Category: Historical Figures

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Don’t trust what you read on the internet.

Jack the Ripper mystery solved?

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Not quite. It’s so true that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, even from me.

Recently, I wrote a post about the DNA analysis of a scarf purported to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes, one of the victims of Jack the Ripper, and which was supposedly present at the murder scene.

According to the earlier news story, the DNA proved to be a match to Jack the Ripper suspect, Polish Jewish immigrant Aaron Kosminski.

I can still hear the words of my husband, Mark, resounding in my head, “Careful, you can’t believe everything you see or read on the internet!”

Oh, how easily I brushed him off and continued on blithely writing and publishing the offending post.

They were fortuitous words, however, as I just read a news article on the Start-Up Israel site in which they present evidence that there were rather basic, but devastating mistakes made in the evaluation of the provenance of the scarf, the type of DNA analysis used, and the actual conclusions drawn from the DNA analysis.

Oh, how I hate to admit that I was snowed, but this wasn’t just a slight sprinkling, it was a full-blown blizzard and unfortunately, I succumbed.

Note to self: Listen to Mark more. Sometimes he does know best.

photo credit: italianjob17 via photopin cc

The sinking of the White Ship.

Several of my children’s ancestors were among the hundreds who perished in the sinking of the White Ship off Barfleur, France in 1120.
The sinking of the White Ship

Depiction of the sinking of the White Ship.

During my years of researching the medieval ancestry of Mark and our children, I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Several of the ancestors were casualties of the disastrous shipwreck of the “White Ship”. Although there were actually closer to 300 passengers aboard, I was only able to locate a list of twenty of the casualties. It is well known though that the ship was loaded with nobles and contemporaries of King Henry I, of England.

Henry I, King of England

Henry I, King of England

The “White Ship” was a new, state of the art vessel under command of Thomas FitzStephen. His father had been Stephen FitzAirard, captain of the ship “Mora” under William the Conqueror during his invasion of England in 1066. Captain FitzStephen offered transport to England on his ship to Henry I for his return to England, but since the King had already made other arrangements, he declined. King Henry did, however, arrange for his son, William “Aetheling” Adelin and two of his illegitimate children to sail on the ship.

The familiar account of the events leading up to the sinking as delivered by the known sole survivor state that all aboard had been drinking and partying liberally and by the time they set sail, most on board were very drunk. It is interesting to note that there are conflicting accounts of survivors. Based upon the “Orderic Vitalis”, some believe there were two survivors, the butcher and Geoffrey de l’Aigle.

Amidst the drunken revelry described by the survivor, a challenge was issued to the Captain to overtake the King’s own ship, which had set sail earlier. Upon setting off, the White Ship struck a hidden rock in the shallow waters of the channel, quickly capsizing and sinking.

Etienne de Blois

Stephen of Blois, King of England

Those on shore saw what was occurring and sent a boat out to get William “Aetheling” Adelin, the King’s son, who was on his way back to shore when he heard his half-sister Matilda du Perche cry out for help and had the boat return to assist. Unfortunately, there were several scrambling to get on board the small boat, causing it to be swamped and to sink. William drowned right along with his half-sister and all the other unfortunate passengers. The common belief through the centuries has been that the Captain, Thomas FitzStephen, upon hearing of William Adelin’s drowning, just surrendered to the waters and drowned rather than take such terrible news back to the King.

As a result of Prince William’s death, King Henry named his only remaining legitimate child, his daughter Matilda, to be heiress to the throne. He forced the noblemen to swear to support Matilda, who was unpopular because she was married to Geoffrey V, Comte d’Anjou who had been an enemy of the Norman nobility. When the noblemen refused to support Matilda after the death of King Henry I, they turned to the King’s nephew, Etienne de Blois and named him King. Etienne de Blois had originally planned to travel on the “White Ship” as well and had even boarded her, but had to leave before the ship’s departure because he became ill with diarrhea.

