Baby Boy Hacht – Born July 1944 – Dead, or Kidnapped and Alive Today??

A baby boy who was never named was born in July 1944, in Detroit, Michigan.  The family believes that he was kidnapped and another dead baby substituted for Baby Boy Hacht.  While at first this sounds improbable, if not incredulous, it isn’t.

That child, if still living, would be 70 today.  So, if you or a male family member was born in the summer of 1944, in or near Detroit, please consider this possibility as you read this article.  It’s also possible that if the child was part of a black market baby ring, the birth location could have been falsified, so any birth in late July 1944 should be considered.

What Happened?

John James Hacht & Jean Marie Mlasko were married on November 18, 1942 in  Michigan.
hacht wedding

In 1943, Jean became pregnant, and in the heat of the summer in 1944, on July 29th, their first child, a boy was born at Grace Hospital, a Catholic hospital, in Detroit.

This date is very important, as is the fact that the hospital was Catholic as this story unfolds.

I met Patti Hacht, the sister of Baby Boy Hacht, in 2009.  We worked on this mystery for some time, but have hit a dead end.  Patti’s living brother tested at Family Tree DNA for the Y DNA and Patti has tested at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and at Ancestry for autosomal DNA.

I’ve asked Patti to tell this story in her own words.

On 29 July 1944 a first child was born to my parents – a son who never received a name other than Baby Boy Hacht (BBH.) BBH was born at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. My mom fed him for several days and then one day “medical personnel” came in and told her that her baby had died.

BBH had not been ill, and my dad’s sister worked at Grace Hospital. These three family members never believed BBH died. They always believed he was “switched” with another baby, one that really had died.  My mother did not see the baby after death, but my father did, and he never believed the dead child was his child.

When I first heard of BBH, I was in my mid-late 40’s. I was driving in the car with my mother one day as we were driving by White Chapel Cemetery, about a year before she died, and she casually said, “That’s where our first baby is buried,” then added, “but we never believed our baby died.”  I almost drove off the freeway!

First baby?

Died????

Didn’t die??

Wha…..???

It took me 3 years to find BBH at White Chapel.  As it turns out, he was not buried there.  He was cremated there, but his cremains were sent back to the funeral director.

Having been a family researcher for over 30 years, I went to the Detroit Vital Records Department to get a Death Certificate for BBH. As I walked away from the counter, reading this new document, I saw that BBH was listed as “stillborn.”

Stillborn???

That was impossible.

You can’t feed a stillborn baby for “several days.”

BBH Death

So I went back to the counter, hoping to find out what was going on with this “wrong” Death Certificate. The clerk suggested we look for a Birth Record.

Ten minutes later, we had that record, and it too stated that BBH was “stillborn.”  I later discovered that a stillborn baby never received a birth certificate at that time, only a death certificate.  In 2003, Michigan began issuing Certificates of Stillbirth in addition to death certificates.

BBH birth

On closer inspection, it was clear that the Certificate of Death had been heavily altered. Someone had taken what appeared to be a thin Scripto pen (which had not even been invented yet in 1944) and “wrote over” what had originally been written on the document. The written over date was “29”, the year was “44” and the time was “9:57 a.m.”

Additionally, except for the signatures, all of the other information for BBH was typed, except for the birth date and death information…almost like the death certificate was being pre-prepared.

BBH modification

I noticed another odd detail – BBH had been cremated. This was unheard of in this timeframe and was expressly prohibited by the Catholic church.  Grace was a Catholic hospital.  My parents were actively Catholic.  All of their children attended Catholic school.  White Chapel Cemetery, where the cremation occurred told me that they would have only cremated “maybe one person” a year in 1944, and never a newborn baby.

However, his certificate clearly states that BBH was cremated.

For several years I tried to find the funeral home, J. P. Miller on Van Dyke in Detroit. Apparently my parents never picked up BBH’s cremains, apparently because they believed he had been buried, and I wondered if I might find viable DNA in them.

After about four years, I talked with someone at the funeral home. It had been sold a couple times, and the man I spoke with was retiring the very day I had called. He said that any cremains that might have remained in the building would have been destroyed as the building had been abandoned for several years and the roof had collapsed, so the inside of the building was exposed to the elements for many years.

I wondered why my Catholic family would have cremated their child and why they never picked up the cremains or had them buried.  It makes sense only in the context that my parents never believed the dead child was their son and they sent the child’s remains who were substituted for their own child’s to be handled in the least expensive way possible.  They likely had no idea that the child’s cremains weren’t buried and were returned to the funeral home.  They never visited the grave because they never believed their child died.  Unfortunately, by the time all of the details unfolded, my parents had passed away and couldn’t be asked.

This was also a very difficult time for the family for other reasons as well.  My father’s mother was terminal with cancer and would die a couple of months later.  This young couple had their hands full.

For several years the family pondered over those “write overs” in BBH’s Certificate of Death. In April of 2006 we hired Speckin Forensic Laboratory in Okemos, Michigan to conduct a forensic exam on BBH’s original Death Certificate – we wanted to know what had been “written over.” Getting to the exam had been a lengthy process. I was appointed BBH’s Personal Representative in Probate Court, and we had to obtain a court order for the State of Michigan to allow the forensic exam.

The forensic exam showed three chemical erasures – someone used some sort of chemical to first try to “erase” what had originally been written. Then they just wrote right over those chemical erasures. The original writings were: Day, 31 July. (This had been overwritten to read “29” July); Time, 10:00 a.m. (This had been overwritten to read “9:57 a.m.) So the date was changed from 31 July to 29 July and the time was changed from 10 a.m. to 9:57 a.m.  The exam also clearly showed that the “overwritten” information was written with a different ink that the original writing.

Death Day Death Time
Original Entry July 31 10 AM
Overwritten Entry July 29 9:57 AM

It was the opinion of the examiner (who was a retired Michigan State Police Officer) that the Certificate of Death was probably altered to “match” BBH’s Certificate of Birth. There probably was a baby that died and for whatever reason, and this baby probably died on 31 July. Then BBH was “substituted” for this deceased baby, and records were created that would make BBH’s Certificate of Birth and Certificate of Death “match.”  If his birth and death date and time didn’t match, by three minutes, then he wasn’t “stillborn.”

speckin 1

speckin 2

The Detroit Legal News at that time published all the births in Wayne County. The males and females each had their own column, and the name and address of the mother was listed, along with the date of her child’s birth. I have compiled a list of about 200 male births in all of Wayne County from 27 July through 31 July. I believe one of these mothers took BBH home from the hospital and raised him as her own. She may have never known BBH was not her biological child.

I have been trying for years to narrow this list of 200+ names to ONLY babies born at Grace Hospital. All attempts to accomplish this have proved unsuccessful.  Hospital records reportedly “burned” several years ago.

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Parson’s Street in Detroit would have been the Church that handled emergency baptisms for babies born at Grace Hospital – babies that became ill and needed to be baptized immediately. The baby baptized would have been one of those babies on my list of 200+ names from the Detroit Legal News. St. Patrick’s records do not have a baptism for BBH or any of the other names on my list. I do not know if you had to be Catholic to deliver a baby at Grace Hospital. Perhaps the baby that really died was not born to Catholic parents, so there would not be a record of a Catholic baptism?  A stillborn baby is not baptized either.

We don’t know WHY Baby Boy Hacht was substituted for a deceased baby. Were the dead baby’s parents from an elite Detroit area family? A member of the Mob? Was it someone that hospital personnel was afraid to inform that their baby had died?  Were hospital personnel negligent with someone else’s baby and decided to switch the dead baby for BBH, thinking these were young parents and they could just have another baby the next year? Did BBH become part of a black market baby ring?  Why was the death certificate backdated to say that BBH was stillborn instead of having died 2 days later?

Or was there perhaps a widow whose husband had just been killed in WWII who  delivered a stillborn baby and doctors determined to “fix” the situation for a new widow? This last idea was nixed – as in 1944, the thinking was more “stiff upper lip” and people did not necessarily treat the bereaved gently.  The thinking of the day was to “get on with your life”, and giving a recent widow someone else’s baby didn’t mesh with that way of thinking.

Possibilities

If something wasn’t being covered up, then why were the dates and time changed, and why was a child who had lived for 2 days listed as stillborn?

Let’s take a look at scenarios of different possibilities.

