As published in the Record Journal Sunday June 2, 2013
By Jesse Buchanan
WALLINGFORD - Members of the Merriman family from around the country and the world, most of whom had never met, got together Saturday for their first reunion in100 years.
Descendants of Nathanial Merriman, an Englishman who helped found Wallingford in 1670, gathered on the 400th birthday of their ancestor to visit the family plot in Center Street Cemetery and connect with distant relatives.
About 160 people attended, most from the United States, and the farthest from Belgium. Reunion organizer Peter Merriman said 122 of the attendees were descendants of Nathaniel Merriman.
The Merrimans convened Saturday morning at the Wells Fargo bank on North Main Street, the site of the former St. George Inn, where the 1913 reunion was held. Some wore name tags with letters indicating a branch of the family. Peter Merriman had a “J” on his badge, indicating that he was a descendant of John Merriman, Nathaniel Merriman’s son.
Most of those who traveled to Wallingford on Saturday had some interest in genealogy and had dug into their family histories, according to Peter Merriman.
“They’re into it,” he said. “They know who Nathaniel is.”
More than 2,200 postcards were sent to Merrimans around the world in the months leading up to the reunion. George Macy Merriman, who lives in Belgium, had been anticipating a family gathering on the 100th anniversary of the 1913 reunion.
“I’ve been watching this date come closer and closer over the past 20 years,” he said. “It’s an amazing look at the continuity of a family.” Macy Merriman flew from Europe with his son and son-in- law. He said many Europeans assume that Americans know little about their family histories, so his friends were surprised to learn how much he knew about his own ancestors going back hundreds of years.
“Even old families in Europe don’t know relatives going back 400 years,” Macy Merriman said.
Merriman family members were involved in all of the nation’s formative events, so family history is also U.S. history.
“The Merrimans participated in founding a new nation,” Macy Merriman said.
Family history research was a common thread among those who attended the reunion, according to Peter Merriman, and it helped them connect even when they didn’t know each other.
“Almost everybody who’s here has done some genealogical research,” he said. “I met some Merrimans who I never knew before, but it seemed like we’d known each other for a long time but just hadn’t seen each other in a bunch of years.”
Raymond Merriman and his wife, Patsy, came from Washington state, making a two week vacation out of the reunion. He’s a descendant of Samuel Merriman and said there are few Merriman’s on the West Coast from that branch of the family.
Raymond Merriman has traced his ancestors to Nathaniel Merriman’s father, George Merriman. Knowing the family history made the reunion all the more meaningful to him.
“Without that, this wouldn’t mean anything to me,” he said.
After meeting and chatting on the Wells Fargo lawn, the group walked to the Center Street Cemetery for a ceremony at the Merriman family plot. Lunch was held at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, where a genealogical chart 5 feet high and 24 feet wide was posted on the wall.
Photos by Justin Weekes; courtesy of the Record-Journal
Above: Helen Merriman of South Dakota helps husband Roger with his name tag during the meet and greet portion of the Merriman family reunion Saturday in front of the Wells Fargo bank in Wallingford.
Below: Marcous J. Merriman, 24, of Rochester, N.Y., and Don Merriman, 90, of Lemon, S.D., get to know each other.
Above: Members of the Merriman family enter Center Street Cemetery in Wallingford Saturday for the unveiling of a new headstone for Nathaniel Merriman, one of Wallingford’s founders.
Below: The Merriman family gathers in the cemetery for the national anthem with the Second Company, Governor’s Foot Guard, of New Haven.