Friday, April 27, 2012

A Dreadful Fate

[April's Tree]
Sir Richard Venables, Knight and heir to Kinderton, was Sheriff in 1386, when Richard II was King of England. But Kinderton was in Cheshire, and Cheshire was hostile to Richard's successor, King Henry IV.

Sir Richard, my 17th great-grandfather, joined Thomas Percy and his nephew Henry Percy in their rebellion against the King. The resulting battle of Shrewsbury, fought July 21, 1403, was so hotly contested that for a time afterwards, no one knew who won. Both the king's side and Percy's side suffered grievous losses. But Henry Percy died in the battle and King Henry the IV lived.

His retribution was swift and terrible. Two days later, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Richard Vernon, and my greatx17 grandfather Sir Richard Venables, were publicly executed. They were hanged, taken down while still living, drawn and quartered (and if you don't know what that is, I'm not going to describe it here, just too horrible to contemplate), and finally, beheaded and their heads displayed for all to see.

King Henry nearly lost his kingdom and his life. His son and heir, Prince Hal, (later to be King Henry V) commanding over two thousand archers, was permanently disfigured by an arrow in his face. Thousands of his faithful men at arms were killed, and more wounded. He needed to make a lasting example of the leaders who fought to overthrow him, (however justified they may have been in their complaints).

Sir Richard died age 38, leaving two sons and a daughter Joan, who is my 16th great-grandmother.

Ref: The History of the county Palatine and city of Chester,
by George Ormerod L.L.D., F.R.S. & S.S.A.
Vol III, page 104. Published 1819, London, England

Ref: Wikipedia: Battle of Shrewsbury,
Creative Commons share and share license

Ref: A Kingdom in Crisis: Henry IV and the Battle of Shrewsbury,
by Alastair Dunn, published in History Today Vol 53, Issue 8: 2003

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Profusion of Confusion

Dating the birth, marriage and death of ancestors is difficult. Just finding any evidence for their important dates is a challenge. Politics, religion and science have contributed adjustments to our calendar which make dating past events ambiguous, or at least complex.

Social styles contributed more confusion when dates in the Middle Ages in England were written according to the year of the reign of the current monarch. For example, My 19th great-grandfather, Sir Hugh Venables, Knight and Baron of Kinderton, died "4 Edw. II", meaning that he died in the fourth year of the reign of King Edward the Second.

Medieval English Genealogy has kindly published a guide which translates the Regnal Calendar into our Gregorian Calendar system, (which was adopted in the USA in 1752). Using their chart, I discovered that Sir Hugh died between 8 July 1310 - 7 July 1311 .  My genealogy program utterly rejects such a date, but I work those details into the notes, and compromise with 'he died before 8 Jul 1311' for the main entry.

If those were the only challenges in dating ancestral lives, I could cope. There is one more issue, which is random and frequent: the typeset error, or, in modern lingo, the typo. In a book published in 1819, the pedigree chart on page 106 shows my Sir Hugh died "4 Edw. I", meaning 20 Nov 1275 to 19 Nov 1276. Fortunately Sir Hugh signed land deeds after 1276, so I knew to go looking for the correct date of his death, which turned out to be 4 Edw II. The printer had dropped an "I", or maybe the manuscript was sent him that way. Either way, it makes doing the Family Tree a  perpetual challenge.

Which leaves me wondering how many dates in my family tree are in error from typos - my own or others, and that I haven't yet noticed. If a family tree researcher isn't born humble, they soon learn to be.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Who's Who of Tudor Women

Looking up what sources other family tree enthusiasts use to document their work (on names that I also have in my tree) often introduces me to research treasure troves I might not have otherwise discovered.

Today was just such a time - looking for proof of death dates on my Bulkeley branch, I clicked on a source note at hwbradley at RootsWeb.

It led me to A Who's Who of Tudor Women by Kathy Lynn Emerson.  I quickly put this well organized and informative site up with my top resources.  For one thing, she has the clearest and most concise explanation of the various ways confusion creeps into dates in the Medieval era.  I had noticed many of these difficulties as I worked to make my tree as accurate as possible, but Kathy puts it all together without making it confusing.

