Thursday, December 27, 2012

Overcoming Evil with Good

There is a movement to affirm the goodness of the human spirit, of life, which is growing rapidly. It is called "26 Acts of Kindness".

People are reaching out to do acts of kindness in memory of 26 the children and adults massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th.

" Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans chapter 12 verse 21, King James Bible)

As a nation, we can resolve to overcome evil by passing a Federal weapons ban on assault rifles and making gun ownership consistent in every state. It does no good for one state to ban assault weapons when people can go over the line to buy them in the state next door. We need national unity of purpose.

The Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle used in the attack on the school children of Sandy Hook is a weapon favored by military and police. Under Connecticut law, the shooter was in legal possession of the assault type rifle, because in Connecticut, only assault hand-guns are banned.

Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, has had some success in reducing gun violence in his city, and he wrote a thought provoking editorial last week on the subject which you can read here.

Please. Let us all support immediate legislation to keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of civilians. In the name of mercy for our children and justice for the victims -

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

Sometimes all one can do is 'just keep going'. So when I had a broken molar I slowed down, and just kept on going, working on my family tree. When I was surprised with a root canal, I just kept going, although slower, working on my family tree. This month when I had an abscessed molar, I just kept going, and when I was on antibiotics that upset my stomach for ten days, I just kept going. Later when a periodontist affirmed that the molar had to come out, I went home with pain killers and a rather large hole in my jaw. So I just kept going, working on my family tree. Nearly every day, I made new entries.

Because when life serves up pain, the best thing to do is what gives us joy. It requires steadfast focus and intense concentration to transfer the correctly spelled name and vital statistics of ancestors from various sources into my tree at More attention is needed to associate the appropriate citations on the new entry. I can take my ibuprofen and forget that I have a dental problem for hours at a time when I'm discovering and documenting our ancestors.

It is a good thing that I have many more ancestors to document, because I will need to go through extensive dental reworking of my teeth and gums beginning in January.

The Christmas nostalgia that I identify most with this year is "All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth". Funny, I used to think that was a song for little kids. Maybe this is what is meant by "second childhood".

I hope everyone gets their Christmas wishes and New Year's dreams this season. Meanwhile, if don't need your two front teeth for Christmas, be very very glad.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Heroes and Villains

 Leo's 25th gr-grandfather was Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Mortimer, 1231-1282, who killed and beheaded Sir Simon VI de Montfort, the great-nephew of another of our ancestors

Sir Simon died in 1265 with his friends and sons at the battle of Evesham, defending freedom and liberty.  After his death, people came to his grave and many were healed, miraculously. This was something the king's touch was supposed to do - and did not. It infuriated King Henry III and his son, Prince Edward so much that they posted guards at the grave, and later had Simon's body disinterred and moved.

Sir Roger died seventeen years later, after a life of fighting for wealth, privilege and power. His epitaph speaks: "Here lies buried, glittering with praise, Roger the pure, Roger Mortimer the second, called Lord of Wigmore by those who held him dear. While he lived all Wales feared his power, and given as a gift to him all Wales remained his. It knew his campaigns, he subjected it to torment."

Why these ancestors should matter, is that between them they touched the lives of many of our ancestors, and influenced the fate of kings and nations.  If ever anyone embodied the epitome of the curse "May you live in interesting times", it would be these knights, whose actions indeed made the times most interesting for themselves, and everyone else as well.

In a study of history, the individual appears to be lost in the context of great events that affect nations.  However, studying individuals in the light of their historical context can put history in perspective and reveal the human character and motives.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Do Facts Matter To You?

The truth is, most people follow their feelings. Especially when it comes to politics. Just in case you are looking for facts, here are links to the top three fact checking, non-profit, non-partisan organizations. - Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania. - Follow the money trail!

OnTheIssues - Answer a quiz on your preferences and see what candidate's policies match you the best - I was very surprised at which candidate matched my opinions!

In addition, here are the facts as seen by two different major news organizations. Both of these newspapers endorsed Obama in 2008 and also this year. Perhaps there are fact checking columns that run regularly in papers that have endorsed Romney, but these are the first two my Google search stumbled upon. They seem fairly impartial in calling out both politicians on some of their statements. - Sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times.

The Fact Checker - From the Washington Post.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We join the National Zoo and all panda lovers in mourning the death of the week old panda cub at the National Zoo.  Details are in the Washington Post.

Cause of death is being determined. Many baby pandas do not survive to adulthood. We had happy hopes for this cub and we are very sad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brief Personal Note: a month of difficulties

I usually don't write about my daily life - too boring. Well, that hasn't changed but the past few weeks have been a bit challenging. I have temporarily slowed work on my family tree project, and here is why, complete with a few timely cautions about safety at home.

For Christmas I received a lovely pair of soft, quilted, fur trimmed (fake fur) slippers. My feet were warm and comfortable, and even though the comfy slippers were a size too large, I wanted to keep them.

We put some large area rugs on the wood floors when we moved into our new home last year, but I frequently stumbled on them because of an old injury - my feet don't pick up as they ought. (You can see where this combination is heading, right?)

