The Jewish/African/Berber Ancestry of Sancha de Ayala *maternal*

•September 29, 2014 • Comments Off


Sancha de Ayala m. Sir Walter Blount > Anne Blount m. Thomas Griffith > Sir John Griffith m. Katherine Tyrwhit > Rhys (Richard) Griffith m. Margaret — > Joan (Jane) Griffith m. (his 1st) Sir Lionel Dymoke > Alice Dymoke m. (his 2nd) Sir William Skipwith > Henry Skipwith m. Jane Hall > Sir William Skipwith m. (1st) Margaret Cave > Sir Henry Skipwith bt. m. (1st) Amy Kempe > Diana Skipwith m. (his 2nd) Edward Dale > Elizabeth Dale m. (his 1st) William Rogers > Hannah (Rogers) Mitchell m. (2nd) Edward Blackmore > Joseph Blakemore m. Anne Sanders > Hannah Blakemore m. (1st) William Duncan > Joseph Duncan m. Elizabeth Peters > Minerva Jane Duncan m. Peyton Milton Wilcox > Nancy Theodocia Wilcox m. (2nd) Thomas Calvin McMillen > Nora Ann McMillen m. (1st) Eric Lyman Vaughan > Hillary Lillian Vaughan m. Jesse Otto Jeffery Scarff  > Valerie Berniece Jeffery Scarff m. Ralph Vernon Chipman.

(For descendants see column “Family Of Hillary Lillian Vaughan.”)


Croke, Sir Alexander; of Studley Priory, Oxfordshire.  (1823).  The Genealogical History Of The Croke Family Originally Named Le Blount Vol. II.  Oxford: W. Baxter for John Murray, Albemarle Street, London; and Joseph Parker, Oxford.

Available as free download from Internet Archive.  Sir Alexander Croke graduated Doctor of Civil Law from Oriel College, Oxford.  Chapter III of Vol. II contains extensive material on the family of Sancha de Ayala.  It would be pointless to address the errors, chief among them the purported de Ayala descent from Urraca, daughter of “Alonso,” king of Leon.  Ironically, the Croke family is not thought to have descended from the Blounts.

Farmerie, Todd A.; Taylor, Nathaniel L.  (1998).  NOTES ON THE ANCESTRY OF SANCHA DE AYALA.  Prepublication MS of article subsequently published (with minor emendations) in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register 103 (1998), 36–48.

Todd A. Farmerie and Nathaniel L. Taylor are co-owners of Internet message board “soc.genealogy.medieval.” Farmerie is Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University (Pullman).  Taylor, of Barrington, Rhode Island, is a professional genealogist and Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.   Article is available on the Internet under the above title.  Some references cited are in Spanish.  The sole purpose of the piece is refutation of three claims of royal ancestry and  two claims of descent from Muslim princesses.  The article doesn’t present Sancha de Ayala’s actual ancestry, leaving the reader with the impression there’s little of interest in her pedigree.  Farmerie and Taylor claim “Sancha is also an ancestress of Queen Elizabeth II,” without giving the descent, though presumably they can supply it; instead they quote Gerald Paget.  Linking Medieval lines to modern monarchs has become a tiresome method of promoting the “credibility” of research.  Their article can be viewed at:

Fletcher, Richard.  (2006).  Moorish Spain.  Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Richard Fletcher was Professor of Medieval History at University of York, UK.

Fletcher, Richard.  (1990).  The Quest for El Cid.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Same author bio as above.

Hitchcock, Richard.  (2008).  Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain Identities and Influences.  Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company. 

Richard Hitchcock is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

Roth, Norman.  (2002).  Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain With a new afterword.  Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. 

Norman Roth is Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Sancha de Ayala (ca. 1360–1418) m. Sir Walter4 Blount (John3, Walter2, William1), and is one of my ancestors through the Griffith family. She came to England in the household of Constance of Castile, 2nd wife of John of Gaunt. Sir Walter Blount was a close associate of Gaunt, and it was through Gaunt that he met Sancha.  In 1381 Sir Walter Blount purchased the manor of Barton in Derbyshire, part of which was settled on Sancha as her dower lands.

(Constance of Castile, 2nd wife of John of Gaunt and a daughter of Pedro I “The Cruel,” king of Castile and Leon.  John of Gaunt claimed the throne of Castile and Leon in right of Constance his wife, but was denied it.  Constance was the daughter of Pedro I by Maria de Padilla, whom Pedro I had secretly married, but was forced to repudiate and retain as his mistress.  Constance’s murky origin hampered Gaunt’s campaign.)

Of Sir Walter Blount, grandfather of Walter Blount, 1st Lord Mountjoy, The Complete Peerage Vol. IX, sub Mountjoy, pp. 331–333, has this:

Sir Walter Blount is a character in Shakespeare’s “I Henry IV.”  His mutterings are unremarkable.  Nonetheless, in battle Blount pretends to be the king, and is slain.  That earned him accolades for gallantry, but he was deaf in the grave.

Sancha de Ayala can justifiably be called an “uber-mother,” having many descendants, but scholarship on her ancestry is inadequate.  According to Sir Walter Blount’s biography in The History of Parliament online, the couple had 5 sons and 2 daughters.

Croke, Vol. II (1823), p. 189, abstracts Sir Walter Blount’s will, and I think Croke may be trusted here:

“The will of Sir Walter Blount is dated at Lyverpole, the 16th of December, 1401.  He directs his body to be buried in the church of Saint Mary of Newerk, at Leicester.  He mentions his wife Sanchia as living, his sons John, Thomas, and James; his daughters Constantia, Baroness of Dudley, and Anna Griffith.  The Executor is John Blount, his brother, and he appointed as Supervisors of his Will, his cousin, Thomas Foljambe, and Thomas Langley, Keeper of the King’s Privy Seal.  It was proved the 1st of August, 1403.”

As The Complete Peerage notes, Sir Walter Blount and Sancha de Ayala were buried at St. Mary’s, the Newark, Leicester.  Leicester is the county seat of Leicestershire.  One of the more endearing customs of the English are place names of great antiquity which confuse those of us expecting street signs everywhere.  According to an old history of Leicester, the liberty of the Newarke was a small rectangular district lying on the east bank of the River Soar (a tributary of the River Trent), to the south of the old walled area of the borough and at the edge of the gravel terrace on which Leicester is built.  In 1330 the area was possessed by Henry, Earl of Lancaster.  Of the nearby 12th century castle only traces remain.  Earl Henry founded a hospital to the south of the castle, which his son Henry of Grosmont, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, enlarged.  The duke also founded a chantry college known as St. Mary’s of the Newarke.  The name “Newarke” simply means “New Work,” to distinguish it from the older part of the city.  The chantry employed a priest to say masses for the benefit of the dead who were thought to be working their way through Purgatory.  Sir Walter Blount’s choice of final resting place was in keeping with his devotion to the House of Lancaster.

The Harleian Society, Vol. 28, The Visitation of Shropshire 1623, pp. 50–57 contains extensive material on the Blount family.  On p. 55, “Ann ux….. Griffith de Wichenor in com. Staff.” is shown as a daughter of “Walterus Blount miles = Sanchia de Ayala Hispana.” who appear on p. 54.

At Wichenor in Staffordshire was a strange marriage custom, dating to the reign of King Edward III, and probably followed by Ann Blount and Thomas Griffith, in which this oath was sworn on a side of bacon: 

“Hear ye, Sir Philip de Somerville, Lord of Wichenour, maintainer and giver of this Bacon, that I [husband], since I wedded my wife, and since I had her in my keeping, and at my will by a year and a day after our marriage, I would not have changed for none other, fairer nor fouler; richer nor poorer; nor for none other descended of greater lineage; sleeping nor waking at no time; and if the said wife were single and I were single I would take her to be my wife before all the women of the world, of what conditions soever they be, good or evil, as help me God and his saints, and this flesh and all flesh.”

How did Sancha come to the attention of Constance, a daughter of Pedro I “The Cruel”, king of Castile?  The short version is Sancha’s sister Teresa was a mistress of Pedro I, and allegedly had a daughter by him.

Pedro I’s chaotic personal life, and his failure to produce an acceptable heir, eventually led to his murder on 14 Mar 1369 at the hands of his illegitimate half-brother Henry of Trastamara.  Henry exploited animosity toward the Jews to secure powerful allies against Pedro I.  Henry said Pedro I was too pro-Jewish. 

The struggle between Pedro I and Henry was the seed of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition.  Henry was a usurper and weak, which suited the nobility who didn’t want a strong monarch.  The Catholic church stepped in to fill the power vacuum.  Anti-Jewish riots erupted.  The Inquisition peaked during the reign of the “Catholic Monarchs” Ferdinand and Isabella—the Ferdinand and Isabella who financed Christopher Columbus.

Sancha was a member of a highly evolved and sophisticated culture in Toledo, Spain. The area became part of the kingdom of Castile on 25 May 1085 when Alfonso VI, king of Castile and Leon, ejected the Moors.  The Moors had ruled Toledo since the early 8th century.

(Neo-Moorish architecture:  Castello di Sammezzano, Tuscany, Italy.)

In 712 a Berber army under Arab command defeated the Visigothic King Roderic of Spain and within a few years wrested control of the Iberian peninsula.  Though the Moors remained for centuries masters of a large part of Spain, getting a straight answer as to their ethnic composition was difficult.  The Moors ranged from fair skinned blonde to dark skinned Ethiopian.  The best description I can assemble is that they were initially a (mostly) Berber people from Algeria and Morocco with some Arab component, but during the period of their domination assimilated black Africans, some of whom were soldiers and slaves. 

Tangier in Morocco was a trans-shipping point for sub-Saharan slaves.  The term “sub-Saharan” has been criticized as connoting inferiority.  The British journal The Tatler for 14 Nov 1710, No. 250,  contains the sentence:  “The first place of the bench I give to an old Tangerine captain with a wooden leg.”  This indicates the word “Tangerine” was applied to a native of  Tangier, but it’s likely this usage came after the end of Moorish occupation of Spain.  Tunis, to the east of Tangier, was also a center of the slave trade.

So the Moors are a mixed race people, the individuals of which could vary in appearance.  They were not a distinct race of their own, but a shared culture.  “Moor” is slang for “Moroccan.”  The Moors were sometimes called “Arabs” in the generic sense, as “Muslims,” in the same way the term “Saracen” came to be applied to Islamic peoples during the Crusades.  The Arab elite regarded the Berbers as inferior; “Berber” meant “barbarian.”  The Berbers rebelled against their Arab leaders in North Africa in 739 and in 740 the rebellion spread to al-Andalus (Islamic controlled Spanish territory).

(Astrolabe made at Toledo in 1068.)

Historian Richard Fletcher (2006) p. 10, wrote:

“The language of common speech in al-Andalus, for Christians and Jews as well as Muslims, was Arabic; but to speak as some have done of ‘Arabic’ Spain is to give the impression that the land had been colonised by the Arabs, whereas the number of Arabs who settled there was very small.  ‘Moorish’ Spain does at least have the merit of reminding us that the bulk of the invaders and settlers were Moors, i.e., Berbers from northwest Africa.  But we shall need to bear in mind that they overlay a population of mixed descent—Hispano-Romans, Basques, Sueves, Visigoths, Jews and others.”

The Moorish scholar Abu Muhammad Ali ibn Sa id ibn Hazm (994–1064), son of Ahmad, advisor to the Umayyad Caliph Hisham II, described the Moors:

“All the Caliphs of the Banu Marwan (God have mercy on their souls!), and especially the sons of al-Nasir, were without variation or exception disposed by nature to prefer blondes.  I have myself seen them, and known others who had seen their forebears, from the days of al-Nasir’s reign down to the present day; every one of them has been fair-haired, taking after their mothers, so that this has become a hereditary trait with them; all but Sulaiman al-Zafir (God have mercy on him!), whom I remember to have had black ringlets and a black beard.  As for al-Nasir and al-Hakam al-Mustansir (may God be pleased with them!), I have been informed by my late father, the vizier, as well as by others, that both of them were blond and blue-eyed.  The same is true of Hisham al-Mu’aiyad, Muhammad al-Mahdi, and Abd al-Rahman al-Murtada (may God be merciful to them all!); I saw them myself many times, and had the honour of being received by them, and I remarked that they all had fair hair and blue eyes.”

The above passage is in ibn Hazm’s The Ring of the Dove, in the chapter “Of Falling In Love With A Quality And Thereafter Not Approving Any Other Different” [Arthur John Arberry (1905–1969), trans.; Fellow Pembroke College, Cambridge].  ibn Hazm, as the son of a highly placed court official, is impeccable evidence, drawing upon his own observation, or the personal observation of his “late father, the vizier, as well as by others….”  Few in the West outside of academia are familiar with ibn Hazm, but he is a very important source for this period.

Note ibn Hazm says the “blonde” trait of these caliphs was from “taking after their mothers” and became hereditary through them.  Obviously the Moors had taken women indigenous to the area as wives or concubines, but this practice was not universal, as in the case of Sulaiman al-Zafir.  Sulaiman’s “black ringlets” refer not to jewellery, but to his naturally curled hair.  So some Moors were engaged in what can only be termed “selective breeding,” but why?  Why did not Sulaiman al-Zafir? 

Perhaps Sulaiman al-Zafir found all the respect he needed at the point of his sword, although many he put to the sword could not defend themselves:

“During this period the Berbers rampaged uncontrollably over the southeastern parts of Spain, living off the land and extorting protection money from the cities, doing untold damage by their depredations.  Meanwhile, the situation of the Cordobans became very wretched.  The city was  crowded with refugees from the surrounding countryside. A wet spring in 1011 brought serious flooding of the Guadalquivir.  An outbreak of plague occurred.  The government was so hard up that it was driven to the expedient of selling off some of al-Hakem’s splendid library.  In May 1013 Cordoba surrendered.  Sulayman’s Berber followers, who had already wrecked the palace at Madinat az-Zahra, sacked and plundered the city.  What remained of the caliphal library was dispersed.  Enormous numbers of the citizens were massacred. The great scholar-to-be, Ibn Hazm, then aged about nineteen, witnessed the slaughter and later named over sixty distinguished scholars who met their deaths.  One of them, the biographer Ibn al-Faradi, lay unburied where he had been cut down for three days.  The caliph Hisham II disappears from view, presumed murdered.”  So ibn Hazm had personal knowledge of Sulaiman-al Zafir, who presided as caliph in Cordoba until 1016, when one of his generals deposed and executed him.  Fletcher (2006), pp. 80–81.

“Selective breeding” among elites was hardly new with the Moors.  The most extreme example are the Ptolemaic pharaohs of Egypt, who married their own sisters because no other women were fit for a king.  The wives of two of the sons of King Edward III of England—John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley—were cousins of Gaunt and Langley, and both were daughters of Pedro I.  It all smacks of the Nazi attempt to create a super-race, but the caliphs were not engaged in a program of racial extermination.  ibn Hazm says “all but Sulaiman al-Zafir” did this; thus it’s reasonable to conclude the average Moor resembled Sulaiman al-Zafir.  Or is it?

An ancient mystery: is ibn Hazm’s tale of the blonde caliph true?

“‘Abd al-Rahman III’s father Muhammad was born of the union between the amir ‘Abd Allah [d. 912] and the Christian princess Onneca or Iniga, the daughter of a king of Navarre who had been sent to Cordoba as a hostage in the 860s.  ‘Abd al-Rahman himself was the child of a union between his father Muhammad and a slave-concubine, a Christian captive possibly from the same Pyrenean region, named Muzna (perhaps originally Maria?).  In his immediate ancestry, therefore, the new ruler was three-quarters Spanish, or perhaps more accurately Hispano-Basque, and only one-quarter Arab.  He had blue eyes, a light skin and reddish hair.  We are told that he used to dye his hair black to make himself look more like an Arab.  This was only one of several ways in which ‘Abd al-Rahman was skilled at the business of what today we would call projecting an image of himself.”  Fletcher (2006), p. 53.

The king of Navarre for this period is Garcia Iniguez (r. 851–882).  Due to military instability in the region the story of ‘Abd Allah receiving a hostage from a king of Navarre is plausible.  She may have been illegitimate.  Regardless of her actual paternity, and the uncertainty of her name, the notion she would ever have been set free by ‘Abd Allah to marry another is impossible.

Thus, the tale is true; only in this instance the caliph had reddish hair—but there were many women should he desire his son to be blonde.  What lay behind this practice?  The motive appears to be a desire to copy their white European counterparts, rather than a means to separate elites from their subjects.  We tend to think of Moorish Spain as insular, but there was constant contact with Christian states, in matters of trade, diplomacy, and warfare.

What more can we say of Sulaiman al-Zafir?  As  Fletcher (2006), p. 80 remarks:  “The Berber generals chose another descendant of ‘Abd al-Rahman III, Sulayman, as a rival caliph.  Sulayman appealed for military aid to the count of Castile, Sancho Garcia, who responded positively.  The two men, Christian and Muslim, joined forces, marched on Cordoba and defeated Muhammad II in November 1109.  Sulayman was proclaimed caliph.”   This initial usurpation lasted until May 1010 when another combination of Christian and Muslim allies ousted Sulayman. 

We may therefore conclude that even Sulaiman al-Zafir’s appearance, with his black beard and ringlets, was to some extent the result of “selective breeding,” and the Berbers who elevated him were basically black.  This resemblance to his Berber troops may have helped in winning them over, but as we have seen, it ended badly for him.  ‘Abd al-Rahman III would have kept a well-stocked harem, and it appears Sulaiman al-Zafir’s ancestry was not of Hispano-Basque women.  My theory is that ‘Abd al-Rahman III’s successors ran through these Hispano-Basque slave-concubines, but for political purposes he also had children by dark-skinned women, and Sulaiman al-Zafir was a descendant of one of those unions.  My intent here is to reconcile the historical facts.  As seen above, al-Rahman III felt he could not alienate his subjects by affecting a completely “white-European” appearance, so he dyed his hair black.  For the chronology so essential to genealogists I should mention ‘Abd al-Rahman III succeeded his grandfather ‘Abd Allah in 912 and reigned until his death in 961.  Fletcher (2006), p. 53.  Sulaiman al-Zafir was a grandson or great-grandson of ‘Abd al-Rahman III.

ibn Hazm died a mere 21 years before Alfonso VI overwhelmed Toledo.  This is as contemporary a description of the Moors as we are likely to find.

The larger caliphates disintegrated:

‘[S]tatelets emerged which were run by civil administrators who had achieved prominence under the regime of Almanzor and his son.  These men were often technically slaves, or freedmen, and sometimes not of peninsular origin but drawn from the vast hordes of slaves imported into al-Andalus in the tenth century.”  Slaves could be of disparate ethnic backgrounds, in civil or military service, and sometimes emerged as rulers.  Fletcher (2006), pp. 83–84.


[Illustration: “Chess Problem No. 25 Five Moors, one playing harp.”  Harp music set the mood for this most competitive of board games.  From the Libro de los Juegos (Book of Games) of Alfonso X, king of Castile, Leon, and Galicia (1221–1284).  Alfonso X had the text translated from Arabic into Castlilian and added illustrations, the book being completed in 1283. During the Middle Ages, wealthy patrons commissioned illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Games.  Undoubtedly the king was personally familiar with the physical appearance of a Moor.  King Edward I of England married as his first queen Eleanor of Castile, half-sister of Alfonso X.]

[Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), “Four studies of the head of a Moore.” In the collection of Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts, Musee Old Masters Museum (inv. 3176), Brussels, Belgium.]

Even after Toledo was re-conquered by the Castilians, it continued as a vibrant center of Jewish and Muslim culture. It would be very surprising if Sancha de Ayala, who was born about 275 years after the end of Moorish rule, had no Jewish and Moorish ancestry.

[Alfonso VI (1040–1109), king of Castile and Leon.  The ruler of Toledo, Al-Qadir, was a hated puppet installed by Alfonso VI.  Alfonso VI had been bleeding Toledo dry with demands for tribute.  “Toledo also contained large communities of Jews and Mozarabic Christians.  It is inaccurate to regard the Christians as some sort of ‘fifth column’ working for Alfonso VI.  Nevertheless it was bound to have been the case that to be ruled by a Christian was perceived as preferable to be being ruled by a Muslim.  As for the Jews of Toledo, they were probably encouraged to look favourably upon the Christian king by an episode that occurred in 1082.  Alfonso had sent a Jewish ambassador to Seville to collect the tribute.  A dispute took place:  the Castilian delegation complained the tribute was being paid in debased coin and accompanied their complaint with insults.  (The ruler) Al-Mu’tamid had the Jewish ambassador crucified.  Alfonso VI was livid with rage and mounted a punitive raid to avenge his envoy’s death.”  Fletcher (1990), p. 141.]

[Stained glass of Coat of Arms of Castile and Leon, Alcazar (Castle) at Segovia, Spain.  Principal residence of Alfonso VIII, king of Castile and Toledo, and his queen Eleanor, daughter of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  On 16 Jul 1212, Alfonso VIII and a coalition of Christian forces crushed the Muslim Almohads at the Battle of Navas de Tolosa in Southern Spain.]

Any pretense to aristocracy came through Sancha’s mother Ines de Ayala.  Sancha’s uncle Pero Lopez de Ayala (1332–1407), for many years a player in Castilian politics, became Grand Chancellor of The Realm of Castile under King Henry III of Castile.  Ines de Ayala was also distantly related by blood to Roman Catholic Cardinal Pedro Gomez Barroso (d. 1348).

(Tomb effigy of Pero Lopez de Ayala in the Monastery of Quejana, near Bilbao, Spain.  In addition to holding high political office, he was also a renowned poet.)

Todd Farmerie, in a thread on “soc.genealogy.medieval,” dated 24 Jul 2007, entitled “Converso ancestors of Sancha de Ayala” said:

My response to Farmerie’s question is that your ancestors do not lose their identity over time.  If you have a Jew or African in your pedigree, THEY are a Jew and African forever, regardless of the era in which they lived.  Their contribution to YOU as an organism varies over time, but you’re the sum of all of your forebears.  I was unfamiliar with the phrase “turning something on its head.”  Farmarie is saying: “Even if there is a Jew somewhere in the pedigree, after 25 generations it’s a misinterpretation of the pure blood standard to say such a person is a Jew.”  So if the Jew is a remote ancestor, the Jewish genetic contribution to your pedigree is diluted to the point that it doesn’t matter.  That’s not genealogy.

The “pure blood standard” was called “limpieza de sangre,” and was first introduced into Spain in 1414 by the archbishop of Seville, in connection with the foundation of the Colegio de San Bartolome of Salamanca.  No one with any Jewish ancestor, regardless of how remote, could be admitted to the college.  Jewish blood was “tainted.” 

The practical application of the doctrine was in the event political.  Many prominent people did have Jewish ancestors, so the application of the “purity of blood” standard depended partly upon who you were.  If you were powerful (meaning you could marshal military force), your background wasn’t scrutinized as closely as someone further down the food chain.  The doctrine was based upon the concept that though everyone was equal in Christ, Jews were held to be biologically “inferior.”  Thus was established institutionalized racism with various equations of who could do what with who: in some instances one could not have had a Jew in the family for 100 years, and in others, for 4 generations.  Dispensations could be granted. 

Farmerie’s question has no simple answer.

Farmerie has some support from across the pond. In an article in “The Guardian” dated 11 Mar 2009, British celebrity biographer Hugo Vickers was asked for his reaction to reports that King George III’s consort Queen Charlotte had black ancestry:

[Would] our royal family be threatened if it were shown they had African forebears? “I don’t think so at all. There would be no shame attached to it all,” says the royal historian Hugo Vickers. “The theory does not impress me, but even if it were true, the whole thing would have been so diluted by this stage that it couldn’t matter less to our royal family. It certainly wouldn’t show that they are significantly black.”

Stiff upper lip and carry on.

So what made Farmerie apoplectic?  The assertion that some of Sancha de Ayala’s ancestors were converted Jews—or “conversos.”  As Nathaniel Lane Taylor points out, the term “converso” is properly applied only to Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.  But in actual practice, “converso” is often applied in a broader sense to Jews who converted at any point in the Medieval period.  And it could apply to Moorish converts as well.

In the same thread, Taylor says: “Sancha de Ayala’s father’s ancestors in Toledo were a mixed bag of Toledan families.  Some were most likely Mozarabic families—Christians who had been living under Muslim rule before the annexation of Toledo by Alfonso VI.  An example is Abdul Aziz bin Lampader, surely Sancha’s ancestor, who was alcalde [assistant judge] of the city in 1125.  There is a possibility that some of these families may have been Jewish…. The bottom line is that it is conventional to say all the apparently native urban [Toledo] families who bore Muslim names in the time of Alfonso VI [1040–1109] were Mozarabic Christians, but some of them may have been Jews. But in this early era (11th–early 12th c) there was no organized persecution or forced conversion….”

The position of Jews under the Cordoban caliphate had been favorable:

“Ibn Shaprut was a figure of eminence in the international Jewish community at large.  He was the patron of Jewish-Andalusi poets such as Dunash Ha-Levi, the benefactor of the Talmudic academies of Mesopotamia, the author of a letter to the ruler of the ‘Thirteenth Tribe,” the Jewish Khazars of south Russia.  He occupied an important position in al-Andalus as a trusted advisor as well as doctor to the caliph.  For his services he seems to have been rewarded with some lucrative sinecure from the tolls and customs paid by merchants.  Hasday ibn Shaprut is a remarkable testimony to the cosmopolitan character of the court of al-Andalus under ‘Abd al-Rahman III, and to the heights to which Jews could rise in service to it.”  Fletcher (2006), p. 70.

“It is difficult to know what the day-to-day relations of Christians and Muslims may have been like in the cities of al-Andalus.  They lived side by side.  In some cities the Mozarabs inhabited distinct Christian quarters of the town, in others they seem to have lived intermingled with their Muslim neighbors.”  Fletcher (2006), p. 94.

In the discussion of Abdul Aziz bin Lampader that follows, I’m going to rely on Hitchcock (2008)—this area of investigation was his specialty.  Comments in italics mine.

First, what was a “Mozarab”?  It means: “‘to make oneself similar to the Arabs,’ … ‘having assimilated Arabic customs’, or, most specifically designated someone who had the appearance of an Arab, was indistinguishable from Arabs, and would not stand out in a crowd of Arabs.” (p. ix)  “Mozarab” doesn’t just signify a Christian living under Muslim rule.  As Hitchcock states in his afterword, Mozarab “cannot, in my view, be a word employed to signify Christians who lived in al-Andalus,” which of course is at complete variance with the above comment by Nathaniel L. Taylor, but Taylor admits the possibility that “some of these families may have been Jewish.”

So the key here is primarily appearance and outward conformity, although in religion the Mozarab might be Jewish or Christian.  The term “Mozarab” was not uniformly applied as to religion, but it does mean non-Muslim and could be pejorative.  You looked like an Arab but you weren’t a “real” Arab because you weren’t Muslim, but if you didn’t rock the boat, you were tolerated.

“In Toledo after 1085 AD, and the surrounding areas for a further century and a half, ‘Mozarab’ was an internally applied term.  Christians used it to define other, Arabicized, Christians, and amongst the communities of the latter were those who had ‘Mozarab’ or a recognizable form of the word, as a surname.’  (p. 76)  These were people who were in Toledo before Alfonso VI took it; a community he recognized as an asset in stabilizing his regime.

“In the first generation after the conquest of Toledo, there is a majority of names entirely in Arabic (59 per cent), whilst in the twenty-year period 1110–1130, this figure has reduced to 45 per cent.  Between 1150 and 1170, it has dropped to 5 per cent.  During the same period (1130–1170), hybrid names, of the type Abi al-Hasan b. Mika il, retain their popularity, representing over 40 percent of the instances….  By 1118, and throughout the following two centuries, being Mozarab meant, first and foremost, being Arabicized members of a Castilian community.”  (pp. 86–87)  In this example “Mika il” is the hybrid portion of the name.

“It would be fair to say that the Mozarabs flourished in the city of Toledo in the twelfth century.  They still had their own mayor in 1178, Melendo Lampader, who died in 1181, and relations with the Castlian community in the city seemed positive.  This same Melendo married a daughter of the Castilian alcaide, and the line was perpetuated well into the thirteenth century.  The maintenance of two separate mayors, responsible for their own communities, one hundred years after the capture of the city by Alfonso VI, is an indication of the success of this king’s initial policies.  Arabophone Christian communities, however they came into existence, could prosper independently within Christian territories.”  (p. 96)  The term “Arabophone” means the individual’s native language was Arabic.  Note that Hitchcock uses the phrase “Arabophone Christian communities, however they came into existence….

At this point we can draw some conclusions.  It is quite unlikely Abdul Aziz bin Lampader was Jewish.  As will be seen below, in 1218 Pope Honorius III ordered Jews in Toledo to wear distinctive dress.  Rather, he was an Arabicized Christian who was biologically indistinguishable from his Muslim counterpart.  In this context, that’s a Moor.  As I discuss above, what made an individual a Moor cannot be unequivocally stated, but by general agreement it was a person of mixed race, incorporating mainly Berber and African elements.  So the bin Lampader family were Moors who at some point had converted to Christianity, or Christians who had absorbed Moors.  In either case, this family was indistinguishable from their Muslim neighbors.  To what extent their ancestry may have drawn upon indigenous peoples of Visigothic Spain, as did some of the caliphs, is unknown.

(A view of Toledo, which barely looks more modernized than it did in the day of Sancha de Ayala.  Toledo had been the capital city of Visigothic Spain in the 6th and 7th centuries.  Click on image to enlarge.)

“Abdul Aziz” is a Muslim name still in use today: “Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud” is the reigning king of Saudi Arabia, which means “Abdullah son of Abdul Aziz of the family Saud.”

One researcher claimed Abdul Aziz bin Lampader was actually Abdelacis ben Lampader, giving the name a Jewish form, but that’s absurd.  In Muslim use  “Abdul Aziz bin Lampader” means “Abdul Aziz son of Lampader” without a family name appended, but this was in an early age. I was unable to find the word “Lampader” anywhere in lists of Hebrew names, or in Hebrew dictionaries, or among any given names.  It appears to be somewhat related to words ending in “or,” rather than “er.”  Possibly it referred to some mid-ranking office he held, or his family had held, under the Moorish regime, the name being political rather than familial.  A corollary is the English family of Despenser, whose name was derived from “Dispensator”—they had been stewards of the Earls of Chester or the Lacy family, Constables of Chester.  Note that Abdul Aziz and his son Melendo held public office in Toledo.  It appears this family was resident in Toledo when it capitulated to Alfonso VI, and the king took advantage of their continued service.

The solution, though not the answer, to the mystery of “Lampader,” the hybrid part of Abdul Aziz’s name, is contained in Fletcher (1990), p. 60: “Settlers also came [to Castile] from the South, Mozarabic Christians who left al-Andalus [Muslim controlled Spain] to live among their fellow Christians in the north.  They can be recognized by their Arabised names which evidently caused difficulties for Castilian scribes and produced such bizarre formations as the Abolgomar who lived near Cardena about the year 900 and the Abogaleb who was a monk at Berlangas in about 950.”  So though we will never know from what word “Lampader” was derived, we know the name was corrupted by Castilian officials, probably as Alfonso VI tightened his grip on Toledo.  It reminds one of the creative work by the clerks at Ellis Island.

The line connects to Sancha de Ayala through Guzman.

[Shakespeare’s immortal Moor Othello, portrayed by American/British actor Ira Aldridge (1807–1867).  In 1833 Aldridge became the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage.  Othello is one of Shakespeare’s greatest roles which has inspired both black and white actors—like Laurence Fishburne and Laurence Olivier. Olivier played the role in black makeup.  Today we conceive of the Moors as black, and that was true in most cases.  The character Othello, if played as historically accurate, would be one of the Berber generals mentioned in connection with Sulaiman al-Zafir.  As ibn Hazm remarked, the mixed racial composition of the Moors covered a wider spectrum.  That challenges our assumptions about race: what does “race” really mean?]

Another character who weaves in and out of this tale is Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, or El Cid (ca. 1043–1099).  Despite being Spain’s National Hero, El Cid was a gun-for-hire, with his own private army, fighting for Christians or Muslims as the fortunes of war dictated.  One of his clients was Alfonso VI, King of Castile and Leon.  El Cid’s passion was an independent principality in Valencia, which became reality, if only for awhile.  After  his death, his widow Ximena ruled until 1102, when she was advised by Alfonso VI that Valencia was indefensible.  The city was abandoned and burned to the ground.  The Arabic writer Ibn Bassam said of El Cid: “this man, the scourge of his time, by his appetite for glory, by the prudent steadfastness of his character, and by his heroic bravery, was one of the miracles of God.”  Fletcher (1990) p. 185.

A descendant of El Cid, Blanche of Artois, who seems to have been the uterine crossroads of Medieval Europe, married Edmund “Crouchback,” Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, bringing El Cid’s bloodline to England.

(Original tomb of El Cid and his wife Ximena at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena.  The parentage of El Cid and Ximena is disputed.  El Cid’s horse Babieca was buried in the graveyard.  Babieca stayed put, but El Cid wandered around until finally re-interred at the Catedral de Santa Maria de Burgos.)

[1864 painting by Marcos Giraldez de Acosta depicting Alfonso VI, king of Castile and Leon (in red cape) swearing on the bible that he had no complicity in the murder of his brother Sancho II.  Sancho II was murdered, allegedly by a sword-thrust to the back, at Zamora on 6 Oct 1072.  Alfonso VI is looking at El Cid.  Click on image to enlarge it.]

(A very unhappy Sancho II, who, if the tale is true, could not have known his murderer.  In this version the evil implement was a crossbow bolt.  Click on image to enlarge it.)

Returning to the focus of this piece, Todd A. Farmarie and Nathaniel L. Taylor (1998) seems to be the latest formal genealogical investigation of Sancha de Ayala. The authors examine three possible, but as they acknowledge, unproved royal descents—one from Alfonso VI of Castile, and two from Alfonso IX of Leon—all of which have problematic illegitimate generations even if “proved.”  They discount two claims of Muslim descents. Otherwise, they leave Sancha’s ethnicity a blank.

The above “soc.genealogy.medieval” thread was kicked off by references to Norman Roth’s (2002) book in a Wikipedia article.  Wikipedia, while useful as a jumping off point, is of itself an unacceptable source.  I obtained a copy of the book to examine it myself.

Let’s look at Sancha de Ayala and see what we can learn about her family. We begin with her maternal ancestors, the Ayala family:

Roth does not say in the text that Sancha’s uncle Pero Lopez de Ayala was of converso stock.  However, in “Appendix C Major Converso Families,” Ayala is among the “Converso Families Named by Lope de Barrientos and Fernan Diaz de Toledo.”  Lope de Barrientos (1395–1469) was Dominican master and bishop of Segovia, Avila, and Cuenca.  Barrientos was not unsympathetic to conversos, and I see no reason he would have concocted the list.  Barrientos stated that all of the Mendozas and Ayalas descended from a certain Rabbi Solomon and his son Isaque de Valladolid.  As Barrientos was writing after the death of Pero Lopez de Ayala, uncle of Sancha de Ayala, this comment must include him, and thus also Sancha’s grandfather Fernan Perez de Ayala.  Of interest is the inclusion of the Sotomayor family in the list, as Cardinal Pedro Gomez Barroso’s mother was Mencia Garcia de Sotomayor, a great-grandmother of Ines de Ayala.  Another interesting name in the list is Osorio, as Sancha’s 2nd great-grandmother was Elvira Alvarez de Osorio.  Carrillo is also a converso name appearing among Sancha de Ayala’s maternal forebears.

Turning to her father’s family, that of Diego Gomez:

Roth (2002) p. 94 identifies the wife of her 2nd-great-grandfather, Gome Perez, Aguacil Mayor (Chief Justice) of Toledo, as Horabuena, and states there is little doubt of her Jewish background.  On p. 378, he lists among the “Most Frequent Converso Names in Toledo” Garcia, Gomes, de Toledo, and Vasques, all names that figure in Sancha de Ayala’s paternal pedigree.

This is the complete list in Roth (2002), pp. 377–378:

“Appendix C Major Converso Families Converso Families Named by Lope de Barrientos and Fernan Diaz de Toledo [caps are mine]


Most Frequent Converso Names in Toledo


What happened to the Jewish names of these people?  When families converted to Catholicism, they changed their name, and their “Christian” name might bear no resemblance to their Jewish name.

The Spanish Inquisition is one of the most lurid episodes in Catholic history. It’s difficult to estimate the numbers of those condemned or imprisoned—but the number is in the thousands, not tens of thousands.  That doesn’t take into account those who fled, or had their property confiscated.   An apt comparison are the Salem Witch Trials on a much larger scale.

The following should convey the gravity of the situation, for even death might not spare one from the Inquisition:

“Also, the Inquisition proceeded against those already dead, ‘because it happened that some of these in their lives had incurred this sin of heresy and apostasy'; their bones were dug up and publicly burned and their property and the inheritances of their descendants were seized by the Crown.”  Roth (2002), p. 227.

Due to the seriousness of the situation, I have to accept Lope de Barrientos and Fernan Diaz de Toledo as accurate.  Unlike de Barrientos, Fernan Diaz de Toledo was a Converso.  He served as secretary to Juan II, king of Castile.  Lope de Barrientos and Fernan Diaz de Toledo were very important men in Castile.

As Roth (2002), p. 95 remarks:

“Even though a certain amount of bragging and self-aggrandizement is evident in all this, he [Fernan Diaz] would not dare make such statements (nor would the more renowned and sober Barrientos repeat them) were they not true.  As relator and secretary to the king, Fernan Diaz was ‘always with him,’ as Barrientos says in his Cronica, and personally knew all the nobility.”

One of the difficulties here is the perception that only Jews who had converted to Catholicism and subsequently returned to Judaism were subjected to persecution; but as seen below, there was a separate, older stream of persecution aimed at Jews generally.  So it’s true families named in the lists are indeed Jewish, but some members had converted at an earlier date.  The trunk of the family tree was Jewish, but not all of its branches converted at the same time.

