34. A Collection of Ancestral Houses

I almost titled this blog entry “Old Haunts”, but there are no ghosts that I know of, other family stories notwithstanding (i.e., “18. Witches, Wizards, Ghosts, and Things That Go Bump in the Night“). Instead I offer a selection of old houses some of which have miraculously survived hundreds of years. Each is connected in some way to ancestors of our family. Sometimes they lived there, sometimes close relatives lived there, and sometimes a story about the place concerned them. All are places that can either be visited, viewed from a discrete distance, or appreciated on the web.

The ancestral lines mentioned here appear in the The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines (referenced as OA), available through Lulu. It updates and corrects, in brief form, a number of previous works. All are available either for download through Lulu.com, or through Bolesbooks.

Dungan Family: The Jeremiah Dungan House

Jeremiah Dungan settled in what is now Washington county, Tennesee, about 1777. He received two land patents from the Watauga Association, then the semi-autonomous government of northeast Tennessee, and built a house and mill. Both survive. The house, with walls 3 feet thick at the base, built from local limestone, remains in use as a private residence. Although it is frequently said to date from 1778, a 1784 grant indicates he was not then living in it. Thus it may be a few years more recent. It can be viewed from Watauga Road about a half mile west of the road’s crossing of the Watauga River. It is across from St. John Milling Company, housed in what was once Jeremiah’s mill.

We descend from Jeremiah Dungan through the Foster and Smith families.

The Jeremiah Dungan House

Gosnold Family: Otley Hall, Otley, co. Suffolk, England

One of the most recently discovered entries in my ancestral homes list is Otley Hall, seat of the Gosnold family of Otley, co. Suffolk, England. We descend from the Gosnolds through the Snyder and Harbour families, back to the Dameron family and beyond.

The hall is said to be “the oldest house in Suffolk to survive largely intact” [5]. We descend from the original Gosnold proprietor, named John, who resided there as early as 1430, and from his namesake son John, who styled himself of Otley in his will dated January 1510/1. The house dates to the 15th century, but its great hall was rebuilt in 1512 shortly after the second John’s death [OA, 4].

As of July, the house was up for sale, with 9.55 acres of grounds and a moat, at the asking price of £2,500,000 [3]. Several gorgeous pictures appear at http://www.otleyhall.co.uk and at http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/otley-hall-in-suffolk-is-for-sale-take-a-look-around-this-2-5-million-tudor-property-1-5111468. Although it is still a private home, and if sold may remain so, as of this writing it is still possible to book tours on the http://www.otleyhall.co.uk website.

Herr Family: The Hans Herr House, town of Willow Street, Pennsylvania

We descend from the Herr family through the Speeces and Staymans. The “Hans Herr” house, so named because it was lived in by that grand-ancestor, was actually built by his son Christian, also our ancestor, in 1719. A photograph of the house is used on the cover of the Omnibus Ancestry, and is reproduced here. It is now a tourable museum [8].

Herr, Hans house
The Hans Herr House

Howland Family: The John Howland Farm and House, Rocky Nook, Kingston, Massachusetts

John Howland was a Mayflower passenger, and is our ancestor through the Boles and Dickason/Dickison/Dickinson families. Although a house in which he and his wife Elizabeth lived late in life still exists and is itself of great interest, I have written about it previously (see blog entry “19. Four Pilgrim Ancestors: Life, Death, and Thanksgiving for the Howland-Tilley Family at Plymouth“). Here I mention their farm site, located at Rocky Nook, Kingston, Massachusetts. They lived in a house at the site from 1638 to at least 1667. The house itself does not survive, but its surrounds have been excavated several times, and there are markers that can be viewed. The location is said to be “deep in the Nook” with signs pointing to it. An address and map are available [6], as are some pictures [7].

Parker Family: The William Parker House

William Parker, a Hickey and Robinson family ancestor, immigrated in 1633 aboard the ship James, settling first at Dover, New Hampshire. In 1636 he was one of the original proprietors of Hartford, Connecticut, but a few years later moved to Saybrook in the same colony. A house now located at 680 Middlesex Turnpike, Saybrook, is attributed to him as the 1636 proprietor, with a construction year of 1679, according to papers filed for its designation as a Historical Place.

