Echo of the Past documents my journey in rediscovering my roots after my last computer was destroyed and I lost the 10,000 names on my family tree.

I'm an ethnic mutt. My background is varied and the world is small; it's likely that my research will help somebody, somewhere, so please feel free to use me as a source if need be.

Feedback is more than welcome, and I read any and all comments I get. I'm also up for trading links. If you're interested, email me at: PrettySiren@gmail.com with "link request" as the subject line. (Genealogy and history sites/blogs only please.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When Ancestors Become Mythical: Separating Myth from Reality

When you read the title of this post (if you did), you might not have realized I was being serious: but I was.

Many people who've traced their genealogy back to ancient times run into this problem. Particularly if you're of royal European descent. Usually, it happens in Norse traditions: a legendary (or partially legendary) king is descended from a god. Some sources actually allege that Dan I of Denmark was, in reality, the source of the Odin/Woden/Votan legends.

While I think the chronology is a little off there, in terms of realism (and also negates the fact that Odin comes from an ancient Indo-Europeaon source, predating Dan I), it's the perfect example of ancestry diverging into the realm of mythology.

Another example is the ancient Irish kings. Most Irish people (like myself) can legitimately trace our lineage back to these ancient men. However, when you do further research, the ancestors of the Irish kings come from Egypt, descending from a woman called Princess Scota, who was the daughter of the Pharaoh. Scota being the progenitor of the Irish nation, is, however, far more believable than saying we are actually descended from gods like Odin or Zeus since it could be argued the Scota was actually a real, historical person.

One of the strangest things I've noticed in genealogy is the purposeful desire of genealogists to trace their genealogy back to mythical people and gods. I noticed an example of this when I was doing research last night.

It's commonly accepted that many of the Biblical patriarchs were real people; in fact, religion aside, I believe there's enough archaeological evidence to prove they were. And, naturally, there are people who trace their descent to the Biblical patriarchs. Whether they really can with validity or whether the connections are based upon ancient fabrications or legends isn't the issue. The issue that I found last night was these people's need and desire to take that a step further -- a strange step further.

I came across many articles likening the ancient Biblical patriarchs to ancient gods or legendary figures in other cultures and religons. To my best understanding, it's because whoever wrote these articles believes in the church-accepted timeline of the planet Earth. And that's fine -- that's their belief. But, however, to say that the legend of Saturn/Kronos comes from the Biblical Jacob is stretching it; after all, archeological and linquisitic evidence proves that the legends of Kronos predate Jacob's time.

Furthermore, similar articles liken Jacob's son, Judah, to Zeus and claim that the etymology for Judah and Zeus is one and the same. However, this isn't true. Judah comes from the Hebrew word "Yehudah" which means "praised"; Zeus, on the other hand, comes from the Proto-Indo-European "Dieus" which was, naturally, the Proto-Indo-European god of the sky. Dieus gave rise to Zeus, Jupiter/Iupiter (from the epithet dyeu-patar, meaning "father Dieus/Zeus"), and the Vedic Dyaus Pita. All of these are sky gods and in no way related to Judah. Also, the root Dieus predates the name Yehudah by thousands of years.

I know that it's human nature to connect reality to our own beliefs, but when do we take it too far?

So, my questions are:

1. Do you add people to your family tree knowing that they are only legendary or mythical?


2. Do you think it discredits genealogy to add mythical people to genealogical databases?

Please, discuss. I would love to hear other people's views on this!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unexpected Find: Regicide, Again

As previously posted, I lost every bit of my extensive family tree when my last computer completely died/exploded. So, this blog is sort of chronicling my rediscovery, as it were, finding people I've found years ago all over again. And you know what? I'm just as delighted as I was back in the day.

But, imagine my surprise when I come across a new find! Today, I was able to trace my Whaley line backwards and I found a surprising connection, historically speaking: they're Cromwells.

The Whaleys

Richard Whaley (born c. 1569) married Frances Cromwell (born August 5, 1675) around 1609. Together, they had seven children; I descend through them form their son, Major General Edward Whaley, the regicide.

