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Genealogy: a hobby of mine…

My dad and my mom used to tell me family stories, some of which I used to think were tall tales…

I eventually found out they were mostly true, only the details being slightly bent in the oral history.

I found out, for instance, that my father came from a family that had been very determined to keep family records, before and after coming to America.

And that my mother had a grandmother who’d lived a real western adventure.

And that my parents both grew up in Oklahoma during the wild days, just after the state came into the Union.

The outlaw Cole Younger, associated with Jesse James, had a nephew who worked on my mother’s parents’ farm. And it was this gentle-spoken young man who introduced my mother to my father. Cole Younger himself had been in prison in Stillwater, Oklahoma, just north of Oklahoma City, which is just north of Anadarko, where my parents both grew up. Most of Cole Younger’s family had been killed in the violence of the post-Civil War period in Kansas—it was a bad place and a bad time. But one of his brothers or sisters apparently lived long enough to have a son, whose name was Bill or Bob, as my mother recalls.

My maternal great-grandmother was the survivor of an accident that drowned or separated her family as they were crossing a major river on the move west. Her name was Missouri Duff. But in my searching census records, I found her on an old census report from before the accident, and I found, in the next census, her mother and a brother living in a town near the Missouri river. Evidently they’d survived, her father and other children had drowned—and she’d survived, taking the name of Missouri and moving first to Kansas and then to Oklahoma, to grow up and marry with never a notion she had living relatives.

My grandfather was a cowboy turned salesman as Indian Territory became settled towns. His mother was Louisiana Carolina Boone, and my father named me after her. She was one of those Boones, and she came into Indian Territory out of Texas with her husband, my great-grandfather, and ended up living with my grandfather, then taking care of my father when he was very small.

When she died, my father went to live with other relatives, an uncle, and only came home to live with my grandfather when he married my step-grandmother, a spectacularly gracious lady, in every sense of the word.

Well, I got all the family stories—including the night St. Elmo’s fire turned up on a herd of cattle when my grandfather was riding herd in an impending thunderstorm: horns and hooves glowed—the herd spooked, and if you remember the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” it must have been like that.

A part of my family is Dutch, and used to own a major slice of New Jersey and Manhattan: they became bankers, and one a Supreme Court judge—but half that family broke off and went down to Virginia and the Carolinas. That was my half, poor as church mice, and working in farming, from Virginia to Nebraska during the Civil War and down to Kansas in the Bleeding Kansas days, then on into Oklahoma.

But when I got seriously into genealogy, I began to fill in the pieces of various things. I found Missouri Duff’s missing family. I found how we connect to Daniel Boone’s father, Squire Boone, and how we connect, though part of the Boone family fiercely disputes it, through a dubious union, to the de Bohuns, one of the kingmaking families in England. Whether or not the Boone line does connect—I’m related to the de Bohuns down another line as well. And here’s an interesting point: these families keep connecting and reconnecting: geographical closeness, and social circles: availability of potential good matches, strengthening economic and political ties, in an era of arranged marriages. When you have a nest of connections that keep reiterating, I think it likely that relationship is true.

A great number of my forbears came over from England: read: ran for their lives to get out of England during the English Civil War. A lot of them were Charles I’s supporters. My ancestors were not fans of our Pilgrim fathers, quite on the other side of the political fence.

I’ve been able to trace relations  going back and back and back…a lot of lines through those English emigres…

And here’s the kicker. It turns out Jane and I are related to each other—back in England. One of her folk married one of the de Bohuns,  both of us in direct descent.

One of the really fun things is going through Wikipedia finding out about these people. Mine had a penchant for getting involved in royal politics and getting caught on the losing side—many were very creatively executed in a very brutal age.

Fortunately, they managed to reproduce before meeting their nasty end.

Not all were saints. I’m related to Hugh the Despenser—-reputed as one of the most corrupt men in England. And to William Marshal, reputed as one of the most honest.

I’ve found answers to family mysteries: the family story is that we came over from Ireland, when most geneologies try to make us German. Well, we’re right: our guy, John Cherry, married to Bridgett Haney, was of British origin, but had been living in Ireland, and his wife was apparently Irish—when they, or he, immigrated to the states. And that was the origin of the story. That family came over from Normandy, but not in the invasion: the name(of, originally de Cerisy, has a ’de’ (of)—which is the sort of thing that ordinarily denotes some lordly family, but in this case I think it simply means “from the village of Cerisy”, a little place in Normandy, France, no nobility involved, and not one of William the Conqueror’s lot, just a guy from a French village who came to England.