There is some controversy, however, as to both its date of construction and its owner. Wikipedia gives the same year but attributes its building to his son William; while a sign on the premises states that the house was built in 1646, which if true would certainly have been by the father. Either way, whether built by the father or the son, it seems clear that the father William Parker would have been in the house numerous times before his death in 1686 [OA].

Google Street View affords a good image of the house as of 2011. Another image, made in 2016, accompanies. The house appears to be part of a commercial enterprise, but it is not clear whether the inside can be toured.

Parker House trimmed
The William Parker House

Schenck Family: Brooklyn Museum and Wyckoff House Museum, Brooklyn, New York

We descend from the Schencks through the Foster and Ellis families. Roelof Martense Schenck immigrated to New Netherland in 1650 from the Netherlands, later settling in what is now Flatlands, Long Island.   He was a magistrate, or schepen, at two different times, and played a role in the transition to English rule. In 1685 he became the sheriff of Kings county.

Presumbly before his death in 1705, Roelof would have regularly visited two houses that survive today. One was that of his brother Jan. It was built about 1675, and remarkably, it survives today — inside the Brooklyn Museum!

The second house Roelof would have visited was that of his father-in-law (by his second marriage), Pieter Claesen Wyckoff. This much-renovated circa 1652 house in Flatlands is now a museum, and is one of the oldest structures in New York City [OA]. Both of these houses, of course, can be visited.

The Jan Schenck House inside the Brooklyn Museum

Stake Family: M&T Bank, York, Pennsylvania

This is an unusual entry in the list, because it is not a house but a bank. Not only that, it is a modern building. Nevertheless, the entry is appropriate even though the history is convoluted.

George Stake was a licensed tavern keeper in York, Pennsylvania, in 1761-8, and apparently beyond, because several years after his death in 1789 his 3-story brick house and half lot, known as the Indian Queen Inn, was exposed to public sale. It had seen some history for in 1781, during the Revolutionary War, it served as the headquarters of Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne.

In 1814 the Indian Queen Hotel, manifestly the same building, was acquired by York Bank, ultimately becoming a branch of the York National Bank and Trust Company. It is as a branch of M&T Bank that the 3-story brick structure can today be viewed at 107 West Market Street, near the colonial courthouse. But the final twist to the story is that the brick building is not the original one constructed by George Stake — it is an exact replica! [OA]

We descend from George Stake through the Speece and Stayman families [OA].

Witmer Family: The Witmer Tavern, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Benjamin Witmer immigrated to America in 1716, and settled in Conestoga township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. He later acquired property in East Lampeter township, where in 1725 he built a one-story-plus-loft building to augment a log cabin. Part of this structure was incorporated into the Witmer Tavern operated by Benjamin’s son John before 1758. Benjamin lived there and willed the property to John. John’s son Henry completed renovation of the tavern in 1773 [OA, 9].

The property was until recently operated as a bed-and-breakfast, but appears now to be a private residence. It can be viewed from Old Philadelphia Pike, on which it is located about 1200 feet east of the Highway 30 interchange.

We descend from Benjamin Witmer through the Speece and Stayman families [OA].

Witmer Tavern
The Witmer Tavern

Wolcott family: The Standford House, Centre Hall, Pennsylvania

The family of John Wolcott of Centre co, Pa, a Hickey and Robinson family ancestor, figured into a heartbreaking story concerning the Standford family. Sometime before May 1778, at the height of Indian raids on Pennsylvania settlements as part of the Revolutionary War, their young daughter, Polly Standford, had been visiting John’s family when she volunteered, “Mrs. Wolcott, if the Indians ever come this way I shall run down to your house for you have so many guns” [2]. Soon after the entire Standford family was massacred, and Polly was found dead and scalped — on the path to the Wolcott house [OA].

Nothing is left of that house, but the Standford cabin where Polly lived still stands on the west side of Rimmey Road, north of Earlystown Road. If you visit, please be respectful and view it from the road, as the cabin is in private hands and is still inhabited.

Yate family: Lyford Grange, Lyford, Oxfordshire, England

Finally, we come to a property that likely can be neither visited nor viewed, but which has a stunning web presence — for the moment. Lyford Grange was the home of the Catholic Yates family, ancestors through our Linton and Lazear connections. Our ancestor Francis Yate (d. 1588) is mentioned in the PDF of an extensive realtor’s brochure available at https://478mm2px10u4940wo2u51ita-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Particulars-1.pdf. I would not be surprised if the brochure is soon removed from the web, for the property recently sold, for £8,000,000. The gorgeous estate includes a substantial 8-bedroom manor house, a total of 477 acres, and numerous agricultural buildings including grain storage and drying facilities [1].

The house is of historical note because in 1581, near the height of the most severe penal statutes against Catholicism, the priest Edmund Campion was discovered hiding in a “priest’s hole” in the wall above the gateway. He was arrested, taken to the Tower of London, tortured, condemned, and hanged, drawn, and quartered. Francis Yate, the owner of the property, had already been imprisoned in the Tower in 1580 for recusancy (i.e., refusing to attend Church of England services), and died there. His wife was likewise imprisoned after the arrest of Campion, who was canonized by the Catholic church in 1970 [OA].

Houses in Previous Blog Entries

I haven’t included a number of houses that have figured into earlier blog entries. These include:

In addition, there are a number of castles owned by noble and royal families covered in the Omnibus Ancestry, that have not been included in the list.


[1] Information retrieved from https://www.adkin.co.uk/property/lyford-grange-lyford-wantageoxon-ox12-0eq, and the linked brochure (2017).

[2] Information retrieved from http://www.wolcottfamily.com/watertown.html (2017).

[3] Information retrieved from http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/otley-hall-in-suffolk-is-for-sale-take-a-look-around-this-2-5-million-tudor-property-1-5111468 (2017).

[4] Information retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/advice/propertymarket/3306652/A-very-special-relationship.html (2017).

[5] Information retrieved from http://www.otleyhall.co.uk (2017).

[6] Information retrieved from http://www.seeplymouth.com/events/john-howlands-rocky-nook-property-walking-tour (2017).

[7] Information retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/pg/themayflowersociety/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1576269195770641 (2017).

[8] Information retrieved from https://www.hansherr.org (2017).

[9] Boles, D.B., & Boles, H.W. (2000). Stayman-McCrosky Ancestry. Tuscaloosa, AL: private print. Available at http://sites.google.com/site/bolesbooksgen.



29. Seven Gateway Ancestors to Royalty

All of these lines are extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

Recently researchers unveiled a reconstruction of the face of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329, reigned 1306-1329), having applied anthropological forensics techniques to a cast of his skull. The lifelike result can be seen at this link. It does not particularly resemble the much-reproduced, ahistorical portrait illustrated here, which was painted in 1633.


In my family, the reconstruction’s announcement led to a discussion of our relationship, if any, to King Robert. As it happens we do descend from him, and many times over, through one of our seven gateway ancestors to royalty. In this article, I describe some of Dugal McQueen’s royal descents as well as as those of our other six “gateway” ancestors. A gateway ancestor is an immigrant progenitor whose own ancestry traces to royalty — and all of whose descendants accordingly do as well.


The Gateway Ancestors

  1. Dugal McQueen

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Dugal McQueen (ca 1666?-1746) and his family have been the subject of several articles on this blog, especially 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; and 26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig. In the listing of gateway ancestors, he has pride of place, because he descended from the most recent of all of our royal ancestors, King James II of Scotland (1430-1460, reigned 1437-1460). This makes the descent rarer, because in general, the later a king lived, the fewer descendants he has and the harder it is to find a line of descent from him.

Through James II, Dugal descended from Kings James I, Robert III, Robert II, and Robert II’s maternal grandfather Robert I, “the Bruce”. However, there are not just one but many descents from Robert the Bruce, because Dugal descended from multiple children of each of those kings. All but the most recent, that is. His one connection to James II was through James’ daughter Mary Stewart, who married Sir James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton.

Others of Dugal’s relatively recent royal ancestors include Jean II, “the Good”, King of France (1319-1364, reigned 1350-1364), through his son Philip II, “the Bold”, Duke of Burgundy; and King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377), through Edward’s son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine.

  1. Ralph Lewis

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Ralph Lewis (ca 1649-1712) was a Quaker of co. Glamorgan, Wales, who removed to Pennsylvania in 1683. He owned land in what is now Delaware county, and was the subject of a blog entry, 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania .

Ralph was technically the second most recently royally descended of our gateway ancestors, at least when reckoned by birth year. One of his ancestors was King Pedro, “the Cruel”, King of Castile and Leon (1334-1369, reigned 1350-1368). The line of descent is through Pedro’s daughter Isabel of Castile, who married Sir Edmund, of Langley, 1st Duke of York, son of King Edward III of England (who with a birthyear of 1312 was older than Pedro, and thus less recent). The descent is unusual because it comes through Edmund’s and Isabel’s daughter Constance Plantagenet by way of her scandalous live-in relationship as the unmarried “wife” of Sir Edmund de Holand, 4th Earl of Kent.