“Although there did exist some country-dwellers among the Jews of al-Andalus, the vast majority of them lived in the cities.  These urban Jewish communities could be sizeable: there were at least twelve synagogues in Toledo.”  Fletcher (2006), p. 95.

The tendency of Jews to reside in urban areas made repression relatively easy and effective.

Catholic apologists blame the persecution on evil men.  But the popes encouraged and supported the process.  By the 13th century papal bulls were reserved for formal or solemn communications from the pope.  The “bull” was so named for the pope’s lead seal that authenticated the document.  The popes vacillated in their Jewish policy, at times pleading for better treatment of Jews.  It’s fair to say papal instructions for sanctions against them resulted in sustained suffering, but the impact was not always uniform, as witnessed by the necessity for repeated orders by various pontiffs.  Though technically not forcible conversion, nonetheless these measures should be construed as intimidation to exert pressure on Jews to convert.

In 1205 Pope Innocent III issued Esti Judaeos which allowed Jews their houses of worship but prohibited them from eating with Christians and owning Christian slaves.

In 1207 Innocent III ordered Jews of Spain to pay tithes on possessions obtained from Christians.

In 1218 Pope Honorius III issued In generali concilio, to the archbishop of Toledo, ordering Jews to wear clothing to distinguish themselves from Christians, and that they must pay tithe to local churches.  The requirement stemmed from the 4th Lateran Council of 1215.

The 1239 bull Si vera sunt of Pope Gregory IX, addressed to kings and prelates of France and Spain, ordered seizure of the Talmud and all other Jewish books suspected of blaspheming Jesus.  Renewed in 1264 by Pope Clement IV.

In the bull Turbato Corde (1267), addressed to inquisitors of heresy, Clement IV fulminated against wickedness:  “With a troubled heart we relate what we have heard, that [several reprobate Christians] have abandoned the true faith and have wickedly transferred themselves to the rite of the Jews…. Against Jews whom you may find guilty of having induced Christians of either sex to join their execrable rite, or whom you may find doing so in the future, you shall impose fitting punishment.  By means of appropriate ecclesiastical censure you shall silence all who oppose you.  If necessary you may call on the secular arm.”

(My point here is by the early 13th century the Catholic church began to place restrictions on the activities of Jews.  It could not have been a secret that the church was moving into a more confrontational policy regarding Jews, so some families of Jewish descent probably began to conceal their ancestry prior to this time.  Only an idiot would put a Jewish ancestor in their family history.

Given the corruption of the age, bribing officials must have been common.  Today we call it “protection money.”  The late 14th century “de Ayala” family history, portions of which are known to be wrong, should not be taken at face value.)

Rather than offer another estimate of Inquisition victims, let’s view the matter from the vantage point of a Catholic archivist who witnessed the proceedings:

“10 June 1491.  Some 126 burned.”

On one day.  In Barcelona.  A little hazy on the exact number.  The flames washed it all away.

[Puerta de Bisagra Antigua (gate to the city of Toledo), 10th century.]

The Inquisition has never entirely disappeared.  Today it’s known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Norman Roth’s book is required reading for those with ancestors in this time and place.

To sum up: much of Sancha de Ayala’s ancestry on both sides of her family was Sephardic Jewish in origin, and she had at least one known Moorish ancestor.  She was a connection to a tolerant polity in Toledo which had enjoyed a relatively stable multi-cultural and multi-racial environment.  That environment began to deteriorate in the early 13th century, and in the second half of the 14th century succumbed to political strife and religious agitation.

Family Of Hillary Lillian Vaughan *maternal grandmother*

•September 5, 2014 • Comments Off

I penned a genealogical book entitled Some Chipman Families Of The Southern States, the last edition of which appeared in March 1993.  Occasionally a copy of an earlier edition comes up for sale on  I lost my copy of the first edition, so I bought one.  It had been given a library binding by the library and then replaced with a later edition. The book covered many families who intermarried with the Chipmans.  One of them was the Vaughan family of my maternal grandmother Hillary, who was little more than 15 years old when she married Jesse Otto Jeffery Scarff.

The Vaughans were early Missouri settlers, who came to the section from Kentucky. My second great-grandfather was Wilson Milton Vaughan (1850–1950), a Miller County character who missed being 100 years old by less than two months.  His son, Eric Lyman Vaughan, moved to Wapello County, Iowa, where he died at the age of 30.

This clipping from The Autogram of Miller County for December 5, 1940 commemorates Wilson Milton Vaughan’s 90th birthday:

(Miller County History, 17 Jun 1983.)

Our first proven Vaughan ancestor is Joshua Vaughan (father of Wilson Milton Vaughan), who married Elizabeth (Betsey) Birdsong:

Although Birdsong is a Native American name, these Birdsongs weren’t Native American. They first appeared in York County, Virginia in the early 18th century, and were later prominent in Sussex County.  Birdsong is thought to be a corruption of a name possibly Scandinavian in origin, like “Bartsong” or another phonetic variant.

Because the Vaughans were numerous, with many bearing the same given names, I cannot with certainty identify a place of origin beyond Kentucky. There is one Vaughan family centered in Bedford County, Virginia in the late 18th century that appears closely related, and members of it probably migrated to Monroe and Barren Cos., KY.  What is certain is that the Vaughans of Cooper Co., MO were from Barren and Monroe Cos., KY.

But who was Joshua Vaughan?  He was born in 1805 in Virginia, exact place unknown.

According to Jefferson Davis Vaughan, a son of Joshua Vaughan by Joshua’s second wife Susan Wyrick, Joshua wasn’t a “Vaughan” at all—his birth surname was actually “Wilson,” and he had been adopted by a Vaughan.

I have a problem with that story.  The first formal adoption law in the United States was enacted in MA in 1851.  In the South, orphans were bound out by the county courts to serve as apprentices, to a relative, or someone unrelated.  But could Joshua “Wilson” have been informally adopted by a Vaughan family—who may have been related to his birth family—and he simply took the name of “Vaughan?”  Of course, and that’s the difficulty with family tales like this:  there’s no independent evidence for or against this version of Joshua’s origins.  But the legal machinery in existence at the time Joshua would have been “orphaned” doesn’t support Jefferson Davis Vaughan’s account.

Joshua is also alleged to be the son of Benjamin and Susanna (Burnett) Vaughan, but for chronological reasons, that’s unlikely.  Benjamin Vaughan is presumed to be the son of William Vaughan Sr. of Monroe Co., KY.  My theory is that Benjamin Vaughan was Joshua Vaughan’s uncle, and that Joshua was actually the son of William Vaughan Jr., whose wife is unknown.  William Vaughan Jr. didn’t make the trek to MO and may have died in KY.  Joshua did name his first son William.  But nearly all of the early records in Monroe Co., KY, except for the tax records, are lost.  It’s one of the most total courthouse disasters I’ve seen.

This pedigree, however, begins with the Scott family.  Thomas Scott Jr., son of Thomas Scott and Sarah Mahurin [see marriage bond in “Branching Of The Yoke (Crossing Howland” column)] was an interesting figure. (See  “THOMAS SCOTT JR., FREEMASONRY, AND MILLER CO., MO POLITICS” column.]

Thomas Scott Jr. moved to California, but his wife America Stillwell remained in Miller County, supporting the opinion that their marriage was unhappy. America was probably a descendant of the Stillwell family of Dubois County, Indiana, and the daughter of Richard Stilwell.  It’s a common problem with pioneer families searching for the Promised Land:  families split up, and often the place they came to was no better or even worse than the place they’d left. In due course Thomas Scott Jr. returned to Miller County, but never again lived with America.

The page in Some Chipman Families Of The Southern States regarding the Scott family used an unorthodox system of notation, so I’ll just give the highlights.  The principle treatise on this Scott family is:

Scott, E. Harrison.  (1951).  Arthur Martin Scott 1777-1858 His Ancestors and His Descendants. Dayton:  The Otterbein Press.

Arthur Scott, son of Arthur and Agness Scott, was born ca. 1736/7, probably in Chester Co., PA. He married on 25 Apr 1765, Jean Ross.  After a brief sojourn in Washington Co., PA, Arthur Scott moved to Shelby Co., KY, where his son Thomas Scott wed Sarah Mahurin on 29 Sep 1805, daughter of Samuel Mahurin, a descendant of Hugh Mahurin of Taunton, MA.  For about 4 years he lived on Brashears Creek, and then purchased land on Little Beech Creek.  He was a Constable in Shelby Co. Arthur Scott died ca. 1824/5 and was probably buried on his farm.

Arthur Scott sold his son Thomas Scott a tract of 159 1/2 acres on Beech Creek for the token amount of $1.00.  In 1821 Thomas Scott sold the land and moved to Dubois Co., Indiana.  The couple moved on to Miller Co., MO, and were living as late as 29 Jan 1858, when they sold 160 acres of land to Lev W. Albertson.

Thomas Scott Jr., the subject of the above short biography, was born 8 Dec 1816 in Shelby Co., KY, and died 30 Aug 1887 in Miller Co., MO, after having returned from California due to an apparent failure in operating a mine.  He was an active Mason.  His wife, America (Stillwell) Scott, died 13 Nov 1897. Thomas and Sarah (Mahurin) Scott, and Thomas Scott Jr. and wife America are buried at Scott Cemetary, Tuscumbia, MO.

Thomas Scott Jr. recorded the births of his children in the family bible, and daughter Rachel Jane Scott, first wife of the above mentioned Wilson Milton Vaughan, was born on Sunday, 17 Apr 1859 in Miller Co.  On 11 Mar 1875 she married Wilson, and their 6th child was my great-grandfather, Eric Lyman Vaughan 29 Sep 1885–19 May 1916.

(This faded photo is the only one I have of Eric Lyman Vaughan, but by cropping it I managed to give a fair rendering of his face.)

(This record, from the 1915 Iowa state census, is useful because Eric Lyman Vaughan’s first child was born in 1911, after the 1910 Federal Census, and Eric died in 1916, before the 1920 Federal Census.  The availability of state censuses varies; check with your state archives.)

(The elegant Nora Ann McMillen.)

[Tombstone of Eric Lyman Vaughan and Nora Ann (McMillen) (Vaughan) Messer, Brooks Cemetary near Ottumwa, Wapello Co., IA.]

(Marriage record of Thomas Calvin McMillen and Nancy Theodocia Wilcox, Miller Co., MO, 9 Oct 1887.  Miller Co., MO Marriage Book C, p. 361.  Nancy’s middle initial is incorrectly shown as “J.”  The marriage took place at the home of her mother, Manerva WilcoxClick on image to enlarge it.)

[Tombstone of Nancy Theodocia Wilcox (13 Jul 1861–18 Apr 1910; tombstone gives birth year as 1862), whose blue blood and lack of judgement brought distinction and ruin to my mother’s family, and her second husband Thomas Calvin McMillen (25 Dec 1864–3 Feb 1935), at Brooks Cemetary, Wapello Co., IATwo of their children are buried with themIt’s doubtful Nancy ever learned of the fate of her first husband, James T. Burris, who deserted her for Miller Co. trollop Charlotte Colvin, and disappeared into the Indian TerritoryNancy divorced Burris “in abstentia.”]

[Here’s an obscure item:  the obituary for Thomas Calvin McMillen in the Ottumwa Courier, Tuesday, 5 Feb 1935, p. 13.  The author of this notice had few words for the departed.  McMillen actually died in Henry Co., IA, but was shipped to Ottumwa in Wapello Co. to be buried in Brooks Cemetary beside his wife, Nancy Theodocia (Wilcox) McMillen.]

Eric Lyman Vaughan married Nora Ann McMillen, daughter of Thomas Calvin and Nancy Theodocia (Wilcox) McMillen.  They had 3 children:  Virgil Zennia Vaughan, Hillary Lillian Vaughan, and Harold Milton Vaughan.  Nora Ann (McMillen) Vaughan remarried to Sheridan Messer and had four children:  Milo Messer; Dwight Messer; Rebekah Louise Messer (m. Warren Stiefel); and Joseph Thomas Messer.

(Virgil Zennia Vaughan and Hillary Lillian Vaughan, ca. 1914.)

(Most photos don’t affect me, but in these three children:  Harold Milton Vaughan; Hillary Lillian Vaughan; and Virgil Zennia Vaughan, I see no happiness, although many people, including children, had stiff expressions when photographedOttumwa, IA, ca. 1918.)

Hillary Lillian Vaughan 20 May 1913–4 Feb 1989 married on 3 Oct 1928 in Henry Co., IA Jesse Otto Jeffery Scarff, and had 10 children, of whom 9 reached adulthood.

[Jesse Otto (Jeffery) Scarff, ca. 1909.  Children put on their “Sunday Go To Church” clothes for portraits.  In ordinary attire, they looked pretty grubby.  It was the era in which children amused themselves by catching frogs and turtles, digging holes, and splashing in creeks.  It’s called the Outdoors.]

1. Valerie Berniece Scarff born 28 Sep 1929; married 20 Jun 1948 Ralph Vernon Chipman

 (Mt. Pleasant News, 21 Jun 1948.)


a.  Jeffrey Thomas Chipman born 25 July 1951

b.  Diane Gay Chipman born 29 Sep 1952; married Glen Christopher Joyce (two children)

c.  Debora Ann Chipman born 8 Oct 1953; married Arthur David Allred (two children)

d.  Mary Beth Chipman born 27 Jan 1958; married Randall Alan Roguski; div. (one child)

2. Jesse LeRoy Scarff born 27 Jan 1933; married Leona Witrofsky; div.


a.  James Dean Scarff

b.  Lorna Scarff

c.  Christopher Scarff

3.  John Eric Scarff born 28 Jan 1936; married Marilyn Kay DalAve


a.  Susan R. Scarff born 28 Aug 1962

b.  Christopher E. Scarff born 2 Dec 1964

c.  Ronald D. Scarff born 11 Oct 1969

4. Noma Louise Scarff born 9 Sep 1937; married (i) Tom Fisher adopted bro. of Franklin Louis Fisher, div. (ii) Edward Colewell Talbott

No children of either marriage

5. Mary Margaret Scarff born 7 Jul 1939; married George Presley Watson


a.  John Eric Watson

b.  Andrew Clark Watson

c.  Jessica Lynn Watson

6. Linda Kay Scarff born 7 Jan 1943; married Franklin Louis Fisher

Children (one son deceased):

a.  Frank William Fisher

b.  Christopher John Fisher

c.  Rebekah Lynn Fisher

d.  Jonathan Conrad Fisher

7. Diane Lu Scarff born 26 Aug 1944; married (i) Emmett Ridinger (ii) Jack Peters

Children by (i):

a.  Michael Ridinger

No children by (ii)

b.  a daughter adopted by Judith Ellen (Scarff) Septer *

8. Judith Ellen Scarff born 19 Oct 1946; married Ronald Eugene Septer, d. 27 Aug 2014 at Mt. Pleasant, IA


a.  Cynthia Lynn Septer born 12 Jun 1968

b.  Melissa Ann Septer born 26 May 1971

c.  David Eugene Septer born 1 Jun 1972

d.  an adopted daughter *

9. Michael Gene Scarff born 20 Jan 1949; married Barbara Esther Johnson

No children

10. Cynthia Lynn Scarff born 21 Apr 1957, died 22 Apr 1957; buried Forest Home Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant, IA

[* I  am withholding the name and birth date of this individual.  She shares her mother’s pedigree, as will her descendants.  This is a mtDNA (female descent) line, so it’s unnecessary to perform a paternity test.  mtDNA is passed from the mother to her children, whether male or female; however, if her child is male, he can’t pass mtDNA to his children.  Therefore, mtDNA will pass from mother to daughter as long as the chain of women is unbroken by males in the direct line of descent.]

This is a complete list of the children and grandchildren of Jesse Otto Jeffery Scarff and his wife Hillary Lillian Vaughan.  And that brings us full circle.

The Ancestry of Allie May (OXLEY) Chipman: THREE FALSE BECKWITH ROYAL LINES / Beckwith and Creath of Cape Girardeau Co., MO / Riddle of Stoddard Co., MO / Oxley and Faulkner of Lenoir Co., NC

•September 4, 2014 • Comments Off

John Franklin Riddle (1828-1904) and Joellan Beckwith (1831-1896) were the grandparents of Allie May (Oxley) Chipman, wife of my great-grandfather James Edward Chipman.  It’s their families we’ll explore in this column.

Allie’s parents, Aquilla Voin Oxley and Mariah Caroline Riddle, were married on 2 Jul 1874 in Dunklin Co., MO.  Aquilla’s middle name was “Voin,” not “Vester,” as the marriage record proves (Dunklin Co., MO Marriage Book 1, p. 38).

On 5 Jan 1888, Mariah C. Oxley applied for Letters of Administration on her husband’s estate, and the application lists A.V. Oxley’s heirs as William V. Oxley, Ida Oxley, Jennie Oxley, and Allie Oxley:

What is known of the origins of John Franklin Riddle and Joellan Beckwith, the parents of Mariah Caroline (Riddle) Oxley?

Joellan Beckwith was the daughter of Joseph and Eliza Jane (Creath) Beckwith, who married on 20 Jan 1823 in Granville Co., NC.  Joseph Beckwith was born in CT, and thus presumably a descendant of Mathew Beckwith, of Lyme, CT.  Joseph Beckwith d. in 1847 in Stoddard Co., MO.

Mathew Beckwith was deceased by 6 Jun 1682, when his inventory was filed. He’s said to have died falling from a cliff.  He had four sons: Mathew, Joseph, Nathaniel, and John, and three daughters.

There have been three royal lines claimed for our Beckwith family, all of them false:

Beckwith, Paul.  (1891).  The Beckwiths.  Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons.  (Book is available as a free download from Internet Archive and Google Books.)

I.  On pp. 17, 18, 27, 28, 73, 74, Paul Beckwith discusses Mathew Beckwith.  The Beckwiths is notorious in the genealogical community.  Paul Beckwith was one of the most practiced pedigree peddlers of his era.  To correct the incredible number of errors would require a book of its own. 

On p. 17 Paul Beckwith says:  “We must now return to Marmaduke Beckwith of Clint and Dacre, and find mention of Mathew Beckwith, who is possibly the Mathew Beckwith who is first recorded at Saybrook Point, Conn., in 1635, and the ancestor of by far the largest, numerically, of the American Beckwiths and whose descendants are to be found in every State of the Union, Canada and the Sandwich Islands.”  But on p. 27, the author claims without caveat that this Mathew Beckwith was the son of Marmaduke Beckwith and his wife Anne Dynly.  And p. 73 states Mathew Beckwith was born ca. 1610 in Ponteferact, Yorkshire, England.

Between 1899 and 1907, Albert C. Beckwith (later joined by Edward S. Beckwith) of Elkhorn, WI, published 6 Volumes of Beckwith Notes which cover the descendants of Mathew Beckwith.  The authors were highly critical of Paul Beckwith and corrected many errors in The Beckwiths, among them refuting the claim on chronological grounds that Marmaduke Beckwith and Anne Dynly were Mathew’s parents, as Anne Dynly would have been about 81 years old when Mathew was born (see No. One, pp. 6–7).

