Tag Archive | family history

New Year, New direction…

timesips-through-the-years

First of all, I want to say Thank You to all of the fans and friends who have visited over the past few years! This space  has taken many different directions and paths since it’s beginnings. It started as just a little corner of the sims 3 world where I could share my creations. From that early beginning through all of it’s twists and turns, one overall theme or idea has been and will continue to be my guide through the next year. That founding focus is the love of history and a desire to encourage interest in the subject by any means possible. Whether that interest is spurred or inspired by your passion for a book, a movie, a game or your family ancestry, it makes no difference to me as long as something inspires you to wonder, to question, to learn more about history as you enjoy the stories that are all woven from bits and pieces of history. Our journey together began in the fantasy type gaming world of the Sims franchise, led us into the historical fantasy time travel world of Outlander, then guided us to the realms of more ancient somewhat historical fantasy world of the Vikings, the Saxons and even the earlier times of Romans in Britain. Along the way, we have delved into much of that early history and even made some forays into Norman history and the medieval era. We have explored those worlds through books, through movies, and through additional research into actual events and people as we made our way through time via the stories told.  Through it all, it was the story that first captured our attention and interest. It was a story that inspired and guided us to each and every destination in history that we have visited. All of those virtual travels through time culminated in an amazing real trip through time for me last spring when I finally had the chance to visit some of the places where so much history took place. During that trip and afterwards, I was inspired and in some way guided to take a step back from the stories of others to focus on the story within me. I took a much needed break from this space to devote my energy and passion to the history that has made me who I am. 

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

As we are so often reminded, Our lives are stories waiting to be told. I have often repeated that thought and made mention of how important I believe that statement is in the context of each of us having a story within us worth telling, worth sharing. I have touched on this subject in previous posts but just want to address it quickly here again because it directly relates to the path and direction that I will be taking in this coming year. Each and every one of us comes into this world with a story already started, we are just another chapter in that never ending story. Some may think and assume that their story is insignificant, boring, mundane and not worth reading, telling or sharing… and in some respects that may well be true. There always chapters of a story that we deem somewhat boring or tedious. We often struggle through those seemingly inconsequential, unnecessary details wondering why the author is bothering with this. We skim over those parts in anticipation of the bigger, better portion of the story only to find out later that those small insignificant details were extremely important to a later chapter or event in the overall story. Perhaps we are one of those smaller “insignificant detail chapters”, maybe much of our more recent family history falls into that category… that does not mean that we are not an important and integral part of the bigger story. It simply means that our portion of the bigger story is yet to be told. We are all a part of that unfolding story and it is up to each of us to find the meaning of our part or role in that story. 

ancestors-with-you

For some of us, we may be destined to be the story teller, the record keeper, in a way- the voice over narrator for part of the story. It may be our calling to be one of those who keeps the story alive, shares the memories of those in the past. In that capacity, we are an essential  part of the story for we enable the story to be remembered, for the events and the people of our past story to have meaning. With or without us story tellers/narrators, the story would continue to unfold but the past chapters would be forever lost to those in the future chapters. In a sense, it would be like starting to read a book, watch a movie or series halfway through and thinking, “What the Heck is going on here? I’m so confused, what happened before?” So, the reader or viewer goes to find the earlier parts and discovers that those earlier portions have completely disappeared or have been buried in some vault somewhere that requires much searching to discover. Think of it in terms of the books and shows we have discussed over the years here… imagine for example that you were only able read the Outlander series from midpoint on and had no idea what events took place in those early years? Or, you were only able to watch the Vikings from season 3 onward… when you went to search for earlier seasons, they were all locked away in a vault somewhere and not easily accessed online. You may be interested and want to know about those earlier beginnings, you may be frustrated in reading or watching the current events playing out while not knowing what happened to bring about the events you are watching or reading now but the search for that background information might become so frustrating that you just give up on knowing what happened before. As a result, in a way, the overall story has been changed and altered by not knowing the events that led up to what is taking place now and in the future. The early events and people that played an important part in getting the story where it is right now will be forgotten and when or if they are mentioned in some future episode or chapter, they will be relegated to some category of either legend or folklore, or they will be deemed as completely insignificant non-important entities even though they may have been a crucial part of the story’s outcome!

On the opposite side of the above scenario is the thought most all of us have had at one time or another when a book or series ends. We go through a sort of let down, and are often left with the all consuming, frustrating thought of “But, then what happens to them?” Many stories leave us hanging, they have some unfinished business, there is an open ended finish to them that leaves us wondering and guessing at the people’s lives after the story ends. We all know that the phrase, “And they all lived happily ever after” just does not cut it, even with the majority of pre-schoolers! Those young children are often the ones asking the all important questions of then what happened? We ponder and guess at the what happened next and in the end, usually console ourselves with creating our own sort of closure or after life for those that we grew to care about in a good story. What happens next is that life goes on, stories play out and become a part of history until it merges with the present and each of us makes an appearance.  The moment we are born, we become part of the story and the history. Whether we concern ourselves with the rest of the story or not, we are still a part of it and at some point in the future we will be part of the story even if we are a forgotten name in an insignificant chapter. While we are living here in the present, helping to create the ongoing story, it is up to each of us how we choose to be portrayed in some later chapter. We can choose to remain an insignificant bystander whose name and life events disappear into the fabric of the ongoing saga, or we can make an effort to make some contribution, to be someone more than just a faceless, nameless remnant of the story’s background. We do not have make some amazing, awe inspiring, world changing contribution, all we need to do is live a life worth remembering, make a difference in one person’s life so that one person honors us with passing on our name, our existence, our story to the future. We make such choices on a minute by minute, day by day basis as we live our life hope that in some way, at the end of our chapter, we have made a difference, made a contribution, made our name and our life a treasured and valued memory. That is how our life becomes a part of the story because yes, in the end our life is but a distant memory and a story to be passed down. 

In some case, many cases to be realistic, we are far more that the record keeper or story teller. We are often an integral part of the story whether we realize it or not. Very often, our family story is one of unknown mysteries, forgotten tragedies and adventures, and we are a part of the search for answers to those mysteries and secrets left in the past. Those secrets left in the past were often left there for what seemed like a sound or just reason at the time the events were playing out. But, as we all know, secrets seldom stay buried forever and mysteries have a way of sucking us into the story. When presented with the unknown, with a mystery, most of us are drawn into it, and what ever the secret or mystery is, we have an innate sense of curiosity about it. We find ourselves at times reading an otherwise somewhat boring or not so well written story, continuing to read just in order to solve the puzzle or have some answer to what ever mystery is presented to us. We want to know what actually happened, or why it happened and if we do not find the answers, we will often search for some fathomable conclusion on our own… and if we can not find such a conclusion, we will make one up if for no other reason than just to satisfy that sense of curiosity! 

From Aberdeen to Dublin

Those of you who are regular visitors or readers know that I  occasionally include stories from my own family history as we travel through various points in time. I have made it a point to address the idea that I feel a deep connection to my family history, to my ancestors life events and how those people and events affect who we are and how we choose to live our lives. Each and every person has a separate individual history that in one way makes us completely unique and individual but at the same time also connects us together as a group through our shared histories and our dna.  As I mentioned earlier, my journey last spring was a life changing experience in many profound ways. That journey to the United Kingdom and it’s rich history was on the surface, one of those chances and trips of a life time to savor and enjoy for the usual travel experience, but it also had some other much deeper meaning for me. It left me examining my present choices and paths, and it inspired me to put more time into my own personal family story. I have spent the past months away from here focusing on that personal family history, on many of the secrets and mysteries, the unknowns in my ancestry. After so many months of continued research into my own family history, I am ready now to begin a new chapter for this blog….

family-migration

I hope that many of you will remain regular readers as we make a change in our direction and our path. I have covered much of the more ancient past in general as it relates to such topics as the Vikings, Saxon history, medieval history, along with much of the history surrounding people, places and events that relate to the incredible world of Outlander. I have previously touched on some of my personal ancestry as it might relate to those topics- such as the fact that much of my ancestry goes back to those earliest times in Britain including some Saxons, some Vikings, and some Normans. My plan now it to take us on a journey through a slightly later time frame. In the coming months, I hope to share with you the stories of how my ancestors made the migration from Europe to this new world, America and how they moved across the country. This journey will take us mainly from England and the Netherlands to the early beginnings of New York, New Amsterdam, New Jersey and the early colonies as I attempt to trace the migration path that my ancestors took as part of a large extended family group that eventually settled in the midwest. This is not just the story of my direct ancestors but one of a collective group of families that came together in the earliest colonies in New Amsterdam and New Jersey and over generations remained an extended family group that migrated to parts of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio before making that one last migration to areas of Illinois. As I began to trace my family members back, I consistently found the same family names and groups intertwined together so there is really no way to tell just one individual family’s story without telling the stories of all those others! It is also a story of varied backgrounds and beliefs, from rich and poor, Protestants and Puritans, Patriots and Loyalists, Quakers and Mormons, all coming together in the struggle to survive and forge a new life for their families.

I invite you to join me as I tell the story of my family, and possibly yours as well. Along the way, I will try to give my thoughts on some of the resources, research tools that have helped me at times, or have made my life more frustrating. On a separate page I will provided a list of family ancestor surnames for my family. If any of those names or families look familiar to you, please contact me! I would love to know that I am making some difference and helping someone else taking on their own family research. I would also love to know how you fit into this ongoing story of family!

 

 

Today’s ancestry and history lesson sponsored by the Gaunt family!

Ok, today’s ancestry and history lesson has nothing to do with the Viking era or the early Anglo-Saxons. No, today we are going to move forward a few centuries to some equally interesting family members. I have to admit that finding these ancestors has made me more appreciative of my more boring, average and mundane life! This week’s ancestry research has connected me to some families that I am not really sure I necessarily want to be descended from? I am beginning to realize why so many of my ancestors tried to stay on the edge of Royal and Nobility politics, why their fortunes may have took a down turn eventually and why they might have jumped at the chance to head for the wilds of America first chance they got!  I have found myself caught up in the web of Nobility and Royalty of the 1300s- a web of scheming, plotting and feuding families that would equal to anything earlier generations could have thought of!  After trying to sort through some of it, I will no longer complain about sifting through generation after generation of plain ordinary families who left little trace of their history.  

This family history update is brought to you by the Gaunt family… John of Gaunt and his rather illustrious family that includes some royalty, some nobility, some rather famous friends, plus assorted wives, and a  professional mistress who made good. 

blanche of lancaster and katherine swynford

I am not going to share the entire book that it would require to document events of this family. I just want to share the beginning of this family saga that will eventually drag us through the War of the Roses with ancestors on both sides of the long drawn out battle for the crown and the power of the English monarchy. A family saga that will come to include the Gaunt descendants, the Beaufort, Nevilles and the Percy families.

John of Gaunt is my 17x great grandfather by way of his daughter Joan Beaufort with Mistress turned wife, Katherine Swynford.

joan beaufort

Many people who have some interest in medieval history may be familiar with Katherine Swynford, one of the more famous or infamous mistresses who made good and managed to retire comfortably to wifedom… You may not realize that she was also a pre-cursor to the now somewhat familiar and infamous idea of the not so trusted Nanny idea.  She is also some proof that occasionally the role or career of long term mistress does pay off if one is willing to stick it out and ignore the bad press and scandal associated with the career. 

Let’s look at John of Gaunt first… he was no stranger to bad press and rumors himself! John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of KingEdward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called “John of Gaunt” because he was born in Ghent, then rendered in English as Gaunt. When he became unpopular later in life, scurrilous rumours and lampoons circulated that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher, perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. This story always drove him to fury. 

As a younger brother of Edward, Prince of Wales (Edward, the Black Prince), John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of Edward’s son, who became King Richard II, and the ensuing periods of political strife. Due to some generous land grants, John was one of the richest men in his era. He made an abortive attempt to enforce a claim to the Crown of Castile that came courtesy of his second wife Constance, who was an heir to the Castillian Kingdom, and for a time styled himself as such. So, let’s just say that John was a pretty catch even if he wasn’t in line for a crown! John of Gaunt’s legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, include Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants include his daughtersQueen Philippa of Portugal and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter (by his first wife Blanche of Lancaster), and Queen Catherine of Castile (by his second wifeConstance of Castile). John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four by Katherine Swynford, Gaunt’s long-term mistress and third wife.

john.gaunt.4

John was the fourth son of King Edward III of England. His first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, was also his third cousin, both as great-great-grandchildren of King Henry III. They married in 1359 at Reading Abbey as a part of the efforts of Edward III to arrange matches for his sons with wealthy heiresses. Upon the death of his father-in-law, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, in 1361, John received half his lands, the title “Earl of Lancaster”, and distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England as heir of the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland. John inherited the rest of the Lancaster property when Blanche’s sister Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died without issue on 10 April 1362.

John received the title “Duke of Lancaster” from his father on 13 November 1362. By then well established, he owned at least thirty castles and estates across England and France and maintained a household comparable in scale and organisation to that of a monarch. He owned land in almost every county in England, a patrimony that produced a net income of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_Gaunt

Since we are looking more at his personal life here, I am not going to go into great detail about his professional life as in his politics, or his battle accomplishments-or lack of them. Despite any other faults or errors he may have made, he was loyal to his King. When Edward III died in 1377 and John’s ten-year-old nephew succeeded as Richard II of England, John’s influence strengthened. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne himself. John took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard’s kingship.

blanche of lancaster

As I mentioned, we are looking more at his personal life here- his marriages, and affairs of the heart so to speak.  On 19 May 1359 at Reading Abbey, John married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The wealth she brought to the marriage was the foundation of John’s fortune. Blanche died on 12 September 1368 at Tutbury Castle, while her husband was overseas. Their son Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England, after the duchy of Lancaster was taken by Richard II upon John’s death while Henry was in exile. Their daughter Philippa became Queen of Portugal by marrying King John I of Portugal in 1387. All subsequent kings of Portugal were thus descended from John of Gaunt.

marriage_of_blanche_of_lancster_and_john_of_gaunt_1359

Jean Froissart described Blanche (following her death) as “jone et jolie” (“young and pretty”). Geoffrey Chaucer described “White” (the central figure in hisBook of the Duchess, believed to have been inspired by Blanche: see below) in such terms as “rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed”, her neck as “whyt, smothe, streght, and flat”, and her throat as “a round tour of yvoire”: she was “bothe fair and bright”, and Nature’s “cheef patron [pattern] of beautee”. Of course she was young and probably pretty… she was born in  March 1345, although the year 1347 has also been suggested. So, given that birth date she was all of 13 or 14 at the time! 

Gaunt and Blanche’s marriage is widely believed to have been happy, although there is little solid evidence for this. The assumption seems to be based on the fact that Gaunt chose to be buried with Blanche, despite his two subsequent marriages, and on the themes of love, devotion and grief expressed in Chaucer’s poem (see below) – a rather circular argument, as it is partly on the basis of these themes that the couple’s relationship is identified as the inspiration for the poem. Blanche and Gaunt had seven children, three of whom survived infancy.

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Tomb_of_John_of_Gaunt_and_Blanche_of_Lancaster

Blanche died at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire, on 12 September 1368 while her husband was overseas.  She was 23 years of age at the time of her death, although Froissart reported that she died aged about 22. It is believed that she may have died after contracting the Black Death which was rife in Europe at that time. Her funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was preceded by a magnificent cortege attended by most of the upper nobility and clergy. John of Gaunt held annual commemorations of her death for the rest of his life and established a joint chantry foundation on his own death. 

It may have been for one of the anniversary commemorations of Blanche’s death that Geoffrey Chaucer, then a young squire and mostly unknown writer of court poetry, was commissioned to write what became The Book of the Duchess in her honour. Though Chaucer’s intentions can never be defined with absolute certainty, many believe that at least one of the aims of the poem was to make John of Gaunt see that his grief for his late wife had become excessive, and to prompt him to try to overcome it.

In 1374, six years after her death, John of Gaunt commissioned a double tomb for himself and Blanche from the mason Henry Yevele. The magnificent monument in the choir of St Paul’s was completed by Yevele in 1380, with the assistance of Thomas Wrek, having cost a total of £592. Gaunt himself died in 1399, and was laid to rest beside Blanche. The two effigies were notable for having their right hands joined. An adjacent chantry chapel was added between 1399 and 1403.

While John probably did love Blanche, and possibly grieved excessively for her, I have to think that he was not grieving too excessively for her… we have only to look at the appearance of Katherine Swynford in his household to give some proof of this. That is aside from the fact that he also married again in 1371 to Constance of Castile. 

Katherine was the daughter of Paon de Roet, a herald, and later knight, who was “probably christened as Gilles”. She had two sisters, Philippa and Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet, and a brother, Walter. Isabel later became Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru’s, Mons, c. 1366. Katherine is generally held to have been his youngest child. However, Alison Weir argues that Philippa was the junior and that both were children of a second marriage. Katherine’s sister Philippa, a lady of Queen Philippa’s household, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer

In about 1366, at St Clement Danes Church, Westminster, Katherine, aged sixteen or seventeen, contracted an advantageous marriage with “Hugh” Ottes Swynford, a Knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, the son of Thomas Swynford by his marriage to Nicole Druel. She had the following children by him: Blanche (born 1 May 1367), Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432), and possibly Margaret Swynford (born about 1369), later recorded as a nun of the prestigious Barking Abbey nominated by command of King Richard II.

Katherine became attached to the household of John of Gaunt as governess to his daughters Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. The ailing duchess Blanche had Katherine’s daughter Blanche (her namesake) placed within her own daughters’ chambers and afforded the same luxuries as her daughters; additionally, John of Gaunt stood as godfather to the child.

Some time after Blanche’s death in 1368 and the birth of their first son in 1373, Katherine and John of Gaunt entered into a love affair that would produce four children for the couple, born out of wedlock but legitimized upon their parents’ eventual marriage; the adulterous relationship endured until 1381 when it was truncated out of political necessity and ruined Katherine’s reputation. On 13 January 1396, two years after the death of the Duke’s second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile, Katherine and John of Gaunt married in Lincoln Cathedral. Records of their marriage kept in the Tower and elsewhere list: ‘John of Ghaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katharine daughter of Guyon King of Armes in the time of K. Edward the 3, and Geffrey Chaucer her sister’.

On John of Gaunt’s death, Katherine became known as dowager Duchess of Lancaster. She outlived him by four years, dying on 10 May 1403, in her early fifties.

Coat of arms of Katherine Swynford as Duchess of Lancaster, after her marriage to John of Gaunt : three gold Catherine wheels (“roet” means “little wheel” in Old French) on a red field. The wheel emblem shows Katherine’s devotion to her patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel,although there was once extant a copy of her seal’s impression, ca. 1377, showing her arms of three Catherine wheels of gold on a field Gules, a molet in fess point empaling the arms of Swynford (Birch’s Catalogue of Seals.
Children of Katherine and John of Gaunt:

The descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are significant in English and Scottish history. Their four children had been given the surname “Beaufort” and with the approval of King Richard II and the Pope were legitimated as adults by their parents’ marriage in 1396. Despite this, the Beauforts were barred from inheriting the throne of England by a clause in the legitimation act inserted by their half-brother, Henry IV, although modern scholarship disputes the authority of a monarch to alter an existing parliamentary statute on his own authority, without the further approval of Parliament. This provision was later revoked by Edward VI, placing Katherine’s descendants (including himself) back within the legitimate line of inheritance; the Tudor dynasty was directly descended from John and Katherine’s eldest child, John Beaufort, great-grandfather of Henry VII, who based his claim to the throne on his mother’s descent from John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III. John Beaufort also had a daughter named Joan Beaufort, who married James I of Scotland and thus was an ancestress of the House of Stuart.  John and Katherine’s daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of the English kings Edward IV and Richard III, the latter of whom Henry Tudor (thus becoming by conquest Henry VII) defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field; Henry’s claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. It was also through Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland that the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, descended.  John of Gaunt’s son — Katherine’s stepson Henry of Bolingbroke — became Henry IV after deposing Richard II (who was imprisoned and died in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine’s son, Thomas Swynford, was constable and is said to have starved Richard to death for his step-brother). John of Gaunt’s daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa of Lancaster, was great-great-grandmother to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Mary I of England. John of Gaunt’s child by his second wife Constance, Catherine (or Catalina), was great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon as well.

We could just leave the story here and conclude that in this instance, the mistress wins… but does she win by default and longevity or is she truly the love of his life who waited patiently on the side lines until he could marry her? Was Blanche the one he truly loved as Chaucer would suggest in some of his works, and Katherine won by the fact that she survived and stuck it out for that ultimate final pay out of marriage and legitimacy for their children. At the time of their marriage in 1396, all of the children were adults and were legitimized by the Pope- which while they were already set upon high standing positions- would greatly benefit the rest of their futures. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer.

One account and description of his appearance and character gives some clues to his mindset. 

John was dark-haired, with piercing eyes and a narrow, angular face. He was almost two metres tall (as his suit of armour at the Tower of London, “the Giant”, bears out). He was a superb judge of character, which attributed for his political finesse. And he was also an extremely proficient political negotiator. He did not enjoy battle, so was generally not successful in the field.

