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  • #40 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: The Best Printed Sources for Medieval Forebears of Colonial Immigrants

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : October 15, 1999
    I am now deep into preparation of the second edition of The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States (RD500). To date I have inserted all changes and corrections from the summer 1996 NEXUS review of this topic, plus all additions and changes suggested by the second edition of Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth-Century Colonists by David Faris, which the Society will publish later this year or in early 2000. I shall soon begin processing all correspondence on the subject of royal descent that I have received since 1996. This correspondence is considerable, but I hope to complete the revision of my 1993 compendium by mid-2000. I will then, or somewhat before, show copies of my work to several selected scholars, including William Addams Reitwiesner, Brice McAdoo Clagett, Douglas Richardson, Henry Bainbridge Hoff, David Faris, Paul C. Reed, and Jerome E. Anderson. Further correspondence, or submissions of proposed lines, are welcome and will be gratefully acknowledged, but please send such data via standard mail or fax, not e-mail.

    I believe that the best introduction to the phenomenon of royal descent and to the sources and scholarship for particular immigrants (once more, about 350 colonials, with new discoveries slightly outnumbering disproofs) remains the 50-page introduction to RD500. My emphasis therein, however, was royal descent compendia, my own life’s work “The Mowbray Connection,” and the listing of individual scholars (and of volumes of “gleanings” or journal extracts with potential clues) - which together had built the American royal descent literature to an immigrant number surpassing 500. Today I wish to consider the major folio British county histories or their genealogical equivalents, some of the best British antiquarian/archaeological journals and records sets, and some of the journals and genealogies most frequently listed, and thus subject-indexed, in the “genealogical guides” by George Marshall, John Beach Whitmore, and Geoffrey Barrow. The bulk of my English research, usually on immigrants of gentry and/or royal ancestry, is based on this literature. A few ongoing sets, such as the Victoria County Histories, The History of Parliament, and published inquisitions post mortem (IPMs), are also often quite useful, as is the IGI for extracted parish register entries.

    The best folio county histories, with the most detailed and reliable pedigrees of “county families,” are Ormerod’s Cheshire (3 vols.), Hutchins’s Dorset (4 vols.), Surtees’s Durham (4 vols.), Clutterbuck’s Herts. (3 vols.), Nichols’s Leicestershire (4 vols. in 8), A [New] History of Northumberland (15 vols.), Baker’s Northamptonshire (2 vols),. Shaw’s Staffordshire (2 vols.), Manning and Bray’s Surrey (3 vols.), Hoare’s (South) Wiltshire, Bradney’s Monmouthshire (the only Welsh county included), and, from the Caribbean, Oliver’s Antigua (3 vols.). I happily own Ormerod, Clutterbuck, and Oliver, and have found daily access to them invaluable.

    Genealogical equivalents of the folio county histories are usually collections of pedigrees without accompanying history. Vivian’s Visitations of Cornwall and Visitations of Devon contain errors but are essential for their near-comprehensive coverage of the local gentry. Berry’s Pedigrees of Families in the County of Kent was published in the 1830s; it and the various Harleian Society Kentish visitations are essential for work on early founders of Maryland and Virginia, esp. Jamestown. Rev. A.R. Maddison’s Lincolnshire Pedigrees in the Harleian Society Visitations Series are certainly the major compilation for that county. For Suffolk the first work to consult is Muskett’s Suffolk Manorial Families (1 vol. of 3 concerns the Winthrops and related or associated families). John Comber’s 3 vols. of Sussex Genealogies, published in the 1930s, are very fine indeed. Of the various works by Joseph Foster, I most often use his Pedigrees of Lancashire Families (1 vol., 1873), and Pedigrees of Yorkshire Families (2 vols., 1874; Foster also edited the 1584-5 and 1612 Yorkshire visitations, and J.W. Clay edited both Dugdale’s visitation of Yorkshire and an extinct peerage for the North). Griffiths’s Anglesey and Carnarvonshire Families is very large, but quite fine; G.T. Clark’s Morganiae et Glamorganiae, like the works of Vivian, contains mistakes but covers most branches of most local gentry families; and, again from the Caribbean, is GPC’s Genealogies of Barbados Families, mostly from Caribbeana. Of these works I own those of Vivian, Maddison, Muskett, and Comber, plus the Foster Yorkshire volumes and the Clark and Barbados works. Among lesser folio county histories, also usually of the 18th or early 19th centuries, but not nearly as comprehensive or reliable or well arranged, or generally useful as the above works, are Lipscombe’s Buckinghamshire, Glover’s Derbyshire (which covers only a few local families you are likely to need), Morant’s Essex, Duncumb’s Herefordshire, Baines’s/Croston’s Lancashire (when this work is added to Foster and various visitation volumes, Lancashire is adequately - but only just adequately - covered), Blomefield’s Norfolk (which I seldom use), Thoroton’s Nottinghamshire, Blore’s Rutland, Collinson’s Somerset, and Dugdale’s (pioneer, but now generally superseded) Warwickshire.

