I thought it would be helpful if I wrote some kind of introduction to the Family Genealogy site to explain some of the background and issues associated with it. If you would prefer to go directly to the instructions for using the site – go here. If you want to go directly to the site itself – go here.
The genesis of this effort goes back to the 1930’s when my Mother was a teenager. She sought a membership to The Daughters of the American Revolution, the DAR, which is reserved for women who can trace their family lines back to a soldier who fought in the American Revolutionary War. They own and operate the DAR Constitution Hall in DC where concerts take place. Her efforts were successful as she was able to demonstrate that among her past relations were Generals William Clark and his brother George Rogers Clark. The latter is the “Clark” of the “Lewis & Clark Expedition” which traveled across the continent at the request of President Jefferson. As events would happen, my daughter Melanie received her Masters degree from Lewis & Clark University…unfortunately they did not offer assistance to a relation…LOL. The publication of the data by the Filson Society of Kentucky includes myself and my brother by name. I have a copy of the entire study.
When I graduated from High School at St. Leo College Prep School, I had what was the only summer of my life where I did not have to work. Mother peaked my interest in the family history and challenged me to continue the study and complete some tracings that she had started but never completed. I spent many days in the Miami Public Library Geneology section and was successful in adding a lineage through the Fontaine line all the way back to the 1400’s. There the matter lay, with notes and records in file folders for over 20 years.
In the early 1980’s, I revisited the topic. I was living in Fairfax, VA and the local library has a very fine library related to Virginia history and related genealogy works. I spent many an evening there and added a lot of details to what was already known. When the Internet period stated to dawn, I decided to create a Web based presentation of what I had put together writing a foundation in the COBOL language for the Personal Computer based upon a crude database. That was when and where I first realized the difficulties of creating a useful presentation which included both the required textual data as well as notes, reference material and photographs. That particular platform served well for a while but eventually became difficult to maintain.
In the spring of 2013 I was unemployed for the first time in about 40 years and had some serious free time on my hands. I decided to take a stab at upgrading this web site and to include in it a full scale genealogy site. I found a free software program (HUM-O-Gen…named after the developers) that seemed to fit the needs. The existing data files from the old COBOL system became the core foundation of the site and were the first parts to be included. Much to my happy surprise, I discovered that the quantity and quality of information available on the Internet were vastly improved since my first attempts. Slowly and methodically, I expanded the site.
Starting first with the family tree associated with my Mother (the Bullock – Fontaine line), I expanded and extended the lineage and confirmed some tentative associations with English Royalty. These proved to be reliable and included a number of soldiers who accompanied William the Conquer at the Battle of Hastings. I had previously studied the tactics of that battle for other reasons and read the very difficult original writings that related the events…old English is a chore to decipher but it can be done with the right amount of patience. It is a fascinating story of how a very small group of determined soldiers changed history forever.
The Fontaine line is notable as they were originally Huguenots preachers who were persecuted and sometimes murdered (as the oldest known member of the family was) by the Catholics in the 1400-1500 period and run out of France, first to England and Scotland and then to America. Their records of their struggles was essential to the study. One of the Fontaine family was among the first men to see the Shenandoah valley and wrote about it and I have a copy of his book. If you happen to enter or leave the Skyline Drive at mile post 67, on the side of the road on US 33, there is a pyramidal memorial and associated plaque honoring the “Members of the Golden Horseshoe” who made that first trip across the mountains. Jacques Fontaine is listed there as the author of the history of the venture.
I then add the LaDue line, my Step-Father whose name I carry. My own birth Father (Haydu line) is an enigma as my grandparents there were immigrants from Hungary about 1910 and there is no data available as to their family. That appears hopeless. The story is that my grandparents were teenagers who met on the ship coming over, fell in love and married when they settled in Cleveland before moving to West Virginia.
I then contacted my bride’s family to see if there was anything known of the Beauregard or Gelinas line…Jan’s Father and Mother respectively. To my surprise, one of the family had done some significant work on the Gelinas family which I was able to incorporate and expand. And, by a stroke of luck, I found an existing connection on the Internet that connected the 2 families. Given that, I was able to push the known lines back in time for both families.