Who's Who of Tudor Women gave me a new outlook on the lives and influence among women of the upper class in the Tudor era, 1485-1603.  They were much more interesting, colorful, influential, and prolific than I knew. The website offers numerous pictures of women in those times, adding an extra dimension for viewers.

I don't think you'd have to be a genealogist to find their stories moving.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

41 Page Error Report?

Okay, so most of the entries were of the "missing birth, death or marriage" date sort.  Still, There was a page of typos and a half page of seriously wrong dates. Then there was the half page of "married under the age of 13".

All but two of those were marriage contract dates, signed by parents making dynastic partnerships for their heirs. I learned a rather obvious lesson from this: enter marriage contracts in a separate heading, not under 'marriage'.

So today was my 'read it and weep' day, to view my errors report.  I'm just glad my software will generate such reports. I'm not perfect and I'd hate to try to spot all my errors on my own.

I see a need for even more source documentation than I have already. It doesn't make me sad. I'm actually eagerly anticipating the journey. While I may learn eight things out of ten that I can't readily use in a record, the other two finds will be all the more satisfying, for being the result of serendipity.

Which reminds me, in looking up the Botreaux marriage dates I learned he was a member of Parliament. Hope his biography is one the work-in-progress at The History of Parliament has already completed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Genealogy Research in the UK: My Favorites

This year has been unique in all the years I've worked on my family tree since 1989. This year I have gone from looking up my early New England ancestors, to looking up their ancestors in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and also France. I do not have a World membership at, so where would I find the records I need?

Much to my delight, numerous Internet sites exist to help genealogists find their ancestors in Great Britain. Listed below are my favorites:

The National Archives - FREE -"You can search for the records you need in a number of different databases. These include records held by The National Archives, our records digitised on our partners' websites, and records held in other archives. Searching is free, but there may be a charge to download documents."

A Vision of Britain Through Time - FREE - excellent for checking place names. Yes, Linkinhorne is a genuine parish in Cornwall, as unlikely sounding as it is; and no, there is not a Sanford in Essex, but definitely there is a Sampford, as awkward as that looks to American eyes; just choose between Little Sampford and Great Sampford. This site is a treasure, and includes the British census from 1801 to 1961; statistical Atlas; descriptions of old England and Wales; tutorials.

British History Online - FREE -  ("Premium" content is thirty pounds subscription fee) Do not be put off if some searches "time out". This site is worth a little persistence. Wills; histories; maps; gazetteers; chronology of senior clerics; lists of London's Sheriffs; journals of Parliament (debates and records); more and more: a lot of everything!

Parishmouse - FREE -  transcriptions of historical books and parish registers for England and Wales and a large collection of photos and illustrations from old books.

GENUKI - FREE - UK and Ireland Genealogy (includes Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and Channel Islands) '"GENUKI provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a non-commercial service, maintained by a charitable trust and a group of volunteers." Somewhat analogous to USGENWEB.

The History of Parliament Online - FREE - a team of professional historians presenting the history of Parliament, biography of members and more. A work in progress. Not all years of Parliament are covered yet for biographies, but worth checking and fascinating reading on the parliaments and bills.

Medieval Lands - FREE - "This Index lists the full contents of each document in the second edition of Charles Cawley's Medieval Lands, the encyclopaedia of territories in the medieval western world and the royal and noble families which ruled them." Much of this is in Latin, but there are translators on the web, and this work in progress is incredible in its breadth and depth of lineages of nobility in Europe and elsewhere. Read the Introduction for an explanation of the work, purpose and methodology.

Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy - FREE - Whenever I find notes on Medieval English Genealogy which shed light on a rather difficult and obscure subject, I am grateful.

The Magna Charta Barons at Runnymede Home Page - FREE - Do you have an ancestor who in 1215 witnessed King John sign Magna Carta? Well, I didn't think so either, and so far I have discovered four of them!

 ManyRoads - FREE - which has information on ancestors in Northern France, East and West Prussia, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and more.

Castles and Sieges - FREE - Scottish history from a Scots point of view.

Welsh Biography Online - FREE - "The Welsh Biography Online presents the lives of eminent Welsh people who have made a significant contribution to Welsh life."