The Regicide

Of course, when I saw sources affixing "regicide" to his name, I immediately knew he signed King Charles' execution warrant, given the time he was born. (Further research verified this.) However, I found it strange that my 10th great-grandfather would be signing the death warrant of my 13th great-uncle. It's not the first incident though. It was merely history repeating itself, in a way. In the previous century, Elizabeth I, my 1st cousin, 15 times removed, signed the death warrant of Charles's grandmother, Queen Mary of Scotland; Mary was my great-grandma's (and great-grandpa's -- but that's another story) great-great-great-great-grandma (plus several other greats, but I'm simplifying).

In genealogy, I find events go in circles: circumstances, birth dates, death dates. I was born on July 28. Many of my relatives were either born that day or died that day, which brings me to...

The Cromwells

As I said, Edward Whaley married Frances Cromwell. Her great-grandmother was Thomas Cromwell's sister. Thomas Cromwell was, incidentally, executed on my birthday on the orders of my my great-great-great (plus like twelve other greats) uncle, King Henry VIII (I descend from Margaret Tudor).

Interestingly, Edward Whaley was a prominent member of Oliver Cromwell's inner circle: he was also something like his third cousin (by marriage), twice removed.



Edward's descendants married into a line of family always listed as "Crapper" in genealogy databases. By modern standards, and possibly old standards as well, that is a rather unfortunat-sounding last name (no offense to any Crappers out there!). However, Edward lists the surname as "Cropper" in his will; Cropper seems to be a more likely name. Especially when you take into account the fact that the name "Crapper" can't hardly be traced back.


Again, families go in circles. Especially in England. Yes, if you can trace yourself back to Tudor England, you're everyone's cousin. It should be noted that Thomas Cromwell's grandmother was a close cousin of Henry VIII. And thus, the circle just really never, ever ends.

And that's all I have to say on the matter tonight, but it's definitely something to think about -- I think.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ancestor Spotlight: Matilda of Flanders

Quick Facts

Name: Matilda of Flanders

Lifetime: 1031-November 2, 1083

Height: 4'2" (127cm)

Interesting Fact: England's shortest queen ever.

Spouse: William the Conqueror

Anecdote: Thought she was too highly born to marry William, who was of less than reputable birth. So, he smacked her around a bit until she agreed to marry him.

How she's related to me: She's my 30th great-grandma (meaning she's my great grandma, thirty generations back). Her descendants married into the de Warrenes, whom I mentioned in my previous post.

Mary Warren, my closest ancestor bearing the Warren name, married Thomas Burgess in Orange County Virginia in 1735. My descent from them is as follows:

Mary Warren m. Thomas Burgess
Nancy Burgess m. William Stuart
Agnes Stuart m. Henry Burch
Agnes Jane Burch m. John Newton Bell
Canarisa "Caney" Louisa Bell m. Miles Glenn Alley
Mary Agnes Alley m. Bobby Happle Ramsey
Glenn Newton Ramsey m. Ida Ellen Renaud-Cole and produced my grandmother

What's interesting is: the females in my family have all been short and I have to wonder if it has anything to do with Matilda of Flanders' genes. After all, at 5'5" (165cm) I'm the tallest female of the bunch on that side (my mom's side). Granted, my dad is also a descendant of William and Matilda (but that's a different story).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Warren-Plantagenet Connection

Warren is a common surname throughout most English speaking countries. And, as a surname, we think of it as English, because it is. In its current form, the name Warren was first used in England. However, it's initial origins are different: it's a Norman name.

Behind the Name's surname site states that Warren is derived from "warrene" which is Normah French for "enclosure"; the word has Germanic origins because -- well -- the Normans were originally Norse...hence their name (Normans = Norsemen).

Through my research into my own past, I've discovered the name to have two meanings. Firstly, the one Behind the Name Gave. The second is also of Norman origin; however, it's slightly different. One of my Warren branches descends from a man named Guillaume de Varrene, Earl of Surrey. La Varrene is a place in France; I wonder if it, too, means "enclosure".

The other branch of my Warren family members descends from Hamelin Plantagenet de Warrene, Earl of Surrey. Hamelin was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Comte d'Anjou et Maine. Hamelin's grandfather was King Fulk V of Jerusalem, Comte d'Anjou.

So, how do the two lines meet? They meet with the marriage of Guillame's great-granddaughter, Isabel de Warrene, and Hamelin's grandson, William de Warrene, Earl of Surrey.

