Sunday, June 28, 2020

2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 14: "Water" - Jacquetta of Luxembourg

Actress Janet McTeer as Jacquetta
of Luxembourg in the Showtime
hit series "The White Queen."
From the moment that I saw week 14's theme of "Water," I knew that I had to write about my 18th-great-grandmother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who was the inspiration for the best-selling novel The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory. As a member of the House of Luxembourg, Jacquetta claimed descent from the mythological water goddess Melusine, who is a prominent figure in European folklore.

The legend of Melusine dates from at least the 12th century, and possibly much earlier. Like all folklore there is much variation in Melusine's story, but the essentials are the same: Raymond of Poitou, who was claimed as an ancestor by the House of Luxembourg, came across Melusine in the forests of southern France. He fell instantly in love, and proposed marriage. Melusine agreed to marry him, but gave one condition: he must never enter her bedchamber on a Saturday, which was the day that she bathed. He agreed, and they were married and had children. But one day, after several years of marriage, Raymond broke his promise and spied on her as she bathed. He found that while she was in the water, she had two tails that resembled those of a water serpent. Melusine forgave him for this betrayal, but their reconciliation did not last long. When he called her a "serpent" in front of his court during a disagreement, Melusine assumed the form of a dragon and flew away, never to return to her husband and family. Although most people do not realize it, Melusine is a very familiar symbol to the millions of people who drink Starbucks coffee every day - their stylized mermaid logo is based on drawings of Melusine, and has evolved over time into the green twin-tailed mermaid that we see on every street corner today.

The female members of the House of Luxembourg were said to have retained some of their mythological ancestor's magic abilities. It was believed that most of them possessed "the sight," and that whenever one of the descendants of Melusine died, they could hear Melusine singing a mournful song over the waters. This belief would later cause some trouble for Jacquetta.

Jacquetta was born in July of 1415 to Peter I of Luxembourg and Margaret of Baux. The House of Luxembourg ruled the Holy Roman Empire between 1308 and 1437, and as such wielded great power in Europe. When Jaquetta was about 15, her family held Joan of Arc at their palace in Beauvoir while a ransom was being negotiated between the French and the English. It has been theorized that Jacquetta made the acquaintance of Joan of Arc during her stay there, and that she was present at her execution on May 30, 1431.

On April 22, 1433, Jaquetta was married to John, 1st Duke of Bedford. John was a royal duke, being the third son of King Henry IV of England and uncle of King Henry VI, whose wife Jacquetta would later befriend. John was Henry VI's regent in France, so a marriage to Jacquetta was mutually beneficial for them both. Jacquetta herself was also distantly descended from English royalty, as she was a descendant of both King Henry III and King John I of England. This marriage lasted for only two years, as the Duke passed away on September 15, 1435.

Sir Richard Woodville's
coat of arms.
Two years later Jaquetta secretly married Sir Richard Woodville, who had been the late Duke's chamberlain. Once their marriage became public knowledge in 1437, they faced heavy criticism at court. But after some time (and a fine of 1000 pounds for marrying without the king's permission), they were both not only welcomed at Court, but became favorites of the King and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou. As the widow of the Duke of Bedford and a relative of both the King and Queen by marriage, Jacquetta was the most powerful woman at court, second only to the Queen. In 1448 Queen Margaret influenced the King to grant the title of Baron Rivers to Sir Richard, making Jacquetta the Countess Rivers as well as the Duchess of Bedford. Sir Richard and Jacquetta had fourteen children together: Elizabeth (who later became Queen of England after her marriage to Edward IV), Lewis, Ann, Anthony, John, Jacquetta, Lionel, Eleanor, Margaret, Martha, Richard, Edward, Mary, and Katherine.

During some of the later events in the War of the Roses (which are far too complicated to even summarize here, so please see this summary from Wikipedia), her supposed descent from the water goddess Melusine certainly did Jacquetta no favors. She was accused of witchcraft by a supporter of the Earl of Warwick, who was known as "the Kingmaker." This supporter had supposedly found objects associated with witchcraft in Jacquetta's home. Edward IV, Jacquetta's son-in-law, had temporarily been unseated in favor of Henry VI, the king who he had previously defeated. These accusations could have been very serious indeed for Jacquetta; but fortunately her old friend, Queen Margaret of Anjou, vouched for her, and the charges fell apart. Any remaining suspicion was gotten rid of when Edward IV unseated Henry VI for the second time, and resumed his rein.

