When I joined the Navy in ’98 I did my best to stay on the west coast since I’m from Pasadena, Ca. Plus, I had heard all these horror stories about “East Coast Navy” and how cramped and uptight it is. It wasn’t until my last two years in the Navy that I was given a choice of orders: Naval Air Station China Lake, Ca or Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. I talked it over with my wife and she plainly stated “baby, I love you and will follow you anywhere in the world, just not China Lake, or El Centro, or Lemoore, or Fallon, or anywhere in Texas.” Cool. Looks like we’re going to Maryland for my last two years. When I told my parents where we’d be going she suggested I make it up to West Chester, Pa and see her family home. So I put it on my to-do list and thought: why stop there? I decided to start up my Ancestry.com account and traced my roots as far back as I could on both my parents’ sides. When I asked my mother what else she knew about Robert Morris, she only said that her mother got her and her brother and sister lifetime memberships to The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Sounded kinda nerdy to me, but ok. I had never heard of it. My mother, nor her siblings had ever been active in it. All they had to show were those fancy certificates hanging in their hallways at my grandmothers house. So I finally decided to do my own research. I simply Googled: “descendants of the signers” and boom, was taken right to http://www.dsdi1776.com/. After looking around the website a little bit (about an hour) I decided to look for Robert Morris. What I found and read about this man astonished me and kinda upset me that no one else had heard of him. His name doesn’t carry the same weight as Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, or Franklin, even though he was best friends and colleagues with every single one of them. I could go on and on about all the things he did for our country but here is the link: http://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/robert-morris/. To sum up the particulars, he was born in Liverpool, England in 1734 and left England for America in 1748 at the age of 14 and came to Maryland. When Robert’s father died in 1750, he was left alone, without family, at the age of 16, in a new continent. In his twenties he took some of his earnings and joined a few friends in creating the London Coffee House, an institution which the Philadelphia Stock Exchange claims as its origin. In 1769 he married Mary White and had seven children. His fourth child and second eldest daughter, Maria Morris would later wed Henry Nixon and a bunch of horribly British family names would endure. Roberts merchant firm became a stepping stone for him to get heavily involved in the “patriot cause”. After the war began at Lexington and Concord, Morris’ company brought in weapons and powder for the militia, while his shipping contacts sent him information about English troop movements. So many supplies came into Morris’s wharf that the Congress posted guards there at night. Robert became increasingly active in the patriot cause. He served with Franklin on the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, and eventually became its chairman. Later, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly, and then to the Second Continental Congress. Robert Morris hoped his work would result in the English backing down from their course, which was clearly against the British constitution. He did not wish to separate from England because he thought Americans were not ready for self-rule and he feared anarchy would result. He was also worried that the colonists were not really prepared for a war with the superpower of the day. He argued for a peaceful resolution, speaking out against independence. Very reminiscent of that scene in The Patriot with Mel Gibson arguing at the town hall in the beginning of the movie for peace. However, Morris was appointed to the Model Treaty Committee following Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence on June 7, 1776. This treaty proposed international relations based on free trade, but did not rely on a political alliance. These instructions were taken to Paris by Benjamin Franklin one of Morris’s ships who transformed them into the Treaty of Alliance which made possible the victory at Yorktown in 1781. When the vote for independence was taken on July 2, 1776 Morris left the room so that independence could pass without his dissenting vote. There is some disagreement among scholars whether Morris was present on July 4 when the Declaration of Independence was approved. But when it came time to sign the Declaration on August 2 he did so, recognizing the value of unanimity among the delegates. He said at this time that it was “the duty of every individual to act his part in whatever station his country may call him to in hours of difficulty, danger and distress.” From that moment forward, until peace was achieved in 1783, Morris performed services in support of the war that would earn him the sobriquet of “Financier of the Revolution.” He was so involved in the formation of our country that he was one of only sixteen signers who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution.
This is just half the stuff he had for our country. And frankly I feel kinda bad copying and pasting all this info from the bio, but those were some of the major things he was responsible for. I decided to reach out to the DSDI and see how I could become a member. I was instructed by the Registrar General on how to apply and was directed to a very lengthy application. When I told him my mothers name and her lifetime membership he basically said yes, we have her and her marriage to my father on file but nothing else. All they would need from me now is my birth certificate tying me to my mother and an annual payment.
One thing that really inspired me to join the DSDI was a commercial I saw around July 4th. It was and Ancestry.com commercial showing some of the other descendants clothed in clothing of the time standing in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It wasn’t the thought of “hmmm, that could be me on TV”, it was that I was part of something much larger and deeper in the great history of our nation. I’m still waiting on my birth certificate from my mom. I’m hoping to travel up to Philly next 4th of July for the DSDI Annual Congress at Independence Hall to meet with everyone and possibly sit where he sat and visit his burial site.
One other service Ancestry.com has is something called AncestryDNA. And from what my mother told me when I was 25, I was in for another shock of a lifetime.