•February 20, 2014 • Comments Off



In the next column you can read about the Hungarians and Khazars.  Where did the line come from?

This is a shot of a page in “Ancestral Roots 8th Edition”:


“Ancestral Roots” is a project which has passed through several hands.  What it does is allow the user to connect a lot of different lines to a given ancestor; in my case, Diana Skipwith.  While most books on royal and medieval genealogy are worthless, “Ancestral Roots” is quite useful and anyone can afford it.  But you still have to verify the line.

Obviously the person who compiled this line knew something of the source materials for it, but garbled the information, probably because they did not correctly understand it. It happens.  “Ancestral Roots” consists of 275 lines (some of which have sub-lines), not all of which are ancestral to me, and no matter how good the editor is, they cannot possibly verify all of the lines.  I have found the lines to be generally accurate, unlike Gary Boyd Roberts “Royal Descents,” which by my estimate is more than 50% BS.

The section of the line I’m discussing is 2. Zoltan.  There’s a serious error in this generation.  The father of Zoltan’s wife was not called “Marot.”  He was called “Menmarot.”  “Menmarot” was not a Khagan, he was a Khazar “duke” and often “dukes” who ruled a semi-autonomous duchy were also called “prince.”  Sometimes such a man was called a “duke” and sometimes he was called a “prince.”  The name “Menmarot” was not the man’s name.  “Menmarot” is derived from “Menrot,” the name of a giant in Hungarian folklore who was powerful and had many concubines.  This Khazar duke was called “Menmarot” to heighten the drama of (1.) Arpad’s confrontation with him.  That made Arpad appear even more heroic.  “Men” is a Turkic-Bulgar expression which means “great,” and that fits in with the characterization of giants and powerful dukes.

I thought the line was interesting and Eastern European lines get short shrift in the West, so I wanted to dig into it and examine whatever documentation could be used to support the line.  As it turns out, “Menmarot” was a very important person to the Hungarians, and a significant portion of an early Chronicle was devoted to Arpad and “Menmarot”—and you can see why.  Arpad’s Hungarians were the New Horde in Town, while the Khazars had established an empire long before.  The marriage gave the Hungarians legitimacy and status.  “Menmarot’s” daughter was part of the booty so beloved by the Hungarians.

Another error occurs in (4.) Michael–I know of no proof that his wife was the daughter of Polish bigwig Miescko I, or that she married Geza.

I found the line to be true based upon actual available evidence, but some of the evidence is sketchy, so I cannot say it is “proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”  These events took place a little before the advent of the 2nd Millennium, and that’s a very long time ago.  But I also feel the evidence is good enough to warrant calling the line “proved by a preponderance of the evidence.”  I have two lines from these people, so it was a line I wanted to clear up as best I could.

“Ancestral Roots” is one of the better resources in the field, but you still have to check it out.  And I did.

rPAD / Fiddler on the Hoof (The Lost Jews of Khazaria) / Otto becomes Great

•March 22, 2014 • Comments Off

Anonymous and Master Roger; Rady, Martyn; et al.  (2010.) Anonymous Notary of King Bela The Deeds of the Hungarians / Epistle to the Sorrowful Lament upon the Destruction of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Tatars.  Budapest–New York:  Central European University Press.

Dercsenyi, Dezso; ed,; West, Alick; trans.; et. al.  (1970).  The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company.

Golden, Peter B.; Ben-Shammai, Haggai; Rona-tas, Andras; eds.  (2007).  The World of the Khazars New Perspectives Selected Papers from the Jerusalem 1999 International Khazar Colloquium. Leiden, The Netherlands:  Koninklijke Brill. 

Simon of Keza; Veszpremy, Laszlo; et. al.  (1999).  Simon of Keza The Deeds of the Hungarians. Budapest–New York:  Central European University Press.

(2) Arpad (ca. 845–907 C.E.) is the legendary founder of Hungary, a progenitor of princes and kings into the 14th century.  (2) Arpad claimed descent from Attila the Hun, but the Huns are ancestors of the Bulgarians.

There is, in connection with (2) Arpad’s son (3) Zoltan, a historical mystery which continues to occupy historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists:  was (3) Zoltan’s wife the daughter of the Jewish ruler of a long forgotten empire, the Khazars? The Khazars are known to have adopted Judaism, although exactly when is unknown. Converts were primarily the upper classes.  The events discussed here took place during the reigns of the Khazar kings Aaron I or Menahem.  The Hungarians, however, did not claim descent from a Khazar king.

The Khazar royal genealogy is based upon a letter written ca. 960 by the Khazar king Joseph to Hasdai bin Shaprut, foreign secretary to the caliph Abd ar-Rahman III, viz.:

King Joseph wrote that the Khazars conquered the land of the Bulgarians and drove them from it.

The founder of the dynasty was Bulan.  At some point Bulan was followed by his descendant (1) Obadiah, his son (2) Hezekiah, his son (3) Manasseh, (4) Hanukkah brother of Obadiah, his son (5) Isaac, his son (6) Zebulun, his son (7) Moses, his son (8) Nissi, his son (9) Aaron I, his son (10) Menahem, his son (12) Benjamin, his son (13) Aaron II, his son (14) Joseph.

Obadiah’s line failed after the third generation, and the succession devolved upon Obadiah’s brother Hanukkah.  For chronological reasons I question Hanukkah as successor to Manasseh. According to Joseph the royal succession in Khazaria followed the strict rule of primogeniture in the male line.  It’s more likely that the royal succession devolved upon descendants of Hanukkah.   Hanukkah is the name of a Jewish festival—its use as a given name is odd.  The exact relationship of Obadiah to Bulan is unclear, so perhaps the early part of the  royal genealogy was mythical. 

While Joseph credits Bulan with the introduction of Judaism into Khazaria, it was Obadiah who promoted strict observance.  If Joseph’s account is accurate, then the Khazar conversion to Judaism took place much earlier than the early 9th century as posited by some scholars.  One expects Joseph to have some knowledge of that significant event.

The ethnic makeup of the Khazars is another issue.  The so-called “Schecter Letter” indicates that Jews from Persia and Armenia fled persecution and intermarried with the nomadic Khazars, who thus became descendants of Jews who had originated in Judea. That would explain the Khazar “conversion” as an expression of an ethnic heritage. Even if partially myth, the Khazars must have had some contact with Judaism prior to their conversion, and there’s nothing unrealistic about refugees intermarrying with an indigenous population.  Joseph claimed the Khazars descended from Noah’s son Japheth, the same ancestor named in the mythical Hungarian genealogy below.

(Page from The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle.)