A few weeks ago, I picked up two pretty water glasses and headed into the kitchen to refill them for an afternoon session on the Internet, documenting our family tree.  Approaching the kitchen sink, I stumbled over the throw rug in my loose slippers, thrown forward and putting out my hands toward the granite counter. I missed the countertop but the drinking glasses hit the edge of the granite, my forehead hitting the glass tumblers hard as I went down.    Both glasses shattered between my head and the granite counter.

I ended up with cuts on both hands, a long cut over the left eye, a slight fracture and cuts over the bridge of the nose, a smashed lip, and deep cuts over the right eye, nicking a small artery.

We have an excellent volunteer fire department and emergency responders, or I might not be writing this today. I needed stitches and several weeks to heal.

I have read that, statistically, the most dangerous place is one's own home. Now I'm a believer.

After weeks away from research I was enjoying a snack of roasted almonds when my lower right molar cracked apart.

A week later I was in the dental chair nearly two hours, for a root canal and then installation of the permanent crown. Very tender mouth and back on pain killers. Pain + pain killers = fuzzy brain, so work on the family tree again slowed down while I healed.

My message is - watch out for loose slippers, area rugs and nuts.

Soon Pandababy expects to be adding more regular entries, sharing discoveries on relatives distant in time and space, culture and language.

Meanwhile, everyone stay safe whenever you are in that most dangerous of environments - the home.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A NEW Pandababy!

Congratulations to Mei Xiang at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.  She gave birth to a baby panda last night, and we are celebrating.

Here is a link to the Washington Post article, with embedded videos. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Documenting Legendary Trees

AETHELBERHT I,  who married Bertha of Paris, was King of Kent, England from about 580 or 590 to his death  24 February 616. He is thought to have been born around 552 to 560.

(1) In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the eighth-century monk Bede lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the late ninth century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Æthelberht is referred to as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". He was the first English king to convert to Christianity.

Although Saint AEthelberht died one-thousand four-hundred fifty-two years ago, his Wikipedia biography references six primary sources and nine secondary sources.

The concept that people contemporary with my 40th great-grandfather wrote about him, and those writings are known to us today, may be the most mind-boggling fact from a tree full of surprises. Or perhaps the most astounding fact is that people who are far more qualified and experienced than I, who have traced their trees far back in time with these sources, have shared them on the Internet. I am grateful that people like me can find where our ancestors may merge with their tree.

 Mr. Marlyn Lewis, of Portland, Oregon is one such compiler, and for anyone doing research in New England, Virginia, England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany or Switzerland, I recommend his site, Our Royal, Titled, Noble and Commoner Ancestors & Cousins.

 Whether one regards such ancient branches on the family tree as mere legend, or as documented history, it is fascinating to me to view the events of the past through the lens of an ancestor. I hope to add more posts about Legendary Trees in the future. 

(1) from Wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; see Æthelberht of Kent

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Companion of William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror is thought to have invaded England with an army of no less than 5,000 (some estimates are from 7,000 to 11,000). The number of proven "Companions of the Conqueror" ought to be large; however, many have claimed to have ancestors who were at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when an analysis of their family tree proves that to have been impossible.

The names of the known companions are no more than fifteen from 'unimpeachable sources', (with six names added by more recent historians studying the best secondary sources).  Twenty-one out of over five-thousand isn't much, but then, it was nearly a thousand years ago, plus the natural confusion in the aftermath of a major battle and years spent subduing the countryside.

So I find it quite amazing that Leo and I are both directly descended from six of the companions of William the Conqueror, from the list of fifteen; Leo alone is descended from a seventh companion.

Here is a link to the coat of arms for one of them - Walter Giffard. It is an excellent website with the symbolic meaning of the colors and charges on the shields, and some history of the person.

Genealogy Ancestral Family Trees

Blazon:  gules three lions passant gardant in pale argent

Described in the classic The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and wales: by Sir Bernard Burke, copyright 1864, are the arms of Walter Giffard, Seigneur de Longueville, circa 1015-1085. He received fame for his valor at the seige of Barbastro in Aragon, Spain, part of the Reconquista. Sir Walter Giffard is a direct ancestor of both Leo and April.

Some of the early known rolls of arms I have found for England begin circa 1270-1280. The Bayeux Tapestry, woven soon after the Battle of Hastings (1066) shows some arms on shields, so we know that at least some arms were displayed as early as 1066.

About 1245, a monk called Matthew of Paris wrote and drew pictures of some of the arms borne by the great men of his time and prior to his time. Here is a link to digitized parchment image, courtesy of the British Library. I am still searching the pages for the shield of Walter Giffard.

[A slight detour here, just because it is so fabulous to have the only copy of Matthew Paris' "Historia Anglorum" available on the Internet!]  The link opens to the page recording the crowning of King Henry III (age 9) following the death of his father, King John (previous page). Notice in the second column, tenth line from the bottom, the script concerns "Willi comits Penbroke-magni" and goes on to record that William earl of Pembroke has become the Regent of England for the young king. (I don't read Old Latin - but I think that is the sense of the text.)

So with the authority of Sir Bernard Burke, we can be confident that the above image is similar to that borne by Sir Walter Giffard.