  • One Time Baby Swap – The baby of another patient died or was stillborn on the 31st and BBH was swapped for that child. If this is the case, then the swap was unplanned and the mother was likely from the area. BBH’s paperwork was altered to reflect that he was the stillborn child, on the 29th, not on the 31st as originally recorded on his death certificate.
  • BBH Died of Natural Causes – If BBH simply died, the hospital would have completed a death certificate and not gone to the trouble to falsify his death certificate, claiming a still birth to match his birth certificate time and date.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by Hospital Staff – Let’s say someone on the hospital staff accidentally dropped the baby and the baby died. This might get sticky and making the death a stillbirth, which was much more common, would avoid any questions.
  • BBH Died of an Accident by His Parents – Let’s say one of his parents accidentally dropped the baby at the hospital and he died. In this case, the hospital would certainly not have been complicit in a coverup and would not have falsified the death certificate, nor claimed that the child was stillborn. There would have been a death certificate that reflected the actual death date and cause, and not a stillbirth.
  • BBH Was Part of a Larger Baby Market Ring – In this case, the couple who raised BBH as their own would not have necessarily been from the Detroit area. Young and naïve parents would have been the best targets as they would be less likely to ask questions and/or make waves. This would also have required the involvement of at least one doctor (to sign death certificates) and more likely several medical personnel including nurses. However, this would have been much more effective if the child was simply spirited away at birth and the parents told the child was dead, not after the parents having handled the child for “several days.” Given that BBH’s paternal aunt worked at that hospital, if there was something of this nature, you would think that over the years she would have at least heard rumblings, especially given that the family, including her, believed that BBH had been swapped for a dead child.

Either the One Time Baby Swap or the Accidental Death by Hospital Staff make the most sense.  If the BBH was swapped, as his parents and family believed, then he may be alive today.

It’s very possible that the parents who raised BBH had no idea what happened, and therefore, neither does BBH himself.

Babies Born in Detroit

I asked Patti to provide the various documents involved, as well as the names of the other families who were listed as having given birth in the Detroit area in the surrounding days.

It’s most likely that the baby that died passed away on July 31st and that BBH’s death certificate was amended on July 31st, as the original writing stated, to reflect that he was stillborn on July 29th instead.  Although, I certainly have to wonder if the doctor who signed as the attending physician didn’t think that the parents would have noticed at the discrepancy – especially since the child had been attended by his parents for part of the 29th, the 30th and the 31st until he “died.”  At that time, however, one simply did not question someone like a doctor.

Perhaps the amendment was actually done after the doctor signed the original death certificate, but that is unlikely, because a cause of death would have been completed by the doctor and there is no other cause of death listed other than stillborn, which was unquestionably not true.

In any event, this first list is the list of surnames of families whose children were born in Wayne County on July 31st.  The 31st is the most likely day for the baby who was stillborn to have been born since that is the original death certificate date on BBH’s death certificate.  There is no way to determine which of these babies were born at Grace Hospital.

Also, please keep in mind that this list is very likely incomplete – births of illegitimate children and children who died weren’t listed.  Others, such as famous or notorious people, may not have been listed either.  The hospital was very clearly in control of which births were submitted for publication, and which were not – and if there was something “funny” about the birth of BBH or the other child – or the parents were famous or infamous, that birth may not have been listed.  It’s also possible that the parents who wound up with BBH were not from Detroit.

  • Akin
  • Bailey
  • Bennett
  • Boytim
  • Brow
  • Bruce
  • Cappo
  • Craver
  • Davis
  • Dellamore
  • Dinneweth
  • Downes
  • DuBois
  • Elmasian
  • Faron
  • Fletcher
  • Flood
  • Gampel
  • Grandmaison
  • Harter
  • Hicks
  • Hill
  • Jones
  • Karas
  • Kekaha
  • Koblicz
  • Kraemer
  • Liss.
  • Mitchell
  • Nadolny
  • Pospeshil
  • Quiroz
  • Ready
  • Rotenberg
  • Rutzel
  • Shoemaker
  • Shoemaker
  • Smith
  • Stallings
  • Swartz
  • Thompson
  • William
  • Zimostrad

This second list includes the surnames of all of the babies born in Wayne County between July 27 and July 31, 1944 with the municipality as listed in the birth announcements in the newspaper.

7/30 Acker Detroit
7/30 Ackerman East Detroit
7/31 Akin Detroit
7/29 Anderson Detroit
7/29 Ash Detroit
7/31 Bailey Dearborn
7/27 Bartlett
7/28 Bawiee Detroit
7/27 Bazell Detroit
7/27 Beninati Detroit
7/31 Bennett Detroit
7/29 Bills Detroit
7/30 Blankenship Detroit
7/28 Bobo Detroit
7/27 Bombalski Detroit
7/30 Bond Detroit
7/28 Boorgois Gr. Pte Woods
7/28 Bourgeois Detroit
7/28 Bowman Detroit
7/29 Bowser Detroit
7/29 Boyce Detroit
7/29 Boyd Detroit
7/31 Boytim Centerline
7/29 Brantley Detroit
7/30 Brenner Detroit
7/27 Briggs Detroit
7/31 Brow Hazel Park
7/28 Brown Detroit
7/27 Brownlee Detroit
7/31 Bruce Detroit
7/30 Burchby Detroit
7/27 Burges Detroit
7/28 Burley Highland Park
7/30 Canfield Detroit
7/31 Cappo Dearborn
7/29 Carswell Detroit
7/27 Chobot Dearborn
7/28 Ciavone Detroit
7/27 Clifton Detroit
7/27 Coba Dearborn
7/29 Common Detroit
7/28 Cook Redford
7/27 Cooper Detroit
7/31 Craver Detroit
7/28 Crichton Detroit
7/29 Cromwell Grosse Pointe
7/27 Cummins Detroit
7/27 Davidson Detroit
7/28 Davio Detroit
7/31 Davis Detroit
7/31 Dellamore Detroit
7/28 Dennis Detroit
7/27 Deraedt Detroit
7/29 Dilda Detroit
7/31 Dinneweth Detroit
7/28 Donati Detroit
7/31 Downes Detroit
7/31 DuBois Detroit
7/27 Dunn Detroit
7/27 Earl Detroit
7/28 Ehrisman Detroit
7/28 Eldridge Ferndale
7/31 Elmasian Detroit
7/29 Engel Detroit
7/28 Ettinger Detroit
7/29 Fane Detroit
7/31 Faron Detroit
7/28 Fenstermacher Detroit
7/31 Fletcher Detroit
7/31 Flood Inkster
7/27 Fontana Detroit
7/29 Fung Yee Detroit
7/31 Gampel Detroit
7/29 Garrett Detroit
7/30 George Detroit
7/28 Glasnier Detroit
7/28 Gondos Detroit
7/31 Grandmaison Detroit
7/29 Greggie Birmingham
7/28 Griem Detroit
7/27 Gualdoni Detroit
7/30 Gunderson Detroit
7/29 Gurski Detroit
7/30 Hagerstrom Detroit
7/28 Harris Detroit
7/31 Harter Detroit
7/27 Haugh Detroit
7/27 Heiner Detroit
7/31 Hicks Detroit
7/28 Higgens Detroit
7/31 Hill North Carolina
7/30 Hillier Redford
7/27 Husak Detroit
7/28 Hussett Detroit
7/30 Ilby Plymouth
7/29 Jackson Detroit
7/30 Jackson Inkster
7/30 Jerimias Royal Oak
7/31 Jones Detroit
7/27 Jorden Detroit
7/30 Jozsa Detroit
7/28 July Van Dyke (??)
7/27 Kaczmarczyk Detroit
7/29 Kampa Detroit
7/31 Karas Detroit
7/30 Kaump Detroit
7/31 Kekaha Hazel Park
7/27 Kibler Detroit
7/27 Kilgore Highland Park
7/27 Kipp Royal Oak
7/31 Koblicz Detroit
7/27 Koerber Detroit
7/28 Kolongowski Detroit
7/31 Kraemer Detroit
7/27 Kuczenski Detroit
7/30 Kujawski Detroit
7/28 LaRose Detroit
7/28 Larsen Detroit
7/28 Leland Detroit
7/29 Lennert Detroit
7/29 Lightle Wyandotte
7/30 Lisiecki Hamtramak
7/31 Liss. Dearborn
7/30 Lovince Hamtramak
7/29 Lubs Allen Park
7/30 Lucey Grosse Pt. Park
7/27 Lupo Detroit
7/28 Malczyk Detroit
7/28 Maloney Detroit
7/29 Martin Detroit
7/30 Martin Detroit
7/30 Matley Detroit
7/30 Mattei Detroit
7/29 Mc Flgunn Detroit
7/28 Mc Millan Detroit
7/30 Meisner Detroit
7/27 Mitchell Detroit
7/28 Mitchell Grosse Pointe
7/29 Mitchell Ferndale
7/31 Mitchell Detroit
7/29 Moore Farmington
7/30 Moore Farmington
7/30 Morehead Inkster
7/27 Moses Detroit
7/31 Nadolny Allen Park
7/27 Neilson Detroit
7/30 Neu. Detroit
7/29 Noder Detroit
7/28 Nowakowski Detroit
7/27 Or Detroit
7/28 Pacult Detroit
7/29 Palmer Berkley
7/29 Parker Inkster
7/30 Parr Detroit
7/29 Peguese Detroit
7/29 Perri Dearborn
7/31 Pospeshil Detroit
7/30 Powell Detroit
7/27 Prange Detroit
7/31 Quiroz Detroit
7/27 Rabidue Detroit
7/30 Randolph Detroit
7/27 Ranin Detroit
7/31 Ready Detroit
7/29 Reiss Detroit
7/28 Rey Mt. Clemens
7/30 Rhodes Detroit
7/28 Richardson Detroit
7/27 Roberts Detroit
7/31 Rotenberg Detroit
7/28 Roush Detroit
7/31 Rutzel Detroit
7/30 Ryback Detroit
7/29 Rychlicki Detroit
7/29 Scafero Detroit
7/29 Schart Detroit
7/27 Schneider Detroit
7/30 Scott Detroit
7/28 Serling Detroit
7/29 Sevener Grosse Pt. Park
7/29 Shackney Detroit
7/27 Shipley Ferndale
7/31 Shoemaker Farmington
7/31 Shoemaker Detroit
7/28 Sievert Dearborn
7/29 Simm Detroit
7/27 Slavko Detroit
7/28 Smith Detroit
7/29 Smith Detroit
7/31 Smith Detroit
7/30 Springer Detroit
7/31 Stallings Detroit
7/27 Stanton Detroit
7/29 Stefanic Detroit
7/28 Steiner Detroit
7/29 Stepulla Hamtramak
7/27 Stoven Detroit
7/31 Swartz Detroit
7/28 Tekel Melvindale
7/27 Terhaar Detroit
7/31 Thompson Detroit
7/28 Towe Detroit
7/29 Tromburrini Detroit
7/28 Trouttchaud Dearborn
7/27 Turner Detroit
7/27 Vitagliano Detroit
7/27 Voss Detroit
7/27 Watkins Detroit
7/29 Watson Hazel Park
7/30 Wenban Detroit
7/29 Westland Detroit
7/27 Wheeler Detroit
7/29 Whitman Detroit
7/31 William Detroit
7/28 Williams Detroit
7/30 Williams Detroit
7/29 Winfrey Detroit
7/29 Winters Detroit
7/28 Wolfbauer East Detroit
7/29 Wright Pleasant Ridge
7/30 Wyka Detroit
7/27 Yeszin Detroit
7/28 Yokubison Detroit
7/27 Zielinski Detroit
7/31 Zimostrad Wayne
7/30 Zink Birmingham
7/27 Zoulets Royal Oak