And—a very interesting update: research in French records gives another story—not de Cerisy, ‘from the village of Cerisy’, but de Chery, from the town of ‘Chery,’ in the Centre district of France. It seems that one Jean de Chery held property in Normandy, or had some ancestral rights in William the Conqueror’s land, but that one could not at that time enter Normandy from the rest of France without a royal permit—which Jean de Chery sought from his king, Charles. King Charles, now called Charles the Mad, had once been known as Charles the Good, but he had had a mental breakdown, what they call the glass syndrome, becoming convinced he could shatter, literally, and convinced that assassins were on his track.

Actually, re Charles’ paranoia, it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you, and it wasn’t a bad guess. There were three contenders for the French throne: the Capets, descended from Charlemagne, the Burgundians, who claimed southern central France as their ancestral domain, and had allies clear across France; and the de Courtenays, who contended they should be kings of France. Burgundy was assassinating people who stood in his way.

And there is a document which indicates that the de Cherys were a) in charge of the substantial town of Chery, and b) closely tied to the de Courtenays who were c) increasingly split as to where their fortunes would best advance, in William’s enterprise, or in France, trying to succeed the failing Charles Capet the Mad…that Burgundy was intent on killing and supplanting. There was a de Courtenay branch, the lords of Arrablay, one of whom, I think also named Charles, is documented to have married his neighbor, one Jeanne de Chery; so there were marriage ties between the de Cherys and the vastly powerful de Courtenays.

Burgundy began to gain ground, and while the de Courtenays didn’t sail with William the Conqueror, a number of them went over to England after the Conquest—possibly because they were feeling the heat from Burgundy and Charles the Mad was, well, mad…

The de Courtenays who emigrated to England set up a castle with William’s permission, in Leicestershire, central England.

Well, now we have one Jean de Chery (the male form of John/Jeanne) who at a certain point seeks the permission of Charles the Mad to go visit his properties in Normandy, after which he vanishes from history, and the de Chereis turn up in Leicestershire…attached to the de Courtenay branch that had established in England. It was, thanks to William, *no* trouble to get ship from Normandy to England in that time.

And Burgundy was busy assassinating his rivals, and King Charles was getting crazier, and the de Courtenays in France finally dwindled down to a few, one female unable to pass the title, and virtually powerless, though they still existed.

Part of the de Chereis family moved from Leicestershire and set up in the south, at Maidenhead and Bray, in Berkshire, and those folk by then are spelling it Cherry, and still marrying people of some substance, to judge by the graves, the literacy, and the constant interweaving of spouses of some indication of wealth, even title. Then from Bray, a Cherry (they all tended to be named John and David and Thomas) went over to northern Ireland, and after a few generations, a John and his son David emigrated to Virginia, in a time of religious unrest and civil war. So my little guy from de Cerisy may instead be a much more politically connected guy skipping out of the town of Chery, in central France to go join the de Courtenays in Leicestershire, before the king who was his patron went entirely over the brink.

Jane’s family name, possibly originally Faucher, may, according to one name-origin, have come from the Limoges area of France, then to London, then to the Americas, which is kind of generic information and not easy to attach to individuals, but there is new information, too—indicating a substantial house in England, the house at Fanshawe Gate, which is now a beautiful garden showplace in Derbyshire—and a connection of her very definite ancestor, via records in Massachusetts, to a Fanshawe from the house at Fanshawe Gate who went from that Derbyshire hall down to London: that ancestor married one Eunice Bouton, who seems like a quiet New England lady of French ancestry—until you get into her past, and figure that—ironically enough—that lady’s ancestors run back to the dukes of central France, back before the Norman Invasion. Both these possible connections are still under investigation—but they do answer some interesting questions and fill in some gaps; and they are better connected to specific individuals whose time and place we can say match and intersect. It’s worth more study, at very least. The de Chereis are in Burke’s Peerage.

Anyway, hunting ancestors one of my favorite winter-evening hobbies. I was amazed that I could trace anybody by real, checkable records, but the computer age has made it an easy-chair kind of hobby; you can access, almost instantly, every digitized census report and village record, not just in the States, but in Britain, Italy, France, and now apparently into Japan and Germany, the Netherlands, you name it. They open up more of these every month, and if they ever digitize Creek County, OK, I may be able to open up a whole new part of the tree by finding my paternal great-grandmother. That could happen.

The software system I use  is www.ancestry.com and if you’ve ever wanted to get into this, it’s a marvelous way to learn history: it gets pretty personal when  you know it was your great-great-great-great grandfather in that battle…

For any of you who are in the Ancestry network, our tree is “It’s the Eleventh Century and We’re All Barbarians…”, a quote from our favorite Christmas movie, The Lion in Winter, which is appropriate on so many grounds.