I must apologize for having earlier posted the image for Walter Giffard prematurely, which I  have discovered with more research was for a cadet branch of the same Giffard family.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sir William de Huntingfield - Magna Carta Surety Baron

Or on a fess gules three plates

The above Shield of Arms, borne by William de Huntingfield, 1165-1221 is from the Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons Magna Charta Baron for William De Huntingfield, A feudal baron in Suffolk, as seen here.

Sir William de Huntingfield was made Constable of the legendary Dover Castle in 1204. It was the beginning of many such honors and responsibilites that he was awarded up to 1215.  Because he joined the Baron's revolt against King John, all of his lands were confiscated and he was briefly imprisoned. Like the rest of the Surety Barons, he was excommunicated by the Pope.

He went on the 5th Crusade around 1219, and died circa 1221, before  he could return to England.

Sir William is an ancestor of Leo, and the twelfth Magna Carta Surety Baron in our family tree.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Parliament of Fire and Faggots

The Parliament of 1414 was held at Grey Friars Priory in Leicester, so that they would not be hindered by the mobs which might have shown up in London. In his last appearance at Parliament, Walter Hungerford (Leo's 19th gr-grandfather) was elected Speaker. In an effort to control the Lollard rioting, Parliament quickly passed two acts which did more damage to the nation than all the previous riots (in my opinion).

From Wikipedia, here is an excerpt of The Suppression of Heresy Act which they passed:

that whoever should read the Scriptures in English, which was then called Wicliffe's Learning, should forfeit land, cattle, goods, and life, and be condemned as heretics to God, enemies to the crown, and traitors to the kingdom; that they should not have the benefit of any sanctuary, though this was a privilege then granted to the most notorious malefactors; and that, if they continued obstinate, or relapsed after pardon, they should first be hanged for treason against the king, and then burned for heresy against God.

The freedom to write and publish any document or book they so desired was severely curtailed with the following act:

 no book ... be from henceforth read ... within our province of Canterbury aforesaid, except the same be first examined by the University of Oxford or Cambridge ... and ... expressly approved and allowed by us or our successors, and in the name and authority of the university ... delivered unto the stationers to be copied out.

The Suppression of Heresy Act was revoked under Henry VIII and Edward VI (1509-1553) but was revived the first year of Queen Mary (1554).

For the eschewing and avoiding of errors and heresies, which of late have risen, grown, and much increased within this realm, for that the ordinaries have wanted authority to proceed against those that were infected therewith: be it therefore ordained and enacted by authority of this present Parliament, that the statute made in the fifth year of the reign of King Richard II, concerning the arresting and apprehension of erroneous and heretical preachers, and one other statute made in the second year of the reign of King Henry IV, concerning the repressing of heresies and punishment of heretics, and also one other statute made in the second year of the reign of King Henry V, concerning the suppression of heresy and Lollardy, and every article, branch, and sentence contained in the same three several Acts, and every of them, shall from the twentieth day of January next coming be revived, and be in full force, strength, and effect to all intents, constructions, and purposes for ever.

Our ancestors who settled America 78 years later left England in revolt against such laws as these.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Parliament of Bats and other strange nomenclature

The Parliament of Bats was called in 1426. When I first noticed the name, I pictured this:

but naturally, it was not a batty Parliament.

It was an argument about freedom to carry weapons for self-defense.  The Duke of Gloucester had made a rule that members of Parliament were not allowed to carry swords. So they armed themselves with clubs (bats) instead. 

I started noticing some of the strange names that various sessions of the English Parliament acquired throughout history.  The Mad Parliament, called in 1258, brought to mind this:
but naturally, the Parliament was not nutty, or crazy.

They were very angry (mad, in fact) and they summoned the King (rather than the other way around) to Oxford, where they imposed what became known as the Oxford Provisions, limiting the arbitrary power of the king. The Provisions specified that King Henry keep to the agreement signed by King John known as Magna Carta [now you just knew we'd be getting back to Runnymede with this, didn't you?].  Well, like Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford were undone in short order - but the English are a stubborn bunch, and it didn't matter what they named it, they kept telling the king they had rights and would insist on them.

So the Parliament of Bats wasn't batty, and the Mad Parliament wasn't nuts. Next: a more ominous name "The Parliament of Fire and Faggots". 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sir Nicholas de Segrave - 1238-1295

                                     sable a lion rampant argent

Sir Nicholas de Segrave changed his arms from those his father bore to those pictured above

                               sable three garbs argent

 The arms borne by Sir Nicholas' ancestors are pictured above. They represent three sheaves of wheat.
They were borne by Gilbert de Segrave who was Nicholas' father.

Sir Nicholas de Segrave fought by the side of Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham in 1265.  He was severely wounded.  Later he withdrew with a group holding out on the Island of Ely, and was still carrying on the struggle against tyranny in 1267.  He was excommunicated three times between 1263 and 1267 for fighting against the king. Eventually he reconciled with Henry III and his son Edward.