For additional information, contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about each family from the birth announcements.

What Might Baby Boy Hacht Have Looked Like?

This first photo is of two of BBH’s siblings, as children.

Patti & Jimmy Hacht

This second photo is of the 4 Hacht siblings as adults.

Colleen, Mark (back) Jimmy & Patti Hacht

Contact

If you think you might be Baby Boy Hacht, or might know of someone who would be a candidate – please contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  Patti does have additional information about these families, such as the mother’s first name and the addresses.

If you would like to DNA test first to see if you match Patti’s brother’s Y DNA or Patti’s family by autosomal DNA, please test at Family Tree DNA.

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son intact and is what makes males male.  BBH carries his father’s Y chromosome and BBH’s sons would carry his.

Autosomal DNA is contributed to a child from both parents.  The child receives half of the DNA of both of his parents.  You can read more about how DNA is used for genetic genealogy here.

The Y DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or a his male child or male grandchild through a son will match that of Patti’s brother.  The autosomal DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or his children or grandchildren of any gender will match with Patti and her family.

If you would like to DNA test, we recommend the 37 marker Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA for males and the Family Finder autosomal test for either gender

Here’s the link if you’re interested.

The Gift…A Hickerson Cousin

garland

Merry Christmas to Me.

Merry Christmas to Me.

Yep, I’m singing a fine little ditty today.

You see, I received a gift….a really special gift….all thanks to DNA and a cousin.

Well, actually the cousin IS the gift.

Let me explain.

I met a new cousin thanks to a DNA match between the Hickersons and the Vannoy brood.

Bill Hickerson matches one of our Vannoy cousins, and since we have been trying, for years, to prove (or disprove) that Sarah Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy were the parents of Elijah Vannoy, you’ll understand my excitement when I saw William Hickerson’s match to one of our Vannoy cousins…and subsequent excitement when more matches were discovered, confirming our Hickerson roots.

But this story was just beginning.

When I contacted Bill, he was very receptive and e-mailed me right away.

He and I exchanged pleasantries for a bit, and then got down to brass tacks.

  • Who are you?
  • How do you connect?
  • What do you have?
  • I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.

Yep, that’s the reader’s digest version of conversations between genealogists, genetic and otherwise, researching the same lines.

Except, this time I didn’t have much in the treasure trove…and he had a lot…starting with his genealogy.

Bill is double descended from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, the parents of both Sarah Hickerson, my ancestor, and his ancestor, David Hickerson.

WooHooo….in DNA parlance this means that he got a double dose of Hickerson DNA and that he stands a better chance of passing some of it on than if he only had one dose.

Bill then asked if I was interested in old letters…he had some old letters and he would send them if he could find them.

ARE YOU KIDDING?

YES!!!

Now, I’ve heard this before in the past and it often means the letters are never found, so I try not to get too excited.  But not in Bill’s case.  He found them the same day.

And if you’re wondering why I think this is so exciting, take a look at this paragraph….

hickerson letter

Then, when we were in the process of figuring out who has what, he mentioned that he has the marriage bond of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.

THE MARRIAGE BOND!!!

THE REAL ONE?

WITH SIGNATURES?

Oh Happy Day.

Not only that, but he found it as well.

Vannoy Hickerson marriage bond

Oh yea…..Bill is a keeper….that’s for sure.

I asked Bill if he has ever been back to Wilkes County, NC and if he knew where Charles’ land was located, as Charles sold it to his son David, Bill’s ancestor, before he died.

Next thing I knew, in my e-mail was Charles Hickerson’s land grant.

Charles Hickerson land grant 2

Can you see me doing the happy dance????

Snoopy happy dance

Not only is there a lot of joy in finding your ancestors, there is also a lot of joy in finding your cousins.  Cousins who are willing to share are a blessing.

When I asked Bill if I could write about this experience, using him as a “good example,” here was his reply.

“It’s important for us to encourage sharing family history information. It’s a nice way of giving back and honoring all the researchers of the past who’ve been so generous with their time and expertise.”

I can tell you, I really REALLY like my new cousin.  It’s such a breath of fresh air to find people with such good information and so very willing to share.

But then, it got even better yet, as if that was even possible… because Bill mentioned that his father might be willing to do the Family Finder test, which would put us one generation further back.

HIS FATHER.  Who hooo..

OMG!!!

HIS FATHER…who has now agreed to DNA test.

I really, REALLY hope Bill is on Santa’s “good example” list, because he truly deserves to be.

I think Bill IS my Christmas present…along with the land grant and marriage bond!

Here’s hoping you get a wonderful new cousin for Christmas too!!!

garland

All New Mystery Coupons – Week 4 Family Tree DNA Holiday Sale

will work for dna tests

Great news!  All new coupons this week for everyone at Family Tree DNA, so check your mystery gift box on your personal page.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a store that says “10 days until Chrismas.”  Ah, the panic begins.

It’s easy and convenient to shop online.  And of course, sales and coupons sweeten the pie.

I’ve found several cousins to DNA test.  Those cousin tests have proven again and again to be the key to answering genetic genealogy questions and breaking down brick walls.

In fact, I’ve bought so many kits for others that I’m beginning to think that “Will Work for DNA Tests” is somehow appropriate – that’s how it feels anyway.

Lots of good coupon trading going on….so click here to sign on and post what you have or what you need in the comments.

As for me, I still need two $20 Family Finder coupons because yes, there are MORE cousins to test!!!  I sure am grateful for this sale and these coupons!  I hope everyone is going testing crazy – just think how many more people will be in the matching data base soon!!!

Barbara Jean Ferverda (1922-2006), Mother’s Gifts that Keep on Giving, 52 Ancestors #50

Barbara Jean Ferverda

The holidays always make me think of my mother.  My father died when I was 7 years old in a car accident, so I was always close to my mother, although I believe I am probably singularly responsible for every grey hair on her head.  Most of them appeared in my teenage years!!!

Mom Blue Lick Well crop

In this picture, Mom and I discovered the Blue Lick well that her grandfather, Curtis Lore drilled in Aurora Indiana.  She is leaning on the pump.  We had some wonderful genealogy adventures, after I outgrew (and survived) being a teenager!

Without my father and his family’s cultural influence, all of my traditions and customs were formed by my mother, and therefore by her family.

My mother was born in northern Indiana in Amish country to Edith Barbara Lore and John Whitney Ferverda.

