Thursday, March 23, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Discussion of the John Schafer Estate Dispute Begins

Beginning this week, I'll be making a departure from how I've presented items previously in my ongoing investigation and analysis of the "treasure chest" of documents that relate to Emma Margaret (Schafer) Petit La Forêt and the people in her life.  Until now I've grouped documents by the person they primarily focused on.  Now I'm getting into the dispute over the estate of Emma's father, John Schafer, and whether Emma's mother, Elizabeth, and Curdt half-siblings stole what was rightfully Emma's inheritance.  These items mostly don't appear to be dated, and several documents have multiple copies, so it should be interesting to wade through them.

These two cards measure 4 1/2" x 2 1/2".  They are brown and are made out of a fairly substantial card stock, heavier than the average business card.  They are copies of the same card.  The bottom image is the obverse of the top card.

Both cards have names underlined in pencil.  The top card has a heavy pencil line under D. C. Taylor, the bottom name under "Officers and Directors."  Lighter lines can be seen under Geo. W. Wolff, President; Henry Kirchner, Sec'y; and William Elbring.  In addition, the word "not" follows Wolff's name.  The second card has only Geo. W. Wolff's name underlined.

On the back of the second card, four words that appear to be names have been printed in red ink:

None of these names appears on the front of the card.  There is no context for who they are or how they are connected to the company, if at all.

This card back also has part of a newspaper page stuck to it.  I have not determined if I have the matching newspaper.

So far these cards are a mystery as far as their relationship to Emma.  Possibly (probably?) they were consulted in conjunction with Jean La Forêt's research into the history of the land that was part of John Schafer's estate.  Maybe some other document in this large file will have the company's name on it.

The St. Louis County Land Title Company was established in 1880, according to this card.  The cards have "35 Years in Business" on the lower left, so they were presumably printed in 1915.  I like the claim that they were "compilers and owners of the only complete and perfect set of records in St. Louis County."  (I wonder if that set of records still exists somewhere.)  Maybe Jean contacted them because of those records?

I searched to see if the St. Louis County Land Title Company still exists.  It does, but now under another name.

An examination report states on page 4 that "Land Title Insurance Company of St. Louis was incorporated in the state of Missouri on December 7, 1901, as the Chomeau and Dosenbach Land Title Company and was capitalized with 1,000 shares of common stock with a par value of $100 per share.  On May 1, 1905, the name was changed to the St. Louis County Land Title Company and on April 11, 1928, the name was changed to its present name of Land Title Insurance Company of St. Louis."

The name of the company is in agreement for the year the business cards were designed and/or printed.  The capitalization amount matches the $100,000 that's on the business cards, although that would mean it had not changed in the intervening fourteen years.  This report says that the original company was incorporated in 1901, whereas the cards say the company was established in 1880.  That isn't necessarily a contradiction, but it would mean that the company incorporated 21 years after it began.  I don't know how common (or not) that might have been.

In the case of Stevens v. Stevens (309 Mo. 130, 138 [Mo. 125]), Henry C. Kirchner is identified as the former secretary of the St. Louis County Land Title Company, so that's obviously the right company.  He was testifying as a witness in, of all things, a property dispute.

The case of Roth et al. v. Hoffman et al.  (234 Mo. App. 114, 124 [Mo. Ct. App. 1938]) includes a statement that a letter was sent by the St. Louis County Land Title Company on July 26, 1929, more than one year after the examination report states the company had changed its name.  Maybe someone was still using old letterhead a year later?

This little historical squib on the site of First American Financial Corporation (the company which bought Land Title Insurance Company of St. Louis) seems to confirm that all of this information is about the same company.  What's nice to read is that "Land Title maintains its own title plant, the oldest title facility in Missouri, containing documents dating back to the1840's."  Hey, maybe they do still have that "perfect set of records"!  Better yet, maybe they still have correspondence relating to the Schafer land dispute . . . .

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Critical Life Decision

Randy has posed a difficult question, at least for me, this week in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music):

(1)  Did you or your ancestor make a critical life decision that really changed their life in terms of place, work, family, relationships, etc.?

(2)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google+.

Ancestors on one entire side of my family made critical life decisions that really changed their lives in terms of place, work, family, relationships, and more.  They totally picked up and left one continent to immigrate to another.

My mother was Jewish.  All of my ancestors on that side immigrated in the early 20th century.  They left everything behind and moved to a brand new world.  Talk about critical!  If even one of them had not done so, I probably wouldn't be here.

But I have no direct information to tell me what caused any of them to make that decision.  No letters.  No family stories.  No family artifacts with coded messages.  Not even a hint.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  The big bagel.

For one family line, however, I can make a good guess, based on the information I do have.

My great-great-grandparents Avigdor and Esther Leah (Schneiderman) Gorodetsky were living in Kishinev, Russia (now Chișinău, Moldova).  They had apparently moved there about 1892 with their two oldest children, who were said to have been born in Kamenets Podolskiy, Russia (now Kam'yanets-Podil's'kyy, Ukraine).  Six more children were born to them in Kishinev, and Esther Leah also had at least one miscarriage.  The last child, Moishe, was born November 15, 1908 (new style dating).  About a month later, on December 10, Esther Leah died; I still don't have a complete translation of the cause of death, but blood appears in the description.

