September 5th, 2016

American Ladies discover famous family links to Stratford

Updated: 9:29 am, Jul 17, 2015

AN AMERICAN institution and a house in Stratford play an important part in one family’s rich history.

When Patti Birks began tracing her family history four years ago, she was hoping to discover her ancestors’ links to England.

Ms Birks has always been fascinated by her family’s legacy in Westhampton Beach as one of the founding families, but had only ever been able to trace her lineage back four generations – to her great-great-great-grandparents, William and Eunice Rogers.

But in January, her niece Briana contacted a genealogist after being unable to trace their ancestry any further.

And it was soon revealed their family history went back much further, and included a direct link to the founder of the world famous American university Harvard, and to Harvard House in Stratford.

Once known as the Ancient House, the striking three storey Elizabethan townhouse was built by butcher and corn merchant Thomas Rogers in 1596. His daughter Katherine married into the Harvard family, and her son John went on to found the world-famous seat of learning in Massachusetts. Research found John was Ms Birks’ eleventh generation grandfather.

As soon as the discovery was made, Ms Birks was determined to visit the historic High Street house now cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The 64 year-old told The Observer: “For me, being in Stratford is like coming home. This is where I came from. Even when I was a child it felt like it was in my blood know this. I never had a clue that I would build a bridge back to Stratford and that so many important people would be a part of this. ”

Harvard House was not the only notable English family connection unearthed by the genealogist.

It was also discovered the family was related to John Rogers – clergyman, Bible translator and the first English Protestant martyr burnt at the stake in 1555 during the reign of ardent Catholic Mary I.

* ANNE Hathaway’s descendants will be gathering in Shottery at the weekend.

Over 60 relations of Shakespeare’s wife will meet at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to share their family stories and heirlooms.

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