    Of England’s 41 counties, several have no major folio county history or compilation of genealogies or pedigrees. For these counties I often use, and look for in the Marshall, Whitmore and Barrow guides, Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, The Reliquary (for Derbyshire esp., and note the new Harleian Society late Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire visitations, plus Familiae Minorum Gentium); and, as an essential supplement to Shaw’s folio history, Collections for a History of Staffordshire, published by the William Salt Archaeological Society. I have occasionally used and cited Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, Archaeologia Cantiana, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, and Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society; Surrey Archaeological Collections and Sussex Archaeological Collections and Publications of the Camden Society and Publications of the Surtees Society. I am much less familiar with the various record society series. Many such volumes and many volumes of archaeological journals are part of a large fiche collection at NEHGS, and many more are available in book form. Also of note are the 2-vol. Harleian Society visitations set for Berkshire, the several such volumes for London, plus Middlesex Pedigrees; and two Harleian Society visitation volumes for Hampshire, one for Cambridgeshire, and one (plus an older, non-Harleian Society volume) for Huntingdonshire.

    NEHGS, Harvard, Yale, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library, the Fort Wayne and Allen County Public Library, and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, will all own virtually all visitation volumes and peerage works by Burke’s and Debrett’s. The new 1999 Burke’s Peerage, I wish to add, is superb, with many children and grandchildren of daughters, many more than usual younger children of earlier peers, and ancient lines under Abergavenny (Nevilles), Beaumont, Moray (Stewarts of Scotland), Milford Haven (the house of Hesse), Northumberland (Percys), O’Neill, and Zouche, plus the best treatment in print on the Rothschilds. Numerous American connections are apparent (Malcolm Wallop under Portsmouth, Robert Lowell under Dufferin and Ava, Norman Mailer under Argyll, Pamela Harriman under Digby, Mrs. Stephen Breyer under Blakenham, etc., plus a fifth Earl Wharncliffe living in Cumberland, Maine); and among living actors and actresses, as partially listed in the introduction, Diana Rigg appears under Heron-Maxwell, Helena Bonham-Carter under Oxford and Asquith, Jane Asher under St. Germans, and Ralph and Joseph Fiennes under Saye and Sele.

    Also in the above libraries will be the major English genealogical journals, sadly mostly extinct. The best by far was Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, which lasted until the 1940s. Next in importance was certainly The Genealogist, whose current successor is The Genealogist’s Magazine. This last contains many general-interest and methodological articles plus literature updates and queries, and a considerable body of material on new members of the Royal Family and a handful of major figures in English history (Churchill, Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, etc.). This last remaining major English genealogical journal does not, however, approach its predecessors as a scholarly organ or publisher of many gentry or yeoman pedigrees. Earlier journals usually short-lived and all extinct, include The Ancestor, The Pedigree Register, The Herald and Genealogist, The Topographer and Genealogist, and Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica. Also quite useful are the modern series of Visitations of England and Wales, Visitations of Ireland, and Notes [to same], by Joseph Jackson Howard.

    Among genealogies, two of the most quixotic - The Albinia Book and a volume treating the full progeny of Lord Cecil of Burghley - are not at NEHGS. Otherwise, all the following are, happily, readily accessible and part of my daily life. At home are Lives of the Berkeleys (3 vols.), Chester of Chicheley (2 vols.), Danvers, Gorges, and Scott of Scots Hall genealogies, plus Shirleiana. Two blocks away, at NEHGS, in addition to other copies of works at home, are Bernard of Abington (4 vols.), Chicheliana, Cornewall, Cromwell (2 vols.), Evelyn, Gresley of Drakelowe, Kempe, Lowther, Palgrave, Poyntz, Savage of the Ards, LeStrange, Sydenham, Venn, Wake, Wallop (4 vols.),. Wedgwood, Wray of Glentworth (2 vols.), and Wrottesley genealogies. For Scottish families, there are the superb and nearly comprehensive 1937 Forbes and 1933 Hamilton genealogies, the 3-vol. Gordon set, and good single works on Burnett of Leys, Dallas, Livingston of Callendar, Clan Donald, Mackenzie, Mackintosh, Maclean, Munros of Fowlis,.and Rutherfurd of that Ilk. Among works on Irish and Anglo-Irish gentry families, the several editions of Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland, plus Burke’s Irish Family Records (1976), are essential, as are The Irish Genealogist and The Irish Ancestor. Richard Andrew Pierce also brought to my attention-and I have subsequently several times used - the list of individual family articles for each county in Ryan’s Irish Family Records.

    Most Americans, and most readers of this column, are somehow descended from kings. Most of us can further explore - at great length - the ancestry of our immigrants of royal descent via this large British printed literature. Some readers will enjoy confirming their royal lines or extending gentry and baronial ancestry. A few readers, I hope, will find new English-origins clues and develop new royal descents by adroit use of this material. I welcome all such contributions to my still-in-progress second edition of RD500, slated for 2001. Next week I shall speak a bit personally - on why I have traced the ancestry of notable figures as keenly as I have traced my own. I will touch as well on my genealogical predilection for distant notable kin from many cultures and centuries, rather than closer relatives in Texas and the American South.
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