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  • William Shakespeare

    This week marks nearly 450 years since William Shakespeare was baptized into the Church of England as an infant on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was the third of eight children, and his father was a glovemaker and an alderman, a member of the local assembly.

    At age eighteen he married Anne Hathaway, and together they had three children: first a daughter named Susanna, then twins named Judith and Hamnet. Neither of Shakespeare's daughters ever received an education; Judith could not even sign her own name on documents. Susanna married a physician named John Hall and they had one daughter named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the only grandchild born during William Shakespeare's lifetime and thus was the only grandchild he ever knew. Elizabeth married twice but never had any children. Shakespeare's daughter Judith married Thomas Quiney, a winemaker, two months before her father's death. Thomas and Judith had three children, all of whom died without marrying. William Shakespeare's only son Hamnet, Judith's twin brother, died at the age of eleven. Thus Shakespeare has no living descendants today, the last being his granddaughter Elizabeth.

    From 1585 to 1592 Shakespeare's whereabouts and activities are unknown. Sometime during that period he moved to London to act and write plays. He joined a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men and became a part owner of the company. After 1594, his plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain's Men and they became the leading playing company in London. In 1599 they built their own playhouse, the Globe, on the south side of the River Thames. After Queen Elizabeth died, James I gave the company a royal patent and the name was changed to the King's Men. The company was very successful and it made Shakespeare a wealthy man; he divided his time between homes in London and Stratford.

    Shakespeare's prolific playwriting career spans more than two decades and includes a variety of subjects and genres; he also wrote many sonnets. 154 of his sonnets were published in a compiled volume, Shakespeare's Sonnets, in 1609.

    Many of Shakespeare's plays were written in non-rhyming iambic pentameter verse, or iambic pentameter "blank verse." The first recorded plays that can indubitably be attributed to him are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s. During the 1590s, he wrote history plays and comedies; Julius Caesar, one of his most famed histories, was the first play performed in the Globe after it opened in 1599. In the early 1600s, Shakespeare began writing tragedies, including Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear, all of which were written to be performed in the Globe Theater. On 29 June 1613 the thatched roof of the Globe caught fire from a cannon, and the theater burned to the ground. William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. In 1623 former colleagues published the First Folio, a collection of his works containing all but two of the plays now attributed to him.

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  • Historical Myths Debunked

    As family historians, our goal is to root out any false traditions or tall tales from our family trees. Although oral traditions and family legends can help lead us to factual events, they should always be verified before they are accepted as accurate. Likewise, there are also many misleading and erroneous historical accounts. For this article, let's get to the bottom of these stories. But remember, every legend contains a kernel of truth.

    John Smith and Pocahontas. Retold in elementary-school classrooms and immortalized in an animated Walt Disney film, the actual interaction of John Smith and Pocahontas was not at all the glamorous love story it is sometimes made out to be. For one thing, Pocahontas was only ten years old when she saved Smith's life, according to his account. But even that may not be accurate. John Smith's earliest account of his encounter with Pocahontas dates 1616, almost ten years after the supposed event. Many historians argue that John Smith's accounts of his adventures in Virginia were embellished to exaggerate his own heroic escapades, so we may never know.

    Paul Revere and William Dawes. Paul Revere was the rider immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1861 poem. But on the night of 18 April 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren actually sent two riders to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were marching from Boston to Lexington. Paul Revere and William Dawes both made the ride from Boston, and along the way they were joined by Samuel Prescott, a local physician. Two lanterns were hung in the steeple of the Old North Church to transmit the message in case Revere and Dawes were captured.

    Ferdinand Magellan. Although Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan is commonly credited with being the first man to circumnavigate the globe, he was actually killed by natives in the Philippines. It was his second-in-command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, and the surviving crew, who made it all the way around the world.

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  • Famous Ancestor: John Hancock

    After being orphaned, John Hancock was adopted by his wealthy uncle Thomas Hancock, who had amassed a fortune during the Seven Years' War. In 1763 when Thomas Hancock died, John inherited his fortune, said to be the greatest body of wealth in New England. John received a business education from Harvard College and carried on his uncle's mercantile business with alacrity. In 1768 while his ship, the Liberty, was docked at Boston Harbor, it was seized by British customs officials and John Hancock was charged with smuggling. Popular opinion was on Hancock's side, however: a group of Bostonians stormed the boat and attacked the customs officials. Hancock supported actions like the Boston Tea Party, and in 1774 he was elected as a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the First Continental Congress. As a result of his revolutionary stance, he was on a list of offenders of the British government. On the night of 18 April 1775, Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere and William Dawes from Boston to Lexington to warn John Adams and John Hancock that the British were marching to Lexington. The message was successfully transmitted, and John Hancock was ready to meet the British troops.

    To view John Hancock's Family Tree, login to OneGreatFamily, launch Genealogy Browser, and enter OGFN#514296904. You can also see whether or not you are related to John Hancock by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you login to OneGreatFamily.

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  • Famous Ancestor: Aaron Burr

    At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Burr took part in the invasion of Canada and the failed attempt to capture Quebec. Burr also participated in the Manhattan skirmishes and the Battle of Monmouth. After the war, he served in the New York State Assembly and then served as attorney general for two years. In 1791, he was elected as New York senator, defeating incumbent General Philip Schuyler, Alexander Hamiltion's father-in-law. Burr served as senator for six years, then spent two more years in the New York State Assembly from 1798 to 1799. He ran in the presidential election of 1800, along with Thomas Jefferson, incumbent John Adams, John Jay, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Under the system at that time, the recipient of the majority of the votes was elected president, while the runner-up became vice president. Burr tied with Jefferson in the Electoral College, and then Jefferson was chosen as president by the House of Representatives. In 1804, when Jefferson was running for re-election, he dropped Burr from his ticket, so Burr ran for the governorship of New York. During Burr's campaign, Alexander Hamilton defamed him in the press. The insulted Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel: Hamilton accepted, and Burr killed Hamilton on 11 July 1804.

    To view Aaron Burr's Family Tree, login to OneGreatFamily, launch Genealogy Browser, and enter OGFN#500792438. You can also see whether or not you are related to Aaron Burr by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you login to OneGreatFamily. . You can also see whether or not you are related to by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you .

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  • Famous Ancestor: Patrick Henry

    Patrick Henry was born in 1736 in Virginia. He became a lawyer in 1757; he was a skilled and passionate orator, and an advocate for the cause of American rights. He first became well-known as a radical and revolutionary in 1763, when he was the defending lawyer in the "Parson's Cause," a case in which he argued against the royal power to veto colonial laws. In 1765 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and became its leading radical member, proposing the Stamp Act Resolutions and working to get them passed.

    Henry's famous words, "Give me liberty or give me death!" were spoken on 23 March 1775 in the House of Burgesses, when he argued that Virginia had to mobilize troops to check the movements of the British. The following month, royally-appointed governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, was growing nervous because of the revolutionary feeling in the colony, so he seized the colonial militia's stockpile of gunpowder. Henry led the militia, chased down Dunmore, and forced him to make payment for the stolen gunpowder. In 1776, Henry was elected governor of Virginia and continued to work for independence from the British.

    To view Patrick Henry's Family Tree, login to OneGreatFamily, launch Genealogy Browser, and enter OGFN#530995396. You can also see whether or not you are related to Patrick Henry by going to the Relationship Calculator on the Family Dashboard Page when you login to OneGreatFamily.

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