Years ago, Jeff Record sent me an ahnentafel report on his ancestry, curious to see if we had any connections back in Kansas. While we identified several common ancestors in New England, I was curious about his great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Neff) Young (1864-1898) of El Dorado, Kansas. Neff is not in my own ancestry, but it is the surname of some distant cousins I remembered from my childhood. I frequently went to Kansas over the holidays as a child and would stay at my grandparents’ farm in Sedgwick, Kansas. Most often my mother’s siblings and their children would also be there; sometimes there were more distant cousins present, and at the time I had no idea how they were related to me. The Neffs were some such cousins that would occasionally visit as two of their boys were the same age as myself and a few of my first cousins. Later, as I got interested in genealogy, I learned that they were my third cousins: their mother’s father’s sister Carrie Etta (Wright) Learned was a sister of my matrilineal great-grandmother Daisy Alice (Wright) Horton. Continue reading Learned Larneds
Sometimes – as Chris Child and Jeff Record know – one gets drawn back to the same subject matter only to find new patterns. (I would venture to say many other genealogists know this dynamic well.) For me, in this example, it is an interest in matrilineal lines, a favorite subject of my colleague Julie Helen Otto; lately, this interest has taken shape around the progeny of Anna of Bohemia, Queen of Hungary, whose husband later succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor. To look at her daughters’ daughters (and daughters’ sons) is to enter a thicket of queens and kings, empresses and princes. Famously, both Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great descend from Anna through the female line – a subject for another post, perhaps? Continue reading Marriage-go-round
With Prince Philip’s recent death, Prince Charles has succeeded his father as the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh. This is the third creation of the dukedom, most recently bestowed upon Prince Philip in 1947 as the son-in-law of King George VI, and limited to Philip’s male-line descendants. In 1999, it was announced that Prince Philip’s youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, would follow his father as Duke of Edinburgh when the present title “eventually reverts to the Crown.” With Charles now bearing the title, a fourth creation of the dukedom should ensue on the eventual passing of Queen Elizabeth II, when Prince Charles would succeed as monarch and all his current titles are then available for new creations. However, there are a few extremely unlikely possibilities that would not make Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh of the fourth creation quite yet. Continue reading Heirs apparent, heirs presumptive
With Prince Philip’s recent death, several colleagues shared with me the story that recalled how in 1993 the Duke of Edinburgh had helped solve a Russian Romanov murder mystery. This was one of the earliest high profile uses of mitochondrial DNA to confirm historic remains, and something I frequently talked about in my early talks on using DNA in genealogy. I gave two lectures at NEHGS while I was still in college in the early 2000s, the first one on Abraham Lincoln’s maternal ancestry (which I also discussed as having a possible mtDNA component, utilized nearly two decades later) and the other on DNA. These were also the only talks I made using overhead projector transparencies, before finally switching over to PowerPoint. They also both showed how designing charts has always gone hand-in-hand with my genealogical interests. Continue reading Philippian mysteries
To mark the second birthday of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, and with the imminent birth of his younger sister, Christopher C. Child and I have continued our (occasional!) series on Archie’s ancestry. The first segment, covering parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, appears here.
This generation of great-great-great-grandparents includes the origins of the surnames Mountbatten and Windsor. The name Mountbatten derives from Archie’s father’s father’s father’s mother’s father, the 1st Marquess of Milford Haven; the name Windsor — also the house name of the current British Royal Family — comes via Archie’s father’s father’s mother’s paternal grandfather, King George V. Just over 100 years after the Princes of Battenberg became Mountbattens and the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha adopted (in England) the surname Windsor, a descendant bears both names, marking the 1947 marriage of Lord Milford Haven’s grandson Philip to King George’s granddaughter Elizabeth. Continue reading The ancestry of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor
Following up on my prior post on retroactive suffixes, I’ll now discuss the other practice of retroactive surnames. This frequently occurs in publications relating to royalty in the medieval period, the best example being the “surname” Plantagenet. Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou (1113-1151), had Plantagenet as an epithet or nickname, but this was not used as a surname by himself or his children. His son Henry II became King of England in 1154 as the first Angevin monarch, as Geoffrey was a member of the House of Anjou. Three centuries later in 1448, Geoffrey’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Richard, 3rd Duke of York (1411-1460), adopted “Plantagenet” as his family name. The surname Plantagenet was even used by two illegitimate children of Richard’s son King Edward IV. However, Richard’s male line soon died out in the aftermath of the Tudor conquest of England in 1485. The last living legitimate male born with the surname Plantagenet was Richard’s grandson, Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, who was beheaded in 1499, and King Edward IV’s illegitimate son Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, died in 1542. Continue reading Retroactive surnames
[Author’s note: These blog posts originally appeared in Vita Brevis between December 2017 and February 2018.]
To mark the death ten days ago and the funeral this weekend of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021), I thought it might be useful to remind readers of four blog posts covering some of the iconography of the British royal family, since they illustrate Prince Philip’s grandmother, Princess Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven; her parents Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and Princess Alice of Great Britain; and her grandparents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Prince Consort.
The series covers Victoria and Albert’s family, including the present queen’s great-grandparents, King Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. In the genealogically complex world of the Victorian era royal caste, Prince Philip was Queen Alexandra’s great-nephew, just as his wife Queen Elizabeth II was a great-great-niece of Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse. Continue reading ICYMI: Royal cartes de visite
While watching the recent broadcast of “Atlantic Crossing,” it took me a minute or two to remember the parentage of protagonist Crown Princess Martha of Norway as well her siblings. Making those connections began with stamps. My childhood world blossomed when a family friend gave me a postage stamp album for my eighth birthday. The package came with an assortment of world stamps, and stamp hinges with which to fix the stamps to the illustrations in the album. A new hobby soon became an absorbing passion. Continue reading Philatelic genealogy
The executions of the Earl of Douglas, his brother David Douglas, and Sir Malcolm Fleming for treason in November 1440 mark an important moment in the early reign of King James II. A boy of ten under a regency – the Douglases’ father, who died in 1439, was James’s first regent; the king’s guardian in 1440 was Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar – James II was already sadly familiar with unrest among the Scottish nobility, and the execution of his Douglas second cousins and their advisor Fleming of Cumbernauld was by no means the last such event in his short reign. The fall of the Douglases, following the events leading up to Livingston becoming the de facto regent, set the stage for the Livingston family’s own spectacular downfall in 1449-50, although Sir Alexander and his elder son James would survive the worst of it. Continue reading None too delicate
In January 2019, Vita Brevis marked its fifth anniversary with a series of posts, among them one on the blog “By the numbers.” After listing a number of statistics about the blog to that point, I made the following comments:
[But] Vita Brevis is more than the numbers, the percentages, the ongoing series. It is meant to educate; it is meant to entertain. Like P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, it aims to guide its readership – gently, with carrots, not sticks – to the right path, toward genealogical breakthroughs. How? By breaking down the thought processes that successful genealogists use to undertake fresh research, building upon previous work when assessing a new genealogical problem. Continue reading 2019: the year in review