Our family has an historic heirloom, a microscope that originally belonged to [Heinrich Hermann] Robert Koch (1843-1910), the famous German bacteriologist, who won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries related to the causative agents of anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera. The microscope came into our family by virtue of his cousin, my great-great-grandfather, Ernest Wilhelm Eduard Koch (1827-1903), who was born in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany, about 30 miles from Clausthal, the birthplace of Robert Koch. After moving to the United States, great-great-grandfather went by “Edward,” but usually was referred to by the family as E.W.E.
As a kind of sequel to my post on “kinbot,” the medieval Scottish practice of making amends after slaying a kinsman, I can offer two stories of Livingston family murderesses … and the very different impression their acts made upon their contemporaries. The first took place more than a century after Sir John Bruce was “slaughtered” by his Menteith kinsmen and concerns the Livingstons of Dunipace, from which family the Rev. John Livingston’s mother was descended. Continue reading Fireside stories→
At our dinner table recently, talk turned to a discussion of family stories, specifically the story that our great great-great-great-grandfather, George Read, refused to paint his chimneys white in the English style because he was so opposed to British oppression. Son, He of the Flypaper Mind (everything sticks to it!), challenged the origin of the tale, asking “How do you know that? Do we have any documents he wrote about it, or his diary, for instance?” At something of a loss given his significant lack of respect for The Family Story, I turned to Husband, a retired attorney, for his input and support, but got the legal definition of “hearsay” instead. Continue reading He said. She said→
As part of my research on the Livingston family in Scotland and America, I have been looking at allied families – who sometimes turn out to be Livingstons themselves. One such case is John Bruce of Stenhouse (Airth), sometimes Sir John, who married Elizabeth Menteith, the daughter of William Menteith of Kerse and Helen Livingston, a daughter of Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar. John and Elizabeth’s daughter, in turn, married William Livingston, younger of Kilsyth, a descendant of Sir Alexander’s half-brother, also William. Eventually these three Livingston lines united in the marriage of the Rev. Alexander Livingston, grandson of the 4th Lord Livingston, and Barbara Livingston of Inches (a descendant of Callendar as well as a cadet line of Kilsyth).
John Bruce died in circumstances I have yet to work out. Suffice it to say that he was “slain” by his wife’s brothers, the Menteiths, but what happened after the “slaughter” is somewhat surprising. Continue reading Kinbot, and friendship→
The Livingston family genealogist devoted two large volumes to a painstaking account of the Livingstons in Scotland and America. His volume on the Livingstons of Livingston Manor, in introducing the Scottish ancestry of the American immigrants, glides right by the siblings of “Worthy famous Mr. John Livingston” – father and grandfather of two Robert Livingstons – remarking that John was the “only child [of his parents] we need take any notice of.”
Brave words! As it happens, though, a series of biographical volumes on Scottish ministers fills in the names of the children of the Rev. William Livingston and two of his three wives, and in the biographies of the ministers who married John Livingston’s sisters there are indeed stories on which to linger. John Livingston’s sister Anna married the Rev. Thomas Vassie (or Wassie), later of Torphichen, in 1627; their half-sister, Jean, married the Rev. Gideon Penman, a widower, in 1651. Both the Vassies and the Penmans figure in questions of witchcraft – even as the three brother ministers were involved in the religious and political ferment of the period. Continue reading The devil’s Mr. Gideon→
[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 January 2020.]
Internet trolls are people who lurk on social media and generally cause trouble for everybody else. I recently found a list of the ten types of internet trolls, and suspect I probably qualify under No. 5, “The Show-Off, Know-it-All Or Blabbermouth Troll.” Or at least that is how I feel whenever I chime in on one of the Mayflower/Alden-related Facebook pages or the like. It becomes my job to deflate the balloons of some of these wonderful newly-found Mayflower descendants, who have, most unfortunately, inadvertently gathered and believed all the dross of Internet information about their ancestors. Continue reading ICYMI: Mayflower trolls→
The following advisory was printed in the Virginia Gazette on 21 January 1775:
Prince Edward, Dec. 1, 1774
“Whereas my wife Delphia hath been a naughty, furious Housewife for some Years past, and hath invented, and reported certain Slanders, to the Prejudice of my Character, and hath often threatened to ruin me, which she hath in Some part effected; This is therefore to forewarn all Merchants and others, from crediting her on my Account, as I will pay no Debts of her contracting; and I do hereby forewarn all Persons from receiving at her Hand, any Goods or Chattels appertaining to me, as they will answer the fame at their Peril.” THOMAS COLDWELL Continue reading A ‘naughty’ wife→
Not too long ago, my daughter asked me if I would look into the Danish ancestry of a “new friend” of hers – a guy named Charlie. Now Jen’s usually quite secretive about father learning anything at all about her prospective beaux, so I jumped at the chance to take a look at the ancestry of her new fellow – a guy who just might easily show up to our house for Sunday dinner. I knew I had to be a bit careful about it all, too. I wanted to make sure that I researched Charlie’s Nordic connections as respectfully as possible, not only for his sake, but to make sure that my daughter would continue to value my counsel – and not summon one of my mother’s ancient curses against me. (Little did I know that in doing all of this, my hubris and I were about to experience an embarrassing genealogical gaffe…) Continue reading The genealogist McFly→
Jeff Record’s recent post on “A ‘Relative’ Hoax“ reminded me of a few genealogical hoaxes I have encountered. In our open houses to staff on Mayflower genealogy, one of the subjects I review is the various frauds that have occurred in the genealogical field over time.
Robert S. Wakefield (1925-2002) wrote a detailed list of many of these Mayflower fables in a 1993 article in the Mayflower Descendant. These include a fictional ancestry for passenger Edward Doty that was created by the well-known genealogical fraud Gustave Anjou; the claim that “Constance Dudley” was the first wife of passenger Stephen Hopkins (now identified as Mary Kent alias Back); and the false claim the Peter Brown of Windsor, Connecticut, was the son of the Mayflower passenger of the same name. (Brown of the Mayflower only had daughters.)Continue reading Mayflower hoaxes→
After my parents were married, my maternal grandmother gave my mother a dowry of a kind, one suited to her new life in New England: the gift of Boston cousins. My mother’s family was both Southern in background and, given my grandfather’s service in the Navy, coastal by experience, so the notion that my mother had Glidden cousins in Boston appealed to her. As it happens, other than her grandmother’s family in Baltimore, the sprawling Glidden family (originally from Maine) makes up the largest part of my mother’s near kin. Continue reading Fire and ice→