Mathilde and her husband initiated war against Etienne and his followers to gain the English throne, as her father had wished. This period of civil war known as “The Anarchy” spanned almost two decades from 1135 to 1153 and became a pivotal time in the history of England, resulting in the end of Norman rule.

The closest ancestor to my children who played a part in the story of the “White Ship” disaster was:

  • Etienne de Blois, King of England. He was the 31st great grandfather to my children.

The known casualties from among the approximately 300 on board, listed in order of the closeness of relationship to our children (if any) include:

  • William the Atheling, son of King Henry I and heir to the English throne – 26th great granduncle to my children.
  • Mathilde du Perche, Countess of Perche, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I – 26th great grandaunt.
  • Richard of Lincoln, illegitimate son of King Henry I – 26th great granduncle.
  • Godfrey de l’Aigle, knight. – 28th great granduncle (brother to Engenulf)
  • Engenulf de l’Aigle, brother to Godfrey – 28th great granduncle
  • Mathilde de Blois, sister to Stephen de Blois, King of England and wife of Richard d’Avranches – 31st great grandaunt
  • Robert Mauduit, nobleman. – 31st great granduncle
  • Richard d’Avranches, 2nd Earl of Chester, nobleman. – 1st cousin 31 times removed
  • Outher d’Avranches, brother of Richard, Earl of Chester. – 1st cousin, 31 times removed
  • Geoffrey Riddell, Lord of the Judiciary, nobleman.  – 2nd cousin 30 times removed
  • Ottuel, Illegitimate half brother of the 2nd Earl of Chester.
  • Hugh of Moulins, nobleman.
  • Walter of Everci, nobleman.
  • Lucia Mahout, wife of the 2nd Earl of Chester.
  • Othver, Prince William’s tutor.
  • William Pirou, the king’s steward.
  • Geoffrey, Archdeacon of Hereford.
  • Richard Anskill, son and heir of a Berkshire landowner.
  • Captain Thomas FitzStephen, ship’s captain.
  • William Grandmesnil, nobleman.

Sources:

photo credit: Wikipedia.org

 

Cemetery preservation efforts close to home in Cumberland.

I spent over twenty of my growing and young adult years living in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It was a nice surprise today to see the article “Cumberland digs deep into genealogy to keep Chinese, Japanese cemeteries open” in the Comox Valley Echo, regarding cemetery preservation efforts in Cumberland.

 

Jumbo in the doorway of Jumbo's cabin.

Jumbo in the doorway of Jumbo’s cabin.

According to the secondary headline of the article, “Grave mapping efforts already underway as Village officials chime in with support.”

This article piqued my interest immediately for two reasons:

First

I’m an avid genealogy buff and the genealogy aspect of the story is important to me. I’ve always had a fascination with history and archaeology (even studying archaeology in university).

Second

As a teenager with a fairly new driver’s license, I used to spend all my spare time with camera in hand exploring the area around me. I may not have ventured beyond Vancouver Island, but I did make the most of the sites, sounds and discoveries of everything the island had to offer.

One of the sites I explored was the site of the original settlement of the Chinese miners at the mine in Cumberland, especially the site of what we knew to be “Jumbo’s cabin.” Now, I didn’t know much about Jumbo, but I knew of it because it was a well-known landmark.

I could see old building foundations and was fascinated with searching for artifacts including old dish fragments, bottles of all kinds, etc. I don’t believe I ever found anything worthy of keeping, but I had fun looking.

While researching this post, I stumbled upon this amazing article about the loss of substantial quantities of artifacts from the site to collectors from all over North America. So sad.

Now that I know the historic significance, I’m ironically glad that others got there before me and left nothing for me to find and collect. I’ll let them live with the guilt of razing these wonderful historic sites. I’m happy living with the memories of the fun I had.

John “Lackland” King of England.

John “Lackland”  King of England (the bad king) was born December 24, 1167 or 1177, to Henri II, King of England (1133-1189) and Eleonore  d’Aquitaine, Duchess d’Aquitaine (1122-1204). He was also the younger brother and successor to King Richard (the good king).
King John of England

King John painted c.1250-59 by Matthew Paris.