I’ve filled in dates for Gens. (2) through (7) to give the reader some idea of the chronology. Although many of the dates are estimates, there’s no chronological problem for this line.  For the Khazar portion of the line, Gens. 2, 3, & 4 are crucial.

THEORY ONE:  (3) Zoltan was older than his Khazar bride.  He could have had another relationship before her.  It was some time before the marriage to the Khazar woman was consummated, and even longer before there was issue of the marriage.  His marriage to her wouldn’t have precluded other relationships.  (4) Taksony is the only known offspring of (3) Zoltan, but (3) Zoltan may have had other issue of his Khazar wife who didn’t survive or who were unimportant.  THEORY TWO:  It was a child marriage on both parts which wasn’t consummated until much later.  In both theories, it was a politically motivated marriage negotiated by (2) Arpad, a marriage which was of considerable prestige to the Hungarians who were the New Horde In Town.  / A woman of this rank was a pawn.  Looking at the marriage practices of the aristocracy, that the Khazar girl had not reached maturity when she was married off is not at all unusual. / One of the problems in this case is obtaining a useful birth year for (4) Taksony and there seems no consensus for it, the latest date being proffered by a chronicler as 931.  However, even if we are very conservative and posit the Khazar woman as reaching biological maturity in 915–920, allowing her only two decades to bear children, she still could have been bearing children beyond 931. / I believe THEORY TWO to be correct.  It’s supported by evidence, as will be seen below…..  

(2) Arpad and his son (3) Zoltan are ancestors of Diana Skipwith, viz.:


According to tradition, Almos did not enter Pannonia, but was murdered after the defeat of the Hungarians by the Pechenegs east of the Carpathian mountains.  The manner of his death and by whom is unclear, although he may have been murdered by his own people as a consequence of the defeat.  A tragic fate for a man of miraculous birth: Hungarian folklore says Almos was the son of Eleud and a daughter of Eunodbilia named Emese.  Emese dreamed that a falcon penetrated her uterus from which burst forth a huge light emanating towards the distant parts of the world.

This imaginary royal genealogy from The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle contains the descent of Almos from biblical patriarch Noah, and forward to Almos’s son Arpad, to Arpad’s son Zoltan, and to Zoltan’s son Toxun:

Almus, Eleud, Ugeg, Ed, Chaba, Ethele, Bendekus, Turda, Scemen, Ethei, Opus, Kadicha, Berend, Zultra, Bulchu, Bolug, Zambur, Zamur, Leel, Levente, Kulche, Ompud, Miske, Mike, Beztur, Budli, Chanad, Buken, Boudofard, Farkas, Othmar, Kadar, Beler, Kear, Kewe, Keled, Dama, Bor, Hunor, Nimrod, Thana, Japheth, Noah.  Almus begot Arpad, Arpad begot Zoltan, Zoltan begot Toxun.


3.  ZOLTAN OF HUNGARY ca. 903–950; m. daughter of a Khazar nobleman>

4.  TAKSONY (TOXUN) OF HUNGARY b. 931 d. ca. early 970s>

According to The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle:

This Toxun begot Geysa and Michael, and Michael begot Ladislaus the Bald and Vazul.

5.  MIHALY (MICHAEL) DUKE d. ca. mid 990s>

6.  VASZOLY (VAZUL) DUKE  d. ca. 1037; took as concubine woman of Tatony clan>

7.  BELA I OF HUNGARY (b. ca. 1020 d. 1063); m. Rixa (Richenza) of Poland>






















(These lines can be confusing because they encompass so many generations, and so many countries, but this line is familiar to me.  There is another line of descent via Henry III, Duke of Lourraine and Brabant, brother of 14. Matilda of Brabant, to Margaret of France, second queen of Edward I, king of England.)

(Khazar coinage.  The symbols are runes.)

The Hungarians, in the manner of warrior horsemen indigenous to the region, attacked their neighbors in the quest for booty.  There was no TV, so you made your own entertainment. Sometimes you won and sometimes you got your ass kicked.

Hungarians fondly recall the early Arpads for their incursions into the West, especially Italy, although not all raids went as planned.  Disaster struck on  10 Aug 955 when Otto I of Germany crushed the Hungarians at the Battle of Lechfeld, near Augsburg in Bavaria. Thousands of fleeing Hungarians were slaughtered or burned to death.  Otto I didn’t want a resurgent threat from the East. The defeat marked the end of Hungarian adventures in the West.

[Throne of Charlemagne in Aachen Cathedral, Germany.  The throne is made of marble.  Otto I The Great (912--973 C.E.) was crowned King of Germany there on 7 Aug 936.  Side view with the throne facing to the left.  Six steps lead to the throne itself.

(7) King Bela I of Hungary died on 11 Sep 1063 when his throne collapsed.  Looking at this structure, formed primarily of stone, which placed the ruler above everyone else, one can see that a fall could cause serious injury.  Evidently (7) Bela I's throne was made of wood.  When it collapsed, the king fell from the structure upon which it was placed.  Given the Machiavellian politics of the age, one wonders if his throne had been sabotaged.

 I have a descent from Otto I The Great through his daughter Luitgarde, wife of Conrad, Duke of Lorraine.  (15) Blanche of Artois has another descent viOtto II, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor and Theophanu, but not of Otto III, whose line failed; she was also a descendant of the Salian Dynasty Emperors Conrad II, Henry III, and Henry IV.]

(Artist’s rendering of the German and Hungarian clash at the Battle of Lechfeld.  Arpad battle flag is on the left.  Note the severed body parts.  The Hungarians appear to be wearing a form of “fez,” while the Germans are in coat armor.  The Hungarian warlords Lel and Bulscu attempted to flee but were captured and hanged by Otto I.  The victory at Lechfeld assured Otto I’s election as Holy Roman Emperor.)

(3) Zoltan’s exact position within the Hungarian polity is unclear, but all subsequent rulers of the house of Arpad are descended from (3) Zoltan’s son (4) Taksony.  (4) Taksony is said to have married a Lady of the “Cumans,” who is believed to have been Pecheneg.

(Zoltan of Hungary.)

Given the meagre sources, one wishes for more documentation, but the tale of (3) Zoltan’s Khazar wife has some support in a well established practice of the Middle Ages: conquerors often co-opted a daughter of the vanquished royal house in order to prop up their regime.