He had very strict ideas about chivalry, which he also expected from his knights. The pastimes he enjoyed were gaming (dice and chess) and hunting. He loved splendour but not pomp, was richer than the King (to quote R. Gablé: “as rich as a heathen caliph”), which was probably why he was in charge of the exchequer during Richard II’s reign. Those who disliked him would probably not have believed it, but he was a strongly loyal person. His far-sightedness and political expertise were held in great esteem abroad; but in England his true character was not appreciated, particularly by the people and the Church. It was one reason why he became very unhappy in later years, in spite of the fact that he was able to conceal his feelings in this (and many other respects). According to Candace Robb, he enjoyed a laugh but was quick to hold a grudge.

Blanche was the perfect lady. She was blonde, with an angelic appearance and had had an excellent upbringing. John loved and, above all, admired her greatly. He never really recovered from her death, although they could be said to have been companions rather than lovers. In an arranged marriage, one could probably consider a relationship of this kind a happy one.

Constanza was dark-haired and small. John evidently married her in a fit of euphoria (the throne of Castile) and under his father’s instructions. He was quick to see that he and Constanza would never see eye to eye, as they differed too greatly. She had a penchant for the Church, was fairly prude and, to John’s mind, too austere.

Katherine was a redhead and tall. She was, so to speak, the sunshine of his life. His mood brightened whenever she entered the room. When she was near him, or merely at the thought of her, his “troubled lot” became half as bad. Lists still exist of the many gifts he gave her (wine, money, estates etc.), which were intended to make her life easier and in consideration of what she had done for him. The fact that he could not marry her and love her officially troubled him greatly. In his view, their marriage was all too short. 

To put his relationships with both women in some perspective and reasoning, we can probably look at John’s character, his ideals and his friendship with one other person of importance, Geoffrey Chaucer. I have not made reference to John’s relationship or marriage to second wife Constance or Constanza because I think in all probability it was not any love, or lust match at all. It was an arranged marriage for political and economical reasons and did not play any part in his romantic notions or feelings for dead Blanche or living Katherine. It probably was more of a hindrance as he grew older and wanted to legitimize his relationship with Katherine for her benefit and for the benefit of their children. 

John believed in the idea of chivalry, honor and most probably that ideal of romantic courtly love. His marriage to Blanche was arranged but obviously there was some attraction and care for each other. After all, apparently she spent much of the short lived marriage pregnant. They were married for ten years and she bore seven children although only three survived. Their marriage was cut short by her untimely death at the fairly young age of 22. Added to the tragedy of her death was the fact that she died while he was away. Being the chivalrous man that he was and also given that he held some ideal or notion of that romantic love, he most likely would have indulged or dwelt on that idea of eternal love ever after.  As often happens with the death of someone close, the relationship takes on a more positive or glowing light than it may have actually been in reality. While they might have been relatively happy or at least not entirely miserable together, he may have put more outward mourning and grief over her death because of some feelings of guilt in not being there for her. Thus in death, she became that epitome, that idol of romantic love that the living could not compete with. Having went through a similar experience myself, I completely understand the adage that you can not compete with a dead lover.  No matter how he felt about Katherine, there would probably always have been a shadow or presence of  “perfection” Blanche

This could be what Chaucer was referencing and referring to when he suggested to John that he was over doing the grief stricken husband role and it was time to move on. He had already moved on partially but he needed to finally put closure to it all and give everyone a chance to go on as well. 

Geoffrey Chaucer was a life long friend of John Gaunt and most probably influenced him a great deal.  

Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century portrait

Geoffrey Chaucer ( c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of theMiddle Ages and was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher, and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten-year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. He is best known today for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular, Middle English, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.

Chaucer was a close friend of and served under the patronage of John of Gaunt, the wealthy Duke of Lancaster (and father of the future King of England). Near the end of their lives Lancaster and Chaucer became brothers-in-law. Chaucer married Philippa (Pan) de Roet in 1366, and Lancaster took his mistress of nearly 30 years, Katherine Swynford (de Roet), who was Philippa Chaucer’s sister, as his third wife in 1396. Although Philippa died c.1387, the men were bound as brothers and Lancaster’s children by Katherine—John, Henry, Thomas and Joan Beaufort—were Chaucer’s nephews and niece.

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer_Duchess blanche of lancaster

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, also known as the Deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse, was written in commemoration of Blanche of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife. The poem refers to John and Blanche in allegory as the narrator relates the tale of “A long castel with walles white/Be Seynt Johan, on a ryche hil” (1318–1319) who is mourning grievously after the death of his love, “And goode faire White she het/That was my lady name ryght” (948–949). The phrase “long castel” is a reference to Lancaster (also called “Loncastel” and “Longcastell”), “walles white” is thought to likely be an oblique reference to Blanche, “Seynt Johan” was John of Gaunt’s name-saint, and “ryche hil” is a reference to Richmond; these thinly veiled references reveal the identity of the grieving black knight of the poem as John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Earl of Richmond. “White” is the English translation of the French word “blanche”, implying that the white lady was Blanche of Lancaster.

Believed to have been written in the 1390s, Chaucer’s short poem Fortune, is also inferred to directly reference Lancaster. “Chaucer as narrator” openly defies Fortune, proclaiming he has learned who his enemies are through her tyranny and deceit, and declares “my suffisaunce” (15) and that “over himself hath the maystrye” (14). Fortune, in turn, does not understand Chaucer’s harsh words to her for she believes she has been kind to him, claims that he does not know what she has in store for him in the future, but most importantly, “And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve” (32, 40, 48). Chaucer retorts that “My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse” (50) and orders her to take away those who merely pretend to be his friends. Fortune turns her attention to three princes whom she implores to relieve Chaucer of his pain and “Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse/That to som beter estat he may atteyne” (78–79). The three princes are believed to represent the dukes of Lancaster, York, andGloucester, and a portion of line 76, “as three of you or tweyne,” to refer to the ordinance of 1390 which specified that no royal gift could be authorised without the consent of at least two of the three dukes.  Most conspicuous in this short poem is the number of references to Chaucer’s “beste frend”. Fortune states three times in her response to the plaintiff, “And also, you still have your best friend alive” (32, 40, 48); she also references his “beste frend” in the envoy when appealing to his “noblesse” to help Chaucer to a higher estate. A fifth reference is made by “Chaucer as narrator” who rails atFortune that she shall not take his friend from him. While the envoy playfully hints to Lancaster that Chaucer would certainly appreciate a boost to his status or income, the poem Fortune distinctively shows his deep appreciation and affection for John of Gaunt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Chaucer

 

On a final note, there are a few books related to Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt that you might find interesting. I have not read them as yet, but am suggesting them because I trust the author! I do plan to read more about her now. 

mistress of the monarchy by alison weir

Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roët was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John’s mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

history of royal marriages and the monarchy by alison wier

George III is alleged to have married secretly, on 17th April, 1759, a Quakeress called Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, who is said to have borne him three children. Documents relating to the alleged marriage, bearing the Prince’s signature, were impounded and examined in 1866 by the Attorney General. Learned opinion at the time leaned to the view that these documents were genuine. They were then placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor; in 1910, permission was refused a would-be author who asked to see them. If George III did make such a marriage when he was Prince of Wales, before the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772, then his subsequent marriage to Queen Charlotte was bigamous, and every monarch of Britain since has been a usurper, the rightful heirs of George III being his children by Hannah Lightfoot, if they ever existed.’ From Britain’s Royal Families

Britain’s Royal Families is a unique reference book. It provides, for the first time in one volume, complete genealogical details of all members of the royal houses of England, Scotland and Great Britain – from 800AD to the present. Here is the vital biographical information relating not only to each monarch, but also to every member of their immediate family, from parents to grandchildren. Drawing on countless authorities, both ancient and modern, Alison Weir explores the royal family tree in unprecedented depth and provides a comprehensive guide to the heritage of today’s royal family.

 

 

 

 

A long path back to that Last Kingdom and the real Uhtred the Bold!

No, I have not deserted you, forgotten you, or gotten completely lost in time… well, okay I have come close on that last one! I have taken some much needed time off from writing to enjoy the holidays with my family. I hope that all of you had time to spend with your own families and appreciate the gift that family is. No matter what problems you may face, how annoying, irritating or frustrating your family may be at times, this is the time of year to set those problems aside and be thankful for what and who you have been blessed with.

Besides enjoying the family  that is here with me, I have been busy trying to fill in the gaps of my family tree as a way of connecting with the past on a personal level and honoring all of those ancestors who have had a part in shaping who I am today. I am trying to fill in those gaps and get a better picture or understanding of  those ancestors in Britain in preparation for my upcoming trip to England in April.  That trip planning has taken up a good portion of my free time as well. Those of you who visit here on a regular basis are probably aware of my planned trip. It is pretty much official now- having received flight confirmations as a Christmas gift from my daughter. As she says, “No backing out now cause the tickets are already paid for… Now, you’re going whether you want to or not!”  We will be flying from Seattle to Aberdeen Scotland with a stop over in Iceland. Our trip will take us through Scotland, England, a stop in Cardiff Wales and and ending stop in Dublin, Ireland with a flight home from Dublin to San Francisco. This is the trip of a lifetime, a fulfillment of dreams and a very real connection to our heritage that began so many centuries ago in Britain. 

You can read more about our trip plans here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/timeslips-makes-travel-plans-real-ones/

TimeSlips travels

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/travel-planning-and-last-kingdom/

Bambugh Castle, the inspiration and setting for Bebbenburg Castle in Last Kingdom

Bamburgh Castle, the inspiration and setting for Bebbenburg Castle in Last Kingdom

The next few months are going to be extremely busy for me as I work  to get everything sorted out and set for this trip. I will try to keep you all updated as much as possible but most of my energy, effort and focus will be devoted to getting through the next few months of intense research and planning. Much of our reason for this trip is to find and feel that connection to our very distant roots.  I am working on piecing together those distant names and places of our ancient history in Britain and finding ways to fit them into our journey. It’s not just the idea of seeing the fantastic historical sites, but of also seeing them in connection to our family roots. 

If you have read through some of my family history posts, you know that I have found some ancestry links that take us back as far as Northumbria and Uhtred the Bold who has found fame in Bernard Cornwell’s versions of Anglo-Saxon history in his Last Kingdom series. This is in addition to the links that take us back to William the Conqueror and then further back of course to Rollo, the founder of Normandy, who has found his own fame in Michael Hirst’s Vikings Saga. These links are all due to one young woman who on initial appearance in our family tree seemed quite unremarkable or uneventful… other than the fact that she seemed to be married off at an extremely young age, even for back then, to my ancestor Humphrey Workman. This young girl- I have to call her a girl because according to some of the records, she was married to Humphrey at the age of 11 or 12- Joan Hathaway was her name and she brought to our family an ancestry that included those already mentioned, along with the inclusion of some other famous or infamous historical figures by the name of Wydville or Woodville.  I have mentioned her limited story in some previous posts concerning family history but I just wanted to mention her here once again and give her the credit she deserves. We know very little about her or her immediate family other than that her Father, Robert Hathaway died shortly before her marriage leaving a rather large family to be taken care of. Joan was one of two girls and was the youngest child of the family. There were five older brothers, all of whom were young adults when their Father died. As far as any records show, Joan’s older sister, Alice did not marry and died in about 1560. My personal thought is that possibly the older brothers and or Joan’s Mother sought to see her married off quickly after Robert’s death in 1545. My ancestor, Humphrey was the son of a wealthy merchant in the area of  King’s Stanley, Gloucestire. He was born in 1525 and was about 10 years older than Joan who was born in 1536. We know little about Humphrey or his parents Nicholas and Julyan Workman- they are one of those families who just seem to appear in a place from nowhere? It is Joan who holds the key to unlocking this portion of our history so I feel it only right to give her her due mention! 

While I do try to keep an open mind on facts and such the further back you go in tracing family history, I do have my share of suspicious nature and skepticism regarding information and all of the possibilities for misinterpretation, errors, blatant mistakes and even made up connections as people strive to connect themselves to some bit of famous history. The striving for famous connections has never been my intent, desire or wish. When I have stumbled across the more famous links recently, in fact my first impulse has been to say- I’m sure that can’t be right! Because I have that skeptical and at times suspicious thought over information that I am doubtful about, I have purchased a DNA testing just to see where it leads and whether it backs up any of the information I have currently found. I will let you know later about this experience and whether it’s even worth the money invested in it! It takes about 4-6 weeks to process so we shall anxiously await it’s results.  It will be interesting to see what the test says about my heritage or genealogy and if it provides any new answers. There are a number of different tests that you can purchase, all of which have their own positives and negatives. I purchased mine through ancestry.com mainly because I already have a membership there, and that is where I have been working on my family tree… this is by no means a plug or advert for their service! I have previously voiced my various complaints about the site and will not delve into them once again. I am at a point in my research where it serves it’s purpose and provides me with enough basic information to do my own further research. I am not necessarily all that happy about it but it works for me right now. Their DNA testing will match my DNA test with other members and hopefully the ones I am most interested in will be members! I am considering this testing as a basic start to the DNA testing. My daughter and I have agreed that at some later point we will probably purchase on of the other tests on the market that may give us more detailed information. For the time being, the cost of Ancestry’s DNA test fell within our more limited budget at the moment.

Now back to Joan Hathaway and her links to our more ancient past, namely that which includes Uhtred of Last Kingdom fame. As Bernard Cornwell has often clarified and stated, the Uhtred of his books is somewhat based on his family history that includes Bamburgh Castle, Northumbria and one or two Uhtreds.  I recently read a post in one of my FB groups where a member shared a copy of an old Family Tree for family Oughtred, which is the old spelling of Uhtred. Of course I was excited because I have managed to find my own connection back to Uthred.  In a previous post, I provided some information on that connection that comes via Waltheof of Northumbria and his wife Judith of Lenz. Judith also provides part of my link back to William the Conqueror. 

You can read Judith’s history and story here:

judith of lens

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/my-ancestor-path-to-normandy-northumbria-and-even-a-uthred-the-bold/

It is Judith’s husband, the ill fated Waltheof of Northumbria that gives us our link further back in Northumbria. If you read the above post on Judith and Waltheof, you will understand why I say ill fated! He met his demise at the hands of William in a rather unpleasant way.

My connection to Waltheof of Northumbria and wife Judith  comes through their daughter Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria (1074 – 1131)daughter of Waltheof Earl Northumberland. Waltheof of Northumbria is my 28th great grandfather. There are a number of cross over threads and connections in there as well due to that pesky habit of intermarrying of relatives and such…

Waltheof Earl Northumberland (1045 – 1076)
28th great-grandfather
Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria (1074 – 1131)
daughter of Waltheof Earl Northumberland
Henry Prince of Scotland 3rd Earl of Northumberland and de HUNTINGDON (1114 – 1152)
son of Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria
William I Lion Scotland (1143 – 1214)
son of Henry Prince of Scotland 3rd Earl of Northumberland and de HUNTINGDON
Amicia De Huntingdon Scotland* (1167 – 1184)
daughter of William I Lion Scotland
Simon de Senlis (1181 – 1250)
son of Amicia De Huntingdon Scotland*
Simon De Saint Elizabeth de Senlis (1218 – 1296)
son of Simon de Senlis
William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis (1246 – 1286)
son of Simon De Saint Elizabeth de Senlis
Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis (1274 – 1313)
son of William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis
Lady Alice De St Elizabeth (1300 – 1374)
daughter of Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis
Isabel “Lady of Swanbourne” de Lyons Godard (1345 – 1392)
daughter of Lady Alice De St Elizabeth
Richard Woodville De Wydeville (1385 – 1441)
son of Isabel “Lady of Swanbourne” de Lyons Godard
Joan Maud Wydville (1410 – 1462)
daughter of Richard Woodville De Wydeville
Sir William XIII, Keeper of the Forest Dene, Hathaway (1440 – )
son of Joan Maud Wydville
William Hathaway (1470 – )
son of Sir William XIII, Keeper of the Forest Dene, Hathaway
Robert Hathaway (1500 – 1545)
son of William Hathaway
Joan Hathaway (1536 – 1584)
daughter of Robert Hathaway
William Workman (1568 – 1628)
son of Joan Hathaway
John Workman (1590 – 1640)
son of William Workman
John William Workman (1600 – 1647)
son of John Workman
Dirck Jans Woertman (1630 – 1694)
son of John William Workman
Jan Derick Woertman (1665 – 1712)
son of Dirck Jans Woertman
Abraham Woertman Workman (1709 – 1736)
son of Jan Derick Woertman
William P Workman (1746 – 1836)
son of Abraham Woertman Workman
Amos Workman (1764 – 1844)
son of William P Workman
Isaac A. Workman (1799 – 1845)
son of Amos Workman
William Workman (1819 – 1906)
son of Isaac A. Workman
Charles W. Workman (1862 – 1956)
son of William Workman
Clarence Bertrand Workman (1889 – 1968)
son of Charles W. Workman
Ward Harlan Workman (1924 – 1994)
son of Clarence Bertrand Workman
Judith Ann Workman
You are the daughter of Ward Harlan Workman

The line from Joan Hathaway back to Waltheof  is fairly well documented considering how far back we are reaching for any type of verifiable and reasonable evidence… Anything after Waltheof is somewhat sketchy and uncertain depending on what sources you choose to use for reference, and realistically as I’ve pointed out previously the further back you go, the chance of error is ever higher.  Much of my research is a time consuming process of weeding through glaring mistakes, mismatches of dates and duplicated names to come up with some reasonable and hopefully half way decent accuracy!

If you look at encyclopedia or historical references, this is basically what you will come up with for Waltheof and his genealogy or ancestry.  As I’ve already mentioned, everything beyond Waltheof and possibly his Father Siward gets a little iffy and sketchy!

Waltheof was the second son of Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His mother was Aelfflaed, daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia, son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria. In 1054, Waltheof’s brother, Osbearn, who was much older than he, was killed in battle, making Waltheof his father’s heir. Siward himself died in 1055, and Waltheof being far too young to succeed as Earl of Northumbria, King Edward appointed Tostig Godwinson to the earldom. He was said to be devout and charitable and was probably educated for a monastic life. In fact around 1065 he became an earl, governing Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Following the Battle of Hastings he submitted to William and was allowed to keep his pre-Conquest title and possessions. He remained at William’s court until 1068.

Waltheof’s Father was Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His link to Uhtred came through his Mother’s side. Aelfflaed was a granddaughter of Uhtred the Bold.  Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.

Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  

I am currently in the process of trying to sort through the discrepancies of various sources and piece together what I believe is some reasonable history as it pertains to my ancestry links. I am going by what I can find as some documented facts or accountings of the history and lineages. So, for my purposes, I will focus on what I do know… Waltheof of Northumbria had one brother who was much older than him and that brother, Osbearn died in battle and no heirs were listed from him. 

Waltheof’s Father was Siward of Northumbria. Siward was probably of Scandinavian origin, perhaps a relative of Earl Ulf, and emerged as a powerful regional strongman in England during the reign of Cnut (“Canute the Great”, 1016–1035). Cnut was a Scandinavian ruler who conquered England in the 1010s, and Siward was one of the many Scandinavians who came to England in the aftermath of that conquest. Siward subsequently rose to become sub-ruler of most of northern England. From 1033 at the latest Siward was in control of southern Northumbria, that is, present-day Yorkshire, governing as earl on Cnut’s behalf.

He entrenched his position in northern England by marrying Ælfflæd, the daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh. After killing Ealdred’s successor Eadulf in 1041, Siward gained control of all Northumbria. He exerted his power in support of Cnut’s successors, kings Harthacnut and Edward, assisting them with vital military aid and counsel. He probably gained control of the middle shires of Northampton and Huntingdon by the 1050s, and there is some evidence that he spread Northumbrian control into Cumberland. In the early 1050s Earl Siward turned against the Scottish ruler Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (“Macbeth”). Despite the death of his son Osbjorn, Siward defeated Mac Bethad in battle in 1054. More than half a millennium later the Scotland adventure earned him a place in William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth. Siward died in 1055, leaving one son, Waltheof, who would eventually succeed to Northumbria. St Olave’s church inYork and nearby Heslington Hill are associated with Siward.

Siward’s career in northern England spanned the reigns of four different monarchs. It began during the reign of Cnut, and lasted through those of Harold Harefootand Harthacnut into the early years of Edward the Confessor. Most important was the reign of Cnut, in which so many new political figures rose to power that some historians think it comparable to the Norman conquest five decades later.  These “new men” were military figures, usually with weak hereditary links to the West Saxon royal house that Cnut had deposed.As Cnut ruled several Scandinavian kingdoms in addition to England, power at the highest level was delegated to such strongmen. In England, it fell to a handful of newly promoted “ealdormen” or “earls”, who ruled a shire or group of shires on behalf of the king. Siward was, in the words of historian Robin Fleming, “the third man in Cnut’s new triumvirate of earls”, the other two being Godwine, Earl of Wessex and Leofwine, Earl of Mercia.