Family Deeds - FREE - search names index or by county; excellent LINKS page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

War's Distant Perspective - Fighting Ourselves

April's Tree
The American Civil War: brother against brother.  The English War of the Roses: mutually destroying the Kingdom. The War in Iraq: Muslim against Muslim.  The Scots, the Welch, the Irish - they were all so busy fighting,  clan against clan, they could not hold out against the Danes, the Normans and later, the English.

It was Norman against Norman at the battle of Val-es-Dunes in 1047.  In the uprising of Counts from the east, the rebels were confident they would put William's cousin, Gui of Burgundy, on William's throne.  None of the rebels had expected King Henry of France to come with ten thousand soldiers to support William. With the entry of the King into their dispute, they no longer outnumbered William's force.  Worse yet, they became traitors to the crown if they continued the fight.

Ralph of Tesson had sworn, with others, upon the saints of Bayeaux, to "strike at William where ever he found him".  What a quandary! To keep his oath, he must break his oaths to his King. While the two sides hovered opposite each other, Ralph spurred his destrier across the field, shouting his war cry. He rode up to Duke William and hit him with - his glove!

He returned to his men to keep faith with his King.  They attacked the rebels from the rear as King Henry and Duke William attacked with their combined force to the front. In the battle that followed, the rebels suddenly lost heart, and fled towards the river Orne. Thousands were killed in battle, countless others drowned trying to cross the river.

My 28th great-grandfather, William Duke of Normandy won.  My 27th great-grandfather, Ranulf, Count of Bayeaux, was killed in battle.

We won. We lost.

Ref: The History of the Norman Conquest of England: Volume 2, by Edward Augustus Freeman, Carendon Press 1870; digitized Nov 3, 2007. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who is Richard III, 5th Duke of Normandy?

April's Tree & Leo's Tree
Richard III lived from 1001 to 1028 in Normandy, France. He married Adela, (the granddaughter of  Hugh Capet, King of France), and they had two daughters, Elena and Avelina.

Elena is my husband's 29th great-grandmother, and Avelina is my 27th great-grandmother.  Which means that about thirty generations ago, my husband and I had mutual ancestors, who were nobility in the Kingdom of France.  Richard III and Adela also had an ancestor in common: Charlemagne.

I have had bursts of laughter all afternoon.  I don't expect anyone else to believe this, because I'm not sure I believe it myself - and I'm the one who did the research, the oh-so-careful research, checking every unknown place-name, verifying with other published trees, looking up source material.

So, what are odds?  Perhaps I really am just a little bit French, for  suddenly I glimpse the absurdity of life.

A Renaissance Man - before the Renaissance

Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Somersetshire, England. Built by Sir Thomas Hungerford and his son Walter, first Baron Hungerford. (4); image (5)

Leo's Tree
Sir Walter Hungerford, soldier, diplomat and politician was adviser to three kings of the Middle Ages. Sheriff of two counties, ambassador to kings, Treasurer of England, renowned warrior, Admiral of the Fleet: he was a leader among men of strength and power.  His personal library was in English, Latin and French - at a time famous for illiteracy. He was a scholarly knight, and a knightly scholar; his castle hall "was hung round with suits of armour worn by its martial possessors, and with the spoils from the fields of Cressy, Poictiers, Agincourt, and Calais."(1)

Sir Walter was Knighted by King Henry IV, and created a Knight of the Garter by King Henry V. "As a close associate of the late King [Henry V], an active executor of his will and a guardian of his heir, Hungerford was naturally appointed by the first Parliament of Henry VI’s reign as one of the new council of Regency in England. He was sworn in on 26 Jan. 1423, and in the following year his annual stipend was fixed at £100. He was to remain a royal councillor for the next 26 years, and records show that (except when abroad) he attended frequently".(2)

By the time of his death at age seventy-one in 1449, "Hungerford had already built a new church at Farleigh Hungerford, founded chantries at Farleigh, in Salisbury cathedral, at Heytesbury and Chippenham, Wiltshire, and at St. Stephen’s, Westminster, and constructed a causeway over the Standerwick marshes near Warminster"(3).

Baron Walter Hungerford, KG, is 20th gr-grandfather to my children. 