The Segraves are direct ancestors of April.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sir Hugh le Despenser and Sir Ralph Basset

When Sir Simon de Montfort saw the overwhelming array of force that Edward had brought against him, he is reputed to have said, "Now let us commend our souls to God; for our bodies are our enemies." (1)

He also urged those with him to flee and save themselves for better service to England, but the only deserters were the foreign troops who had made common cause with Montfort.  Simon and those around him fought to the death.  The shields of two who fought and died next to Simon are:

Leo is a direct descendant of (2) Sir Hugh le Despenser (1223-1265), whose arms above are blazoned as:

Quarterly argent and gules fretty Or overall a bendlet sable

Leo and April are both related, though not in direct ascendency, to (3) Sir Ralph Basset (-1265) who might have borne the arms, below, which are blazoned as:

Or three piles meeting in base gules, a canton ermine

(1) Life of Simon de Montfort, Mandell Creighton, D.D.; c. 1895 London, England.
(2) Dering Roll #214 Thanks to Brian Timms for sharing his fabulous collection of shields
(3) Foster Roll #47 Thanks to Brian Timms for sharing his fabulous collection of shields

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Some random thoughts on blazon, and a new series of Shields

Arms were not always carried down through a family in the same form as they were originally.  If that were the case, the study of heraldry would not be nearly as interesting as it is.  Finding a family name that is carried down to fourth 'Ralph' or the tenth 'William' creates additional complexity, for most armorial rolls span several decades, prompting the question - which arms go with which knight, when they are all named Robert and their lifespans overlapped closely?

This is why in the following series of arms, some are modified with "Might have been" borne by....  Although I make every effort to correctly match the arms to the correct knight, there is room for confusion. Anyone who can offer positive identification with sources is very welcome to comment -- please!

The five knights in this series were connected through common cause against King Henry III and the foreign clerics of the Roman church, who were violating tradition and law and enriching themselves with taxes meant for the benefit of the kingdom and the people.

Leo and April
are both related, though not in direct ascendency, to Sir Simon de Montfort, 2nd Earl of Leicester.  He might have borne these arms at the Battle of Lewes in 1264  --

gules a lion rampant argent
Simon had an older brother who probably bore these arms until he died in 1241, and then his eldest son would have the same arms until his death in 1249. Simon's nephew left no male heir so Simon might have rightfully borne these arms from 1249 until his death 4 Aug 1265 at the Battle of Evesham. The double tail on the lion is an unusual difference on Simon's family shield.

Tomorrow: Sir Hugh le Despenser

Image from Wikipedia at,_6th_Earl_of_Leicester
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
Origin of picture
Its description comes from La banque du blason et Armorial de J.B. RIETSTAP
Picture drawn by Odejea on October 2005, the 22nd

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Throwing the Climate Dice

James E. Hanson is the Director for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  In 1988 he testified before Congress and showed how, using a mathematical probability program based on throwing 'climate dice', weather patterns could be modeled and predicted.

He is back again, this time to tell us that THE DICE ARE LOADED!

I found his article in the Washington Post easy to understand and vital to know.  If you would like to read it for yourself, the link is here.

I never thought that Mother Nature would cheat and use loaded dice, but it appears to be the case.  We'd all like to have a peek into the future and see what it has in store for us.  Here is your chance - go ahead, peek. I won't tell.

Friday, August 3, 2012

News of the World

We interrupt this genealogical blog with an urgent news bulletin:


Yes, the Teddy Bears have reverted to their aggressive origins and have launched a massive air attack on the country of Belarus.  The President of Belarus recently bragged about his country's impenetrable air defense system.  The Teddy Bears, in retaliation for his hubris, parachuted into Belarus by the thousands, launched from a single small airplane.

The bears, known and loved for their peaceful, friendly ways, have shocked the world.  They have particularly shocked the two Belarusan generals who were fired as a result of the assault.

Although the President of Belarus at first denied the invasion, the bears collective messages of Democracy and hope were too much for him.  He admitted the bears had landed, and waving his fists in the air, he declared, 'We shall get those bears!'  He also ejected the Swedish diplomats from their embassy, for their part in the bear conspiracy.  It seems the plane that carried the Teddy Bears was launched from Sweden.

Sweden retaliated and expelled the Belarusan diplomats from Sweden.

Stay tuned for the latest developments.  We are holding our breath, waiting to see if the Panda Bears are going to join this war of nerves, and if so, to which side they will lend their support?

Signing off for Pandababy, I am your reporter on the front lines of the news!

BREAKING!  BREAKING!  This just in -

After meditating on an especially juicy piece of bamboo, Pandababy asked,

 "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"It is obvious that bears must stand united, or fall individually.  We shall, of course, support the brave and reckless actions of our cousins, the Teddy Bears."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

King of Jerusalem, Emporer of Constantinople - Jean de Brienne

Leo's Tree

Jean de Brienne, 1170-1237, Comte of Eu. His shield of arms above are blazoned as:
                                                          azure a lion rampant Or

Shown above, the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, blazoned as:
             argent a cross potent between four crosslets Or

Jean de Brienne was King of Jerusalem 1210-1229 by right of his wife, Maria de Montferrat, (who inherited the kingdom from her mother). After his wife died in 1212, Jean de Brienne was regent for their daughter who later became Isabella, Queen of Jerusalem. 

Shown above, the arms of the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople, blazoned as:

       gules crusilly a cross between four annulets within each a crosslet Or

Jean de Brienne was Emporer of the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople, regent for Baldwin of Courtenay until Baldwin reached the age of twenty. Then they were co-rulers in the last two years of Jean's life.