John was made King of Ireland in 1177, Comte de Mortain in 1189, and his reign as King of England began with his crowning in London on May 27, 1199 when he succeeded his brother Richard, who had left on crusade. He was crowned a second time October 8, 1200 at Westminster Abbey, with his second wife.

King John is seen as a villain, this impression having been fostered through the retelling of the legend of Robin Hood, who supposedly took up the cause of the people against King John’s exhorbitant taxes by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

In 1173, John was betrothed to Alix de Maurienne (1166-1174), daughter of Humbert III, Comte de Maurienne and his third wife Klementia von Zähringen, and an agreement was reached where John would inherit the county of Maurienne if Humbert had no sons by his wife.

He became betrothed to Isabel (Avise), Countess of Gloucester in 1176 and married her as her first husband on August 29, 1189 and they divorced (annulled on the grounds of consanguinity) before August 30, 1199. Isabel was the daughter of William FitzRobert II, Earl of Gloucester and his wife Avise de Beaumont. She remarried in 1214 to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, and again in 1217 to Hubert de Burgh, who became Earl of Kent afterward, in 1227.  Isabel died in 1217.

He was then betrothed to Alix de France, daughter of Louis VII, King of France and his second wife Infanta doña Constanza de Castilla in 1193. The betrothal was arranged by King Richard, who himself had been betrothed to Alix de France at one time. Alix returned to France in Aug 1195.

Tomb of Isabelle d'Angoulême

Tomb of Isabelle d’Angoulême.

John’s second marriage was to Isabelle d’Angoulême on August 24, 1200 as her first husband. Isabelle was the daughter of Aymar “Taillefer”, Comte d’Angoulême and his wife Alix de Courtenay. She was crowned Queen Consort on October 8, 1200 at Westminster Abbey. King John and his second wife had five children: Henry  III, King of England (1207-1272); Richard, King of England and the Romans (1209-1272); Joan  of England (1210-1238); Isabella  of England (1214-1241); and Eleanor (1215-1275).

Newark Castle, Lincolnshire, England

Newark Castle in Lincolnshire, England.

After John’s death in 1216 in Newark Castle in Lincolnshire, she married again in 1220 to Hugues XI, de Lusignan, Comte de la Marche.

John also had numerous mistresses, the majority of whom were unknown. Those that were known were the daughter of Hamelin d’Anjou, Earl of Surrey and his wife Isabelle de Warenne; Clementia, the wife of Henry Pinel;  a woman named Hawise (possibly ‘de Tracy’); and a woman named Susanna, her origins unknown.

There were several children born to him of several of his mistresses, including: Joan “Joanna”  of England, Lady of Wales (1190-1237); Oliver  (    -1219); Osbert Gifford (    -1246); Geoffrey FitzRoy (    -1205); Sir John FitzJohn (    -1242); Odo FitzRoy (    -1242); Henry FitzRoy; Richard  Constable of Wallingford Castle; Matilda  Abbess of Barking; Isabella  la Blanche; Richard FitzRoy (    -1245).

Tomb of King John

Tomb of King John of England.

John died October 18 or 19, 1216 at Newark Castle in Lincolnshire and was buried at Worcester Cathedral, Worcestershire.

Effigy of King John.

Tomb effigy of John “Lackland”, King of England.

Up until 1944 King John was considered to be a horrid man and even worse king. In 1944, it was demonstrated that the main source for information about the reign of John was at best unreliable. These new findings caused a change in perception of King John, possibly resulting in a further skewed view of John on the positive side.

Those attempting to find a more accurate view of John are doing so through examination of the administrative records of the time. Even with these records, however, there is some doubt expressed about whether the records are to be taken at face value or whether John or his staff were able to skillfully produce records portraying him in a more positive light.