Mother’s father’s parents were Hiram Ferverda who was born in the Netherlands to Mennonite parents who converted to the Brethren faith upon arrival in the US and Evaline Louise Miller who was Brethren and descended from many generations of Brethren ancestors.  The Mennonite and Brethren are both Anabaptist faiths who believe that only adults can be Baptized when they are old enough to understand the scripture.  In that part of Indiana, the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish communities are intermixed to some extent, living in the same area.  These religions also tend to believe in pietism, non-violence, including not serving in the military.

Mother’s mother’s father was Curtis Benjamin Lore, the well-driller, the son of an Acadian father, Antoine Lore (Lord), and Rachel Hill, his wife of English heritage from Addison County, Vermont.  Rachel’s parents were Joseph Hill, son of John Hill and Catherine Mitchell who came from New Hampshire and Nabby, whose parents may have been Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson from Connecticut.

Mother’s mother’s mother was Nora Kirsch, a daughter of German immigrants, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Dreschel, proprietors of the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana.

This mix of cultures is actually quite interesting.  Of the groups, three, the Brethren, Mennonite and Acadians are quite endogamous, meaning heavily intermarried.  Jacob Kirsch from the Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim area of Germany is also very probably from an endogamous group, because there was no one to marry in these little villages except your cousins, and the church records are full of cousin marriages between the same families for generations.

It’s very rewarding to be able to read about a specific population or religious group, like the Brethren or Acadians, and understand about your ancestors.  Conversely, it’s absolutely maddening when working with DNA to match everyone else who descends from that same group.  Oh, the ying and yang of genealogy.

Mom 2 gen pedigree

The good news about the DNA is that I can generally match someone to at least my mother’s grandparent level pretty easily and there isn’t much ambiguity.

When I was growing up, I never thought about family traditions as being cultural or having a “source.”  Christmas was always Christmas and it was just the way it was and had always been.  Didn’t everyone celebrate Christmas the same way our family did, other than attending different churches???

In fact, it really wasn’t until after I had been a genealogist for a long time that I realized that our holiday traditions are very likely descended from our ancestors, perhaps slightly changed in each generation, and that we can learn something about our ancestors from those traditions.

In general, when you’re evaluating traditions, first look towards the mother’s family.  Historically, the mother is the homemaker, the cook and she will be passing on the recipes and traditions celebrated in her family.  Now, that doesn’t mean that some of Dad’s haven’t been incorporated too – especially if his family lived nearby.

In our family, Christmas Eve was the big family celebration day.  I remember Mom standing by the window in the kitchen over the sink anxiously watching the roads until the entire family was accounted for.  The weather wasn’t always wonderful and the worse the weather, the more pacing and looking out the window Mom did.

Everyone in the extended family arrived, generally with a side dish in hand, and the day was spent eating and visiting, with a gift exchange in the evening.  Often, when there were young kids, Santa would arrive, generally after dark, and asked the kids what they wanted, handing out sweet treats and admonishing them to be good.

Where might that tradition have come from?

As it turns out, Christmas Eve is the big celebration day in Germany.  Family arrives, food is eaten all day…sound familiar?  In addition, the Christmas Tree was secretly decorated by the mother – as it was in our household too.

Christmas Day was much quieter, with gifts only between the parents and children – although sometimes I wouldn’t exactly have called it quiet with paper ripping and excited squeals when the contents were revealed.  Indeed, it’s amazing how Santa always knew exactly what each child wanted, even things they forgot to tell him!

Of course, Santa came during the night on Christmas Eve and gifts from Santa awaited both naughty and good children on Christmas Day underneath the tree.  I know that’s true, because my brother always received gifts, in spite of himself.  Santa, by the name of “Kerstman” or “Christman Man” is a Dutch tradition.  The Germans have the tradition of the religious figure, Saint Nicholas, as well but by the late 1900s, Santa Claus had become quintessentially American.  In other words, I don’t think the Santa tradition was handed down in our family from any particular culture, but from how the American culture evolved as a whole.  After all, who doesn’t love a magical jolly good elf wearing a red suit that brings presents!

The Mennonites were much more practical, not utilizing wrapping paper for gifts and shying away from anything commercial or decorative or that might detract from the birth of Christ.  So, no Christmas tree, no paper, no decorations…nada.  But remember, my Mennonite family became Brethren in the 1800s. I bet their kids were thrilled!

The Brethren seemed to be more traditionally German.  They included candles and a five pointed star to symbolize the birth of Christ.  My Brethren family was probably very liberal for the Brethren faith.  I base that statement up on the fact that two of my grandfather’s brothers served in the military and his father held public office, a typical Brethren no-no because it required swearing an oath.  However, they were active church members and my grandfather’s father and his wife are both buried in the Brethren church cemetery.

Candles were a part of Christmas at home and at my grandmother’s.  A village scene which included a crèche or manger scene was set up on the top of the piano and candles were part of the display, as well as in windows.  The window candles were lit as dusk approached.  In later years, window candles were replaced with electrical candles in wreaths.  As candles became commercially available in shapes such as pine trees, reindeer and even Santa Claus, those types of candles were incorporated into the piano-top village scene, replacing the traditional candles.

My mother’s Brethren grandmother lived until 1939 when my mother was age 17, so Mom would assuredly have been exposed to whatever traditions took place in her family.  The Brethren typically did not celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving elaborately, if at all, outside of religious services, gathering and eating, which was both the Brethren and Mennonite answer for every occasion.

As I looked for Acadian Christmas cultural traditions, everything I found involved food, and in particular, meat pies called tourtiere.  My family did not make these pies, but my mother made a similar dish with chicken instead of pork, but not specifically for the holidays.  However, I recognized another Acadian traditional item from our family holidays – Nun Farts.  Yep, Nun Farts, or in French, pets de soeurs.

SONY DSC

Now, my grandmother would never have said that f word, so they were certainly not called that in my family.  In fact, I’m sure she just rolled over in her grave.  In our family, they were called something like Pettyswars.

However, I’d recognize them anyplace.  My mother modified them a bit by drizzling different concoctions over the top…maple syrup, powdered sugar icing or chocolate, my mother’s answer to everything.  I can’t find a recipe for these in Mom’s recipe box either, so I’m guessing this was handed down orally, or the recipe was lost.  I think she made these with scrap pie dough, so she didn’t need a recipe.  She just used whatever was handy.

The Acadian heritage was a generation further back in the family.  While this seems to be the only tradition I recognize, there may be a reason, aside from cultural attrition.  You see, Antoine Lore left his Acadian family in Canada in the early 1830s for a less volatile area…Vermont, where he married Rachel Hill who appears to have descended from early English colonists.

Antoine’s mother, Marie Lafaille had committed the heinous error in judgment, at least by Acadian standards, of becoming Protestant.  This conversion created a huge rift in the family, driving a wedge between her and her husband, Honore Lore, and dividing the children into two camps – Protestant and Catholic.  In fact, her husband would not attend her funeral and she was buried alone, not with the family in the Catholic cemetery, by the Methodist missionaries.  By that time, son Antoine had already left and had been married in Vermont to Rachel for 5 years.  To the best of my knowledge, he never embraced any religion.

Perhaps Rachel made these Christmas pastries for Antoine.  Perhaps they were one of his good memories, before the Big Divide.  Rachel died when her son Curtis was about 10 years old, so maybe this family recipe brought him comfort as well, reminding him of his mother.

One of the common themes among these cultures is the tradition of sweets and candy for children, before or at Christmas, and in Germany in particular, days were set aside for baking.

When I was young, my mother and I would begin making cookies and candy after Thanksgiving but before Christmas.  It was something we planned for and looked forward to.  We would make and decorate the cookies and give assortments for gifts in colorful Christmas tins.  I never thought of this as cultural, more as economic, but I now realize it was indeed the extension of a tradition from her childhood.  We used my grandmother’s cookie cutters and cookie press.

Christmas cookies

The assortment looked something like this, and I especially liked making the green Christmas trees and decorating them with garland made out of candy beads.

Recently, I was talking to my cousin, Cheryl, about Christmas customs when she was young.  Cheryl’s father and my mother’s father were brothers, and they lived across the street from each other most of their adult lives.

Cheryl shared with me that they too had their main celebration on Christmas Eve.  Cheryl and my mother shared the Dutch Mennonite and Brethren grandparents.

And then Cheryl mentioned the tradition of a pickle on the tree.  A pickle?  Really?  Hmmm…..maybe that explains why my grandmother had a pickle ornament.  But I had no idea why.

Catholic Supply of St. Louis, who sells pickle ornaments of course, tells us this, “In Old World Germany, the last decoration placed on the Christmas Tree was always a pickle…carefully hidden deep in the boughs. Legend has it that the observant child who found it on Christmas Day was blessed with a year of good fortune…and a special gift.”

