Saturday, 21 July 2018

Out of Her Fantastic Tree : Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

The subject of today’s genealogical analysis is one of the biggest talents the young lgbt community has produced. The world of literature is blessed with teenage talent and one of the most successful is Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (b.1984).

Amelia had her first fantasy novel published when she was 14 years old and she has gone one to write over 20 more since then. Most of Amelia’s novels feature the supernatural and fantasy with vampires and witches dominating the list of protagonists. It would have been perfect if I could have found a family link back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but the only link I have found so far is to one of the chief judges at the trials, Waitstill Winthrop, who was son of John Winthrop the Younger (1606-1676), Governor of Connecticut colony, Amelia’s direct ancestor.

Nearer home, the influence of fantasy fiction can be found in Amelia’s childhood. Both of her parents, William and Susan, were avid fantasy readers and fans of Anne Rice, the most famous female fantasy-horror writer living today. Amelia became a fan of Anne Rice and the genre though her parents. Again, it would be perfect if I could have found a blood link between Anne Rice and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes but, alas, the closest link I can find (so far) is a shared geographical location of their unrelated colonial ancestors in Connecticut.

The colonial ancestry of the Atwater family goes back to David Atwater (1615-1692). With his brother and sister he migrated to America in 1637 on the ship “Hector”. David founded the settlement of New Haven in Connecticut with several other passengers. David Atwater’s descendants became a leading families in New Haven and they married into other leading colonial families such as the Averys who brought into Amelia’s ancestry the Denison family.

The Denisons migrated to the American colonies in 1632 as part of the Great Migration led by the Winthrop family mentioned above. Capt. George Denison (1620-1694) was not yet a teenager when his father William took him and the family to America. George married twice. His first wife was Bridget Thompson (1622-1632) whose mother was descended from the Anglo-Saxon King of England, Ethelred the Unready (d.1016). She also has an unproven line of descent from King Henry I (1068-1135). Bridget’s sister, Dorothy, is an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.

By Bridget, Capt. Denison became the direct bloodline ancestor of members of the lgbt community such as singer Rufus Wainwright, actor David Hyde Pierce, Olympian Mark Chatfield and mountaineer Cason Crane. They are all half-relatives of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (though several are full relatives through other more distant bloodlines). One other Denison half-relative is L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz.

After Mrs. Bridget Denison died Capt. Denison came back to England and fought in the English Civil War. He fought for the Parliamentary army of Oliver Cromwell (an army commonly called the Roundheads) and was wounded at the Battle of Naseby, one of the most famous battles of the war, in 1645. It was in England that George met and married his second wife, Ann Borodell. George returned to Connecticut with her, and it is from this second marriage that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes descends.

The Atwater and Denison families lead directly down to Susan Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia’s mother. Susan is a teacher and high school vice principal. Her maternal grandmother, Martha deRaismes Warrin (1887-1962), provides a link to a French writer and an inheritance scandal.

Martha’s grandfather was a French millionaire, Jean François Joseph deResmais (1803-1866). He was a successful international merchant and settled in Brooklyn and married a widow called Mrs. Martha Dunham. Jean left his fortune to his wife, children and stepson, Robert Dunham, who was also his executor. Robert was actually married his own step-sister, Jean’s daughter, and wasn’t a very pleasant man by all accounts. He tried to deprive several younger heirs from receiving their inheritances on reaching adulthood and tried to claim expenses from the estate. The family stopped him by going to court, by which time his wife had divorced him.

Jean deRaismes was uncle of another writer in Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ family, Maria DeRaismes (1828-1894), who was also a famous suffragist in France. The American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a major figure in the suffrage movement in the USA, met her in Paris in 1882 and was influenced by her. Maria was buried in a magnificent tomb with her parents and grandparents (those grandparents are Amelia’s ancestors). There’s even a street in Paris named after her.

The DeRaismes family can be traced back to the 1600s. Through them it is possible to trace Amelia’s ancestry further back to the early medieval period. Through several seigneurial and noble families Amelia is descended from King Louis VI of France (1081-1137) and his contemporaries King Stephen of England and King David I of the Scots.

So far we have looked at the ancestral lines of Amelia’s mother Susan. Her father’s ancestry is no less interesting but cannot be traced as far back (so far). Dr. William Rhodes, an eminent economist, also has lots of colonial ancestors, though the Rhodes family can only be traced back 200 years in America. Thankfully, his other ancestral lines go back further.

William’s great-grandmother was Mrs. Mary Lovina Fuller Rhodes (1855-1936) who belonged to one of the Mayflower families. Her ancestors Samuel and Edward Fuller were both Mayflower passengers.

One ancestor which gives me a connection to Amelia Atwater-Rhodes comes with her father William’s grandfather. His name was Oliver Wayland Winch of South Glens Fall, New York State. Oliver was born in 1873 and was a sickly child. In fact, his own grandfather didn’t believe he would reach the age of 5. But Oliver did survive and went on to be a teacher. He became District Principal of South Glens Fall Schools, and then Superintendent of the 3rd Saratoga County District. He was prominent in the education system in Saratoga County until he retired in 1950. The middle school in South Glens Fall was renamed Oliver W. Winch School in his honour.

After having been predicted as not being healthy enough to reach the age of 5 Oliver actually lived on for 102 years beyond that, dying in 1980 at the age of 107. Like myself, Dr. William Rhodes was blessed with a grandfather who was a member of the “centenarian club” (my grandfather was 101 years old).

I don’t know if there’s a centenarian gene but while I hope that Amelia Atwater-Rhodes and myself live a long life I also hope that neither of us emulate the main character of her first published novel and “live” to become a 300-year-old vampire.

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