John’s energetic, fastidious nature belied his appearance, paunchy, 5′ 5″ tall with “erect head, staring eyes, flaring nostrils and thick lips set in a cruel pout.” It was said that “he prowled around his kingdom.” He was very clean, routinely taking numerous baths, enjoyed food and drink, gambled, and loved women.

Contradictory to the legend we have become accustomed to, he assisted the poor by providing the proceeds from the forest law and was generous to his servants.

His legend may in fact have been fueled by knowledge of his highly suspicious nature and enjoyment of intrigues and secrets. He also acted against his father, as he did against Richard while the latter was held captive in 1193.

Although John would not be considered a ‘good’ man, in different circumstances he could have been a great king.

King John was 24th great grandfather to my children.

Sources:

  1. Kings and Queens of England – The Normans, The Royal Family of England online [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page17.asp].
  2. Kings and Queens of England – The Angevins, The Royal Family online [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page60.asp].
  3. Early Scottish Monarchs, The Royal Family online [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page69.asp].
  4. Gary Boyd Roberts, The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983).
  5. Funk & Wagnalls Inc., Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (1983).
  6. David Faris, The Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists (English Ancestry Series, Vol. I, Second Edition; New England Historic Genealogy Society, 1999).
  7. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdon, Extant, Extinct or Dormant (G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I.).
  8. Britain’s Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (Alison Weir, Britain’s Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy; Pimlico; 2Rev Ed edition (13 Jun 2002); London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999.
  9. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Th.D., The Magna Carta Sureties, 1215, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc.), 5th Ed., c1999.
  10. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came To America Before 1700, 8th Edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2004).
  11. Ernst-Friedrich Kraentzler, Ancestry of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily de Neville (Selp-published, 1978).
  12. Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, Brian Tompsett, Dept. of Computer Science, Hull University online [http://www.hull.ac.uk/php/cssbct/genealogy/royal/].
  13. Charles Mosley, Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 106th Edition (1999).
  14. George Smith, Dictionary of National Biography, Vols. 1-21 (: Oxford Press, 1885-1990).
  15. John Fines, Who’s Who in the Middle Ages (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1995).
  16. Call, Michel, Royal Ancestors of Some American Families (Salt Lake City, 1989, 1991).
  17. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy online [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#LoretteMWilliamMarmiondied1275].
  18. Wikipedia.org [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_lackland]

 

My top ten: Best world-wide genealogy and ancestry websites.

After almost twenty years of genealogy research, there are certain sites that have become my ‘go to’ sites for certain aspects of my genealogy research. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my list of my top ten genealogy and ancestry websites.
Internet Archive

Internet Archive Search

I have also included a description of the reasons why these sites have proved invaluable to me. If you’re looking for information in these areas, be sure to check out these sites.

The headings are links to the sites described and paid sites are indicated by ($) following the heading.

1.  FamilySearch.org

Maintained and updated by the LDS (Latterday Saints) Church, this site has been invaluable for all of my time researching my family’s genealogy. In the past few years in particular, the databases have expanded substantially as the LDS organization works to digitize more and more information. Recently, the search feature has become much more effective and accurate. No matter what country, region or time frame you are researching, this is a wonderful site. Best of all, it is free.

2.  Ancestry.com ($)

Ancestry.com is a favorite for all of the reasons listed for FamilySearch.org, the only difference being that a paid subscription is required. Although I do use Ancestry.com a great deal, I plan my research so I don’t have to remain subscribed all of the time. As I research and find gaps, I keep a ‘to do’ list and when it is large enough to warrant the cost, I will subscribe for as long as I think is necessary, tackle my list, and cancel the subscription when I have completed my list. It has been almost a year since I last subscribed because I’ve been finding a substantial amount of information elsewhere. I am due to subscribe pretty soon to tackle my current ‘to do’ list.

If you’re looking for one paid site that provides extensive data from around the world, this is the one.

3.  Cyndi’s List

Cyndi’s List is the largest site that offers extensive links to genealogy sites and resources on the internet. Cyndi has worked tirelessly for decades creating this site of over 300,000 links – sorted, categorized and constantly updated to maintain currency and functionality.