Less than a year later, on June 26, 1909, my great-grandfather Joyne Gorodetsky boarded a ship in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and began the chain migration of that part of my family.  Eventually all eight siblings and my great-great-grandfather came to North America.

Maybe the family had already been thinking about going to the Goldene Medine before their matriarch died at the young age of about 34.  But it appears that her death might have been the catalyst for everyone to actually move.  And I'm sure it was a critical decision for all of them.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emile Petit Answers Questions about Events in Missouri

This is a set of three pages linked together.  The first page is a small piece of white paper, 5 1/2" x 6 5/8".  It feels like 20# bond; it has no watermark.  It has some typed information at the top and a clipped newspaper article that has been glued onto it sideways.

The second page is 8 1/2" x 10 7/8".  It is also white, feels like 20# bond, and has no watermark.  It has typwritten and handwritten material on both sides.  What are labeled as "ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS" were typed, while they were numbered by hand.  At the top of the front page in the upper left is "Rec'd 2-2-1920" in handwriting.  On the obverse, in handwriting at the bottom of the page, are "I state these answers are true to the best of my knowledge" and the signed name of Emile Petit, and "Witness" with the signed name of Daniel J. Kelly.

The third page is 8 1/2" x 12 3/4".  This is a grayish-yellowish off-white paper.  It's about 20# in weight and has no watermark.  It's a lesser quality paper than the previous two.  It is typed on the face with "Answ'd Jan. 26-20" in the upper left and "January 19-1920" in the upper right in handwriting.  The obverse has "Questions to Petit" handwritten in blue pencil.  The handwriting is similar to that in Jean La Forêt's journal.

This must have been part of Jean's investigation into what happened to Emma's inheritance.  When Emma wrote, "It took my husband a good while to get all the information in the case", I was not expecting to see that he had created an actual questionnaire.  He obviously approached the situation as a serious matter.

It appears that Emile Petit was still living in Vallejo.  At least, that's the location given on the answers page.

The second and third pages are held together by a rusted straight pin in the upper left corner.  The small first page has been glued onto the the second page.

These scans are of two sheets of paper, one represented by the first image and one by the second and third images.  The first page is 8 1/2" x 11" and is a grayish off-white.  It feels about 20# in weight.  There is no watermark.  It is all typewritten except for the dates in handwriting at the top of the page:  "January 19 - 1920"; "Answ'd Jan 26 - 20"; and "Rec'd Answers - 2-2-20."  The writing is again similar to that of Jean La Forêt's from his journal.

The second page is 8 1/2" x 11 3/8".  It is whiter than the first page.  It has a watermark:  BERKSHIRE SOUVENIR BOND USA.  The obverse of the page has "Questions to Petit" in what appears to be Jean's handwriting in blue pencil.  These two pages are glued to each other in the upper left corner.

These pages appear to be copies of the first set.  The headers on the pages differ, and the second set is not an verbatim copy, but the bulk of the text is the same.  On the copy of the answers, the names of the signatures are typed.

This envelope is 9 1/2" x 4 1/8".  It is yellowish and somewhat stained in the lower left corner.  It's sturdy, apparently heavier than 20# paper.  As with the envelope holding the transcription of Louis Curdt's statement, I believe the printing was by Jean La Forêt.  The documents shown above were folded and in this envelope when I received everything.

These two sets of documents are reminiscent of the Louis Curdt set in that Jean made an extra copy.  I wonder if he was afraid that someone was going to try to take the original?  Or he may have just taken this type of precaution all the time.  After all, he kept all sorts of items that I've written about previously, even empty envelopes.  He was very good at saving things.

We've seen the response to one of the questions posed of Emile Petit previously.  In the first part of Emma's handwritten narrative, she quoted Petit's answer to question #10 (although she had an incorrect given name for the witness).  So that narrative must have been written after February 2, 1920, the date Jean wrote that he had received Petit's answers.

The rest of the questions and answers don't make a totally damning case against Louis Curdt, but he doesn't come off looking very good.  Neither does Emma's mother, Elizabeth.  Actually, neither does Petit, who said "I don't know" a lot.  On the other hand, he probably really didn't know.

When I posted the certificate for Emile Petit and Emma Schafer's marriage, I wondered at the time who the witnesses were, and now we have the answer:  Fortin, who was Petit's landlord at the hotel in which he was staying in Clayton, and Claud, a restaurant owner in Clayton.  Petit doesn't really seem to have known either one, and of course he didn't know how Curdt knew them.

Emma wrote in the second part of her narrative that she and Jean had taken "legal advice", and that is referenced here:  "The case is good and a good result can be expected.  This is the honest belief of several good lawyers."  Unfortunately, Jean and Emma did not have the money to press the case, and it would appear that Emma's children either could not or would not help her as was suggested:  "the children would help her in proportion in the expenses of the Court and the lawyers."  I'm guessing no court case was ever filed.