William the Conqueror, himself the illegitimate son of a Duke of Normandy, married Matilda of Flanders, who may have been a legitimate descendant of the Dukes of Normandy.  William’s son King Henry I married Matilda of Scotland, whose mother was a lineal descendant of the old Anglo-Saxon royal house.  King Henry V married a French princess to solidify his claim to the French crown (which only briefly materialized). Henry Tudor, who in 1485 at Bosworth defeated the last Plantagenet king Richard III, quickly married Elizabeth of York, daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV.  Not coincidentally, Elizabeth of York was also Richard III’s niece.

The Deeds of the Hungarians (Gesta Hungarorum), written in the late 12th or early 13th centuries, has the following to say regarding (3) Zoltan’s bride and her family (Rady 2010):  

Page 33:  “The land between the Tisza and Igyfon wood, that lies toward Transylvania, from the Mures River up to the Somes River had been occupied by Prince Marot, whose grandson was called Menmarot by the Hungarians, for he had many concubines; and the peoples that are called Kozar inhabited that land.”

 [This area is a great distance to the southeast of Moravia, and thus was not a Moravian dependency.  See map below.]

(This map gives a general idea of the area under discussion, which is in the center to the east.  As is evident, this area is not part of Moravia, which is to the NE.  Poland is E of Moravia.  Click on map to enlarge it.)

Pages 51–53, 57:

“After spending several days, Prince Arpad, haven taken the advice of his noblemen, sent envoys to the castle of Biharia, asking him, by right of his forbear, King Attila, to give him the land from the Somes River to the border of Nyirseg, up to the Mezes Gates, and he sent him gifts, just as he had previously sent to Salan, prince of Titel.

“The envoys of Prince Arpad … coming to the castle of Biharia, they greeted Prince Menmarot and presented to him the gifts that their prince had sent.  Then, relaying to him the message of Prince Arpad, they requested the land which we have named before. Prince Menmarot received them kindly and, enriched with diverse gifts, he ordered them homewards.  Still, he so replied, saying: ‘Tell Arpad, Prince of Hungary, your lord, that we owe him as a friend to a friend in all things he needs because a guest is a person short in many things.  But the land that he seeks of our grace we will in no way surrender while we live.’

“Then Osbo and Velek, the envoys of Prince Arpad, hastened speedily to their lord, and, upon arrival, reported to their lord, Prince Arpad, the message of Menmarot.  Upon hearing this, Prince Arpad and his nobles were moved by anger and they immediately ordered an army to be sent against him.

“Having been granted leave by Prince Arpad, they marched off with no small army…

“… almost all of the inhabitants of the land surrendered of their own will, and … gave their sons as hostages lest they should suffer any harm.

“Having heard this, so great a fear overwhelmed Menmarot that he did not dare raise his hand….

“… they reached the castle of Satu Mare and besieging the castle over three days of fighting they won victory.  On the fourth day, entering the castle, they sent those warriors of Menmarot that they could catch there to the most foul depths of the dungeon, taken in iron fetters, and they took the sons of those dwelling there as hostages.”

Page 65:

“… with victory won, they returned to Prince Arpad, subduing the whole people from the Somes River to the Cris River, and none dared raise a hand against them.  Menmarot, their prince, preferred to make ready his escape to Greece than to proceed against them…. And then, marching on, they reached Szeghalom and they wanted to cross the Koros/Cris River there, in order to fight against Menmarot, but Menmarot’s warriors came and denied them the crossing.”

Pages 109–113:

“That year [the destruction of Pannonia], Prince Arpad begot a son, by the name of Zolta, and great joy was made among the Hungarians, and for many days the prince and his noblemen like the lambs of ewes before rams.  Several days later, Prince Arpad and his noblemen sent by common counsel an army against Menmarot, Prince of Bihar…  All the Szekely, who were previously the peoples of King Attila … came to make peace and, of their own will, gave their sons as hostages along with diverse gifts, and undertook to fight in the vanguard … against Menmarot.

“… Prince Menmarot, having left a host of warriors in the castle of Biharia, betook himself and his wife and daughter to the groves of Igyfon.   … when the Hungarians and Szekely had filled in the castle’s moats, and sought to put ladders to the wall, the warriors of Prince Menmarot … began to petition the two chief men of the army [for terms] ….

“When Menmarot heard this from messengers that had taken to flight, he became very greatly afraid and sent his envoys with diverse gifts to Osbo and Velek [Hungarian warlords] and asked them to incline to peace and to send their envoys to Prince Arpad to announce to him that Menmarot, who had before haughtily with a Bulgarian heart sent word through his envoys to Prince Arpad, refusing to give him a handful of land, was now defeated and overthrown and did not hesitate to give, through the same envoys, his realm [to Arpad], and to Zolta, son of Arpad, his daughter…. Prince Arpad, having taken counsel of his noblemen, approved and praised Menmarot’s announcement and, when he heard that Menmarot’s daughter was the same age as his son Zolta, did not refuse Menmarot’s petition and he accepted Menmarot’s daughter as Zolta’s wife, along with the realm promised him.

“… the whole army, following the orders of their lord, received the daughter of Menmarot after the betrothal …. then … returned with great honor and joy to Prince Arpad, and the prince and his great men proceeded to receive them and they led the daughter of Menmarot to the prince’s house with honor, as befitted the bride of so great a prince.”

I’ve omitted most references to Arpad’s commanders.  Menmarot subsequently died without a son, and Zoltan received his realm.

1.  My first observation is that “Menmarot” is what the Hungarians called this duke (or prince): he was called “Menmarot ” because he had many concubines.  The linguistic construction of “Menmarot” contains two sections, and is undoubtedly not a literal rendition of his name.  “Men” is Bulgarian-Turkish for “great,” and “marot” is Hungarian for “Moravian,” so that “Marot,” the grandfather of “Menmarot” has been thought to be simply “the Moravian,” while “Menmarot” himself was “the Great Moravian.” “Menmarot” was “great” because he could afford many concubines, certainly a sign of wealth.  We can infer from this passage that it was “Menmarot’s ” grandfather “Marot” who established the duchy. There’s nothing amiss in the notion that “Marot” supplanted someone else.  A Khazar king ruling in this time period was “Menahem,” whose name bears a resemblance to “Menmarot.” Simon of Keza (Veszpremy 1999) mentions a certain Svatopluk, son of a Polish prince named “Marot.”  According to Simon, Svatopluk subdued “Bactra” and ruled as Emperor of the Bulgars and Moravians, ultimately conquering Pannonia as well. Simon also mentions an alternate version of this tale in which it was “Marot,” not Svatopluk, who performed these deeds.  It thus appears “Marot” was a slang Hungarian term, not meant to be taken literally, and a passage in Simon (pp. 11–15) offers a plausible solution: “But in the two hundred and first year after the flood the giant Menrot, son of Thana, of the seed of Japheth, began to construct a tower.  Ever mindful of their danger in the past, he and his kin hoped that if the flood came a second time they could escape judgement and take refuge in the tower…. After the confusion of tongues the giant entered the land of Havilah, which is now called Persia, and there he begot two sons, Hunor and Mogor, by his wife Eneth.  It was from them that the Huns, or Hungarians, took their origins.  However, it seems the giant Menrot had other wives apart from Eneth, on whom he sired many sons and daughters besides Hunor and Mogor.”  Thus the names “Marot” and “Menmarot” have their origins in Hungarian folklore.  In this context “Menmarot” meant a “wealthy and powerful adversary,” which heightened the drama of Arpad’s encounter with him.  “Marot” here doesn’t mean “Moravian” as no specific ethnicity is implied, but is a cultural allusion familiar to the Hungarians.  In the ages before the use of surnames, it was common to use a descriptor, like “Hugh the Fat,” or “Louis the Simple.”  And whatever someone was called in their native land wasn’t necessarily how they were known to their neighbors.

