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Featured Story of the Month: January 2014

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Genes Advisor Report 13 Jan 2014 16:20

When I got my father’s birth certificate I thought that the name down as his father’s, Horatio Guy Campbell, was a joke. Far from it. There have only ever been four of them and it turns out that they were my great grandfather; my grandfather; my uncle and my cousin. I never met any of them, but when I put the first two on my Genes Reunited tree I was contacted by another member, who put me onto the fact that my 3 times great grandfather was a famous soldier – the Governor of Gibraltar. Actually Lieutenant Governor, as the Governor is a courtesy title for a younger brother of the King.

If that was not exciting enough another member contacted me and advised me to look into this man’s wife's background. This I did and was I astonished to find that she was the granddaughter of a very famous Irishman, Sir William Johnson, who went to colonial America and was made Baronet of New York for his work getting most of the Mohawks onside with the British.

I read a few of the many biographies that there are of this man, and then made an even more astonishing discovery! Sir William Johnson had so many women that the number of children he had goes into the hundreds, but I discovered that the mother of the second Baronet of New York is also my 5 times great grandmother. She was Catherine Weissenberg, a Palatine refugee, who was an indentured slave bought for two pounds by the young William Johnson to be his housekeeper cum bed warmer.

One of the problems arising from this discovery is the fact that there is, to this day, a Baronet of New York, but that there should not be! Catherine Weissenberg was a slave who was cast aside and although she was taken back in later she died and has no known grave, even though she was supposed to be married to the richest man in the State of New York, and possibly in the British Colony of America. So if there was no marriage certificate, how is it that there was ever a second Baronet of New York?

I spent 8 months in serious correspondence with the relevant authorities at the Palace of Westminster and the Ministry of Justice when finally they admitted that the only “evidence” of a “marriage” between Sir William Johnson and Catherine Weissenberg is a statement to this effect, written by a great grandson over 100 years later. At best this is hearsay. So the current Baronet of New York is not meant to be!

I thought signing up with Genes Reunited would give me a soothing, gentle pass-time in my old age but now I am studying the laws and customs of the Iroquois nation (particularly Mohawks), geo-political refugees in middle Europe during the 17th century mini ice age and the laws appertaining to inheriting titles!

I would in fact like to try and use all my new knowledge to write a book about Catherine Weissenberg, as so little is known or learned about the Palatine refugees and what happened to them, how atrociously so many of them were treated and literally worked to death in America, and that's just the ones who got there as so many of the rotten hulks used to transport them sank or got beached.