Wiki, however, tells us a slightly different story.

This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany and be referred to as a Weihnachtsgurke, but this is probably apocryphal. In fact, the tradition is largely unknown in Germany. It has been suggested that the origin of the Christmas pickle may have been developed for marketing purposes in the 1890s to coincide with the importation of glass Christmas tree decorations from Germany. Woolworths was the first company to import these types of decorations into the United States in 1890, and glass blown decorative vegetables were imported from France from 1892 onwards. Despite the evidence showing that the tradition did not originate in Germany, the concept of Christmas pickles has since been imported from the United States and they are now on sale in the country traditionally associated with it.

Whether it was originally a German tradition or not, it’s clearly a tradition in Cheryl’s line of the family now, although my grandmother’s pickle ornament has disappeared along the way.

pickle ornament

Now, truthfully, I had never though anything much about that pickle ornament.  My family was prone to hang just about anything on a Christmas tree, so a pickle didn’t really stand out.

For example, a green hippopotamus.  This is my bathtub toy from when I was a child, so Mom stuck it in the tree, and it’s still in the tree every year today.

green hippo

When the light bulbs burned out, my grandmother made ornaments out of them.

tree light ornament

In fact, I accidentally started a new tradition when I hung my children’s first baby shoes on the tree.  Now those children have hung their children’s shoes on their trees too.

baby shoe ornament

After Mom passed away, I realized that I was the only one left who knew anything at all about the stories surrounding the various Christmas ornaments.

One ornament, Baby New Year, still had the date of 1940 on his back in grease pencil.  Mom said they changed it every year – but since 1940 was the year she graduated from high school, I’m guessing it was Mom that changed the year and she got distracted and never did it again.

Baby New Year

I knew if I didn’t write these stories down that they would be lost forever, so I decided to create a memory book for my family.  I photographed all of the ornaments while putting them away one year.  I wrote what I knew about each ornament, put the stories along with their photo into a Word document, and gave both of my children a book of family ornaments for the following Christmas.  Hopefully, this will help preserve these memories and heritage.

Grandmother's ornament

This ornament isn’t extraordinarily beautiful, but it is in evidence on my grandmother’s tree in the 1950s, below – near the top at right.  See it?

Grandmother's tree

You can also see it on Mom’s tree from the 1970s – dead center front slightly left – forgive those horrid drapes but they were very stylish at the time.

Mother's tree

Here is the same ornament on my tree a few years ago, plus 3 or 4 more of grandmother’s in the picture.  Notice the cat???  That’s a family tradition too!  You can tell she had been playing with some of the decorations.

my tree

As I was looking through the ornaments, I found one that I made for Mom the year that she won Best of Show at the Indiana State Fair.  Now this was a REALLY big deal.  To enter the state fair, you had to win a special “State Fair” ribbon on the county level, then you could enter that item into the State Fair.  A reception was held the evening before the State Fair opened for all entrants so that you could come and see if you had won, or placed.  In the middle of the exhibition hall, for the full length of the building, was a row of tables, end to end, full of the desserts that were entered in the cooking categories.  They were served to the entrants.  What were you going to do with hundreds of cakes and pies, otherwise?

It was difficult for me to attend with Mom, because it was always on a weeknight and I lived out of state, but often, one of my children went with her.  In 1989, she won a Best of Show for her crocheting and I made her a Christmas ornament to celebrate.  What fun we had and what wonderful memories for me and for my children too…although I do admit I shed a lot of tears decorating the Christmas tree every year.

Best of Show ornament

Another year, I created a different heirloom gift for my children.  I took mother’s recipes from her recipe box and scanned them into a document.  Then, I wrote about my memories of that particular recipe.

Mom's recipe box

There are wonderful memories in that box.  My children used to go and visit my folks on the farm for a week at a time in the summer – generally in August when it was “fair time.”  They have memories of recopying recipes for my Mom at the kitchen table while she cooked, when she had soiled a recipe card, like this original gingerbread recipe.  Lots of good memories in those spots on the cards.  Mom often made gingerbread at Thanksgiving – with homemade whipped cream of course!

Mom had recopied this recipe, so I have the older one with the note about her mother, and the newer one – both obviously used!

gingerbread recipe

This gobbledygook recipe is served over angel food cake, but when you serve it, not ahead of time as an icing or it soaks in and makes the cake soggy.  This recipe was recopied when my daughter was in elementry school, but it’s one of her staples for carry-ins now that she is an adult.

gobbledegook

Carmel popcorn balls is in my handwriting as a teen.

carmel popcorn balls

Ummm, yum…. popcorn balls – those were a Christmas tradition – from my step-Dad’s side of the family.  I remember Dad making popcorn for the balls in the popcorn popper on the stove, similar to this one. I have it someplace.

popcorn popper

Then, after he made the candy, he would grease his hands and use wax paper to handle the hop popcorn and hot candy and form it into balls.

beer bread recipe

Beer bread anyone?  This recipe, in Mom’s handwriting, is wonderful toasted with some butter and home made applesauce.  Mom made beer bread loaves, wrapped them in aluminum foil, put a red bow on the top and gave them for gifts.  She always had a couple of spare gifts like this put aside, just in case unexpected company arrived.  No one left empty-handed at Christmas.  You should have heard her, a Baptist church deacon, trying to justify why she was buying 2 or 3 six-packs of beer!

I can’t leave the topic of Christmas traditions without talking about Turtle Soup.  No, not with real turtle.  Mom always used to say, “Turtle Soup, well, it’s really mock-turtle soup.”  My grandmother used veal and then as veal turned into an ethical issue, Mom used some type of beef bones with meat.

The Turtle Soup tradition came to the US with one of mother’s German great-grandparents, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, from Germany.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

Jacob and Barbara established the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana, on the Ohio River near Cincinnati.  The Kirsch House was located beside the train station just a couple blocks above the pier where the steam boats docked – a prime location not likely to flood but readily accessible to travelers.  The Kirsch House had a bar and facilities that would be similar to a bed and breakfast today.  The family lived there as well.  A beer and a bowl of turtle soup for dinner cost 10 cents.

Every Tuesday Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made (mock) turtle soup.  People in Aurora would order it in advance, and when the soup was finished, Barbara would ladle it into buckets.  The four Kirsch daughters, including mother’s grandmother, Nora, all born within a decade, would take their wagon, pulling it along the sidewalks, and deliver the buckets of soup to the residents.  When you finished your soup, you would return your bucket to the Kirsch House.

Nora’s daughter, Edith, my mother’s mother, went to live with her grandmother, Barbara, after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Edith was then a part of the turtle soup making process on Tuesdays.  That tradition lived as long as the Kirsch House, which closed in the 1920s when Barbara, then in her 70s, could no longer manage everything herself.

We’re fortunate to have a recipe for turtle soup on Kirsch House stationary.  Well, I’m using the word recipe loosely.  Clearly Barbara did not need a recipe or a reminder of any kind.  This document is reportedly in her handwriting but reads more like a stream of consciousness conversation than a recipe as we think of it.

I also have a turtle soup recipe written by my grandmother which was a bit different, and a third one written by my mother that is different yet.  I think each generation modified it a bit according to what they had available and perhaps to taste.  Like cultural traditions, recipes evolved too.

turtle soup 1

turtle soup 2

Notice that the letterhead says the proprietor is Mrs. B. Kirsch, so we know this was written after Jacob’s death in 1917.  It must have been unusual at that time to see a female listed as a proprietor.  A margin note says “Mawmaw’s recipe” at the top.  In my family, the grandmother was always called “Mawmaw” although that tradition has not extended to my grand-children’s generation, so I guess there will be no more Mawmaws in the family.  This recipe could have been written by Barbara, her daughter Nora or her daughter Edith who was staying with her after Jacob died.  I doubt that it was Edith because we have a different recipe, in different handwriting that was hers, and my brother who lived with Edith at one time verified her handwriting.  If it was written by Barbara or Nora, it suggests that the recipe probably came through Barbara’s family in Goppsmannbuhl, not the Kirsch family from Mutterstadt/Fussgoenheim.

Several years ago, I met a cousin, also descended from one of the Kirsch daughters.  She too had a super-secret copy of the turtle soup recipe which she absolutely would not share because it was a closely guarded family secret.  I explained to her that I didn’t need the recipe, but that I just wanted to see how it might differ from the 3 that I already had.  No dice.

Kirsch House Bar

In the 1980s, my mother and my daughter and I went to Aurora, Indiana to hopefully find the Kirsch House and connect with our heritage.  At that time, it was an Italian restaurant.  Miracle of miracles, the original bar installed by Jacob Kirsch was still there.  Jim and I stopped a few years ago, and the building is gravely deteriorated and the bar was gone.  I would have purchased that bar.  It would have looked great in my living room!

