Climbing My Family Tree, Part 15

Immigrants Austin Kilham, Alice Gorball, and John Kilham

Austin “Augustine” Kilham (my nine times great-grandfather) sailed from England with his wife, Alice Gorball, and their three children on the Mary Anne in 1637. His son, John (my eight times great-grandfather), was nine years old at the time. 

Their intended destination was Salem, Massachusetts. They ended up settling a few miles north of Salem, in Wenham, and were among the first colonists there. The couple had two more children after immigrating to North America.

In 1640 the family moved 50 miles south to Dedham, where Augustine established himself as a freeman and was granted several parcels of land.

In 1649, the family returned to Wenham, becoming active in the church. He made liberal contributions, and in 1660 a new church building was constructed on his land. Augustine served on several juries over the years. He was one of the original financial supporters of Harvard College.

In 1652, Alice was taken to court for wearing a silk scarf or hood. The Puritan forefathers believed wearing silk on one’s head was an example of an immoderate display of apparel. Most often women accused of such a crime were fined for their indiscretion.

The family resided in Wenham for a few generations, then briefly landed in Preston, Connecticut, before Amasa Killam (my five times great-grandfather) emigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in the years before the Declaration of Independence. The family name morphed from Kellam to Kilham to Killam over the years.

When Amasa died in 1779 at the age of 51, his widow, Elizabeth Emerson, married widower and immigrant, John Weldon (see Part Three), bringing two large branches of the family together. The bond was further solidified when two of their children, Andrew Dale Weldon and Elizabeth Killam married.

The family line continued to thrive in Canada through the time my grandmother, Hazel Adelia Weldon immigrated back to the United States in 1930.

In the United States today, it is hard to imagine a lady being hauled into court for the unlawful behavior of wearing silk upon her head. Most Americans would find the very idea outright appalling, but in 1652, the practice was considered most improper.

Today, we like to think of ourselves as modern and sophisticated, but in reality, our beliefs around right and wrong, proper and improper, and moral and immoral are bound in our culture as much as anything else.

Not that long ago it was shockingly scandalous for women to wear dresses with hemlines that would reveal their ankles. Not that long ago all doctors were presumed, if not required, to be male and all nurses were presumed to be female. Not that long ago human slavery was legal, and was considered not only moral and ethical, but was also sanctioned by the Christian Bible and Christian church.

Our acceptance and tolerance of what is right and wrong changes across time.

Today we shake our heads, wondering why anyone would be taken to court and fined over a silk scarf. But some of us in the United States today hold heated debates over someone’s choice to wear a hijab. Or perhaps we show scorn when we see a woman with a Bindi on her forehead. Or when a young man’s pants are hung too low. Or an old man’s pants are hiked too high.

Where do we draw the line? What is our limit for what is “good” and what is “acceptable?” And who decides? The questions are not easy ones.

How wonderful it is to live in a country that gives us the freedom to dress, eat, and worship as we wish?! In as much as what we choose does not infringe on the rights of others, let freedom ring!

Has your family benefited from immigration to America? Do you believe our diverse population makes us stronger? Do you want to be part of the solution? Consider the following:

Children Incorporated

John Kilham, as well as many other of my ancestors, came to this country as children. My books are about the lives of immigrant children. Today there are children around the world in need of our help.

Relying entirely on donors, Children Incorporated serves thousands of needy children each year in 23 countries, including the United States. They provide children with basic necessities including food, clothing, healthcare, and education.

Charity Navigator gives Children Incorporated their highest rating of 4/4 for financial responsibility, accountability and transparency.

Their mission is to meet the basic needs of children around the world, provide affirmation and encouragement, and empower children to grow into contributing members of their communities, ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty.

Please go out of your way to be kind to immigrants and refugees.

Did you enjoy this post? Please like and share. I would love to hear from you!

 Thanks for reading!



 My Family Tree:

  1. Henry Kellam


  1. Austin Kilham


  1. John Kilham


  1. Samuel Killam


  1. John Killam


  1. Amasa Killam


  1. Elizabeth Killam


  1. Thomas Weldon


  1. Gideon Smith Weldon


  1. Edgar Wilson Weldon


  1. Hazel Adelia Weldon (See Part Three)


  1. Weldon Paul deMeurers


  1. Me (Alan deMeurers)


Running count of my direct immigrants from Europe to North America = 46


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