through their eyes at the country and the events they lived through. It makes it all the more powerful because they are your own family, making their way through America and through time.”

    While the process is often slow and you have to sleuth based on clues, Susan believes anyone can become involved in discovering their own history. It is out there and may take some serious looking, but each new generation, new member and new story is a new link in the puzzle of who we are as people and where we came from. “I wish I had known all of this as a child,” Susan commented. “I was fascinated with history as a child and I would have been so interested in knowing this if I had a connection. To find family serving in the American  Revolution, King Phillip’s War, Civil War and even to trace them back to England and Queen Anne’s War makes the family story so much more vital and alive. My sister concentrated on all of the living relatives and loves the current history. I love anything to do with the connections to Vermont, early America and European history. What really got me going on it was also seeing the John Adams documentary and to know that we were all English and still had family in Europe, really got me focused on finding my own heritage.”

    One key find in the gemological line was Betsy Briggs who was born in Putney, Vermont in 1778 and married Josiah Ferrar when she was very young. Her ancestor Clement Briggs came to Massachusetts in November of 1621 on the British ship the Fortune, just missing the famed first Thanksgiving. Betsy’s family produced several sons and one of them, Josiah Farrar junior made the trip best taking a young bride in the name of Julia Arnold. They both died in Colorado and their children became the basis of my family and the first to leave the New England area for a new life in the west. Her father Asa Briggs was noted for greeting people at the cabin door with a trained bear that served as watch dog and conversation piece. Having served in the Revolutionary War, Asa wanted his sons to strike out on their own and find their way in the new country. Some are buried in Barre, Vermont and continue the Vermont lines. Some made their way to Colorado and they got there in a most interesting way. They were serving as guides for George Washington’s nephew to the west and ended up staying there. “So, when I crossed the state line in 1989 I completed a circle started over a hundred and twenty years before. While my life has taken me all over America, it is New England that my family really called home”

    While preserving her heritage for her own daughter and sons is a source of great joy to Susan, the most fun comes in seeing her own past becoming alive here in Vermont. Each person she connects with brings her more of a sense of her own family and the powerful movements and settlements that shaped not only Vermont, but western America as well. On the front door of her home is a simple “Welcome home” sign, but in this case it is truly that and more. Seven generations ago her family set out on an adventure that led them across the continent to find their lives in the west. One of them has now reversed the trip and has brought her family back to their roots and home.

 Printer Friendly  Top

Search our Archives

· More Options


Agricultural Weather Forecast:

© 2006-18 The Valley Voice • 656 Exchange St., Middlebury, VT 05753 • 802-388-6366 • 802-388-6368 (fax)
Valleywides: [email protected] • Classifieds: [email protected] • Info: [email protected]