Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Long Boring Genealogy Stuff...But with Pictures!

Ok, not so long really....but still boring. lol

There are two genealogy areas I work on.

First there is the "near" ancestors....the ones I remember being alive and the 6 or so generations before them.  These 6 immediately previous generations are the ancestors that I hope to be able to link up to genetically when the results come back from my DNA samples I sent off recently into the bowels of a Texas lab.
I got confirmation that they received my "material" last week.
So now I wait, if not very patiently, for the results.

6 generations before my time takes me back to the late 1700's.
In some of my family blood lines, that is far enough removed to transport my ancestral lines to the far off continent of Europe.  In other of my blood lines(mostly on my mother's side), the late 1700's finds these 6 generations already removed to the New World.  Some of that number having been removed to the Americas more than 100 years before that time!

One of my earliest ancestors that has been traced arrived in the Virginia Colony in 1635 with his wife and 1 servant.  So as some of my ancestors were making their way across the sea from Europe, I had 2 blood lines already here for about 160 years.
It boggles the mind sometimes.

And then there are the "far" ancestors.
The ones many MANY generations removed from me and known, stretching back into the Middle Ages in some cases.  I can't possibly live long enough at this point in my life, to research every last person others have "put" into my lines.  I hope that whoever added these folks had some source material to back up their claims but I don't have the time, funds or resources to prove every leaf on the tree of our family.  So I add ancestors who other's claim to be legit to our tree for now.

While the paper trail and quality of research can be spotty at best in this very long chain of ancestors, I take it at it's face value and work to substantiate the claims when I can.  There are many questions and holes but I keep them on the tree until I find enough evidence to counter the claim that their branch belongs on my tree.  Once it's clear the facts don't fit and the blood doesn't match, I perform some pruning and cut them loose.

Which brings me to my Vassar ancestors.
A couple of years ago, at the beginning of my "where did I come from?" quest I found a relative I never knew existed by the name of Reginald Vassar.  He is my 2nd cousin and was, at that time, 90+ years old.  He had been doing Vassar genealogy for many years and had amassed a great file on many generations of our Vassar ancestors.

John Little Vassar and his wife, Lucy Ellen Baker Vassar were my great grandparents on my mother's side.
Reginald Vassar and I share Hugh Wiley & Sarah Anne "Sally" Smith Vassar (my 3 x GGs)as common ancestors. 

Hugh & Sally had a son, John Alfred "Jack" Vassar.  Hugh & Sally had another son, Richard Levi Douglas Vassar.  John is my 2 x GG and Richard is Reggie's GG.

And this is our most "famous" current relative......

I'm not sure exactly how we are related(I need to do the research on that)but we are cousins (X number of times removed), of some kind.  My brother has told me that my mother's cousin Dean has partied with Phil on occasion.
The fact that she is related to Phil Vassar has pleased my daughter to no end, as she is a BIG country music fan. 8-)

And no, we are not related to the folks who founded this......

Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY

But then again, Matthew Vassar's line came over from England in 1796, so we might be connected back in the Old Country. ;-)

But I digress......

Through the work of Reginald, another ancestor Lyndal G. Vessar(who wrote one of the comprehensive books on Vassar genealogy many years ago)and countless others through the years, I have my Vassar line nailed down back to 1595 for specific individuals.  There is general Vassar/Vessar family genealogy going back further to France in the 12 century. 

The surname springs from the Lorraine region of France and came from a landed ranking-Feudal Vassals(one level below a Baron or Viscount).  Variations of the name include VaVassour, LaVasseur, Vossier, etc.
Here is how James Vassar, a poster on an Ancestry dotcom message board, explains the origin of the surname better than myself.....
""Vassar" is a derivative of an Old French military title and an old ancient roman military legionary title. The old french title is "vavassour", which translates as "Vassal of Vassals", comparable to the phrase "king of kings". The ancient roman word is "vavasorrium" (or something like that), roughly equivalent to a captain or a lieutenant, maybe. The vavassour is equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon military-political position of "thane," that is why Vassar is sometimes spelled "Vassal." Essentially and for all intents and purposes a vavassour is a landed feudal knight, or a knight that had land granted to him by his feudal lord. All landed knights were vassals or military servants to their feudal lord, but they were not peasants as some snobs have told me. So, a vavassour is a "knight of knights." I have read a few references were he is referred to as the old wise and senior knight that is in semi-retirement and still gives advise to the younger knights."

Everything was going well for us until 1599, when the Reformed Protestant church, of which these ancestors were supporters, was founded in France. These French Protestants became known as Huguenots.

  Painting,  " An Eyewitness Account of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre" by Francois Dubois

Long story short, this led to the "War of the Three Henrys" and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in which Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris and massacres of Protestants swept across France after that, which led to a massive exodus of Protestants out of France into neighboring countries like Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Prussia and England.  Though no one knows the true number, I've read the extermination of French Protestants amounted to half a million souls.  That's a whole lot of people by 1572 standards.