II.  It’s also alleged that Mathew Beckwith’s wife was “Elizabeth Lynde” (sometimes called “Mary Lynde”), daughter of Enoch Lynde and wife Elizabeth Digby.  Douglas Richardson’s Plantagenet Ancestry (2004) p. 483 lists 5 sons and no daughters for Enoch Lynde and Elizabeth Digby.  Richardson’s Royal Ancestry (2013), Vol. III, p. 682 repeats the same information.  Since the line fails at “Elizabeth Lynde,” it’s unnecessary to examine the rest of the pedigree. 

Where did the tale of “Elizabeth Lynde” originate?  On p. 73 of The Beckwiths, Paul Beckwith states Mathew Beckwith “was left a legacy by Capt. Lyrado….”  In Beckwith Notes No. One, p. 9, the authors remark: “If Capt. ‘Lyrado’ (perhaps somebody’s misreading of ‘Lynde’) left to Matthew a legacy of mentionable value the legatee was very likely the testator’s son-in-law.  The earliest Lyndes were first of Boston and later of Saybrook.  Until proof or fair presumption of such a legacy can be shown the Beckwiths need not care how the Lyndes were descended from ancient kings and mediaeval nobles.”

We have already seen that the purported parents of “Elizabeth Lynde” (or “Mary Lynde”) had no such daughter.  From whom, if anyone, this supposed legacy was received has not been demonstrated.  The only reason “Lynde” had been suggested was familiarity with the name.  Clearly someone read Beckwith Notes No. One and decided to go forward with the tale without any documentation.  The motive was linkage to a known medieval pedigree.

So there’s no proof for any of it.  Nobody knows from whence Mathew Beckwith came, although it’s a safe assumption he emigrated to Connecticut from somewhere in England.  There’s no evidence he was born in Yorkshire as Paul Beckwith claimed.  The identity of his wife is unknown.  Mathew Beckwith is far more likely to have been the son of a tradesman than the scion of an illustrious house.

III.  John Beckwith’s son John m. Prudence Mainwaring, daughter of Oliver Mainwaring. The Mainwaring family has a valid royal line from King Edward I of England. Seth Beckwith, a Revolutionary War soldier and resident of Montville, CT, was a descendant of John and Prudence.  Seth Beckwith had a son Joseph who was b. 25 Jan 1785, but that Joseph d. 1820 in Montville.  Joseph and his brother Russell served in the War of 1812.  Joseph Beckwith of Stoddard Co., MO was just a contemporary of Seth Beckwith’s son Joseph.

[Beckwith, Albert C. & Edward S.  (1907).  Beckwith Notes Number Six.  Elkhorn, WI: The Authors. p. 41]

I received this from Beckwith expert Hubert S. Beckwith:

Families often left their home state in search of land to support their families.  They might stop somewhere for a few years before continuing on, and along the way, family members could die.  Finding the parents of Joseph Beckwith of Stoddard Co., MO could be difficult.

To illustrate the scope of the problem, by the 1800 Federal census there were 130 Beckwith households in the USA, with 111 of those reasonably attributable to descendants of Mathew Beckwith the immigrant.  78 of those households are found in CT alone, and a further 23 in NY, which was a popular migration point.  Some descendants of Mathew Beckwith are found in the 1800 NC census as well, although I haven’t been able to connect any of those NC Beckwiths to our Joseph Beckwith.  And those are just households listed under the name “Beckwith;” there were undoubtedly more Beckwiths in households enumerated under a different name, as in the case of Beckwith widows who remarried.  Her Beckwith children will be merely numbers in the household of her new husband.

Can we say anything about the birth date of Joseph Beckwith? There are only two extant census records for Joseph Beckwith, both in MO: in 1830 he’s listed in Cape Girardeau Co. (p. 454) as 30-40, and in 1840 in Stoddard Co. (p. 4) he’s 50-60. This gives a range of birth years of 1780-1800. A discrepancy like this can mean he was born in a census year. That would place his year of birth as ca. 1790.

The early probate records in Stoddard Co. are lost, but I located in the Stoddard Co. court record books sufficient proof of Joseph Beckwith’s heirs.  Joseph Beckwith was deceased by 5 Oct 1847 when his administrator, David Huddleston, was ordered to cover the estate’s debts.  By 3 Jul 1849, Joseph’s widow Eliza had become administratrix.  The court records listed the following heirs of Joseph Beckwith:  Franklin Beckwith a minor, Joanna (Joellan) Beckwith a minor, Amanda Beckwith a minor, and Laura M. Beckwith a minor.  Brumfield Beckwith wasn’t listed because he wasn’t a minor at the time.  Eliza posted a $400.00 bond. 

Three of Joseph Beckwith’s children had issue: Brumfield, Joellan, and Laura.  Franklin Beckwith d. childless on 18 Mar 1873.  An affidavit filed 31 Mar 1873 listed his heirs as Bromfield Beckwith, Joella Riddle, Lorah McWherter, Amanda Cosby, and Elizabeth Beckwith (Franklin’s wife; her first name was Mary):

On 18 Nov 1878, in Dunklin Co., MO, John Franklin Riddle, husband of Joellan (Beckwith) Riddle, was granted guardianship of “Amanda Crosby (insane).”  Amanda had married W.L. Cosby, a miller.  In the 1860 Federal census the couple was residing in New Madrid Co., MO, with three children:  Mary J., James, and Sarah M. Cosby.  It’s not clear if any of the children were Amanda’s.

Brumfield Beckwith, died 10 Jan 1877, has descendants in the male line.  I salvaged 14 pages from his probate file, which was in a deteriorated condition, and may have disintegrated by now.  On 5 Feb 1877, in Dunklin Co., administration of Brumfield Beckwith’s estate was granted to Jacob R. Beckwith and Nathaniel Payne.  Brumfield’s heirs were listed as Harriet A. Thompson, Jacob R. Beckwith, and M.F. (Moses Franklin) Beckwith.

Brumfield’s sisters Joellan (Beckwith) Riddle and Laura M. (Beckwith) McWherter have descendants.

(Detail from 1822 Islands Creek District, Granville Co., NC Tax List.  The sixth entry from the top reads “Beckwith, James,” followed by “Creath, John Sr.”  In my opinion the “Beckwith, James” entry is an error, and should have been “Beckwith, Joseph.”  I have never found a James Beckwith that had a demonstrable connection to Joseph Beckwith.  Errors do occur in official documents.  Why was Joseph Beckwith in Granville Co., NC?  Granville Co. is in central NC on the VA border, across from Mecklenburg Co., VA, where John Creath Sr. had relatives.  Click on image to enlarge it.)

A deed, made in Cape Girardeau Co., MO 11 Aug 1831, recorded 14 Sep 1831, from Joseph Beckwith and Eliza his wife, witnessed by Oliver Creath and Sarah M. Creath, to Franklin Cannon, for two lots in the town of Jackson, MO, might contain a clue to the ancestry of Joseph Beckwith.  Joseph and Eliza J. (Creath) Beckwith had a son named Franklin.  “Franklin” as a given name isn’t completely unknown during this period, but “Francis” is more common.  Onomastic evidence is sometimes very helpful , but it can be misleading.  Then as now, couples could use a name they liked, whether or not it belonged to a relative.  Joellan Beckwith married John Franklin Riddle, and there’s no known “Franklin” in his pedigree—“Franklin” may have been derived from a county in VA where his mother’s family, the Hales, had once resided.  Nonetheless, it’s a striking coincidence that Joseph and Eliza sold land to Franklin Cannon, and named a son Franklin.  “Cannon” isn’t a surname that shows up in the ancestry of Eliza J. (Creath) Beckwith.  It appears that Franklin Beckwith was named for Franklin Cannon.

There’s evidence that Joseph Beckwith wasn’t a good businessman: in 1831 he was sued in the Cape Girardeau Circuit Court by William Ranney and John Ranney over a debt of $67.00.  His wife Eliza Jane (Creath) Beckwith was involved in extensive litigation surrounding her husband’s estate that eventually wound up at the Missouri Supreme Court in 1853.

Eliza Jane Creath, b. ca. 1801, was the daughter of Samuel Creath (ca. 1773–1813) and wife Nancy Ragland, m. 14 Feb 1795 (Samuel Creath’s brother John Creath m. on 1 Jan 1794 Mary Irby).  Samuel Creath’s will dated 31 Aug 1812 in Warren Co., NC, probated Feb. Court 1813, leaves entire estate to wife Nancy for her lifetime, with reversion to his children. Nancy (Ragland) Creath was the daughter of William Ragland (DAR no. A0933397), whose will made 23 Oct 1823, probated Feb Court 1825 in Granville Co., NC, mentions his daughter Nancy Creath.  William Ragland’s ancestry is traced back several generations in the colonies, but connection to any family in England and Wales is unproved.

Joseph and Eliza Jane (Creath) Beckwith and Eliza’s relatives moved from Granville Co., NC to Cape Girardeau Co., MO.  John Creath on 24 Jan 1837 received 43.46 acres (Certificate No. 3302) and on 25 Jun 1841 received 40 acres (Certificate No. 6076). Nathaniel and William Creath on 6 Nov 1823 received 122.74 acres (Certificate No. 338). Harriet Creath on 17 Feb 1847 received 40 acres (Certificate No. 8091).  [Harriet (Webb) Creath was the wife of John Creath.]

John Creath also had a son named Franklin b. ca. 1838.  Franklin Beckwith was b. ca. 1829, so he wasn’t named for Franklin Creath.

The probate papers of Nathaniel Creath, who owned a saddlery shop in Jackson, MO, dated 23 Mar 1823, list his heirs as William Creath and Albert G. Creath (m. Elizabeth Juden) of Cape Girardeau Co., MO and Nancy and Jane Creath of Granville Co., NC. “Jane Creath” is Eliza Jane (Creath) Beckwith.  At the time Nathaniel Creath’s estate was probated, William Creath, his administrator, didn’t know that Eliza Jane Creath had m. Joseph Beckwith 2 months earlier in Granville Co., NC.  Nancy Creath is Nathaniel Creath’s mother, Nancy (Ragland) Creath, who was living when his estate was probated. As noted above, Nathaniel Creath and William Creath filed a land grant on 6 Nov 1823, but at that point Nathaniel Creath had been deceased for more than 7 months.

William Creath and Minor W. Whitney in Nov 1820 founded newspaper “Independent Patriot” at Jackson, MO.  William Creath was sheriff of Cape Girardeau Co., MO from 1822–1828.  Later he’s found in Wayne Co., MO where on 30 Dec 1835 he received 40 acres (Certificate No. 1601), on 17 Jan 1837 received 16.5 acres (Certificate No. 1822), and on 1 Aug 1842 24.4 acres (Certificate No. 2782).  William Creath, d. 1839, m. Martha Atkins, d. 1871.  They were the parents of 10 children.  In 1828 William Creath settled in Greenville, Wayne Co., and was a merchant.

An appeal to the Supreme Court of MO filed in 1853 in Wayne Co., MO, regarding the settlement of William Creath’s estate, lists the surviving heirs as: Albert Creath, George Creath, Joseph White, Samuel Creath, Martha Past, Sophia White, and John Past.

A Dunklin Co., MO resident with a connection to the Creath family of Granville Co., NC was Erby (Irby) Beckwith Creath (11 Sep 1855–18 Feb 1937), son of Oliver Creath.  On 26 Oct 1876 he married Susan Emily Elder, and is buried at Elder Cemetery at Campbell.  I believe this individual to be a descendant of Samuel Creath’s brother John Creath, and thus a relative of Eliza J. (Creath) Beckwith.

Deloris Williams, a family historian working with records of Granville and Warren Cos., NC cleared up a family mystery:  a close friend of the Samuel Creath family was Bromfield Ridley (ca. 1742–1796), who was also called “Broomfield.” Bromfield Ridley was the son of James and Mary (Bromfield) Ridley.  Brumfield (or “Broomfiled”)  Beckwith was evidently named after Bromfield Ridley.

I compiled these notes on the Creath family:

(The above notes refer to Samuel Creath and Peter Oliver as being “insane.”  At the time, the elderly who suffered from senile dementia were termed “insane.”  I’ve seen this before.  Having the elderly adjudged “insane” allowed the family to take control of their affairs.)

The following item corroborates the above notes:


John Franklin Riddle was the son of George Riddle (or Ruddle), born ca. 1790 in VA, died ca. 1859 at Crowley’s Ridge in Stoddard Co., MO, and his wife Sarah Hale (liv. 1860).  George Riddle married Sarah Hale on 8 Nov 1818 in Floyd Co., KY.  The origin of George Riddle is unknown, but he named one of his sons Bird Riddle.

I urge readers to exercise care when researching the Riddle or Ruddle family—you’ll encounter contradictory statements.  The first assumption made in the literature is that John Ruddell Sr. and wife Mary Cook are the progenitors of the Ruddle family of VA.  There is no definite proof that any Riddle or Ruddle male married a Bird.  However, the following from John Ruddell of the Shenandoah Valley: His Children and Grandchildren by Harold Turk Smutz (June 1974) seems relevant to our Riddle family:

Smutz lists the following children for this George Ruddle:  John, Elizabeth, George, Andrew, Ingabo, William, Mary Ann, and Clare.  I have not personally verified this information.  I know of no will or estate for this individual, and this list of his children must be conjectural—but he seems a good candidate for the grandfather of George Riddle of Stoddard Co., MO.

So far we’ve extended the pedigree of Allie May (Oxley) Chipman into the mid to late 1700s, but there’s another ancestral line we should examine.  John Franklin Riddle’s mother, Sarah (Hale) Riddle, has some interesting VA ancestry.  She was the daughter of Peter and Sarah (Morris) Hale.  The following are notes I made concerning the Hale family:

Peter Hale was the son of Joseph Hale of Patrick Co., VA (will dated 8 Dec 1798), and there his pedigree ends, but Peter Hale’s wife Sarah Morris was the daughter of Ezekiel Morris, son of Daniel Morris, and Mary Thurmond (or Turman), daughter of Benjamin and Frances Turman. 

The next item is a letter I was fortunate to receive from Debbie Hudspeth of Louisville, KY.  Mrs. Hudspeth must be long departed, and though her disapproval of incompetent genealogists is obvious, I think I may now in the year 2011 share her research into the Hale family.  She was very thorough and I was unable to improve upon her work.


The Oxley family had deep roots in the colonial NC.  A catastrophic courthouse fire in 1878 was thought to have destroyed all records in Lenoir Co., NC (formed 1791, county seat Kinston), from whence came her grandfather, James Monroe Oxley and his wife Annaretta Faulkner, daughter of William Faulkner.  In this instance, the citing of many notes will answer few questions.

The following from a history of Dunklin Co., MO, supplies all that is definitely known of Allie May Oxley’s family, except that Annaretta Faulkner was the daughter of William Faulkner. William J. Oxley was Allie’s uncle.


Certainly among the among the names below are the parents and relatives of James Monroe Oxley and William Faulkner.

The progenitor of the Oxley family in NC was John Oxley Sr., who was in Bertie Co., NC as early as 1738, and left a will dated 24 Feb 1767, naming the the following:

Sons, George and John Oxley; Son-in-law Isaiah Johnson and Mary his wife; Daughter, Olive Oxley; Son-in-law John Parrot and Elizabeth his wife; Son-in-law John Ray and Rachal his wife; Daughter, Martha Oxley; Son-in-law William Fleetwood; Son-in-law James Baker; Granddaughter, Susanna Fleetwood; Wife, Ollive Oxley; Friend, Joseph Parker.  Executors: George Oxley, Isaiah Johnson and John Crickett.  Proved March Court 1767.

As his will proves, John Oxley Sr. had only two sons:  George Oxley and John Oxley Jr.  The general structure of the Oxley family is that the Oxleys of Lenoir Co., NC were descended from George Oxley, who had moved to Dobbs Co., NC (which later became Lenoir Co.), while those of Bertie Co., NC were descended from John Oxley Jr.

George Oxley’s will is lost, but that of his brother, John Oxley Jr., made 8 Jan 1805, was recorded in Bertie Co., and names the following:

Wife, Elizabeth Oxley; Son, John Oxley; Son, Hardy Oxley; Daughter, Martha Henry; Daughter, Elizabeth Oxley; Daughter, Salley Reddy; Son-in-law George Ward and daughter Nansey Ward; Daughter, Charlotty Oxley; Son, Quilley Oxley; a tract of land purchased from his brother, George Oxley.  Executors:  William Copeland, Hardy Oxley, Geo. Ward.  Proved August Term 1805.

Elizabeth Oxley, daughter of John Oxley Jr., never married, and in her will dated 6 Mar 1839, proved November Term 1840 in Bertie Co., she left her estate (except for a cow bequeathed to her niece, Nancy Ward) to the daughters of her brother, Aquilla Oxley:  Elizabeth, Manday (Mandy), Anjackline, and Dicy.  The 1820 and 1830 census data indicates Aquilla Oxley had sons, but they received nothing from their aunt.

The will of Hardy Oxley, undated, was proved February Term 1836 in Bertie Co.  It names his wife Sary and mentions his children, but doesn’t give their names.  He nominated his “frend” Aquillah Oxley (actually his brother) as Executor.

However, in a rather strange turn of events, Hardy Oxley’s wife Sarah on 2 Jan 1830 made her own will, “in addition to my Husbands will,” proved February Term 1830, naming:  Son, William Oxley; Daughter, Sally Ann Oxley; and children Nancy Oxley, Elizabeth Oxley, John D. Oxley, and Jonathan H. Oxley.  Executors:  Jas. Mardre and Thos. J. Castellaw.

Thus, Hardy Oxley’s will was actually written before that of his wife, but he survived her—and he didn’t write a new will.  I have no will for John Oxley, brother of Hardy Oxley and Aquilla Oxley, who disappears from the scene after 1810.  Aquilla Oxley wasn’t old enough to have a son born ca. 1803.

In any event, these wills don’t show a son named James.  While technically James Monroe Oxley could have been a son of John Oxley Jr.’s son John, John isn’t present after 1810, so he’s not a very good candidate.  Since the Faulkners resided in Lenoir Co., it’s far more likely James Monroe Oxley was a grandson of John Oxley Jr.’s brother George Oxley of Lenoir Co., and that tracks with everything else we know about them.  

Obviously, George Oxley of Lenoir Co. did have descendants. This is a plausible reconstruction of the family of George Oxley Sr., died ca. 1798: Mary Oxley in the 1800 Lenoir Co. census was his widow (a 1774 deed recorded in Bertie Co. identifies her as his wife); and he had sons John, Jonas, and George.  Penelope Oxley must have been the widow of Jonas Oxley, as Jonas is absent in the 1820 Lenoir Co. census, while George Oxley and John Oxley are still living.

The James Oxley who appears in the 1820 Lenoir Co. census is probably the same individual who appears in Pitt Co., NC in 1830, which shows him with children.  He was still residing in Pitt Co. in 1850, so he was not James Monroe Oxley, who was in Haywood Co., TN by 1838.  This James Oxley probably was the son of Jonas Oxley, out on his own after the death of his father.