Currently, I'm working on how to establish a connection between King Fulk V and Guillame. Guillame was forty years older than Fulk; I wonder if he was an uncle, great-uncle, or some other male relative, since the name de Warrene is found in both lines.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Beginner's Guide to Tracing Genealogy: First Steps and Tips for Interviewing Relatives about Genealogy

Okay, so one of the most difficult questions any new genealogist asks themselves is: how do I get started.

I wrote two articles at Quazen to address the matter.

The first is called A Beginner's Guide to Tracing Genealogy: First Steps. As the title suggests, I address the very first steps any new genealogist needs to take to discover their roots. Applying those steps is KEY to getting started.

The second is called Tips for Interviewing Relatives About Genealogy and is a little bit more advanced than the first. Again, the title is self-descriptive, but I wrote it with very simple tips in mind -- things that have helped me out in interviewing OTHER people's families in my genealogical quests.

So yeah, if you're confused, take a look: hopefully I was able to shed a light on some things. And, as always, if you have any questions, comments are more than welcome.

Monday, June 22, 2009

John Alley's Father

As I mentioned in the welcome post, I've had to redo my family tree (which was comprised of decades of work from my family and distant cousins -- as well as the extensive work I did myself). I've got several branches back and then I've hit the brick walls I'd previously hit all those years ago.

The Alley Family

I wanted to link their website here, but I can't find it for the life of me. *sighs*

Anyway, everyone who's an Alley knows that our common ancestor is John Alley.

John Alley was born in 1460, most likely in Buckinghamshire, England. He married a woman named Agnes and had three children, from what I remember. The only child of his I have listed for John and Agnes is my ancestor William Alley, who was Mayor of Great Wycombe (or Wickham or Wicomb or any other alternate spelling).

John Alley's death is always listed as "after August 11 1506", which means that he was mentioned in an official document (or something of that nature) -- probably his own will -- on that date. What's known about his death is that he was buried in the churchyard of the Chapel of Our Blessed Lady Wicomb.

Who's John's Daddy?

What's interesting about John is that he's the deadend of the Alley line: no one knows for sure who his father is. Through my research, I've come up with two likely candidates who were both born roughly thirty years before John.

The first was Willelmus Alley. Sources are divided as to whether this man was born in Bucks or Brittany France. But if he was born in Bucks, that would make him extremely likely to be John Alley's father or some other close male relative, at least.

Then there is John d'Alee or John de L'Aly -- or any number of variant/similar spellings. He was also born in the 1430's and he was born in Brittany, France. What makes him likely is that it seems that his surname would be the continental original spelling of Alley. Another thing that's obvious is: his name is John. Medieval people often named their children after themselves.

The Daddy Question

So who's the father? That's what I want to know, because if we knew for certain, we could finally trace the Alley line prior to the 1400's.

What I'm looking for right now is details about the early Alleys. Any definitive evidence or even clues would be a major help in tracing them back further. I really think we can solve who the father is if we all put our heads together.

Are you an Alley?

If you have an Alley in your family tree and you're not sure whether or not you're descended from my line of Alleys, let me know and we can see if we find any common names between your line and mine. I'm a pretty recent Alley descendant. My great-greatgrandma's maiden name was Alley, so I'm fairly confident we can find a connection.

Oh, and by the way: Most Alleys are cousins to the actress Kirstie Alley. She's my 7th cousin, once removed -- some people are related even closer. Kirstie's genealogy can be found on the Alley homepage. If anyone finds it, definitely link me!

Welcome to Echo of the Past

Welcome to Echo of the Past!

I have been an amateur genealogist for over a decade now, having researched my genealogy since I was eight years old. I'm twenty now, and in the past twelve years, I've built on my relatives' genealogical databases and family trees and have, at one time, had a family tree comprising more than ten thousand individuals.

Sadly, my old computer crashed and I lost everything. So, this blog will chronicle my journey as I rediscover my roots from scratch. I'll write about my own research and what I find on my family as well as general tiptorials and things to do to get started. In other words, this is going to be an all-encompassing genealogy blog, full of history and struggle.

I tend to be pretty in-depth about my research. As any genealogist knows, we're all pretty much related, so please feel free to use my blog as a source for your own research. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me.

If you think we might be related, please let me know and we can include each other on our family trees!

I foresee this is going to be a fun adventure; much like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, I plan to have my family tree database back up to ten thousand names before two years are out.