Siward was, at some stage, married to Ælfflæd, daughter of Ealdred II of Bamburgh, and granddaughter of Uhtred the Bold. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that, in 1041 Eadulf, Earl of Bamburgh, was “betrayed” by King Harthacnut.  The “betrayal” seems to have been carried out by Siward; since when the Libellus de Exordio and other sources write about the same event, they say that Siward attacked and killed Eadulf.  It was thus that Siward became earl of all Northumbria, perhaps the first person to do so since Uhtred the Bold. It is possible that Siward used Ælfflæd’s lineage to claim the earldom of Bamburgh for himself, although it is unclear whether the marriage took place before or after Siward killed Eadulf.  Kapelle has pointed out that no ruler of Bamburgh after Uhtred is attested at the English royal court, which he argued “must mean they were in revolt” against the monarchy, and that Siward’s attack may therefore have been encouraged by a monarch wishing to crush a rebellious or disloyal vassal.  Siward however probably had his own interests too. Killing Eadulf eliminated his main rival in the north, and the marriage associated him with the family of Uhtred the Bold, and with Uhtred’s surviving son Gospatric.

One of Siward’s sons is known to have survived him, Waltheof, whose mother was Ælfflæd. Waltheof later rose to be an earl in the East Midlands before becoming Earl of Northumbria.  When Waltheof rebelled against William the Conqueror, however, the act led to his execution and to his subsequent veneration as a saint at Crowland Abbey.  Waltheof’s daughter married David I, King of the Scots, and through this connection Siward became one of the many ancestors of the later Scottish and British monarchs. 

Besides Ælfflæd, Siward is known to have been married to a woman named Godgifu, who died before Siward. The marriage is known from a grant she made of territory around Stamford, Lincolnshire, toPeterborough Abbey. Although no surviving children are attested, and no source states the name of Osbjorn’s mother, this marriage has nonetheless raised the possibility that Waltheof and Osbjorn were born to different mothers, and William Kapelle suggested that Siward may have originally intended Osbjorn to inherit his southern territories while Waltheof inherited those territories in the north associated with the family of his mother Ælfflæd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siward,_Earl_of_Northumbria

Little is documented about Siward’s wife Aelfflaed or her Father, Ealdred II of Bamburgh. 

Ealdred was Earl of Bernicia from 1020/25 until his murder in 1038. He was the son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria, who was murdered by Thurbrand the Hold in 1016 with the connivance of Cnut. Ealdred’s mother was Ecgfrida, daughter of Aldhun, bishop of Durham.  Ealdred succeeded his uncle Eadwulf Cudel as Earl of Bernicia in 1020/25, and some time probably in the mid 1020s he killed Thurbrand in revenge for his father’s death. In 1038 Ealdred was murdered by Thurbrand’s son, Carl. He was succeeded as Earl of Bernicia by his brother, another Eadwulf. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that in 1041 Eadwulf was “betrayed” by King Harthacnut.  The “betrayal” seems to have been carried out by Siward, Earl of Northumbria; since when the Libellus de Exordio and other sources write about the same event, they say that Siward attacked and killed Eadulf.  It was thus that Siward became earl of all Northumbria, perhaps the first person to do so since Uhtred the Bold. Ealdred’s daughter, Aelfflaed, was the first wife of Siward and her son, and Ealdred’s grandson, was Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria.

This brings us to Uhtred the Bold. Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  In 995, according to Symeon of Durham, when the remains of St Cuthbert were transferred from Chester-le-Street to Durham, Uhtred helped the monks clear the site of the new cathedral. The new cathedral was founded by Bishop Aldhun, and Uhtred married Aldhun’s daughter, Ecgfrida, probably at about this time. From his marriage he received several estates that had belonged to the church.

In 1006 Malcolm II of Scotland invaded Northumbria and besieged the newly founded episcopal city of Durham. At that time the Danes were raiding southern England and King Ethelred was unable to send help to the Northumbrians. Ealdorman Waltheof was too old to fight and remained in his castle at Bamburgh. Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York also took no action. Uhtred, acting for his father, called together an army from Bernicia and Yorkshire and led it against the Scots. The result was a decisive victory for Uhtred. Local women washed the severed heads of the Scots, receiving a payment of a cow for each, and the heads were fixed on stakes to Durham’s walls. Uhtred was rewarded by King Ethelred II with the ealdormanry of Bamburgh even though his father was still alive. In the mean time, Ethelred had Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York murdered, and he allowed Uhtred to succeed Ælfhelm as ealdorman of York, thus uniting northern and southern Northumbria under the house of Bamburgh. It seems likely that Ethelred did not trust the Scandinavian population of southern Northumbria and wanted an Anglo-Saxon in power there.

After receiving these honours Uhtred dismissed his wife, Ecgfrida, and married Sige, daughter of Styr, son of Ulf. Styr was a rich citizen of York. It appears that Uhtred was trying to make political allies amongst the Danes in Deira. Through Sige, Uhtred had two children, Eadulf, later Eadulf III, and Gospatric. This Gospatric’s grandson was the infamous Eadwulf Rus who murdered Bishop Walcher.

In 1013 King Sweyn of Denmark invaded England, sailing up the Humber and Trent to the town of Gainsborough. Uhtred submitted to him there, as did all of the Danes in the north. In the winter of 1013 Ethelred was forced into exile in Normandy. After London had finally submitted to him, Sweyn was accepted as king by Christmas 1013. However he only reigned for five weeks, for he died at, or near, Gainsborough on 2 February 1014. At Sweyn’s death, Ethelred was able to return from exile and resume his reign. Uhtred, along with many others, transferred his allegiance back to Ethelred, on his return. Uhtred also married Ethelred’s daughter Ælfgifu about this time.

In 1016 Uhtred campaigned with Ethelred’s son Edmund Ironside in Cheshire and the surrounding shires. While Uhtred was away from his lands, Sweyn’s son, Cnut, invaded Yorkshire. Cnut’s forces were too strong for Uhtred to fight, and so Uhtred did homage to him as King of England. Uhtred was summoned to a meeting with Cnut, and on the way there, he and forty of his men were murdered byThurbrand the Hold, with assistance from Uhtred’s own servant, Wighill and with the connivance of Cnut. Uhtred was succeeded in Bernicia by his brother Eadwulf Cudel. Cnut made the Norwegian, Eric of Hlathir, ealdorman (“earl” in Scandinavian terms) in southern Northumbria.

Uhtred’s dynasty continued to reign in Bernicia through Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh (killed 1038) his son from his marriage to Ecgfrida, and Eadulf (killed 1041) his son from his marriage to Sige, and briefly Eadulf’s son Osulf held the earldom of northern Northumbria 1067 until he too was killed. Eadulf‘s brother Cospatric began the Swinton Family dynasty, his son Eadulf Rus famously murdering William Walcher, Bishop of Durham which led to William the Conqueror sending an army northwards to harry the region again. Uhtred’s marriage to Ælfgifu produced a daughter, Ealdgyth, who married Maldred, brother of Duncan I of Scotland and who gave birth to a son, Gospatric, who was Earl of Northumbria from 1068 to 1072.

In Bernard Cornwell‘s series The Saxon Stories the protagonist is Earl Uhtred of Bebbanburg, also from Northumbria. The story of the siege of Durham and the severed heads on poles is told about the historical Uhtred (see Battles of the Dark Ages, Peter Marren), though it is perhaps possible to assume that the fictional Earl Uhtred of Bebbanburg is an ancestor of this Uhtred.

In Bernard Cornwell’s series he adds a ‘historical note’ at the end, in which, especially in the first book, he mentions that Uhtred was his ancestor. He took the liberty of installing Uhtred earlier in history. 

If we look at what is documented about Uhtred the Bold’s offspring, we see three children accounted for. Naturally, that would mean that his descendants would come from one of these three lines.  My lineage would come from his son, Ealdred with his marriage to Ecgfrida. As far as I know or can find, no other children are listed from that marriage. 

Earlier I mentioned viewing a copy of an old family tree for the Family Oughtred. I have received permission from that poster to share those photos here. They are photos of the tree and thus are somewhat difficult to read. The tree was done back in 1939. This is a copy of the tree that Bernard Cornwell received from his biological father, William Oughtred. If you look at page 2 of the tree, you will see Uhtred listed at the bottom right with the three wives.  This tree takes the line much further back and I have not yet sorted through all of that! I have so far only focused on the line of Ealdred and his descendants because that is the line I am descended from.  I have no idea which branch Bernard Cornwell descends from as this does not show any of that, but it would be interesting to know which branch he fits on!

oughtred family tree

Uhtred family tree from Bernard Cornwell

Uhtred of northumbria family tree

If anyone else is a descendant of one of the other lines, I would love to know more about your history and your ancestry! If any of the other names listed among my ancestors sounds familiar to you, let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Ancestor path to Normandy, Northumbria and even a Uthred the Bold!

Many of you who follow this blog know that besides following the fictional history, I am also following my personal path through history. I have been doing this family history for many years and often the path just seems to plod along towards a dead end path. I remind myself the search, the journey of discovery is more important and gratifying than the end destination and then go on to explore some other branch of the family.  I’ve already shared some of that journey with you here… you may remember our past trip to Pennsylvania where we found Mary Polly Owen who led us back to Wales- eventually, we will get back to that particular path. You might also recall our more recent trip to Germany’s history with my Mother’s Meyer and Pfeiffer ancestors. 

Mary Polly Owen’s story is here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/family-history-because-our-lives-are-stories-waiting-to-be-told/

German ancestry and history:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/search-for-ancestors-led-to-prussia-saxony-and-to-roland-part-1/

 

Lately, I have been trying to fill in gaps and add to my Father’s ancestry.  My Father’s path has already been well traced back to the Netherlands and to England so I really was not expecting much more than that. My main intent this time around was to fill in some of those gaps and just sort of refresh myself on some basic information. I was not expecting to veer from our rather mundane and ordinary but still interesting history. I did not foresee any twists or turns in the already fairly well set path of Protestants and Puritans leaving England, traveling to Holland and then embarking on their journies to America. I knew before hand that at some point in the 1500s, my Workman ancestor left England for Holland on this journey.  I decided to take one last look at that earliest Workman ancestor just to remind myself of where he was in England before making that fateful decision. That was when fate intervened and I discovered a new and as yet untraveled path.

My earliest Workman ancestor was a man named Nicholas Workman who lived in Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire, England. We know little about him other than that he was born in 1500, died in 1543. He was married to a woman named Julyann Gyllian and at his death, left a will mentioning his wife and children.

Gloucestershire_map

Gloucestershire_map

Although nothing is known about Nicholas Workman, some history of Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire states that it was an important wool manufacturing center and a large number of Flemish families immigrated to the area in the early 1300s. We might assume that possibly Nicholas was a merchant or man of some moderate wealth, and in some good standing with the Catholic Church during that time.

It is with Nicholas’s son Humphrey that our somewhat average and ordinary path through history takes a turn. I mentioned that Nicholas may have been a man of some standing or wealth because his son, Humphrey was able to make what would seem to be a fairly good marriage. Humphrey Workman married a young woman by the name of Joan Hathaway, and that is where our trip through history takes a turn for the more interesting!

Joan Hathaway was my 12th Great Grandmother and we can follow her history back on a path through England, Normandy, Scotland, Northumbria and eventually to a history that involves the family of Uhtred the Bold!  Joan was born to Robert Hathaway and wife, Catherine in 1536. She was married to Humphrey in about 1546- yes, she was extremely young at the time but we need to give or take a few years either way as far at dates. And, there may have been some reason she was married off so young. Her Father Robert Hathaway died in 1545 and she was the youngest child with a number of older brothers who may have decided to marry her off quickly after the Father’s death.  What ever the reason for it, she was married to Humphrey Workman and began the connection between Workman and Hathaway lines.

There is little information about Joan’s parents. Her Father was Robert Hathaway, born 1500 at Gloucestershire and died in 1545 at same location. His wife is listed only as Catherine.  I can only assume that during this period of time, the family was living a fairly quiet but comfortable life. They were most likely modestly well off and possibly within the edges of nobility but not at the center… which, realistically is usually a good place to be! They may also have been trying to keep a somewhat low profile so as not to involve themselves or draw attention to their family in light of some earlier events in the family history. We need to go back a few generations  to discover some of  those events…

If we look at Robert Hathaway’s family history, it takes us back to one William XII Hathaway who married a woman named Joan Maud Wydville. This William was born in 1390 at Monmouth Castle in Gloucestershire.  Little is documented or known about him but we do know a slight bit more about wife Joan. Joan Maud Wydville was born in 1410 at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire. She was the daughter of Richard Woodville/DeWydville. If we’re keeping track here, Joan was my 16th great grandmother… so her Father, Richard Woodville would have been my 18th grandfather.  Yes, this part of the more infamous Woodville family involved in the War of the Roses! Richard was executed in 1441 during the War of the Roses for his participation and involvement in the events. This Richard is not the one married to Jaquetta of Luxembourg, but more likely a close relative… this is a portion of the cursed ancestry that has been muddied so much that it’s difficult to wade through it!

 

Our Hathaway line comes to and end during these years at  but we can follow Joan’s path back further through some of her Woodville connections and others. I know you’re all thinking, Enough of this- get to the good stuff already! I will do that now- I just wanted to give you some sort of path to follow with me.

We can follow Joan Maud Wydville’s path back through the Wydvilles and Lyons families to a family by the name and title of  De St. Elizabeth or St. Liz. The St. Elizabeth family line takes us all the way back to France, Normandy, Scotland and Northumbria during and before William the Conqueror. What is interesting is that we always seemed to be that one step away from the actual Royal lines… maybe that’s how we survived, We were seldom in the direct line of fire… other than those years of the Woodville’s involvement in that War of the Roses.  With that all being said, we can look at the stories and history of this St. Elizabeth family that takes us back to France and Normandy, as well as England and Scotland.

Our St. Elizabeth family line goes back to William the Conqueror by way of his  sister, Adelaide (Alix/Alixia) who was a daughter of Robert “The Devil” of Normandy. Adelaide was married three times. From her marriage to Ranulf “The Rich” De Bayeaux Meschines Senlis she had a son, Simon I, 2nd Earl Huntingdon Northampton De Senlis aka De St. Liz who began the St. Elizabeth line which I eventually descended from. For Vikings saga fans, Yes this means that having William, Adelaide and Robert as my ancestors also means that I can claim Rollo as an ancestor!

Adelaide Alixia Adelaide of Burgundy (999)

Adelaide was born around 1030 to Robert and mistress or concubine, Herleva of Falaise. There is some debate over whether Herleva was the Mother of all the children or if the other children including Adelaide might have been from some other concubine or mistress. Robert was never married to any of the Mothers.

Adelaide’s first marriage to Enguerrand II, Count of Ponthieu potentially gave then Duke William a powerful ally in upper Normandy.  But at the Council of Reims in 1049, when the marriage of Duke William with Matilda of Flanders was prohibited based on consanguinity, so were those of Eustace II, Count of Boulogne and Enguerrand of Ponthieu, who was already married to Adelaide.  Adelaide’s marriage was apparently annulled c.1049/50 and another marriage was arranged for her, this time to Lambert II, Count of Lens, younger son of Eustace I, Count of Boulogne forming a new marital alliance between Normandy and Boulogne. Lambert was killed in 1054 at Lille, aiding Baldwin V, Count of Flanders against Emperor Henry III. Now widowed, Adelaide resided at Aumale, probably part of her dower from her first husband, Engurerand, or part of a settlement after the capture of Guy of Ponthieu, her brother-in-law.  As a dowager Adelaide began a semi-religious retirement and became involved with the church at Auchy presenting them with a number of gifts.  In 1060 she was called upon again to form another marital alliance, this time to a younger man Odo, Count of Champagne.  Odo seems to have been somewhat of a disappointment as he appears on only one of the Conqueror’s charters and received no land in England; his wife being a tenant-in-chief in her own right.

In 1082 King William and Queen Matilda gave to the abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen the town of Le Homme in the Cotentin with a provision to the Countess of Albamarla (Aumale), his sister, for a life tenancy.  In 1086, as Comitissa de Albatnarla,  as she was listed in the Domesday Book, was shown as having numerous holdings in both Suffolk and Essex, one of the very few Norman noblewomen to have held lands in England at Domesday as a tenant-in-chief.  She was also given the lordship of Holderness which was held after her death by her 3rd husband, Odo, the by then disinherited Count of Champagne; the lordship then passed to their son, Stephen. Adelaide died before 1090.

 While Simon St. Elizabeth is the direct ancestor, I was more interested in the story of one of Adelaide’s other children.  For all of those waiting impatiently for this to get interesting, this is the story that takes us to Northumbria and to an involvement with Uhtrect the Bold.

Before we begin this story, I just need to add a few  thoughts on this line of events. These thoughts have to do with my personal beliefs in fate, destiny, and how our ancestors remain a guiding force in our lives whether we realize it or not. I believe that our past is part of our present and future. We are all here because of those past ancestors and in some ways, I do believe in some sort of collective shared consciousness or set of memories that we carry with us. Whether it be in the form of past lives, or of those ancestors guiding us, pointing us by signs or subtle (ok, sometimes not so subtle) messages, I believe there is some greater connection between us here and those forgotten voices of the past. When I am researching parts of my family history, I often feel like I am being led or guided by someone who wants their life, their story shared for some reason. I have learned over the years to follow those small sometimes faint clues and signs in my search.  I firmly believe that my family history is such an important part of who I am, of what part of my purpose in this life is. I read a book a long time ago that talked about listening to your soul, finding your soul purpose in life. In that book, it was mentioned that some of us are here as record keepers, story tellers. It made profound sense to me at the time and I completely understood then that this is part of my soul’s purpose or role here.

Now, when I am working on our family history, I make it a point to listen and look for those smaller sometimes insignificant details down to even something like a name. Sometimes name throughout our family history are so important that they keep repeating themselves as if to give us a clear signal that we are part of this group’s history. Our ancestors felt a need to mark themselves as connected that they passed those names down through the centuries like markers or bread crumbs for later generations to follow. My Mother’s family was one such family, using Susanna, Catherine, Elizabeth and Margaret to mark each generation…until My Mother’s generation broke the chain and decided to go the more popular route with names. My Father’s Workman ancestors did much the same with Amos, Abraham, Isaac, William and David marking their generations…until once again, my Father’s generation broke that chain as well.  Names are important, they have some meaning or importance (or they should!) in marking us, in connecting us and in beginning our own story.  When I was born, my parents broke the chain but did not do it with a necessarily popular trendy name. They named me Judith, which of course did get shortened to the more popular trend of Judy. I hated the name as a child, would have much preferred the short version of just Judy. Over the years, I have grown comfortable with the more traditional version of Judith.  I asked my Mother once why she chose Judith… her answer was she didn’t really know but it just felt right to her.  I now feel that way as well, it just feels right to me. It is part of me and I often feel like it has been with me for more than just this life. 

When I look through my vast family history, I very rarely ever come across the name Judith. It is just not a common name that runs through any of our history, recent or otherwise. I was surprised when it showed up in my recent search, of course, I was intrigued and curious about this Judith and her story. Once I read her story, I was immediately drawn into it and it spoke to me on a number of levels besides just the history involved.

Here is the story of Judith of Lens and her involvement in events of Northumbria. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

judith of lens

Judith of Lens van Boulogne was the daughter of Adelaide of Normandy and her husband, Lambert II Count of Lens. She was the niece of William the Conqueror and was born in 1054 before her uncle’s conquest of England. William conquered England in 1066 and thereafter rewarded those who supported him with lands and marriages which would them loyal to him.  Much of the time, his female relatives were used and traded as those rewards. Judith was no exception, being his niece, she would have been looked at as a valuable commodity during this time. The timing of her birth in relation to his rise in power put her as prime marriage material.

In the year 1070 at about the age of 15, she was married to the new Earl of Northumbria who had submitted and sworn loyalty to William after the battle of Hastings.  Waltheof was the second son of Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His mother was Aelfflaed, daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia, son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria. In 1054, Waltheof’s brother, Osbearn, who was much older than he, was killed in battle, making Waltheof his father’s heir. Siward himself died in 1055, and Waltheof being far too young to succeed as Earl of Northumbria, King Edward appointed Tostig Godwinson to the earldom. He was said to be devout and charitable and was probably educated for a monastic life. In fact around 1065 he became an earl, governing Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Following the Battle of Hastings he submitted to William and was allowed to keep his pre-Conquest title and possessions. He remained at William’s court until 1068 where he may have been initially introduced to Judith.  William should probably have kept him at his court longer. In 1069, Waltheof returned to his home in Northumbria and joined Edgar the Aetheling along with the Danes in an attack on York.  He would again make a fresh submission to William after the departure of the invaders in 1070. He was restored to his earldom, and went on to marry William’s niece, Judith of Lens. In 1072, he was appointed Earl of Northampton.

