With American roots that she knows go back “not to the Mayflower, but pretty close,” Prospect resident Patricia Zappone had a long-standing interest in her family’s history. But as often happens, allusions to famous ancestors are sometimes confused, embellished or lost over time.
Family secrets or legends, lost documents and poorly remembered facts can cloud the picture. With the help of the Cheshire Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Zappone began searching for records that would paint an accurate picture of a family tree leading from her own family through her parents and grandparents all the way back to the First World War. independence.
The Daughters of the American Revolution is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to “promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education.” Founded in October 1890 by a group of women, including George Washington’s great-grandniece Eugenia Washington, the DAR’s current membership includes prominent political figures such as former first ladies Rosalynn Carter and Laura Bush, as well as current Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth.
The list of notable women who belonged in the past is also prestigious, ranging from celebrities like Ginger Rogers and Lillian Gish, to activists like Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams and Clara Barton. From artist Grandma Moses and engineer Emily Warren Roebling to cryptanalyst Gene Grabeel and Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the profound influence of patriotic women on US and world history is evident. Membership is open to any woman “regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity” who can prove her lineage to a “patriot of the American Revolution”.
Patricia Zappone is now officially one of those people. She was admitted to the Lady Fenwick Chapter of Cheshire this summer, after several years of genealogical research which enabled her to confirm her lineage.
The local Cheshire chapter is named after Alice Apsley Boteler Fenwick, Lady Boteler or Lady Fenwick, whose own history is remarkable. She arrived in Connecticut alongside her second husband and helped establish the colony in what is now Old Saybrook. Two locks of the Lady’s hair are held in the historical collection: https://cypresscemeteryosct.org/lady-fenwick/
To this end, Patricia used several research methods. She and a sister had visited the Rhode Island Archives in the 1970s to gather information about the family, but the story remained incomplete. Online resources such as ancestry.com have provided initial help in establishing some names and lineages, but the DAR requires strong archival evidence. This meant finding official documents such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, wills, newspaper articles and land deeds.
Her research took her beyond the borders of the United States to southern Quebec where “knowing a little French was helpful,” she says. This skill allowed him to examine a Sherbrooke newspaper that detailed another family connection.
After the war ended, British Lieutenant Governor Sir Alured Clarke began a program to grant land to people of English descent in Canada, hoping to use it to compensate for the growing number of French Catholic settlers. Among these recipients was Sergeant Joseph Perkins of New Hampshire, who took advantage of the largesse of his former enemy to acquire an important property near what is now Windsor Mills, Quebec.
Perkins turned out to be the connection to the Revolution that Patricia had been looking for all these years. Throughout the war he had fought in several fights with the New Hampshire militia, despite being under 20 at the time. He married a Sarah Fowler, a Vermonter who herself defied the British troops. During the War of 1812 he became a captain in the Canadian Forces, but did not fight an active war. Despite his adventures and hardships, Perkins lived to be 87 and died in Shipton, Quebec, in January 1846.
Among his descendants, says Patricia, were participants in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, not to mention Major Henry Rathbone, who sat with President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater the night of his assassination.
Family history can be interesting on its own, but “it was important for me to pass on this legacy,” says Patricia. One of the main benefits of his efforts was that his son, Nicholas Zappone, was able to use his research to join General David Humphreys’ chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. His namesake, General Humphreys, was born in Derby and, among other accomplishments, introduced merino wool to the United States.
Although the process of joining the DAR can be lengthy, help is available for those wishing to pursue it. Becoming a member allows a person to feel a continuity in the history of the Republic and a newfound respect for the sacrifices of those who came before.
“I wanted the satisfaction of proving the theory,” says Patricia, “of knowing where we came from.”