The tracings now included at least 4,000 individuals and connected in numerous places into European Royalty…Kings, Queens and Barons and Earls as well as laborers and inmates in insane asylums. All legitimate…with the cautionary notes in mind that I’ll mention a bit later on. I’ve learned quite a bit of history in times and places I never thought I would care about and had a very entertaining time of it. It’s just kinda cool to find family members who murdered each other over inheritances and first-cousins and even brothers and sisters who married…..yes that really, really happened. There is even an instance where a man married his grand-daughter and fathered a child with her…gross perhaps but true. That took quite a bit of detective work to sort out as the family went to some trouble to hide the truth.
One of the neatest things I discovered is that it is a formal doctrine of the Catholic Church, subject to excommunication since about 1100 AD, that a woman may not be married or betrothed against her will. She must consent to the union… That decision is the direct result of an appeal made first to the Archbishop of Canterbury (England) and then to the current Pope by one of my ancestors. She was poorly treated by a Royal husband who wanted to dump her when the family fell on hard times and the Pope ruled in her favor, creating the new church doctrine for the protection of wives and women. Reminds me of the bumper sticker: “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History”.
Most recently, I asked if there was any such data on the Swann family and received a basic file of data from Pat. That was a start. So far I have not been able to trace anything on Mom’s side…I need some grandparents names. But I have recently been able to make some serious progress with the Swann line. Some interesting problems cropped up that are similar to ones that I have encountered before.
Here is that cautionary note I promised. Doing this work for any time at all one comes to realize that it is full of, shall we say, mischief and wishful-thinking. For example, everyone with roots in New England seems to want to have a relative who came over on the Mayflower and took part in that first Thanksgiving. Now there were only 102 passengers on that ship when she departed and half died the first winter but to read the internet postings, we have millions of survivors. In a similar vein, those with history in Kentucky and Tennessee always seem to trace back to Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. No so…
In the case of the Swann line, there is a distinct effort made by many researchers (if one may call them that) to trace a Maryland family back to the ships Ark & Dove which carried the first settlers, mostly Catholics to the Maryland shores. They carried at most 140 settlers. There are numerous “flame wars” recorded in internet chat rooms and genealogy sites about difference of opinion. To complicate matters even more, in the case of the Swann family tree, one encounters 5 generations where the names are nearly identical (Samuel being the most common). This makes telling them apart dang near impossible. Much of the research centers on records kept of wills and land transfers and other legal matters. When Sam wills something to Sam and then another Sam it gets tricky at best.
I had learned early on that details need to be kept and verified such as dates and places of birth. I think that for every 5 sites that delved into the Swann family tree, only 1 in the 5 proved reliable. To compound matters further, there is a Swann lineage that starts in Maryland and another that starts in Virginia. Folks try very, very hard to tie them together as this allows one to trace the family back to one of the Knights in England in the 1500 and even to a baron in the 1300’s. There is actual DNA evidence that seems to prove that the 2 lines are not at all connected. There is other evidence that they are. For myself, I worked thru this part of the tree early on, trying to trace the line thru history to Dad’s Grandfather so I retain that data in the tree.
The final key to the puzzle was the middle name of Uncle Phil…that being “Briscoe”. It is important to remember that middle names were often chosen to honor the wife’s maiden name. Phillip Briscoe Swann and his father Phillip Briscoe Swann carried the name of a woman from the family past and this was one of the keys to finally linking the old and recent persons. The Swann/Briscoe connection traces all the way back to the 1600’s with a number of family intermarriages along the way…no cousins or anything weird…the families all resided in Maryland in the same areas for quite a long time.
The work is not finished as yet as there are a variety of loose ends to trace down, most significantly, the lineage of Dad’s mother, which is what I am currently working on. There is almost no representation of family members after Mom & Dad’s children as I do not have any data related to birth’s and marriages beyond that. If anyone cares to provide that, I’ll be happy to add it.