Eventually, the Huguenots who remained were forced to convert to Catholicism but about 200,000 chose instead to leave France.

My direct line of ancestors chose to emigrate to England during the reign of Elizabeth I.  Elizabeth, being Henry VIII's daughter(Henry who had founded the Anglican/Protestant Church in England and driven out or killed Catholics and burned and looted their monasteries) was a Protestant herself and welcomed these religious refugees into her kingdom.  She was generous with financial help throughout her reign. 
My direct ancestor was one John Vassar/Vesser.  His parents had fled France after the St. Bartholomew's massacre for England though we have no record of their names as of yet. John was born in Gravesend, England in 1595.  He married an English bred woman named Elizabeth Dowe/Dew.

But there was religious unrest in England after the death of Elizabeth in 1603.   John applied for permission to sail to the New World and signed an oath of allegiance to the Crown & the Anglican Church. The Church of England was the official religion of the Virginia Colony and anyone sailing there to settle had to be certified and promise to conform to the Church's doctrine and practices.  Even Quakers who removed to Virginia from England had to have their children baptized and recorded in the CofE.

According to the ship's manifest, in the spring of 1635, John Vasser, his wife Elizabeth, and their
indentured servant, Wm. Baker, sailed aboard the barque "Alice" with Richard Blake as Master of
the Ship. They departed from Gravesend, County Kent, England. This port was the embarking point
of the London Company émigrés headed to the Va. Colony at Jamestown. (Though the London Company had been disbanded in 1624 and Virginia became a royal province, ships bound for Virginia still embarked at Gravesend.)

While much of my time had been devoted to double checking the facts I could on the Vassar line, recently my attention turned to the line of John Vassar's wife, Elizabeth of the Dowe or Dew family.
I began to trace back the path that has been laid out for Elizabeth's ancestors and it led me into the realm of English royalty.
Now any time I find my ancestors hooked up to famous or infamous characters in history I become suspicious of the motives.

Many amateur genealogists do genealogy to connect to their actual roots.
And then there are the others, who only do this to find famous relations, so they can show off to their friends and somehow feel important since they can claim a link to somebody "Fabulous".

One of my earliest friends in life recently told me she is descended from Lady Godiva.  Of course I didn't ask her for proof or shake my head at her claim but I do wonder where she got this information and if her assertion is valid.

When a fellow Ancestry user who shares ancestors with me, notified me recently about some information that has just come to light about our Baker line, I used this occasion to reach out to a number of other Baker researchers/members on Ancestry to let them know and to invite them to be guests on my family tree and perhaps share information.

Only 1 of these fellow genealogists replied to me so far.
His response.......I will copy it in it's entirety....

"Hi, my Bakers go way back to Sir John "Bloody" Baker who I believe was first Chancellor of the Exchequer for UK. See Bramhall Castle."

Now a person really interested in history and genealogy would have replied either "Yes, let's get together and work on this stuff." or "No thanks....I don't care to communicate with you."

But I got someone who used this opening to brag about his infamous ancestor who did some really dastardly and horrid things.
Add in that this person claims kinship through a supposed Christopher Baker, a son of Sir John Baker.  John Baker and his wives had 2 sons, neither of which was named Christopher.  Perhaps he has information I don't but I am skeptical about his claim, especially in light of the context in which he shared it.

I just get the feeling that this guy does genealogy for all the wrong reasons.

And the rest, they say, is history.
And "it" can wait to be explored another day.




  1. I love pics! And hey, to each their own, I guess... bragging about what other people did when you have not done much besides being born doesn't seem to be a good enough reason to brag. I guess the best response is to nod and smile! Oh. And I was born a complete an utter mutt.

  2. I have known people who were only related to the rich and famous and royalty. Smiling indulgently on my part probably really looks like a smirk on my face. It would be cool to find I was a direct descendant of someone important. Some people seem to think that makes them important. Genealogy is sooo interesting even without finding a famous ancestor. Maybe I would become a braggart if I uncovered someone famous in my line. I doubt it.

  3. That is so interesting and they are not even my relatives!

  4. Cool! and darn, I thought a link with Vassar college at first too.
    One of my husbands ancestors had an affair with a kings daughter and was thrown out of England... Not really famous, but interesting to us! :)

  5. I believe I may be a direct descendant of the Christopher Baker you spoke of and from my findings he is not the son of Sir John "Bloody" Baker, but perhaps Sir John's brother Thomas. I'm not sure. When people make these false claims it does send us on a wild goose chase. I did find this:, it might help some people.


Hey there! Thanks for leaving a comment. Though I moderate it's partly to keep spam out but also partly so that I read every comment. I don't often respond to comments so if you need me to answer you please write me at my email addy posted on my "About Me" page, linked on the side bar.