2.  My second observation is that the Khazar Empire had under its rule many different peoples, but the Khazar ruling elite wasn’t necessarily primarily composed of those same peoples.  In the account of wresting territory from “Menmarot,” it’s significant that “Memnarot” characterizes his initial refusal to cede land to Arpad as “haughtily with a Bulgarian heart.”  This further cements “Menmarot’s” identity as a Khazar nobleman:  the Khazars had ejected the Bulgarians.  The Khazar adoption of Judaism may have occurred within the life span of “Marot,” but if the account of the Khazar king Joseph is correct, the conversion may have transpired in the 7th century.  If so, it seems likely “Marot” had some ethnic Jewish ancestry, as “Marot” would have been born in the early 9th century, well after the conversion.

3.  Third, as with any empire, the Khazar Empire experienced internal dissension, and its boundaries shifted with the ebb and flow of imperial fortune.  It seems “Menmarot” was a border lord, what the English would term a “marcher lord.” How else could his lands be incorporated into Hungary?

4.  Fourth, child marriages among the aristocracy, for dynastic purposes, were as common here as in the later Medieval period. The Khazar girl was sent to live in Arpad’s household.  (3) Zoltan and his Khazar bride were probably little more than children.

(2) Arpad would want this marriage to help stabilize his conquest of “Menmarot’s” territory.  I mention two THEORIES above, and THEORY TWO fits the evidence we have perfectly.  If (2) Arpad and his warlords were harassing Khazar territory, there would be nothing unusual in (2) Arpad marrying his son (3) Zoltan to an elite Khazar woman. Historians say (2) Arpad conquered territory to which he linked (3) Zoltan in marriage, but was it the Khazars?  The phrase “the peoples that are called Kozar inhabited that land” indicates that it was Khazar territory.  The subtext is (2) Arpad was bought off by “Menmarot,” and part of the tribute was a high status bride for (3) Zoltan.  She was not a daughter of the royal house—it’s unlikely the Khazar king would bestow a daughter on the upstart Hungarians.  But she was the daughter of an important noble, and an important noble might be expected to share the religion of his ruler, to whom the noble’s family may have been linked by blood. 

(2) Arpad didn’t conquer the the Khazar Empire itself.  It survived into the latter half of the 10th century, when pressure from the Kievan Rus and Byzantines caused its collapse.  My understanding is that like the Byzantine Empire after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, some Khazar successor states were established.  Perhaps much of the Khazar elite who fled the fall of their empire ruled in those areas.

I base this portrayal of the situation on how these people behaved—it’s a common pattern.  The events transpired well after the conversion of the Khazar elite to Judaism. The Deeds of the Hungarians contains elements of fantasy, but this tale I think is a skeletal truth underlying the boasting. Some scholars agree. By the time The Deeds of the Hungarians was composed, the Khazar Empire had long succumbed, and the author or authors had no reason to fabricate this specific identity for the wife of a pivotal figure in Hungarian history. A more exalted persona could have been invented for her.  As a nation in the process of coalescing, a marriage to a noblewoman of a long-established empire would have been of considerable prestige to the Hungarians.

Although there had been Christian activity in the region for centuries prior to 1000 C.E., St. Stephen’s reign heralds the official conversion of Hungary to Christianity.  Therefore, in the period of the first half of the 10th century, the Hungarian ruling elite would have had no objection on religious grounds to merging the Hungarian royal line with a Jewish Khazar woman.

The overarching theme is that elites intermarried, and marriages were used to seal relationships. Realpolitik: the politics of sex.

(As this map shows, the Khazar Empire was essentially a buffer state between eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire.  Much of what we know about the Khazars is found in Byzantine sources.  A Russian archaeological team claims to have discovered the Khazar capitol of Itil, once thought to have sunk beneath the Caspian Sea.  The team has identified Itil at a site near the Russian village of Samosdelka, just north of the Caspian.)

The paucity of sources and the chaotic political scene in Hungary prevent absolute confidence that (7) Bela I of Hungary was the son of (6) Vaszoly.  (7) Bela I and two brothers, Andrew and Levente, were evidently sons of (6) Vaszoly by a concubine. That’s a problem for this line.  There’s a difference between a concubine and a mistress: a concubine is a woman who cohabits with the man (a wife in all but name), while a mistress could be any woman with whom the man has (presumably) regular sexual relations.  Putative paternity is more likely to be correct if the mother is a concubine.

Modern historians accept this version of (7) Bela I’s origins, rejecting claims that he was the son of someone else, claims that were probably rooted in Hungarian religious politics rather than reality, as the following passage shows:

According to Simon of Keza, referenced to Veszpremy (1999), Page 125:

“It is sometimes claimed  that the brothers were the sons of Duke Vazul by a girl from the Tatony clan and not his sons by true wedlock, and that the Tatony family derive their noble status from this connection.  This tradition is certainly baseless and a quite mischievous invention.  The fact is that, being from Scythia, the family were of noble origin in any case, irrespective of the fact that the brothers were the sons of Ladislas the Bald.”

An editor’s note to this quotation states the brothers were the sons of Vazul (Vaszoly) and concubinatus was an accepted form of marriage in 11th century Hungary.  All subsequent kings of the house of Arpad were descendants of (4) Taksony, as was Ladislas the Bald.  Attributing the brothers to Ladislas the Bald was Simon of Keza’s invention to sweep the concubine under the tapestry, and he claims the Tatony family were of noble origin in any case.  Another interpretation is that Ladislas the Bald was claimed as father of the three brothers because (6) Vaszoly had been humiliated by being blinded (see below).   In any event, the brothers are presumed to be descendants of Zoltan and his Khazar wife, and that’s how historians view it.