Jacquetta passed away in 1472, at only 56 years of age. The execution of her husband and son three years earlier, arranged by the Earl of Warwick during the brief time when her son-in-law was unseated in favor of Henry VI, weighed heavily on her during the the final three years of her life. It is unknown where Jacquetta was laid to rest, but it is thought that Jacquetta's daughters and granddaughters heard Melusine's song as she mourned for the loss of one of her descendants.

~ ~ ~

My descent from Jacquetta of Luxembourg is as follows:

Jaquetta of Luxembourg 1416-1472: 18th great-grandmother
Elizabeth "Queen Consort of England" Woodville 1447-1492: Daughter of Jaquetta of Luxembourg
Thomas Grey 1455-1501: Son of Elizabeth "Queen Consort of England" Woodville
Cicely Grey 1488-1554: Daughter of Thomas Grey
Henry Dudley 1517-1568: Son of Cicely Grey
Roger Dudley 1545-1586: Son of Henry Dudley
Gov. Thomas Dudley 1576-1653: Son of Roger Dudley
Samuel Dudley Rev 1608-1683: Son of Gov. Thomas Dudley
John Dudley 1635-1690: Son of Samuel Dudley Rev
Mary Dudley 1678-1742: Daughter of John Dudley
David Field 1697-1770: Son of Mary Dudley
Ebenezer Field 1736-1776: Son of David Field
Rachel Field 1761-1840: Daughter of Ebenezer Field
Medad Walter 1790-1865: Son of Rachel Field
Jay Clark Walter 1831-1909: Son of Medad Walter
Amzi Walter 1861-1920: Son of Jay Clark Walter
Mary Ellen Walter 1888-1952: Daughter of Amzi Walter
Clara May Schofield 1906-1989: Daughter of Mary Ellen Walter
Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn 1939-1986: Son of Clara May Schofield
Lora Marlene Quinn 1961-: Daughter of Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn
Allison Quinn Kessinger: You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn

Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 13: "Nearly Forgotten" - John Field

Week 13's theme of "nearly forgotten" brought to mind John Field, my 13th-great-grandfather (which is perfect for week 13). In the words of another of John's descendants,
"Among the English pioneers of science, whose claims to the remembrance of posterity have been unjustly overlooked, may be cited the man whose name is at the head of this article.

One would naturally suppose that some account would have been handed down to us of one who made known in England, for the first time, those discoveries of Copernicus which overthrew the Ptolemaic system and revolutionized the prevailing ideas of the notions of the heavenly bodies, and yet John Field, or Feld, as the name was spelt in his day, is not even mentioned in any English work on astronomy; or kindred subjects." 
- Osgood Field in The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 14, published 1898 
John Field was born about 1520 in East Ardsley, Yorkshire, England to Richard Feld and Elizabeth Petley. He married Jane Amyas about 1560, and they went on to have nine children. He studied astronomy and mathematics at Oxford University, and it is believed that he also studied on the Continent with John Dee, the famed astronomer (and sometime astrologer and alchemist) who was frequently at the courts of both Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. He might also have studied with Copernicus himself, but there is currently no confirmation of this.

While John Field's scientific beliefs may have been more progressive than those of his colleague John Dee, it did not save him from being questioned alongside Dee during the Marian persecutions, which occurred in the later half of the rein of Queen Mary I. It is, therefore, not surprising that there is an entry about John Field in the Book of Martyrs by John Foxe, who had to flee England altogether during the Marian persecutions. The entry reads:
"The 5th day [of June]: M. Secretary Bourne, the M. of the Roles Sir Frances Englefield, Sir Richard Read and Doctor Hughes, authorizing them or two or three of them at the least, to proceed to further examination of Benger, Cary, Dee, and Field, upon such points as they shall gather out of their former confessions, touching their lewd & vain practices of calculing or conjuring, presently sent unto them with the said letters. 
The 7th day [of June]: There was another letter to sir John Tregonwel, willing him to anyone in commission with the said L. North, and others above named, about the examination of the said parties & others, for conjuring & witchcraft. And the 29th of August, Cary and Dee were set at liberty upon bands for their good abearing until Christmas after."
Seeing as how nearly 300 people were burned as heritics during the Marian persecutions, it must have scared John to death to even be "examined" about his so-called "conjuring and witchcraft." Thankfully he did survive, and lived out the remainder of his life in East Ardsley with his family. 