On the top of that bar, the current owners had decoupaged old postcards of Aurora, including one of the building in earlier days, at right, beside the train depot, at left.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch always fed the hobos who rode the trains too, at the back door of the Kirsch House.

Kirsch House postcard

I’m so glad that the three of us made the trip to Aurora together.  There weren’t many.  Mom worked until she was 83 before she agreed to retire, and only then because of her health.  By then, it was too late to do much genealogy travel.

Making turtle soup became a Christmas tradition.  In my family, my uncle, Mom’s brother, loved turtle soup.  He too was raised on it as a special family treat.  My brother and I both loved it, as did Mom, but no one else really cared much for it. For one thing, it didn’t look terribly appealing.  I made it this week, and to me, this looks wonderful, but maybe not so much if you’re just looking at it for the first time.

Turtle soup bowl

From the time I was little, after my grandmother died, when I was 5, I remember Mom preparing to make turtle soup.  While Barbara Drechsel Kirsch made it weekly, we made it occasionally, and it was always a process.  This soup took 2 days to make.

First, you boiled the meat and the vegetables together for a few hours.  Then you removed the meat and boiled the vegetables to death.  The vegetables were then removed and thrown away.  That was day 1.  On day 2, the meat was ground in a meat grinder, along with hard boiled eggs, and added to the broth with browned flower, spices and wine.  Everything German has wine.  When the soup was finished, lemons were peeled and then sliced and the slices were floated on the top of the soup.

I inherited Mom’s meat grinder, which she inherited from her mother as well.  It looks something like this, except older, much older.  I still remember cranking the grinder.  We would bolt it to the table and one person would hold it steady while the other person cranked.  This is much easier described than done, I might add.  Four hands and not much space.

meat grinder

As a child, I got to help by browning the flower.  That was my special job.  Mom would pull a chair up to the stove and I would get to stir the flower in the cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon until it browned.  You had to stir all the time to keep it from sticking or burning.  I was SO HAPPY to get to do that, because it meant I was a big girl.  It was a hot job but I would never complain because that would mean I’d lose the privilege.

Because turtle soup was such a treat, Mom froze it and gave it as Christmas gifts to family members, right along with those tins of cookies or beer bread.  She also made summer sausage as gifts.  Nothing German about this family.

Mom made turtle soup up until her last year or two, and I helped her those years.  The kettle became too heavy for her to lift.  I have her kettle too.

I miss the turtle soup. I’ve never made it alone.  The memory always seemed too raw, but the turtle soup craving is just about to overtake the painful memories and this just might be the year.  I can freeze it and have lunches for months.  There is no one left to give it to as a gift.

Yes, I think I’ll make turtle soup for Christmas this year!  Maybe my grandkids will like it.

Update:  I made the turtle soup and it came out simply wonderful.  Mom would be proud. You can’t make a little bit of this recipe, so I’ll be freezing it and having it for lunches all winter!!  In a way, I’ll be having lunch with Mom.

Turtle soup pot 2

As I look at the holiday traditions, mostly the food, they are full of cultural memories and hidden information.

However, one of the very best gifts that my mother ever gave me was to agree to test her DNA.  Seldom a day goes by that I don’t silently thank her – and I’m not being facetious – I’m dead serious.

By having Mom’s and my DNA both, I can tell when someone matches me autosomally, immediately, onto which side of the family they fall. If they match me and Mom both, then obviously they are from her side.  From there, they often fall into the Acadian, Brethren or Dutch Mennonite groups.  So, in one fell swoop, I can often categorize my matches to three or 4 generations.  That’s a wonderful gift.

Not only that, but her DNA is going to keep on giving, to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This Christmas, we’re starting another tradition.  We’re testing my grandchildren too – they’ll all be swabbing on Christmas Day – and thanks to Mom, we will have 4 generations of DNA to work with.  My grandchildren are going to grow up knowing about their culture, about traditions, about their ancestors, and yes, about their DNA.  Mom’s DNA and the information it provides will be available to her descendants into perpetuity.  Truly, the gift that keeps on giving – forever.

Thanks Mom.

Thanks.

Mom's stone

Henry III, King of England, Fox in the Henhouse, 52 Ancestors #49

I had been so looking forward to the results of the DNA processing of King Richard the III.  Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was reportedly buried in the “choir of the church” at the Greyfriars friary in Leicester. The friary was dissolved in 1538, following the orders of King Henry VIII who ordered all monasteries destroyed.  The building was later destroyed, and over the years, the exact location of the cemetery was lost.  In 2012, the friary location was found again, quite by accident and remains believed to be King Richard III were discovered buried under the car park, or what is known as a parking lot in the US.

Richard had a very distinctive trait – scoliosis to the point where his right shoulder was higher than his left.  He was also described, at age 32, as a fine-boned hunchback with a withered arm and a limp.  This, in addition to his slim build and his battle injuries led investigators to believe, and later confirm through mitochondrial DNA matching, that it was indeed Richard.  At least they are 99% sure that it is Richard using archaeological, osteological and radiocarbon dating, in addition to DNA and good old genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA testing was initially used to identify Richard the III by comparing his mitochondrial to that of current individuals matrilineally descended from his sister, Anne of York.  That DNA was rare, and matched exactly in one case, and with only one difference in a second descendant, so either the skeleton is Richard or another individual who is matrilineally related.  Fortunately, Richard’s mtDNA was quite unusual, with no other individuals matching in more than 26,000 other European sequences.  The scientists estimated that the chances of a random match were about 1 in 10,000.  The scientific team has utilized other evidence as well and feel certain that they have identified King Richard III himself.

King Richard III did not have any surviving descendants, so why was I so excited?

As it turns out, his Y DNA is representative of the Plantagenet family line which includes King Richard III’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, King Edward I, who is also my 19th great-grandfather, which would make King Richard III my 5th cousin, 16 times removed, I think.  Maybe.

According to a paper released this week by Turi King, et al, “Identification of the remains of King Richard III”, it seems that there is a bit of a fly in the ointment.  It’s no wonder this paper was in peer review forever.  The authors knew that when it was released, it would be the shot heard round the world.  For one thing, a tiny trivial matter, one of the possible outcomes could call into question the legitimacy of the current English monarchy.  Only a detail for an American, but I’m thinking this is probably important to many people in England, especially those who think they should be the ruling monarch, and in particular, to the ruling monarch herself.

I wonder if Dr. Turi King rang up the Queen in advance with the news.  I mean, what would you say to her???  How, exactly, would one begin that conversation?  “Um, Your Highness, um, I think there has been a fox in the henhouse…”

In order to confirm the Y DNA line of King Richard III, his Y DNA was compared to that of another descendant of King Edward III, the great-grandson of my ancestor, Edward I.  Edward III had two sons, Edmund, Duke of York from whom King Richard III descended and John of Gaunt, from whom the other Y DNA testers descend.  Five male descendants of Henry Somerset were tested for comparison.  Of those five, four matched each other, and one did not, indicating an NPE (nonparental event) or undocumented adoption in that line.  The pedigree chart provided in the paper, below, shows the line of descent for both the Y and mitochondrial DNA participants.

Richard III tree

Now, what we have is an uncertain situation.  We know that Richard’s mitochondrial DNA matches that of his sister’s descendants, Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig, shown at right, above.

We know that the Y DNA of Richard does not match with the Y DNA of the Somerset line.  We know that in the Somerset line, there were two illegitimate births, according to the paper, in the 13 generations between John of Gaunt and Henry Somerset, which were later legitimized.   The first illegitimate birth is John Beaufort, the oldest illegitimate child of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford, who later became John’s third wife.  Katherine was previously married to a knight in the service of John of Gaunt, who is believed to have died, and was governess to John of Gaunt’s daughters.

The second illegitimate birth is Charles Somerset (1460-1526) who was the illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort and Joan Hill, about whom little is known.

The Somerset line proves to be downstream of haplogroup R1b-U152 (x L2, Z36, Z56, M160, M126 and Z192) with STR markers confirming their relationship to each other.  King Richard III’s haplogroup is G-P287.

Richard III haplotree

In this case, we don’t even need to scrutinize the STR markers, because the haplogroups don’t match, as you can see, above, in a haplotree provided in the paper.

The paper goes on to say that given a conservative false paternity rate of between 1 and 2% per generation, that there is a 16% probability of a false paternity in the number of generations separating King Richard III and the Somerset men.

What does this really mean?

