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  • #1 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Assorted Introductory Topics with a Journal and Multi-Ancestor Recommendation

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : March 7, 1986

    Having completed Notable Kin I, I’m now fast approaching the end of my second edit of Notable Kin II. After work on four or five more chapters, a format review and indexing can begin. Publication is planned for late 1998 or 1999.

    My Princess of Wales volume is now sold out in Baltimore and only about 30 copies remain in Boston. Although not nearly as interesting to the American public, for those of us who like to trace newly royal husbands or wives, it is high time for another royal engagement. Albert of Monaco, Princess Grace’s son, is still unmarried and forty years old. The two sons of King Albert and Queen Paola of the Belgians are thirty eight and almost thirty five, respectively, and are also unmarried. Prince William of the Netherlands is thirty one, and both Felipe of Spain and Frederik of Denmark are thirty and unmarried. I have been waiting patiently now for several years for another engagement. It’s high time!

    Among recent books and articles, the seventy-fifth anniversary issue of The American Genealogist (TAG) is its largest and one of its best issues ever. Martin Hollick of Widener Library at Harvard wrote the best piece I’ve seen on computers and genealogy; and Nat Taylor of Harvard contributed a review of the arguments that would give us all Biblical descents through Makhir of Narbonne and his supposed son "Saint" William, Count of Toulouse, and rejected the line entirely. Not all scholars agree, just as they don’t agree on the fabled Agatha, wife of Edward the Exile and mother of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland (see the October 1996 and April 1998 issues of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register). The person who keeps abreast of all of these Dark Age and ancient descents and possibilities is Don Charles Stone of Philadelphia in his Ancient and Medieval Descents Project.

    Among slightly older books I wish to recommend the 1996 Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis. This consolidation of the sixteen books by Davis treating each of his great-great grandparents is a work I long encouraged and for which I wrote the introduction. Originally published between 1916 and 1963 these sixteen books compose probably the best multi-ancestor compendium of the first three quarters of this century. Approximately 180 families are treated. Davis covers seven immigrants of proved or highly probable royal descent--Samuel and Judith (Everard) Appleton, Christopher and Anne (Bainton) Batt, Thomas and Elizabeth (Marshall) Lewis, and Thomas Bressie. Davis was descended as well from a brother of John Howland of the Mayflower, and from two of the Salem witchcraft victims of 1692--Mrs. Sarah (Averill) Wildes and the famed Mrs. Rebecca (Towne) Nurse. Davis also researched the English origins of many of his ancestors, including Ha(w)thornes of Salem, Perkinses of Ipswich, and Percival Lowell of Newbury. Sources published since Davis’ death that extend several lines are mentioned in my introduction. Readers should know, however, that Davis basically is definitive—find an ancestor here and you usually have to go no further. One last note on Davis: his debunking of the Fernald genealogy is hilarious—some books are so bad all you can do is enjoy them for their value as oddities, and C.A. Fernald was certainly insane. Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis, published by GPC in Baltimore, can also be purchased from our Sales Department, 160 No. Washington St., Boston, MA 02114-2120 (3 volumes, $135 for the set plus $6 postage and handling.)

    Many correspondents note a discovery in the International Genealogical Index that they think refers to an early immigrant. From this clue they often proceed to parish registers and wills. I wish to call attention as well to the Harleian Society’s visitation series. These 120 or so volumes in the rare book collection of the Society’s main research library (with a duplicate of the older volumes on the fifth floor) are edited collections of pedigrees, compiled by heralds who would visit that county’s armigerous (eligible to bear arms) gentry and record its agnate (male line) kin. These pedigrees date from around 1500 to 1700. I do not believe that all of these pedigrees have been combed for references to younger children or daughters "now in New England," "now in Virginia," "now abroad," or some other designation implying colonial residence. Unfortunately, there was no visitation to any of the American colonies, although such an idea was talked about. A major warning, however, is due. These visitations contain many mistakes. The more recent ones are generally better edited and heralds were of very different abilities. The other warning is that of finding a name on one of these pedigrees and the same name in the new world, and then assuming that they are the same. The genealogical jackpot consists of finding an immigrant’s marriage record in England, the baptismal records of several children later known to be second generation Americans, a will mentioning a kinsman now in New England, etc., and then discovering both the kinsman and the immigrant on a visitation pedigree with parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, etc.

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