Chosen by fate to play a role which the size of his armies denied him, Jean nevertheless was King of Jerusalem and Emperor of Constantinople and left one of his daughters Queen of Jerusalem and one other daughter the Empress Consort of Constantinople.

He was a Crusader who declined to sack Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, and went home with his men. He also quit the Crusade against the Albigensians of the Languedoc after the bloodbath at the first city, Beziers.  By his deeds he was known as a ferocious fighter and leader of knights, but also known as a man who chose to not wage war against women and children.  He was trusted by his peers and by the kings, Popes and Emperors of his day with two of the most important thrones of his era, and with two of the most vulnerable royalty.

For a mere second son, destined to become a clerk, he didn't do too badly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Already? Book stack for this week...

Some people like to take things apart to analyze them. I like to analyze things to put them together differently.

William Marshall (1147-1219), who I have mentioned before, is the subject of four biographies sitting on my desk, which I am reading concurrently.

William Marshal by Sidney Painter, c. 1933

William Marshal: Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby, c. 1984

William Marshall: Knighthood, War and chivalry, 1147-1219, by David Crouch, c. 1990, 2002

William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, by Catherine A. Armstrong, c. 2006

and coming soon to a library near me, a book on lives that overlapped the Marshall's:
The Beaumont Twins" The Roots and Branches of Power in the Twelfth Century, by David Crouch, c. 2008

I am to the point where Richard Lionheart has just returned from the Holy Land - in all four books.  I read a section in one, read the same material, written from a different perspective in another, then in the next and so on.  Since much of what is written is drawn from documents created during William Marshall's life or shortly thereafter, there is repetition in reading this way.  However, I like to be able to compare what different scholarly authors think important to emphasize, or not, and what slant - if any - they give it.

Since William's is the best-documented life of his times in the knightly class, much of the culture - the expectations and requirements, comes through the long expanse of years from then to now.  I find myself pondering weapons in the Middle Ages, and how it took years of training and mentoring before a man was allowed to don a sword. Once a sword was earned, the right to carry it came with clear accountability to someone with higher power - someone who would chastise the knight if he misused his weapons.

I think about how in my own era of freedom, any adult with a little money can purchase a deadly weapon with less training and testing than it takes to get a license to drive a car.  It is as if in William's day, if they had tested and trained the squires on how to ride a horse for months, and then just handed them a big sword at the end with a wink and a nod, "oh, we know you will use it responsibly!".

I believe William and his peers would find my world quite terrifying - rampaging anarchy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh Yes! Another Magna Carta Surety Baron - the 11th

Just when I think there couldn't be any more - I discover yet another member of that exclusive group on Leo's Tree:

Sir William d'Aubeney (d'Aubigny; d'Albini) 1147-1236  Magna Carta Surety Baron, Lord of Belvoir Castle, Sheriff of Rutland, 1195; Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, 1197; Sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, 1197.  The arms he bore are blazoned as:

gules a lion rampant Or

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Magna Carta Surety Baron Sir Henry de Bohun - tenth of ten

Leo's Tree

 Azure a bend argent coticed Or between six lions rampant Or

 The above blazon is from the Herald's Roll, number 46 for the Count of Hereford, Humphrey Bohun, at

Thanks to Brian Timms for his comprehensive collection of Shield of Arms, and his generosity to share it.

Our tree is a work in progress, and today I discovered another Magna Carta Baron on Leo's branches:
Sir Henry de Bohun, 1175-1220, 5th Baron of Hereford, 1st Earl Hereford, Constable of England, Sheriff of Kent. He died in the Holy Land, 1 June 1220.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Middle Ages were Not at all What I Thought

When the subject of Knights in armor, castles and tournaments - the way life was in the Middle Ages is considered, what do people of our age think it was like?

I for one, had thought it would be a simple society with very few social divisions, and those would be highly stratified.  I thought people would be illiterate, untraveled, unwashed and ignorant - totally unsophisticated - except for a few centers of learning, a few merchants and knights.

I could not have been more wrong in my opinions.

Untraveled? Perhaps the people who worked the fields stayed in one place, but my reading shows that merchants and from the knightly class and upwards, people traveled a great deal.  They went back and forth across the English Channel like we go back and forth across a street.  They visited Ireland, Scotland, Wales, like neighbors dropping in for tea (except they often dropped in for a battle).  It was a part of their of culture for the men, who sometimes brought their wives with them, to take out some time to go to Jerusalem, or at least make a pilgrimage to a shrine in Spain, Italy or Germany.

Illiterate?  although writing was most often practiced by scholars, lawyers and priests, the upper classes were fluent in two, and often three, languages. Well educated barons might also read Greek. Their libraries, though small, might contain books in three languages, all of which they read. High Norman French was spoken at court in England, Latin was spoken when dealing in diplomacy and legal affairs, including the transfer of property, and Anglo-Saxon was spoken with farmers, servants and merchants.  Depending on where their seat of power was located, the ruling class might also be fluent in Cymric (the language of Wales).

Consider my amazement when I discovered that castles often had bathing rooms, and some rulers even ported a large bathing tub with them when they traveled.  Bathing never went out of fashion, but the devastation caused by the extreme famine in the 14th century, followed by nearly half the population dying of the plague, left the remaining people too weakened to do more than just barely survive.

