When tracing ancestors across the centuries, kin are often clustered together in a similar locations, an economic situation, or an ethnic identity. A gateway ancestor is anyone with known or traceable ancestry from one specific group who marries into another group. Each immigrant from one country to another is a potential gateway, if his/her descendants can then trace his/her ancestry to the original country. Gateways can also occur when someone moves from one distinct social group into another or across distinct religious, economic, or racial barriers.
In the United States, however, the term “gateway ancestor” most commonly is used to refer to colonial immigrants whose ancestry can be traced in the Old World—specifically to gentry, nobility, or royalty.
According to Gary Boyd Roberts, author of the book, Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the United States, most Americans with significant New England, Quaker, or Southern plantation ancestry are descended from English, Scottish, Welsh, and French royalty, nobility, or gentry.
Why is that?, you might ask. The reason is primogeniture: the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child, typically the eldest son. Many colonists of high social status were the daughters or younger sons of aristocratic families who came to the New World looking for land because, given their gender or birth order, they could not inherit. At least 650 colonists are known to have traceable royal and noble ancestry; approximately 387 of them had descendants.
Both my family and my spouse’s family have several gateway ancestors. The first one whom I will introduce is Edward Foulke, my spouse’s 8th great-grandfather through his mother’s maternal line. Edward Foulke has been proven to descend from Charlemagne, a Magna Carta baron, and even a saint.
Edward ap Foulke was born 13 May 1651 in Llandderfel, Merionethshire, Wales. He was the third son of Foulke ap Thomas (who was also a third son) and Lowry ferch Edward.
“I, Edward Foulke, was the son of Foulke, ap Thomas, ap Evan, ap Thomas, ap Robert, ap David Lloyd, ap David, ap Evan Vaughan (ap Evan), ap Griffith, ap Madoc, ap Ririd Flaidd, Lord of Penllyn, who dwelt at Rhiwaedog. My mother’s name was Lowry, the daughter of Edward, ap David, ap Ellis, ap Robert, of the Parish of Llanvor in Merionethshire.”
In 1682, Edward Foulke married Eleanor Hugh (Eleanor ferch Hugh) in Wales. She was the daughter of Hugh ap Cadwaladr.
“I was born on the 13th of 5th month, 1651, and when arrived at mature age, I married Eleanor, the daughter of Hugh, ap Cadwaladr, ap Rhys, of the Parish of Spytu in Denbighshire; her mother’s name was Gwen, the daughter of Ellis, ap William, ap Hugh, ap Thomas, ap David, ap Madoc, ap Evan, ap Cott, ap Griffith, ap Madoc, ap Einion, ap Meredith of Cai-Fadog; and she was born in the same parish and shire with her husband.
I had, by my said wife, nine children, whose names are as follows: Thomas, Hugh, Cadwalader, and Evan; Grace, Gwen, Jane, Catherine, and Margaret. We lived at a place called Coed y Foel, a beautiful farm, belonging to Roger Price esq., of Rhiwlas, Merionethshire, aforesaid.”
Their nine children, of Coed y Foel, Llandderfel, Merionethshire, Wales, were Thomas (my spouse’s 7th great-grandfather, born 7 August 1783), Jane (born 10 June 1684), Hugh (born 6 July 1685), Margaret (born in 1687), Evan (born circa 1689), Gwen (born circa 1690), Cadwalader (born 13 July 1691), Grace (born circa 1693), and Catherine (born in 1697).
On 17 Jul 1698, Edward and Eleanor Foulke and all their children immigrated to the American Colonies. According to family tradition, the reason for Edward Foulke’s decision to immigrate was formed from his conviction of the hardships and injustice often inflicted upon those subject to a monarchy. Supposedly, he was obligated to attend a military muster or drill. While there, one of his kinsman engaged in an exercise involving a broadsword or other weapon. During this exercise, his kinsman’s kneecap was struck off by his antagonist. The bystanders, as well as the one who had inflicted the injury, showed no remorse; instead, they cheered it. Edward, distressed at his kinsman’s suffering, was shocked to think that this barbarous occurrence was a natural outgrowth of the system under which they lived. His mind turned to the New World as a place of escape; however, he was very reluctant to undertake the difficulty and danger inherent with a long voyage with a large family. He decided to broach the subject with his wife. She, as the tradition holds, regarded his impression as having Divine origin, and while Edward Foulke hesitated and prevaricated, his wife Eleanor contended: “He that revealed this to thee can bless a very little in America to us and can blast a great deal in our native land.”