Four of Petit's responses to Jean's questions referred to Pete Bruno.  Bruno was the only person Petit knew who could verify Petit's information about what really happened at the time of Emma's marriage, and who might know more about what was going on.  Jean included a copy of the newspaper clipping about Bruno's death in this packet.  There's nothing in the description of the accident in which Bruno died to suggest that it was anything but an accident; maybe the fact that Bruno had died and was therefore unavailable to provide any additional information was the ultimate reason Jean and Emma did not pursue a court case.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Courteney Cox

Is it here again already?  I'm not ready!!

Surprisingly, even though it has been several months since the last episode of Who Do You Think You Are? aired on TLC (in May 2016), I really was unprepared for this new season.  The first episode was broadcast the day before I went out of town for a week, so I was unable to rewatch it until this past weekend.  And that, of course, has put me behind already, because the second episode has aired before I could write up my commentary on the first.  I hope I can catch up soon.

That said, I'm a little more optimistic about this season than the past couple, as I recognize the names of more than half of the celebrities featured.  Progress!

The season began with Courteney Cox.  The teaser at the beginning said that she would unveil a web of mystery and intrigue on her mother's family line.  She would learn about scheming ancestors with big ambitions.  One ancestor paid a grisly price ("drawn and hanged?"), while another was a big name in history.

The opening shots show Cox walking on a beach but do not identify where she is.  It was California; my best guesses for the specific location are Malibu or Santa Monica.  She says she is excited about the journey she will be taking and doesn't know what is ahead.  Something "a little naughty" might be ok.  She jokes about Buckingham Palace and then says that isn't possible, because her family would have been shouting it from the rooftops.  (Naw, no foreshadowing here, none at all, right?)

Cox didn't really expect to become an actress, because she is originally from Alabama, not known for having produced many well known actors.  After moving to New York to pursue her dream, her big break came when she appeared in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video (1984).  Highlights of her career mentioned are Family Ties (1987–1989), Friends (1994–2000, and from which I recognize her), the Scream series of movies (1996–2000), and Cougar Town (2009–2015).  She directed ten episodes of Cougar Town and two feature films.  (I don't now why everyone always wants to direct.  Directing is not all it's cracked up to be.  I much prefer working audio.)

Cox says she is thankful for her career and her family.  She is the youngest of four children.  Her father, Richard Lewis Cox (who died in 2001), was the youngest of five.  Sundays were spent at family gatherings with her father's relatives, and family history was talked about.  It was very different with her mother's side of the family, as her maternal grandfather died when her mother was only six weeks old.  Cox knows his name — Bruce Bass — and that she is supposed to have English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, but that's about it.  Now that she's getting a little older (one day younger than my sister!), she wants to know more about that side of the family.  She hopes her ancestors made some kind of a mark but that they didn't murder anyone (more oh-so-subtle foreshadowing).

Her "journey" begins in her own home with the ever-popular Joseph Shumway, who on this episode is credited simply as "Genealogist" (thereby downplaying his position as an employee).  The first thing he does is open his laptop and jump onto Ancestry, which apparently has decided that subtlety is for fools.  He tells Cox he has built a family tree using vital records and other documents and shows her the online tree he has created.  No photos are shown for Cox or her parents (Richard Lewis Cox, 1931–2001, and Courteney B. Bass, living), but there is one for her grandfather Samuel Bruce Bass, Jr.  Cox has never seen the photo before and asks where it came from; Shumway says it is from the family member she suggested as a contact.  So even though we never see or hear from any family members during the entire episode, at least one person was involved in some way.

According to the tree, Samuel Bruce Bass, Jr. was born July 18, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia and died November 3, 1934 in Richmond.  He was married to Dorothy Godwin, who was born in 1911 in Calera, Shelby County, Alabama and died in 1986.  Cox comments that Dorothy would have moved to Virginia to be with Bruce Bass after they married.  The photo of Bass has a handwritten inscription:  "To Dot, with all my love, Bruce."

From Cox's grandparents Shumway slides quickly up the tree (too quickly for me to read most of the names) to her 4x-great-grandparents, Thomas Bass (1752–1832) and Mary Moseley.  I did manage to see that Cox's 3x-great-grandparents on the Bass line were Richard Bass and Martha E. Gates.  We hear that Mary Moseley's parents were Richard Moseley (1724–1781) and Mary Bass (1737–1791), which confuses Cox quite a bit.  Shumway says that she has deep Virginia roots and that Thomas Bass and Mary Moseley were related, which garners a "That's terrible!" from Cox.  Shumway tries to soften the news by explaining that they were only half-cousins and adds that in those days there was a smaller population and therefore people did not have as many options available for whom to marry (Virginia tidewater genealogy, a notoriously endogamous group).

After absorbing and accepting this piece of information, Cox cuts to the chase:  When did her family come to Virginia?  Shumway tells her that ancestor is interesting.  Thomas Ligon was born about 1623 in Warwickshire, England (and died March 16, 1675 or 1676 in Henrico County, Virginia).  He married Mary Harris (1625–1703) and came to North America in the 1640's.  The next question, of course, is, "Why?"

