Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sometimes You Don't Know Where You Are

James Cole was my 10th great-grandfather and was the immigrant ancestor of my Cole line. He was born in London, England about 1600 and came to America in the 1630's, settling in Plymouth. Even though he wasn't one of the Pilgrims, he was still one of the early settlers in Plymouth Colony. What does that have to do with the title of this post, you ask? Keep reading, I'm going to tell you.

A couple of week ago I found some memorials and headstone photos at Find A Grave for several of my early New England ancestors but didn't have time to go through them all until today. I already knew the basics about James Cole.  He was an inn and tavern keeper and occasionally had legal issues regarding his sale of liquor. I knew the area where his establishment was located is known as Cole's Hill (although it's named for a John Cole, not James) but until today I didn't know the specific location of Cole's Hill (apparently only because I'd never bothered to check).

After seeing this photo of the marker erected by Cole's descendants in 1917 and reading that his establishment was located overlooking the harbor and Plymouth Rock I had to dig a little deeper. There are several pictures at Wikipedia showing Cole's Hill and it's proximity to the waterfront. Some of the markers in one of the pictures look like James Cole's marker so his is probably in that same area.

Now for the part about not knowing where you are.

In September, 1999, two friends and I took a road trip to New England. We made a stop at Plymouth to see the rock on our way from Cape Cod to Salem and eventually Bar Harbor. It was really early in the morning and was extremely foggy but we took a look at Plymouth Rock, the replica of the Mayflower in the harbor and some of the historic markers lining the street. This was a couple of years before I discovered genealogy research could be fun and addicting so when I took these pictures I had no idea that I was standing on ground where several of my ancestors had stood over 350 years earlier.

(Even after Photoshop, you can still see it was foggy.) 

The annotated picture below cropped from Bing Maps within my Legacy Family Tree database shows just how close I was to James Cole's marker.

I remember seeing those steps right across the street from Plymouth Rock but I can't remember for sure if we walked up them or not. I'm leaning toward not since you could hardly see your hand in front of your face because of the fog and at the time I would have only climbed the steps for the view. Now I need to visit Plymouth again because I didn't know where I was in 1999.

My relationship to James Cole is through his 3rd great granddaughter, Elizabeth Cole, who married Nehemiah Hopkins. Elizabeth and Nehemiah were my 5th great grandparents through my maternal grandfather, Elmer D. Hopkins. 


  1. Interesting post. I guess when you visited Plymouth Rock, even if you HAD seen your ancestor's grave, you wouldn't have recognized it. It will be fun for you to go back sometime, take your own photographs, and imagine your ancestors' lives there.
    Nancy from My Ancestors and Me at

  2. You're right Nancy. The name James Cole would have meant nothing to me at that time.