 

durham castle begun by waltheof

Durham Castle which was begun by Waltheof

waltheof of northumbria

illustration of Waltheof bowing to William

In 1072, William expelled Gospatric from the earldom of Northumbria. Gospatric was Waltheof’s cousin and had taken part in the attack on York with him, but like Waltheof, had been pardoned by William. Gospatric fled into exile and William appointed Waltheof as the new earl.  Waltheof had many enemies in the north. Amongst them were members of a family who had killed Waltheof’s maternal great-grandfather, Uchtred the Bold, and his grandfather Ealdred. This was part of a long-running blood feud. In 1074, Waltheof moved against the family by sending his retainers to ambush them, succeeding in killing the two eldest of four brothers.

northumberland-coastal-path-map Northumbria-in-802

I am including this prior history of Uhtred the Bold because I know there will Last Kingdom fans interested in it! Hmmmm, if  you look at Waltheof’s family history, you see that he is a descendent of Uhtred the Bold… and since part of my line goes back to Waltheof and Judith’s daughter Maud with her marriage to Simon St. Liz and their children, hey I guess that means I could count Uhtred as one of those ancient ancestors as well? No wonder I like him so much!

                 Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I,         ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  In 995, according to Symeon of Durham, when the remains of St Cuthbert were transferred from Chester-le-Street to Durham, Uhtred helped the monks clear the site of the new cathedral. The new cathedral was founded by Bishop Aldhun, and Uhtred married Aldhun’s daughter, Ecgfrida, probably at about this time. From his marriage he received several estates that had belonged to the church.

In 1006 Malcolm II of Scotland invaded Northumbria and besieged the newly founded episcopal city of Durham. At that time the Danes were raiding southern England and King Ethelred was unable to send help to the Northumbrians. Ealdorman Waltheof was too old to fight and remained in his castle at Bamburgh. Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York also took no action. Uhtred, acting for his father, called together an army from Bernicia and Yorkshire and led it against the Scots. The result was a decisive victory for Uhtred. Local women washed the severed heads of the Scots, receiving a payment of a cow for each, and the heads were fixed on stakes to Durham’s walls. Uhtred was rewarded by King Ethelred II with the ealdormanry of Bamburgh even though his father was still alive. In the mean time, Ethelred had had Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York murdered, and he allowed Uhtred to succeed Ælfhelm as ealdorman of York, thus uniting northern and southern Northumbria under the house of Bamburgh. It seems likely that Ethelred did not trust the Scandinavian population of southern Northumbria and wanted an Anglo-Saxon in power there.

After receiving these honours Uhtred dismissed his wife, Ecgfrida, and married Sige, daughter of Styr, son of Ulf. Styr was a rich citizen of York. It appears that Uhtred was trying to make political allies amongst the Danes in Deira. Through Sige, Uhtred had two children, Eadulf, later Eadulf III, and Gospatric. This Gospatric’s grandson was the infamous Eadwulf Rus who murdered Bishop Walcher.  In 1013 King Sweyn of Denmark invaded England, sailing up the Humber and Trent to the town of Gainsborough. Uhtred submitted to him there, as did all of the Danes in the north. In the winter of 1013 Ethelred was forced into exile in Normandy. After London had finally submitted to him, Sweyn was accepted as king by Christmas 1013. However he only reigned for five weeks, for he died at, or near, Gainsborough on 2 February 1014. At Sweyn’s death, Ethelred was able to return from exile and resume his reign. Uhtred, along with many others, transferred his allegiance back to Ethelred, on his return. Uhtred also married Ethelred’s daughter Ælfgifu about this time.

In 1016 Uhtred campaigned with Ethelred’s son Edmund Ironside in Cheshire and the surrounding shires. While Uhtred was away from his lands, Sweyn’s son, Cnut, invaded Yorkshire. Cnut’s forces were too strong for Uhtred to fight, and so Uhtred did homage to him as King of England. Uhtred was summoned to a meeting with Cnut, and on the way there, he and forty of his men were murdered by Thurbrand the Hold, with assistance from Uhtred’s own servant, Wighill and with the connivance of Cnut. Uhtred was succeeded in Bernicia by his brother Eadwulf Cudel. Cnut made the Norwegian, Eric of Hlathir, ealdorman (“earl” in Scandinavian terms) in southern Northumbria.

The killing of Uhtred by Thurbrand the Hold started a blood feud that lasted for many years. Uhtred’s son Ealdred subsequently avenged his father by killing Thurbrand, but Ealdred in turn was killed by Thurbrand’s son, Carl. Eadred’s vengeance had to wait until the 1070s, when Waltheof, Eadred’s grandson had his soldiers kill most of Carl’s sons and grandsons. This is an example of the notorious Northumbrian blood feuds that were common at this time.   Uhtred’s dynasty continued to reign in Bernicia through Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh (killed 1038) his son from his marriage to Ecgfrida, and Eadulf (killed 1041) his son from his marriage to Sige, and briefly Eadulf’s son Osulf held the earldom of northern Northumbria 1067 until he too was killed. Uhtred’s marriage to Ælfgifu produced a daughter, Ealdgyth, who married Maldred, brother of Duncan I of Scotland and who gave birth to a son, Gospatric, who was Earl of Northumbria from 1068 to 1072.

judith of lens2

William most probably assumed that the marriage of Waltheof to Judith would keep him loyal in the future… unfortunately, this was not the case.  In 1075 Waltheof joined the Revolt of the Earls against William. His motives for taking part in the revolt are unclear, as is the depth of his involvement. However he repented, confessing his guilt first to Archbishop Lanfranc and then in person to William, who was at the time in Normandy. He returned to England with William but was arrested, brought twice before the king’s court and sentenced to death.  He spent almost a year in confinement before being beheaded on May 31, 1076 at St. Giles’s Hill, near Winchester. He was said to have spent the months of his captivity in prayer and fasting. Many people believed in his innocence and were surprised when the execution was carried out. His body was initially thrown in a ditch, but was later retrieved and was buried in the chapter house of Croyland Abbey.

Judith herself had no part in her husband’s revolt, in fact it was she who betrayed Waltheof to William. It could have been a case of Judith knowing full well her Uncle’s power and not wanting to incur any death sentence for herself or her children.  Had William found any evidence of her own involvement in any such act, she most likely have met the same end as her husband. It could be said that perhaps she was just blindly and devoutly loyal to her uncle but her next actions would prove that she was not quite so blindly loyal and that she would stand up for herself if need be and not be used as a continuing pawn by William.  William should have realized early on that Waltheof would not remain loyal to him. He had already proven he could not be trusted more than once. What this did was put Judith in the middle of a potential disaster from the beginning. She was placed in the marriage with the intent of keeping the man loyal, and yes even possibly the intent for her to keep any eye on him or spy for William. She was 15 at the time and expected to carry out this role for her Uncle. It had to have been a difficult situation to say the least for this girl. William was not above using her as his means of controlling both her and the Northumbrians.

 

After Waltheof’s execution, William did attempt to use her again… he betrothed her to  Simon I of St. Liz, 1st Earl of Northampton. Judith refused to marry Simon and she fled the country to avoid William’s anger. William then temporarily confiscated all of Judith’s English estates. Simon, later, married, as his second wife, Judith’s daughter, Maud, as her first husband. Yes, Simon would be the Simon of my St. Elizabeth or St. Liz ancestors.  So, it does all connect back to me again anyway through those many intersecting threads of lineage and breeding among the Nobles! I do need to add here that there was a great deal of marrying within those supposed boundaries and degrees of separation that were set by the Church in order to specifically avoid the whole issue of inter marrying within bloodlines so the lines often got crossed and it is often difficult to sort those family lines out!

 

Judith did eventually return to England where she founded  Elstow Abbey in Bedfordshire around 1078. She also founded churches at Kempston and Hitchin. In the Domesday book written after 1085, she is listed as having holdings of her own. 

Countess Judith holds POTONE herself. It answers for 10 hides. Land for 12 ploughs. In lordship 3½ hides; 3 ploughs there. 18 villagers and 2 Freemen with 8 ploughs; a ninth possible. 13 smallholders and 3 slaves. 1 mill, 5s; meadow for 12 ploughs; pasture for the village livestock. In total, value £12; when acquired 100s; before 1066 £13. King Edward held this manor; it was Earl Tosti’s. There were 4 Freemen who had 1 hide and 1 virgate; they could grant to whom they would.

In (Cockayne) HATLEY Countess Judith holds 3 hides and 2½ virgates as one manor. Land for 6½ ploughs. In lordship 1 hide and ½ virgate; 2 ploughs there. 8 villagers with 4½ ploughs; woodland, 4 pigs. Value £6 5s; when acquired 100s; before 1066 £6. Earl Tosti held this manor. It lies in Potton, the Countess’ own manor. A Freeman had 1 virgate; he could grant and sell, and withdraw to another lord.

Judith died some time after 1086 and no other marriages are documented for her. So, what she did was survive William’s years of control and ravaging of England even if it meant that she had to betray her husband in order to manage that for herself and her children. She went on to win her own personal battle against him and set her own terms for the remainder of her life. She turned down a marriage demand… I am quite sure that it was not just a suggestion or request on William’s part, and then had to suffer the consequence of seeing her daughter married to that same man. I am also reasonably certain that she most likely had no choice or say in that matter either but her daughter did go on to eventually become a Queen of Scotland.

Judith’s daughter, Maud Countess of Huntingdon was born in 1074 and married Simon St. Liz in about 1090. Her first husband died some time after 1111 and Maud next married David, the brother-in-law of Henry I of England, in 1113.  Through the marriage, David gained control over his wife’s vast estates in England, in addition to his own lands in Cumbria and Strathclyde.  They had four children (two sons and two daughters):

  1. Malcolm (born in 1113 or later, died young)
  2. Henry (c.1114 – 1152)
  3. Claricia (died unmarried)
  4. Hodierna (died young and unmarried)

In 1124, David became King of Scots. Maud’s two sons by different fathers, Simon and Henry, would later vie for the Earldom of Huntingdon. She died in 1130 or 1131 and was buried at Scone Abbey in Perthshire, but she appears in a charter of dubious origin dated 1147.

As one last note on this… my ancestors were as usual on the sidelines of this royalty! My ancestors were from Maud’s first marriage to Simon St. Liz, thereby missing out on the Royal lineage but still managing to gain some benefit from the association… Our ancestral motto should read something like “Keep your head low, Survive and reap the rewards!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saxony and Roland: Part 2 of Ancestor search

This is part two of my search for ancestors in Pre-Germany Prussia. If you read part one, you will know that my search led me to the city of Trier where one family line resided before making the trip to America in 1845. You can read that story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/search-for-ancestors-led-to-prussia-saxony-and-to-roland-part-1/

Because this has turned into another very lengthy and involved journey, I have once again broke it into sections with subheadings for your ease and convenience. Should you be pressed for time and not have a few hours to devote to this book, you can scroll down through the centered headings for the topics that most interest you!

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

History and Legends of Roland

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

 

 

I mentioned in the previous discussion that we would have to visit another area of the country to find the other half of the story of my roots in Germany.  This is the story of that other half and their roots in Saxony Anhalt, Germany.  First, I will give what we know of the family and their migration from Germany to St. Louis Missouri and eventually St. Mathias township, Minnesota. In the second half of this article, we will look at the history of Saxony Anhalt and the mystery of legendary Roland’s connection to the area.

Pfeiffer Family history and connection to Saxony Anhalt

On September 11, 1868, Catherine Mayer Mueller gave birth to daughter Susanna Mueller in Owatonna, Minnesota. She was the oldest daughter of Catherine and John Henry. On November 19,  1891 she married Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer in St. Mathias township.

 

william_and_susanna_pfeiffer

William and Susanna Pfeiffer wedding photo

William and Susana Pfeiffer older years

William and Susanna Pfeiffer in later years

When I started the search, I knew only slightly more about the Pfeiffer family than I did about the Mayers! My luck with the Pfeiffer side came in that they were a much smaller family and seemed to keep a closer connection to each other at least in the beginning. Sadly as time went on, their ties to the past faded and disappeared too. This could be due to the fact they were a small family and didn’t have as many relatives to pass the heritage on to. It could also be due to some serious family problems that came along later and in some ways split the family apart. Those problems are not really a part of this discussion so I will save them for some other time.  For this discussion, I will do as I did with the Mayer family and just share their basic history while trying to trace them back to their homeland in Germany.

Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer was one of three children born to Ernst and Henrietta (Borchert) Pfeiffer. When I first started my research on the family, I found the same general birth place of Prussia listed. Luckily for me, I also had a few documents and hand written accounts that would help me once I finally managed to get some of them translated! Because this was a small family, there weren’t quite so many relatives to pass things down to and after many years of distance between families, we have come together and shared what little we have. So, before anything else, I just want to say Thank you to all of the Pfeiffer relatives who have worked so hard to piece together our history!

After the translations of documents and some further searching, I have a somewhat better picture of the Pfeiffer family and where they came from.

Ernst Pfeiffer was born in March of 1831, most likely in or near Calbe, Saxony Anhalt Germany. His wife Henrietta was born in 1830, probably in that same area. They were married in 1862 in the area of Baden.  As far was we know, they had three children: Wilhelm, Anna and Harry. We know much about Wilhelm or William as he later went by, and Anna but we know next to nothing about brother Harry. Harry is our missing link right now and I would love to find him! But, for now Let us look at what we do know about the others and their immigration from that place called Saxony Anhalt.

The Pfeiffer family made their move much later than the Mayers who left during the revolts of the 1840s. We will look at their possible reasons a bit later when we look closer at that area of Saxony Anhalt.  Ernst, Henrietta and two of the children left Germany in October of 1881 on a ship named Ohio, bound for Baltimore with a plan to go on to St. Louis Missouri.

ernst pfieffer

Ernst Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

henrietta borchart Pfeiffer

We are extremely fortunate to have a copy of a letter that Ernst wrote to his sister about the trip! It is one of the documents that we had for years but had to have translated for us as it was originally in German. It is only a portion of the letter and leaves us with the question of what happened to the rest of it. It also leaves the thought of it being written to his sister… Who was his sister, was she also in America, and how did his family once again have possession of it? Was it a letter he wrote but never got a chance to finish or send?

Saying Goodbye and wishing Bon Voyage, for the 23rd at 6 am we went to the railroad station. At 7:30 our train left for Bremerhafen. On our arrival, everything was overcrowded because everyone wanted to be first. Not even the police was able to help the ones that were trying to board. first came the passengers already booked, then the relatives and friends of the departing passengers.

Leaving Bremerhafen was exciting and also frightening hours started. Dear sister, there we saw the mighty ships lined up next to each other, also our ship, the Ohio, the one that we started our horrible voyage across the ocean, nobody had expected.  A large gangway was attatched to the ship. You should have seen the excitement going on, when we had to pass through the police line. The crying of the relatives who had accompanied the departing passenters up to that point was heartbreaking. Dear sister, it was not quite as hard on us, since we already done our crying saying good byes earlier.

But seeing the rough water and the turbulence in the sky, I got a scary feeling that tried to tell me, a horrible journey lay ahead. But kept my cool, not frighten my wife, yet it proofed to be right. Getting aboard our sleeping area were assigned to us. Each family got their own. Since our friend Mueller traveled with us, he was able to stay with us dear sister. We were stacked up like sardines 2 feet wide by 3 feet high and 6 feet long one place right next to each other.

At 2 o clock our ship left the harbor going into the river Weser. We kept moving till dark. Arriving at the dangerous point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea, we dropped anchor. We were all ordered to the upper deck. The captain knew that the sea sickness was going to start now.I remained always on the upper deck and watched the ship bounce around. My wife and Anna stayed with me and I held on to them. You should have seen how everybody started throwing up! My wife, Anna, and everyone else on board got sea sick. Myself, Wilhelm and our travel companion, Mueller were not affected, because we had brought a bottle along and just kept drinking. If someone had known, or the ship would have turned back, they gladly would have said goodbye to their money, but it was too late.  Travelling through the North Sea, the suffering began dear sister. You would not believe when I say waves as high as houses. Our ship had a 700 hp engine.

All the time we had to hold on in order not to get thrown over board.Dear sister you have probably seen pictures of a ship bouncing from side to side. We were thrown up as high as 40 or 50 feet. By storm and rain we continued our journey until December 5th. The following day we will never forget in all our lives. Despite the rain, the next morning all sails swere set and our joy was great because we were on the move again. But, during the day the winds changed and the sails had to be taken down. It got pitch dark, and the officer on the Captain’s announced a dangerous storm and ordered everyone below deck. All of the Mothers and Anna went below but the two of us could not make it since we were standing too far from the entrance leading down. Dear sister, suddenly the water was above my head, and I lost my breath. Being so close to death, I wished I was with my wife and children to die at their side but could not get there. With two other guys we had to hold on for a long time before we were able to see our ship again, because it had gone down. finely the storm seized and our ship was brough up. We were still hanging on but did not know our whereabouts.

Then the ship’s carpenter came up on deck to lock everything up. He found us and took us below, we were totally exhausted. There the “Oh Heavens” the screaming of the women and the water had reached the room where we were staying. 
This is all that we have of the letter so we do not know what happened later, or who the letter was written to or sent to originally? 

We do have records of the family’s voyage from Bremerhaven to Baltimore on the ship, SS OHIO. Ernst, Henrietta, Wilhelm and Anna Pfeiffer show up in the ships arrival documents. Ernst lists on that record the city of St. Louis in the portion asking for country claiming allegiance. If you look at that category closely, you will see that many people listed what seemed to be their destination cities there so there was probably some language confusion for them as to what that category was referring to. We do know that the family traveled directly from Baltimore to St. Louis Missouri so St. Louis was their planned destination from the beginning of the trip.

ss ohio2

SS Ohio

You can find much more information about the ship, SS Ohio here:

http://markprokosch.com/ss-ohio/

All of our family stories and photos state that Ernst and Henrietta had three children; Wilhelm, Harry and Anna. We have so far found no documentation or records for Harry though. He did not travel with them so perhaps he was already in St. Louis and they were going to join him there. We also need to consider the idea that Harry may have been his nickname and this is why we have not been able to find him yet. Poor Harry is a missing link in this family history even though they seem to have been close to him and visited him over the years. He is shown in family photos that label him as brother Harry. The following photo is one that lists the siblings on the back of it.

pfeiffers Harry William and anna

Anna, William and Harry Pfeiffer in later years

We do have one other mystery photo in our collection that could possibly be a clue to brother Harry or his family. This photo is one from our box of treasures that we have never have been able to accurately identify.  The year was 1911 and obviously, the family was visiting Spokane Washington at the time. The interesting connection to Spokane is that a later point, Anna Pfeiffer’s son Claude would relocate to Spokane so possibly there was some family connection there. That is all still an ongoing part of the search for this family.

Spokane, Washington Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Spokane, Washington
Names on back of card Gustav William Pfeiffer, Marie and Ellen Pfeiffer, Harry William and Robert Pfeiffer.

Our current discussion is about their past regarding Germany so I am just going to leave this mystery where it is for now… If anyone reading this thinks this family looks or sounds at all familiar, by all means please let me know!  Now, back to our topic of the family’s links to Germany!

We have some family biographies that gives us rather vague clues to their life in Prussia. Thanks to an excellent program from during the depression era many families gave histories to biographers who would visit homes and record those stories as part of a WPA sponsored project.

The WPA was The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects,including the construction of public buildings and roads. In a much smaller but more famous project, the Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

 At its peak in 1938, it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. Full employment, which was reached in 1942 and emerged as a long-term national goal around 1944, was not the WPA’s goal. It tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.  Robert D. Leighninger asserts that “The stated goal of public building programs was to end the depression or, at least, alleviate its worst effects. Millions of people needed subsistence incomes. Work relief was preferred over public assistance (the dole) because it maintained self-respect, reinforced the work ethic, and kept skills sharp.

The WPA was a national program that operated its own projects in cooperation with state and local governments, which provided 10–30% of the costs. Usually the local sponsor provided land and often trucks and supplies, with the WPA responsible for wages (and for the salaries of supervisors, who were not on relief). WPA sometimes took over state and local relief programs that had originated in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) programs.

The family histories were part of the Federal Writer’s project directed by Henry Alsberg and employed 6,686 writers at its peak in 1936.  By January 1939, more than 275 major books and booklets had been published by the FWP.   Most famously, the FWP created the American Guide Series, which produced thorough guidebooks for every state that include descriptions of towns, waterways, historic sites, oral histories, photographs, and artwork.  An association or group that put up the cost of publication sponsored each book, the cost was anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. In almost all cases, the book sales were able to reimburse their sponsors. Additionally, another important part of this project was to record oral histories to create archives such as the Slave Narratives and collections of folklore. These writers also participated in research and editorial services to other government agencies.

These histories are an invaluable source of information for anyone researching their family history as they often give a first or second hand account of your family’s rich history. Many people have no idea that these accounts are even available. If you go to almost any historical society, they will be able to help you locate these lost stories within their archives.  When I began my search, I had no clue that such stories existed and remained stored away within the dusty files of the historical societies. If you know where your family was living during those depression year, I would highly suggest you visit one of the nearby historical societies and do a search of your family names there! You may be happily surprised at the stories your relatives told to those traveling biographers! Consider this information as my Family History tip. One additional note on these stories- you will probably not see them widely available on genealogy sites any time soon as they are not records which would be at all easy to transfer to digital format. These are handwritten/typed transcriptions of sometimes lengthy stories generally contained in individual files for each person of family interviewed.