“But in process of time, I had an inclination to remove with my family to the province of Pennsylvania; and in order thereto, we set out on the 3rd day of the 2nd month, A.D. 1698, and came in two days to Liverpool, where, with divers others who intended to go the voyage, we took shipping, the 17th of the same month, on board the Robert and Elizabeth, and the next day set sail for Ireland, where we arrived, and staid until the first of the 3rd month, May, and then sailed again for Pennsylvania, and were about eleven weeks at sea. And the sore distemper of the bloody flux broke out in the vessel, of which died five and forty persons in our passage; the distemper was so mortal that two or three corpses were cast overboard every day while it lasted. But through favor and mercy of Divine Providence, I, with my wife and nine children, escaped that sore mortality, and arrived safe in Philadelphia, the 17th of the 5th month, July, where we were kindly received and hospitably entertained by our friends and old acquaintances.”
Edward was one of the original settlers of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, where he purchased and settled on 712 acres of land. His land today would be located in Lower Gwynedd Township, extending approximately from Brushtown Road to Penllyn Pike and from the Whitpain Township line to Sumneytown Pike (except for a small rectangle of 110 acres belonging to Evan ap Hugh). Many of the place names in Gwynedd Township are related to Edward Foulke’s roots.
“I soon purchased a fine tract of land of about seven hundred acres, sixteen miles from Philadelphia, on a part of which I settled, and divers others of our company who came over sea with us, settled near me at the same time. This was the beginning of November 1698, aforesaid, and the township was called Gwynedd, or North Wales.”
In 1702, Edward Foulke wrote about his emigration from Wales (see the quotes above), as well as his lineage. On his father’s side, Edward Foulke traced his ancestry to the 12th century Welsh chieftain, Rhirid Flaidd of Penllyn, whose mottos were blaidd rhudd ar y blaen (red wolf to the front) and consequitur quod conque petit (he attains what he attempts). The coat of arms belonging to Rhirid Flaidd ap Gwergenu was green with a chevron between three boars’ heads, erased argent. These coats of arms were passed down generations later to Edward Foulke.
The book, The Historical Collections Relating to Gwynedd, by Howard M. Jenkins, discusses Rhirid Flaidd:
“This distinguished man, Lord of Penllyn (a cantref containing five parishes north of the Bala Lake), Eifonydd, Pennant, Melangell, and Glyn, in Powis, and, as some say, of eleven towns or trefs in the hundred of Oswestry), has been occasionally described, but erroneously, as founder of one of the fifteen noble tribes of North Wales. At the same time his territories were larger and his influence much more extensive than those of several of the founders of noble tribes. He flourished at the time of Henry II, and his son Richard I. Paternally his descent was from Cynedda Wledig, but maternally it is alleged that his lineage was Norman, his mother being a descendant of Richard, Earl of Avranches, by his son William, whose brother was Hugh Lupus Earl of Chester. Whether Rhirid was called Flaidd “Wolf” from a cognomen of his maternal ancestors or from the possession of a hungry and savage nature, it is not easy to say. His eldest son Madoc had a son, Rhirid Fychan (“Younger” or “Little”), who married into the family of Fychan (Vaughan) of Nannau, and from him were descended the subsequents Vaughans of Nannau and Rhug. From his son David Pothon, who married Cicely, daughter of Sir Alexander Myddleton, Lord of Myddelton, in Shropshire, the Myddletons of Chirk Castle were descended, retaining the maternal name.”
Through his maternal family, Edward Foulke’s lineage spanned back to Edward I of England through Eleanor of England Countess of Bar. This ancestry is documented in Early Friends Families of Upper Bucks, pg. 127. Edward’s lineage to Edward I of England through Joan, who married Gilbert de Clare, is documented in Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania, pg. 298-300.
Edward Foulke died on 8 January 1741, in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Sometime before his death, he wrote this eloquent exhortation to his children:
“My dear children: There has been for a considerable time, something on my mind to say to you by way of advice, before I return to dust, and resign my soul to Him who gave it: though I find some difficulty in delivering my thoughts in writing.
My first admonition to you, is, that you fear the Lord, and depart from evil all the days of your life.