According to the paper:

“One can speculate that a false-paternity event (or events) at some point(s) in this genealogy could be of key historical significance, particularly if it occurred in the five generations between John of Gaunt (1340–1399) and Richard III). A false-paternity between Edward III (1312–1377) and John would mean that John’s son, Henry IV (1367–1413), and Henry’s direct descendants (Henry V and Henry VI) would have had no legitimate claim to the crown. This would also hold true, indirectly, for the entire Tudor dynasty (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I) since their claim to the crown also rested, in part, on their descent from John of Gaunt. The claim of the Tudor dynasty would also be brought into question if the false paternity occurred between John of Gaunt and his son, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. If the false paternity occurred in either of the three generations between Edward III and Richard, Duke of York, the father of Edward IV and Richard III, then neither of their claims to the crown would have been legitimate.”

While the known illegitimate births in the Somerset line lead us to look at those generations with scrutiny, the break in the Y chromosome inheritance could have happened in any generation, on either side of the tree.

According to the BBC article announcing the DNA results:

“Henry’s ancestor John of Gaunt was plagued by rumors of illegitimacy throughout his life, apparently prompted by the absence of Edward III at his birth. He was reportedly enraged by gossip suggesting he was the son of a Flemish butcher.

“Hypothetically speaking, if John of Gaunt wasn’t Edward III’s son, it would have meant that (his son) Henry IV had no legitimate claim to the throne, nor Henry V, nor Henry VI,” said Prof Schurer.”

So where does this leave us? I wonder if anyone has the name of that Flemish butcher????

Will the real Plantagenet, please stand up…or maybe be dug up.

What we need is a tie-breaker.  Although the paper did not state this explicitly, I’m sure that the scientists also knew that they needed a tie-breaker – a male that descends through all males from someone upstream of Edward III.  It appears that the Plantagenet line may well be a dead end, other than the Somerset line.  I’m sure, with all of the resources brought to bear by the authors of this paper, that if there was another Plantagenet Y DNA male to be found, they would have done so.

So, the bottom line is that we don’t know what the real Plantagenet Y DNA line looks like, short of exhuming one of the Plantagenet Kings.  They are mostly buried in Westminster Abbey in crypts. The Plantagenet line could be a subgroup of haplogroup R1b-U152. It could be haplogroup G.  And, it could be yet something else.  How?  There could have been a NPE in both lines.  I have seen it happen before.

Purely looking at the number of generations, meaning the number of opportunities for the genetic break to occur, there were 3 opportunities between King Richard the III and his great-great-grandfather, King Edward III, and there were 14 opportunities between Henry Somerset and King Edward III, so it’s more likely to have occurred in the Somerset line.

Richard III Y descent

But that is small comfort, because all it took was one event, and there clearly was one.  We don’t know which one, where.  In this case, probabilities don’t matter – only actualities matter.

Back to my ancestor, King Henry III, father of King Edward I….

Dear Grandpa King Henry III,

I was just writing to catch you up on the news.  This is your 20 times great-granddaughter….you do remember me…right?

I am sorry to report that there seems to have been a fox in the henhouse.  Yes, that would be the Plantagenet henhouse.  No, I don’t know when, or where.  We just have fox DNA.  Yes, we probably also have hen DNA, which would be your DNA, but you see, we can’t tell the difference between fox DNA and hen DNA.

By the way, would you mind trying that Houdini message thing and sending me a message about which DNA is fox and which is hen?

Thanks a million….

Your 20 times great-granddaughter

Even though we will probably never know what the Plantagenet DNA line looks like, we do know a lot about King Henry III, the father of King Edward I.  We also have some idea what King Henry himself looked like.  The effigy on his coffin in Westminster Abbey is shown below.

Henry IIi effigy

King Henry III was born on October 1, 1207 in Winchester Castle, shown below, the son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme, and died on November 16, 1272.  He was known as Henry of Winchester and was King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death.

Winchester Castle

He ascended the throne at age 9, on October 28th, 1216, at Gloucester Cathedral, and ruled under a guardian, council of 13 executors and the tutelage of his mother until he became of age.  He assumed formal control of the government in January 1227, although he didn’t turn 21 until the following year.  He ruled for a total of 56 years.  A 13th century depiction of his coronation is shown below.

Henry III coronation

Henry took the cross, declaring himself a crusader, which entitled him to special protections from Rome.  While Henry never did actually go on Crusade, he might well have joined the Seventh Crusade in 1248 had he not been engaged in such a negative rivalry with the King of France.  After Louis’s defeat at the Battle of Al Mansurah in 1250, Henry announced that he would be undertaking his own crusade to the Levant, but that Crusade never happened.  Henry was aging by that time, at 43. It would he Henry’s son, Edward, who would represent the family in the Crusades, leaving in 1270 for the Eighth Crusade.

Henry was also crowned a second time, after the first Baron’s War, on May 17, 1220, at Westminster Abbey, in an effort to affirm the authority of the King, and with the Pope’s blessing.  The medieval manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts the second coronation.

Henry III second coronation

While the first coronation was hurried after his father’s death and with, in essence, a borrowed crown from Queen Isabella, since the royal crown had been either lost or sold during the war, the second coronation used a new set of royal regalia.

Henry III great seal

Engravings of Henry’s great seal.

Eleanor of Provence

Henry married Eleanor of Provence, daughter of Raymond-Berengar, the Count of Provene and Beatrice of Savoy, whose sisters all married Kings as well.  Eleanor had never seen Henry before their marriage at Canterbury cathedral on January 14, 1236.  At the time of their marriage, she was age 12 and he was 28.  It was feared she was barren at first, but they went on to have 5 children, including Henry’s successor to the crown, Edward I.  Her first child was born when she was age 15.

Royal 14. B. VI, membrane 7

This medieval manuscript chronology from the early 1300s shows Henry III at the top, with his children left to right, the future King Edward I, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine.

In 1239 when Eleanor gave birth to their first child, Edward, named after Henry’s patron saint and ancestor, Edward the Confessor, Henry was overjoyed and held huge celebrations, giving lavishly to the Church and to the poor to encourage God to protect his young son.  Their first daughter, Margaret, named after Eleanor’s sister, followed in 1240, her birth also accompanied by celebrations and donations to the poor.

Eleanor accompanied Henry to Poitrou on a military campaign, and their third child, Beatrice, named after Eleanor’s mother, and born in Poitou, France in1242.

Henry III return from Poitou

This manuscript by Matthew Paris depicts Henry and Eleanor returning to England from Poitou in 1243.

Their fourth child, Edmund, arrived in 1245 and was named after the 9th-century saint.  Concerned about Eleanor’s health, Henry donated large amounts of money to the Church throughout the pregnancy. A third daughter, Katherine, was born in 1253 but soon fell ill, possibly the result of a degenerative disorder such as Rett syndrome, and was unable to speak. She died in 1257 and Henry was distraught.

Henry’s children spent most of their childhood at Windsor Castle and he appears to have been extremely close to his family, rarely spending extended periods apart from them.  King Henry III and Eleanor had the following children:

  1. Edward, eventually King Edward I, was born on June 17, 1239 and died on July 7, 1307. He married Eleanor of Castile in 1254 and Margaret of France in 1299.
  2. Margaret was born on September 29, 1240 and died on February 26, 1275, at age 35. She was the Queen of Scots and married King Alexander III, the King of Scotland at age 11. She had three children; Margaret born in 1261 who married King Eric II of Norway, Alexander born in 1264 who died at age 20 and David born in 1272 who died at age 9.
  3. Beatrice was born on June 25, 1242 and died on March 24, 1275 at the age of 33. She married John II, Duke of Brittany, a love match, and had 6 children. Two of her descendant females would marry kings.
  4. Edmund, known as Edmund Crouchback, was born on January 16, 1245 and died on June 5, 1296, at the age of 51. Crouchback reportedly refers to “crossed-back” and refers to his participation in the Ninth Crusade, although with King Richard III’s scoliosis, I have to wonder. He married Lady Aveline de Forz in 1269 at age 11. She died 4 years later, at age 15, possibly related to childbirth. He then married Blanche de Artois in 1276, in Paris, widow of Henri I, King of Navarre, with whom he had three sons, two of whom revolted against King Edward II.
  5. The story of Katherine is sad indeed. She was born either deaf or a deaf-mute at Westminster Palace on November 25, 1253 and died on Mary 3. 1257, before her 4th birthday. It was obvious at her birth, that in spite of her beauty, something was wrong. As she aged a bit, it also became evident that she was mentally challenged. Matthew Paris, chronicler of King Henry III, described her as “the most beautiful girl, but dumb and useless.” She was therefore not a political asset and was never betrothed. Her parents, however, loved her devotedly.

A few days after her christening, on the day of Saint Edward the Confessor’s death, January 5,1254, the King held a massive banquet, to which he invited all the nobility. The provisions for this banquet included “fourteen wild boars, twenty-four swans, one hundred and thirty-five rabbits, two hundred and fifty partridges, fifty hares, two hundred and fifty wild ducks, sixteen hundred and fifty fowls, thirty-six female geese and sixty-one thousand eggs”.

After Katherine’s death, both Henry and Eleanor were heartbroken.

