Actress Ashley Judd has proud southern roots. Her mother Naomi Judd and sister Wynonna Judd are country music superstars, and Ashley is an eighth-generation Kentuckian on her Judd line. So she got a few surprises when exploring her father’s family.
Judd began her search by meeting with her father Michael Ciminella in Louisville, Ky. While looking at a photo album, Ciminella tells Judd about Elijah Hensley, an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Judd searches for Elijah on Ancestry.com, discovering Hensley served in 39th Kentucky Infantry for the Union.
This leads Judd to the State Archives in Frankfort, Ky., where she finds Hensley’s muster cards, indicating he enlisted at age 15 and was captured 32 days later. He was held for about five or six months in a prison in Richmond, Va., and was released in a broad exchange of Kentucky prisoners. He was later wounded in the Battle of Saltville and taken prisoner a second time. He was discharged in 1865 because of disability.
The search continues in Saltville, Va. Muster cards indicate Hensley’s right leg was amputated on the battlefield by medics. An historian demonstrates what the amputation would be like, horrifying Judd. He also explains that Hensley’s regiment would have retreated at the battle and left those injured to be taken prisoner by the Confederacy. Judd then reads a brief write-up about Hensely, indicating he worked as a farmer in Kentucky after he was honorably discharged. (For more on tracing your Civil War roots, see our Ultimate Collection.)
Judd then heads to New England Historical Society in Boston, Ma., to research her paternal great-grandfather William H. Dalton. Death records indicate Dalton’s grandparent were E. & E. Brewster, a long-standing New England surname. NEHGS researches trace the Brewster lineage back 12 generations to William Brewster, who was born in 1566/7 England and was bailiff to the Archbishop of York. He immigrated to America in 1620, coming over on the Mayflower and signing the Mayflower Compact. (For more on Massachusetts research, see our state bundle.)
The travelers on the Mayflower were fleeing religious persecution, so Judd travels to York, England, to find out more about Brewster and the Pilgrims. She discovers William Brewster was a gentleman who attended Cambridge and looked after the archbishop’s affairs.
Around 1607, Brewster became a central figure of the Puritans, a group of religious radicals who wanted to separate from the Church of England. He was summoned to court for speaking out against the Church of England and tries to flee the country. He first travels to Boston, England, and is soon jailed. Judd looks in his cell where a plaque dubbing him the “pilgrim father” hangs.
Brewster was imprisoned for months; upon his release, he traveled to Holland, where there was some degree of religious freedom. About 10 years later, Brewster obtained a charter from King James to settle Plymouth.
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