Shumway then gives one of those mini history lessons that is normally provided by the narrator.  The period during which Ligon came was known as the Great Migration.  It began with the Pilgrims in 1620 and went through the 1640's.  Ligon would have been one of many young men looking for economic opportunity.  The Puritans and others going to New England were seeking religious freedom, but the tens of thousands of people, mainly young men, going to Virginia were looking to make their fortunes in land and tobacco.

And with that tiny piece of information (keep in mind that we saw absolutely no documents, not even online), Shumway tells Cox that to learn more she will need to go to England.  (I"m sure there are absolutely no records in Virginia or elsewhere in the United States that could tell her anything more about Ligon.)

Ligon sounds like a posh English surname to Cox, and she loves English architecture.  That's it before she heads off to England.

A map shown on screen indicates that Cox is in Gloucestershire, but nothing more specific is said.  The building she enters looks like a library but had no identification that was shown on camera.  Inside, she is met by Nick Barratt, credited as a genealogist and professor of public history.  He tells her he has found more information about her ancestor.  He begins to explain that the Ligon family had lots of land in the agricultural heart of England, when we discover Cox and Barratt are two people separated by a common language.  Barratt pronounces the name "lie-GONE", while Cox (and Shumway) has been saying "LI-ghin."  Cox concedes the point and starts saying it the other way.

Either way, the Ligon family is a wealthy one from Warwickshire, and families with status leave lots of records.  Because of that, Barratt has been able to put together a tree for Cox, and he unrolls one of the lovely calligraphed lineages we are accustomed to seeing on this program.  It begins on the bottom with Thomas Ligon and Mary Harris and immediately proceeds back nine more generations, with a stunning lack of detail.

The scroll is titled "Ligon to Berkeley."  Thomas Ligon, born 1623 or 1624 in Warwickshire, died 1675 or 1676 in Henrico County, Virignia, married Mary Harris, born about 1625, died before 1703.  Ligon's parents were Thomas Ligon and Elizabeth Pratt (I could not see the birth and death info for either).  This Thomas Ligon's parents were Thomas Lygon, born 1545 in Worcestershire, died 1603 (I think) in Gloucestershire; and Frances Dennis, born unknown, died 1623 in Warwickshire.  Thomas Lygon's parents were Eleanor Dennis, born unknown, died 1535 or 1536 in Gloucestershire; and William Lygon, born about 1512 in Worcestershire, died 1567 in Worcestershire (another cousin marriage?).  Eleanor's parents were Anne Berkeley, born and died unknown; and William Dennis, born about 1470, died 1533 in Gloucestershire.  Anne's parents were Maurice Berkeley, born about 1435, died 1506; and Isabel Mead, born 1444 in Gloucestershire, died 1514 in Warwickshire.  Maurice's parents were James Berkeley, born in Monmouthshire (I couldn't read the year), died 1483 in Gloucestershire; and Isabel Mowbray, born unknown, died 1431 in Worcestershire.  James' parents were James de Berkeley, born 1354, died 1405; and Elizabeth Bluet, born and died unknown.  This James' parents were Maurice de Berkeley, born 1333, died 1368 in Gloucestershire; and Elizabeth de Spencer, born unknown, died 1389.  Maurice's parents were Thomas de Berkeley and Margaret Mortimer, at the top of the page.

Barratt says that one of the names jumps out at him.  He latches onto Anne Berkeley (she of the unknown birth and death dates) as a particularly important name.  (If she's so important, you'd think they could have narrowed her birth and death dates down somewhat; at least her Wikipedia page makes an effort.)  They have another discussion about pronunciation:  Cox immediately says "BER-klee", while Barratt says "BAR-klee", and Cox again concedes.  He then jumps to the top of the page and points out Thomas de Berkeley, who married Margaret Mortimer; they lived in the late 1200's and early 1300's.  They were Cox's 18x-great-grandparents.

Thomas de Berkeley's arms*
Thomas de Berkeley was a baron, which was the highest rank of aristocrat, just below the king.  He would have been the top assistant to the king.  It's as important of a position as a nonroyal could have.  Cox asks whether being an aristocrat was related to politics or money, and Barratt says both.

The narrator steps in to give more of an explanation.  High-ranking British aristocrats were wealthy landowners.  Some were also political advisors to the king.  They helped enforce the law, collect taxes, and build armies.  They were essential to the king's ability to rule.

(This is a total aside.  I'm a voice geek — my mother taught me to recognize voices on TV and in movies.  When I heard this narrator's voice, I thought it sounded different from the previous seasons.  It's similar, but not quite the same.  It took a little effort to find the names, but the narrator this season is Ken Rogers, while the one in previous seasons appears to have been Mocean Melvin.)

Barratt says that someone in Berkeley's position would have had to attend court.  He had to be around the king, whether good or bad things were going on.  Nothing would have escaped the attention of the Berkeleys.  From this Barratt segues to a copy of a 1327 document written in Latin.  It has many details about the Berkeley household — financial items, errands, costs, etc.  One particular item mentioned on the page is important, and he hands a translation to Cox.