Several rebellions to restore paganism in Hungary were defeated. (6) Vaszoly was the cousin of Stephen I (ca. 975–1038), the first Christian king of Hungary. Stephen suspected (6) Vaszoly of pagan sympathies and (6) Vaszoly was blinded, but by whom is unclear. The chroniclers whitewashed Stephen I’s involvement because of his position as a revered Hungarian saint.  Andrew was eventually crowned king of Hungary, and subsequently dethroned by forces loyal to (7) Bela I.  So whatever the truth is regarding the paternity of the three brothers, the Hungarians believed they were of royal lineage because they accepted two of them as kings.  Hungary had adopted Christianity, but wasn’t entirely Christianized.  Under paganism, the circumstances of (7) Bela I’s birth would have aroused no comment.

In the case of (8) Sophia of Hungary, for chronological reasons she is presumed to be the daughter of (7) Bela I by his first wife, the daughter of King Mieszko II of Poland.  In a Saxon source she is called “sister of the Hungarian King Ladizlai.”  King Ladislaus I of Hungary (b. ca. 1040 d. 1095) was the son of (7) Bela I.  It has been suggested that she may have been the daughter of (7) Bela I  by another wife, or was the daughter of another Hungarian king.  Scholars accept (8) Sophia of Hungary as the daughter of (7) Bela I by his Polish wife.  Some genealogists are only happy when everything means nothing.

In reviewing this line (1) to (8), there is nothing in it which would arouse suspicion.  It’s a typical scenario played out in a region that even by the standards of the age was exceptionally volatile. Overall I accept this line as “proved by preponderance of the evidence.”  There’s evidence supporting every step in the line.  If asked if I believe the line to be true, my answer is “Yes,” but some of the details are sketchy. 

Of King Mieszko II, an 1835 history has this to say, in the lurid prose of popular historians:

“Indolence, profusion, and debauchery, were his ruling propensities.  Ulric duke of Bohemia, who had during the life of his benefactor Boleslaus [father of Mieszko II] maintained a seeming allegiance, on the accession of Micislaus [Mieszko II]  threw off the mask, and caused the Polish garrisons in his country to be barbarously massacred while they supposed themselves in security.  The success of this measure inspired the Moravians, Prussians, and Saxons with confidence; and the Polish garrisons were put to death or carried into slavery in several places; whilst the governors of the revolted provinces, aided by the German states, assumed the supreme power.  For a considerable time, Micislaus remained indifferent to these disasters, as well as to the murmurs of his subjects, and appeared entirely absorbed in voluptuousness and indolence.  The fear of a rebellion at home at length aroused him from his pleasures; and he unwillingly put himself at the head of the Polish army, amongst whom the courage excited by Boleslaus was not yet extinguished. Accompanied by three Hungarian princes, he entered Pomerania, which province was quickly compelled to acknowledge his sovereignty.  He rewarded Bela, one of the Hungarians, who had overcome the barbarian general in single combat, with the hand of his daughter and the government of Pomerania.  But, satisfied with this success, Micislaus the Idle abandoned the prosecution of the war against the other provinces, and again shut himself up in his palace.  Here he indulged without intermission in the excesses so congenial to his disposition, until he was seized of a frenzy which terminated with his death [on 10 May 1034].  It is recorded, however, to the credit of this monarch, that he divided the country into palatinates for the more speedy administration of justice, and founded a bishopric.”

Mieszko’s widow Rixa, regent of the kingdom, became a tyrant, and an armed insurrection chased her out of Poland.  The nation then degenerated into a period of anarchy.  Rixa (or Richenza) had deep ancestry of her own:  she was the granddaughter of Otto II, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, by Theophanu, d. 15 Jun 991, niece of Byzantine Emperor John I Tsimices, and was the 2nd great-granddaughter of Rudolph II, king of Burgundy.

(Icon of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and Empress Theophanu.  Otto II d. of malaria in Rome on 7 Dec 983, and is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.)

(Sarcophagus of Empress Theophanu in the Church of St. Pantaleon, Cologne, Germany.)

The Khazars disappeared, absorbed into the Eastern European ethnic stew.  The Khazar elite practiced Judaism, but were they ethnic Jews?  Getting an unequivocal answer is difficult.  One supposes the Khazar elite intermarried with (co-opted) ethnic Jews in order to legitimate the identity of the elite.

But were the Khazar upper classes overlords of an indigenous populace much as the Norman warrior class were overlords of the Anglo-Saxons?  Some historians agree the Khazar elite differed ethnically and linguistically from their subject peoples.  One trend in the warrior class in the Medieval period is its desire to distance itself from the ordinary mass of people.  Thus Judaism would be a sign of status or class that differentiated the elite from the masses.

In this scenario, at any given time we might see Jewish Khazars who actually numbered in the thousands, rather than tens or hundreds of thousands. A very small group:  the warrior elite, the administrative elite, and the royal family.  Khazar Judaism was not just religion, but something perhaps approaching an order of chivalry.  The psychology behind the Khazar conversion is the identification by the Khazar elite with the epic events of the Old Testament rather than the proselytizing inclusiveness of Christianity. The Khazar Jewish elite did not intend to share their religion with the masses.  The wife of (3) Zoltan would be of this elite class.  Nonetheless Judaism may have trickled into the lower classes.

And as the Norman subjection of England illustrates, during the Medieval period it was possible for a well-armed and highly organized military to control a much larger population.  In any military organization there are ranks, and the supposition that Judaism was the pursuit of the Khazar elite doesn’t mean they could not command troops who were not Jewish.

In discussing the Khazars, I want to alert the reader to a malicious form of literature: Anti-Zionists have used the Khazars to promote racist theories claiming most modern Jews are not descendants of the Jews of ancient Israel, and therefore the notion of a Jewish homeland is false. The Dark Ages are dark enough without clouding the mind with bigotry.

Reading these hair-raising tales of murder, pillage, and ruin, one imagines a region so thoroughly laid to waste that not even a hen with a single egg could be found within it.

(Arpad flag.)


•March 21, 2014 • Comments Off

Software thieves, take notice.  The Feds prosecute cases involving theft of copyrighted software.

On Friday, 24 Jan 2014, according to Reuters:  “The U.S. Department of Justice … announced criminal charges against four people over their alleged roles in trafficking pirated Android mobile device applications, in the first counterfeit apps case brought by the agency.

Kody Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Florida, was accused of conspiring with other members of the SnappzMarket Group between May 2011 and August 2012 to illegally create and distribute more than 1 million copies of Android apps without permission from the apps’ software developers and copyright owners.