637 comments to Genealogy: a hobby of mine…

  • CJ

    What I know about our branch of the Cherry family in the Americas: they emigrated from Ireland, an English family who had married Irish. They had come from Berkshire but fell afoul of King William, I think it was…there was one notorious incident involving a Squire Cherry and a famous tree he had cut down to the displeasure of the townsfolk, and they went to one of the kings (I forget which) to get redress. He was the villain of the ballad. But I don’t know quite what it may mask: the next we hear, one of the Cherrys, an excellent horseman, who rode with the king to hunt, was rumored to have tried to get the king into a runaway and accident, but failed at it. So it was little wonder we next find that branch living in Ireland.
    They came to Virginia and the Carolinas. My branch is through David, a son of the immigrant patriarch, who may have had a small plantation; I don’t think so, but my brother does. At any rate, he and his pregnant wife took out from there to the newly made Louisiana Purchase, apparently by way of Florida [go figure], dodged the War of 1812, which was not uninvolved in the Purchase; and went through Alabama on their way to Texas, where my great-grandfather was born—not in the US, at the time. It was part of Mexico. Now, I know that some of the immigrating Cherrys were scattered through the Carolinas, and they were a prolific family, tending to have over ten kids, and tending to farm. My 3rd great, David, instead ran cattle in Texas, and about the time of the wars in Oklahoma and north Texas (with the Creek, as I recall) he took out with my great-grandfather to run cattle and trade with the Sac-Fox tribe up north of modern OKC…he died in Texas. My great-grandfather died in Oklahoma, possibly of the smallpox that devastated the Native American communities up there. I’ve also communicated with a Paul Cherry of Western OK, near Clinton, whose great-grandfather was a translator for Sam Houston, in the Creek Wars. As to how involved the Cherrys were with the tribes in Oklahoma, I’ve no way to know…they were definitely in there before statehood, living with and trading with the Creek and Sac-Fox. They had evaded the English incursion in New Orleans, got clear out of the country, and spent some time in Florida back before it was settled, either. The threads to your Alabama lady could be somewhat related to the Cherrys of my branch; I haven’t tracked the movements of all the various kids from back in the original landing; and I believe that it was David’s wife who had a father living in Cullman, AL. It’s a pretty tangled lot, but if I find any Cherrys that definitely point to Alabama, I’ll pass that on. I suspect there may be. I also know of one more branch that came into Oklahoma from Missouri, and thinks it is related to us: they also ended up in Oklahoma City. Their family believes there was a quarrel that split the Cherry family and sent their part up to Missouri while our batch ended up in Texas. When this was, I don’t know, but they seem to have been on the move just after the Louisiana Purchase, and passing through that territory.

    • tulrose

      I’ve ordered the film from the FHL to see what’s on it re Miss Tampa Cherry. This should get here after I’m back from Sydney. It’s a first step. DH never heard this about his grandfather and if it’s true then it was something hushed up, probably a divorce if that’s the case. I still haven’t managed to get his marriage certificate out of Alabama and will have to pursue that later when I get back from SYD.

  • chondrite

    Silly question #88: Several months back, I withdrew a book about the Appalachian ‘hill folk’ from our library due to non-use, and since it seemed to have some thin connection to your family, sent it on to you. Did you get it, and was there anything useful in it (aside from some interesting looks into life in that area in the 40s-50s)?

  • CJ

    Me? Chondrite, I didn’t get it! Wah!

    • chondrite

      Well, poop. I remember one of the chapters was about an offshoot of the Boone family in North Carolina, and vaguely recalled you having a connection there. If you didn’t get it, I’m afraid it is gone, unless the US Snail regurgitates it at some later time. I’ve had a couple of Christmas cards appear 2 years down the road, so who knows.

      • Heh, my ancestry on my dad’s side is Appalachian hill-folk going back to the 1750′s. There’s likely a Cherokee or related native connection, possibly more than one, but unproven/undocumented, as far as I know. The family name is unusual, in that it could be, depending on whose advice you listen to, a northern English dialectal variant from near the Scots border; or a German or Dutch dialectal variant. The names of the first two family members over here were Phillip or Philip and Johann or John, who were apparently brothers, though there’s also enough room for them to be father and son. My family name is one letter off from a more common English surname, but in such a way that it’s very rare if anyone pronounces or spells it properly. Apparently, they came over from a European port, German or Dutch, and my paternal grandpa always claimed we were German. There’s some support on that, because there’s a large connection back in the 1800′s with a family named Kopenhaver (Or Kopenhauer) (Or with a C-), though they all had English given names by then. The ending on that name is -R, not -N for, say, Copenhaven. And no, that’s not my family name. :) On my mother’s side, there’s also a possible Cherokee connection, through a woman who was a great-great-grandmother or great-great-aunt. There’s most of Northern Europe running around in my family tree, plus whoever else got in there after ancestors landed over here. Heh.