(1) J. Mason; "Youth's Instruction" page 363
(2), (3) The History of Parliament
(4) History of Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Somerset by Charles Oman (1926)
(5) image of Farleigh Hungerford Castle by Author nicksarebi
Date 27 November 2009  Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mists of Ancient Ireland

April's Tree
The Annals of Ulster, The Annals of the Four Masters, Marianus Scotus, The Annals of Clonmacnoise, the Chronicon Scottorum, Simeon of Durham; they ring in my mind as if set to music, these fabulous histories of Ireland.

At first I wasn't going to include my legendary Irish ancestors in my family tree.  Even their bones were dust, their stone carvings were dust, how could any confidence be found in records that were copies of translations (or translations of copies)? 

But how can I resist? There is little question I am connected to these ancient Irish roots, even at a distance of nearly 900 years. When Aoife (Eve) MacMurchada, descendant of Irish kings, married Richard (Strongbow) de Clare, descendant  of a Duke of Normandy and a king of France, 29 Aug 1170 in the Cathedral at Waterford, Ireland, all of her legendary Irish ancestry became my genetic heritage.

How could I ignore such riches? What if there is a degree of uncertainty in the dates once one is in the 600's? So what if there are no extant birth, death or marriage certificates? And if the generations seem to skip over some people? A mere trifle.  The fact is, no one can be one hundred percent certain of their ancestry, and after a number of centuries, the uncertainty factor becomes larger than the certainty.

Still, I can read of the exploits of people who may have been, and most likely were, some of my ancestors.  As the famous social historian Cathy Sturdevant says: "No Pride; No Shame; No Credit; No Blame".  My only connection to these legendary people of Ireland is in the genes they left me, and in my admiration for their strength.  They cannot add to, or reduce, whatever I may have done with my life.

They can, however, inspire me to expect more from myself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The tangled relationships of Runnymede

As I uncover the extended familial relationships of the Barons of 1215, I am frequently surprised by finding cross-generational support for Magna Carta.  A son or son-in-law might be joined on the fateful field by the Thames River by his wife's father or perhaps even her grand-father.

The most stressful relationship of all must have fallen to Sir William Marshall, Fourth Earl of Pembroke and King John's "Marshall of England", standing loyally by King John, and William Marshall Jr., Fifth Earl of Pembroke, who was one of the twenty-five Barons of the Sureties of Magna Carta.  King John must not have held a grudge, because he later gave William, Jr. the office his father had held, Marshall of England, and twelve years after Magna Carta, King John gave William Jr his daughter, Eleanor of England, in marriage.

So far I have identified four of my ancestors among the gathering at Runnymede.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Arguing with Myself!

The puzzle of why and how I so often find myself on two sides of a question is solved. I'm so often at war with myself because it is in my genes.

Doing research on my Civil War ancestors, I was surprised to discover I have family on both sides of the war.  The famous "brother against brother" tragedy was literally true in one of my families, where half fought for the North and the other half fought for the South.

Going back to the Revolutionary War, I have so far found only American Patriots, but I wouldn't be surprised to discover some ancestors who stayed loyal to England.

Although two of the twenty-five barons standing for Magna Carta in 1215 were my direct ancestors, it turns out that one of my ancestors was standing on the other side of the dispute.  King John's 'right-hand man', Sir William Marshall, stood by his side at Runneymede. Marshall is my 23xgr-grandfather.

Now I understand why I often argue "with myself" over a problem. It is an inherited talent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Better than Diamonds

April's Tree
For an amateur family tree enthusiast, and history buff, the discovery I made last night was better than finding diamonds.

I found my 21xgr-grandfather, Sir John de Lacy, 7th Earl of Lincoln, was one of the twenty-five feudal barons who made an oath that they would "stand fast for the liberty of the church and the realm".  They witnessed King John affixing his seal to Magna Carta, promising rights to every freeman.  Although the king soon reneged on his promise, the document became the model for future constitutional proclamations, including the Constitution of the United States of America.

Wow. From 1215 to 2012, the freedoms proclaimed in that charter have been reaffirmed by people everywhere. The rights to due process, a timely trial by one's peers, the use of standard weights and measures, fair taxation,  and property rights were spelled out as basic human rights, to a king who recognized no rights but his own.

Freedom is better than gold, and finding a Magna Carta baron in my family tree is better than finding diamonds.