Sunday, December 27, 2015

Drums and Trumpets

Unity and tolerance seem like good ideas.  However, from the first Stuart King (1603) to the death of a great granddaughter (1714) , this was certainly not the case.  The following book by Kirsty McLeod gives an overview of this turbulent time.  For my own Jones family tree climbing, exploring this period of conflict, became a necessary tool to break though a few of those brick walls. [Inigo Jones ended up being a member of the family tree!]

The first American edition was 1977, published by Seabury Press, NY.  It discusses the life in court, town, and country during the reign of "The House of Stuart".  Chapter topics include "Courtly Life", "Town Life", "The Growth of Puritanism", the "Civil War", "The Commonwealth",  and "Life After The Restoration".  It was in this period of conflict that many of my Jones family survived to pass down that Y-chromosome DNA.

Life in Stuart England...a transition period for many, and a difficult time for the genealogist to sort through the branches.  A helpful text it is.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Outside The Box

We often carry with us a group of boxes that contain our views of the world.  Historical boxes also exist that place time and life events into fixed spaces.  The making of history is frequently placed here.  The book by Michael Reed looks outside the box.

The way man [in this case Britons] has shaped and occupied the space around them between 1550 - 1700.  The period covered occupies a central role in the process of change that has affected our ancestors.  Taking pictures from an archaeologist point of view, the period is presented around the changes that took place.  Understanding this period will help many genealogist to break down a few of their brick walls.  The land and its people, check the pulse in this "The Age of Exuberance".

First published in 1986 by Routledge & Kegan Paul plc, London, it includes 74 plates in ten chapters.  Chapter 8 titled "Landscapes of the mind" is my favorite.  You will have to pick your own reaching outside the box.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A New Beginning

The Tudor era ended 1603 with the death of Elizabeth I.  A new beginning it was with the Stuarts.  The Welsh line of descent was replaced with a Scottish line of descent, and a new millennium was turning its page in history. 

A Scottish king [James VI] was to become an English king [James I].  This historical context is discussed in the book by David Harris Willson, my copy of the paperback shown above.  First published in 1956, it was republished as an Oxford University paperback in 1967.  It contains 22 chapters [only 464 pages] as it interweaves the story of transition during this new millennium.  Context, context, and more context is presented.  Religious, political, and social issues are at a new beginning.

For those whose ancestors first came to the colonies [Virginia and Plymouth Companies and all that] it was certainly a new beginning for them.  This book is a foundation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Twilight Lords

From family to clans and chieftains, to tribal and feudal relationships, to regional and hereditary conflicts,  all were involved in the period surrounding Elizabeth I.  For those of us from Welsh descent, understanding these issues often help climb further out that family tree during this difficult period.  These issues are discussed in a very readable text called "The Twilight Lords".

It is presented as "An Irish Chronicle".  Many of Welsh descent filtered through the pages of this history representing both sides of the story. [Catholic vs Protestant, and English vs Irish]  Written by Richard Berleth, it presents the story of the destructive wars between England and Ireland between 1579 to 1601.  Maps and genealogies are many.  Published 1978 by Barnes & Noble, Inc. NY, it provides insights into the conflicts and families. 

For the genealogist, the historical context is a vital part of our ancestors existence.  Understanding this context will often break through those brick walls.  Throw in Ireland, and you have a deep well in which to draw.  This book provides one bucket. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Elizabethan Age

Various political, social, and religious issues faced our ancestors.  These were often dramatically different than anything that we [our generation] have faced.  For my own family, growing up Protestant, Republican, and bleeding "blue" [Go Big Blue] in the Bluegrass of Kentucky, only to find out that my ancestors were Catholic, Monarchist, and literally bled their own blood, was a surprise. 