John Oxley was born ca. 1770-1780, and George Oxley was born ca. 1780-1790.  Because Jonas Oxley died before the 1830 census, placing him in the correct birth order is difficult.  In 1800, Jonas Oxley was in Craven Co., NC, unmarried, and born ca. 1755-1774.  Combining the data from the 1800 and 1810 censuses, he was born ca. 1765-1774, and may have been the oldest of George Oxley’s sons.  His wife Penelope was born ca. 1780-1790.  At least we can say that Jonas Oxley and John Oxley were older than George Oxley.

James Monroe Oxley is found in the 1840 Haywood Co., TN census, p. 416, as follows:  2 males under 5, 1 male 30-40, 1 female 10-15, 2 females 20-30.  At this point, we don’t have enough data to concretely identify the father of James Monroe Oxley, but we do know that his father was likely a son of John Oxley Sr.’s son George Oxley.  Given the chronology, my best guess is that his father was John Oxley rather than George Oxley, so as a hypothesis, our line looks like this:

Allie May Oxley 6, Aquilla Voin Oxley 5, James Monroe Oxley 4, John Oxley 3, George Oxley 2, John Oxley 1.

As no Oxley has been registered with DAR as having served the Patriot cause in any capacity, and given the loss of records in Lenoir Co., NC, proving Generations 3, 2, and 1 in this pedigree may be all but impossible.

Annaretta (Faulkner) Oxley, daughter of William Faulkner ( ca. 1787-1870), and wife of James Monroe Oxley (b. ca. 1803), was born ca. 1813 in NC.  By 1838, James Monroe and Annaretta (Faulkner) Oxley were living in Haywood Co., TN.  They resided in Haywood Co. until 11 Jan 1860, when they sold their land and moved to Dunklin Co., MO.

William Faulkner (ca. 1787-1870) left a will dated 10 Oct 1870, recorded in Haywood Co., TN Will Book E, pp. 332–333.  It’s an interesting document.  In it he mentions the following:

To wife Harriet M. Faulkner (not the mother of his children), the household furnishings she possessed when she married him, plus $150.00 per year for life paid to her by his sons William and Murphy M. Faulkner in lieu of her dower interest in his lands; to daughter Annaretta Oxley $500.00; to daughter Teresa Sandlin $500.00; to daughter Talitha Jones $500.00; to daughter Jane Ward $500.00; to the children of his deceased son Jessee Faulkner $500.00 to be divided among them, but the youngest child Jessee Catharine to have $300.00 of it; to son Lafayette Faulkner return of a note for $100.00 which William Faulkner paid on his behalf to H.A. Partee, and that is all Lafayette is to have; the residue of his estate to sons William Faulkner Jr. and Murphy Moore Faulkner, who are enjoined to pay his wife the $150.00 per year as promised. 

The name of the mother of William Faulkner’s children is unknown.

Allie May (Oxley) Chipman is a respected figure in our family, and researching her ancestry has been a fascinating look at some genuine American pioneer families.  Some lines are proved and others conjectural.  This is the first time a comprehensive survey of her ancestry has been attempted.  These are yeoman families, the backbone of the pioneer class that carved out roads and built towns.  I see no royal or noble descents here.


•September 3, 2014 • Comments Off

For genealogists, nothing is better than vital records:  records of birth, marriage, and death.  But any genealogist who’s sifted through vital records knows they aren’t always spot-on correct.

Let’s examine this birth certificate, which happens to be mine.  It was signed on 12 April 1956.  My parents obtained this copy for the the school district in Burlington, Iowa so I could attend kindergarten.  It’s a typewritten copy of the original.  Photocopy machines didn’t exist in 1956. The Des Moines County, Iowa clerk embossed the birth certificate with his seal to indicate it’s a genuine copy.

But there are two problems.  My father’s middle name is shown as “Vermen.” His real middle name is “Vernon.”  And my mother’s first name is shown as “Valeria,” when it’s actually “Valerie.”  Probably the clerk’s error, right?

Not exactly.  In 2004 I found my passport had expired, and to obtain a new one, I had to provide my birth certificate.  The above certificate would have sufficed, but I’d misplaced it, so I ordered another one from the State of Iowa.  That birth certificate was a photocopy of the handwritten original dated 2 August 1951,  and the original also gives my father’s middle name as “Vermen.”  In the case of my mother’s first name, it’s difficult to tell if the original says “Valeria” or “Valerie” because the letters “a” and “e” look similar.

So the clerk who typed up the 1956 copy made an accurate transcription of incorrect information regarding my father, and interpreted my mother’s first name as “Valeria.” The only additional information of interest to me on the original is that my father’s occupation is listed as “Telegraph Operator.”

It’s not quite the end of the story.  Several years ago I found a government agency had me in their database as born in “Burlington, Illinois.”  As you can see, I was born in “Burlington, Iowa.”  I had to produce a birth certificate so the agency could correct their records.

Vital records are important resources for genealogists.  Mine states that the original is recorded in Des Moines County, Iowa,  Book 16, Page C-24.  If I drove to the county courthouse in Burlington, Iowa, I could view the original.


•August 30, 2014 • Comments Off

I’ll start this lengthy column with a quote from G. Andrews Moriarty’s Alice Freeman article for the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, writtten in 1925:

“… in spite of the fact that ‘all men are created equal’ and in spite of the good old American contempt for royalty and the ‘effete nobility of Europe,’ the American genelaogical public have an exceedingly strong desire to deduce their descent by hook or by crook from the same ‘effete’ royal and noble houses of Europe.  Furthermore, an investigation of these claims usually shows that not one in twenty of such pedigrees can stand up under the searching test of modern scientific investigation.”

The focus of this column is a consumer alert to a noxious form of genealogical literature and practice aimed squarely at middle America’s desire for illustrious ancestry.  The publisher’s support for it is based upon how much money the books earn, not upon their reliability as references.  The more lines, the wider the audience, which translates directly into more sales—and in many cases, the lines contain one or more illegitimate generations.  By making an informed decision, you can avoid lining the pockets of genealogical predators.

Slater, Stephen.  (2002).  The Complete Book Of Heraldry An international history of heraldry and its contemporary uses.  London:  Lorenz Books.

It’s appropriate to begin a study of genealogical hocus pocus with some remarks about heraldry: the artistic expression of one’s family using a combination of various elements that distinguish it from other families.  Heraldry is popular today, though as one of my relatives discovered during a search in the 18th century for the Chipman arms, we have none.

There are those who do, and among them are the illegitimate sons of kings and nobles.  I advise people who descend from royal bastards such as Robert of Caen, Earl of Gloucester (ca. 1090–1147), alleged son of King Henry I, to view them as founders of their own families, and not focus on their dubious paternity. Robert of Caen was a very important figure in the turbulent reign of King Stephen. 

How did people in Medieval Europe view bastard children of kings?  It depends upon the period. Between Charlemagne (ca. 747–814), who, though illegitimate, was not commonly referred to as “Charles the Bastard,” and William the Conqueror (ca. 1027–1087), who was often called “William the Bastard,” the church had managed to elevate marriage to a sacrament—a sacrament with profound implications in matters of inheritance.  To people who, unlike the great mass of people, had something to pass on to their heirs, it was an attractive concept.

According to Slater:

“What, then, is the position of those children born out of wedlock—the illegitimate? The matter is ambiguous at best.  [I]n previous ages he or she was considered to be without parentage, without name and unable to inherit titles and estates.  Although on these terms such children may seem not to have occupied a very enviable position, in truth, in many noble houses, more affection was given to them by their father than his legitimate issue, who, having an automatic right to succession, might be more prepared to rebel against parental control.

“No hard and fast rule existed in most nations as to what marks the illegitimate should bear [on their arms], so long as they were sufficiently distinct from the normal cadency marks of legitimate sons.

“In 1397, the children born to John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford (whom he married in that year) were declared legitimate by an act unique in English history.  Soon afterwards the children, the Beauforts, were permitted to bear the quartered arms of France and England within a bordure compony (a border divided into segments) of John of Gaunt’s own livery, white and blue.  Curiously, the bordure compony placed around the arms of the Beauforts after their legitimization came to be used as a mark to denote bastardy, the baton sinister being used more often for royal illegitimates.”

Parliament had a precedent:  in April 1226, Pope Honorius III legitimated Joan, Lady of Wales, illegitimate daughter of King John of England and Clemence.  The pope cited the fact that neither John nor Clemence were married to others at the time.  However, the decree barred Joan from the throne of England. 

[Arms of Sir Charles Somerset, d. 1526, alleged illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset.  In this example, one can see the border of blue and white (the bordure) adopted by the Beauforts, and passing through the middle shield is the white “bend sinister,” a common heraldic device denoting illegitimacy.]

To put into perspective Medieval attitudes regarding illegitimacy, it was also an issue in the Ancient World.  According to Synesius, a Roman writing ca. 400 AD:

“The mother has been clearly revealed to those thus born [outside of marriage]; it is only the other parent who is doubtful.  All the care that is due to parents from those born in wedlock should be bestowed by the fatherless on the mother alone.” 

When a medieval king or noble acknowledged an illegitimate child, we should view it more as adoption, rather than expression of certainty of the child’s paternity.  If the illegitimate child was a daughter, the reputed royal or noble father often felt obligated to seek a good marriage for her, and many men would have regarded marriage to such a woman as an honor.  Illegitimate daughters had value as political pawns.

The most striking feature of Royal Descents by Gary Boyd Roberts, discussed in depth below, is his arrangement of children of kings according to descent from the most recent king, even if that descent is through an illegitimate child.  The actual practice, as signified by heraldic customs, is the opposite: legitimate offspring of earlier kings are preferred to illegitimate children of any king. Roberts has raised medieval royal and noble bastards to a status they never enjoyed in their own time, and who are not accorded that status in Europe.  It’s an American invention to sell books.

The social stigma attached to illegitimate children was due to their dubious paternity. Modern DNA technology has virtually erased that stigma.  The terms “bastard” and “illegitimate” are declining in use as the definition of what constitutes a “family” changes. The discussion in this column isn’t about the worth of children born out of wedlock—it’s about misuse of genealogical evidence.

In the case of some later Medieval royal and noble bastards, there may be enough existing remains to establish family affiliation or even paternity. Such an endeavor, even where possible, might be highly sensitive.  Unfortunately, the English Reformation, the English Civil War, and the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed many important tombs, including those of monarchs.  The Great Fire destroyed Old St. Paul’s, and with it the tomb of John of Gaunt, which survives only in a drawing.  And DNA tests, unless it’s an actual paternity test, might not prove as much as one might think:  the kings and peers of the Medieval period were notorious philanderers.  Doubtless some “accepted” royal bastards weren’t children of the putative father, and some of those that were have been lost in the general population.

(Tomb of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, Old St. Paul’s.)


1.  Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire

2.  Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jersusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Order of Malta)

3. The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jersusalem

What do these three orders have in common?  Very little.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1997.  It’s the official order of knighthood in the United Kingdom (Great Britain).  Legally, he can use the “title” Sir, as in Sir Paul McCartney.  Knighthood isn’t a hereditary title.  When Paul McCartney exits stage left, the title goes with him.  The United Kingdom occasionally grants Honorary Knighthoods to prominent people around the world.  Colin Powell received an Honorary Knighthood, but he can’t use the title “Sir.”  That’s reserved for Knight Commanders.

No. 2, Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order, etc., is a Roman Catholic organization with headquarters in Rome.  It has no official ties to No. 3, The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John, etc., which is a largely Protestant group. Until recently, applicants to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order, etc. had to show proof of an aristocratic pedigree.  Its Grand Master has the precedence of a cardinal in the Roman Catholic church.  The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order, etc. has established three official associations in the United States:  New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The New York City association was founded in 1927.

Both the Roman Catholic and Protestant orders of Hospitallers perform good works, and the comments that follow aren’t intended to cast aspersions upon their reputations. Both claim descent from the medieval Hospitallers, who were contemporaries of the Knights Templar, but avoided the Templar’s tragic fate at the hands of King Philip IV of France (whose daughter Isabella married King Edward II of England).  There are also rogue groups of “Hospitallers” that capitalize on the name.

The present day The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John, etc. (the organization discussed below) was incorporated under a royal charter granted in 1888 by Queen Victoria.  The British sovereign still maintains a role in the organization.

Whew!  Got all that?

The Harvard Law Record’s website reports that in 2007, during a couple’s dinner sponsored by Thomas R. Moore (Harvard Law School 1957), “After being formally introduced, Moore shared a few minutes’ remarks with the guests.  Attendees learned that he was knighted Sir Thomas by Queen Elizabeth II after researching and writing Plantagenet Descent 31 Generations from William the Conqueror to Today, which details the royal lineage to which he belongs.”

Plantagenet Descent is currently offered for sale on for $49.50.  A review of the book on has this to say:  “Thomas R. Moore, the distinquished New York lawyer, author and connoisseur … was recently granted a coat of arms and created a Knight of St. John by Queen Elizabeth II and inherited his ancestral title of Lord Bridestowe.” 

There are two problems here:  (1)  members of The Most Venerable Order of the Hosptial of St. John, etc. aren’t permitted to call themselves “Sir,” if a man, or “Dame,” if a woman.  It’s an offcially recognized order of chivalry in the United Kingdom, and I don’t doubt Moore attended a ceremony where Queen Elizabeth II was present, or that Moore is a knight of the Order.  But legally, he isn’t entitled to call himself “Sir.”  (2) As far as I can determine, there is no Barony of Bridestowe.  If Bridestowe was an ancestral barony, it would be covered in The Complete Peerage, which is the authoritative reference on British peerages—and Bridestowe isn’t in it.

Moore is a philanthropist who has made generous donations to worthy causes.  I didn’t enjoy writing this.  But I’m not selling books.


Stuart, Roderick W.  (2002).  Royalty for Commoners The Complete Known Lineage of John of Gaunt, Son of Edward III, King of England, and Queen Philippa Fourth Edition. Baltimore:  Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.

There’s a sleazy side to American genealogy.  The side everyone knows is there, but tries to ignore.

How bad is it?

Let’s look at this book, which is quite unique:  Royalty for Commoners by Roderick W. Stuart, published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., of Baltimore. They’re the largest publisher of genealogical books in America.  Some of them are excellent.  And some aren’t—like this one.  The publisher’s blurb for Royalty for Commoners has this to say: 

“Typically, the American descendant has several colonial ancestors, one or more of whom can be traced to European beginnings.  Using over 2,000 published sources, as well as the spectacular resources of the Internet, Mr. Stuart here offers the researcher a multitude of possibilities, pointing the reader to numerous descents of which he may be completely unaware.”

Many readers are completely unaware of these descents, and for good reason.

Here’s how the author describes his brain child:

Royalty for Commoners, in print since 1988, has been the only work in any language comprising the complete known genealogy of John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III and Queen Philippa  of England.

“The importance of this work is that for the past fourteen years any commoner who can connect his or her family lineage to that of John of Gaunt (or, of course, his siblings) can share the same basic royal heritage as the most noble knight—the complete heritage—not just the Plantagenet ascent.  This is the only lineage through which a commoner can enter the domain of European royalty, though one might enter the lineage at any number of points.  Even Queen Elizabeth (by no means a commoner!) has this descent.”

Right away I’m in trouble—I’m not a descendant of King Edward III.  But King Edward III’s children do share some of my ancestors, so maybe I can “enter the lineage” at some point.  It’s unfortunate that the publisher allowed Stuart to attach Queen Elizabeth II to this project. So who does Stuart count among the ancestors of, as he puts it, “the most noble knight”?

There are so many fascinating people in Stuart’s book, I don’t know where to begin: should it be with Abraham (the biblical Abraham), or one-man stud farm Rameses II?

LINE 413 (pp. 217–218) encapsulates Stuart’s unique brand of scholarship:

Line begins with 93. Karanos (late 9th/early 8th centry BC) > 92. Koinos (mid 8th century BC) > 91. Tyrimmus (late 8th/early 9th century BC) > 90. to 84. Various kings of Macedonia > 83.  Amyntas of Persia > 82. Balakros > 81. Meleagros > 80. Lagos a Macedonian noble m. Antigona (dau. of Kassandros)

We now come to the meat of the line, the Ptolemaic Pharaohs of Egypt:

79. Ptolemy I Soter m. Eurodike > 78. Ptolemy II Philadelpios m. Arsinoe II his sister > 77. Ptolemy III Euergates m. Bernice II and Apama > 76. Ptolemy IV Philopater m. Arsinoe III his sister > 75. Ptolemy V Epiphanes m. Cleopatra I > 74. Ptolemy VI m. Cleopatra II his sister > 73. Cleopatra Theo m. Demetrius II Nicator king of Syria.

Wow!  After Alexander the Great died, his generals carved up his empire.  Ptolemy I Soter established a dynasty in Egypt.  A lot of people collect ancestors (“I have 2 of those and 3 of these”), but this is a rare addition to any collection.  What bowled me over are the several instances of incest.  These are Cleopatra’s ancestors:  the Cleopatra who bedded Caesar and Antony.  She charmed a snake and checked out before Octavian could parade her in a Roman triumph.

How can a smelly Plantagenet king match this splendor?

It’s no secret:  there isn’t even one proved descent from antiquity.  Antiquity being “BC.”  Not one.  The oldest lineage known to me is from Cerdic the Saxon, who booted the Celts out of part of England.  It dates to the 6th century (more or less) and is thought to be generally true (in outline if not detail). According to Christian Settipani, one of the most respected researchers of descents from antiquity:  “We are reduced to using guesses based on surviving indications.  The most convincing of these guesses are founded on onomastics [naming patterns], although it is necessary to exercise caution.”

So what is Royalty for Commoners?  It’s garbage.  In some generations the author can’t even supply a name.  The irony is that there must be many today who actually do descend from ancestors like the Ptolemies.  But we don’t know who they are and there’s no proof of it.  The lines have been lost to history. If you want a general history of ancient figures, Royalty for Commoners is useless.  

What I find most objectionable is that Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., publishes many excellent genealogical references.  You’ll find them in libraries and I’ve often used them.  When someone sees this publisher’s imprint on Royalty for Commoners, the publisher’s reputation is behind it, and readers may accept the fantasies within as truth.

It’s flagrant pandering.

We start off with Stuart’s shameless appeal to the snob in all of us, and wind up in the Twilight Zone with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Xerxes I of Persia. What happened to Conan the Barbarian?


Ellis, Peter Berresford.  (2002).  Erin’s Blood Royal The Gaelic Noble Dynasties of Ireland.  New York:  Palgrave.

Stratton, Eugene Aubrey.  (1988).  Applied Genealogy.  Salt Lake City:  Ancestry Incorporated.

Pedigree peddling is the world’s second oldest profession, and like the first, it involves screwing people.

Since ancient times, pedigree peddlers—fabricators of prestigious ancestry—have plied their trade.  The family of Julius Caesar claimed descent from the goddess Venus.  The Anglo-Saxon kings of England boasted the Norse god Woden (Odin) among their ancestors.

Genealogical fraud is quite common.  Peter Berresford Ellis recounts the tale of  Terence McCarthy, who passed himself off as the “MacCarthy Mor,” Prince of Desmond and Lord of Kerslawny.  Among his victims was Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.  “The sale of ‘lordships,’ especially to Americans, was a major money maker.”

