Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was the pilot who flew the Enola Gay over Hiroshima Japan on Aug. 6, 1945, dropping the first of two atomic bombs that prompted Japan to surrender World War II.
American socialite Bessie Wallis Warfield captured the heart of Prince Edward VIII of Wales in 1934, continuing a two-year relationship as he became King of England in 1936. Knowing their marriage would not be accepted by the Church of England because Wallis had been divorced, Edward stepped down from the throne not even a year into his reign to propose to her. The two were married on June 3, 1937 and given the title of Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield was a leader of the the Whig Club at the beginning of the American Revolution, donning his members with hats inscribed “Liberty and Independence, or the Death in pursuit of it.” On October 19, 1774, he led a torching of a vessel that had arrived in an Annapolis, Maryland harbor with a shipment of British tea just 10 months after the Boston Tea Party.
If you couldn’t tell from our shared last name, these people are my relatives.
For the longest time, I had learned very little about the Warfield family history outside of what my grandfather told me as a kid. I knew that we were English, I knew that we sprang up in Baltimore, Maryland and I knew that there’s many of us.
What I didn’t know, however, was that there’s a long line of famous and interesting people up the branches of my family tree. I lived 20 years before discovering much of anything about those that came before me – but what I have found leaves me feeling so humbled to have descended from people that have left such an imprint on history.
When my grandfather, Marshall Warfield, passed away in 2008, boxes of old family photographs were carelessly set on fire by his widower – my step-grandmother. She blatantly told my sister and I over the phone that she had burnt many of our grandfather’s possessions.
At 13 years old, I understood that these were countless memories I would have loved to have seen. Photos from my pop-pop’s childhood; snapshots of his mother of whom is said to be the one I inherited my lankiness from; memories from his colorful life and of those that came before him. I felt robbed.
I loved my grandfather more than the world, and knowing that the pieces of him that still remained after his death were selfishly destroyed, destroyed a little piece of me as well.
Last Christmas, I received an Ancestry.com membership and found myself immersed for days over just how much I could track down about my family. A year later, I’m still uncovering surprising finds that no amount of hatred and selfishness would be able to touch. The gift of knowing where I come from is indescribable.
Learning of these people – my family – has helped heal the bitter feelings I once had for never being able to lay eyes on those boxes of photos that were at my grandfather’s home. I like to think that I am doing good by him, never faltering my desire to follow up on these stories that he told me as a child. I hope one day I can share with him what I have learned.
Researching my family history has been one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life. Looking at the interesting lives my family has led leaves me hoping that I, too, will leave a mark on history one day – but even if I don’t, they have left a mark on me that will remain.
I will always remember the stories my grandfather told me about Bessie Wallis Warfield – how we were technically related to English royalty, how people in Maryland know our last name as one of the founding surnames of Maryland, and how being a Warfield means you are strong, generous, a natural-born leader – and stubborn as a doornail.
From learning about the people who came before me, I feel that I can understand myself as a person a bit better. By tracking down the first ever Warfield to immigrate to America from England in 1659, I was able to trace back so many family members throughout history – and I’m still searching.
In my journey I’ve even stumbled upon how F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby,” had a great-grandmother on the Warfield side. I knew there had to be a writer in the woodpile somewhere.
So, do you know where you come from?
If you don’t, I suggest you start looking. You never know what you’ll find.