Most of all, I am astonished at the complexity and sophistication of the culture and society of the Middle Ages.  There was a body of laws which were enforced in courts at various levels of power.  There was a highly developed system of trade not only within the borders of a country, but across borders and seas.  There was a rapid progression of development in architecture and art, and in the mechanics of offensive and defensive warfare - armour, weapons, siege engines and the like.

While most people did spend their lives in the class into which they were born, there was also a certain amount of upward mobility, and everyone who was freeborn had certain rights in the law and in custom.

It was a world quite different from ours, and yet I have found more points of similarity than I expected. While women had less freedom than we do now, it was not only women who had to live according to narrow rules and expectations. Everyone including knights had lives more circumscribed by custom, rules and law than people these days.

Scholars have said the mindset, the assumptions and expectations of people living in the Middle Ages is so different from ours as to render it impossible for us to understand them.  No doubt they are right, but that doesn't keep me from exploring what I can find, and reorienting my view accordingly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"But how do you know you have the right people?"

The latest post by Dick Eastman "Barking Up the Wrong Tree", reminded me about the question a relative asked me when he saw my notebook full of ancestor records; "But how do you know you have the right people?"  As Dick pointed out, it isn't enough even to check original records: people in the same town may have identical names.

The answer is in more research, as Mr. Eastman shows - getting the whole picture: not only the person's vital dates, but the names of all associated family - spouse, children, etc. In cases where it is possible to discover the person's employment it can differentiate two otherwise similar people: someone who is a farmer/blacksmith in one census is not likely to have sold the farm and become a pastor or a hat maker in the next.

Beyond checking facts that can be found in contemporary records - original sources, I have found that there is a great variation in the accuracy of secondary sources. It helps to know the reputation of book or writer, and to weigh their information accordingly.

Haste does make waste, and like Dick Eastman, I have lopped off branches from my family tree after finding my research was not thorough enough to discern between my own ancestors and those of someone else.  The only thing worse would be to never discover the error, and go blithely on, recording more and more wrong leaves on the branches of my family tree.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pembroke Castle - home of William Marshall [Leo's Tree]

Pembroke Castle as seen from across the Pembroke River, nearly as it might have looked in 1200 when William and Isabel were in residence.

William Marshall Earl of Pembroke by Catherine A. Armstrong is a recent biography of the undefeated knight, the flower of chivalry, counselor to four kings, Regent of England, a legend in his own time. Sir William is Leo's 23rd great-grandfather.  His shield, below, is blazoned as follows:

per pale Or and vert a lion rampant gules

Shield of William Marshall picture thanks to Reed M. W. Wurts for furnishing of the correct shield to the Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons [these arms for William Marshall Jr. are the same as those of his famous father] - see also 'Some Feudal Coats of Arms' etc. by Joseph Foster, pub. 1902.

Pembroke Castle picture thanks to Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.  Picture uploaded 2007-9-23 by Monkeyrustler.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I heard Florence Nightingale Speaking today

Florence Nightingale lived from 1820 to 1910.  She established principles of nursing during her work in the Crimean War (1853-1856).  She is considered the mother of the nursing profession.

Hear her recorded voice at the British Library.

I'm deeply into research this week, and will continue with our ancestors in Pandababy's blog soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

9th out of 9 Magna Carta Surety Barons: Sir Robert de Vere

Leo's Tree:
Above are the arms of Sir Robert de Vere, circa 1164-1221; Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, 3rd Earl of Oxford, hereditary Master Chamberlain of England; Chief Justice Itinerant in Herefordshire. His blazon is:

quarterly gules and Or in the first quarter a mullet argent.

Sir Robert de Vere died in Italy returning from a crusade.  His body was brought home and buried in the Benedictine priory  founded by his grandfather, Hatfield Priory at Broadoak, Essex. The arms of Sir Robert de Vere are carved into the shield with his effigy on his tomb, created within fifty years of his death by order of his son Robert.  The tomb effigy is currently in the parish church, where it was moved from the priory circa 1546, after the dissolution of monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII.

Sir Saher de Quincy also went on crusade after 1215. He died after the siege of Damietta, Egypt and is buried in Acre.  Sir John de Lacy was also at the siege of Damietta (1218, part of the 5th Crusade). Sir John returned home to England, married and raised a family and died twenty-two years later.  Another Magna Carta Baron (although not our ancestor) who was with Sir Saher de Quincy at Damietta was Sir Robert Fitzwalter, who returned safely to England with Sir Saher's ashes of viscera.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Magna Charta Barons - eighth out of nine - Saher de Quincy

April's Tree
Sir Saher de Quincy is believed to have borne the above arms:

  Or a fess gules  a file of eight points azure.

Reed M. W. Wurts, who is considered an authority, gives this as Sir Saher's arms at The Magna Charta Barons at Runnymede Home Page

The Baronial Order of Magna Charta gives the above arms for Sir Saher de Quincy:

  Or a fess gules a file of eight points argent

 The BOMC, founded in 1898 is definitely an authority.  Sir Saher de Quincy, 1st Earl of Winchester, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215; he lived circa 1150-1219.