I was fortunate in that many of my relatives were happy to share their stories. Anna Pfeiffer Shannon and Susanna Pfeiffer Driver both shared stories of the Pfeiffer family in Germany along with their own stories.  One word of warning in regards to these transcribed stories- they often contain misspellings of names or locations because just as with census records, the interviewer just wrote what they thought they heard. An example of this is the fact that Anna Pfeiffer stated in her story that they came from “Table”  Prussia. I can not tell you how long I searched for the village of Table in vain, only to realize much later that the village was Calbe!

Besides the handwritten letter from Ernst Pfeiffer written in German, we had one other very important document that held the key to the family’s origins. We had an official certificate for Wilhelm Pfeiffer but it was also all in German so of course we had no idea what it was for many years. A few years ago, we were able to have it translated and discovered that it was a certificate of vaccination which included Wilhelm’s place of birth!

William Pfeiffer vaccination document

vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.

This document was translated to the following information: vaccination certificate for Wilhelm Pfeifer, born in Calbe, district Magdeburg June 30, 1863, son of Ernst Pfeifer, “Ziegler” (“Ziegelmeister”) in Calbe.   My search for Calbe in the Magdeburg district has led to Saxony Anhalt province and it’s history. Much as in the case of my Meyer ancestors, I can currently find out little about the specific family history but I can provide a history of the area the family lived in!

 

Saxony Anhalt history and the appearance of Roland throughout that area

I decided to find out more about this village of Calbe and the Magdeburg district in hopes that it might at least give me a better picture of the place Ernst Pfeiffer and his family came from and perhaps some general idea why they too may have chose to immigrate at the time they did. As with the Meyer family, I do not know a great deal about their family or financial circumstances during that time. Ernst was a bricklayer or tiler according to his occupation status. His daughter in law, Susanna mentioned that in Germany he had worked on fruit farms. Daughter Anna mentioned that she and her family had been or were German Lutherans.  That is about all we know of the family life in Prussia or Germany.

As I said, I began my search in the village of Calbe and quickly found a fascinating history of the area that includes the legendary Roland! My initial search for Calbe Germany immediately rewarded me with the interesting and rather odd mention that one of their village’s historical monuments is a statue of Roland.   Calbe is a town in the district of Salzlandkreis, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

It is situated on the Saale River, approx. 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) north of Bernburg, and 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of Magdeburg. It is known as Calbe an der Saale, to distinguish it from the smaller town of Kalbe on the Milde in the same state. Pop. (1905) 12,281.  It is a railway junction, and among its industries are wool-weaving and the manufacture of cloth, paper, stoves, sugar and bricks. Cucumbers and onions are cultivated, and soft coal is mined in the neighborhood.

The town has a statue of Roland outside its city hall. Roland is a symbol who represents many small and medium sized towns in Saxony-Anhalt, symbolising free trade and prosperity. The town also has a very old church, and a tower known as the “Hexenturm” (“Witchtower”), in which the townspeople imprisoned accused witches and tortured them in the Middle Ages.

calbe and magdeburg Germany Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe statue of roland3 calbe germany calbe2

This very brief description of the village and it’s history caused me to be even more curious about this area. First of all of course, it is in the province of Saxony Anhalt… and I am always interested in knowing more about the history of anyplace related to the history of Saxony. Second, naturally I was sucked in by this area’s connection and loyalty to that legend of Roland. The Witch Tower held no added curiosity for me- they are in any number of medieval villages throughout Europe! My most nagging question was, “What is Roland doing in these villages, when and why did he show up there as such a revered and important symbol for them?” For that, I needed to do more research on the entire area and on the legend of Roland to see where the connection might come in.

 

History and Legends of Roland

For the many fans and followers of  Michael Hirst’s Vikings Saga as well as anyone interested in medieval history or history of Charlamagne, the character of Roland is  somewhat familiar. In the Vikings Saga, we have a rather mysterious Roland as a Frankish soldier of high standing- Count Odo’s first in command. As yet, we know very little about him other than that he maintains an important status within the court and household of Charles. He is a well trusted member of their regime and that is about all I can tell you so far. His character is played by Huw Parmenter and he will be returning in season 4 so hopefully his story and history will be better explained.  At this point is mere speculation on what route Hirst has taken with this character- whether he has created him based on some type of historical reference or symbolism, or whether he just liked the name and this is a totally fictional creation. Many who are familiar with the legends of Roland and his connections to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire are of the thought that this character would be some symbolic representation or nod to the more famous Roland.  To the best of my knowledge, Hirst has not commented on this character interpretation yet.  The introduction of his character with his high standing in the Frankish court leads me to personally think, or at least hope- that there is some odd connection. Hirst has made so many references to Charlamagne and his dynasty that it seems reasonable to me that he would include some reference to Roland. He has already played so much with timelines that it is not unreasonable or implausible that he would consider bringing Roland into the picture even though his original history involved that timeline of Charlamagne. One might compare it to King Ecbert, who’s true history also falls into the timeline of Charlamagne.  If Hirst easily maneuvered Egbert up the timeline, why would he have any reservations about doing the same for Roland.  What ever the case, we now have a rather mysterious and illusive Roland as second in command of the Frankish army and most of us want to know more about him, and or his possible real history.

Roland's story yes here comes roland yet again

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet and.... here comes roland once again

In history, Roland was ) was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. The historical Roland was military governor of the Breton March, responsible for defending Francia‘s frontier against the Bretons. His only historical attestation is in Einhard‘s Vita Karoli Magni, which notes he was part of the Frankish rearguard killed by rebellious Basques in Iberia at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.

The only historical mention of the actual Roland is in the Vita Karoli Magni by Charlemagne‘s courtier and biographer Einhard. Einhard refers to him as Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus (“Roland, prefect of the borders of Brittany”), indicating he presided over the Breton March, Francia‘s border territory against the Bretons.  The passage, which appears in Chapter 9, mentions that Hroudlandus (a Latinization of the Frankish Hruodland) was among those killed in the battle:

While he was vigorously pursuing the Saxon war, almost without a break, and after he had placed garrisons at selected points along the border, [Charles] marched into Spain [in 778] with as large a force as he could mount. His army passed through the Pyrenees and [Charles] received the surrender of all the towns and fortified places he encountered. He was returning [to Francia] with his army safe and intact, but high in the Pyrenees on that return trip he briefly experienced the Basques. That place is so thoroughly covered with thick forest that it is the perfect spot for an ambush. [Charles’s] army was forced by the narrow terrain to proceed in a long line and [it was at that spot], high on the mountain, that the Basques set their ambush. […] The Basques had the advantage in this skirmish because of the lightness of their weapons and the nature of the terrain, whereas the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the overseer of the king’s table, Anselm, the count of the palace, and Roland, the lord of the Breton March, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.

Roland was evidently the first official appointed to direct Frankish policy in Breton affairs, as local Franks under the Merovingian dynasty had not previously pursued any specific relationship with the Bretons. Their frontier castle districts such as Vitré, Ille-et-Vilaine, south of Mont Saint-Michel, are now divided between Normandy and Brittany. The distinctive culture of this region preserves the present-day Gallo language and legends of local heroes such as Roland. Roland’s successor in Brittania Nova was Guy of Nantes, who like Roland, was unable to exert Frankish expansion over Brittany and merely sustained a Breton presence in the Carolingian Empire.

According to legend, Roland was laid to rest in the basilica at Blaye, near Bordeaux, on the site of the citadel.

If you look at Roland in this very limited extent of his actual historical contributions to Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire, it’s rather difficult to explain or reason how he came to be such a legendary figure of such acclaim. He would  be so romanticized and revered that tales of his supposed feats would be told and sung about in the eventually conquered land of Saxony and even in Norse legends.  Put in terms of actual historical accounts, Roland was not necessarily all that important- he was most likely one of many Frankish military leader involved in the various battles and conquests of  Charlamagne’s empire. He was a part of the wars against Saxony but died before victory over Saxony was ever achieved so he really had no significant contribution in that area. As far as his role in controlling the Bretons, he was not successful there either. And, quite obviously, his march into Spain against the Basques ended badly as well.   One would have to reasonably question how this soldier went from such seemingly mediocracy to the level of praised and esteemed Folk hero?  The answer to that could be blamed on one very creative Poet/Story teller in the 11th century!

The Song of Roland  is an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux in 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and exists in various manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries.  The date of composition is put in the period between 1040 and 1115: an early version beginning around 1040 with additions and alterations made up until about 1115. The final text has about 4,000 lines of poetry. The epic poem is the first  and with The Poem of the Cid one of the most outstanding examples of the chanson de geste, a literary form that flourished between the 11th and 15th centuries and celebrated legendary deeds. 

The earliest known source for Roland’s rise to fame and glory are attributed to a poet named Turold, between approximately 1040 and 1115, and most of the alterations were performed by about 1098. Some favor an earlier dating, because it allows one to say that the poem was inspired by the Castilian campaigns of the 1030s, and that the poem went on to be a major influence in the First Crusade. Those who prefer a later dating do so on grounds of what they interpret as brief references made in the poem to events of the First Crusade. One of the main reasons for the poem’s initial popularity was most probably it’s references to Charlamagne fighting off the Muslims in Spain. Possibly Turold’s intention or premise for telling the story was based on that from the beginning. His work would have been looked on by those who paid him as an excellent motivator in the upcoming Crusades that began around the same time. What better story to encourage people to join in the march of Christians to defeat the Infidels and Heathens of the most holy of lands. They had already for the most part done away with the Heathen influence in Europe. And, by this time even the Heathens of the Northern areas- those Saxons, Danes and Norse had all been converted so the next step was to conquer those Eastern lands. While the laypeople saw it as their sworn duty and purpose to defend Christianity and spread God’s word to the world, in reality the Church saw it as good business that brought more wealth, power and control to the Church leaders. In a sense, war and crusades were good business for the church and they made the most of the opportunities such events presented. So, Turold was most likely well rewarded for his story of Charlamagne and Roland fighting to bring Christianity to those infidel Muslims in Spain.

The tale of Roland’s death is retold in the eleventh-century poem The Song of Roland, where he is equipped with the olifant (a signalling horn) and an unbreakable sword, enchanted by various Christian relics, named Durendal. The Song contains a highly romanticized and embellished account of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and Roland’s death, setting the tone for later fantastical depiction of Charlemagne’s court.

chroniques of Roland

chroniques of Roland

The plot of this earliest known tale of  Roland and his epic march into Spain is as follows:

Charlemagne‘s army is fighting the Muslims in Spain. They have been there for seven years, and the last city standing is Saragossa, held by the Muslim king Marsilla. Threatened by the might of Charlemagne’s army of Franks, Marsilla seeks advice and his wise man, Blancandrin, councils him to conciliate the Emperor, offering to surrender and giving hostages. Accordingly, Marsilla sends out messengers to Charlemagne, promising treasure and Marsilla’s conversion to Christianity if the Franks will go back to France.

Charlemagne and his men, tired of fighting, accept his peace offer and select a messenger to Marsilla’s court. Protagonist Roland nominates his stepfather Ganelon as messenger. Ganelon, who fears to be murdered by the enemy and accuses Roland of intending this, takes revenge by informing the Saracens of a way to ambush the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, led by Roland, as the Franks re-enter Spain through the mountain passes.

As Ganelon predicted, Roland leads the rear guard, with the wise and moderate Oliver and the fierce Archbishop Turpin. The Muslims ambush them at Roncesvalles, and the Christians are overwhelmed. Oliver asks Roland to blow his olifant to call for help from the Frankish army; but Roland proudly refuses to do so.

The Franks fight well, but are outnumbered, until almost all Roland’s men are dead and he knows that Charlemagne’s army can no longer save them. Despite this, he blows his olifant to summon revenge, until his temples burst and he dies a martyr’s death. Angels take his soul to Paradise.

When Charlemagne and his men reach the battlefield, they find the dead bodies of Roland’s men, who have been utterly annihilated, and pursue the Muslims into the river Ebro, where they drown. Meanwhile, Baligant, the powerful emir of Babylon, has arrived in Spain to help Marsilla, and his army encounters that of Charlemagne at Roncesvalles, where the Christians are burying and mourning their dead. Both sides fight valiantly – when Charlemagne kills Baligant, the Muslim army scatters and flees, and the Franks conquer Saragossa. With Marsilla’s wife Bramimonde, Charlemagne and his men ride back to Aix, their capital in France.

The Franks discover Ganelon’s betrayal and keep him in chains until his trial, where Ganelon argues that his action was legitimate revenge, not treason. While the council of barons assembled to decide the traitor’s fate is initially swayed by this claim, one man, Thierry, argues that, because Roland was serving Charlemagne when Ganelon delivered his revenge on him, Ganelon’s action constitutes a betrayal.  Ganelon’s friend Pinabel challenges Thierry to trial by combat, in which, by divine intervention, Thierry kills Pinabel. The Franks are convinced by this of Ganelon’s villainy; thus, he is torn apart by having four galloping horses tied one to each limb, and thirty of his relatives are hanged.

As a result of Turold’s highly imaginative telling of  Charlamagne’s battles in Spain, Roland became a grand hero of epic and monumental proportions. The story was so well liked that it was constantly repeated and added to over the centuries. By the 14th century Roland had battled a Saracen giant named Ferracutus who is only vulnerable at his navel (the story was later adapted in the anonymous Franco-Venetian epic L’Entrée d’Espagne (c.1320) and in the 14th-century Italian epic La Spagna (attributed to the Florentine Sostegno di Zanobi and likely composed between 1350–1360).  Other accounts expanded on Roland’s life-  His friendship with Olivier and his engagement with Olivier’s sister Aude are told in Girart de Vienne by Bertrand de Bar-sur-Aube. Roland’s youth and the acquisition of his horse Veillantif and sword are described in Aspremont. Roland also appears in Quatre Fils Aymon where he is contrasted with Renaud de Montauban against whom he occasionally fights.

In various legends of Roland, he takes on a persona similar to Arthur and his knights of the roundtable. In Roland’s version, the Knights are rather represented by or referred to as his Paladins.  All Carolingian paladin stories feature paladins named Roland and Oliver; other recurring characters are Archbishop Turpin, Ogier the Dane, Huon of Bordeaux, Fierabras, Renaud de Montauban and Ganelon. Tales of the paladins once rivaled the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table in popularity.

Roland and his Palidans

Roland and his Paladins

Roland and his Paladins appear in the The Karlamagnús saga (“saga of Charlemagne“),  a late 13th century Norse prose compilation and adaptation, made for Haakon V of Norway, of the Old French chansons de geste of the Matter of France dealing with Charlemagne and his paladins. In some cases, the Karlamagnús saga remains the only source for otherwise-lost Old French epic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlamagn%C3%BAs_saga

The following is a beautiful rendition of the Norwegian ballad of Roland with lyrics included.

So, now we know that Roland achieved his epic fame and glory not because of any actual accomplished feats in his lifetime, but more because a gifted story teller turned him into that legendary hero a few centuries later. During the years in which he lived and those even some years after his death, Roland was just another Frankish soldier involved in wars against the Saxons and any number of other groups or territories that Charlamagne felt were in need of Christianizing and conquering, probably including such Heathens as the Vikings!

As the various lands were conquered over the next centuries, the legends of Roland also made their way into those places and took on slightly different meanings and symbolisms for the people of each area. An example would be how he came to be viewed in areas of Catalonia. In Catalonia Roland (or Rotllà, as it is rendered in Catalan) became a legendary giant. Numerous places in Catalonia (both North and South) have a name related to Rotllà. In step with the trace left by the character in the whole Pyrenean area, Basque Errolan turns up in numerous legends and place-names associated with a mighty giant, usually a heathen, capable of launching huge stones. The Basque word erraldoi (giant) stems from Errol(d)an, as pointed by the linguist Koldo Mitxelena.

Roland in Saxony Anhalt area

These differences in the legend may play a part in how he came to be represented and symbolized in the Saxony Anhalt area of what is now Germany.  The history of his monuments in the area refer to him being a representation and symbol of independence. In Germany, Roland gradually became a symbol of the independence of the growing cities from the local nobility. In the late Middle Ages many cities featured defiant statues of Roland in their marketplaces. The Roland in Wedel was erected in 1450 as symbol of market justice, and the Roland statue in front of Bremen City Hall (1404) has been listed together with the city hall itself on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2004.

Normally one would question why this legendary crusader and soldier of Charlamagne would be any way connected with a fight against Nobility. If you look at the legend in the context of it being a basis and a variant of Arthur and his noble knights fighting for justice and honor for all though, it makes much more sense why the medieval residents of this area might have taken him on as their own personal defender of their cause.  By the time his legends made their appearance in their area, the people had long previously been already conquered by Charlamagne and the Frankish Empire and well Christianized, as was Charlamagne’s ulterior intent. During those medieval years when the legends of Roland showed up, they were mired deep within the feudal systems and overlords controlling them. These people would have had no clue that Roland had originally been one of the “bad guy” conquering armies of their people. No, these people were looking for a Knight in Shining Armor, like Arthur of legend, to believe in. They found that supposed Knight or Paladin in Roland!

 

Statues of Roland can be found throughout  northern and eastern Germany, where they are often placed on the market square or in front of the city hall. Examples are also known from Central Europe, Croatia and Latvia, and there are copies in Brazil and the United States.  Statues of the mythological Roland, who enjoyed the status as a popular hero, were erected in cities during the Middle Ages as an emblem of the freedom and city rights of a town. In Germany, such a town is sometimes known as a Roland town (German: Rolandstadt). Roland statues are known mainly from cities that used Saxon Law which is interesting considering the fact that we’ve already established the fact that historically he was involved in the conquering of Saxons and old Saxony. And, in order to better reinforce  the idea of Charlamagne and his conquerors being the heroes, a later Holy Roman Emperor would go even further in encouraging the legend of Roland.  The first Roland statues began to appear in the 12th century, placed outside churches. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Roland statues became more common. Especially during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, such statues became more common, a fact that may be explained by the emperor’s ambition to portray himself as the heir to Charlemagne‘s reign.  The earliest Roland statues were made of wood, while later examples are more often made of stone.

Roland_auf_dem_Marktplatz_in_Bremen__IMG_6882WI

Statue of Roland erected in city of Bremen 1404

The statues and the symbolism are also connected to medieval feudal laws that at times seem to contradict each other and become quite complex in explanations as well as understanding. I will attempt some additional clarification but please don’t be too concerned or worried if you end up even more confused by all of it… at least then I will not feel like I am the only one who doesn’t quite understand all of it!

The statues of Roland were generally designed to show Roland as protector of the city his legendary sword (known in chivalric legend as Durendal) is unsheathed, and his shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle.  It was usually placed as to confront the main church as a representation of city rights opposed to the territorial claims of the prince-archbishop. The earliest known statue was the one in Bremen and was built as a symbol of civil liberty and freedom. According to legend, Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as Roland stands watch over the city. For this reason, it is alleged that a second Roland statue is kept hidden in the town hall’s underground vaults, which can be quickly installed as a substitute, should the original fall.

The principle of civil liberty and freedom are based on the German phrase of Stadtluft macht frei nach Jahr und Tag (“city air makes you free after a year and a day”).  It describes a principle of law in the Middle Ages. The period of a year and a day was a conventional period widely employed in Europe to represent a significant amount of time. From the 11th century onwards, liberated serfs and other members of the Third Estate founded settlements alongside the old Roman or Germanic. It was customary law that a city resident was free after one year and one day. After this he could no longer be reclaimed by his employer and thus became bound to the city. Serfs could flee the feudal lands and gain freedom in this way, making cities a territory outside the feudal system to a certain extent. This created the conditions for the revolts such as the Münster Rebellion.  With the Statutum in favorem principum (“Statute in Favor of the Princes”), this regulation of customary law was officially abolished for the Holy Roman Empire in 1231/32. According to the statute, cities under royal jurisdiction were forbidden to protect serfs originally owned by the regional princes or their vassals. The statute is an example of power devolving from Imperial authority to that of territorial magnates during the drawn-out contest between the Hohenstaufen emperors and the Papacy.

Adding to the confusion over Roland’s symbolism and representation are the conflicting ideals or beliefs in regards to Charlamagne and the church as opposed to the ideal of  Roland representing the civil rights.

 

History of Saxony Anhalt in relation to Old Saxony

Now  we know the history and legend of Roland along with some reasons he may have become such a symbol for certain areas of medieval Germany that include Saxony Anhalt and the village of Calbe. What we need to do next is look briefly at the history of  Calbe, Magdeburg, and Saxony Anhalt in relation to what was once called Old Saxony. My reason for doing this is to better understand the histories of these areas and how they connect to the original land of Saxony.  There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the numerous variations of “Saxony” Over the centuries until rather recently, there have been areas, territories and Duches with labels of Upper Saxony, Lower Saxony, Saxony Anhalt, Saxony, and Old Saxony. This proves a bit of a nightmare in terms of knowing where a town or village is as compared to where it might have been at some other earlier point in Germany’s, Prussia’s or Saxony’s long history!  With the appearance of Roland in some areas, I was interested in seeing the medieval or even earlier histories of Calbe and it’s surrounding cities.

Calbe_(Saale)_in_SLK calbe and magdeburg Germany

Calbe’s history dates back to at least the 10th century when the original Church of St. Stephani was built there. Their former Monastery Gottesgnaden dates back to the 11th century and their representation as Free City protection by Roland originated in the 1380s. This early appearance of Roland would signify that their monument to him is for earlier reason and meaning based on the Free city ideal rather than a later public relations model by Charles.

