Just about everyone in the United States tends to find an ancestral line that leads us back to the "Old World". Some may find they hold a very distant relationship with British Royalty. Some may even go as far back as Charlemagne or even further. Being a history buff, I tend to pause in my research sometimes to find out what was going on when so and so was living.
Take, for example, when I was doing some research on the Honorable R. Hudson Burr. For those of you who may not recognize the name, the Hon. R. Hudson Burr served as Chairman for the Florida State Railroad Commission from 1902 to 1927 when the building of railroads in Florida was the highest priority, almost ran for governor of Florida in 1903, and was known for his opposition to Henry Flagler's expansion of the railroad to South Florida because, as one person believed, "the railroad gave a better rate to Cuban and Puerto Rican farmers than to American farmers."
The Burr line traces back to Quakers Henry Burr and Elizabeth Hudson Burr of Mount Holly, New Jersey. Henry Burr was born around 1664 in England and emigrated to present day Long Island, New York in 1682. Sometime after his arrival in Long Island, he met and married Elizabeth Thredder Hudson, daughter of Robert Hudson and Elizabeth Thredder. Like her husband, Elizabeth was born in England and emigrated to Long Island. Prior to the birth of their eldest child, John Burr, R. Hudson Burr's direct line ancestor, Henry and Elizabeth Burr moved to Mount Holly in the Province of West Jersey.
Our celebrated Declaration of Independence was scribed by Timothy Matlack, a descendant of Henry Burr and Elizabeth Hudson through their second child Joseph Burr. Quaker records state that Joseph Burr was born Nov 5, 1694 in Mount Holly, Burlington, Province of West Jersey. His death is recorded as taking place Apr 13, 1767 in Northampton, Burlington, Province of New Jersey.
Now I bet you are wondering what this has to do with Magna Carta. Well I'm glad you asked. It turns out that Joseph Burr married on Feb 16, 1727 in present day Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jane Ann Abbot (1701-1780), daughter of John Abbot and Ann Mauleverer. Ann Mauleverer is the direct descendant of several of the 25 Barons of England that signed the Magna Carta in June of 1215.
Now it just so happens that previously I had traced some of my mother's line from an Ellen Ophelia Strickland, daughter of John Strickland and Mercy Martin. Some researchers believe that John Strickland is descended from Matthew Strickland, who was born Jan 24, 1640/41 in England and died Aug 9, 1699 in Isle of Wight, Virginia Colony. I've chosen to go with his theory until I find proof otherwise.
Based upon this, provided my research is indeed correct, through the Strickland line my common ancestors with Ann Mauleverer are Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorpe, who died 1463/64 in England and his wife, Jane de Neville. Through Jane de Neville the ancestry can be traced back to Henry de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford, Sixth Creation (1199), Richard Bigod and his son, Hugh Bigod, the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Norfolk, second Creation (1141) respectively, and Saier de Quincy, 1st Earl of Winchester, 1st Creation (1207), just to name a few. Aside from a shared descent from these men with Ann Mauleverer, the main thing in common these men have is they were Sureties for the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta is an English legal charter that was issued in 1215. Written in Latin, it required King John of England to proclaim certain rights, respect certain legal procedures, and accept that his will could be bound by law. It protected certain rights of the King's subjects, whether free or imprisoned, and implicitly supported what became the writ of habeas corpus, allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment.
Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects, namely the barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. King John agreed to the "Articles of the Barons", to which his Great Seal was attached in the meadow at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. In return, the barons renewed their oaths of fealty to King John on June 19, 1215. A formal document to record the agreement was created by the royal chancery on July 15. This document was the original Magna Carta.
The most significant clause for King John at the time was clause 61, known as the "security clause". It was the longest portion of the document. This clause established a committee of 25 barons who could at any time meet and overrule the will of the King, through force by seizing his castles and possessions if needed. This was based on a medieval legal practice known as distraint, but it was the first time it had been applied to a monarch. In addition, the King was to take an oath of loyalty to the committee. This committee came to be known as the Magna Carta Sureties.
Clause 61 basically neutered John's power as a monarch, making him King in name only. Once the barons had left London, however, John renounced it and that renouncement led to what would be called "The First Baron's War". Pope Innocent III saw Magna Carta as an "affront on the Church's authority over the King and the 'papal territories' of England and Ireland", and released John from his oath of obeying it.
When John died Oct 18, 1216 from dysentery, the war soon came to an end with the late October 1216 crowning of John's nine-year-old son, Henry III. On Nov 12, 1216, Magna Carta was reissued, with some clauses, including clause 61, being omitted. The following year, Magna Carta was once again reissued, and yet again when Henry turned 18 in 1225. The reissuing of Magna Carta in 1225 shortened the document even further with only 37 articles. When Henry III died, his son and heir, Edward I's Parliament reissued Magna Carta for the final time on Oct 12, 1297, and reconfirmed Henry III's shorter version of Magna Carta from 1225, as part of a statute called Confirmatio cartarum.
Magna Carta was arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English speaking world. It influenced the development of the common law and many constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.
So there you have the Magna Carta connection. It's always good to know the names and dates of your ancestors. But knowing the history during their lifetimes can open your eyes and make your ancestors live once again.