foundations: late 14c., “action of founding,” from Old French fondacion “foundation” (14c.) or directly from Late Latin fundationem (nominative fundatio) “a founding,” noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin fundare “to lay a bottom or foundation” (see found (v.1)). The Latin word is glossed in Old English by staþol.
It’s impossible to identify the many foundations or founders of our family in an historical sense. The many branches are infinitely broad and deep; or maybe they are the roots. So why do we think about upward branches instead of the roots as our foundation, given all those tendrils below ground out of sight, in the past, who have provided the nourishment for all that came later? Alex Haley recognised the importance of Roots. We talk of putting down roots. But we lay a foundation when building a house.
One of those foundations for my direct Whitaker family line was John Whitaker who sailed to the Maryland colony in the mid 1600s, likely as an indentured servant to pay for his passage and establish his new life. There were several John Whitakers who arrived then, so which one was ours is lost to the depths of time. His origin story from England is therefore a dead end as well. Did he establish an institution? An endowment? He did acquire land after leaving his indenture period. Through his wife he sent children into the world who took his farming legacy for a time to the wilds of western Pennsylvania near Fort Pitt, then down the Ohio river, and into the wilds of Kentucky, establishing some of the earliest Baptist churches in and around modern Louisville, another sense of religious foundation. Preacher Isaac Whitaker and his sons later moved the family from Kentucky to Indiana in the early 1800s, establishing my Indiana identity through several past generations, with a brief few decades across the Wabash in eastern Illinois before returning to Vigo County where I and my sister were eventually borne and raised.
I wish I had known of these foundation places in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and even my own county in Indiana, places that I visited in ignorance of the relationship to my family foundations. It would have been much more meaningful to me to know that I was walking where their farms had been, feeling those roots beneath my feet.