Receiver's Account, A4/2/7 [SR 39], face lines 61–66

. . . Gourne going to Nottingham to tell the king and queen of the death of the father of the king with letters of the lord . . .

The lord mentioned in this item is Thomas de Berkeley.  He is sending a message to the king (Edward III) to let him know that the king's father has died.  Cox wants to know why Berkeley was the first person to know that the king's father had died.  Was Berkeley close to the old king?

Barratt shows Cox a map with "Barkley" marked on it.  That is the location of Castle Berkeley, a real castle with moats and everything, and it is still around.  It has records from when this happened, which will have answers to Cox's questions.

Berkeley Castle is indeed the next stop on Cox's British tour.  In the car on the way there, she says she is going to meet a Medieval historian.  (She did not drive at all in England but was chauffeured around.)  She is excited and wants to find out why Berkeley knew about the death of the king's father.

the Berkeley Arch**
Chris Given-Wilson, a professor of Medieval history at the University of St. Andrews, greets Cox when she arrives at the castle.  He tells her that the castle was built mostly by her ancestor, Thomas de Berkeley.  They walk through the "Berkeley arch" and into what appears to be the castle's archive room.  Given-Wilson has documents at hand that he says will reveal the events of 700 years ago.  Unlike the copy Cox viewed earlier, these are originals on parchment; they are also written in Latin.

Given-Wilson unrolls a parchment, points to a location on it, and then hands Cox a translation of the Latin text:

Reeve's Account, A1/24/126 [GAR 118, Manor of Ham]

. . . For the lord's expenses in Berkeley Castle for 22 weeks from the day after All Saints until the 5th of April which was Palm Sunday this year, on which day the father of the King came at dinner time . . .

A conundrum has occurred to Cox:  Why isn't the father of the king the king, if he is still alive?  Rather than answer the question directly, Given-Wilson says he has another item.  He shows her a second parchment, this one from 1327, and again provides a translation:

Receiver's Account A4/2/7 [SR 39] face lines 24–[could not read on TV screen]

. . . For bolts, rods, bars, and other ironwork bought for the . . . chamber . . . of the father of the king, 14s 12d

(Given-Wilson did not mention this, but if you look at the archival reference for this and compare it to that for the message about the king's father's death we saw with Barratt, they appear to be from the same record.  This item, for the hardware, is about 40 lines earlier than the death announcement.)

It's pretty clear from the items that were purchased that the king's father was a prisoner.  Given-Wilson clarifies that he was being held prisoner by Berkeley, not by his son, the current king.

This blows Cox's mind.  Her 18x-great-grandfather Thomas Lord Berkeley (we weren't shown when she was told about this format for his name, which makes it a rather large non sequitur) was holding the king's father as a prisoner.  Just what was going on?  Why was the king's father imprisoned?

Given-Wilson begins his explanation by stating that the king's father, Edward II, had been a "remarkably bad king."  A few months before he was installed at Berkeley Castle, he had been forced to abdicate the throne.

Isabella of France
The narrator provides more details.  Edward II ascended the throne in 1307.  He married Isabella of France, and for ten years things were going well.  Eventually, however, Isabella grew to hate Edward because of his losses at war and his lack of leadership.  He picked battles with the nobility by having favorites.  The nobles were united in their hatred of one particular favorite, Hugh Despenser the Younger.  Despenser used his influence with the king to gain land and wealth.

Returning to Given-Wilson, he says that the reason Despenser was a favorite of Edward was because he was very good with finances, and he managed Edward's money well.  Isabella hated Despenser, however, to the point that one chronicler wrote she "loathed Hugh Despenser with a more than perfect hatred."  (Now that's pretty extreme.)

The narrator comes in again to tell us that the hostility toward Edward and Hugh eventually led to war in 1321.  Queen Isabella sided against the king and joined with Roger Mortimer, who was rumored to be her lover.  In 1327 Isabella and Mortimer's forces overthrew the king.

Given-Wilson explains that Mortimer took power for himself after the coup.  Cox recalls that the name Mortimer appeared in her family tree.  Given-Wilson, who has his own copy of the ten-generation scroll (because Cox didn't bring it with her), unrolls it to show that yes, indeed, there is a Mortimer in the tree:  Thomas de Berkeley's wife was Margaret Mortimer.  And Margaret was the daughter of none other than Roger Mortimer.  So by holding Edward II prisoner, Berkeley was helping his father-in-law.

Cox's mind is blown again.  Her 19x-great-grandfather, Roger Mortimer, helped overthrow the king.  Her 18x-great-grandfather, Thomas de Berkeley, then assisted after the fact.  Mortimer obviously trusted Berkeley.

But why was Mortimer the one ruling?  The new king, Edward III, was still only a boy.  This means that his mother, Isabella, was officially ruling (probably as regent).  Since she was colluding with Mortimer, he was able to do what he wanted.

