Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Only the Names Were Changed to Protect the Unknown

I've found a fascinating diversion in Genealogy. I started off with the simple premise of finding my Family Tree back to the 19th century or a little earlier, if possible. But I got carried away. Following certain branches of the family, I've visited fourteenth century Italy [through France], fifteenth century Sweden, tenth century France, and eleventh century England---pretty much branching out all over the place. And all this background comes from three members of the family. They form gateways, so to speak. And what gateways! Royalty, nobility, and known scientists and thinkers. But then, if my family had normal antecedents, I wouldn't have so much information to find. I couldn't go back too far directly in Italy or Ireland because of the information sources petered out. Besides, I've discovered that any data earlier than the 19th century are often questionable or confusing. I found early age marriages of course. And young deaths. These were from the middle ages when the life expectancy wasn't so great.

But you must be careful about dead ends. It was popular in the first part of the 2nd millennium among the nobility to trace their Family Trees back to the beginning of mankind. Thus I found one branch tracing back via Popes and Saints and Apostles and gods and goddesses to Adam and Eve---no dates of course. So, watch yourself.

Count Baldwin of Flanders and his descendants.

And I came across marriages between people far different in ages---with children! On recorded father was only 14! That might be believable, but a mother aged 7? I think I'll doubt that one. I found at least one instance where the child was born before the parents! I'll doubt that one too. But it's all a good lesson in people and history. I suggest you try it as well. Most of my sources were free, with the notable exception of But I only pay for the latter month by month as I need it. It's surprising how much information is available for free on the web. But you have to think about it as you find it. Other amateur genealogists are often wrong or confusing, and sources vary in their accuracy. Some intelligent guesswork is necessary, but the whole process is still intriguing. I'm pretty sure my tree is substantially correct. But I rely on other people---I can't use original documents because I can't pay to do so, and I can't read most foreign languages.

I figure that in my whole body, I might have a nanogram or two of royal blood. Maybe I should appoint myself a Knight [Knight Owl?] and have people call me Sir all the time: Yes Sir! What can I do for you Sir?---After all, I was called Sir in the Navy! [I was called a number of other things too, but that's beside the point.]

I've always thought of the name 'Bertha' as an old fashioned one, especially since I never found anyone young with the moniker. But I found a few in my Tree. 'Bertha' is variously pronounced 'Ber-ta' and 'Bur-tha.' Per, Bertha was "Originally a short form of Germanic names beginning with the element 'beraht' meaning "bright, famous". It was borne by the mother of Charlemagne in the 8th century, and it was popularized in England by the Normans. It died out as an English name after the Middle Ages, but was revived in the 19th century. The name also appears in southern Germanic legends (often spelled Perchta or Berchta) belonging to a goddess of animals and weaving.

One of the other interesting ancestor names is Massy Roads, though I could find out
nothing except her name, her husband, and her date of marriage. Picot de Saye was there as well. He was the son of Robert FitzPicot and married Adeloia. Then I delved further and came up with Manasses de Ghesnes.

My grandfather in the early 20th Century. He died in 1922.

'Manasses': "Masculine - Usage: Biblical (Variant), Biblical Latin, Biblical Greek - Other Scripts: Μανασσης (Ancient Greek)" From "Other Scripts: מְנַשֶּׁה (Ancient Hebrew) - Pronounced: mə-NAS-ə (English) [key] - Means "causing to forget" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament this was the name of the oldest son of Joseph and the ancestor of one of the twelve tribes of Israel."

In any case, I haven't come across anyone with that name in my lifetime. My Manasses de Ghesnes was married to Emme de Arques. As is often the case with female spouses, I have no other information about her.

Other interesting names I came across were Gerberge de Bourgogne [who was not a trash collector]; Fulbert of Falaise who married Doda of Falaise, and who had a daughter named Herleva de Falais; Tostig of Gonwidson; Cunigunde of Altdorf; and Poppa de Envermeu---but no John Smith.

Such are the efforts of the genealogist. I urge you to work on your own Family tree. You'll never be bored, and it can keep you busy for many hours and days at a time. Even if---like me---many members of the family just aren't interested in it, there will be enough to make the job worthwhile.