Three other defendants — Thomas Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Florida; Nicholas Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Florida; and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon — were accused of involvement in a similarly-sized conspiracy on behalf of the Appbucket Group between August 2010 and August 2012.

Each defendant was charged by federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Georgia with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and faces up to five years in prison, the Justice Department said.”

What’s interesting is that the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.  In case you don’t know, conspiracy means “working together with others to commit a crime.”  In this case, the crime is copyright infringement.  Obviously the real owners of the copyrighted material are under no obligation to fulfill any agreements made with the scammers.

So if you’re approached by some who offers you software on the cheap, or they tell you:  “Go ahead and take his stuff and see if he sues,” you’d better check it out. Otherwise, you could check into prison.

On 7 March 2014, a Federal judge ordered New York businessman Paul Ceglia to stand trial for forging a contract that purported to give Ceglia a piece of Facebook.  The fraudulent contract stemmed from programming Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg performed for Ceglia while Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard.

My position is that no one has rights to my robotics control programs except me.  My robotics control programs are a valid logical and mathematical entity apart from a programming language or specific hardware platform.

Any person or persons who are attempting to sell software to which they have no legal right, or who exhibit a fraudulent contract, or misrepresent ownership of software, are committing crimes under Federal law.  Working with those who are committing fraud is to be party to fraud.

It’s not right to steal intellectual property.  Thieves should be prosecuted and do time. They’re stealing someone’s life.


•March 10, 2014 • Comments Off

1.  Manuel Comnenus Eroticus, d. 1025; wife unknown

2.  John Comnenus (Domestic of the Schools), d. 12 Jul 1056; m. Anna Dalassena, of the  Adriani Dalasseni, daughter of Alexius Charon, Prefect of Italy

3.  Alexius I Comnenus, Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor, d. 15 Aug 1118; m. Irene Ducas, dau. of Andronicus Ducas and Maria of Bulgaria.  Andronicus Ducas was the son of John Ducas the Caesar [a].  Maria of Bulgaria was the daughter of Trojan of Bulgaria, son of Ivan (John) Vladislav, Tsar of West Bulgaria, d. 1018 (see below).

[Tablet in the National Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria citing Comita Nikola and Ripsimia as the grandparents of Ivan (John) Vladislav, Tsar of West Bulgaria.  Ivan (John) Vladislav was the son of Aron.  The ancestry of Ripsimia is unknown.]

4.  Theodora Comnena; m. Constantinus Angelus, of an obscure Philadelphian family

5.  Andronicus Angelus; m. Euphrosyne Castamonitia

6.  Isaac II Angelus, Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor, b. ca. 1156, d. Feb 1204; m. (1) Herina (poss. member of Palaiologos family), m. (2) Margaret of Hungary, b. 1175, dau. of Bela III, king of Hungary

7.  Irene Angelica, dau. by (1), b. 1181, d. 1208; m. (2) 25 May 1197, Philip II, Duke of Swabia, king of Germany, d. 21 Jun 1208 (son of Frederick III “Barbarossa”)

8.  Marie of Swabia Hohenstauffen, d. ca. 1240; m. (1) Henry II of Brabant, d. 1 Feb 1247

9.  Matilda of Brabant, d. 29 Sep 1288 [b]; m. (1) 14 Jun 1237, Robert of Artois, b. 1216, d. 1250, son of Louis VIII, king of France

10. Blanche of Artois, d. 2 May 1302; m. (2) Edmund Plantagenet “Crouchback” (brother of Edward I of England), d. 5 Jun 1296, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster

11. Henry Plantagenet, b. 1281, d. 22 Sep 1345, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster; m. (1) Maud de Chaworth, b. 1282, d. 1322, dau. of Patrick de Chaworth and Hawise de London (Henry’s granddaughter Blanche of Lancaster m. John of Gaunt, and was mother of King Henry IV)

12. Joan Plantagenet, b. ca. 1312,  d. 7 Jul 1349, allegedly buried at Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire; m. (his 1st) John de Mowbray, 3rd Lord Mowbray, b. 29 Nov 1310, d. 14 Oct 1361

13. John de Mowbray, 4th Lord Mowbray, b. 25 Jun 1340, d. 9 Oct 1368; m. Elizabeth de Segrave, b. 25 Oct 1338, d. bef. husband

14. Eleanor (Alianor) de Mowbray, b. ca. 25 Mar 1364; m. (his 1st) John de Welles, b. 20 Apr 1352, d. 26 Aug 1421

15. Eudo (Ives) de Welles, liv. 1407, d. vita patris; m. Maud de Greystoke

16. Lionel de Welles, b. 1406, d. 29 Mar 1461; m. (1) Joan (or Cecily) de Waterton

17. Margaret de Welles, d. 13 Jul 1480; m. (1) Thomas Dymoke

18. Lionel Dymoke, d. 17 Aug 1519; m. (1) Joan Griffith (daughter of Rhys Griffith)

19. Alice Dymoke; m. (his 2nd) William Skipwith, d. 7 Jul 1547


{[a]  Caesar was a title below the rank of emperor.

[b]  Margaret of France, second queen of Edward I, also has a descent from Isaac II Angelus through Matilda’s brother Henry III of Brabant.}

In the case of multiple marriages, the relevant marriage is given.

The Alexiad by Anna Comnena (sister of 4. Theodora), is a classic of medieval literature:

Comnena, Anna; Sewter, E.R.A., trans.  (1969, repr. 2003).  The Alexiad. London, New York:  Penguin Books Classics.

Of the Angeli, Norwich says:  “Of all the families that reigned over Byzantium, the Angeli were the worst.  Their supremacy was mercifully short — the three Angelus Emperors — Isaac II, Alexius III and Alexius IV — altogether reigned only nineteen years.  But each was disastrous, and together they were responsible for Constantinople’s greatest catastrophe until its final fall.”  Norwich is referring to the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the Franks of the Fourth Crusade.  Constantinople finally fell to the Turks in 1453.

Of the wife of Louis III (The Blind), King of Provence & Italy (d. 5 June 928), AR8 (2004) names her as Anna, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI.  Norwich (1997) has a chart showing Anna as Louis III’s wife, but Ostrogorsky (1969) and Treadgold (1997) are silent on the matter.


Alice (Dymoke) Skipwith descended from two kings of Jerusalem:

Fulk V, Count of Anjou, King of Jerusalem 1131-1143, d. 10 Nov 1144 in a hunting accident near Acre, bur. in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; m. (1) Erembourg of Maine; grandparents of Henry II of England.  Fulk m. (2) Melisende de Rethel.  The royal tombs are in the Chapel of Adam.

