Tracking the Hawkins Connection—and Beyond

By Esther Moneysmith Gross

A long time ago (think post-World War II) and far, far away (think heart of Africa), a young American girl, through a home-study course called Calvert School, studied history from the Middle Ages. In addition to hearing about Christopher Columbus and a sea battle called the Armada, she learned about some guy from France who conquered England way, way back and ended up having “The Conqueror” attached to his name for centuries to come. She learned about a family of kings named Plantagenet (PLAN-ta-genet). They provided England with kings for three hundred years, ending in a hundred-year conflict called The War of the Roses, when they fought each other and schemed over who would be king. 

One of Calvert’s reading assignments was a book about a guy named Robin Hood and his “merry men.” In it she learned about a king named John who was forced to sign something called the Magna Carta, which had something to do with freedom. And with all the roaming of the seas in those days, trying to build wealth and treasure for country and sovereign, she learned about a couple of pirate cousins who did a lot of roaming the seas to get treasure—Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins.

Sir John Hawkins especially piqued her family’s curiosity because their mother had been born a Hawkins. They couldn’t help but wonder if there were any connection between him and them. But even if there were, they had no way to find out about it. When, a quarter of a century later their cousin Paul Divine married an Ann Hawkins, the question came up again—but again, there was no way to know.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I was the “young American girl.” All those lessons seem to have settled in somewhere deep to be remembered at least in fragments and a few names. But that by itself didn’t answer many of our questions.

Certainly not in the late 1940s, or even in 1972 when Paul married Ann, if anyone even dreamed of something like the Internet, they never crossed my path. Even in the mid-90s when we discovered Internet genealogy and our earliest Internet discovery was that our Moneysmith ancestors were not British but the German Mahnenschmidts, we learned only three more generations of the line of my Grandfather Mont E. Hawkins—James, David, and another James and his wife, who were born in the mid-1700s and died before 1840.

Oh, well. Maybe someday.

Someday Has Come

Someday arrived in the month of June 2011. It started with Cousin Paul mentioning to me that he had indeed traced his wife’s genealogy back to Sir John Hawkins. Really? Was more information out there now than the last time I looked at our line of Hawkinses? At the time Paul told me that, I had a subscription to the huge genealogy program Ancestry, so I was able to check and see if there was anything more on them.

There was. 

James’s father was another David. Then came Michael, Edward, and John Clark. A check of dates and birth-death places revealed that John Clark was the one who crossed the “pond,” making his son Edward the first Hawkins generation to be born in America. John Clark went to Virginia and married an American-born girl. Michael, by the way, had a wife and a daughter named Agnes.

I kept looking, checking back one generation at a time. Before John Clark were three generations of Williams, the middle one having the middle name of Amadas (his mother’s maiden name, I learned later). About that time, I decided I’d better check on the dates of this Sir John, the pirate. Ah, he was born in 1532 in Plymouth, Devon, England. Wait! That was the same place William Amadas was born. 

Oh, my goodness! William Amadas Hawkins, our ancestor, had a little brother named John, and he was born in Plymouth in 1532. Our ancestor was the older brother of Sir John Hawkins, the pirate!


So there was a connection all along, a connection my Hawkins mother did not live long enough to learn about. Twenty-first century technology and the work of a multitude of people who have tracked down and pieced together the millions or billions of pieces of information on Ancestry made it possible for me to discover the illusive connection. That is now making it possible for me to share the story with my family, including Cousin Paul. His comment? This means his sons have a double connection through both their parents.

Of course I wondered if William Amadas, my ancestor, had any involvement in his little brother’s pirate activities. That took a couple more weeks to track down…. In fact there is a good bit more to share about this ancestor, including the fact that he did help his brother outfit his ships for his trips across the Atlantic, and William Amadas was heavily involved in getting ships prepared for the Armada sea battles with the king of Spain. More on those things in time.

Beyond the Hawkinses

As I was browsing the Internet for more on either of those Hawkins brothers, I ran across a comment about other important people in the background of the Hawkins boys, but through their mother, not their father. Interesting. Their mother’s name was one I’d never heard—Joan Trelawny, nor had I ever heard her Grandmother Florence’s family name—Courtenay. But I started tracking on the mother’s side and discovered that Florence’s great-grandmother was someone named (among other things) Lady Eleanor Plantagenet. 

Plantagenet?? I had Plantagenets in my ancestry? 

So I kept tracking back…

Turns out Lady Eleanor was daughter of Henry Richard Plantagenet, granddaughter of Edmund Crouchback Plantagenet, and great-granddaughter of—King Henry III??! Now we have royalty? 

Had enough or want some more? Guess who King Henry’s father was?? 

King John! Robin Hood’s King John? The same. 

John’s older brother is at least as well-known as he is—Richard the Lionhearted, but we’re not connected to him genealogically. However, another surprise awaited in that family. Richard and John’s mother was Eleanor of Aquitane. That name was familiar to me, but I can’t remember what I heard about it in the past. Aquitane is a province on the southwestern coast of France, and it played a role with a variety of politics and people of European countries.

It turns out that the mother of Eleanor of Aquitane was a granddaughter of William, Duke of Normandy, the one who was victor over the English King Harald in the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D. (Note: William the Conqueror is numbered William I. There have been just three others since. If the current Prince William becomes king someday and decides to keep the William—sometimes they choose one of their other 3-4 names—he will be William V.)

There’s more, but that’s enough for now.