Thursday, March 15, 2012

Somerby's errors still reverberating in Blake family research

I strongly suspect that Horatio Gates Somerby had no idea of how far reaching his genealogical frauds would eventually be. At a bare minimum sixteen books have been published on the Blake family of Boston (can be seen at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library in Boston) which either use his results or contradict those results. For the most part though these books accept Somerby's work as correct and simply connect their families back to the information which he created in the mid 1800s.

Usually his connections were back to royalty but in the case of the Blake family, he took them back to the Blake family of Calne, Wiltshire known to be there in the late 1200s. He did this by connecting them to the Andover Hampshire Blake family (my own line) with a fraudulent marriage between William Blake and Mary Coles giving them children Humphrey, Nicholas and Alice. In reality, Nicholas at Enham, Andover, Hampshire was the son of a Mr. Blake (forename unknown thus far) and Joan Blake (his widow). Joan Blake (widow) left a will in 1527 where she mentions her children Robert, Nicholas and Elizabeth (married to a Mr. Mylne). No mention of a Humphrey. Nicholas and Robert in their turn also left wills mentioning their children and the witness to Robert's will was Nicholas (Robert died in 1542 and Nicholas in 1547).

The interesting part of Somerby's creations is that he may have seen the Pedigree Chart which I have mentioned earlier and is located at the Swindon and Wiltshire Record Office (can be purchased from them as images at a very reasonable cost). However, the furtherest back ancestor he names as Robert de Blakeland and the chart shows Richard Blague/Blaake/Blake as being the furtherest back. The interesting question for me is were these men the same person? Robert de Blakeland is a bit of a red herring in all of this. He is supposed to have paid a subsidy in 1286 on Blakelands (now Blacklands near Calne Wiltshire). I haven't pulled up that information yet to look at it. All in Latin and my skills are at best rather weak in Latin so it has waited whilst I improve.

How to rid the world of Somerby's errors though is an interesting dilemma and one that has been discussed in The American Genealogist (TAG). Fortunately, the author Paul C Reid has written an article in 1999 exposing the fraud of Somerby with the Blake family and others. Clifford L Stott in the NEHGS Register has written an article on Humphrey Blake and his descendants also mentioning the fraud of Somerby. By constantly writing articles and blogging on these errors it may yet be possible to undo the fraudulence of Somerby's genealogical forays. That he did it solely for money, is perhaps the greatest crime of all. To have done it innocently could at least be understood by future genealogists but simply to make money is such a crime perpetrated against all of us who try to do a competent job of our family history.

I am often having to deny people who write me asking for a genealogical descent chart particularly for William Blake and Mary Coles who never existed as far as I am able to determine. Certainly William Blake is not listed as a son of Robert Blake and Avis Wallop his supposed parents. His supposed children William Blake and Robert Blake along with their widowed mother are not in the Andover Hampshire area living on supposed Wallop estate (Eastontown). There is a Robert Blake at Enham just as there is a Nicholas Blake at Enham but they are the sons of Joan Blake (widow) and forename unknown Mr. Blake. It is the son of Nicholas Blake, William who first notes himself as living at Eastontown in his will. Nicholas and his wife Margaret have only four children: William the eldest, Edmund (minor at the time of his father's death in 1547) and two daughters Alice married to Mr. Godwyn and Elizabeth married to Mr. Monday. Edmund does have a son Steven but I have not been able to trace this line down. William's line is very large at Andover; he and his wife Elizabeth (unknown) have ten children. Robert, brother to Nicholas, is married to Agnes (unknown) and they have six sons.

My initial thought was that all of the Blake lines at Andover traced back to these two men, however the pedigree chart at Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office gives another William Blake also at Eastontown but married to Avice Ripley. Since the eldest son of William (John) married a Margaret Blake daughter of William Blake I was not surprised to find that there could be another Blake family at Andover and I am pursuing this notion that there was another William Blake there at the same time as William son of Nicholas since William does name his wife as Elizabeth. Could they be the same William? It would mean that his eldest son John married his half-sister Margaret. I doubt that happened. It was frowned upon by the Catholic Church and it is unlikely that one would record it on a Pedigree Chart.

My strongest suspicion is that there is a small error in connection on the chart and that Margaret was the daughter of William Blake and Avice Ripley and able to trace her line back to the Blake family at Calne. John who is shown as connected to this marriage was actually the son of William Blake and Elizabeth also of Eastontown (there were several farms at Eastontown according to ancient maps) but the connection back for him was to William and then Nicholas and unknown Blake married to Joan (widow in 1527). The Visitation which was used to create the chart is somewhat unclear on the parentage of William and it is from these Visitations that the chart was created.

The desire to have the male Blake line go back directly to the Calne Blake family may have been just too tempting (the female Blake line through Margaret definitely did do so I believe). Hence this small error crept in and allowed the descendants to use the coat of arms of the Wiltshire Blake family which included the Blake/Baynard/Bellet/Durrant family crests. It was Richard Blake Esquire, Captain of the Trained Bands in County Middlesex in 1662 who first used this crest on his Visitation although by then the Baynard crest had been forgotten and assumed to be an unfinished Blague/Blake crest. John is correctly identified as the progenitor of the family from Essington, County of Southampton. The Visitation is also signed.

How to prove that I am correct is the mystery at the moment. I am searching out material to either support my hypothesis or eliminate it. That is all that we can do as the successors of Horatio Gates Somerby's frauds.

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