 

Calbe is located near Magdeburg. If we look at Magdeburg’s history we get a much better picture of the area and it’s connection to Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars. The city of Magdeburg or Magadoburg was founded by Charlamagne in the year 805. The meaning of the name was from Old High German magado for big, mighty and burga for fortress. If you look at early maps, you will see that Magdeburg was shown as being a part of “Old Saxony”. This is crucial in determining just what part of those many areas labeled Saxony the city was in as far as placing it within the realm of original Saxon held lands. It is also important when trying to figure out Charlamagne’s conquests of the Saxons!

old saxony

Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today to the modern German state of Lower Saxony, the eastern half of North Rhine-Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt.  It included the entire territory between the lower Elbe and Saale rivers almost to the Rhine. Between the mouths of the Elbe and the Weser it bordered the North Sea. The only parts of the territory which lay across the Elbe were the counties of Holstein and Ditmarsch. The tribal lands were roughly divided into four kindred groups: the Angrians, along the right bank of the Weser; the Westphalians, along the Ems and the Lippe; the Eastphalians, on the left bank of the Weser; and the Nordalbingians, in modern Holstein. But not even with these four tribal groups was the term of tribal division reached. For the Saxon “nation” was really a loose collection of clans of kindred stock. For example, the Nordalbingians alone were divided into lesser groups: Holsteiners, Sturmarii, Bardi, and the men of Ditmarsch.

Old Saxony is the place from which most of the raids and later colonisations of Britain were mounted. The region was called “Old Saxony” by the later descendants of Anglo-Saxon migrants to Britain, their new colonies in Wessex and elsewhere were the “New Saxony” or Seaxna. In Germany the Saxon lands were known simply as “Saxony” (Modern German:Sachsen) and only later came to be called Lower Saxony, to differentiate those original Saxon tribal territories from what became the Kingdom of Saxony or Upper Saxony in territories far to the south-east of the original Saxon homeland. The Anglo-Saxon writer Bede claimed in his work Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731) that Old Saxony was the area between the Elbe, the Weser and the Eider in the north and north west of modern Germany and was a territory beyond the borders of the Roman Empire.

Magdeburg is located on the Elbe River so the area would have been part of Bede referred to as Old Saxony.  Ptolemy‘s Geographia, written in the 2nd century, is sometimes considered to contain the first mentioning of the Saxons. Some copies of this text mention a tribe called Saxones in the area to the north of the lower River Elbe, thought to derive from the word Sax or stone knife.[5] However, other copies call the same tribe Axones, and it is considered likely that it is a misspelling of the tribe that Tacitus in his Germania called Aviones. These earliest known tribal Saxons inhabited “Northern Albingia“, a region bordering the northern bank of the mouth of River Elbe in what is now Western Holstein. As land became scarce, the Saxon population began to expand southward where it absorbed indigenous populations such as Cherusci, Chamavi and Chatti, also remaining portions of Langobardi (Lombards) and Suebi. This broader domain is called “Old Saxony”. The Chauci, according to Tacitus, also lived in the general area later known as Old Saxony and were highly respected among Germanic tribes. He describes them as peaceful, calm, and levelheaded. At some point they may have merged with, or were perhaps synonymous to, the Saxons.

For the most part, the Saxon lands were a broad plain, save on the south, where it rose into hills and the low mountainous country of the Harz and Hesse. This low divide was all that separated the country of the Saxons from their ancient enemies and ultimate conquerors, the Franks. The lack of clear physical definition along this border, from time immemorial, had been the cause of incessant tribal conflict between them. Saxons as inhabitants of present-day Northern Germany are mentioned in 555, when Theudebald, the Frankish king, died and the Saxons used this opportunity for war. The Saxons were defeated by Chlothar I, Theudebald’s successor. Some of their Frankish successors fought against the Saxons, others were allied with them; Chlothar II won a decisive victory against the Saxons.

In 690, two priests called Ewald the Black and Ewald the Fair set out from Northumbria to convert the Old Saxons to Christianity. It is recorded that at this time Old Saxony was divided into the ancient dioceses of Münster, Osnabrück, and Paderborn. However, by 695 the pagan Saxons had become extremely hostile to the Christian priests and missionaries in their midst and began to realize that their aim was to convert their over-lord and destroy their temples and religion. Ewald the Fair was quickly murdered, but Ewald the Black they subjected to torture, and he was torn limb from limb. Afterwards the two bodies were cast into the Rhine. This is understood to have happened on 3 October 695 at a place called Aplerbeck, near Dortmund, where a chapel still stands. The two Ewalds are now celebrated in Westphalia as saints.   Their reluctance to accept the new Christian religion and propensity to mount destructive raids on their neighbours would eventually bring them into direct conflict with Charlemagne, the powerful king of the Franks and later emperor. After a bloody and highly attritious thirty-year campaign between 772–804 the Old Saxons led by Widukind were eventually subdued by Charlemagne and ultimately forced to convert to Christianity.

The primitive bonds of kindred and clan were particularly strong among the Saxons, and in spite of many divisions the Saxons were an unusually homogeneous nation living as late as the 8th century as the early Germans described by Tacitus in Germania had lived. The long warfare with the Franks largely reduced but did not wholly obliterate their distinct cultural identity.

 

Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars

By the time Charlamagne decided to put an end to Saxon paganism and raiding of Frankish territories, the Saxon lands consisted of  4 regions,   Nearest to Austrasia was Westphalia and furthest away was Eastphalia. In between these two kingdoms was that of Engria and north of these three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia. The Magdeburg area was in the Eastphalia region.

Charlamagne's Saxony map-oldsaxon

It took him almost 30 years but Charlamagne did succeed at conquering the Saxons completely. He began his campaigns in 772 and it was not until 804 that the last rebellious tribesmen were finally crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany. They resulted in the incorporation of Saxony into the Frankish realm and their conversion from Germanic paganism to Germanic Christianity.

Despite repeated setbacks, the Saxons resisted steadfastly, returning to raid Charlemagne’s domains as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere. Their main leader, Widukind, was a resilient and resourceful opponent and accepted a peace offering from Charlemagne in a perilous situation, not losing his face and preventing Charlemagne from continuing a bothersome war. This agreement saved the Saxons’ leaders’ exceptional rights in their homeland. Widukind (ahd Waldkind, “Child of forest”) was baptized in 785 and buried in the only German church without a spire.

It was a long bloody and drawn out war that Charlamagne might have won sooner had he not left so often to take care of other battles. After his initial attack in 772-74, he negotiated with some of the Saxon Nobles, took hostages and left to attend to to his war against the Lombards in northern Italy; but Saxon free peasants, led by Widukind, continued to resist and raided Frankish lands in the Rhine region. Armed confrontations continued unabated for years.

In 775 Charlamagne returned to march successfully  through Westphalia and Eastphalia. By the end of this campaign he assumed that all of Saxony except for the North was in his control and left again for Italy. In 776, the Saxons were already rebelling and destroying his fortresses. He returned in time to put down the rebellion but Saxon Leader Widukind conveniently escaped to Denmark.  In 777, Charlamagne convened a meeting at Paderborn supposedly to  integrate Saxony fully into the Frankish kingdom. Many Saxons were baptized. The main purpose was more to force the Saxons into Christianity.  Charlemagne issued a number of decrees designed to break Saxon resistance and to inflict capital punishment on anyone observing heathen practices or disrespecting the king’s peace. His severe and uncompromising position, which earned him the title “butcher of Saxons”, caused his close adviser Alcuin of York, later abbot of Saint Martin’s Abbey at Tours, to urge leniency, as God‘s word should be spread not by the sword but by persuasion; but the wars continued.

By 778 he left once again, this time to take care of those matters in Spain with the assistance of  Roland….we all know how that campaign turned out! He probably should have just remained in Saxony and focused on defeating them once and for all. Instead, he let the war drag on for years before he achieved success beginning in 785 when Widukind finally admitted defeat, offered to have himself baptized and swore fealty to Charlamagne.

The city of Magdaburg that Charlamagne founded was part of the Eastphalia region and was built in 805 after one of the few later attempts at rebellion by the Saxons. As it was built on the River Elbe, it was most probably designed to put off any future strikes the Saxons might attempt using that waterway that went all the way up to then North Sea.  Magdaburg became an important city during the next centuries.  In 929 the city would be given to Alfred the Great’s grand daughter, Edith upon her marriage to Otto I Holy Roman Emperor. The city was her Morgengabe or Dower gift. Edith loved the town and often lived there; at her death she was buried in the crypt of the Benedictine abbey of Saint Maurice, later rebuilt as the cathedral. In 937, Magdeburg was the seat of a royal assembly. Otto I repeatedly visited Magdeburg and was also buried in the cathedral. He granted the abbey the right to income from various tithes and to corvée labour from the surrounding countryside.

In 1035 Magdeburg received a patent giving the city the right to hold trade exhibitions and conventions, which form the basis of the later family of city laws known as the Magdeburg rights. These laws were adopted and modified throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Visitors from many countries began to trade with Magdeburg.

In the 13th century, Magdeburg became a member of the Hanseatic League. With more than 20,000 inhabitants Magdeburg was one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire. The town had an active maritime commerce on the west (towards Flanders), with the countries of the North Sea, and maintained traffic and communication with the interior (for example Brunswick). The citizens constantly struggled against the archbishop, becoming nearly independent from him by the end of the 15th century.

In about Easter 1497, the then twelve-year-old Martin Luther attended school in Magdeburg, where he was exposed to the teachings of the Brethren of the Common Life. In 1524, he was called to Magdeburg, where he preached and caused the city’s defection from Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation had quickly found adherents in the city, where Luther had been a schoolboy. Emperor Charles V repeatedly outlawed the unruly town, which had joined the Alliance of Torgau and the Schmalkaldic League. Because it had not accepted the Augsburg Interim (1548), the city, by the emperor’s commands, was besieged (1550–1551) by Maurice, Elector of Saxony, but it retained its independence. The rule of the archbishop was replaced by that of various administrators belonging to Protestant dynasties. In the following years Magdeburg gained a reputation as a stronghold of Protestantism and became the first major city to publish the writings of Luther. In Magdeburg, Matthias Flacius and his companions wrote their anti-Catholic pamphlets and the Magdeburg Centuries, in which they argued that the Roman Catholic Church had become the kingdom of the Antichrist.

In 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War, imperial troops under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, stormed the city and committed a massacre, killing about 20,000 inhabitants and burning the town in the sack of Magdeburg. The city had withstood a first siege in 1629 by Albrecht von Wallenstein. After the war, a population of only 4000 remained. According to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Magdeburg was assigned to Brandenburg-Prussia after the death of the current administrator, August of Saxe-Weissenfels, as the semi-autonomous Duchy of Magdeburg; this occurred in 1680.

 

Otto I in Magdeburg

Otto I in Magdeburg

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg Klasztor

Magdeburg vista

Magdeburg vista

So, after this extremely long involved look at my ancestors, their homeland of Calbe Saxony Anhalt Germany, the history of Roland, Charlamagne and the Saxon Wars; what have I learned other than that I’m still somewhat confused and exhausted by all of it? Well, I have learned a great deal more about my roots in Calbe and it turns out that yes, I probably do have truly Saxon roots! We’ve discovered that those legends about Roland were just that… in reality he was not all that famous or even such a great hero but merely a rather unlucky soldier who some later story teller turned into a hero for the cause of a different war. I am kind of disappointed on that one, I was really hoping that something in his life other than just his untimely death would have warranted the legends… But, perhaps once again, some story teller as in Michael Hirst will add to his fanciful and completely fabricated accomplishments! We also now know more than we probably wanted to know about Charlamagne and his Saxon Wars. Never the less, I hope you managed to stay with the journey and enjoyed it!

 

 

 

Search for ancestors led to Prussia, Saxony and to…. Roland??? Part 1

Trier cathedral

Part one: Prussia, Trier and Meyer Family

Important note: I am going to do this article in two parts! This first half will detail my Meyer family history going back to Trier Germany and the second half will cover the Pfeiffer side going back to Saxony Anhalt, Germany.

As most of you are aware, I am diligently working on my personal family history as well as following the more famous and sometimes infamous history of Vikings, Saxons and English. Much of this family history is has been successful, well documented and shown me that I come from a long line of Anglo-Saxons. Perhaps that is why I have such an interest in the early history of those who arrived so long ago on the British Isles and made it their home. During this long process of discovering my family history, I realized early on that my Father’s roots were deeply and firmly planted in that English soil even though they did take a detour to Holland for a short period of time. One would think or assume that might be more than enough to verify me as part of that history.

My work on my Mother’s side has been far less productive or successful in that I simply can not trace her family back any further than 1840s to 1880s in parts of Germany. I have always known that her family was of German ancestry but have never really known much about their prior lives in that country. To be honest, I still don’t know very much- it’s a very slow search with very few clues to assist me.  I have however, made a few recent discoveries that give me hope as well as more of an interest in this family’s history. What those few discoveries lead me to is a pondering thought that my history and my roots go back to the Saxons in more ways than one! It has also led me to take more of an interest in the overall history of Germany, Prussia and Saxony during the 1800s and prior to that. It was a land whose territories and borders were constantly changing depending on which victor was winning and taking control of the areas. This is important as far as family history and research is concerned because as the borders and territories changed hands, so did many of the location names. For those of us searching with limited resources, historical knowledge or German language, the search can often become a tangled maze of changing area names that leave us confused and puzzled to say the least! Some of that confusion is caused by the fact that many of the areas listed by our ancestors no longer exist, having been absorbed into new territories and regions of what is now Germany or other bordering countries. Prussia and Saxony are both examples of this. Adding to that confusion is the fact that Prussia and Saxony were both extremely large areas.  An ancestor might give Prussia as their home land, but realistically that is like someone now stating just that they are from America. Trying to find someone who only listed Prussia, or Saxony is similar to looking for John Smith in United States! The problem with Saxony too was that there were defined areas of Saxony- Upper and lower Saxony, and like Prussia, these borders changed quite often.

The Kingdom of Prussia (German: Königreich Preußen) was a kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918 and included parts of present-day Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium and the Czech Republic.  It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871, and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918.[3] Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

The kings of Prussia were Hohenzollerns. Prussia was a great power from the time it became a kingdom, through its predecessor, Brandenburg-Prussia, which became a military power under Frederick William, known as “The Great Elector.

German_Empire_-_Prussia_(1871)_svg

German_Empire_-_Prussia_(1871)_svg

If you look at this map of Prussia during 1870s, you will find Saxony as part of it’s territories.

expansion of prussia

 

Unfortunately for me, my family ancestors chose to  initially list their homelands an place of birth as just Prussia and one did make some mention of Saxony… I will look at Saxony and Roland in the second half of this search. First we will visit that large area of Prussia and see how I managed to narrow my search down to just one small area in the  Rhineland-Palatinate.

 

Let me give you what little family background I started with for my German ancestors.  As I’ve mentioned, I do not have a lot of clues or history on them to guide my ongoing search further back.  Even their more recent history here in America is filled with gaps, missing people and questions. 

For this discussion, I am only going to deal with my Mother’s maternal side of her ancestry. Her paternal side, the Driver line is well covered and documented…and leads back to England much like my Father’s side. Her maternal side is where much of the mystery remains so I am choosing to focus on that illusive heritage. That maternal line so far consists of Pfeiffer, Mueller/Miller, and Meyer/Mayer/Myer. I have already mentioned that there is limited information or clues to their life or history in Germany, but I am slowly sorting through those few clues that I do have in order to gain some better understanding of their history, where they came from and maybe even some reasons as to why they might have emigrated. I am also beginning to understand a bit more about some of my own early experiences during this process.

My family’s German heritage begins with my 3rd Great Grandmother, Susanna Haminth Mayer who was born in Prussia on October 11, 1810. She was married to a John Joseph Mayer and emigrated to McHenry county, Illinois  sometime between 1844 and 1845. Yes, there is that dreaded far reaching and overwhelming location description… Prussia, just Prussia! We know little about that emigration as yet but this is what I can piece together about her life.  My 2nd great grandmother, Catherine was her youngest child and was born in McHenry county on August 10, 1845. Catherine’s next older sister, Elizabeth was listed as being born in Prussia in 1844. My luck came when I discovered that another older sister’s information listed an actual birth place. Margaret Mary Mayer was born on June 21, 1836 in Neiedra, Trier, Prussia, Germany.  From 1850 on in census records or information, there is never any mention of Susanna Haminth’s husband John Joseph Mayer. In fact in some searches of the family history upon their arrival in McHenry county, it’s been suggested or speculated that he may not have even accompanied the family on this voyage. It’s possible that he may have died in Germany and that a pregnant Susanna made the journey with her family.  What ever the case, nothing else is known about her husband John Joseph Mayer.

Susanna Haminth Mayer

Susanna Haminth Mayer in later years

Susanna and some of her children eventually settled in Owatonna, Minnesota- where the above photo of her was taken.  Her daughter Margaret Mary’s birth information gives us that important  clue as to their lives in Germany and that clue goes along with some family stories that my aunt Eleanor mentioned to me at one time. When I was young, I had the opportunity to live in Germany during my time in the Air Force. It was one of those strange random coincidences that you realize the importance or meaning of until after the fact.  I went into the military, partially because I wanted to travel… I wanted to see more of the world than what was around me in northern Minnesota. The start of the random coincidences came when a friend had orders to Spangdahlem AB in Germany. I was immediately envious of those orders as compared to the ones I had received for New Mexico… Needless to say, a trade was quickly worked out between us and I was about to embark on my adventure of a life time.  Now, at the time I was delirious just to have those orders, never mind the fact that I had no idea where the place actually was in Germany, or the fact that I really knew very little about Germany and or those ancestors who came from there. None of that really mattered to me at the time. I was more focused just on the idea of going there. I can only describe it as one of those events where some idea sets in your mind for unknown reasons, something telling you that this is what you are suppose to do, where you are suppose to go. It was not until later when I was preparing for this move, trying to determine just where I was going in that country that my Aunt Eleanor shared some of the reason or connection. In learning where this Spangdahlem AB was located on the map, she became nearly as excited as I was at the prospect of this move. We pored over the maps and she gleefully pointed out the town of Trier nearby. “Look! That’s where we’re from, Trier!” she announced as she remembered relatives mentioning the city. Unfortunately back then, we had little else to connect us to this city other than some distant older relative having mentioned that it was where some of the old ones had lived at one time. She did think that it was the Mueller side and not the Pfeiffer side but she couldn’t really remember exactly.  She had the brilliant but very naïve idea and suggestion that I should look them up when I got there?  I did look up the names once in a directory for Trier… Looking up Mueller or Pfeiffer there could be compared to looking up Smith, Jones or Johnson here in the States! And, at that time, the Mayer/Meyer/Myer name was not even on my radar of relative possibilities but had it been, I’m quite certain the result would have been much the same.

Where-is-Trier-on-map-Germany-570x480

Despite the fact that I found no relatives or connections during the two years I lived in Germany, what I did find was an inner feeling of comfort or appreciation for the place that my ancestors had called home. It’s difficult to describe that feeling, it wasn’t really one of homecoming or even necessarily belonging… so I would more compare it to a sense of familiarity.  There were times when I felt as though I might have been in some of the places before but it was a vague feeling. At the time, I was really concerned with any family history that I might possibly be encountering. I was comfortable enough to enjoy my time there seeing as much of the country and neighboring ones as possible. Family connections were not the purpose of my stay there, those connections would come much later. For some reason, I knew instinctively that the time I spent there was not so much to search for history, but to live within it, to learn to appreciate it, to appreciate this chance I had been given to live in that place- to experience it for myself.  Later there would be time to reflect, to understand and make that connection between family and place.  Now seems to be that time to sort through it.

Susanna Mayer and her children most likely lived in Trier at one time before immigrating to America.  Let us look at Trier,  it’s history and why this family along with so many others during that time in the 1840s might have chosen to leave that city and that country.  Having been there myself a number of times so many years ago, I was struck by all of it’s rich culture and overwhelming sense of history that one can not help but recognize.