Isabella of France with
Roger Mortimer (15th century)

Cox asks about Hugh Despenser:  Didn't he try to get Edward II out?  Given-Wilson answers that no, he wasn't able to, because he had been executed during the war.  He brings out a copy of a painting that shows Isabella and Mortimer standing together in front of an army.  In the background, on what looks like a pyre with fire behind it, Despenser is being emasculated.  Given-Wilson says that parts of Despenser's body that were cut off or cut out were thrown into the fire.

After assimilating this new piece of information, Cox asks how Edward II died.  Given-Wilson asks if she would like to look at his cell.  The two walk into the castle courtyard, and Given-Wilson points to a particular window on an upper story, saying that was where Edward was imprisoned.  After asking Cox if she would like to go up and look at the room — of course she says yes — they walk toward that wing.

Edward II's room/cell
Once inside, they discuss the fact that Edward II was a prisoner in the room for five and a half months.  He also is supposed to have died there.  Cox wants to know how.  Given-Wilson says that there were many rumors about his death.  Isabella and Mortimer maintained that he had died a natural death, of course.  Authors of the historical chronicles (a specialty of Given-Wilson) thought they knew.  Much of the information in the chronicles is accurate, but rumors and unproven claims appear also.  Some of the chronicles say Edward died a natural death, while others say he was suffocated.  One chronicle, conveniently ready on a table in the room, has another version, which Given-Wilson has Cox read.  (I have to admit, I was impressed by how fluidly she read the Middle English.  I don't know if she was coached ahead of time or what was going on.  Maybe she was reading from a transcription?)

What was aired skipped around from one spot to another; I've transcribed the entire passage below.  Sorry for the lack of original spelling from the document.  It took me long enough to transliterate it into modern English.

Bradley de la More
—bla E2
— fol : 127

The said late king was shut up in a close chamber, where with the –– of dead rats[?] laid in a cellar under him, he was miserably tormented many days together and nigh suffocated therewith, the pain being almost intolerable unto him; but that not sufficing to hasten his death, which was desired and covertly commanded by the Queen and her fautores[?] [supporters], the said John Maltravers and Thomas de Burnay and their accomplices, rushed in the night time into his chamber, and with great and heavy featherbeds smothered him, thrusting a hollow instrument like the end of a trumpet or glisterpipe into his fundament, and through it a red hot iron up into his bowels, whereby he ended his life, with a lamentable loud –– heard by many both in town and castle ——

According to Given-Wilson, the methods described by this chronicler would have left no visible marks on the outside of Edward's body.  It's a lurid description, but it was commonly believed at the time to be true.  Given-Wilson's personal opinion is that Edward was suffocated.

Why was this done?  In early 1327 Mortimer heard of a plot to free Edward from his prison.  It appeared that Mortimer and Isabella had Edward killed to prevent an escape.

Cox wonders how big of a deal it was to have the king in your home.  Obviously, it was a huge deal.  And if the king was killed while he was in your home, yes, you would fall under suspicion.  It was the highest treason to be involved in the death of a king in this manner.  The king was anointed by God, so an act against him was an act against God and the kingdom.

Cox realizes that someone in her family, whether Mortimer or Berkeley, had the King of England killed.  It wasn't looking good for either man.

Given-Wilson points out to Cox that people did not like Mortimer, who was a bully.  By the fall of 1330, Edward III was 17 years old and tired of listening to Mortimer.  He had Mortimer arrested and launched a parliamentary investigation into Edward II's death.  The investigation included both Mortimer and Berkeley.  Isabella was removed from power and placed under house arrest but was not investigated.  To find out what happened, Cox will have to go to Westminster, the home of parliament.

As she leaves, Cox says that she had hoped her story would not be run-of-the-mill or boring, and obviously this isn't.  With her 19x- and 18x-great-grandfathers suspected of killing Edward II, probably one of them actually did it.

Cox's guide at Westminster Palace is Anthony Musson, a Medieval historian at the University of Exeter.  He tells her that Westminster is an 11th-century building and oldest surviving part of the Medieval palace.  The king would have held court at the far end of the hall they are standing in; he would have been flanked by his senior advisors and administrative council.

After Cox gives a recap of her story to this point, Musson says that Roger Mortimer was bound and gagged, and then brought in.  For the crime of which he was accused, the death penalty would be the sentence.  Cox wants to know if he had a fair trial.  Musson has copies of the trial proceedings for her to look at.

Mortimer was tried first.  The original document with information about his trial must be in poor condition, as the copy was dark, blotchy, and almost impossible to read.  Musson points out that the document was written in Medieval French, French being the language of government.  He reiterates that Mortimer was bound and gagged.  He was accused of taking power and of murder; these accusations would have been read aloud in the hall.  As he was gagged, he couldn't answer, so Cox concludes it wasn't fair, and Musson agrees it wasn't a "proper" trial.  He indicates one area on the page but then offers a typed translation:

. . . render just and lawful judgment on the said Roger as is appropriate for such a person to have who is truly guilty of all the above noted crimes, as he understands . . . and particularly the article touching the death of the lord Edward, the father of our present lord the king. . . . awarded and adjudged that the said Roger be drawn and hanged as a traitor and an enemy of the king and of the realm. . . . which execution was done and carried out on Thursday following the first day of parliament, which was 29 November.