The son of a poor Belfast, Ireland working class family, Terence McCarthy submitted fake documents to the Irish Genealogical Office, and was granted a “courtesy recognition” as head of Clan MacCarthy in 1992.  But in 1999, after a two year investigation by the Genealogical Office, McCarthy was declared a charlatan and stripped of his title.

Many people lost money.  “These were mainly the people throughout the world who confidently gave money to receive the titles and honors from the soi-disant ‘Prince of Desmond’ and his ‘Hereditary Chamberlain.’  There has been some discussion of a possible police investigation in the United States following a complaint to the authorities concerning the sale of bogus feudal titles, one of which may have involved the inclusion of real estate.”

The field of royal and noble genealogy is rife with deceptive practice.  On one Internet message board frequented by “professional” genealogists, I’ve seen lying about the existence of evidence, concealing the nature of evidence, lying about the meaning of evidence, fabricating quotes from “authorities,” and lying to cover up the fraudulent activity and lying of others.  Why?  

Some so-called professional genealogists using Internet message boards like “soc.genealogy.medieval” to troll for clients ply their trade at the expense of the inexperienced.  Some are parasites who pretend to have high standards in order to keep the commission money flowing. Usually, it’s  a sideline business.  If you do hire (to borrow Ellis’s term) a soi-disant professional genealogist through an Internet message board, you’ll probably have no recourse if you’re ripped off.  It’s not like buying something from or Ebay, which has the company behind it.  In recent years, the economy has been sluggish, and commissions for genealogical research supplement other income.  Some genealogists exaggerate their own ancestry to impress the unwary.

Unless the genealogist lives near a major research library, such as the LDS Library in Salt Lake City, there’s probably little they can do that you can’t do yourself.  If the genealogist is merely using online records collections available through companies like, subscribe to the service yourself.  As more and more records are made available for downloading in PDF format from repositories such as the UK’s National Archives, genealogical middlemen will find demand for their services diminished.

Applied Genealogy is especially useful for those with British colonial ancestry, but its discussion of genealogical deception is of value to any genealogist.  The desire for illustrious ancestry pushes some genealogists across the line.  Genealogical fraud isn’t victimless, though in many cases the aim isn’t monetary, but emotional and social.  The need to feel “special” is so pervasive, that stretching or inventing the “truth” is almost forgiveable.

In my view, a genealogist who knowingly deceives a client or reader into believing the client or reader possesses illustrious ancestry, with the intent of deriving material gain, is committing fraud.  That includes using sources the genealogist knows are not proof of the relationship, even though the sources may be contemporary with events.

If you do hire a genealogist, hire one through a certifying organization like the Board For Certification Of Genealogists.  You’ll increase the odds that the genealogist is honest and won’t milk your commission. Unless a professional genealogist or author belongs to an umbrella organization like BCG, you’ll have little recourse if you’re scammed—and scammers are out there, pandering to the desire for illustrious ancestry.



Given-Wilson, Chris; Curteis, Alice.  (1995).  The Royal Bastards Of Medieval England.  New York:  Barnes & Noble Books.

There is no acceptable genetic evidence that any medieval royal or noble bastard was actually the child of the alleged father.  Genealogists claiming descents from medieval kings or nobles through illegitimate children rely on evidence such as charters and chronicles.  These sources merely indicate reputed paternity and are not sufficient proof of the relationship.

ALL claims of paternity in cases of illegitimacy that have not been verified with scientific paternity testing should be considered unproved.  The assertion that a medieval king or noble could more accurately identify illegitimate children as their own has no scientific basis.  People in the Middle Ages lacked even rudimentary technology to determine paternity.

Behind any claim of paternity for a royal bastard is the implicit assumption that the royal mistress is so devoted to her lover that she wouldn’t sleep with other men.  That’s quite an assumption.

According to British scholars Chris Given-Wilson and Alice Curteis:

“In such circumstances it is quite impossible for a modern historian to be completely sure of any supposed royal bastard’s true paternity.”  (p. 57)

In cases of disputed paternity, modern DNA tests prove the alleged father is not the biological father in about 30% of the cases.  Legitimate generations have about a 1.5% error rate.  One might expect correct attribution of paternity to be considerably less in the superstitious Middle Ages, because there is an almost complete lack of testimony indicating why a king or noble accepted a bastard child.

More than one third of the lines in Gary Boyd Roberts’s 2008 edition of Royal Descents contain one or more illegitimate generations.  Apart from statistical unreliability, a major problem with such descents is that family “characteristics” can be found in a wider genetic pool, so basing paternity upon the physical appearance of the child is also unreliable.  Lines based upon illegitimate generations are “broken.”

To demonstrate his complete lack of understanding of the subject, Roberts rates as “superior” lines stemming from illegitimate children of more recent kings over legitimate children of earlier kings, when actual practice is the opposite:  legitimate offspring of earlier kings are preferred over bastard children of later kings.

I’ll cite two very simple cases which perfectly illustrate the attitude of medieval monarchs towards bastardy:

1.  King Henry I of England had two legitimate sons:  William (the eldest and Henry I’s heir) and Richard (some authorities say Richard was illegitimate).  On 25 Nov 1120, while attempting to cross over to England from Normandy, William and Richard’s ship sank and both drowned.  Henry I’s only other surviving legitimate child was a daughter called Matilda.  Henry I had a surviving illegitimate son named Robert of Caen, who became Earl of Gloucester.  Robert was an able soldier, but when Henry I lay dying, he ignored Robert and pressed his barons to accept Matilda as queen, even though he must have known his barons would not want to serve a woman—and they didn’t.

2.  King Edward III’s son John of Gaunt carried on a long-term affair with Katherine (de Roet) Swynford, and by her had four surviving illegitimate children, who were surnamed Beaufort.  In 1399, Henry, John of Gaunt’s legitimate son by Blanche of Lancaster, displaced the rightful King Richard II, and ruled as King Henry IV.  Although Parliament “legitimated” John of Gaunt’s Beaufort offspring, King Henry IV barred them from the royal sucession. 

Henry I and Henry IV were prepared to grant a relationship between themselves and these illegitimate children, but that didn’t mean there was a relationship, and they were intelligent enough to understand that.  After the death of William the Conqueror, not one illegitimate child ruled as a monarch in England.  King Richard III’s claim to the throne was based upon “bastardizing” his brother’s children.

Charlemagne and St. Vladimir were both illegitimate, but by the time of William the Conqueror, the church had largely succeeded in elevating marriage to a sacred bond.  Royalty and nobility embraced the concept because it ensured the orderly transmission of their estates and honors.  In the later kingdom of Castile a bastard became king, but it was an notable exception. 

Evidently Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Gary Boyd Roberts’s publisher, doesn’t care if Royal Descents is accurate or not.  In April 2010, GPC published a two-volumes-in-one paperback reprint of the 2008 edition of Royal Descents. The first editions of Douglas Richardson’s Plantagenet Ancestry and Magna Carta Ancestry, also Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. publications, are somewhat better references because his style of documentation is better and he includes biographical  information about each generation in the pedigree. Richardson’s interpretation of evidence is occasionally faulty and, like Roberts, his books are loaded with illegitimate descents.  In 2011 Richardson published paperback second editions of Plantagenet Ancestry and and Magna Carta Ancestry through CreateSpace, the self-publishing unit of  The original GPC hardbound first editions are collector’s items.  Richardson recently published Royal Ancestry, also through CreateSpace, which appears to be genuinely useful, but carries over errors from his previous publications. 

I don’t like lobbying authors to gain “approval” of a line (and it happens a lot).  All of the lines on ACME NUKLEAR BLIMP are accurate.  The approval of any author is neither sought nor necessary.


The lineage society Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain (The Royal Bastards) is currently headed by Anthony Glenn Hoskins, a former librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago.  It was formed in 1950 as a joke society to promote sound standards of genealogical evidence in reaction to what it saw as the lax standards of other lineage societies.  Applicants are charged a non-refundable application fee of $300.00.

The Royal Bastards website has this admonition:

“Please note that most lineages for admission to other hereditary associations will not qualify for admission to this Society.  This is not a matter of accuracy, but of accuracy and substantiation: only lineages supported by evidence that meets the standards of this Society can qualify an applicant for admission.”

According to the society’s application instructions:  “The list of royal bastards in the Society’s lineage book or on our web site is not proof of such relationship, although where there is no qualifying adjective printed with the reputed bastard the Society usually accepts such relationship.”

The Royal Bastards will take your $300.00 and you’ll receive nothing for it.  Every line they approve is a “broken” line.  It’s an absolute fact that no bastard line stemming from the medieval period is proven.  If there’s more than one bastard generation in the line, then the line is “broken” in more than one place. Approval by this society’s Herald-Genealogist, currently attorney Neil Daniel Thompson, is worthless.  By conservative estimate, illegitimate descents have a 3 in 10 chance of being incorrect, or about a 30% error rate.  Illegitimate descents are 20 times more likely to be incorrect than legitimate descents. 

The Harvard educated Thompson, a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, fully understands there’s no acceptable proof of paternity for medieval bastards.  That’s not genealogy—it’s an ego trip.  Thompson also accepts clients through’s professional genealogical research service.

The joke is on The Royal Bastards: they accept evidence that is rejected by other lineage societies.  If The Royal Bastards really care about “accuracy and substantiation,” they should change their name to Descendants of the Alleged Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain.  They apparently have never heard of DNA, which didn’t exist in 1950 when The Royal Bastards were formed.

For about $100.00 you can purchase a CD-Rom of  The Complete Peerage.  If, as sometimes happens, your line to the supposed royal bastard also has a legitimate connection to a medieval king, there are better places to submit it than The Royal Bastards.

And if you’re fond of black humor, consider this:  The Royal Bastards don’t accept Gary Boyd Roberts’s Royal Descents.


Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. author Gary Boyd Roberts claims royal lines which pass through Col. Thomas Ligon of Henrico Co., VA, and Jeremiah Clarke of RI.  But are they proved?  No, and both claims have something in common:  they begin with an entry in an English parish register.

Let’s look at Col. Thomas Ligon first (I’ll use the “Ligon” spelling as it’s interchangeable with “Lygon”):

It’s  a fact that a Thomas Ligon, son of  Thomas and Elizabeth (Pratt) Ligon, was baptized at Sowe, Warwickshire, England on 11 Jan 1623/4.  And a Thomas Ligon did emigrate to the colony of Virginia, where he died in 1675.  He was burgess, and held other colonial posts.

But there’s no proof that the Col. Thomas Ligon who died in Virginia in 1675 is the same Thomas baptized at Sowe in 1623/4.  It’s chronologically possible, and that’s all.

Not all burgesses had royal descents.  My ancestor Edward Dale was a burgess, and as far is presently known, he has no royal descent.  Not all branches of English gentry families had royal descents.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Much is made of the fact that a certain Richard Ligon, author of A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, died in 1662 in Barbadoes.  One of the next of kin of Richard Ligon was a Thomas Ligon, who did not make a claim upon his estate.  Roberts’ argument is that Col. Thomas Ligon “left” Barbadoes for Virginia, and therefore was unaware that Richard Ligon had died, and that’s why he didn’t make a claim upon Richard Ligon’s estate.  Since Richard Ligon of Barbadoes seems to be of the royally descended Ligon family, Col. Thomas Ligon of Virginia must be of that family, too.

There are other circumstantial details involving Col. Thomas Ligon, but the baptismal record and the Richard Ligon estate matter are the only actual “proof” offered for this line:  There was a Thomas Ligon baptized at Sowe, and a Thomas Ligon who was a “next of kin” of Richard Ligon of Barbadoes.

The problem here is that the argument is flawed.  There was regular shipping traffic between Virginia and Barbadoes within the time frame of Richard Ligon’s death in 1662.  In fact, Barbadoes was a trans-shipping point for slaves into Virginia.  And because so much land in Barbadoes was devoted to sugar cultivation, the colony imported most of its necessities, and some of the imports came from Virginia.  Some Virginia families had relatives in Barbadoes, and there was contact between them.

If Col. Thomas Ligon was a relative of Richard Ligon, he would have learned of the death and granted someone power of attorney to collect his legacy.  So the fact that Col. Thomas Ligon didn’t get his legacy from the Richard Ligon estate casts serious doubt in placing him as a son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Pratt) Ligon.  The notion that Col. Thomas Ligon would have lived for 13 more years in Virginia oblivious to the death of this supposed “uncle” is absurd.

We have a baptismal record and a record of a legacy, but no proof that Col. Thomas Ligon of Henrico Co., Virginia is that Thomas.  I think Col. Thomas Ligon is just a chronological contemporary of the family of Thomas and Elizabeth (Pratt) Ligon.  That Col. Thomas Ligon didn’t make a claim upon the estate of Richard Ligon of Barbados proves that Col. Thomas Ligon wasn’t the next of kin of Richard Ligon.  I’ve seen this before:  there’s a piece of evidence that’s given a “spin” to make it seem as though it doesn’t mean what it obviously does mean. There’s no evidence known to me that indicates the parentage of Col. Thomas Ligon.

Now let’s take a look at Jeremiah Clarke of RI, who was sometime acting governor of that colony.

“Jerum Clerk” was baptized at East Farleigh, Kent, England on 1 Dec 1605.  “Jerum Clerk” was the son of William and Mary (Weston) Clerke.  If Jeremiah Clarke of RI was their “Jerum” (Jerome), he would have been a first cousin of the 2nd Earl of Portland.  Jeremiah Clarke married Frances (Latham) Dungan.

So what’s the proof that “Jerum Clerk” and Jeremiah Clarke are the same person?

Jeremiah Clarke had a son named “Weston.”  And that’s about it.  There are a few circumstantial hints, but nothing concrete.  The argument is because Jeremiah Clarke had a son named “Weston,” Jeremiah Clarke had to be a son of William and Mary (Weston) Clerke.  It’s been noted that “Jerome” could also be called “Jeremy” or “Jeremiah.”  But that isn’t proof that Jeremiah Clarke is “Jerum Clerk.”  There’s no hard evidence linking “Jerum Clerk” to  Jeremiah Clarke of RI.  You have to be careful with names found in English documents.  The same name can have different spellings within the same document.

Onomastic evidence, as I’ve found in one of my own families, doesn’t necessarily mean what it appears to mean.   In this instance, in the century before the probable birth of Jeremiah Clarke of RI (1500–1600), hundreds of wills of those named Clarke/Clerke, etc., and 30 wills of those named “Weston” were probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) alone, which covered the south of England.  Not everyone made a will, and there may have been individuals of those names whose wills were probated in other courts.

There were several prominent branches of the Weston family.  Eleanor of Castile, first queen of King Edward I, died at the home of Sir Richard Weston.  William Weston, died 1540, was the last resident grand prior of the Hospitallers in England. Other Westons weren’t so distinguished:  Richard Weston, an employee of brothel owner Mrs. Anne Turner, was hanged at Tyburn in 1615 for his role in Lady Frances Howard’s murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.  “Weston” isn’t an uncommon surname—I see it frequently in the course of research.

There are too many Clerke/Clarkes and Westons to assume that because Jeremiah Clarke named a son “Weston,” he had to be the son of William and Mary (Weston) Clerke .  Service in colonial government doesn’t mean the individual had a royal line.  Anytime you’re working with an ancestor in this period who shows up in RI, you should check records in MA, because MA ejected religious dissenters into RI. 

Gentry families could and sometimes did intermarry more than once.  That Jeremiah Clarke had a son named “Weston” of itself doesn’t indicate a specific relationship.  There could have been Weston ancestry anywhere in his background.  Onomastic evidence should never be used as sole proof of a generation, and  is not enough to “cross the pond’ and link together these families.  It’s always possible that Jeremiah Clarke just liked the name “Weston.”

Of Roberts’s two claimed royal descents, Clarke has the better chance of being right, and Ligon is almost certainly wrong.  Neither are proved.  Both began with a baptismal record ascribed to an immigrant.  It may come as quite a surprise to writers like Roberts that two people may share the same surname yet be completely unrelated, or that an American colonist might be of an obscure branch of the family which has no royal or noble descent.

In  Applied Genealogy, Eugene A. Stratton discusses the style of documentation Roberts uses:

“Beware of today’s writer who does not document, and be wary of the writer who generalizes documentation.  One [form] is to write a long chapter full of genealogical assertions and follow it with an impressive bibliography, hinting, but not demonstrating that every assertion in the chapter is fully backed up by one or more of the impressive grouped references.  Another is to toss around phrases of vague meaning such as ‘several wills and deeds in Soandso County prove that John was the son of Joe.’  We want the wills and deeds identified, and we want pertinent parts given verbatim so that we may judge for ourselves if they really prove the relationship.  Some writers (not all) generalize deliberately to obscure the fact that their works are not as well documented as they are trying to make them appear.”

My estimate is that more than 50% of Gary Boyd Roberts’s Royal Descents consists of lines that aren’t adequately proved, either because there’s no genetic evidence (as in the case of illegitimate generations, including Beaufort lines), or because the evidence to support the line is insufficient—but the reader doesn’t know that, because Roberts generalizes his documentation.

The most important thing to understand about Royal Descents is what it isn’t: Queen Victoria (1819–1901) had a large family, of whom there are many descendants.  Only one of her descendants appears in Royal Descents—and it’s the first line, though such a descent is implied in a very few other lines. And yet there must be a number of her descendants living in the United States.  So Royal Descents isn’t a “Social Register,” though looking at the names of some socialites, you’d think it was. Royal Descents is aimed at middle class yearning for illustrious ancestry.  Lines belonging to celebrities like Brooke Shields and Catherine Oxenberg are merely bait.  

Here’s the Brooke Shields line in Royal Descents (note:  these comments aren’t intended to represent the opinions of the Shields family):

In Generation 1, we already have an error:  Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia didn’t die in 1730:  he abdicated in 1730, and died in 1732.  But who are the people in Generations 2 through 8?  If the line had been presented as it should have been, the reader might understand this family.  Generation 2 should be flipped to read:

“2.  Victor Amadeus of Savoy, Prince of Carignan = Victoria Francesca of Savoy (alleged illegitimate daughter of Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia)”

Traced backwards from Victor Amadeus of Savoy, we find that his great-grandparents were Charles Emanuel I, Duke of Savoy, and Catherine of Spain, daughter of King Philip II of Spain.  Philip II was at one time the husband of Mary Tudor, Queen of England; he launched the famous Spanish Armada against Mary’s Protestant sister, Elizabeth I.  Marina Torlonia’s family was actually an off-shoot of the powerful ducal House of Savoy.  The princes of Carignan were based in the Italian Piedmont, and were important enough that kings of France had to deal with them.  Victor Amadeus of Savoy was also a descendant of the Valois kings of France and the Medici family.  In some areas of Europe as in this instance, the term “prince” isn’t used to denote the son of a monarch, but is a title below that of “duke.” 

That’s the real story of this family.

Why did Roberts trace this line from an illegitimate daughter of a minor king?  It’s saying: “If Brooke Shields has an illegitimate generation in her pedigree, it must be OK.”  That’s not scholarship—it’s marketing.