  • Hanneke

    My nephews had to do a geneology assignment for history (aged 13-14), for school. The eldest last year traced his ancestors as far back as he could, and came finally to someone born on a farm called Nijenhuis in 1606, in the east part of the Netherlands.
    The youngest just finished his, tracing that man’s family forward to the present day. He’d originally intended to research his father’s line instead of his mother’s, but quickly found those to be very prolific and impossible to keep track of for a school assignment. When he started on Gerrit Nijenhuis of 1606, he found something interesting: however many kids each of the people in this line of descent had (usually between four and eleven), in each generation only one of those kids went on to have children of their own.
    I find that fascinating, that this family needed to have between four and eleven kids per generation just to ensure that one line carried on. So very many died in childhood, and more than a few mums died in or soon after childbirth, it seems no one nowadays can really grasp the enormous impact that infectious diseases had before the advent of antibiotics.
    Very often, only one would survive into childbearing years; sometimes one or two would die in their thirties or fifties without getting married, and one old maiden aunt lived to her eighties, but always, there’d be just one line of descent going on, until my grandparent’s generation. Those four boys all married and had kids, but they emigrated all over the globe and didn’t all keep in touch, so the only ones we know about are our family, who went to Indonesia but returned minus dad after WWII, where only my sister has two kids, so no more Nieuwenhuijzens even though there is that one line of descent still going on; the one who stayed in Holland but that marriage didn’t have kids; and the great-uncle who moved to Curacao (and his daughter from there to the USA, and then lost touch), who only had daughters. He brought my dad a shoebox full of old records, because dad had a son: the one chance for continiung the family name he knew of – but my brother isn’t likely to get married and have kids at his age anymore, so that line ends with him. Maybe the one who moved to New Zealand had a son, and the line continues there, but we haven’t been able to trace them. Maybe they changed their name again to make it easier to spell, or maybe he only had daughters, or died soon after reaching New Zealand, as happened to the one a generation earlier who went to South Africa, or maybe they are just not very active online.
    My sister is now scanning in all the old documents in that shoebox, planning to put them online, so if ever someone from that New Zealand branch goes looking they might be able to find it.
    Does anyone here have any advice on what would be a good way to make those documents accessible? There are photo’s and a silhoutte-picture of the dad, mom and son around 1740 IIRC, as well as the handwritten old documents.

    • GreenWyvern

      In South Africa there are many people with names like Nieuwenhuis, Nieuwenhuizen, Nieuwenhuisen, van Nieuwenhuisen, and van Nieuwenhuizen. Probably they are all related to the same family tree. Those names occur at the time of the Boer War, so they must have come to South Africa in the 19th century or earlier.

      • GreenWyvern

        … also Niewenhuis, and other variants.

      • Hanneke

        Considering the name just means ‘new house’ , and can also be used for someone coming from the German town of Neuhausen (sp?), it may have started simultaneously in different places when everybody had to pick out a family name at the time of the French occupation (at the time of Napoleon).
        The farm where our ancestor was born in 1606 probably contained a recent building, which is why the boy was registered as Gerrit Janszoon (son of John) Nijenhuis (of the new house). There were more people living on the farm, likely even more than one family, but there was another boy registered there who may have been a brother to our ancestor (without family names it’s hard to be sure), and who stayed there when our ancestor’s family a generation later moved to The Hague and changed the spelling to a more western Dutch Nieuwenhuijzen/-huisen (the spelling remains uncertain for a long time). So maybe some of those South African families are related to that Nijenhuis brother who, at that time, kept the Nijenhuis name and remained in the province of Overijssel, instead of moving to the big city in the province of South Holland. That branch, from about 1640 on, is the one my great-uncle collected the papers on, and my nephew researched; and unless the New Zealand branch moved up there since WWII, they can’t be related any closer.
        The one person we know who moved there had the surname Lodden, the father of my great-grandfather (dad’s mum’s dad, a man with a great sense of humor, who lived till I was six, so I remember some of his stories), who stayed behind to become breadwinner for his mother and siblings at age 11, and never heard from him again. With the advent of the internet the family found records stating he died of illness within months of reaching South Africa, without leaving any local dependents; my eldest nephew who researched back up the tree last year, instead of down from the first historic figure, found that out.
        So I don’t think any of those South African families can be related any closer than the 16-hundreds, if then – sorry!