The Tudor family [Welsh] brought my Y-chromosome to the eastern side of Offa's Dyke.  Trying to understand this migration presented a number of brick walls.  The book by Norman Jones [cover shown above] provided many insights to this period of my family tree.  A focus on the issues that consumed the lives of my ancestors are given around the 1560's England.  Family values and making a living are presented.  How one did this as a Catholic family from Wales took some time to sort through.  What a deal.  A good read for those who share the same family tree branches.

"The Birth of the Elizabethan Age England In The 1560's" by Norman Jones [A good Welsh surname!] First published 1993, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., Cambridge, MA.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Power and Profit

The historical dynamics that surrounded our ancestors affected their daily lives.  It was often these influences that directed the family tree to branch out new ways, or keep the same course.  Very frequently "power" and "profit" would lead the way.

The dynamics of trade and the social changes this produced is presented by the text shown above.  Written by Peter Spufford, and published by Thames & Hudson in 2002, it is a study into the development and growth of "The Merchant".  It is a broad discussion involving central Europe.  The flow of raw materials to expensive manufactured goods is presented.  Lots of pictures and tables, the book gives a visual as well as a detailed story. 

The wool trade to cloth, is the main interest in my own tree climbing.  Wales through this time period had something to do with English cloth.  Start at the beginning of the book and enjoy... if you dare to understand where our present entrepreneurial world had its origins.  Perhaps it might help understand some of your own family tree branches.  It did mine.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Tudor Age

For more than a century, 1485 - 1603, the Tudor family reigned on the throne of England.  It certainly was "The Tudor Age".  Welsh connections to the first Henry Tudor places many of Welsh descent on some of the family tree branches.  Such is my own family. 

Understanding this time in an ancestor's life helps place the factors that played a dominate role in their existence.   Shirts, hats, hose, and all kinds of items are discussed in the book by Jasper Ridley titled:
"A Brief History of The Tudor Age". 

Some 344 pages [which some may not consider brief], present topics ranging from "The Tudor Family""Heretics and Traitors""The Houses", "Costume and Fashion", "Furniture and Food""Ships and Voyages"...and all kind of religious, political, and social stuff.  Some of my family would fall under "Heretics and Traitors", but hey, genealogy sets the historical records straight.

The book was first published by Constable and Co. Ltd, in 1998.  This paperback is published as "First Carroll & Graf edition, 2002".  A fun read for those who like to color their family history pages.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Armada 1588

Roughly two years after the trial and death of Mary Queen of Scots [Babington's Plot included], the religious conflicts of the day came to a head.  The Spanish nation [representing the Catholic faith], thought the world should be one faith.  Those English, under the Tudors, had been a thorn in the side of all those who held the true religion.  The wealth of the new world was cashed in to form one of the most impressive military forces of the day.  The Spanish Armada it came to be called.

The book by Garrett Mattingly reviews this period of history between February 1587 to December 1588.  An invasion of England is planned which will provide unity and peace to the world.  An account is presented among the pages.  [Published 1959 by The Riverside Press Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston ]  Of course, the English would have something to say about all this.

An account is also given from contemporary documents selected and edited by Stephen Usherwood.  "The Great Enterprise, The History of the Spanish Armada" it is called.  Primary documents are presented beginning with a letter from Edwin Sandys, Bishop of London, to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, 1572, and ending with a letter from Captain Francisco de Cuellar, to a friend in Spain, dated 24 September/4 October 1589.

A medal struck to commemorate the English victory over the Armada is shown on the cover of this book. [Not sure if front or back]

It is difficult to see, but it depicts the battle of Gravelines with a large number of ships involved.  If you enjoy primary documents [like me], this book is for you.  First published 1978, by The Folio Society, London.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Trial

Religion and politics had much to do with the life of Mary Stuart.  Understanding this context and the people involved in the conflicts of the day, will help the genealogist to explore the family tree.  Such is the case in my own family tree climbing.  The trail of "Mary Queen of Scots" is one event in this period of my family.