Recently, however, Cyndi’s List has been the target of a hacker who stole her entire site, making minor changes to ‘make it their own’ and attempting to divert revenue to themselves. Be sure the site you’re visiting is actually Cyndi’s List and help protect her extensive investment and our valuable resource.

4.  Olive Tree Genealogy

Olive Tree Genealogy is an extensive portal of links to valuable data and genealogy research information around the world. Although I do find this site somewhat confusing and difficult to navigate, my investment of time and effort has proved valuable as I have found wonderful, obscure data that I was unable to find elsewhere.

5.  Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

You should have seen my surprise when my husband’s ancestry connected directly to nobles and royalty in the medieval period. For the longest time this was a vast brick wall for me as there is very little quality data available online for researching this time.

I can’t remember how I found this site, but it’s an amazing resource as it’s extensively researched and sourced. The sources are described in detail and where there are questions about the data, they make it clear so we can note these gaps and questions in our own research. Where they have drawn conclusions from the existing evidence they examine the evidence and describe their conclusions.

6.  Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: University of Hull

This is another well researched site about royal genealogy from the University of Hull in England that also covers the medieval period, but they are not as clear about the quality of their sources, the evidence they’ve used to form their conclusions and the reasons they formed the conclusions leading to the published genealogy.

7.  Internet Archive

Besides finding and sourcing dates and events, I also enjoy finding the details of the lives of our ancestors through written accounts. Access to these publications has helped immensely with writing this blog by enabling me to understand the circumstances and times in which our ancestors lived.

Internet Archive tops Google E-Books on this list because it is totally free.

8.  Google E-Books

Google E-Books is essentially a site offering paid and free access to public domain written materials and books with a very accurate, intuitive search feature. If you use the link in the heading, however, it is possible to search only titles available for free access and download. To find free titles, be sure to check ‘Full View’ when conducting a search.

9.  Rootsweb

This is a free site offered by Ancestry.com. It’s a valuable resource for providing free access to user input data and family trees. Although I don’t entirely trust the data offered on this site for the simple reason that it is made up from ‘user input’, it has been very valuable to me when encountering those frustrating brick walls. I use the information here as ‘clues’ which have helped me break through those brick walls.

This data is recognizable in my Blythe Database because I do not enter sources or indicate very poor quality sources. Those using my database should interpret these facts as questionable at best.

10.  GeneaBloggers

GeneaBloggers was the genius idea of offering a directory of genealogy blogs. When I have some time on my hands and just want to explore what others are doing and saying, I start at GeneaBloggers.

Have fun checking out these sites!

DNA, archaeology, anthropology and genealogy open eyes to the past.

It seems that every time I turn on my computer to view the internet, I find new articles and posts about discoveries made in DNA, archaeology, genealogy and even science, that shed new light on our search into the origins of our own family and heritage, and the origins of our ethnic groups.

Today I stumbled upon the article “Discovered 2.3 k-yr-old human skeleton throws light on our ancestry,” on the ANINews website.archaeology, genealogy and science teach about our past and history.

According to this article, “DNA from the complete 1.5 metre tall skeleton is one of the ‘earliest diverged,’ oldest in genetic terms, found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.”

The DNA evidence pointed to this man being from a branch that is the most closely related to ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ and now presumed to be extinct.

Reading about these new discoveries points out something very intriguing to me. In the past, the discoveries were made based on exploration, experimentation, and finding something new, affecting and changing the future.

Today, the discoveries one hears of most are those delving into the past, using all disciplines of social studies including genealogy, anthropology and archaeology; and the sciences including DNA and chemical analysis.

Today’s most most well known and talked about discoveries are looking to the past and where we came from; individually, as a family, and as part of a broader ethnic group.

This suits me fine as this is my area of interest and fascination. I can’t help but feel excitement with each new discovery in my own genealogy, as well as reading and hearing about the discoveries made with a much broader, more global impact.

It all matters and sheds light on who we are and where we came from.