  • purplejulian

    that’s fascinating Hanneke.
    I decided to try to track down the descendants, via Ancestry, of a suffolk gentleman whose works I had read – Henry Montague Doughty – as well as jolly sailing expeditions on a norfolk wherry (type of sailing barge) in Friesland and Germany in the 1890′s, he had written up all the records he could find for his village of Theberton, from the Conquest onwards. his 2 sons were involved in the first world war – one (who had an unrequited affair with Gertrude Bell of Queen of the Desert fame) died a hero’s death leading a fatal charge at Gallipoli in 1915, the other was a captain in the Royal Navy who survived. he married, but no children. the one who died was married a few years before the war, but no children. even the four daughters all seem to have died spinsters. this chap’s brother was the famous Charles Montague Doughty http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Montagu_Doughty one of the first explorers of the Arabian desert. he had two daughters – neither of them married. so the whole family died out. rather sad. they had a sad childhood too, both parents died, leaving them orphans at a young age, and Henry’s wife died shortly after her last child was born, the sailor son.

  • My dad’s family lived in essentially the same spot, their family farm, from the very early 1800′s (first decade) until the last of the siblings sold to a local family a few years ago. So there are two family cemetery plots, mostly overgrown, on two pieces of land.

    In the larger, you can see how this affected relatives and family friends buried there. If a winter was bad or an illness came through, it was hardest on the oldest and youngest. There were also times when a mother or her baby died in childbirth. If a child made it past about three to five years old, they would generally have a strong life. It was typical for families to have three to nine or more children, nearly one after the other, despite that they knew what caused that. They needed people to do the work on the farm and to carry on the family. So there’s evidence on the gravestones of dates showing younger or older mothers, babies, and younger kids. But a few folks lived into their 70′s to 90′s, even back then.

    There’s also evidence showing how neighboring families would form close friendships and intermarry, but with enough turnover and outside entries to avoid problems.

    On that, my grandpa apparently knew people, from farming and trading, across more than one county. He and others didn’t always stay on the farm. There was travel to the county seat and nearby towns, but they’d also travel by train or “get itchy feet” and pick up and move between the old family farm and various places, depending on who went where. So there were stories of him going by train with a cousin or family friend who was a sheriff, or traveling with another cousin out to Kansas, or meeting a man who went to California. It turns out there’s a large branch of the family, distant cousins, in California, that my dad didn’t know of, so whether my grandpa knew them or not, I don’t know. But it shows people might travel a lot in the 1800′s and 1900′s, before there was more than trains or covered wagons.

    —–

    There’s an interesting American mystery possibly connected with one of the neighboring families. A group known as the Melungeons, with vary mixed and uncertain ethnic origins, some European, but largely one or more others, dark-skinned and therefore intentionally obscured long ago. The word Melungeon is a respelling of French Mélangeon, one who is mixed, but no French history is in there that I know of. Speculation from people researching the Melungeons is that native American Indians, blacks, Gypsies, and/or other non-Europeans made it to the American Colonies and new states, and had to cover their true identity because they were often discriminated against. But some Melungeons settled in and merged into the majority where they were.

  • ryanrick

    Blue Cat Ship, I knew I’d heard the term Melungeon before, I think in relationship to a discussion about the families in I think it was Kentucky who are blue skinned. Here’s a wiki and Huntington Post reference for you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon
    As the Huntington article notes, mixing races/ethnicities isn’t anything new.

  • “Blue skinned?” Now that, I’m curious about, side issue.

    My dad’s family comes from Lee County, VA, near Cumberland Gap. There’s a lot of colonial and early statehood history there, and some is heroic and some is, well, not. My dad came across the term Melungeons doing family history / genealogy research, and though one neighboring family has one of the common Melungeon names, he didn’t know if they were. My dad was an engineer, but loved history. — I really wish he’d written down my grandpa’s stories / oral history, as there was a lot there. (Grandpa and Grandma were unusual for wanting their daughters and sons to be equal, and not so unusual in that they taught all their kids the three R’s (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic) before they started school. Neither grandparent went beyond high school, if that, but that was usual then.)

    Reading that Wiki article was fascinating, though the early/middle section (sigh) shows just how bad America’s history on race relations was, and how there’s still pressure there. The article offers a lot I had not seen, as well as corroborating or refuting sources I’d read or heard of.

    Thanks, Ryanrick!

    • paul

      That is: New Method Confirms Humans and Neandertals Interbred
      Study rules out alternative explanation for genetic similarities between the archaic hominid and people in Europe and Asia today

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