 The coat of arms directly above may or may not the arms for the Magna Charta Baron Sir Saher de Quincy, but they are found in many rolls of arms for the de Quincy surname:  gules seven mascules Or.  They are found in one instance with his wife.  The most knowledgeable sources I can find do not credit him with these arms. Some believe that Sir Quincy adopted these arms later in his life and the other arms were his in his youth. I'm not even an amateur herald and can not possibly say.  The arms directly above did belong to other de Quincys, and these have been adopted by many family tree enthusiasts for Sir Saher (sometimes written Saer).

People who spend their lives studying arms and titles and the rules governing them, may be officially recognized as heralds.  Even heralds, recognized as experts in this field, may disagree on fine points of heraldry.  There are a few basic rules, however, that can be understood by those of us who are enthusiasts but not experts.

The rule I would begin with is that arms are for a specific individual.  Only consider - a knight on the field of battle with his armor and helm concealing his features was identified by the arms on his shield, on his banners and pennants, on the caparisons on his horse, and by his sleeveless coat depicting his arms, (by which we have the term 'coat of arms').

What knight would want his feats of valor to be credited to someone else?  What knight would want someone else to carry his personal insignia - suppose they were cowardly and fled the battle?  It is not difficult to see that practical concerns required knightly arms to be personal.

A device such as a label (shown in an earlier post) would be removed from the shield, coat, pennants, etc. of the eldest son  when he inherited the full honors of his father's title - that is, when his father died.

In certain instances, a young knight might adopt the arms which had belonged to his grandfather, perhaps with the permission of his mother if she were the only surviving heir of her father. Arms could signify what place a man held in his family: whether he was the 'son and heir', or a younger brother, or a cousin.

Sons did not always adopt the coat of arms that was borne by their fathers. Sir Gilbert Segrave carried a shield with three silver wheat sheaves on a black ground. His son Nicholas kept the family colors but changed to a silver lion rampant on a black ground.

Certain devices were added to the shield signifying honors won at specific battles. The arms a knight carried were a sign of his authority, accomplishments, lands, power and wealth. 
We cannot claim these arms of our ancestors, any more than we can claim the honors and lands they once held. We can take note of them and study to understand the meaning and symbolism, and we can make an effort to discern which arms belonged to which ancestor.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Magna Charta Surety Barons - 6th and 7th out of nine

From Leo's Tree:
Of the twenty-five barons who were elected by their peers to be sureties to keep King John to the terms of the Great Charter, eight barons did not have descendants past the fourth generation.  Of the remaining seventeen, I have discovered nine who are our ancestors.

The majority of the barons on the field at Runnymede were related to each other by blood or marriage. As previously shown by Roger and Hugh Bigod, some were father and son. So also are the next two - Richard and Gilbert de Clare. Again, we see for the eldest son, the label over the father's shield of arms.

Above are the arms for Sir Richard de Clare. His blazon is:

  Or three chevrons gules

  Sir Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford, Lord Clare of Castle Tonbridge, Magna
Carta Surety Baron 1215,  lived 1153-1217.

The arms for Sir Richard's eldest son Sir Gilbert de Clare are:

  Or three chevrons gules a label azure

  3rd Earl Gloucester, 7th Earl of Clare, Earl of Hertford, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, lived 1180-1230.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

                                       What Say the Reeds at Runnymede?
At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
What say the reeds at Runnymede?
The lissom reeds that give and take,
That bend so far, but never break.
They keep the sleepy Thames awake
With tales of John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede: -
“You mustn’t sell, delay, deny,
A freeman’s right or liberty.
It wakes the stubborn Englishry,
We saw ‘em roused at Runnymede!

When through our ranks the Barons came,
With little thought of praise or blame,
But resolute to play the game,
They lumbered up to Runnymede,
And there they launched in solid line
The first attack on Right Divine -
The curt, uncompromising ‘Sign’
That settled John at Runnymede.

At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
Except by lawful judgment found
And passed upon him by his peers
Forget not, after all these years,
The Charter signed at Runnymede.”

And still when Mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And the crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Magna Carta Surety Barons - 4th/5th of nine: Sir John de Lacie; Sir William III de Lanvalay

April's tree

Below left is the shield of arms for Sir John de Lacie, Knight.  His blazon is:  Or a lion rampant purpure

Sir John de Lacie, 1192-1240, Magna carta Surety 1214, 7ty Baron of Halton Castle, High Sheriff of Cheshire, governor of the Castle of chester, 5th Lord Bowland, herediatry Constable of Chester, 2nd Earl of Lincoln (4th creation; in right of his wife).

To the left is the shield of arms for Sir William III de Lanvalay, Knight. His blazon is:

 gules a lion passant Or

  Sir William III de Lanvaly, 1195-1217; Magna Carta Surety 1215, Constable of Colchester Castle, Lord of Stanway Castle.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Magna Carta Baron Ancestors - third of Nine: Sir Robert de Roos

From Leo's Tree:
Above is the shield of arms for Sir Robert de Roos, Knight. His blazon is:
 gules three water bougets argent

  Sir Robert de Roos, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, 4th Baron Hamlake, builder and Lord of castles Helmsley (Yorkshire) and Werk (Northumberland), lived circa 1170-1227.