Jean de Brienne, b. ca. 1168, d. 21 Mar 1237, King of Jerusalem 1210-1215, Latin Emperor of Constantinople 1228; m. (3) Berengaria of Leon; ancestors of Roger de Mortimer, 1st Earl of March (executed by Edward III), lover of Edward II’s queen Isabella of France. Mortimer’s daughter Catherine m. Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.


(Imaginative rendering of the Crusader assault on Constantinople in 1204.)

Although Greek rule of some Byzantine territories didn’t end after the sack of Constantiniple, the imperial city was not retaken by the Greeks until 1261.  The Byzantine empire was steadlily encroached upon by Muslim forces until Constantinople fell to the Ottomans under Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.


•February 10, 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 Macedinian 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?  

An Internet message board isn’t a good place to hire a genealogist.  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.  They’re 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.

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 eleven 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.”

Let’s take a look at his lines (comments in parentheses are 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 (although 9 & 10 Taylor didn’t bother to verify), 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 focusses on the medieval descendants of King Edward I of England.  As he 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.

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, the descent into layers of garbage by a once-gifted man.

I have been contacted privately by several individuals who post on “soc.genealogy.medieval.”  Their emails appear to be attempts to rope me into some form of exchange that involves money. They also claim to know Gary Boyd Roberts.  I urge readers to not post to “soc.genealogy.medieval.”  Reading the posts and searching the archives can be useful, but posting to the board may expose the poster to unwelcome attention, not to mention the occasional solicitation for porn.


I’m not the Harry Houdini of royal genealogy, out to expose every genealogical poseur. If it seems I’m too hard on these people, remember they’re all in one way or another making money from their services.  Some of these genealogists are better than others, but they choose to ply their trade in the same environment with others who are outright frauds with no standards of personal integrity.  It’s a very serious matter when respectable publishing houses like Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. issue books of dubious scholarship.  It creates generations of victims.

Stephen of Blois: the once and forgotten king

•February 9, 2014 • Comments Off

Davis, R.H.C. (Ralph Henry Carless).  (1990).  King Stephen 1135-1154 Third Edition. London and New York:  Longman.

Fans of the Brother Cadfael mystery novels by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) know the series is set during the turbulent reign of King Stephen of England, grandson of William the Conqueror.

As King Henry I of England lay dying, he extracted from his barons a promise to accept his daughter Matilda, his only surviving legitimate child, as Queen of England.  His plans were to be thwarted.  Henry’s nephew Stephen of Blois, son of his sister Adela, seized the throne with the support of the barons.

Matilda, once the wife of Henry V, Emperor of Germany, married Geoffrey Plantagenet, 10 years her junior but her match in ambition.  And Matilda wasn’t going to leave Stephen in peace.

(Matilda of England, consort of the German Emperor Henry V.  Matilda had no children by Henry V.  Her second marriage to Geoffrey Plantagenet produced Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England.)

Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, was the son of Fulk, King of Jerusalem.  Geoffrey expanded his possessions beyond Anjou to include the duchy of Normandy, which made him the most powerful man in France.  Matilda despised him as her social inferior.

While the fortunes of the civil war between King Stephen and Geoffrey’s well-funded wife shifted back and forth, England was lawless without stable leadership.  In 1141/2 Matilda actually managed to capture the throne, but was so haughty the Londoners drove her out.  In the winter of 1142, with King Stephen besieging Matilda’s forces in Oxford Castle, she made a desperate escape by walking through the enemy lines in the dead of night.

Finally, King Stephen agreed to a truce:  In exchange for disinheriting his son Eustace, and accepting Geoffrey and Matilda’s son Henry as heir apparent, Stephen was allowed to live out his reign.  He died on 25 Oct 1154 and was buried in the Cluniac Abbey of Faversham, which he had founded.  The new king of England, Henry II, was absent among the mourners.

The abbey was demolished during the reign of King Henry VIII.  The bones of King Stephen, his wife Matilda of Boulogne, and his son Eustace are said to have been thrown into Faversham Creek.

The authors of the popular book Holy Blood, Holy Grail claimed King Stephen to be a descendant of the Merovingian kings of France, and thus a descendant of Jesus, a claim which has since been exposed as a hoax.

King Stephen did have one legitimate surviving child who had issue:  Marie (Mary) of Blois, who barely concealed her distaste for marriage and eventually became a nun.

As a bridge between the Norman and Plantagenet kings of England, King Stephen is often forgotten, his reign considered a failure.  But it points to the fact that England was not ready to accept the rule of a woman, and is a rare example of lack of judgement on the part of the crafty King Henry I, who cannot have been very optimistic that his daughter Matilda would ever occupy the throne of England and command the respect of his warlords.

Death In Dunklin County: The Odell Gentry Shooting

•February 5, 2014 • Comments Off

As a genealogist, I always prefer to work from records rather than family stories.  But here are two seemingly unconnected records that don’t tell the whole story.

The first is the marriage record of my great-grandfather, James Edward Chipman, to Minnie Harmon.  The marriage took place 20 Feb 1939 in Hollywood, Missouri:

The second record is the death certificate of one Odell Gentry dated 21 Sep 1954. Printable copies of Missouri death certificates filed from 1910 to 1963 are available online at the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.  Here the cause of death is “Homicide by Gunshot Wound.”

What’s the connection?

Odell Gentry was the son of Minnie Harmon.  She’s listed as Minnie Lee Thomas on his death certificate.  And James Edward Chipman shot and killed Odell Gentry.

James Edward Chipman was then 74 years old.  Minnie Harmon was his third wife.  His second wife was Myrtle Williams, whom he divorced.  The book on Myrtle was that she was more souse than spouse.  His first wife was Allie May Oxley, and Allie, the mother of his five children, was the glue that held the family together.  Allie died from complications stemming from an automobile accident.  James Edward was never the same.

Allie’s mother, Mariah Caroline (Riddle) Oxley, was a successful businesswoman in Dunklin County, Missouri.  She was the family’s grand dame, in the old Southern tradition, the daughter of John Franklin Riddle and Joellan Beckwith.  About 1900, James Edward Chipman and his cousin Charles Monroe Chipman left Lauderdale County, Tennessee and settled in Dunklin County.  But Mariah and Allie, whose families had resided in the Missouri bootheel section for decades prior to the arrival of James Edward Chipman, were the family’s real support.