Primary documents are the principal source of information.  The book by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis provides such source.  Published 1999 by Bedford/St. Martin's, Boston, it gives many of the records of this trial.  [The trail of course leading to the execution of poor Mary.]  Babington's plot played a major role in this story.  Sorting through my own family's involvement was a major genealogical undertaking.  Books like the one shown helped.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Information Gathering

Intrigue, murder plots, espionage, and all kinds of mysterious activities were part of my ancestors story.  Working through these events as a genealogist was quite a challenge.  [Lots of brick walls here!]

The following text gives one aspect of many issues contained in my family tree.  It is called "Her Majesty's Spymaster". 

On several levels, the Catholics and Protestants were at war with one another.  My Jones family represented those Welsh Catholics who came up on the wrong side of the fence.

The book by Stephen Budiansky presents the story surrounding the "Birth of Modern Espionage".  Published in 2005 by Plume [Penguin Group], N.Y., it is only 154 pages, and is written in a journalist style.  It is the life of Sir Francis Walsingham and his abilities to develop  methods of information gathering.  A context which is vital to understand surrounding the religious conflicts of the day.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mary Queen of Scots

Volumes of dialog have filled the pages of history regarding this Queen of the Scots.  She occupies a role in the history of ideas surrounding the religious beliefs of the day.  For my own family history (genealogy) she plays a significant part in one historical event called "The Babington Plot".  [One of my family members was "hanged, drawn, and quartered" as a result.]  Her story is told in many references.  A brief account is:

A biography by N. Brysson Morrison is a 254 page account of her life.  It is intended for the "general reader" with an interest in this period of time.  It was published in 1960 by The Vanguard Press, Inc., NY.  It is written by a novelist and fellow Scot.

Now a much more detailed account can be found in the following:

It is a 595 page account of the life and times of this controversial figure. [Chapter 24 is titled "The Babington Plot"]  The author, Antonia Fraser,  writes that one of her aims of the book:

 "...I wished to test for myself the truth or falsehood of the many legends which surround her name".

Published and unpublished sources, including Mary's own letters, are included.  [Primary documents indeed.]  Illustrations are given to the number of 46.  References and notes are extensive.

The book was first published in England by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.    Truth or falsehood, one must decide for themselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


From 1492, the western nations of the world began their "name it and claim it" enterprises.  Religious beliefs were accepted, and served as a major driving force to those adventurers seeking their claim to fame.  [Either in Heaven or on Earth.]

In 1493, the head of this driving force [Alexander VI] could arrange "all lands" to those nations already leading this new exploration. [Spain and Portugal]  Of course, those left out in the cold were to express different opinions regarding the "name" and the "claim" of this new world. 

As time progressed, the Religious beliefs fragmented along the lines of what became called "Protestants" and "Catholics".   It was the "Tudor" age that was to make the most of these differences, changing the Catholic world in England, and beginning an all out war between the nations, and people, that followed each belief system.  It was this division that came to my attention as I climbed my own family tree.  For, my family was "Catholic" in a "Protestant" world.  This produced a great deal of issues for all involved.  The following book discusses some of these factors in the reign of Elizabeth I.

It is titled "Danger to Elizabeth" and is written by Alison Plowden.  It helped introduce me to the concerns of  what became a "Catholic" underground in a predominant "Protestant" world.  It seemed that many in my family participated in a number of events that were to impact their lives and  fortune.

It was first published in 1973 by Stein and Day/ Publishers/Scarborough House, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
The subtitle is "The Catholics under Elizabeth I".  Little did I know in 1973 [being Protestant and not meeting a Catholic until high school] that this would become part of my families' story. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Queen

Elizabeth  Tudor [1533-1603] had quite a life.   Here is a picture of her face taken from the frontispiece of the book by J.E. Neale titled Queen Elizabeth.    His text states that this painting is from Accademia di Belle Arti, Siena.  You can tell it was fairly early in her reign.  Her eyes seem to penetrate from the page.  I just thought you might like to see her face to face.

