Over the years I've traced all kinds of traits back through our families - some good, some not. But one theme has been remarkably constant - strong religious faith and participation. Families have clearly defined church memberships that extend for generations.
Thomas Meredith, a wealthy 19th century Baltimore merchant, was Catholic. He educated many of his nephews and nieces at Catholic schools, but the evidence is clear they were not baptized Catholics as children. Letters refer to two nephews deciding not to become Catholic. Niece Margaret Meredith was baptized at school in 1840, when she was about 18 years old. Nephew William V. Meredith is referred to as a convert in a newspaper article celebrating his 25th anniversary as a priest. One of Meredith's maternal uncles, William Yerby, was married in a Catholic church in Baltimore. There's no indication the Merediths before Thomas were Catholic. Indeed, his presumptive ancestor, John Meredith, tried to wrest control of an estate from Edwin Conway in 1654 by alleging he was a Papist. The only hint of evidence that any earlier Palmers were Catholic is the Maryland marriage of one of James Palmer's aunts to a Brent, a family that had Catholic branches. John Meredith's third wife was a Brent, but they were married in Lancaster County by a Protestant minister.
The chart reinforces the central role Thomas Meredith played in their lives - and in my research. I know about those family members he corresponded with. Those he didn't are still ciphers. John Meredith's children were particularly close to him after being orphaned in 1835. He played a lesser role with other nieces and nephews.
I noticed that proven Catholics left the Northern Neck and lived in places with Catholic institutions - where they left records. Only John A. Palmer remained in Virginia. Thomas & his sister-in-law Margaret Piet Meredith lived in Baltimore. His Yerby uncle lived in Baltimore before moving to Mississippi. Maria Lee Palmer and her mother settled in Frederick, MD. Nephew William V. Meredith moved to Maryland and became a Redemptorist priest in 1853. Presumed grandniece Caroline Meredith seems to have become a Sister of Charity after living in a Baltimore Catholic orphanage following her parents' deaths.
I don't believe I'm going to get a definitive thumbs up or down on this group. My hunch is that at least the Yerbys had ties to Catholicism and when economic opportunities took men to cities with Catholic institutions and populations they married into Catholic families. Thomas Meredith seems to have been a deciding factor in the faiths of his brother John's orphans.
There is still much more research I can do. I am hoping to take some time next spring and visit archives in Baltimore, Richmond and Lancaster County. Some of the family connections are far from proven, but I'm hopeful that church archives may help.
Source: Image from Wikimedia commons.