I checked all the registered historical facts and I was shocked into shame to discover …

18Jan07

You’d be amazed what you can find out about your family online now. These days, a good deal of genealogical research is just a mouse click away, whereas in yesteryear, you’d have to troll through dusty census records, amble through cemeteries checking out gravestones, or — God forbid — talk to your grandparents. Thanks to sites such as Rootsweb.com, I’ve been able to trace a couple of lines on my mother’s side back 16 generations.

My family tree almost underwent a weird grafting only one generation back; my parents split at the same time as the couple across the road did, and my dad later married the woman and my mom lived common-law with her ex-husband for a while, so if they’d made it official, I’d have had a double stepbrother and a double stepsister. But last night marked the first time in which my clicking on Rootsweb’s hypertext links led me around in a circle, which led to the realization that two of my ancestors had the same grandparents, making them first cousins. Ew, I thought. Consanguinity. Until then, I’d thought that the worst thing I’d turn up was that my ancestor Hugh Crowder, who arrived in Virginia in 1619, owned a few Irishmen. But I was about to run into something that would make the kissing cousins look positively wholesome by comparison.

Here’s the shocking note that I found moments later about my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather
Thomas Rood:

Thomas Roode was executed 18 Oct 1672 Norwich, CT for incest with his daughter, Sarah who bore a son, George. Trumbull Colonial Record II, page 184. He and his daughter, Sarah, pleaded guilty to the charge of incest. He was executed on 18 Oct 1672 and his daughter severly whipped, “that others may heare and feare.” The child, George Rood, was raised by Lt. THomas Leffingwell, referred to as uncle, which may mean that Thomas’ wife, Sarah, may have been a Leffingwell. No proof has been found.

Mr. Robert Rood Buell, a noted Genealogist of the Rood family, whose notes on the family are contained in 13 uncataloged boxes in the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in Toledo, Ohio, wrote to the editor in October of 1967 with the following comments: “Yes, I do know why Thomas (1) Rood died by hanging at Say Brook and have read (laboriously) all the testimony in the original court files. He has the dubious distinction of being the only Colonist in N. America executed for incest. His dau. Sarah (also=his second wife, by whom son (gdson) George) was apparently taken under the wing of Dr. George Bushnell of New London who looked after her until her death…….Incest in Colonial New England was NOT uncommon but isn’t found in the published books.”

Let’s say that again: I’m descended from the only colonist in North America to be caught and executed for incest. Thankfully, he’s only my eight-times-great-grandfather and not also my seven-times-great-grandfather; I’m not a product of the issue of that relationship, being descended from a different son. Still, yuck. What a horrible distinction. Hear and fear.

At least I can take solace in a couple of things. First, there’s this note: “Thomas was on excellent terms with the Indians and his early land acquisitions were from the Sachem Squanto. He was held in high regard by them since several of their sacred places were on his property.” It’s good to know he was tight with Squanto. I can’t see this being the famous Squanto who helped the Pilgrims, as he died two or three years before Rood was born, so it must be a different Squanto, but any Squanto is a good one, in my books.

And second, I know Rood was the real surname of the late, great heel wrestler “Ravishing” Rick Rude, which raises the dizzying possibility that I may in fact have a distant genealogical link to the Heenan Family. That’s such an exciting thought that if I had a webcam, I’d be flicking it on right now and telling all you fat, out-of-shape, internet sweathogs to keep the noise down while I took my robe off and showed all the ladies what a real man is supposed to look like.



14 Responses to “I checked all the registered historical facts and I was shocked into shame to discover …”

  1. 1 nathan

    so does this mean we’re going to hear more about your ridiculous mustache? (moostache?) maybe even a michael landon-esque perm?

  2. No, but I might take a crack at seeing what it’s like to have washboard abs (the previous post about eating potato chips for dinner notwithstanding.)

    By the way, if any post is going to make my family regret reading my blog, it’s probably this one.

  3. Incest? Ha! I’ve got that beat. George H. W. Bush (the first one) is my grandfather’s cousin; I’m no genealogist, but I think by default that makes me related to W.
    It makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?

  4. 4 Shelley L

    My home county, Bruce County in Ontario, has an awful record of consanguinity too. When my older sister was married a couple years ago, we had to look at the family trees, just in case.

    Also, at least you weren’t descended from Old Catholic families. On my mother’s french side, there were 16 nuns and 2 Jesuits in the last 150 years. Slightly less on my dad’s German side: 5 nuns and no Jesuits.

  5. Shelley: My dad’s family settled in Grey Country, right next door to Bruce, so who knows what went on there? Records are sketchy on that side.

    Popo: Oh no! That is worse. I’ll tell you what I’ll do about this, since I’m adopting the ways of the Ravishing One: I’ll wear a pair of wrestling tights with Laura Bush’s face airbrushed on the front, like Rude did with the visage of Jake “The Snake” Robert’s wife, Cheryl. From what I’ve seen, that ought to really piss Dubya off.

  6. 6 Melody Rood

    What you may find even scarier is that a whole lot of your distant Rood relatives are in fact republicans.lol

  7. 7 Susie

    I’m intrigued as well as bothered by the incestuous relationship. Maybe someday I’ll write a great book which explains how Thomas and his daughter became sexually involved. I do know it was 2 yrs after his wife/her mother died….and yes, I am a descendant of Thomas and his wife, Sarah.

