Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Stephen Hopkins: Bermuda Castaway, Jamestown Survivor, and Mayflower Pilgrim

Enter Stephano, singing, with a bottle in his hand:

"I shall no more to sea, to sea;
Here shall I die ashore."

William Shakespeare
The Tempest, Act II, Scene ii

If they made a movie of Caleb Johnson's book, Here Shall I Die Ashore, it would be a big-budget documentary action flick filmed on two continents, the ocean between them, and the island of Bermuda. The cast? Huge. Costumes? Everything from shipwreck tatters to a wardrobe fit for the King of England. Don't forget those fancy Pilgrim outfits and whatever the Indians wore.

And the dialogue? Uh-oh... Early Modern English? You're kidding, right? The action takes place in Shakespeare's time and, sorry to say it but I've never been a big fan of Shakespearean English. Without an interpreter, much of it is Greek to me. Well, alright, not exactly Greek, but I certainly miss the subtleties of contemporary communication.

But don't worry... Shakespeare wrote for an Early Modern English audience, whereas Caleb Johnson wrote for... well, me! He's pulled together tons of research about my ancestor, Stephen Hopkins, and about the events of his lifetime, both historic and picayune, and woven it all into a narrative that's as detailed as it is readable.

Stephen Hopkins, it turns out, had a pretty interesting life--adventurer, family man, businessman--Johnson tells all, including the suggestion that my 10th great-grandfather inspired the character called Stephano in Shakespeare's The Tempest. I hadn't heard this before, so I did a little search and found Dating The Tempest by David Kathman, in which he compares, line by line, what Shakespeare would have read in a first-hand report about the shipwreck of the Sea Venture (with Stephen Hopkins aboard) with what he wrote in his play. Pretty convincing!

In addition to Johnson's text, he's included seven appendices, almost a hundred pages of additional material.

I'm happy to have added this book to my family history library. In the glow of hindsight, though, I think I should have bought it in hardcover. It's a definite keeper!


Heather Rojo said...

This is one of my favorite books about the Pilgrims, and Stephen Hopkins is definitely my favorite Pilgrim. At our Mayflower luncheon last month, everyone was talking about this book.

T.K. said...

Heather, is there some consensus of opinion about Johnson's work on Stephen's ancestors? He seems to present a really good case.

Don't you wish you could find a book like this for each of your ancestors?

PalmsRV said...


Stephen Hopkins is my ancestor, too! (Through his daughter, Contance).


T.K. said...

Good to know, Cathy! I've linked you up on my Cousins in Cyberspace page.

PalmsRV said...

Thanks for including me, T.K.!


AllyDee said...

Awesome collection of knowledge! Stephen is my 13th great grandfather through his son Giles and I love finding out info about this. Am workin on my paperwork for Mayflower Society and am finding all the info I read great!

TK said...

Thanks for your comment, AllyDee. You've inspired me to pull this one off the shelf and add it to my summer (re-)reading list!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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