As part of my celebration of music in 2013 I’ll be following on from my look at Benjamin Britten’s ancestry last November and look at the family trees of other lgbt musicians and singers to see if their musical talents were inherited - and at what skeletons or saints they have in their family closets. I’ll begin with the American composer Virgil Thomson (1896-1989).
Virgil Thomson certainly didn’t get his musical talents from his father Quincy Alfred Thomson.
was tone deaf. There’s not much to suggest music ran in his father’s family either. The Thomson’s were Scottish in origin. The first definite recorded member of the family was Samuel Thomson (1691-1753), who emigrated from the Scottish Lowlands (via Quincy ) in 1717 to become a planter in Virginia Colony. Some researchers have traced Samuel’s ancestry back a further 3 generations, but I’d prefer more proof before I agree with them. Wales
The above-mentioned Samuel Thomson, it is said, was an Anabaptist. This was a faith which advocated simplicity and rejection of luxury. They were also against church hierarchy, making them unpopular with both Catholic and Protestant authorities. Because of this, the Anabaptists were persecuted in the 16th and 17th centuries. As with some other persecuted religious groups (such as the Mayflower Pilgrims) the Anabaptists sought refuge in the
Samuel’s son William was a Captain in the
state regiment during the War of Independence, and his grandson was called Asa Thomson. Their wives were, respectively, Anne Rodes and Diana Quarles. I’ll come back to these ladies later. Virginia
Even if there’s only circumstantial evidence that Samuel Thomson was Anabaptist, it is certain that his great-grandson (the son of Asa Thomson) was a Baptist preacher. His name was Robert Yancey Thomson and he married in 1826. His wife was the daughter of a Baptist minister, Rev. Peyton Nowlin, whose grandfather was an immigrant from
. Virgil Thomson was Robert’s great-grandson. Ireland
Looking at Virgil’s maternal line of descent there’s also no real evidence of a musical strain to the family, though it shows a similar mix of English, Scottish and Irish colonial ancestry as his father’s. In fact, it goes all the way back to the first colonial settlement of
And now let’s return to the wives of Asa and Capt. William Thomson. Both wives come from colonial families with well documented ancestries.
Diana Quarles, the wife of Asa Thomson, belonged to a prominent settler family, and the couple were not only ancestors of Virgil Thomson but also one of the Hollywood Greats, Steve McQueen. The Quarles have distinguished ancestry going back to bad King John of Magna Carta and Robin Hood fame.
The other wife I mentioned, the wife of Capt. William Thomson, was Anne Rodes. She, too, belonged to a distinguished settler family. Her grandfather was almost certainly the emigrant Charles Rodes. Only circumstantial evidence links them, but several of the most respected American and British genealogists accept the link with 99% certainty.
Charles Rodes came from Sturton-le-Steeple in Nottinghamshire, a village right in the heart of Mayflower Pilgrim country just a few miles from where I originally come from. Charles inherited his estate through his grandmother who was the daughter of Sir George Lascelles. Charles’s grandfather was Sir Francis Rodes (1588-1645) of Barlborough Hall in neighbouring Derbyshire. Through his mother
(née Constable) Sir Francis has several lines of descent from several kings of Frances and England , and shares ancestry with myself – Virgil Thomson (through Constable and Rodes) and myself (through Constable, Monckton, Appleyard and Scupham) are direct descendants of King Henry II of Scotland . England