Royalty for Commoners can be appreciated on one level as humor, but Royal Descents is nothing but cynical exploitation.  The Tacy Grey and Edmund Lewknor lines discussed in connection with Nathaniel Lane Taylor appear in Royal Descents with no caveats as to their validity.  Royal Descents is the landfill of American Genealogy.

Anthony Glenn Hoskins, president of The Royal Bastards, once remarked that if your line is in Royal Descents, you might have a legitimate royal line.  What neither Hoskins nor Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., is willing to acknowledge is:  If Royal Descents was properly documented, its sales would be fewer, because the number of lines in the book would be fewer, which means fewer “descendants” to buy books.

Roberts and GPC are leading people on.  GPC’s excuse is that they assume their authors know what they’re doing.  Roberts’s excuse is that he receives most of his material from others, and he assumes they know what they’re doing.  So nobody connected with the actual publication of Royal Descents knows or cares if it’s accurate.  According to the publisher and author, it’s not their job:  If something in the book is wrong, send Roberts the correction.


If you look at the acknowledgements in Royal Descents, you’ll find many of Roberts’s cronies are denizens of the Internet message board “soc.genealogy.medieval”:  like Todd A. Farmerie and Nathaniel Lane Taylor, who occasionally team up to author articles.

Taylor considers himself to be a self-appointed “Gatekeeper.”  He’s a part time genealogist-for-hire, like many posters to “soc.genealogy.medieval.”  When I challenged Roberts’s Jeremiah Clarke line, Taylor claimed Jeremiah Clarke just had to be the son of William and Mary (Weston) Clerke due to the scarcity of the Weston surname.  When I pointed out to him that 30 Weston wills had been probated in the PCC alone from 1500 to 1600, Taylor promptly disappeared.

Nathaniel Lane Taylor, now a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, operates a website at:

He claims 11 royal lines for his children, but offers the caveat that:  “I do not regard each of these as equally supported, let alone ‘proven.’  I would not necessarily endorse each line, for example, in the context of a lineage-society application.”

I agree with Taylor’s assessment.  Of the 11 lines, 9. Thomas Trowbridge has deep medieval ancestry, and 10. Rose (Stoughton) Otis might lead somewhere.   

Let’s take a look at his lines (comments in parentheses mine):

1. Alexander Magruder to Robert II, King of Scotland (broken—Gen. 3 is illegitimate); 2.  Anne (Derehaugh) Stratton to King John of England (broken—Gen. 3 is illegitimate); 3.  William Wentworth to Henri I, King of France (broken—Gen. 2 is illegitimate); 4.  Marie (Lawrence) Burnham & Jane (Lawrence) Giddings to Louis IV, King of France (broken; the line runs through Adelaide of Normandy, illegitimate daughter of Robert I, Duke of Normandy; Adelaide married three times, and it’s uncertain if her daughter Judith was issue of her second marriage to Lambert, Count of Lens, the descendant of Louis IV); 5.  Thomas Wingfield to Edward III, King of England (broken—no proof Gen. 14 is son of Gen. 13); 6.  Gov. Thomas Dudley to King John of England (broken—Gen. 2 is illegitimate);  7.  Edward Raynsford to Henry III, King of England (broken—disputed in a “TAG” article); 8.  Jane (Haviland) Torrey to Edward III, King of England (disputed; link from Gen. 8 to Gen. 9 relies on an ambiguous entry in a Herald’s Visitation; see below a); 9.  Thomas Trowbridge to Hugh Capet, King of France (uncertain; not investigated by Taylor); 10.  Rose (Stoughton) Otis to Henri I, King of France (listed as “reported,” so evidently not investigated by Taylor; originally this line was claimed to be a descent from Henry III, King of England, see below b);  11.  Arthur Mackworth to William the Lion, King of Scotland (broken—descent from illegitimate daughter of William the Lion).

(a) This line fascinates me because of the misinterpretation of evidence.  Here’s the image from the Herald’s Visitation of Gloucester 1623, which is the primary evidence for this line:

It’s claimed that Tary or Tacy (the crucial link in the line) who married ca. 1510 (according to Douglas Richardson) John Gyse was the daughter of Edmund Grey, 9th Lord Grey of Wilton.  But that’s not how the Visitation reads.  As footnote 2 indicates, at some point “corrections” were inserted into the brackets according to a record in the Herald’s office, but there’s no indication as to the nature of the record, and her father remained unnamed.  The original Visitation said only:  “Tary d. to the lord Gray of Ruthen.”  Roger Grey, 1st Lord Grey of Ruthin (d. ca. 1352/3), was the son of John Grey, Lord Grey of Wilton (d. 1323).  Roger Grey’s brother Henry (d. 1342) was heir to the barony of Grey of Wilton. Therefore, the original Visitation is actually showing Tary or Tacy as the daughter of an unnamed Lord Gray of Ruthen, who should be a descendant of Roger Grey, Lord Grey of Ruthin, not of Henry Grey, Lord Grey of Wilton.  In 1465, Edmund Grey, 4th Lord Grey of Ruthin (d. 1490), was created Earl of Kent, and the line continued with a union of the titles.  It’s extremely unlikely that a legitimate daughter of an Earl of Kent, whether by Edmund, or a son, would not have her father noted in this Visitation.  Reynold Grey, 7th Lord Grey of Wilton (d. ca. 1493/4) had married Thomasine or Tacine, the illegitimate daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.  The name “Tacy” may be derived from “Thomasine” or “Tacine,” but it doesn’t prove that Tacy was a descendant of the Greys of Wilton. Reynold Grey’s son John, 8th Lord Grey of Wilton (d. 1499), married Anne, daughter of Edmund Grey, aforementioned Earl of Kent, of the Ruthin branch of the family.  John Grey named his son Edmund, 9th Lord Grey of Wilton (d. 1511), after his father-in-law.  There appears to be no hard evidence of Tacy’s paternity.  It’s probable Tacy was illegitimate.  Without further evidence, given this confusing mix of bloodlines, one can only speculate as to the identity of her father. The reader can understand why working with this sort of material is fraught with peril. Reviewing recent (2008) opinions, it’s clear there’s been no credible advance in identifying her parentage.  Why Taylor chose to exhibit this line on his website is a mystery.  

(b) This is another interesting saga:  I don’t know if the line from Henri I, King of France is valid, but Royal Descents p. 376 shows a line purporting to be a descent of Rose (Stoughton) Otis from Henry III, King of England.  For Gen. 7, Reynold West, 6th Baron de la Warre, Roberts lists three wives:  Margaret Thorley, Eleanor Percy (with  a ?), and Elizabeth Greyndour.  Complete Peerage only acknowledges Margaret Thorley and Elizabeth Greyndour.  Gen. 8 is as follows:  “(probably by 1st or 2nd wife) Mary (or Anne) West = Roger Lewknor, son of Sir Roger Lewknor and Eleanor Camoys.”  Why did Taylor replace the Plantagenet line with an early Capetian?

If you look at the lower right hand corner of this chart, taken from The Visitation of Sussex, you’ll understand why:  Roger, son of Ellianor Camoys and Sir Roger Lewknor, died “s.p.” (abbreviation for the Latin phrase “sine prole”), which means “without children.”  That part of the line is broken.  Richardson, who is generally more reliable than Roberts, makes Anne West, daughter of Reynold West, 6th Baron de la Warre, the wife of Sir Maurice Berkeley, and Mary West the wife of Sir Roger Lewknor.  For “Lewknor” he cites the above Visitation, apparently never having seen it.  The pedigree of the Lords de la Warre in The Visitation of Hampshire cited by Richardson only lists Reynold West’s heir, Richard West, 7th Baron de la Warre.  No daughters are mentioned.  Complete Peerage in its Berkeley section states that Elizabeth West married William Berkeley, Marquess of Berkeley, etc., but they divorced without issue.  According to Complete Peerage, Reynold West had no children by Elizabeth Greyndour.  Even if Mary West was a daughter of Reynold West and married the above Roger Lewknor, the couple had no children.  If, as Roberts suggests is possible, she wasn’t a daughter of Margaret Thorley, then she was illegitimate, but the point appears moot. 

Of these eleven lines, 9 and 10 from early medieval kings might be right, and five are broken due to illegitimate generations.  The remaining four are insufficiently proved for various reasons.  I give Taylor credit for being honest enough to admit the lines are unproved, but if lines 9 and 10 are valid, he should give evidence to show it. The problem here is that for the most part, he doesn’t indicate the weak parts of the pedigrees.

Todd A. Farmarie, a biologist, and “co-owner” of the message board “soc.genealogy.medieval,” claims one royal line stemming from Robert Abell of Weymouth and Rehoboth, MA.  Robert Abell was a legitimate descendant of King Edward I of England.  It’s known that he had 7 children, but only a daughter Mary Abell and perhaps a son Preserved Abell are proved to be his.  The case for the other 5, including Farmarie’s ancestor Experience Abell, is purely circumstantial, involving the presence of Abell’s widow Joanna at Norwich, CT, and the marriages of her presumed children there.  The vital records of Norwich record that Experience Abell married John Bauldwen in 1680, but there’s no indication of her parentage.  Farmarie’s website has this to say regarding Experience Abell:   

“In identifying the father of William Wibber, we are a little farther than we were in 1879, but more work is required. His first wife Lois Baldwin, however, can be traced on her father’s side to Experience Abell, wife of John2 Baldwin. She was daughter of colonist Robert Abell, descendant by at least ten different lines from King Edward I of England, and hence from monarchs and nobles from every corner of Europe, including such as William the Conquerer, Charlemagne, and Alfred the Great.”

That’s deceptive:  in fact, there’s no record proving the parentage of Experience Abell. She could have been related to Robert Abell in another way than as his daughter, or completely unrelated.  Early New England Puritans were fond of unusual given names like Preserved, Desire, and Experience, and some, such as Hope, have survived as modern names.  The use of those names among those of the same surname doesn’t necessarily indicate a family relationship.  Farmarie, who often chastises others on “soc.genealogy.medieval” for sloppy standards, is concealing the weakness in his own line.

Another, particularly obnoxious contributor to “soc.genealogy.medieval” is Brad Verity, operator of the blog “Royal Descent” which is devoted to the descendants of King Edward I of England.  As Verity cheerfully admits, he has no medieval ancestry of his own, and therefore isn’t a descendant of the object of his study—but he is a fan.  He regularly castigates those unfortunate enough to cross his path. You’d better have a photo showing a medieval queen ejecting a bun from the burner—or else.

If you see a pattern here, you’re right:  these people are disingenuous about their own ancestry, or have no personal connection to the people they write about—and they screw up the ancestry of others.  How did so-called scholars, with no proven medieval ancestry of their own manage to proclaim themselves experts in the genre?  There’s a politics of genealogy, and guys like Taylor, Farmarie, and Verity are in it—but along with Gary Boyd Roberts, Nat Taylor has yet to prove a royal line of his own, Farmarie’s royal line is unproved, and Verity is just along for the ride.  Royal Descents is a franchise and medieval pedigrees have become a commodity.


If it seems I’m too hard on these people, remember they all in one way or another make money from their services. Some of these genealogists are better than others, but they choose to ply their trade in the same context with others who are outright frauds with no standards of personal integrity.  When respectable publishing houses like Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. issue books of dubious scholarship it creates generations of victims.

Peyton Milton Wilcox obituary from “Osage Valley Banner” 19 Aug 1880 / Tombstone of Manervia (Minerva) J. (Duncan) Wilcox

•August 28, 2014 • Comments Off

    This strange and affecting obituary was written for my 3rd great-grandfather, Peyton Milton Wilcox of Miller Co., MO.  He’s buried in Camp Vaughan Cemetary near Tuscumbia.  There’s a tree growing from his grave.


Mr. Payton M. Wilcox, died at his home in Miller Co., on the 12th day of August, 1880, at 12:05 o’clock, after suffering with malaria billious fever since January 1st.  Mr. Wilcox was a native of Virginia having been born in Scott county in that state on the 30th April, 1826.  Was married to Miss Minerva Duncan on the 5th April, 1849, in Scott Co., Va.  Shortly after he emigrated to Missouri, selecting as his home Miller Co.; he turned his attention to farming; from that time till his death he has continued the pursuit of farming with success.  As a man he was always under all circumstances, urbane, kind, courteous and genial.  Ever thoughtful of the happiness and well-being of others; he was of necessity a marked favorite in the community in which he lived.  Possessing those noble qualities in a high degree, he endeared himself to all with whom he was intimately associated.  But there are none who know so well the full measure of his noble generosity, of his kind and sympathizing heart as do the grief stricken wife and children who were the recipients of all that is good and noble in a husband and father.

Never gathered the reaper fruit more fair,

Never the shadows of dark despair,

Fall on a deeper woe.

Gone from his task half complete,

Gone from caresses kind and sweet,

Into Death’s arms of snow.

I have no language to describe my feelings as I viewed his form encased in the casket of the dead.  Handsome in death as he was pure in life.   I thought of the divine promise of the Savior of mankind:  “In my Fathers house are many mansions.  If it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.”

The funeral of Payton M. and Manuel Wilcox will be preached at the Elm spring church house on the second Sunday in October, by the Rev. David McComb.”

{“Osage Valley Banner” of Tuscumbia, MO, Thursday 19 Aug 1880, p. 3, col. 3.  Rev. David McComb was a Baptist minister.}

[Tombstone of Manervia (Minerva) J. (Duncan) Wilcox, wife of Peyton Milton Wilcox, at Camp Vaughan Cemetery in Miller Co., MO.]

O Canada! Paul Huffman & Rebecca Crawford of Halton Co., Ontario / Loyalists Face a Disunited Empire / David Huffman & The Great Dunbar Nebraska Train Wreck of 1887 / Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman is Right On

•August 25, 2014 • Comments Off

Here’s the solution to a family mystery that’s baffled everyone for decades:

Tyler Huffman, Federal Civil War veteran, was the son of Paul Huffman and Rebecca Crawford. They were my third great-grandparents.  Rebecca is said to have died giving birth to Tyler.

It’s known that Paul Huffman was born in Canada on 4 Aug 1817, and died on 25 Jun 1892 in Rome, Henry Co., Iowa.  In 1850 Paul Huffman was living in White Co., Indiana with his second wife, Azubah Washburn, whom he had married on 8 Apr 1841 in Fulton Co., Indiana.

But who were Paul and Rebecca (Crawford) Huffman?  Where did they come from?

Paul Huffman married Rebecca Crawford in Halton Co., Ontario on 2 Feb 1837.  The marriage bond is dated 25 Jan 1837.  Paul Huffman was of Trafalgar Township and Rebecca Crawford is listed as of Esquesing Township.  The marriage bond is found in “Upper and Lower Canada Marriage Bonds” at the Library and Archives Canada (Microfilm reel no. C-6786 Bond # 5791).  Halton Co. is in southern Ontario.

This information enabled me to document the ancestry of Paul Huffman.  Of Rebecca Crawford’s ancestry at present I have no information, but the name is Scottish.

Christopher Huffman, a loyalist of  German descent, whose family had emigrated to NJ in the mid-18th century, initially settled in Sussex Co., NJ.  Christopher Huffman married Anne Smith, daughter of Jacob Smith (UEL) and wife Elizabeth Lewis. He enlisted in the New Jersey (Loyalist) Volunteers on 26 Jan 1777 at Mansfield Township, Sussex Co. (now Warren Co.), seeing action as far south as South Carolina.  In 1788 he removed to Canada, ultimately obtaining a land grant in Glanford Township, which is now in Wentworth Co., Ontario.  Wentworth Co. is adjacent to Halton Co.

Christopher and Anne (Smith) Huffman had 6 children:  Henry 2nd (1781–1862) m. Catherine — (1785–1858); Jacob (Jan 1786–4 May 1851) m. Elizabeth Finch (1786–1871); Elizabeth m. James Choat;  Paul (ca. 1791–25 Jun 1869) m. Phoebe — (liv. 1851); Godfrey m. Eliza A. —; and Ann m. Elisha Bingham.

In the 1851 Halton Co. census, Christopher Huffman’s sons Henry Huffman and Paul Huffman were residing in Trafalgar Township.  Henry was Episcopalian and Paul was Wesleyan Methodist.  Their brother Jacob Huffman served as a private in the War of 1812, and also moved to Trafalgar Township where he assembled substantial holdings.

Wading through the offspring of the four sons of Christopher Huffman, and eliminating Godfrey as too young to have a son b. 1817, it became clear that the parents of Paul Huffman (1817–1892) of Henry Co., IA were Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman. Jacob Huffman had a large family of 11 children and is credited with a son “Paul Godfrey Huffman.” Descendants of Paul Huffman of Henry Co., IA identify him as “Paul Godfrey Huffman.” Jacob Huffman’s large family explains why Paul Huffman left Canada in search of land on which to raise his own family.

Paul Huffman (1817–1892) was probably born in Glanford Township, Wentworth Co., Ontario.  Upon relocating to the United States ca. 1838, he would have thought it politic not to mention his Loyalist ancestry.  The Revolution had ended only 55 years earlier, and British outrages during the War of 1812 were still in the popular memory.  The perception that the British favored the South during the Civil War, though in the event they remained neutral, did nothing to rehabilitate their reputation.

[Paul Huffman (4 Aug 1817—25 Jun 1892).  Tombstone at White Oak Cemetery near Trenton, Henry Co., IA.]

Paul Huffman’s son Tyler was named after prominent politician John Tyler (below), nominated in 1839 as the Whig Party candidate for Vice President.  Tyler became President on the untimely death of William Henry Harrison in 1841.  “Tippicanoe and Tyler Too” was a popular jingle of the day.  This suggests that Paul Huffman moved to the United States not long after his marriage.

(Detail of 1850 White Co., IN Federal Census, District No. 130, p. 798.  Here Paul Huffman correctly gives his birthplace as Canada, but in other enumerations he claimed to be born in PA.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The early 1850s found Paul Huffman living in Crawford Township, Washington Co., IA.

(Detail of 1854 Iowa State Census Roll IA-122 Line 17 showing Paul Huffman living in Crawford Township, Washington Co., IA, with 2 males and 4 females in household.)

I found this material on Crawford Township in an 1880 history of Washington Co.


Here’s a truly obscure item.  Paul Huffman briefly left IA and in 1885 was located in Delaware Precinct, Otoe Co., Nebraska (NE).  Otoe Co. is in the eastern part of NE adjacent to the IA border.

(Detail of 1885 Otoe Co., NE State Census, ED 567, Page 8. Click on image to enlarge.)

The above record, of Paul Huffman the father, and David Huffman the son, recalls a family tale so tragic it must have broke Paul Huffman’s heart.  It’s a case of reality eclipsing a Hollywood western.  Paul Huffman left NE for Decatur Co., KS, and ultimately returned to Henry Co., IA.

What follows are published accounts of David Huffman and The Great Dunbar Nebraska Train Wreck of 1887. The case attracted national attention in newspapers from San Francisco to Chicago to New York City.  I’ve separated the items to make following the coverage easier.  The newspapers spelled the family name as “Hoffman,” although it was actually “Huffman.”


[(1888).  Defenders And Offenders.  New York: D. Buchner & Co.]


We begin our narrative with this piece in The New York Times of 13 Jan 1887:

(The Kankakee wreck was not connected to the wreck at Dunbar, Nebraska.)

