Who am I?

Redwood grove, courtesy of the National Park Service.

My surname comes down to me from a ten-generation line of Grovers, all of whom have lived in America. The first in this line is Edmund Grover (1600-1682), who emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony some time between 1628 and 1633.[i] His ancestry in England is not known with certainty, so ten generations is all that can be claimed. But ten generations are enough to say that I am thoroughly a Grover. Biologically speaking however, Edmund’s bloodline has been diluted at each generation by spouses who have contributed equally to who I am. I carry Edmund’s surname, but only a vanishingly small percentage of his blood.

Researching my Grover line has not been overly difficult, just time-consuming. Finding information about those ten maternal lines has been more than challenging. It takes a lot of digging to compensate for lack of records. In working with those lines, I keep running into family names that occur repeatedly. Some of them may be familiar to others working on their New England ancestry: Andrews, Parsons, Dolliver, Low, and Haskell, to name a few. Of those families, the Haskells have become the most interesting to me. It seems I have multiple relationships to them, even to the point that, aside from my name, I probably should consider myself a Haskell. What a surprise.

The Haskell family maintains a database[ii] of more than 165,000 individuals with the Haskell surname, and many thousands of those related to them. This database has become a wealth of information for me. From their information and my research, I find that my line from Edmund Grover runs through his son Nehemiah, who married Ruth Haskell (1654-1714), daughter of William Haskell.

More recently, another connection to the Haskells has come to light.

More recently, another connection to the Haskells has come to light. My great-great-grandfather Isaac H. Grover (1829-1908) married Lucy A. Verrill (1836-1900), one of whose family lines descends from Joseph Haskell (1646-1727), brother to the above mentioned Ruth. So I have Haskell blood from two lines.

But wait, there is more!

Isaac’s son Edmund G. Grover (1859-1931) married Emily F. Gould (1857-1927), who descends from William Haskell Jr. (1644-1708), brother to Ruth and Joseph. So it appears I am descended three ways from William Haskell. Whose family do I belong to anyhow? Well, to all of them of course, and a lot more. But all these relationships make it difficult to continue the practice of placing all my ancestors on a single, broadly branching Grover family tree – it is too complicated for that.

Over time, members of my branch of Grovers have generally followed the country’s migratory trends. They started in the Salem/Beverly area, then moved north and east as the population expanded and new land was needed. The first move was to Gloucester, and the next to New Gloucester in Maine. Perhaps, not surprisingly, Haskells are found in the records of all three of those towns. After a few more generations, my line of Grovers was living in and around Bangor, Maine. Then, Isaac Grover and his two brothers got caught up in the gold rush, abandoning farming for the vision of wealth promised by stories of easily-found gold and silver out west.[iii]

…Isaac Grover and his two brothers got caught up in the gold rush, abandoning farming for the vision of wealth promised by stories of easily-found gold and silver out west.

One brother went to Coloma, California, arriving just a few years after the discovery of gold there triggered the historic 1849 gold rush. Another went to the Arizona Territory and made a living mining silver and copper. Around 1879, Isaac went to Leadville, Colorado, not long after the beginning of the Colorado Silver Boom. Then one of Isaac’s sons, my great-grandfather, made his way over Independence Pass into to Aspen, and made a good living in mining and a grocery business. (Grubstaking can be more profitable than mining.) As the ever-deepening mines in Aspen made mining more difficult and less profitable, and as the Great Depression took hold, the next generation moved further west to California, where economic opportunities seemed more available. And that is how I came to live in the Golden State.

California is home to two species of the magnificent redwood tree. These trees do not have the broad, long-limbed structural profile of trees typically used to visualize family relationships. But they have several characteristics that more than make up for that. Redwood trees grow in groves, and their roots are shallow and long. The roots of single redwoods intermingle with those of nearby redwoods. They can, and usually do, fuse, forming direct and living connections between all the redwoods in the grove.

In addition, redwoods are monoecious, meaning pollen-producing male cones and female seed-bearing cones both exist on each tree. But the two types are on different branches – maternal lines are on different branches of the tree from the paternal lines. (Well, I shouldn’t push that analogy too far!) Since the Grover name is believed to be derived from those who tended groves in England, I am quite enamored of the idea of using redwood groves to represent my family relationships – individual family trees joined in life-sustaining networks, whose connections are unseen until you dig deep for them.


[i] Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 vols. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995), 2: 824-26.

[ii] www.haskellfamilyhistory.com.

[iii] The following paragraph is from an 1849 letter to my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ayer Gould, from her cousin William Flemming, both of whom lived in New York at the time; it captures the flavor of the gold fever. “If Miller [her husband, Aaron Miller Gould] wants to get rich fast he had better pull up stakes & move to California where all the world seems crazy to get just now. It seems to be the common salutation now instead of saying ‘How do you?’, it is ‘When do you start for California? What news from California? Which is the best route? How long will it take to go?’ Gold! Gold! Gold! Where is uncle Bill Gould? Aint he off? Bid him good bye for me.”

About Philip Grover

Philip Grover is a retired chemical engineer who got involved in genealogy by helping his mother enter her extensive family research into Personal Ancestral File for Mac. Little did he know then what a slippery slope that minor involvement would become. After getting deeply involved in doing his own research, he realized how disinterested family members can be in genealogical charts, lists, and diagrams. His focus since has been making his family history more interesting and accessible, and toward that end he has self-published three books of family history.

28 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. Enjoyed this post! I, too, have many ancestors who married into the same families. (I guess pickings were slim back then!) Makes for challenging genealogical research. 🙂

  2. Philip, I LOVE this post. The description of the Redwoods is just marvelous. We Californian Mayflower people come from truly sturdy stock. My guy started out in Vermont, apparently helped to build the Erie Canal then trekked to Placerville California in 1850. He ended up with a large ranch in Napa that he named the Green Mountain Ranch, a charming linkup of both sides of the continent.

    My cousin has been the family genealogist for decades. She says she is building the family hedge and she will love this post about how the redwood roots entwine. I say I am building a single very, very tall tree — maybe I need to learn more about the Sequoias!

    1. I have not studied the origin of the name Dolliver, sometimes spelled Doliver, I have heard that it is a variant of Tolliver, found in England. I don’t know about Taliaferro (sounds Italian). I suggest doing an online search.

  3. I married into the Grover family 38 years ago.I have always felt that my husband’s lines were far more exciting than mine. Especially the female lines. However our Grover who went west to California lived a most interesting life which I have so enjoyed reading about and documenting. It is stories about him and his daughter that I tell our relatives to entice them into owning our history.

  4. A fascinating article! Early settlers to the south and west also included a lot of repeat marriages, for the practical reason, I suppose, that there weren’t huge number of potential spouses to pick from! Add to that the habit of giving the same first names to multiple generations and these ancestors earned the grumbling of future genealogists. As a writer, I applaud your lovely redwood analogy too.

  5. Philip – those last two paragraphs are wonderful. The first five generations of the Fabyans in New England are very much ‘Redwoods.’

  6. I’m no geneticist, but I think the male Y chromosome is passed on pretty much intact through the generations. Have you had your DNA tested and compared to your cousins? It might be interesting–

    1. Not being a geneticist either, I have no doubt you are correct about the Y chromosome. I have not yet delved into the DNA aspects of genealogy. I suppose it is inevitable.

      Invoking the notion of blood lines was just entry point for talking about my initial and restricted focus on my fraternal line. It was easier – only one name to follow and fewer people to investigate. Perhaps, it was also a kinship feeling – all those guys had the same last name as I do, I want to know about them. Probably ego is involved as well. Some of my ancestors named Grover fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, etc. It is exciting to tell people about that.

      At some point I realized that all the spouses along the way had just as much influence on how I got to be where I am in life. They did not fight in wars, but they had struggles and made sacrifices as well. So I want to know just as much about them. The maternal lines are equally important branches on the trees in my grove – that was the underlying intent of my article.

