Tag Archives: England

Discovering My Ancestry: Part 4 – The Other Boleyn Girl

My ancestry research eventually led me fifteen generations back to Lady Catherine Mary Carey. The name didn’t ring any bells at the time but then I learned the name of her mother, Mary Boleyn. That name seemed familiar but I didn’t know why so I looked her up.

Mary Boleyn

I discovered that Mary Boleyn was the Sister of Queen Anne, the second wife of King Henry VIII, who was beheaded for High Treason. She was charged with adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. But several years earlier, Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn, was the mistress of King Henry while he was married to Catherine of Aragon.

I had heard of the book and movie called “The Other Boleyn Girl” but never was interested in watching it until I learned that it was about one of my ancestors. I asked my wife if she wanted to watch the movie and she was more than happy to help me by watching a chick flick.

I realized that the movie was probably highly speculative and overly dramatic but it was still somewhat informative and I was interested to learn what life was like for an ancestor of mine at that time. The movie paints Mary as the younger, more reserved sister while Anne was outgoing, cunning and opportunistic. If my memory is correct, It also shows their parents as power hungry people who practically steer their daughters into the king’s bed. From what I have read since, Mary was probably the older daughter and their parents may not have been as bad as portrayed.

While Mary was the king’s mistress, she bore two children, Catherine in 1524 and Henry in 1526. Some historians believe that Catherine, and to a lesser degree Henry, were illegitimate children of King Henry VIII. Some point to the fact that Mary’s husband, William, received land grants from the king that coincided with the birth of Catherine and Henry. Others talk of the resemblance between Henry and Catherine.

King Henry VIII and Catherine Carey Knollys

It was also noted that Queen Elizabeth I, The daughter of Henry and Anne, gave special favors to Catherine and Henry, more than would be expected for mere cousins. It also seems unlikely that Mary would name her first son after the king if it was William’s child.

Whatever the truth is, it complicates my family tree. I have had to stop research on that part of the family because of the uncertainty. It would be helpful if family tree programs could allow people to have two or more branches that are listed as uncertain. I wondered why nobody ever did a DNA test on living ancestors to determine if Henry did indeed father Mary’s children but I learned that none of Henry’s four known children produced children of their own so there are no confirmed living relatives. I suppose DNA tests could be performed on decedents of close relatives of King Henry’s but those findings could be made more difficult by the fact that Mary Boleyn was actually a distant cousin of Henry’s, as we shall see in my next post.

Discovering My Ancestry: Part 3 – Royalty

A few years ago, I would occasionally go to the library when I had some free time to do family research. I was too cheap to pay for Ancestry.com so I would access it from there. It was a valuable tool in my research but it was not the only one. When I would find a new person on my tree I would then go home and research that person on other genealogy websites like Familyserch.org or Wikitree.com. Sometimes those sites would have information that was not on Ancestry.com. Combined, I was able to greatly expand my family tree.

I gradually started finding ancestors of greater and greater importance. It was like following a stream to a river and then to the ocean. The fact that these people held a high stature made finding information about them so much easier. After all, how many records were kept on commoners hundreds of years ago?

The turning point in my investigation came when I learned about my great, great, great, great, great grandmother, The Honorable Martha Edwardes. She was born in England in 1764, the daughter of William Edwardes, 1st Baron of Kensington, and Elizabeth Warren (no, not that Elizabeth Warren). Starting with Martha, my family expands back through time to increasingly more important positions in society.

Sir Henry Rich

Four generations earlier came Sir Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland (1590-1649). I’m just guessing but I bet that is where the term “rich” comes from. The Earl had an army of 500 men during the English civil war, which lasted from 1642 to 1651. The war pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of Parliament. Henry was captured during The Battle of St. Neots. He ceded the city under condition that his life would be spared. He was then put on trial and executed on February 27, 1649, less than a month after the execution of King Charles.

Other notable ancestors of Martha include Robert Rich, 5th Earl of Warwick (1616-1645); Sir Walter Devereux, 10th Baron Ferrers of Chartley/1st Earl of Essex (1539-1576); Sir Robert Rich (1537- 1581); Sir Richard Deveroex (1516-1547); Sir Francis Knollys (1511-1596); First Baron Sir Richard Rich (1496-1567); Sir William Jenkes (1480-1571); The list goes on and on.

This line would eventually lead me to kings, emperors and saints, but those are stories to come.