Armies in ancient times had occasions to bring their water supply with them. If the water was captured or compromised, it could mean defeat, and death.  To be in charge of the water bougets was to be in a post of great trust and importance. Thus, certain families who held that post displayed it on their shields.

When I began researching the Surety Barons of Magna Carta, I discovered details that changed my previous notions of what really happened.  One of the most shocking things to my modern sensibilities was the discovery that the Pope excommunicated all twenty-five barons who were surety to make King John keep the agreement.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A New Series: Magna Carta and our Ancestors the Surety Barons - first 2 of nine: Sir Hugh Bigod and his son Roger Bigod

From Leo's Tree:
Above left is the shield of arms for Sir Roger Bigod, Knight.  His blazon is:

 Or a cross gules

  Sir Roger Bigod, circa 1140-11221, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, 2nd Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk, Keeper of Hereford castle, Ambassador to kings, Chief Judge in the King's Court 1195-1202.

Second shield above left is the shield of arms for Sir Hugh Bigod, Knight, son of Sir Roger Bigod. His blazon is:

 Or a cross gules and a label azure

 The father's arms with a label was usually a variation carried by the eldest son.  Sir Hugh Bigod, 1178-1225, Magna Carta Surety Baron 1215, 3rd Earl of Norfolk; Earl of Pembroke [in right of his wife].

A note about the arms on the shields:  for the Magna Carta Barons, I have used the arms as provided by Reed M. W. Wurts to "Brookfield Ancestor Project - Surety Barons"; and also as shown on banners by the Baronial Order of Magna Charta.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Genealogy Software - the top three

Top Ten Reviews website put out a review of the top ten genealogy software programs of 2012. You can read the results here.

I use the two tied for first place: Family Tree Maker 2012 with Sync, and Legacy.  Because of the Sync feature that works with Ancestry online, and also the incredible collections of records, and also their seamless partnership with My Canvas, where I can create a genealogy book using the records in my tree at, I am using FTM 2012 almost exclusively this year.

The third of the top ten programs is Roots Magic. I have investigated the screens and the features, and appreciate the color coded family trees, but it isn't enough to beat out the time saving features of Sync.

Whatever your choice, I strongly recommend buying the best manual available to go with your program.  Being able to look up how to do something in a reference manual has saved me hours of time and frustration.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Found the Devil

Like others before me, I have found the Devil, and he is in the details.  Little details, such as a typo, a wrong date, a word spelled wrong, whether someone was born "circa" a date or "before" a date. Just find a detail and you will find the Devil.

There are 418 Devils in place names in my FTM 2012, many of which are where I put the descriptive place, i.e. the manors owned, in the place name for birth. Since the majority of the records are of nobles holding many manors, the descriptive line makes the place name field go crazy. Other place name "errors" are where towns have changed their names; where the first name in the place field is not a town but a manor or a castle; when there is a slight change of spelling over the centuries that the place name authority doesn't recognize or when the data is simply wrong, as in where there is one city in two counties for a birth record.

I am fixing the place name errors a few dozen at a time, and putting the new records in the correct fields. It is just one part of the learning curve, about real estate in the Middle Ages, about the geography of England and France, about how Family Tree Maker works with online records, and most of all - about paying attention to the details, and keeping the little Devils out!

I have corrected most of the marriage date errors, and put contracts made for marriage while the subjects were still children in a different kind of record. That still leaves actual marriages made between people under sixteen, or in one case I found, under five years old. My program thinks it is a mistake, (I'm inclined to agree with it) but that doesn't change the fact. So I have resorted to adding wording indicating that it is a valid child marriage which was not repudiated (as was allowed by Church law) when the parties were of the age of consent.

Another kind of detail I have found is where the date for the birth is actually the date for the Christening, (which may or may not be the actual birth date), which is normally so noted, but which I have to remember to enter into the descriptive field.

I could list other little 'detail Devils' but you get the picture.

Then there is the detail of Copyright license and citing the author/publisher of a text or picture properly. I have almost totally given up using the convenient "add this to my tree" button in Ancestry - unless the article in question clearly cites the source and license (which I have usually found to be not the case). Sometimes I can find the original of the (unsourced) item on Wikipedia or elsewhere, and I can use excerpts giving credit where it is due. More details, more Devils.

Excuse me, it is time for me to go kick another dozen little Devils out of my work.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Family Tree Maker 2012 and SYNC - How To

In my experience, before running 'SYNC' the help desk advises running the "compact file" command off the drop-down menu "TOOLS". This may be essential to keep SYNC from crashing in mid-process.

Instructions below per the FTM Companion Guide, page 226:

"As you work in your trees you will add and delete quite a bit of data. However, even when data has been removed from a tree, the file may still be large. You should compress your tree files periodically to optimize performance, remove unnecessary items, and reindex the file.

1. Click Tools>Compact File. The Compact File window opens.
2. If you want to back up your file before you compress it, click the Back Up File Before Compacting checkbox (recommended).
3. Click Compact. If you have chosen to back up your file, the Backup window opens. Change any options as necessary and click OK.
4. When Family Tree Maker is finished, a message shows how much the file size was reduced. Click OK.

Because file compression happens behind the scenes, you won't see any changes to your tree, but you should notice better performance and a smaller overall file size."