When he passed away on May 3, 1587, he was laid to rest under the porch of St. Michael's Church in East Ardsley. A plaque marks the place where he is buried. 

Copernicus' work would have become known in England with or without John Field, but for John to even attempt to challenge the established scientific thought of his time was a risk, particularly during the rein of Mary I. Copernicus himself was threatened with imprisonment, and Galileo was placed under house arrest for championing Copernicus' work. John could very well have been imprisoned, or even burned at the stake, for daring to question the celestial powers that be. He deserves to be remembered as one of the great English scientists, and not to be relegated to obscurity.

~ ~ ~

My descent from John Field is as follows:

John Field The Astronomer 1525-1587: 13th great-grandfather
John Amyas Field II 1568-1597: Son of John Field The Astronomer
Zachariah Stotwell Field 1596-1666: Son of John Amyas Field II
Zechariah II Stanley Field 1645-1674: Son of Zachariah Stotwell Field
Ebenezer Field 1671-1713: Son of Zechariah II Stanley Field
David Field 1697-1770: Son of Ebenezer Field
Ebenezer Field 1736-1776: Son of David Field
Rachel Field 1761-1840: Daughter of Ebenezer Field
Medad Walter 1790-1865: Son of Rachel Field
Jay Clark Walter 1831-1909: Son of Medad Walter
Amzi Walter 1861-1920: Son of Jay Clark Walter
Mary Ellen Walter 1888-1952: Daughter of Amzi Walter
Clara May Schofield 1906-1989: Daughter of Mary Ellen Walter
Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn 1939-1986: Son of Clara May Schofield
Lora Marlene Quinn 1961-: Daughter of Arthur Ray "Jack" Quinn
Allison Quinn Kessinger: You are the daughter of Lora Marlene Quinn

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Genetic Sleuthing: Getting Info from DNA Matches Without Public Family Trees

It's a problem that most of us who study genetic genealogy have run into: you have a close DNA match that is the key to the answers you are looking for, but that match either has a private family tree or no tree at all. Sometimes sending a message to the match yields results, and sometimes it doesn't. There is an appallingly high number of people who never answer messages on Ancestry, and an even higher number that do not build trees to go with their results. In this post, I'm going to use a specific case that I recently solved to demonstrate some techniques for working around matches that do not have public family trees.

Please note: all of the following information is based on Ancestry DNA's interface, but the skills are transferable to other DNA companies, such as 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and Family Tree DNA.

When you click on a treeless match on Ancestry, you'll see a message that says:
[This Match] hasn't built a searchable tree. 
[This match] hasn't built a searchable tree yet, but their DNA results show they are related to [You]. Comparing trees is one way to find out how. Invite [This Match] to build a tree and link it to their DNA results.
There will then be a green button that says "Contact [This Match]", where you can send them a message.

First of all, just because they haven't attached a tree to their DNA results does not mean that they don't have a tree on Ancestry. Click on the match's name at the top of the page to view their profile. Sometimes they have a family tree, but have not linked it to their DNA profile. When this occurs, their user profile will look like the image below. Sometimes you can get useful information from these trees and sometimes you can't, but it is always worth a look.

But more often than not, the match will not have any kind of tree on their account at all. When this happens, you have to really do your detective work.

The first thing to look for is, of course, the name of the match. Match names will be displayed either as a username, a full first and last name, a first name with a last initial, or as two initials only. For male DNA matches the full first and last name is of course the most ideal, and will give you the person's full name. If you're lucky and it's a somewhat unusual name, you might be able to find information on the name alone. For female DNA matches, even the full name could be misleading; is it her maiden name or her married name?

In the case that I recently solved, Diane K. was searching for her father's biological father. Her father and his mother had both passed away, and on her deathbed her grandmother made a final confession: the man who had raised Diane's father was not in fact his biological father. Diane's grandmother did not say what his father's name was, but she told her two key pieces of information: he was married with three sons when Diane's father was conceived, and he owned a farm.