Secondly, as you are brothers and sisters, I beseech you to love one another and your neighbors too. If any of your neighbors injure you, in word or deed, bear it with patience and humility. It is more pleasing in the sight of God and good men, to forgive injuries, than it is to revenge them. Rather pray for them, than wish them any evil: Lest that text in scripture, which requires an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, come into your minds when you leave this world, and you be found wanting. For without doubt, he that is thoughtless and negligent all his days about the welfare of his soul, will some day or another, in the midst of his extremity, call on the rocks and mountains to secure him from the vengeance of an offended God.
My dear children, accustom not yourselves to loose, vain talking, which the scriptures declare against. It was hurtful to me in my youth, and stopped my virtue. The temptations of this world are very powerful, as Job said by experience. Be watchful over your evening conversation. Let pious thoughts possess your souls for the moment before you close your eyes for sleep. If you do that, you will be more likely to find yourselves in the morning in a meek, humble posture before God, who preserved you from evil. This will produce peace and calmness of mind, with a blessing in your outward affairs: as we read of Isaac, whose pious meditations in the field, was rewarded with outward and inward blessings. I desire you not to reject the least appearance of good which may arise in your minds as if it could be obtained at pleasure. Give speedy obedience unto God who begets this diving emotion in your hearts. For a man’s abode in this world is very doubtful. It often happens that death comes without warning: yet we must go whether ready or not — where the tree falls, there it must be. I knew a man in the land of my nativity, that went to bed with his wife at night and died before morning, unknown to her. Such things are designed, I believe, as a warning to us, that we may arm ourselves against the terrors of such a day.
And of such as die after that manner, we have little to say, save that they died and were buried; placing the rest amongst the mysteries of the Almighty. Hence let us take a view of our own weakness, and judge of one another with charity.
I feel sorrow now in my old age, for want of being more careful and circumspect in my youth. Although I did nothing that brought shame on myself, or grief on my parents; yet there was amongst the loose, inconsistent youth, too many things which they called innocent, without considering they were building on the sand; and I was often drawn into vain mirth with them. There is a vast difference between the two sentences, delivered to those who built on the rock, and those who built on the sand. Our Saviour said of the latter, their fall shall be great. Let me entreat you, my dear children, assume not the appearance of religion, without a real possession of it in your hearts. Our Saviour compared such as did so, to sepulchres, white without, but within, full of dead men’s bones. Yet I have better hopes of you, though I mention this.
I have known, at times, something pressing me to read good books, or to go aside in private, to pray: which, if I neglected, and took my liberty other ways, then indifference and hardness would prevail, which deprived me of those good inclinations for a considerable time after. I have also to tell you of my own experience, concerning attending week-day meetings. Whenever I suffered trifling occasions, or my outward affairs, and business, if not urgent, to interrupt my going, a cool reflection and serious view, made me look upon it as a loss or injury done to my better part; and generally, the business done that day, did not answer my expectations of it in the morning.
One thing more comes into my mind, by searching myself; which is, that it had been better for me, if I had been more careful, in sitting with my family at meals, with a sober countenance; because children and servants have eyes and observations on those who have the command and government of them. It has a great influence on the life and manners of youth. So my dear children, perhaps some of you may get some advantage by this. If you consider with attention this innocent simplicity of life and manners I have been speaking of, you need not fear but that God will preserve you in safety from the snares of the devil, and the storms of this inconstant world. By diligence also you shall obtain victory over the deceitfulness of riches. I fear there are too many of this age, who suffer themselves to be carried away with the torrent of corruption. And not only such as content themselves, as it were, in the outward porch; but also such as make greater pretences than those: even they who ere looked upon as pillars in the church, have, I fear, turned their backs upon it. I lay these things close to you, that you may be careful and diligent, whilst you have time left, lest by degrees, indifference creep upon you, under the disguise of an easy mind, and you forget, it is he who holds out to the end shall be saved.
And as for your father and mother, our time is almost come to a period. We have lived together above fifty years, and now in our old age, the Lord is as good and gracious as ever He was. He gives us a comfortable living. Now in the close of our days, we have fresh occasion to acknowledge His benevolence and abounding goodness to us.
Now I think I can with peace of mind conclude, with hopes that your prayers will be for us in the most needful time, especially on a dying pillow, when our time in this world comes to an eternal rest. I conclude in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “See thee up way marks, make thee high leaps, set thy heart toward the highway, even the way that thou wentest. Turn again, Oh Virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.”