As stated last post, she has received much print.  The book by J.E. Neale, Harcourt, Brace and Co., Inc., N.J., 1934 is another reference that gives a detailed account of this Queen.

It begins with the Seymour family, and through the next 22 chapters it tells much of her story. [total = 393 pages]  It is a great reference for those who want a little more detail without all the references.  The book was written for the occasion of the fourth centenary of her birth.  A celebration of sorts it is.  The author states: "...the public is the body of lay men and women interested in a great historical personality."  Are you interested?

Monday, March 2, 2015


Perhaps no other English Monarch has receive more press then Elizabeth I. [Except maybe her father Henry VIII.]  She reigned during a time of religious, social, economic, and political change, but managed to keep things held together.  This was in spite of the fact that most during this period of history felt a "woman" would never be able to handle the pressures that surrounded the nation of England.  Her reign of 44 years [1558 - 1603] left many eating their crow. 

The book by Mary M. Luke gives a very readable account of this Elizabeth I.

First published in 1973 by Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., NY, it gives the life and times of Elizabeth I.  Written from a author who spent extensive time researching this period of Tudor history, she provides a well written history.  My own family's story is involved in this period, but "on the wrong side of the fence" as some might say.  [Catholic and strong supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots.]

A quote given in the text on p. 20:

"... I have the heart of a man, not of a woman, and I am not afraid of anything..."  Wow...Gloriana!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

England's First Anointed Queen

No monuments exist remember this first anointed Queen of England.  To some, her anointing was a miracle in answer to their prayers.  To most, she became a symbol of dread. 

Her story is told in the text shown above.   Written by Carolly Erickson, and first published in 1978, it presents the period of English history that reflects conflict between the Church of Rome and a recently separated Protestant nation.  The complexity of this conflict present the genealogist with a bundle of "brick walls".   My own Jones family participated in a number of ways during this reign.  Understanding this context removed several brick walls for my own tree climbing.   Her reign [1553 - 1558] would make her " a symbol of tyranny".  Which side of the fence did your family reside?  Understanding this reign helped me connect all kinds of branches on my own family tree.  This book provides a window into this period of time.

Published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1978

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Age of Plunder

Social and economic factors play an important role among our ancestors.  Understanding these factors often help clear the branches as we climb out the family tree.  The early Tudor period  reflects many of the social and economic concerns that those of Welsh descent had to face and adjust.  The following book by W.G. Hoskins is a good source for understanding the social dynamics that were to play an important role.

Rural society and urban life was the norm for most of those living during this time.  Wealth was distributed along social roles and status.  Understanding this structure will help the genealogist expand their grasp of this transitional period in Welsh and English history.  Tables and figures present a host of information such as the distribution of the population in England 1524 - 1525, the distribution of wealth among certain counties, the leading trades, and for those from Wales, the annual prices of livestock between 1500 - to - 1558.

The book was published by Longman Group Limited 1976, NY.  It is an interesting find for those who's family crosses these paths.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Desperate Times

Desperate times frequently produces desperate actions.  These actions usually cause a cascade of desperate reactions.  Henry VIII was desperate to have a male heir.  His actions produced a host of activities that even today make one wonder how it was all possible.  One of these "reactions" has come to be called "The Pilgrimage of Grace". 

These events describe in the book written by Geoffrey Moorhouse, is a discussion of these events in a easy reading text.  Robert Aske was one of the key figures in leading this rebellion.  It was a reaction to some of the desperate actions taken by Henry VIII to dissolve the Monasteries.  My interest was related to my own family tree climbing, and trying to break through some of those genealogical "brick walls".  My JONES family became connected to the Aske family of Aughton.  This relationship was important in helping me sort through several of the branches of my family tree.  The record of these desperate times gave me an understanding of my own family history.

The book was first published in Great Britain 2002  The paper back edition, as shown above, was first published by Phoenix in 2003.  Little known to most folks, the book provides a door into the mind of the times which has been called "The Pilgrimage of Grace"...certainly desperate times.