Trier, Porta Nigra

Trier, Porta Nigra

Trier cathedral

Trier cathedral

Trier Marktplatz Trier%20Germany%201327640609(www_brodyaga_com) Trier_Dom_BW_24

Trier is one of the oldest cities in Germany and you can find it’s ancient history almost anywhere you go in the city. Trierformerly known in English as Treves  (French: Trèves), is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. Trier lies in a valley between low vine-covered hills of red sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Luxembourg and within the important Moselle wine region. Founded by the Celts presumably in the late 4th century BC as Treuorum, it was later conquered by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and renamed Trevorum or Augusta Treverorum (Latin for “The City of Augustus among the Treveri“), Trier may be the oldest city in Germany. It is also the oldest seat of a bishop north of the Alps. In the Middle Ages, the Archbishop of Trier was an important prince of the church, as the Archbishopric of Trier controlled land from the French border to the Rhine. The Archbishop also had great significance as one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire.

old roman baths in trier

old roman baths in trier

1280px-Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_1

Part of Roman Baths

1024px-Trier-Blick-vom_Weishaus

Overview of Trier

According to legends Trier’s orgins and history go back as far as ancient Assyria. According to a legend recorded in the 12th-century Deeds of the Treveri, the city was founded by an eponymous, otherwise-unrecorded prince of Assyria named Trebeta, placing the city’s founding legend centuries independent of and before ancient Rome‘s. A medieval inscription on the façade of the Red House in Trier market stated: ANTE ROMAM TREVIRIS STETIT ANNIS MILLE TRECENTIS.
PERSTET ET ÆTERNA PACE FRVATVR. AMEN

Trebeta’s parents were said to have been Ninus, a legendary “King of Assyria” invented by the ancient Greeks,  and an unknown mother who was Ninus’s wife before Semiramis. Semiramis took control of the kingdom upon his father’s death and Trebeta was forced into exile, wandering Europe before settling at Trier. His body was said to have been cremated on Petrisberg.  The historical record describes the Roman Empire subduing the Treveri in the 1st century BC and establishing Augusta Treverorum in 16 BC.  The name distinguished it from the empire’s many other cities honoring the first emperor Augustus. The city later became the capital of the province of Belgic Gaul; after the Diocletian Reforms, it became the capital of the prefecture of the Gauls, overseeing much of the Western Roman Empire. In the 4th century, Trier was one of the five biggest cities in the known world with a population around 75,000 and perhaps as much as 100,000.  The Porta Nigra (“Black Gate”) dates to this era. A residence of the Western Roman Emperor, Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose. Sometime between 395 and 418, the Roman administration moved the staff of Praetorian Prefecture from the city to Arles. The city continued to be inhabited but was not as prosperous as before. However, the city remained the seat of a governor and had state factories for the production of ballistae and armor and woolen uniforms for the troops, clothing for the civil service, and high-quality garments for the Court. Northern Gaul was held by the Romans along a line from north of Cologne to the coast at Boulogne through what is today southern Belgium until 460. South of this line, Roman control was firm, as evidenced by the continuing operation of the imperial arms factory at Amiens.

The Franks seized Trier from Roman administration in 459. In 870, it became part of Eastern Francia, which developed into the Holy Roman Empire. Relics of Saint Matthias brought to the city initiated widespread pilgrimages. The bishops of the city grew increasingly powerful and the Archbishopric of Trier was recognized as an electorate of the empire, one of the most powerful states of Germany. The University of Trier was founded in the city in 1473. In the 17th century, the Archbishops and Prince-Electors of Trier relocated their residences to Philippsburg Castle in Ehrenbreitstein, near Koblenz. A session of the Reichstag was held in Trier in 1512, during which the demarcation of the Imperial Circles was definitively established. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trier

An interesting remaining connection from my ancestor’s past in Trier regarding St. Matthias… When these ancestors settled in northern Minnesota, they were part of the founding members of small community that they named St.  Mathias. It still remains as a rural township and church by the same name near Brainerd, MN. Mueller and Mayer ancestors are buried in this church cemetery while Pfeiffer ancestors are buried at a much older cemetery in the same area.  The Pfeiffer ancestors were also part of this founding group but were originally from a different area of Germany, which we will visit later. Another contributing factor to the difference in cemeteries is one that I just recently realized and connected… According to one of the Pfeiffer ancestors, they were German Lutherans while the Mayers and Muellers were Catholics.

When I look at the history and location of Trier, I can now make yet another connection to some of the family’s thoughts on their ancestry. There were occasionally some suggestions or thoughts that we might have French origins? This may well be a possibility given the location of Trier so close to the French borders and the fact that they were under the control of France at various points in time.  While the ancient history of Trier is fascinating and truly impressive, we need to look at it’s history during the turbulence of the 1800s in order to see what was happening in Trier and the rest of the areas of what is now Germany. 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Trier was sought after by France, who invaded during the Thirty Years’ War, the War of the Grand Alliance, the War of the Spanish Succession, and the War of the Polish Succession. France succeeded in finally claiming Trier in 1794 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and the electoral archbishopric was dissolved. After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, Trier passed to the Kingdom of Prussia. Karl Marx was born in the city in 1818. If you look at a map, you will see that Trier is located near the small Duche of Luxemburg and close to the borders of France, making it one of those areas of value to the French.

trier germany2

As part of the Prussian Rhineland, Trier developed economically during the 19th century. The city rose in revolt during the revolutions of 1848 in the German states, although the rebels were forced to concede. It became part of the German Empire in 1871. These revolutions were taking place throughout the German states and although they culminated with the major revolts of 1848, the protests and rebellions were taking place long before the final revolts in 1848.

The revolutions of 1848–49 in the German states, the opening phase of which was also called the March Revolution (German: Märzrevolution), were initially part of the Revolutions of 1848 that broke out in many European countries. They were a series of loosely coordinated protests and rebellions in the states of the German Confederation, including the Austrian Empire. The revolutions, which stressed pan-Germanism, demonstrated popular discontent with the traditional, largely autocratic political structure of the thirty-nine independent states of the Confederation that inherited the German territory of the former Holy Roman Empire. They demonstrated the popular desire for the Zollverein movement.

The middle-class elements were committed to liberal principles, while the working class sought radical improvements to their working and living conditions. As the middle class and working class components of the Revolution split, the conservative aristocracy defeated it. Liberals were forced into exile to escape political persecution, where they became known as Forty-Eighters. Many immigrated to the United States, settling from Wisconsin to Texas.

In order to understand  Trier’s role or involvement in the 1848 revolutions, we need to look at where Trier was located in terms of the overall revolution. Trier was part of the area called Rhineland. The Rhineland shares a common history with the Rhenish Hesse, Luxembourg and the Palatinate of having been under the control of Napoleonic France from 1795. Napoleon’s armies smashed armies of the Holy Roman Empire. His rule established social, administrative and legislative measures taken that broke up the feudal rule that the priests and the nobility had exercised over the area previously.   The soil of the Rhineland is not the best for agriculture, but forestry has traditionally been a strong industry there.  The relative lack of agriculture, late 18th-century elimination of the feudal structure, and strong logging industry contributed to the industrialization of the Rhineland. With nearby sources of coal in the Mark, and access via the Rhine River to the North Sea, the west bank of the Rhine River in the Rhineland became the premier industrial area in Germany in the 19th century. By 1848, the towns of Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf were heavily industrialized, with a number of different industries represented.   At the beginning of the 19th century, more than 90% of the population of the Rhineland was engaged in agriculture (including lumbering), but by 1933, only 12% were still working at agricultural occupations. By 1848, a large industrial working class (proletariat) had developed in the Rhineland; due to Napoleonic France, they were educated and politically active. While in other German states the liberal petty bourgeoisie led the uprisings of 1848, in the Rhineland the proletariat was asserting its interests openly against the bourgeoisie as early as 1840.  This would have put cities such as Trier in the middle of  revolts, rebellion and upheavals throughout the 1840s with many people choosing to leave before the final revolts of 1848.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_revolutions_of_1848%E2%80%9349

Susanna Mayer and her family would probably have been living in the midst of this turbulence and trying to get out before any final consequences of such rebellion. I know nothing about Susanna’s educational background, her husband’s work, political or financial circumstances at the time. What I do know is that she brought a rather large family group with her which would have been a fairly great expense at that time. At the time she left Germany, she had at least 7 or 8 children with the oldest being Benjamin who would have been about 16, the youngest a baby and she was probably pregnant as well with daughter, Catherine. As I mentioned, I know nothing about her circumstances at the time but can only guess that she must have considered their situation to be dire or grave where they were to embark on such a move. I do know that the family initially settled in with other German immigrants in McHenry County, Illinois. This Community provided her with some support as she began her new life in America. I am not sure if  she was joining others that she knew already but I would assume that would have been the case. 

From 1850 on, she was never listed as remarrying and it seems that from that point or soon after, she and the youngest girls may have moved around with some of her adult children. Her children moved on to Wisconsin and Minnesota, where she eventually resided at Owatonna until her death on August 27, 1887.  Her youngest daughter, Catherine born in McHenry county Illinois on August 10, 1845 was my 2nd Great Grandmother.  I do know a little more about her… not much, but when compared to what I know about Susanna, it seems like a great amount!

Katie Meyers Miller

Katie Meyers Miller born August 10, 1845 McHenry county Illinois

Catherine Meyer/Mayer grew up in McHenry county Illinois and eventually married John Henry Mueller on June 18, 1862.   From the time of her marriage, much of Catherine’s life was spent having babies and making her way from Illinois to her eventual home in St. Mathias township near Brainerd Minnesota. Her first son, John Martin was born in Illinois on June 6, 1863.  Shortly after his birth, they moved on to southern Minnesota. They initially settled near Owatonna where some of Catherine’s siblings and her Mother resided. When I say Catherine’s life was spent having babies, I am not exaggerating… there were a total of 16 children born to her, though some of them did not survive to adulthood.

The family made their way from Owatonna northwards over a 20 year span, stopping to have more babies along the way- until they finally settled at St. Mathias in about 1885. Prior to 1885, they were residing near Minneapolis where daughter Christine was born on June 6, 1884.  The next child, a daughter named Mary was born at St. Mathias in 1885 but died as an infant. Catherine then proceeded to have another daughter in 1886 and name her Mary! This was a habit for Catherine that caused me an enormous amount of frustration and confusion when I was trying to document her large family! Her last child, Martin was born in 1888, probably much to her relief…

Once they settled in St. Mathias, Catherine and husband farmed and were founding members of the community.  They remained on the farm until shortly before John Henry’s death in 1905.

john henry mueller

After John Henry’s death, Catherine spent time residing with her children, mainly daughter Margaret Mueller Remmels. Catherine passed away on September 15, 1922.

Catherine Meyer Mueller

Catherine Meyer Mueller

sister of Catherine Meyers Miller (likely Elizabeth), Evelyn Miller & her grandmother, Catherine Miller

sister of Catherine Meyers Miller (likely Elizabeth), Evelyn Miller & her grandmother, Catherine Miller

Catherine Meyers Miller flowers

Catherine Meyers Miller flowers

catherine meyer mueller obituary

Well, now we know a little more about one side of my Mother’s German roots and contribution to the history that is part of me… granted it’s not a whole lot but it does provide my possible connection to that most ancient city of Trier. Trier, however is not where I found a connection to that mysterious and legendary Roland. No, for that we have to visit the other side of  the German ancestors. We have to go elsewhere in Germany to find the Pfeiffer family’s contribution.  You’re probably wondering where that connection even comes from?

In part two of this article, we will find that connection between the Mayer, Mueller and Pheiffers with the marriage of Catherine Mayer Mueller’s oldest daughter, Susanna to Wilhelm Frederick Pfeiffer. Wilhelm and his family will take us back to that other part of Germany, Saxony Anhalt and it’s connection to the legend of Roland!

william_and_susanna_pfeiffer

William and Susanna Pfeiffer wedding photo

For an in depth history of Trier see this article:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/from-treveri-to-trier-from-celts-to-vikings/

Part 2, Saxony and Roland

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/prussia-saxony-and-roland-part-2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family history because our lives are stories waiting to be told!

I am taking a break from the stories of Vikings and other medieval histories to do some work on my own family history. As Lagertha once mentioned in the Vikings series, our lives are stories waiting to be told.

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

Lagertha Our lives are stories: Fan art by Jul Sanchez at facebook group, Vikings the Aftermath

In Bernard Cornwell’s stories of the Saxons, he mentioned in his author’s notes that the history interested him because of his family ancestors and their connection to Bebbanburg Castle.

bebbanberg castle

Bernard cornwell historical notes for Last kingdom

History becomes more interesting and important to us when we can make a connection to it in some way that relates to our current situation or our personal family stories.  I think that there is so much more interest in these historical tales because many of us are searching in some ways for the parts of our past that we have come disconnected from. We may be looking toward the more global future but we still want some way to hold on to our past, our heritage, our culture.  As we move further and further away from the extended family units and dynamics that once held us together, supported us, encouraged us and took care of each other, we still want that connection in our lives. As we move on to a much larger world view, we become disconnected with that smaller community, family history… we become disconnected from those people whose stories created the story that we each live out right now.  It is all of those stories of people in our past that make up who we are, what we do and why we do it.  Every step they took, every choice they made, every secret they shared or held close to their heart led to us in the here and now. Every one of those ancestors has a story that is important to who you have become. No, they may not all  be grand, epic adventures. Perhaps their stories were what you assume to be dull, boring and mundane of little or no consequence in how you have come to be who you are. But, look at it in this perspective… had any one of them made a different choice in what you consider their unimportant life, you may not be here living your current life!  It’s like the concept of time travel, or the idea of being able to go back in your history and change something… if any one thing changed at a particular time in your family history, you would be a different person than you are right now. Ohhh, I know, some of you are probably thinking that might be a good thing but in reality, take a close look at all of your life, all of your memories and the lessons you have learned. Which of those things would you give up, would you willingly give them all up to be a completely different person than you are now?  Life is about learning, about understanding, accepting and about using all of those experiences toward a better future either for yourself or for your next generations. 

I think part of the interest, fascination and fandom for such stories as the Vikings saga, The Last Kingdom, and yes- Outlander as well, is the fact that they are not just about one specific event or person. They are epic sagas that tell a family story, a family journey. These stories give us a vision, a connection to that past that we all may be a part of. They inspire us to look deeper into our own family histories, stories and roots. They tell us stories that may be forgotten about our own pasts. For that reason, they are important! Throughout history, those small societies and communities relied on each other to tell the stories of their lives, to share their experiences, their lessons and their wisdom and pass it down to the next generation. In those early groups without a detailed written language, some of the most important and revered members of the community were the story tellers, the Skalds, the Bards, and the elders.  These people held the memories and the lessons of life and survival, of fame and of glory, of honor and tradition. They told the history, the stories that held a group together, gave a group unity and reason to go on fighting for another day.

I think that in some ways, we all still crave that sense or feeling of community of family. We search for that part that we feel is missing. Much like searching for that one true love soul mate, we search for some feeling of identity, some feeling of reason for being or purpose in life. As the world begins to blend together in some common unity, I think we each in some way still search for and want that unique individual identity within us. That unique individual identity can be found in our family history, because while our family history connects us to that larger common world, it also is one that keeps us connected to the smaller familial group that is our own.

 

My Own Journey

ward_and_florence_workman_wedding

Ward and Florence Workman wedding photo

For me, my family history is just as important as the more general and common history that everyone has some knowledge of.  I grew up surrounded by family history and mystery. I know, you are thinking, “Well didn’t we all grow up surrounded by family history?”  Let me explain it a bit more and you might understand better. My Mother was the oldest child in her family yet did not marry or have children until late in life.  My Father was one of the youngest children in his family and his older sisters had started their families long before he decided to settle down and have children. As a result of this pairing, most of my childhood was spent as the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family that consisted by then of much older relatives.  I spent a lot of my early childhood years trying to behave and be quiet among all of them… I was that quiet little one sitting amongst their adult conversations pretending not to listen. I found that if I remained quiet enough, they would forget I was there and go on with all of their stories, gossips and rumors about  relatives. In addition to this, I also found myself attending an awful lot of funerals for many of those relatives! Most of the time, I was the only child there and was viewed with some awe and at times great curiosity… as though they had long forgotten that small children existed! They would oooh and ahhh over me for a bit and then go back to their stories of unknown relatives.  At the time, I was curious but not all that overly interested in all those stories.  They remained in the back of my mind  though, those little snippets and bits… and years later when I began researching my family history, they would return.

A box of treasure-Rescued memories and untold stories

ernst pfieffer henrietta borchart pfeiffer family photo william pfeiffer jr.

One of my other entertainments during those childhood years was a big box of old family photos. I would spend countless hours looking at those pictures wanting to know more about these strangers that had come to reside with us. The box was a collection of various photos and lives mixed together from both sides of my family, jumbled together in a last resting place. My parents inherited the photos when the grandparents passed away… really, I should clarify here that my parents actually rescued many of these photos and souls because of their sense or feeling of respect, their profound feelings for family and their interest in history. When my Dad’s Mother died, his Father was about to toss it all in the trash. My Father stepped in, said no and hauled as much as he could save home to keep some memories of the past alive for us.  Unfortunately, my Dad had no idea who some of those people in the photos were! It would take many years before those people shared their names and their lives with us. On my Mother’s side, the photos were rescued when her Mother passed away and many of them suffered the same fate as my Dad’s relatives- of being unknown strangers tossed together in a box waiting for someone to search for their identities. While  my parents couldn’t identify the people in the photos, they still held my interest. I would ponder over them, wonder and then imagine who they were, what their stories were.  That box of old photos became my greatest treasure, those people became my friends and my inspiration for the future.  That box held the past and the future for me. Even after I grew up and left home, each time I returned, I would spend time with that box, those people and always wonder about them.  As an adult, I would spend time going through the pictures once again with my parents, trying to trigger their memories of who those people were. I tried to write the names down over the years but often it seemed that what was clear as day to my parents one time would change at another viewing. When other relatives came to visit, I would haul out the box and ask them for their memories.

Slowly over many years, we were able to put names to many of my Mother’s relatives but my Father’s relative remained much a mystery to me and some still are a mystery even after all of these years.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested or didn’t care, he just didn’t know them. My Mother was the oldest one in her family and for as long as she was alive, she was much like a family record keeper… and secret keeper as well. They were a close knit little group of siblings and families and she tried to keep track of all of them. My Father’s family on the other hand, was more distant both in miles and feelings. His parents had died long before, his sisters were living distant far away lives and although he would visit his remaining relatives in Minnesota, it was not such a close connection as my Mother’s family had. I think my Mom knew as much or more about his family than he did! He seemed more connected to my Mom’s family for the most part than his own. 

When my Mom was getting sick, she decided that she needed to share as much of the family history from both sides . We began the process of sorting through that box one last time together as she tried to recall as much of the past as she could remember. Our last year together was spent looking at those pictures, those faces attempting to put names and stories to them. Along with those picture memories came other shared memories and secrets from her as well. She told me her life, the one before she was Mom or Auntie. She made me drive her down long forgotten country roads to old homesteads, farms and schools… there were times when I would get frustrated, worry that she was confused about places and I admit there were often times I prayed that my car would not get stuck on some of the treacherous overgrown logging roads she insisted I follow! But, I went along with it because I would see after a while what she was seeing so vividly in her mind… the past, the way it was when she was growing up. She took me to visit relatives I never knew I had, but they all knew her, remembered her and their reunions still bring tears to my eyes when I remember it. I sat there quiet much as I had in my childhood and listened to their stories, their memories all come back as though it had just been yesterday. And, as I sat there listening, the stories I’d heard bits and pieces of as a child all came back again, and began to make sense. Sometimes on those visits we would bring some of those pictures… and someone would casually say “Ohh I remember them!” 

For more of my Mother’s family history and secrets, you can read this previous post about why love is not enough.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/lagertha-and-ragnar-why-love-is-not-enough/

The treasure box of photos took on even more meaning and value as the people came to life. Their seemingly mundane boring lives became a tapestry woven with complex and often painful stories of trying to survive, of building a life despite great difficulties that the images in the pictures seldom share with us. I was fortunate enough to have that last year with my Mom, and will be forever grateful that she chose so wisely to share all of those long held secrets with me. I am honored too that she chose to trust me with the keeping of that box of memories, that she chose to pass on to me the role of record keeper, story teller, memory sharer… I am at a point now in my life where I am realizing that I have been remiss in some of my duty, my purpose and I need to take it much more seriously.  I have spent a number of years researching our family history off and on going in spurts…. it is a never ending process, this search and this story gathering. There are times when it becomes overwhelming and so frustrating that one needs to step away from the past and breathe fresh air. Then there are times when it feels like someone from that past is calling softly- or loudly in some case, to be heard. It is like someone has sat patiently waiting in line for their story to be told, then finally jumps up waving their arms and saying, “I’m so tired of waiting, we all are tired of waiting… We want our stories told, we do not want to be forgotten!”

Calls from the past

Every so often, I get that call, that message and am reminded that I need to do something.  It’s one of those feelings that I can only explain in terms of having an ongoing niggling thought that you are forgetting something important. You could label it as intuition, premonition- it’s an inner thought that I should be doing something more, that I am side tracking myself from some purpose… unless you have also experienced the same sort of feeling, it’s difficult to describe or put into words.

I have spent the past year here sharing stories, sharing history with you, hopefully inspiring you in your own exploration of history, either in general terms or in more specific terms such as your own family history.  Recently, in the past few months, I’ve shared some of the earliest Saxon and British  history and legends with you that include ancient tales of King Arthur and the ancient Britons. As I delved into that early history, for some reason I became more and more fascinated with the area of Wales. Truthfully, I have never really had any great interest in that area before. It’s not a an area that I’ve ever really had some intense calling or feeling of connection to… until now.  Alright, I think to self, we have just read far too much about the ancient origins of this country and it’s peaked our overall interest. I let it go at that for a bit and try to get back to our normal history here but then I find myself wondering about my family history, which I have put off working on for quite a long time. I conveniently blame the most recent episodes of  TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are… one of my other favorite shows because of course, it deals with family and history! Anyway, the most recent episode with JK Rowling grabbed my attention and got me thinking of my own unknown history in Germany. I debated with self over trudging back over to Ancestry.com and forking over cash to chase leaves which continue to pile up and ultimately lead me nowhere. I’ve been that route before and still hold a great deal of angst/frustration about much of Ancestry.com but I do on occasion give in and hand over money in hopes of having some of my questions resolved.  Anyway, that is a completely different topic for some other time. Suffice to say, I gave into internal nagging from unknown voice or branch of my family badgering me to continue the quest. I returned to the quest assuming that I would go with specific intent of searching that elusive and mysterious German branch of my Mother’s family that simply refuses to share any more history with us. It turned out that they are still not ready to talk and if that was my sole purpose or intent, then once again, my money was wasted.  Not being one to feel as though I’ve totally wasted my money, I decided that since I’ve already paid my monthly subscription, I should at least make some attempt at visiting other branches of the family even though most of them are fairly well documented already.