  8. 8 Charlotte

    Hello cousin, I’m also related to Thomas Rood, who was my 7th great grandfather AND to George H.W. Bush, who is a distant cousin, both on my father’s side. How’s that for losing the ancestral lottery!

    About the daughter, Sarah, the court essentially found that she had been raped so she was merely “severly whipt on the naked body once at Hartford & once at Norwich that others may heare & fear & do no more such abominable wickednesse.”

    For another hair-raising story, look at the history of Hannah Bush, who married George Rood (Sarah and Thomas’ son). George probably never could have married, except that he found someone whose story was in some ways worse than his one.

    • 9 Peter Lynn

      Wait, does this mean I’m related to George Bush too?

  9. 10 Steve Mitchell

    If your interested there is a dissertation (readable online) entitled, ” A Great Appearance of Force” by Alicia Desiree Martin – Cowger which discusses in detail the trials of Sarah and Thomas Rood and the trail of Hannah Bush, wife of George Rood.

  10. Well distant cousin, at least you have a sense of humor about it. Im in the process of creating a book for my father and cousins about our geneology and have been asked by some to exclude this piece of history from my final draft. Shame, cuz it is the most interesting fact i can find on any of my ancestors.

    • 12 Steve Mitchell

      I would be very interested in reading your book. I have been researching this material on and off for the last fifteen years and I have come up with a great many more questions than answers. One of the reasons I became so interested in the early years of the Rood family in America is that there was always a persistent legend that there was Native American ancestry in the family. As a matter of fact one of my great aunts in the early 1960’s had a professional genealogist research and compile a family tree for our Richardson/Rood lines. If anything this tree left open the question of the identity of the wife of Thomas Rood, Sarah Leffingwell/White. Who was she? Was she the sister of Thomas Leffingwell or the sister of his wife Mary White ? There has also been a persistent legend within the Leffingwell family for 12 or 13 generations that Thomas Leffingwell’s wife was a daughter of the Mohegan sachem Uncas. Why was Sarah Leffingwell/White interred in the Sachem Burial Ground ( a Native American burial ground) in Norwich, Conn. in 1668 and why was Thomas Rood interred in the same place after his execution in 1672 ? After the incestuous relationship between Thomas Rood and his daughter Sarah their son George was given by the state to his Uncle Thomas Leffingwell to be raised. Then when George becomes a young man and becomes engaged to a women named Hannah Bush there is another case of rape by her step father while her mother was present. It gets worse. One of George and Hannah’s sons, Ebenezer Rood, is hauled into court by his wife for almost beating her to death while she was pregnant. And then there is the case of Micah Rood, son of Thomas and Sarah Leffingwell/White Rood. By all accounts Micah was a well to do prosperous farmer who descended into mental, emotional and economic poverty. He became a pauper who was payed by the church members for cleaning the church. A legend grew up in the Norwich, Conn. area that Micah had killed a peddler in his apple orchard and that a certain type of one of his apples called the ” Mike” had a blood red spot on it because of the crime he committed. A couple of years ago there was a documentary film produced called, “The Legend of Micah Rood”. By all accounts Thomas Rood was a very prosperous farmer, some say that he was an attorney, and that he had a very close relationship with the Native Americans. Some of their sacred sites were on his lands. By my accounts it looks like he may have owned around 350 to 400 acres at the time of his execution. And then there is a very disturbing sentence in Savage that relates to Sarah Leffingwell/White and the trial that states, “For she died happy for he was hanged and her daughter was severely whipped”. What are we being told? Was this incestuous relationship going on before Sarah’s death ? I am descended from Thomas and Sarah’s son John and his wife Mary Eddy. Again, John is a very prosperous farmer and becomes a founder of Preston Township in Conn. Yet there is a case of one of his sons going through a divorce with a women named ( I believe, Experience Pease, I don’t have my notes in front of me ) which causes him to flee to New Jersey, (and by some accounts with his mother). After Experience Pease dies he remarries. I cannot find any information on the divorce proceedings or the trial. I have read accounts that Thomas and Sarah’s children changed the spelling of their name from Rood to Rude because of the stigma attached to their father’s crime. This does seem to be the case for one generation but Thomas and Sarah’s children and grandchildren marry into very well established and prominent families, (the Eddys, Roses, Parkes) and one grandson and great grandson marries into the Alden family. Was this just a case of good old puritan forgiveness ? And then, after forty years of family upheaval, by the historical record anyway, it all settles down and goes away as if it had never happened. The Rood family goes on to establish towns in Conn., New York, Ohio etc. etc. As I said at the beginning, this story establishes a lot more questions than answers.

      Regards,
      Steve Mitchell

      • 13 Peter Lynn

        This is really fascinating stuff. I’m not sure if I can possibly add anything to this, but you’ve given me a lot to chew on.

  11. 14 Heather

    George was my (9th) great grandfather. This story breaks my heart, even more so, because I was also a victim like Sarah. Stories like this are common in my family, unfortunately.


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