(Forepaugh’s Circus was a major attraction. The poster illustrates why Paul Huffman fibbed about his background.  In fashionable Manhattan a British aristocrat might be patent medicine for feelings of social inferiority, but in “real” America, patrons of a Forepaugh show expected to see the British rudely humiliated.)


The Perrysburg Journal, Wood Co., Ohio on Friday 21 Jan 1887 published a story adding some details to The New York Times account.  Friends of the engineer Dewitt blamed the wreck on labor unrest, but that proved to be untrue:

“S.D.  Wilson, conductor of the wrecked train, says that fifty-two passengers were aboard of the train, and that their escape from death was almost miraculous.  The engine landed fifty feet from the track, and the baggage-car, strangely, was carried as far beyond the engine.  The throttle lever was forced through Dewitt’s right lung, and his face was scalded black.  The express messenger  is frightfully wounded.  His skull is badly fractured and every bone in his face broken.  A dispatch from Nebraska City to the Times advances the theory that the motive of the crime was robbery, there being $17,000 worth of bullion on the train.  This theory is discredited here, however.  An official of the road at this point says there is no evidence that the work was instigated by any Knights of Labor organization, but that the animosity of the ex-strikers toward Dewitt was well known.  A special from Wyandotte, Kan., the home of the dead engineer, says Dewitt’s friends openly charge his death to the Knights of Labor.  It appears that he was a delegate to a convention held at St. Louis last spring during the great Southwestern strike to determine whether the engineers should go out or support the strikers.  Dewitt represented two districts, and cast two votes against the strikers. If he had voted for them it would have turned the scale.  Subsequently he received several warnings not to run his engine, but he disregarded them. “


The snowpack helped cushion the train’s 15 foot drop.  And it yielded perfect footprints that led Missouri Pacific detectives Frank Tutt and John DeLong, Sheriff McCallum, and Coroner Frederick H. Brauer to the home of John Hoffman.  David Hoffman and James Bell were at the house and appeared nervous. The investigators took the men’s boots and matched them to the footprints.  David Hoffman’s rubber boots had a distinctive patch on the sole.  (Dempsey, p. 68)  

The Gazette: Fort Worth, Texas on Friday 14 Jan 1887 carried an account of the arrests:

“Two Arrests Made.

Nebraska City, Neb., Jan. 13.–David W. Hoffman of Dunbar and James W. Bell of Unadilla, Neb., were arrested at Dunbar yesterday afternoon, charged with having caused the wreck Tuesday night.  Hoffman was recently a brake-man of the Burlington and Missouri road, while little is known of Bell.  Both have been idling about for some time.  Neither one is a member of the local Knights of Labor.  Both were somewhat intoxicated when arrested, and Hoffman was badly frightened.  The coroner’s jury returned a verdict this morning to the effect that the wreck was caused by Hoffman, Bell and others.”


According to the Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, Tuesday 18 Jan 1887, published at Sedalia, Missouri, the Dunbar train wreck had incited a mob:


It is learned that a body of men had organized at an early hour this morning to break the jail at Nebraska City and lynch the villains. Public sentiment was very much wrought up, and if reports are true, the necessity and cost of a trial will be dispensed with

The gentleman who participated in exacting the confessions from the accused, describes the mob as one that was worked up to such a pitch of fury that if they had caught sight of the prisoners, they would have made short work of them.  The mob gathered around the jail and furiously demanded the surrender of the self-confessed villains, and threatened, in case of refusal, to break and burn the jail.  The sheriff appeared in front of the jail and attempted to mitigate the rage of the mob, but his words only increased their fury.  He was met with jeers and curses and missiles were thrown at him.  In the meantime the prisoners had been removed and taken in a sleigh to Nebraska City.  It is not improbable, however, that the transfer may result only in changing the locality of, and not prevent, the lynching, as the feeling of the people of Nebraska City is at fever heat.”

David Huffman and James Bell were removed from the jail at Nebraska City and taken to an undisclosed location elsewhere in the town.


Justice in Nebraska took no liberties with time.  The Omaha Daily World for Thursday Evening, 7 Apr 1887 ran this:

“A Forced Confession.

Train Wrecker Hoffman Claims He ‘Fessed’ Only at the Point of a Revolver.

Nebraska City, April 7.–The trial of David Hoffman, one of the two Missouri Pacific train wreckers of Dunbar, began yesterday before Judge Chapman.  Attorneys A.S. Cole and C.W. Seymour are defending and John C. Watson prosecuting.  Hoffman’s counsel created a sensation by producing an affidavit signed by Hoffman, in which he claims that the so-called confession was forced from him in the Grand Pacific Hotel in this city at night by Missouri Pacific Detective Tutt and his associate; that Sheriff McCollum and his deputy, Joseph Huberle, took him to the Grand Pacific Hotel at night, where there were two or three strange men supposed to be Missouri Pacific detectives; that one of them held a cocked revolver to his head, a watch in his hand, saying that he would give him (Hoffman) just two minutes to tell about how the trains were wrecked at Dunbar; that all of the time the Sheriff and deputy were present and did not attempt to stop these men in any manner …; this ground the attorneys asked the judge to discharge the jury, as it had been drawn by a prejudiced Sheriff.  The motion was overruled.  They then asked for a separate trial, which was granted, and David Hoffman was put on trial. A jury was secured at 6 o’clock last night.”


This item from the Omaha Daily World for Saturday Evening, 9 Apr 1887 relates some testimony in the case:


Hoffman’s Brother Does Not Shield the Train Wrecker—Startling Testimony.

Nebraska City, April 9—The sensation of the trial of David Hoffman, the Dunbar train wrecker yesterday, was the testifying of his accomplice Bell, who, as predicted, turned state’s evidence. He testified that he was in Dunbar the day of the wreck on business; got drunk, was arrested, and fined; he appealed to Hoffman, who was present, to pay the fine; Hoffman said he did not have any money, but would have enough the next day; Bell put up his team as security for the fine, and followed Hoffman around the town.  He drank considerable, but Hoffman did not; Hoffman asked witness to go along down the railroad track; Hoffman broke open the Burlington & Missouri tool house and secured a crowbar and wrenches; both men proceeded up the Missouri Pacific track; when they arrived at the place where the wreck subsequently occurred,  Bell sat down on the track and Hoffman proceeded to remove the rails; witness asked him what he was doing, and he replied that he was going to wreck the train and rob the express car; Bell remonstrated, and said that many people would get killed.  Hoffman said he didn’t give a d–n, he had made up his mind and would carry it out; Hoffman removed the spikes and rail; saw the train approaching, when Hoffman pulled him down in the ravine; when the train jumped the track both ran.

The counsel for the defense endeavored unsuccessfully to break down Bell’s testimony. John Hoffman, a brother of David, testified that when he ran to the wreck he saw a man jump out of a ravine west of the track and run, he could not tell who it was, but it looked like Dave Hoffman’s form. The Missouri Pacific detectives testified that Hoffman made a voluntary confession to them without inducement, threats or force.

The citizens of Dunbar testified that Hoffman promised them that he would pay money due them next day; this on the day of the wreck.  Hoffman was cool and unconcerned until Bell testified, and then uneasy.”


The Newark Daily Advocate of Newark, Ohio for Tuesday, 12 Apr 1887 printed this:

“Train Wrecker to Hang.

Nebraska City, Neb., April 12.–The case of the state against David Hoffman for wrecking the Missouri Pacific passenger train at Dunbar, in January last, closed Saturday in the district court. The jury found a verdict of murder in the first degree, and Hoffman will swing about July 20.  Bell, his partner, turned states evidence, and made a clean confession of the whole affair.  Robbery was the motive.  Bell will get a life sentence.”

James Bell actually received a 10 year sentence. 


The Omaha Daily World for Tuesday Evening, 12 Apr 1887 carried this brief notice:

“Hoffman Hangs July 22

NEBRASKA CITY, April 12.–David Hoffman, the Missouri Pacific train wrecker, has been sentenced to hang on July 22, for the murder of Engineer DeWitt.  Hoffman, who has appeared somewhat indifferent during the trial, broke down when sentenced was passed, and wept like a child.  The Sheriff and deputy were obliged to support him to his cell.”


Efforts to persuade the governor of Nebraska to spare David Hoffman were fruitless.  The following story ran in The Omaha Daily Bee of Saturday Morning 23 Jul 1887:

“One sister, Mrs. Mattie Fitch of Elmwood, Neb., has been most untiring in her efforts in his behalf. She circulated a petition, to which she got a large number of signatures, asking the commutation of his sentence to imprisonment for life, which she presented to Governor Thayer with her prayers, but her efforts were in vain.  Aside from this one sister, none of his relatives seemed to concern themselves in the least about his fate, and apparently he had not a friend on earth.”


The Chicago Tribune of Saturday 23 Jul 1887 had this to say about David Huffman’s final moments:

“He passed a comfortable night, retiring about 10:30 and sleeping soundly until 6:30.  His breakfast was of fruit, of which he ate sparingly.  Then he smoked a cigar, and was still smoking unmoved while the death warrant was read to him a short time afterwards.  He had never shown any weakness, and was perfectly composed until he was led out to the scaffold at 10:21, when he became weak in the knees and had to be supported, but his step was more firm as he ascended the scaffold.

When he stepped upon the platform his face wore a pitiful and haggard expression, and when he cast a look at the rope dangling near his right shoulder his body shook.  A short prayer was offered by the Rev. R. Pierson, when he was asked if he had anything to say.  He cast his eyes upward, then over the crowd of spectators around the scaffold, and then they wandered to the trap-door beneath his feet, when he burst into tears and sobbed like a child.  By a strong effort he regained his composure, and replied that he had nothing to say.  His legs and arms were quickly bound, the noose adjusted, the black cap drawn, and the trap was sprung.”


According to the St. Paul Daily Globe of St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday Morning, 23 Jul 1887.:


Execution of a Train Wrecker at Nebraska City.

Nebraska City, Neb., July 22.–David Hoffman was hanged here to-day for wrecking a Missouri Pacific passenger train on the night of the 11th of January last, at Dunbar, a small station on the Missouri Pacific, ten miles west of this place.  At the time of the wreck Engineer Dewitt was instantly killed, and a number of passengers were seriously injured.  Hoffman ascended the scaffold with a firm tread.  He made an effort to say something, but broke down.  The trap was sprung at 10:24, and he was strangled to death in eight minutes.  His body was cut down and turned over to the county coroner.  His confederate in the train wrecking is serving a ten years’ sentence in the penitentiary, having turned state’s evidence.  The militia company was called out to keep order, but everything passed off quietly.”

(The Chicago Tribune account above added: “The body was exposed to the public for one hour, after which it was turned over to relatives.”)

“According to reports, the National Guard was called upon to keep order among the several thousand persons who gathered outside of the jail area. Estimates of those who were actual witnesses to the hanging were 50 by one news account and 200 by another. The body was taken down by coroner Brauer and turned over to the family. A funeral procession consisting of several buggies headed for Unadilla, 13 miles west of Dunbar, where Hoffman was buried.

Authorities worked quickly to remove the scaffold and perimeter fencing.” (Dempsey, p. 73.)

Undoubtedly one of the buggies in the funeral procession was that of his sister, Mattie (Huffman) Fitch.


In its coverage of David Huffman’s hanging, the Omaha Daily World of 22 Jul 1887 gave an account of his family:

“David Hoffman was born near Trenton, Henry county, Ia., on April 8, 1864.  He resided on a farm with his parents until he was thirteen years of age, when he went to Fremont county, Ia., and worked for a farmer near  Randolph for some time.  He was in Fremont county off and on for nearly five years.  After remaining in Fremont for about a year and a half he went to Phillips county, Kan., where he and one of his brothers farmed some, but most of the two years that he was there he worked for other farmers in Phillips and Decatur counties.  He went from there to York and Filmore counties, Nebraska, where he and his brother John Hoffman farmed for nearly two years.  Tiring of farming he drifted westward as far as Denver, where he worked one winter for a horse trainer named Hurne.  Here is a period of his life he fails to fully detail …. [Huffman was thought to be implicated in cattle rustling.]  After tiring of Denver he went back to Randolph where he remained until three years ago, when he came to Dunbar, Neb., and rented a farm with his brother John, and remained nearly two years.  He went back last spring to Creston. Ia., and, with the aid of two brothers who were working on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, secured a position as brakeman on that road, which he retained but a short time.  He then went to Taylor Station, eighteen miles east of Council Bluffs, Ia., where he clerked in a store and also worked on a farm about two months.  On July 8, 1886, he came to Unadilla, this county, and began work on a farm with his brother-in-law, Taylor Fitch, near that place, where he remained until he went to Dunbar the day that the train was wrecked.  His father and mother reside in Decatur county, Kansas. He has four brothers and four sisters living.  Paul and Thomas Jefferson Hoffman are employees of the C. B. & Q. at Creston, Ia., and are highly esteemed by all who know them.  Tyler Hoffman resides on the old homestead in Henry county, Ia., while John Hoffman, near whose house the wreck occurred at Dunbar, is now residing on farm in Nelson county, Neb.  His sisters are Mrs. Mattie Fitch, Elmwood, Neb.; Mrs. Rachel Norton, Randolph county, Ia.; Mrs. Mary Corney, Decatur Co., Kan., and Mrs. Rebecca Messer, Henry county, Ia.

“His father wrote him shortly after his sentence that he would much prefer to see him hung than have him go to jail for ten years like his partner, James Bell.  Hoffman claimed to have a sweetheart residing at Hamburg, but she never visited him or wrote him letters….  He stoutly denied that he was guilty of the crime for which he was punished, and said that Bell was the one who removed the rail while he stood by and watched him, and that he was innocent of any wrong, but was too drunk at the time to take any part or fully realize what was being done.”

I suppose Paul Huffman’s words that “he would much prefer to see [David]  hung than have him go to jail for ten years like his partner, James Bell,” is both a comment on what the father thought was David’s debt to society, and the evil of James Bell, whose role in the crime was greater than he admitted.


This article from the San Francisco Chronicle of Saturday 23 Jul 1887 fills in some details about David Huffman’s previous criminal activity:

“About five years ago Hoffman was in the cattle-stealing business near Ayer, Neb., in the Republican valley, and is credited with being one of a gang who drove off an entire herd, for which a mob lynched an old man named Weatherdyke.  He is also said to have been mixed up in a number of other horse and cattle thefts in Northern Nebraska and Eastern Colorado.”


And what of James Bell?

The Omaha Daily World of Thursday Evening 14 Apr 1887 ran this item:

“Bell Gets Ten Years.

Nebraska City, April 13.–James Bell, the accomplice of David Hoffman, pleaded guilty yesterday to train-wrecking at Dunbar and was sentenced to ten years in the Penitentiary.  Bell seemed relieved when sentence was passed, particularly as Hoffman is sentenced to be hanged.  The popular feeling was such that the Sheriff took him at once to Lincoln without trying to keep him over night.”

The Penitentiary at Lincoln was until after WWI the only adult correctional facility Nebraska.  In 1889, it housed about 400 inmates, of whom James Bell was one.

“James Bell, Hoffman’s accomplice, was released from the Nebraska Penitentiary in May of 1894 after serving 7 years.”  (Dempsey, p. 73.) 


Dempsey, Tim.  (2014).  Well I’ll Be Hanged Early Capital Punishment In Nebraska. Mechanicsburg, PA: Sunbury Press, Inc.  (Chapter VI, pp. 67–78 “David Hoffman A Real Train Wreck” is an account of the Dunbar, NE train wreck and its aftermath.  On p. 76 is a photograph of the wreck, which isn’t good enough to reproduce.)


This all sounds quite lurid, but it was the era before radio and TV.  Train wrecking was a common method of robbing a train, and in this case it proved deadly for both the engineer and the robber. The railroads were lifelines for a community.  In addition to anger about the crime, concern for the economic health of the area undoubtedly played a role in the fury vented upon David Huffman.


The following biographical sketch of Elisha B. Huffman, son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman, gives a detailed family history of the descendants of Jacob and Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman (click on images to enlarge).  Homer, MN is in the far southeast of the state, on the bank of the Mississippi River.

(1895).  Portrait And Biographical Record Of Winona County, Minnesota Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with Biographies and Portraits of all the Presidents of the United States.  Lake City Publishing Co.  Chicago:  Chapman Publishing Company, Printers And Binders.  pp. 294–295

There is, in connection with Jacob Huffman, a lawsuit which provides contemporary evidence concerning his family, in:

Jones Esq., Edward C.  (1853).  Reports Of Cases Decided In The Court Of Common Pleas of Upper Canada; From Trinity Term 15 Victoria, To Trinity Term 16 Victoria Volume II. Toronto:  Henry Rowsell, King-Street, pp.423–430.

It was a messy affair: Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman, widow of Jacob, asserted her dower rights to a property then occupied by James Finch, which property had been acquired during her marriage to Jacob Huffman.  The property was extensive, consisting of a large tract of land and improvements, in Trafalgar, Halton Co., Ontario.  For his part, Finch claimed to have had a deed dated 28 Apr 1815 from Jacob Huffman, now lost, in which Elizabeth duly relinquished her dower.  The court ruled for Elizabeth as Finch could produce no evidence. There’s nothing stating the relationship of Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman to James Finch, but surely they were related.  It’s a case with implications on both sides of the Canada/USA border, because it illustrates what could happen when a wife didn’t legally alienate her dower.  In this instance, James Finch had to satisfy Elizabeth (Finch) Huffman’s dower portion.

This passage, found on p. 425, proves the identity of Jacob Huffman, and his real date of death:


There are discrepancies in the available information regarding the descendants of Christopher Huffman.  The broader outline seems correct, while some details are conflicting.  Some of the dates in the Elisha B. Huffman sketch don’t match other data. One can only work with the facts at hand while being careful to correct the record with more accurate material as it’s unearthed. However, Elisha B. Huffman can be expected to have intimate knowledge of his parents and siblings.

As I examined the lives of Christopher Huffman and his family in Halton Co., Ontario, I realized how closely they resembled pioneers in the United States.  These were the people who were the backbone of nations, who cleared the land, built roads, established courts of justice, and erected houses to their faith.  In this there was more that bound together Christopher Huffman and Virginia pioneers like Abraham Fulkerson than set them apart.

The following marriages are also found in Halton Co, Ontario:

Charlotte Huffman to Alexander McKenzie, both of Trafalgar Township, 26 Dec 1835 (Charlotte was the dau. of Henry Huffman)

Susan Crawford to Charles Coote, both of Esquessing Township, 23 Mar 1831

Patrick Crawford to Elizabeth Madden, both of Trafalgar Township, 5 Apr 1833

Thomas Crawford (carpenter), of Trafalgar Township, to Barbara Watkins, of Esquessing Township, 1 Nov 1837 (Barbara was the dau. of Samuel Watkins)

To celebrate my Canadian heritage, these are the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


Newspapers can be crucial in reconstructing family history.  “Chronicling America” is a free newspaper database operated by the Library of Congress.  Check their website first before subscribing to a paid service.

An excellent resource for Canadian genealogical research is Library and Archives Canada website:

Another useful website is United Empire Loyalists:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers