Chapter Eight: Parodies


The Internet and the World Wide Web, much praised for their potential contribution to the spread of knowledge, were quickly recognised by the bucket shop operators as additional tools to fleece the ancestor hunters. How many are already offering "Your Coat of Arms" delivered electronically for a few dollars? And with the benefit of much lower overheads than their traditional scams carry, how many will there be a year from now?

Not only "Your Coat of Arms" is available. You can buy from one operator the "Ancient History of Your Distinguished Surname" for even less, and a picture of a coat of arms is included. But whereas many of the bucket shop heralds do actually understand a little heraldry (not much, but some of them have read a book or perhaps even two, and they all have a copy of the notoriously unauthoritative Burke's General Armory), the computers that churn out the "Distinguished Surname" scams are utterly ignorant of history. As the information sold to the punters tends to repeat itself, whatever the name, the following amendments should be useful to many of those who parted with their cash.

The Saxon Chronicle (perhaps more precisely the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, for the work consists of several manuscripts - but this is a relatively minor point) was begun in the 9th century, not in the 10th century as stated, and various additions were made during the next three centuries. The "Chronicle", described throughout the "Distinguished Surname" histories as "painstakingly researched", was actually a synthesis of oral traditions and those unreliable histories that had survived in the few scriptoria left unpillaged and unburnt by pagan invaders, and as such it contains many errors.

Saxon origins are claimed for almost everyone's surname, but there were no hereditary surnames in England in Saxon times. The arrival in England of Hengist and Horsa was in 449, not 400 - a small point of little significance today, of course, but these operators are selling what they have claimed to be "meticulously researched" history.

The Saxons settled in Essex, Middlesex, Sussex and Wessex, but not, as claimed, in Kent, which was settled by the Jutes. The Jutes were distinct from the Saxons, both in origin and in the artefacts they left. Saxony as it is today (a region of North Germany some way north and east of the Rhine Valley) is confused throughout these histories with the place from which the Saxons came to Britain, Schleswig-Holstein, a very long way from the Rhine Valley.

The "armada" of "White Sails" surfaces in all the "Ancient Histories" we have seen. The passengers aboard the armada may have been "decimated" (which means a loss of 10%) as is claimed, but it ought to be noted that as an armada is a fleet of armed ships (the word being derived from the Latin armare), the correct use of the word implies their readiness for warlike action, which was not true.

These "ancient" histories of allegedly "distinguished" surnames would not, if written by a 12-year-old examination candidate, have earned a mark higher than zero. The grammar and punctuation and style are, in general, appalling. But these are not the work of a young student under examination stress: they are compositions written for money. The authors who fed the computers had access to reference books and all the time necessary to ensure the facts were correct.

The absurdities continue endlessly. The Saxons, already mentioned above, are reported in the "Distinguished Surname Claxton" history to be "along the Rhine valley as far north east as Denmark" (rather as the St Louis traffic runs west along Route 66 as far north east as Montreal) - which puts the authors' knowledge of geography on a par with their skills as historians.

The "Distinguished Surname Trowbridge" history asserts that Charles the Simple (deposed 922 and died 929) granted Northern France to Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy, after he had conceded defeat to the Norseman who had landed in France in 940 and besieged Paris - BUT

  • Charles died eleven years before this, and Rollo died around 932 at the age of 82;

  • it was his grandson Richard I (942-996) who was the first Duke of Normandy - not Rollo;

  • the battle to which the statement refers was at Chartres - not "outside Paris" as the "history" claims;

  • it was Rollo who was defeated - not Charles;

  • and the territory ceded to Rollo by Charles (and confirmed in 911, not 940) was roughly equal in area to about 2% of that of modern France or, to be more generous, about 6% of modern Northern France - not 100% of Northern France.

In another of the histories the Romans are reported as leaving England in the second century AD, but their evacuation was not completed until the second decade of the fifth century, and even the order for their withdrawal to Gaul did not arrive until 409.

The Jones history is special. Rarely can anything claiming to be genealogy have been so hilarious. There were no hereditary surnames in Wales until the 16th century (and Jones as a surname was already established at several places in England two centuries earlier than that), yet the authors claim on the basis of the pretended existence of the Jones surname in early mediaeval times that all Welsh families of the name of Jones have an ancient royal origin.

The computerised databank which churns out this nonsense must contain hundreds of errors, and, through the way the material is regurgitated, it is capable of generating many thousands more. Its major problem is that it has to cope with two types of foolishness: one, fundamental to the basic program, is the deliberate disregard of the truth about the late creation of inherited surnames; and the other, fractionalised in its effects but pervasive in its influence, is the irresponsible ignorance of the human authors. Obviously, as we have read only a few of these histories, we may not yet have encountered the most outrageous errors, but from our limited experience we would take the example of the cession by Charles the Simple to Rollo, quoted above, as the most devastating indictment of professional contempt for the customer any bucket shop could ever have produced. There are five grotesque errors there - in only thirty-five words.

The operators claim that:

"Every effort has been made to produce accurate documentaries. People and events have only been cited where full supportive evidence is available."

If it had not been for this infamous claim, we might have decided to ignore the operation . It was too easy to assume that the authors knew so little about European history they would not even understand the comments written here. Then, in an effort to help them appreciate the enormity of their offences, one of the librarians composed a history of a motor car, copying the fraudulent style and ludicrous errors of the computer exactly. (It is reproduced here in the certainty that these operators know much more about motor cars than they do about the history of surnames.)

The Vauxhall-Cavaliers

The distinguished name of Vauxhall-Cavalier has a long and honoured history and has been found in the south of England since Saxon times. Searches completed by eminent scholars in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Bradshaw, Wisden, Debrett's, Old Moore's Pipe Rolls, Nostradamus and Motor Sport have revealed that, spelt variously as Cavalier, Chevalier, Cowboy, Knight and Horseman, its significant influence has been noted all over Europe and was notably particularly significant at Philippi, Edge Hill, Marston Moor and Nasalby.

To early Cavaliers is owed the invention of the Stirrup which all great historians have claimed is, next to the Wheel, the most important of transport innovations, and also the Cavalier's use of wheels in classical times exemplified by the chariot races in the great masterpiece "Quo Voodoo" brought to Vauxhall-Cavalier its great international fame.

The first appearance of the Cavaliers is lost in the mists of antiquity but it is certain that according to Herodotus there were Horsemen, as Cavaliers were then known, among the great assembly at Thermopylae in the time of the great Emperor Alexander the Great. The Cavaliers were among the greatest Champions at Crufts in King Charles II's time, and it is probably absolutely certain that they came first from Northern France with Duke William as this unique origin is commemorated in their double name - Vauxhall being the Hall of the Vaux, the Vaux being an anciently noble name from the Seine Valley near Paris, France.

In more recent centuries, the Cavaliers have moved abroad from their Ancestral Shores, some returning even to France, the origin of their tires. Aboard such great ships as the Mary Rose and Marie Celeste they have roamed the Seven Seas and spread across the vast plains of North America. In the time of Good Duke William, the Law Giver, they assisted with the great Doomsday work, and even today that same work can be seen before the massed Cavaliers on the approaches to the capital City of London at the rosy dawn of each weekday morning. Princely travellers of the past honoured the Cavaliers with their motto "Seek Transport Glory" still used today.

Watch This Space !

Ghastly, isn't it? But as a parody of what these operators sell, all their customers will agree it is meticulously accurate.

We received a lot of requests to comment on bucket shop heraldry before it started to appear on the Web, but now it is spreading here so quickly, as has been often reported in CompuServe's Roots forum, we shall prepare a general essay on what to require of any electronic shopkeeper who offers heraldry for sale. This will appear in the Baronage magazine shortly.



The Peerage directories always carried advertisements (often provided by the publishers, as here, at no cost) for the charities associated with the armed services. The youngest of these was the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, an organisation that will continue to require generous support for several decades yet. An analysis in 1987 showed that the Fund distributed in that year over £8.5million to 3,442 widows of RAF personnel, 5,209 disabled patients, 628 children and 5,498 RAF ex-servicemen and women other than those included in the figure for the disabled.

Donations and Gifts under Covenant may be made directly to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund at 67 Portland Place, London W1N 4AR (telephone: + 44 - 171 580 8343)

Chapter IX ~ Feminism as it used to be

Mists of Antiquity: Introduction

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