Diane had one high match that was showing as a "1st Cousin" on Ancestry, with the display name of Cindy A*******. Cindy did not have any trees on Ancestry. But when I clicked on her profile, I found that she had two names listed as research interests, and fortunately they were two fairly uncommon names.

So I took Cindy's first and last name that was displayed on her profile, along with the two names listed as research interests, and searched them all together in Google like this:
"Cindy A******* S****** K********"
I was very, very fortunate to get a perfect hit as the very first search result. It was a transcription of a wedding announcement from 1964 that had been posted to a county historical society webpage in Wisconsin. The announcement was for the marriage of Cynthia K******** to a Mr. A*******, and listed Cynthia's parents' last names as K******** (father) and S****** (mother). I now had enough to start building a tree. (Note: if I hadn't gotten a good hit with a regular Google search, I would have searched for the names in the same way in next.)

Since Cindy was showing up as a first cousin match to Diane, I only built Cindy's tree back to grandparents. They had to share at least one set. I then entered the amount of cMs shared between Diane and Cindy into the Shared cM Project tool and found that based on the amount of shared DNA, it was just as possible that Cindy was Diane's half aunt as it was that she was her first cousin. Given the ages of both women, the half-aunt idea had a fair amount of merit.

I then searched all of Diane's DNA matches for people with the last name S****** in their trees, which was Cindy's mother's maiden name. Diane only had three matches with this name in their trees, and they were all very distant cousins who did not match Cindy at all - a coincidence. This indicated that Diane was closely related to Cindy's father, but not to Cindy's mother.

Finally, I searched all of Diane's DNA matches for people with the last name M***** in their trees, which was the maiden name of Cindy's father's mother. Diane had several 2nd-3rd cousin matches with this name in their trees, all descending from the same couple. This indicated that Diane's grandfather had to descend from both the K******* and M***** lines - and the only place in her matches where these two lines crossed was the marriage of Cindy's paternal grandparents.

I then turned my attention to the non-identifying information that Diane's grandmother had given on her death bed. She said that her son's father had been a married man with three children when her son was conceived, and that he owned a farm. Diane had also said that her father was born in 1934. After careful confirmation, I found that Cindy's father checked all the boxes: he had married Cindy's mother in 1929, and by 1934 they had three sons. According to the 1930 census, Cindy's father was a farmer.

All of this evidence pointed to only one conclusion: Cindy's father was also Diane's grandfather, making Cindy Diane's half-aunt.

I was so happy to be able to solve this long-standing family mystery, and give Diane the answers that she had been looking for since 1987. There has been so much turmoil and division in the world lately, and it felt really good to be able to do something that brings people together.

I fervently hope that this post will enable others to get as much information as possible from their close DNA matches, and find their own long-sought answers. If you need any help breaking down a DNA wall, please let me know! I will do my best to help.

Friday, June 5, 2020

2020 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 12: "Popular" - Clark Kessinger

For Week 12's theme of "Popular," I'm going to do things a little bit differently. My most popular relative (aside from my distant royal ancestors) is probably my great-grandfather's first cousin, Clark Kessinger. Clark was a very important figure in the Old-Time Country music scene, and was considered a master fiddler. I could write a biography of Clark here, but that would be redundant, as you can read all about him on sites like WikipediaWest Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and even the Kennedy Center

Instead, I thought I would share some of Clark's music. You can still purchase physical copies of his albums from Amazon (as well as streaming via Amazon Prime) and from the Smithsonian Folkways Project, and you can also stream his music on Spotify.

The following video is an overview of Clark Kessinger's music and career, as featured in his display at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame:

And the following videos are only a few of the many fine examples of Clark's music.

Poca River Blues:

Devil's Dream:

Sally Ann Johnson:

~ ~ ~

My relation to Clark Kessinger is as follows:

Clark Wesley Kessinger 1896-1975
1st cousin 3x removed

William Robert Kessinger 1859-1920
Father of Clark Wesley Kessinger

Valentine Kessinger 1818-1880
Father of William Robert Kessinger

Wilson Kessinger 1852-1928
Son of Valentine Kessinger

Clifton Kessinger 1872-1966
Son of Wilson Kessinger

Harold Warren Kessinger 1920-2012
Son of Clifton Kessinger

Joseph Wayne Kessinger 1958-
Son of Harold Warren Kessinger

Allison Quinn Kessinger
You are the daughter of Joseph Wayne Kessinger


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