(More of this translation, and a citation for it, can be read in this thesis on pages 240–241.)

It's clear that Mortimer was gone.  What happened to Berkeley?

Berkeley was tried the same day as Mortimer.  Musson brings out another copy, but this one is much more legible.  Berkeley had a more proper trial, and he was judged not guilty.  Musson also has another typed translation for Cox and asks her to read just the first paragraph, but she reads from the entire thing anyway.

(I was unable to get the entire text, because the full page was shown quickly and not fully in focus.  This version is not the translation used on the program, but it can be read in its entirety and allows you to see what was omitted for the program.)

Against Thomas of Berkeley

Thomas of Berkeley, knight, come before the king and his full aforesaid parliament. . . . safekeeping of Thomas . . . to be kept in the castle of Gloucester, and was murdered and killed in the same . . . .

He wishes to acquit himself of the death of the same king, and says that he was never an accomplice [six missing words] in his death, nor did he ever know of his murder until this present parliament.

And on this it was asked of him, that since he is lord of the aforesaid castle, and the same lord king was delivered into the keeping of Thomas . . . to be kept safely . . . that he should be answerable for the death of the king.   And the aforesaid Thomas says . . . that at the time when it is said the lord king was murdered and killed he was detained with such and so great an illness outside the aforesaid castle at Bradley that he remembers nothing of this.

Both Cox and Musson agree that Lord Berkeley "doth protest too much."  But what did parliament think of his protestations?  The jurors apparently gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided he was not guilty:

[. . .] therefore the jurors came thereupon before the lord king in his parliament at Westminster . . . who say on their oath that the aforesaid Thomas of Berkeley is not guilty of the death of the aforesaid lord king Edward . . . And because the aforesaid Thomas placed keepers and officials under him, namely Thomas de Burney and William Ogle [Ockley], to carry out the keeping of the lord king, by whom the same lord king was murdered and killed, a day was given to him before the present king in the next parliament to hear his judgment etc.

Musson points out to Cox that if Berkeley had been found guilty, she wouldn't be here.  (We saw earlier that Cox's ancestor, Maurice de Berkeley, was born in 1333, and the trial took place in 1330.)  She seems startled to realize this.

Musson then tells Cox that the story is not finished.  Thomas' son Maurice married Elizabeth de Spenser (which we saw previously) — and she was the daughter of Hugh Despenser the Younger, making Hugh another of Cox's 18x-great-grandfathers.  But wait a minute — wasn't Despenser executed by Isabella and Mortimer, and therefore on the side against Berkeley?  Why would Berkeley's son marry the daughter of his enemy?  Musson tells her she must find the answer to that question at the College of Arms.

And so Cox travels to the College of Arms, where she meets Peter O'Donoghue, credited here as the York Herald (whereas on the Valerie Bertinelli episode his credit read Herald of Arms, and his Wikipedia entry says York Herald of Arms).  The first thing Cox asks O'Donoghue is why Maurice de Berkeley would marry Hugh Despenser's daughter.  The answer, not unexpectedly, is politics.  Berkeley wanted power, and the Despensers were still well placed.  The marriage would actually have helped both sides.

Edward I effigy
O'Donoghue shows Cox a family tree that includes the Despensers.  Even though right at the top it has "Edward the 1st King of England" in large writing, the camera pans down, and Cox has to pretend not to notice it yet (or maybe she really didn't see it; either way, this could have been edited better).  O'Donoghue starts with the marriage of Maurice Lord Berkeley to Elizabeth de Spenser and goes back one generation to Elizabeth's parents.  They were Hugh De Spenser junior, Lord Despenser, beheaded 1326, and Eleanor, daughter and coheir, died 1337.  He mentions that the marriage was arranged by Eleanor's grandfather and then traces a line to that man as shown on the chart (skipping over Eleanor's parents, Clare Earl of Hertfod, died at Monmouth December 1296, and Joan of Acre [Edward II's sister]):  Edward I.

This is another mind-blower for Cox.  Her 20x-great-grandfather was the king of England!  She is going to call the family about this!  O'Donoghue points out (as he did on the Bertinelli episode, because that's the same king to whom he traced her ancestry) that Edward I was one of the very best Medieval kings:  charismatic, exciting, and an all-around great guy (except for that bad habit of expelling Jews, of course).

William the
Unlike Bertinelli's lineage, where O'Donoghue stopped with Edward I, he tells Cox that there's another manuscript for her to look at.  This one follows the ancestry of Edward I.  We skip past a few generations and go to Henry I, who was Cox's 25x-great-grandfather.  Going back one more generation, O'Donoghue points out a circle on the manuscript, but Cox has trouble reading all of it.  It says "William Bastard Son of Robert Conqueror of England", who was Cox's 26x-great-grandfather.  She seems taken aback because she actually remembers learning in school about the year 1066 and the conquest of England.