Although the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor was clearly political in nature, Henry was kind and generous and they apparently came to love each other.  Henry, unusual as compared to other English Kings, had no illegitimate children.

Henry was reported to have a drooping eyelid and an occasional fierce temper, but was generally known to be “amiable, easy-going and sympathetic,” as reported by historian David Carpenter.

Henry III sketch

The sketch above is from Cassell’s History of England published in 1902 but it does not reflect a drooping eyelid.  The painting, below, from an unknown artist in 1620 is titled simply “Edward,” but it does depict the drooping eyelid.  King Edward I was the son of Henry III.  Now, if Richard III had only been reported with a droopy eyelid, we’d have another clue.  Interestingly enough, the National Portrait Gallery has a discussion about the “crooked eye group” of kings, the latest of which is Edward II.

Edward droopy eyelid

Henry III was known for his piety, celebrating mass at least once a day, holding lavish religious ceremonies and giving generously to charities.  He fed 500 paupers each day, fasted before the feast days of Edward the Confessor and may have washed the feet of lepers.  He was often moved to tears during religious ceremonies.  The King was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, whom he adopted as his patron saint.  Edward the Confessor was an early English King who lived a very pious life and who was also Henry III’s 6 times great-grandfather.

Henry reformed the system of silver coins in England in 1247, replacing the older Short Cross silver pennies with a new Long Cross design, shown below. Between 1243 and 1258, the King assembled two great hoards, or stockpiles, of gold. In 1257, Henry needed to spend the second of these hoards urgently and, rather than selling the gold quickly and depressing its value, Henry decided to introduce gold pennies into England, following the popular trend in Italy. The gold pennies resembled the gold coins issued by Edward the Confessor, but the overvalued currency attracted complaints from the City of London and was ultimately abandoned.

long cross pennies

In 1247, Henry was sent the “Relic of the Holy Blood” by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, said to contain some of the blood of Christ.  He carried the Relic through the streets of London from its storage location at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a procession to Westminster Abbey, shown below, by Matthew Paris.  He then promoted the relic as a focus for pilgrimages, but it never became popular.

henry III carrying relic

Henry III’s reign in England was marked by multiple insurrections and allegations of ineffective government at best and improprieties at worst.

Henry started out at a disadvantage due to his age and of course, inexperience as a child.  The first problem happened before Henry was of age.

Taking advantage of the child-king, Louis VIII of France allied himself with Hugh de Lusignan and invaded first Poitou and then Gascony, lands held by the English monarchy. Henry III’s army in Poitou was under-resourced and lacked support from the French barons, many of whom had felt abandoned during the years of Henry’s minority and as a result, the province quickly fell. It became clear that Gascony would also fall unless reinforcements were sent from England.

In early 1225 a great council approved a tax of £40,000 to dispatch an army, which quickly retook Gascony. In exchange for agreeing to support Henry III, the English barons demanded that the King reissue the Magna Carta, originally issued by King John in 1215. Henry complied, declared that the charter was issued of his own “spontaneous and free will” and confirmed the new with the royal seal.  This gave the new Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest of 1225, shown below from the UK National Archives, much more authority than any previous versions. The barons anticipated that the King would act in accordance with these definitive charters, subject to the law and moderated by the advice of the nobility.

1225 great charter

Henry invaded France in 1230, in an attempt to reclaim family lands lost since the reign of King John, but his attempts were both unsuccessful and very expensive.  As you can see, most of the Plantagenet family holdings in France had been lost, except for Gascony.

Plantagenet land in France

The drawing below depicts Henry travelling to Brittany in 1230, by Matthew Paris.

Henry III to Brittany

The English people paid for military actions as well as Henry’s expensive lifestyle, carrying out major remodeling of royal properties, through increased taxes, which caused Henry, over time, to become very unpopular.

In 1258, a group of Barons seized power in a coup, reforming English government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford, which is regarded at England’s first constitution.  This document was the first to be published in English since the Norman Conquest 200 years previously. As a result, Henry ruled in conjunction with a council of 24 members, 12 selected by the crown and 12 by the barons.  Those 24 then selected 2 men to oversee decisions.  This certainly wasn’t what Henry wanted, but he had little choice at the time.

However, in 1261, Henry overthrew the Provisions of Oxford and the superceeding Provisions of Westminster, with assistance from the Pope in the form of a papal bull which started the second Baron’s War.  In 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Lewes, but his oldest son, the eventual King Edward I, escaped from captivity and freed his father the following year.

This time, Henry won and was restored to power, initially reacted harshly, confiscating all of the land and titles of the revolting Barons.  In an effort to bring eventual peace, the Dictum of Kenilworth was issued to reconcile the rebels of the Baron’s War with the King.

Death of Simon de Montfort

Their rebel leader, Simon de Montfort, Henry’s brother-in-law who had married his sister, Eleanor, was now dead at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, shown above. The Dictum pardoned the revolting Barons and restored their previously confiscated lands to them, contingent on payment of penalties equal to their level of involvement in the rebellion, typically 5 times the value of the annual yield of the land.

The spirit of peace and reconciliation established by the Dictum of Kenilworth lasted for the remainder of Henry III’s reign and into the 1290s, although reconstruction was slow.  Henry died in 1272, succeeded by his son, Edward, who became King Edward I, who was on crusade in the Holy Lands at the time of his father’s death.

Although unpopular due to his spending habits, Henry invested significantly in many properties still enjoyed by people today, improving their defenses and adding facilities, including rebuilding Westminster Abbey and his favorite palatial complex by the same name in London.

Westminster complex

The Tower of London was extended to form a concentric fortress with extensive living quarters, although Henry primarily used the castle as a secure retreat in the event of war or civil strife.

Tower of London map

Tower of London as it appears today from the Thames.

Tower of London

Henry also kept a menagerie at the Tower, a tradition begun by his father, and his exotic specimens included an elephant, a leopard and a camel.

Henry III elephant

Henry was given an elephant, above, as a gift by King Louis IX of France.

Henry III visiting Louis IX France

King Henry III visiting Louis IX of France.

Winchester Castle great hall

Among other projects, Henry built the Great Hall of Winchester Castle, shown above.

Perhaps Henry’s legacy contribution is the creation of what would become the English Parliament.  The term “parliament” first appeared in the 1230s and 1240s to describe large gatherings of the royal court, and parliamentary gatherings were held periodically throughout Henry’s reign. They were used to agree to the raising of taxes which, in the 13th century, were single, one-off levies, typically on movable property, intended to supplement the King’s normal revenues for particular projects. During Henry’s reign, the counties began to send regular delegations to these parliaments, and came to represent a broader cross-section of the community than simply the major barons.

In Henry’s last years, he was increasingly ill. He continued to invest in Westminster Abbey, which became a replacement for the Angevin mausoleum at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou, France,  In 1269 Henry oversaw a grand ceremony to rebury Edward the Confessor in a lavish new shrine, personally helping to carry the body to its new resting place in the rebuilt Westminster Abbey.  Edward the Confessor has built the original Westminster Abbey in 1065 which was demolished by Henry III to construct the new Westminster Abbey in its place.

In 1270, Henry’s son, Edward left on the Eighth Crusade and at one time, Henry voiced his intention to join Edward.  That never happened, and Henry III died at Westminster Palace on the evening of November 16, 1272.  Eleanor was probably at his side.

At his request, Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey in front of the church’s high altar, in the former resting place of Edward the Confessor. A few years later, work began on a grander tomb for King Henry III and in 1290, Edward moved his father’s body to its current location in Westminster Abbey.

Henry III crypt

See, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to access the remains of King Henry III…no digging involved!!!  For that matter, we could just skip to the beginning and start with the remains of Edward the Confessor.

Family Tree DNA Week 3 Mystery Coupon Same as Week 2

Four Red Gift Boxes

This week’s mystery coupon seems to be the same for everyone as last week’s, but with a new coupon code and a new expiration date.

Update – A few people are reporting different coupons.

That’s kind of disappointing, because we can’t order the same test twice and I know a lot of people were hoping for a particular coupon.  So, what that means is that sharing becomes even more important – and it also suggests that maybe, just maybe, some of those high dollar “good” coupons will be floating around this week because the recipient used theirs last week.  Hey, this may not be so disappointing after all!

Remember, the general coupons are good on new kit purchases too.  If your family members haven’t tested, Christmas would be a good time – and while it’s a gift for them, it’s a gift for you too!

My children tested at 23andMe when testing was first available.  Those early kits don’t transfer to Family Tree DNA (and neither do v4 tests since November 2013), so maybe I’ll order two Family Finder kits for them.  As we move forward in this field, understanding generational inheritance becomes even more important, and immediate family is the best information source you can have!!!

So, click here to sign in to your account and then post the coupon codes in the comments if you are willing to share.