In Friday’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” actor Rob Lowe learned about his Revolutionary War-era ancestor.
FindMyPast.com‘s Josh Taylor helped Lowe find him in the Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research System, which lets you search online for a Revolutionary-era ancestor on which a DAR member’s application is based, or for people named in the lineages in DAR applications.
But something was wrong: The application had been “closed” because it was discovered that Lowe’s ancestor John Christopher East had been mixed up with a similarly named soldier.
Previews hinted at a twist in this episode. It came when a historian showed Lowe his ancestor on a list of prisoners who’d been part of Rohl’s Regiment. A sparkle in the historian’s eye hinted that he knew something, but only when he showed Lowe George Washington’s personal papers did Lowe realize Rohl was a commander of German Hessian troops.
East (listed under his German name, Oeste Cristophe) was among the troops Gen. Washington defeated in the Battle of Trenton, when his soldiers crossed the Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Christmas.
I remember learning in grade school about these 30,000 men the British hired to fight the Americans, and we kids thought that was pretty bad.
But Lowe’s research revealed Cristophe as a sympathetic figure: Among the youngest of eight children, he wouldn’t have inherited land or even had the means to marry in Germany. He took a risk in leaving for America at age 22—then staying (as about 15 percent of the Hessians did) after his release from prison.
This story has a happy ending. Taylor’s researchers found Christophe on a list of Americans who paid a tax levied to raise money for the war. Lowe is descended from a Patriot after all and he was invited to apply for the Sons of the American Revolution lineage society.
- Family Tree Magazine Podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke discussed the bounty of the DAR library in the July 2009 episode—listen free on FamilyTreeMagazine.com or in iTunes.