  1. Mary Need

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Mary Need (1645-aft 1708) was the wife of Edmund Cartlidge, a Quaker immigrant to Philadelphia. Her grandfather, a member of the yeomanry of co. Nottingham, England, had converted to the Quaker faith in 1647. In turn he was a descendant of the Lords Clifford, of Shakespearian fame, and through them of King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377).

This descent is somewhat unusual because it passes through Edward’s son Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, who left relatively few progeny.

  1. Elizabeth Gerard

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Elizabeth Gerard (1630-1716) was a native of co. Lancaster, England, whose Catholic birth family immigrated to Maryland in 1638. She married as her first husband, Robert Ellyson, of James City county, Virginia.

Elizabeth was a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). The line runs through Edward’s daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet, who married as her second husband, Humphrey de Bohun VIII, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and Lord High Constable of England, and then down through the Fitz Alan and Goushill families.

  1. Susannah Gerard

An ancestor of my father’s mother, Susannah Gerard (ca 1632-1677) was like her sister Elizabeth (above) a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). She married as her first husband, Robert Slye, of St. Mary’s county, Maryland.

  1. George Yate

An ancestor of my father’s father, George Yate (aft 1636-1691) immigrated to Maryland sometime before 1666, where he became a large landowner of widespread properties in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, and Prince Georges counties. He was of an old Catholic family of Berkshire, England.

George was a descendant of King Henry III of England (1207-1272, reigned 1216-1272), through Henry’s son Edmund Plantagenet, called “Crouchback”, Earl of Lancaster and titular King of Sicily. From Edmund, the line runs down through the Beaumont and Botreaux families.

  1. Lawrence Dameron

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Lawrence Dameron (1615-1660) was an immigrant from co. Suffolk, England, who became a large landowner in Northumberland county, Virginia. His Dameron ancestors held a manor in co. Suffolk as early as 1552, but his royal ancestry was through his grandmother Marjorie Clench. Her ancestor was Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford, whose most recent royal line of descent appears to be to Henry I, King of France (1006-1060, reigned 1031-1060) via the Quincy and Beaumont families. This is the most remote of the gateway ancestries.


Some Thoughts About Gateways

The fact that there are seven gateway ancestors in my family history does not mean that it’s easy to identify a royal descent. For many years from around 1950, when my father began genealogical research on our family, we discovered one “gateway” descent after another that proved not to be true. In part this was due to the tendency of amateur genealogists to insufficiently source their information — one big reason why I emphasize sourcing so much today in my book-length publications.

Another aspect of the difficulty traces to the long, serial nature of such descents. With so many generations lined up one after another to get back to a royal ancestor, and with every generation needing to be accurate, it is easy to make an error somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s as simple as attributing a child to one wife of a male ancestor, when the child was actually by a different wife. Sometimes there are confusions of similar names, so that evidence seeming to link an ancestor to a preceding generation actually concerned an entirely different person. Finally, for Americans there are particular difficulties associated with “hopping the pond”. Immigrant ancestors often left little or no evidence about their origins, and so mistakes are easily made when attempting to identify the correct individuals in European records.

There are nevertheless ways to improve your chances of tracing a royal line. One of the most important is to trace every ancestor possible. Every generation back doubles the number of ancestral lines, and you never know where a gateway will open up. Our first discovery of a gateway ancestor – I mean a real discovery, one that has thus far stood the test of time – was Ralph Lewis, and it didn’t occur until 1994, almost a half century after my father started his research. It occured only because I was determined to trace my mother’s Withers ancestors, opening up a host of Pennsylvania Quaker lines. Even then we got some details wrong, as I have written in 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania.

All of these lines, and much more, are documented in my book The Omnibus Ancestry. The culmination of almost 70 years of effort, it contains nearly 600 interconnected ancestral lines. Many thousands of dollars went into its research. By investing in the book, you invest in the ongoing research that has made it possible, and that will continue to support updated editions going forward. For those who have made and are making the investment, I am truly grateful. For others considering it, here is the link to The Omnibus Ancestry.


Picture attribution: Public domain.