In the wrap-up, Cox comments that everyone will pay more attention to history after this.  She is amazed to have learned that her 19x-great-grandfather killed Edward II.  She's much more interested in Medieval times now.  History is a living thing:  If even one thing had occurred differently, she might not be here.

She's still coming to terms with the fact that William the Conquerer was her 26x-great-grandfather.  She remembers the year 1066 from school and was sure she couldn't be descended from royalty.  She's really looking forward to telling her family about what she has learned.

This episode was a great illustration of how many descendants royal monarchs can have.  I'm sure it has been several generations since anyone in Cox's family had any idea William the Conqueror was their ancestor.  The flip side of that, however, is that once you have the first important name, the rest of the information is all over the Web.  It took some effort to drag out the revelations and fill the episode, although seeing the original documents is still cool, at least to me.

The episode also demonstrated one problem that WDYTYA is running into:  bigger and better hooks for stories.  We have already seen Valerie Bertinelli get excited about learning her ancestor was King Edward I, so how does the show top that?  Ok, this time they take it back a few more generations to William the Conqueror.  Obviously, O'Donoghue knows that anyone descended from Edward I is also descended from William the Conqueror, but that was not shown on the Bertinelli episode.  I suspect he told her but that it wasn't included in what was aired just so that they could show it in a future episode with another descendant.  Maybe this will encourage them to showcase more celebrities with ancestors not from England?  Or for the next descendant of Edward I and William the Conqueror, we'll go back to their Norman roots?

It's always been amusing how often the celebrities on this program just "happen" to mention at the beginning something that turns up later in the episodes, yet the show insists that they are not told ahead of time what the information is.  I don't know why I've been so dense about how they are doing this or why it finally dawned on me with this episode.  I suspect that the featured celebrity is asked several different questions in the intro, and the only ones shown in the final edit are those that match the storyline.

*Tomasz Steifer (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
**David Stowell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Middle Name

Randy Seaver's challenge this week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is surprisingly straightforward.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music):

(1)  What is your middle name?  Do you know why your parents gave it to you?

(2)  Do you have ancestors with your middle name as part of their name?

(3)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google+.

1.  My middle name is Marie.  I was told two different stories for why I have it.  My mother said she named me for her maternal grandfather, Morris (Moishe), with the initial M.  My maternal grandmother told me that my mother told her Marie was for a Catholic saint.  I think my mother's story was the truth.

2.  I have no known ancestors with the given name of Marie.  I found three Marys and one Maria, but no Maries.  I am certain my mother did not know of any of those ancestors, so it is unlikely that she came up with Marie as a variation on one of their names.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Surprise Trove about Louis Curdt and Family

One of the most enjoyable things about having a blog is having people contact you because they found one of your posts interesting.  When someone has a personal connection to the stories you've written, it's even better.

I have been posting since December of 2015 about the "treasure chest" of items I was given regarding Emma Margaret Schafer and her family members, including her mother, stepfather, first and second husbands, and children.  After last week's post about Louis Curdt, Emma's stepfather, Louis' great-granddaughter wrote to me.  She apparently found my blog while searching for Louis' name online.  She has told me a lot about Louis and shared several family photographs and documents!

In Emma's handwritten narrative, she mentioned almost in passing that her mother had divorced Louis Curdt.  I have now learned that at some point after that, Louis remarried, to Louisa Hulvey:

In light of the comments in the typed narrative about Louis molesting Emma when she was a young teenager, I find it interesting that Louis' second wife was under 18 years of age when they married.  Louisa's father had to give his "written consent" to the marriage.  Unfortunately, this clip of the marriage license doesn't include when Louis and Louisa were married, but Louis was born about 1849 and Louisa about 1878, and their first child was born about 1896, so my guess is 1895 or so for the marriage.

Louis and Louisa had four children:  Henry John (1896-1951), Katherine (1898-?), Mary Katherine (1899-1987), and John (1902-1927).  Deb, the person who wrote to me, is Mary's granddaughter.  Mary is in the photo at the top of this post, standing with her parents, Louisa and Louis (who looks like a grumpy old cuss).  In the photo below she is with her siblings Henry and Katherine (Katie); Mary is on the left.

This is Albert -- Deb's father, Mary's son, and Louis' grandson.

Deb also shared a few items related to Louis' marriage to Elizabeth, Emma's mother.  One is this copy of the January 22, 1874 marriage record for Louis Curdt and Elizabeth.  We already knew that Elizabeth was widowed, because Emma's father had died, but the marriage record indicates Curdt was also a widower.

I now know what one of Emma's half-siblings looked like.  Deb has two photos of Alvina, the youngest child of Louis and Elizabeth Curdt.  This is her as a fashionable young woman.  She was born about 1881, so my estimate for this photo is about 1897.

The second photo is Alvina and her husband, Edward Schulte.  (Emma's oldest daughter from her marriage to Emile Petit, Marie, married a William H. Schulte in Missouri.  I suspect the two Schultes are related.)

Even though it's cool to have photos of Alvina, I need to keep in mind that she was purportedly part of the conspiracy to deprive Emma of her inheritance.  So she also might have been a not-so-nice person.