[Mariah Caroline (Riddle) Oxley (1857--1934), detail from a family group photo, ca. 1929. ]

[Tombstone of Aquilla Voin Oxley, born Dec. 5, 1847, died Nov. 18, 1887, father of Allie May (Oxley) Chipman, at Rocky Hill Cemetary near Campbell, Dunklin Co., MO.]

On 5 Nov 2010 I spoke with Tony Byrd, a member of the Dunklin County Genealogical Society, about obtaining a copy of the Coroner’s Inquest.  I was told if a person caused the death of another, but wasn’t charged with a crime, the records are permanently sealed.  He called again on 6 Nov 2010 and said he’d located an extensive newspaper account of the Odell Gentry inquest, and would mail it to me.

The following account is taken directly from the Dunklin Democrat published on 23 Sep 1954, two days after the shooting:

“A coroner’s jury at Senath yesterday [22 Sep 1954] cleared Ed Chipman, 74, in the slaying of his step-son, Odell Gentry, 38, at the family home a mile south of Senath.

“The jury after 15 minutes deliberation brought in a verdict that Chipman had shot Gentry in self defense.

“Chipman had told the inquest that he fired one shot from ‘a 22-caliber, single shot rifle at Gentry as the younger man advanced on him with a knife.’

“Chipman said that Gentry was intoxicated when he came to the Chipman home with Lester Pruett, 29.  Pruett, who is the grandson of Chipman’s wife, was wounded in the left arm by the bullet which killed Gentry.”

The account then states Lester Pruett was treated at Presnell hospital, but the bullet could not be immediately removed and was still in Pruett’s arm when he testified at the inquest.  Pruett gave an account of his and Gentry’s movements prior to the shooting. They arrived at the Chipman home between 3:00 and 4:00 PM Tuesday afternoon.  Pruett claimed Gentry was drunk and Pruett was trying to get him out of the house.

Let’s pick it up at James Edward Chipman’s testimony:

“Chipman Tells Story  Although he was not required to testify, Chipman decided to tell the inquest jury his story of the shooting.

“The elderly man, who is known around Senath as ‘Uncle Ed,’ said he was lying on a day bed in the living room of his home when Gentry and Pruett arrived.  He said both men appeared to have been drinking.

“Chipman said that when Gentry came into the living room he told Chipman to ‘get up and go to work.’  Chipman said that he answered, ‘Now, Odell, don’t bother me.  I’m a sick man.’

“Chipman said that Gentry started toward him but that Pruett grappled with Gentry, trying to get him out of the house.  Chipman told the inquest that he got up from the day bed and went to a bedroom where he got the rifle.

“He said that he then returned to the dining room which is connected to the living room by a wide door.  Chipman said he told his step-son, ‘Now, Odell, I’ve asked you to not come home when you’re drinking and mistreat us.’

“The elderly man said Gentry pulled a knife from his pocket and started advancing on him.

“‘I told him twice to put the knife down,’ Chipman related to the jurymen.  ‘He didn’t do it and I put up the .22 (rifle) and let him have it,’ Chipman said.

“Gentry fell immediately in the middle of the living room floor.

“Chipman said that he then went out to the kitchen door, reloaded the rifle and walked to the front yard where he sat down in a chair.  Later, when neighbors arrived at the house he gave the rifle to one of them.

“Mrs. Chipman [Odell's mother] was in the house during part of the disturbance leading up to the shooting.  However, she was confined to the home Wednesday morning and did not testify at the inquest.”

The account continues with the testimony of Ed Aumon of the Howard funeral service, who was called to the Chipman home.  Aumon picked up Senath police officer Rushie Marlin en route, but had to return to Senath for a gun as Marlin was not then armed.

“When they [Aumon and Marlin] returned, Chipman gave up the loaded rifle to one of the men who arrived about the time they did, Aumon said.  He told the jury that Gentry was lying dead in the middle of the living room floor.

“Aumon testified that the bullet had entered Gentry’s chest about three inches below the left nipple.  It had come out the right side of the body.”

The shooting was ruled self defense and no charges were filed.  From the account, it was justifiable homicide.  Clearly, Odell Gentry intended to harm, if not kill, James Edward Chipman, who acted out of fear for his life.  Velma Southard, who was the informant on Gentry’s death certificate, was Gentry’s sister.

My father attended the inquest.  His account, which provides a little background to the above, was that Odell Gentry lived in a ramshackle house on James Edward’s property. Evidently Odell had been beating up the old man and stealing his money.  James Edward let it be known that if Odell did it one more time, he was going to shoot him.  And the next time Odell showed up and demanded money, James Edward shot him with a rifle.

It’s straight out of a William Faulkner novel.  (One of Allie May Oxley’s ancestors was a William Faulkner.  Faulkner’s daughter Annaretta married Allie’s grandfather James Oxley.  I’ve often wondered if the two William Faulkners were related.)

Minnie got a divorce.  James Edward went into rapid decline, and in November of the following year, was admitted to a hospital to be treated for TB.  There he died, on 31 Jan 1956, of “Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease.”

Maybe it was a broken heart.


I’ve been researching family history since 1987, and I’ve seen most situations more than once.  There aren’t many “Eureka!” moments anymore.  But this was one of them.

It began when I decided to investigate the Odell Gentry shooting, in which my great-grandfather James Edward Chipman shot to death his step-son. Anytime someone is killed outside of a theatre of war, it’s disturbing.  Was the old man really justified?  What actually happened?

I made several phone calls to Kennett, the county seat of Dunklin County, Missouri, to track down the records of the Odell Gentry inquest.  One of those calls was to the public library in Kennett, which I knew to be a great resource for those researching Dunklin County families.  I gave my name and number to a librarian who said she’d pass it on to a member of the Dunklin County Genealogical Society.

Tony Byrd called.  He was familiar with the case.  He told me the inquest records would be permanently sealed.  And one thing he said threw me:  Odell Gentry had not come to the Chipman home alone.  There was an accomplice, who had suffered a non-life threatening wound.  So I reviewed my notes on the matter.

The next day Tony called, and said he’d located a comprehensive account of the Gentry shooting in the Dunklin Democrat, and would send it to me.  We talked for awhile, and agreed that the shooting had drained the life out of James Edward.  The shooting was quite a sensation, front page news and common knowledge in Dunklin County.  Tony’s connection to the Chipman family is that his wife was related to Myrtle Williams, James Edward Chipman’s second wife.

The headline in the Dunklin Democrat read:


[Clicking on the photo will enlarge it.]

I want to thank Tony Byrd for taking the time to locate this material.  During my 23 years of research, it’s been my good fortune to encounter people who have helped me answer difficult questions, and Tony Byrd is one of those people.  My collection of family records would be a fraction of what it is without them.


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