  7. You’re probably aware of this: From Ásketill, Old Norse áss, óss “god” + ketill “(sacrificial ) cauldron, helmet”. If it had come down from the Old English cognates instead of the Old Norse, it would have been Oschettle.

    grove (third-person singular simple present groves, present participle groving, simple past and past participle groved)

    1, To cultivate in groves; to grow naturally so as to form groves.
    2. (forestry, of trees) To cultivate with periodic harvesting that also serves to create order (gaps and lines of trees) to facilitate further harvesting.
    3. To plough or gouge with lines.

    If you ever encounter someone who is of Indian descent:

    Guruvāra (गुरुवार) refers to “Thursday”. The corresponding planet is Brhaspati (or, Devaguru Guru; Jupiter). It is one of the seven days of the week (vāra).

    Bṛhaspati appears in the Rigveda (pre-1000 BCE), such as in the dedications to him in the hymn 50 of Book 4; he is described as a sage born from the first great light, the one who drove away darkness, is bright and pure, and carries a special bow whose string is Rta or “cosmic order” (basis of dharma). His knowledge and character is revered, and he is considered Guru (teacher) by all the Devas.

    People with the surname Grover are from the Arora subcaste of the greater Khatri caste of Punjab (India/Pakistan). The origins of the Khatri caste are in the Bhera/Potohar region of Punjab (Pakistan) and have ancestral Central Asian origins. They belong to the Kshatriya varna of the ancient HIndu Manu Code. They have settled in many regions of Punjab and beyond over the millennia and were found from Kabul in Afghanistan to Kashmir, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab – Jhang, and well south into Multan and Sindh. As all other Arora groups, they have a deep connection with Multan and Multani/Seraiki culture. They are related to the Garwah group of Chiniot (Pakistani Punjabi). As a predominantly Hindu and Sikh group, they left their ancestral base in Western Punjab/Lehnda to migrate to India in 1947 and have since settled in Punjab (India), Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Delhi (especially in colonies established for migratory families, ie. Malviya nagar, Lajpat nagar, Rajendra place, Karol bagh, etc.).

    1. Thanks for your detailed explanations of the name origins. Indeed, I was asked once, over the telephone, if my family came from the Punjab.

  8. Interesting…I, too am a multi-generation Grover descendant from Thomas Grover 1615-1661. from Chesham England – died Malden, MA..My Grovers also went west…The last of that surname was my GGgftr also Thomas….I descend from his daughter,..I have a copy of his portrait – rather hadsome man I woud say 🙂

  9. “Edmund’s bloodline has been diluted at each generation by spouses who have contributed equally to who I am. ”

    I enjoyed your posting. Somehow the word “diluted” stuck in my head. I think a better word maybe would be “added”?

  10. In my New England family tree, I see siblings marrying siblings of certain families, an almost vine like composition. Also, I have found a few ancestors who I am descended from in 4 lines, some from 3 lines, and many from 2 lines. The most interesting linear plot I am finding is in my paternal line, where there is a two hundred year long pattern of second and third cousins marrying each other. These patterns all suggest to me wide and lasting nets of sustained relationships- families kept in touch, even if we have no other proof than the marriage choices they made, again and again.

  11. I absolutely love your analogy with the redwoods! I have used the upside down tree for our family tree “logo” for some time. Now it makes even more sense.

  12. You may interested in looking up Henderson Charles Grover, 1830-1910, who came to California before 1855 and was a newspaper editor. He was my great-grandmother’s uncle. If you already haven’t found him

  13. My last name is Grover also I can trace my heritage to the same people as you I live in Ohio the Grover’s I come from moved here to Ohio from West Virginia and Kentucky and Virginia in the late 1800s early 1900”s and so on.we have such a rare surname it’s amazing only 17 k people in the United States share the Grover last name and 3k in England.Nice to meet you cousin.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.