I went back to some of those previously searched branches thinking just to update them with what ever few leaves might still be floating around them. For some reason, I was drawn to one ancestor whom I had never paid too close attention to before. I do apologize for that now, Mary… This particular ancestor has been sitting right there in that branch of our tree from the earliest beginnings of my research. She and her family have been there since my aunt gave me a hand written copy of our Workman family tree before I was really interested in any of it. I was always so focused on other branches that I just took her for granted, copied what vital information there was and never bothered to look beyond the surface.  I guess Mary Polly Owen was tired of waiting so patiently and for whatever reason, decided it was her turn to be heard!

Mary Polly Owen wants to be heard

Now that I look back on this, I have to wonder whether Mary Polly Owen has been calling for a while? Let me tell you a little about Mary Polly Owen and about some basics of my Workman family history  and then you might understand why I wonder this.  When I was growing up, my Dad would occasionally share what little bits he knew about the Workman family history or genealogy… and it was just that- minor little bits passed down over the years in fragments. He cared about family and about history, but realistically not so much about the two of them together.  He would share stories about his youth and some scattered random memories of his parents but other than that, he wasn’t a family history type of guy! One time when we looked at all of those old photos, there was a comment shared about some people in his family being Quakers but he wasn’t sure who or even when as in how far back.  The conversation quickly changed as we moved on to another photo and we all promptly forgot about the Quakers.  Years later when I was researching his family, I did remember that comment but didn’t give much credence or thought to it because I was finding no Quakers in the family. Nor was I finding the Irish or Scottish that he  insisted were part of his family.  He always kept insisting that his family was Irish, Scottish and English. Well, after many years of searching, I never found Irish or Scottish. What I originally found was English, then some more English and then finally some Dutch… the Dutch came because at one point in their early history the family went to Holland, changed their name from Workman to Wertman or Wiertman then moved on to America with the Dutch colonists.  During my initial research, I found a couple of family stories written down and a few distant relatives who recalled similar versions of those stories, that shed some light on this transition. One of the stories was that they claimed to be Dutch for a long time to avoid some religious persecution or some other type of retribution in England. A comment some recalled hearing often was to remember they were really English! At some point, once they were established in the states family members changed the name back to Workman and happily went on from there. Nowhere in any of this history was Mary Polly Owen’s background ever mentioned. Owens is a fairly common name and I always assumed she was English along with the rest of the various ancestors.

Mary Polly Owen has apparently decided that she has remained quiet about her own heritage long enough.  I browsed through all of those ancestors and began that ever tedious process of clearing the few remaining leaves for my direct ancestor,  Isaac Workman and his wife, Mary Jane (Polly) Owen. Just to be clear, in my personal records for her, she was always written as Mary Polly Owen, and in my own defense- most of  my previous searches had not turned up all that much additional information on her other than some basics such as vital statistics and general listings of family members. This time however, I discovered there was a lot  more detailed information on Mary and her lineage. There were a lot of those little leaves, and there are still a lot of them left to go!  So, what did Mary Polly want me to know, what was so important that she chose now to step up and insist that her story, her past be shared?

It seems that perhaps Mary Polly Owen just wanted to let me know that there is more to my interest in Wales than just having read too much history lately? Why is that, you might ask? Well, because for  one thing, Mary Polly Owen was half  Welsh as well as most likely being the Quaker that the family descendants would eventually recall. Mary Polly Owen was the daughter of one Nathan Clinton Owen whose ancestry and lineage is stretching far back into Welsh history and some very well documented firm Quaker roots. When I look at her family and their history, I can not see her easily giving up that history, lineage or belief system when she married into my ancestor Isaac’s English Protestant family. 

On the surface, Mary Polly’s (She will always be Mary Polly to me) life would seem to just be one of those mundane ordinary lives with no real details to flesh it out or make more of a story worth reading or sharing.  All we really have about her are the basic vital statistics of one family living in the early 1800s. Her story is probably similar to any number of other women during that time. There no unique or epic details to her life, no all of those details passed into obscurity along with her. She is long gone, long forgotten… she is not even one of those faces in the treasure box of photos left to me. The only thing that remains of her life are lists of names, dates and places- and some of those are probably not accurate. Take for instance the tombstone bearing her name. Obviously, at some point in time, someone has taken great care to provide this newer grave stone for Mary and Isaac but I have to wonder if her death year is actually accurate?  I do know that she was still alive in 1870. The federal census lists her as living in Sefton Illinois in 1870 and being 70 years old at that time. If she lived to be 100 back then, what a remarkable achievement for her considering how difficult times were and the fact that she was a widow for such a long time. After Isaac’s death in 1845, there is no account of her ever re-marrying so I would assume that she continued on her own, with help from her many children.

Mary Polly Owen

This is the original gravestone marker for Isaac Workman. I do not know what happened to this one or why it was replaced with the much newer one that includes Mary Polly on it but I am appreciative to which ever descendant provided the new one!

Isaac Workman gravestone

The basics of Mary’s life are that she was born on May 28th 1800 to Nathan Clinton Owen and wife Leah Margaret Hartzell in Ohio, probably somewhere in Fairfield County.  She was the second child in a family of 10 or 11 children. Her Father, Nathan died in 1811 when she would have been just 11 years old. At the time of his death, it would seem that he left his wife Leah with 10 young children to care for. Nathan’s cause of death is unknown, but he did leave a last will and testament.  It was that will that touched me, gave me some insight and thought as to the family that young Mary Polly was raised in. He spoke of  his great love and concern for his wife and children, and their future. There was one other mention in his will that provided some added clue as to this family’s Quaker beliefs. In his will, he made provision for land to be set aside for a school house, a public cemetery and public meeting house for all to use whether they be Friends, Manists, Baptist, Lutherans or Presbyterians.

In the name of God, Amen. I Nathan Owen of the county of Fairfield and state of Ohio, yeoman being very sick and weak in

body, but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given to God; calling into mind the mortality of my body and knowing that

it is appointed for all men once to die; do make and ordain this my last will and testament – that is to say principally,

and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hand of almighty God that gave it, and my body I commend to the

earth, to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discretion of my executors, nothing doubting but at the general

resurrection, I shall receive the same – again by the mighty power of God, and as touching such worldly estate wherewith

it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form:

First, that all my last debts be paid, my dearly beloved Leah to have the privilege profits and income of all my real and

personal estate for the term of ten years after my decease; together with the privilege of buying and selling any personal

property for the schooling and maintenance of the children and at the expiration of ten years after my decease it is my

will that all my real and personal estate shall be sold, except what shall be excepted hereafter. I give and bequeath unto

my beloved wife Leah such a part of my real estate as contained within the following boundaries at the expiration of ten

years after my decease, viz; Beginning at William Young’s corner on Clear Creek and running South to Robert Young’s

corner, thence east with said Robert Young’s land till the N. E. corner of the same, thence North to Clear Creek, thence

up said creek to the place of beginning, be the same, more or less, with all the profits arrising from the same during her

natural life; I likewise give and bequeath to my beloved wife Leah at the expiration of ten years after my decease, the

following property viz, one horse and saddle not under the value of sixty five dollars, two cows, two beds and beding

together with the kitchen furniture, all the remainder of my real and personal estate to be praised and sold, giving any

of the heirs jointly or singly the privilege of holding the same at the appraisment by paying the other heirs their proper

shares; and after the decease of my beloved wife Leah, all the real and personal estate devised to her, by this my last

will and testament, the same to be praised and sold for the benefit of the heirs, giving them the privilege of holding the

same at the appraisement, as above, reserving out of my whole tract of land, one acre on the north east corner of the same

for the benefit of a school, where a school house may be built and a grave yard for the benefit of the public – in

general, such religious denominations as is hereafter mentioned to have the privilege of building a house for public

worship on said reserve (vis) Old sort of Quakers, otherwise called Friends. Old sort of Manists, Babtists, Lutherans and

Presbyterians, and no person or persons whatsoever to dwell or reside thereon. The said reserve to be appropriated to no

other use than the purposes herein mentioned. I give and bequeath to my oldest son David by my first wife, eight dollars

it being my will that my son James, my son William, my daughter Mary, my son Joseph, my son Charles, my son Nathan, my son

Jesse, my son Reuben and the one unborn to have an equal share without distinction of all the monies interest profits and

income. It is likewise my will that no sale shall be made of any part of my real estate before the expiration of ten years

after my decease any of the heirs that should be of age before that time shall wait till such sale shall take place and

money raised, and then to receive interest for the same from the time they become of age till the time they receive

payment and the others to receive their shares as the respectively become of age. I likewise constitute make and ordain

Martin Sanders Esq. Executor and my beloved wife Leah executrix of this my last will and testament likewise leaving the

reserve above mentioned in their care and charge giving them power to transfer their charge of it to my heirs and then

their heirs and so on successively hoping that all things herein mentioned and contained be faithfully and truly performed

ratifying and confirming this (with they interlining and erasement as above) and no other to be my last will and

testament. In Witness whereof I have herewith set my hand and seal this nineteenth day of January in the year of our Lord

One Thousand eight hundred and eleven. Signed, sealed, published and declared in the presence of us and we in his presence

have hereunto set our hand this day and date herein written. Nathan Owen

Nathan’s wife Leah married again in December of 1812 and had one more child. It is unknown whether he was a Quaker, but my initial thought is that he probably was or that he would have been mindful and accepting of what ever faith Leah was.

 

The family remained in Fairfield county where Mary Polly married Isaac Workman in 1818 when she was 18 years old. Mary and Isaac resided in Knox county Ohio until 1838 when they joined other members of Isaac’s family in what was originally a plan to settle in Texas. They did not get any further than Illinois! The recorded story is that sixteen families started out in a wagon train on their way to settle in Texas. They camped over night at Howard’s Point near St. Elmo. While there a horse belonging to Isaac Workman broke it’s tether and escaped. Horses were very valuable and the whole next day was spent searching for the lost horse. They found it just about where the old liberty Cemetary was later located. In looking for the horse, they had explored that part of the county and liked what they saw. How many in the wagon train besides the Workman families remained in the county is not known. Mary and Isaac settled in Fayette county, Illinois with their 10 children. In August of 1845, Isaac passed away. He and Mary Polly were married for 27 years and as I’ve mentioned previously, there is no record of her ever marrying again.  I know this seems like very little to base any thoughts about her life on or for that matter, much reason to be so interested in this one woman’s seemingly unremarkable life. Perhaps that is part of the reason I am so interested in her?  For many of  her descendants like my family, she  became just another name on a piece of paper.  She disappeared into the fabric, the tapestry of our history and left little trace of herself, her heritage, her history and her culture other than that vague recollection on someone in our past possibly being a Quaker. Her Welsh heritage completely disappeared in our history!

As I read more about Mary’s Father Nathan and his family, I began to see more of  Mary Polly Owen as well.  Mary Polly Owen was born into a strong Welsh Quaker family and heritage that is well worth remembering. It was not quite so apparent  when reading Nathan’s short history but became much clearer when going back a generation to Nathan’s Father, David Owen. I found this short biography mentioning David Owen and the family’s heritage which they took great pride in.

SAMUEL BACHMAN AND HIS WIFE RACHEL OWEN By Cornelia Ellen Bachman Phlegar -1970 Page 9 & 10

“…The Owen family were of Welsh origin. They were among the first immigrants to the state and some of them became prominent in Colonial days. Griffith was a member

of the Colonial Council from 1685 to 1707. John was Sheriff of Chester County in 1730. Owen was Sheriff of Philadelphia County in 1728 and Coroner in 1730. After this

he went to Saucon. His wife was Margaret. They had at least three childen: Thomas, David and Margaret. David, with his wife, Sarah, had eleven children, among them

Rachel, the wife of Samuel Bachman.

David Owen operated a sawmill and hat factory on the site of the Mast’s Mill at Standard about the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1748, he applied for and was

granted a license to open a tavern. He opened this tavern in 1748 on the farm later owned by Frank B. Heller. On February 10, 1749, warrants were issued to David Owen,

in pursuance of which there was patented to him on December 13, 1769, one tract (No. 5) of 64 1/2 acres designated as “Perplexity” and another (No. 19) of 49 acres.

David Owen served as a private of the 5th class in the 5th Company, 1st Battalion, Northampton County Militia in June 1777. A question has been raised as to whether

Samuel Bachman of Saucon was the Samuel Bachman who married Rachel Owen, also of Saucon, and settled in Philadelphia or whether one Christopher Samuel Bachman who

arrived at Philadelphia in 1750 aboard the ship Edinburgh from Rotterdam might not be this man. … It is my opinion, based on the records, that the Samuel Bachman of

Saucon courted and won his neighbor, Rachel Owen, and travelled to Philadelphia where they were married and lived until they made their trip to the southern territory

and that Christopher Samuel Bachmann is in no way connected with this couple.

Page 22 The following record was taken from photostatic copy of a page from an old family Bible, said copy having been loaned to Nell Phlegar by Miss Reveley Owen, of

Bristol, Virginia, she being a direct descendant of David Owen.

“David Owen was born in the year of our Lord 1713, the 13 Day of March — And dyed the 15 Day of June in the year of Our Lord 1790 being about Seventy Seven years of

age — Sarah Owen his wife was born in the year of Our Lord 1724 and Died the 13 Day of Aprill 1792 being about 68 years of Age — They were blessed with eleven

children six sons and five daughters the names as follows: Thomas Jessee David Jonathan Nathan Joseph Rachel Mary Sarah Abigail Lydia –“

 

Nathan Owen eventually settled in Ohio while much of his family remained in Pennsylvania or moved on to Tennessee but I believe that his pride in his heritage and his religious beliefs probably remained strong. I have not done much added research into the area he settled in Ohio, but my personal thought is that he most likely settled with some family members or church members. I think he and his wife would have made attempts to pass that heritage and faith on to their children. So growing up, Mary Polly would probably have been well versed and aware of her own heritage, and she would have also been well grounded in her own faith even if she chose to eventually marry one who was not a Quaker. My thought is that when she married into Isaac’s large family, she and her heritage got swallowed up and began to disappear over the years. This would have been easy to occur, especially when she made the move with Isaac and his family from her home in Ohio to Illinois. If she moved with his family and left most of hers and any Quaker Friends in Ohio, she would have blended more into the larger group of predominantly English descendants. Her own culture and history would have been easily overshadowed and forgotten as time went by.

 

workman family 1885

From left to right – John Scott, Matilda Workman Scott, William Workman and Harriet Earnst Workman (Matilda’s Parents), Barbara and Arthur Clark (Sister), Harriet Workman Smith, Aunt Michele Shear holding Hattie in her arms and little Walter Smith standing holding on to post, Charlie Workman with wife Etta Workman, and the Minister and wife (who married Charlie and Etta).

Charles Workman

Charles Workman

Another interesting thought about Mary Polly and what trace she may have left us as to her history is a comment made by my Great Grandfather, Charles Workman. He made comments about  family history in Pennsylvania and recalled some reference to Pennsylvania Dutch.  Not all of his memory or recollections were accurate as I later discovered, but I take into consideration that by the time he shared his memories he was quite elderly and he may easily have mixed up some of the information. The main point is that his hazy and vague recollections do have some merit and some possible grains of truth.  He remembered family being in Pennsylvania, as well as the stories about his Father’s side having Dutch ancestry. What interests me now is the possibility that perhaps he was recalling something of Mary Polly’s past as well with his thoughts of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Dutch?

Mary Polly’s Father, Nathan Owen was a descendant of  a well traced, documented and regarded Welsh Quaker family that began life in America when early ancestor Griffith Owen left Wales to settle in Pennsylvania.

Griffith Owen was born in Marionethshire, Wales and died January 1717/1718 in Philadelphia. PA.  His will was probated Spetember 29, 1717.  He married Sarah Barns, daughter of William Barns.  She died October 22, 1702.  He married again to sarah Songhurst in 1704.  she died June 4, 1733.  All children are from his 1st. wife.

             Dr. Griffith Owen, son of Robert Owen and Jane Vaughn Owen was a Leader among the Quakers.  He had a liberal education and practiced Medicine in England, becoming a Surgeon of high repute.  When William Penn received his charter, Dr. Owen Persuaded him to set aside 40,000 acres in Chester Co., to be known as the Welsh tract.  This was to be reserved for those of the Welsh race, the Welsh Language, manners and laws should prevail there.  He reached Philadelphia in September 1684 and soon acquired a large practice in his profession.  He is accredited with performing the first surgical operation in Pennsylvania.  He served for many years in public life, holding position as a member of assembly almost continuously, a member of the Governor’s Council, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, a Coroner, Justice of the Peace and a Judge of the Common Pleas.  He was a minister among the Friends.  In the performance of these Duties, he made several trips to England and Wales.  “There was no more respected or influencential Friend in all the Province.”  He settle first in Merion, but afterwards removed to Philadelphia.

If we look at Mary Polly’s Mother, Leah Hartzell, we can find the possible connections or reference to Pennsylvania Dutch. Leah’s originated in Germany, which is where the term Pennsylvania Dutch originally referred to.  Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch)   are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. This early wave of settlers, which would eventually coalesce to form the Pennsylvania Dutch, began in the late 17th century and concluded in the late 18th century. The majority of these immigrants originated in what is today southwestern Germany, i.e., Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg; other prominent groups were Alsatians, Swiss, and Huguenots (French Protestants). Historically they have spoken the dialect of German known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch. In this context, the word “Dutch” does not refer to the Dutch people or their descendants, but to Deutsch (German).

The first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1683.  Mass emigration of Palatines began out of Germany in the early 18th century from areas along the Rhine River.  The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or Reformed, but many Anabaptists as well. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch. This was in contrast to the Fancy Dutch, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream.

If you  go back and  read Nathan Owen’s will,  he makes references to the other religious affiliations that may have made up his settlement in Ohio and formed some close relationships. For him to leave land specifically designated for public use by all of these groups suggests there was a close relationship and connection between them all.  Given Leah’s family lineage, it’s highly possible or probable that Leah Hartzell was a part of this Pennsylvania Deitsch group. The Quakers would have blended somewhat smoothly with these others given the fact that they were sometimes regarded as  Plain and Simple people as well. 

Through Leafs and Time

After all of this research and discussion, what am I left as and ending for this look at Mary Polly Owen? I still don’t know her very well, I may never know her as well as I would like to. But, I do know her better than I did before I started so just for that fact alone, the trip through leafs and time at Ancestry.com has been well worth the money spent for such a journey. My visit with Mary Polly Owen has introduced me to a part of my family history that I never knew about and for that I am much appreciative. She has left me with even more interest in her Owen heritage and legacy that goes so much further back to Wales and to England. Perhaps that was her intent.  Her spirit stepped forward from the pages and  looked over my shoulder. I could almost feel her point and whisper, “Look, there’s my name, there I am…click on that leaf!”  Maybe she just wanted that recognition as we all do that she was here in my life, my history, and that her story is just as important as some of those other more memorable and interesting ones. Perhaps she wanted to remind me that her story, her life was and is part of a much bigger and longer one. Her life may seem rather mundane, ordinary…. plain and simple, but she connects me to a much richer picture of the past.  We all need those simple rather plain threads in order to weave the stories together and create that brilliant tapestry of life that is made up of so many different paths in history.  Mary Polly has reminded me of a purpose in my life. She has inspired me to spend more time focusing on my family’s history, sharing it and passing it down to future generations to learn from.

As I work on this project, I will share the journey here with all of you because all of it is a part of history.  All of  our stories matter, whether big or small, epic or ordinary, it is all a journey through time.  Every one of us has a story worth telling and sharing hidden within our past. My last thought for today is to challenge and encourage you to explore your own history and see where it takes you. You may be surprised at where the journey leads you to, much as I was by finding a path that takes me to Welsh Quakers in Dolgelly, Merionethshire, Wales! There is far more to tell about the Owen Family history and I will share some of it in future posts!

WalesMerionethTrad

Merionethshire Wales

This 19th century hall sits on the land that was originally owned by ancestor Robert Owen before his family emigrated in the 1600s. It is Dolserau Hall in Dolgelly Wales and is now an Inn.

Dolserau Hall in Wales

Dolserau Hall in Wales

Owen Welsh tartan

Owen Welsh tartan

Now, go off on your own journey through time and history. Hopefully you will find unexpected treasures, reunite with unknown faces from the past and be inspired by someone’s long forgotten story.