Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bourbon and Branches

We've seen the ads for Ancestry.com and other similar products, allowing us to discover what we never knew about where our ancestors came from, and what makes each of us what we are today. (Some people are more surprised than others. You remember Kyle, don't you?)

In the years before the internet made the job much easier, my family had been rather thoroughly researched on both the Alexander and Rosselot (pronounced ROSS-uh-low) sides. This piece recounts them both, leading to at least one interesting discovery.

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In 1988, I, along with several generations on my mother's side, received a large spiral-bound book called "The Henry Rosselot Family History." It tells of Pierre Henri Rousselot his wife, the former Francoise Bermont, and their six children, migrating to America from Belfort, Alsace, France, in 1838. They arrived in Cincinnati, and in search of farmable land, went east into Clermont County, settling near the town of New Boston (now Owensville) in the surrounding township of Stonelick. Their descendants spread throughout the northern part of the county, and farther east into Brown County.

Saint Philomela Church, "the little church in the valley" established in 1839, and the parish of many of the Rosselot clan who settled there.

In January of 1900, Henri's great-grandson, Walter James Rosselot, was born in a log cabin just east of Newtonsville, Clermont County. Dropping out of high school shortly after his freshman year began (as the story goes that he found it lacking in intellectual stimulation), he continued his education on his own. His first date with Frances Gertrude Evans was in 1919, at a crossroads of Brown County known as Vera Cruz, at the little Holy Ghost Church. They married in 1923 at nearby Saint Patrick Church in Fayetteville, Ohio. In what may have been unusual twist those days, our high school dropout won the heart of a college graduate. "Gertie" had graduated from a two-year "normal school," or teacher's college, affiliated with Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and was teaching at a one-room schoolhouse near Vera Cruz. After renting in two other places, they eventually bought a farm in 1925 at the edge of a valley near the East Fork of the Little Miami River.

The Evans family originated from just north of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and were predominantly Methodists. Among those who migrated to Ohio, some converted to the Catholic Faith, others did not. Among the branches comprising the latter, settling in southern Clermont County, Ohio, was one born with the name Hiram Ulysses Grant. He was later and better known as Ulysses S Grant, the great Union general in the War Between the States, and later the 18th President of the United States. This was always a part of the Rosselot family folklore, and subsequent research in recent years confirmed it.

So, this writer is an indirect descendant of an American President, making every fifty-dollar bill in circulation a kind of family memento.

But ... that's not the interesting discovery. This gets better.

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The commune of Hannonville-sous-les-Côtes as it appears today.

In 1961, I was given a pamphlet entitled "The History of the Andre Alexandre Family." While the narrative is rather sparse, we learned that my great-great-grandfather came to Ohio around 1840, from France, a little town north of Verdun in the Lorraine province (the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France) known as Hannonville-sous-les-Côtes. He first went to Cleveland, and worked on the railroad, finally settling in Darke County, in west central Ohio, where many from his part of France, even the same town, had already settled. It was there, in a region known today as the “Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches” he met a young lady from his former hometown, one Marie Couchot. They married in a little church named for Saint Louis in North Star, Wabash Township, a few miles from the birthplace of Annie Oakley. From there, at least eight generations of progeny have grown to the present day.

Nearly twenty years ago, my cousin Angela Alexander served with the Air Force as part of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It was during her various occasions on leave that she journeyed to other parts of the continent, and eventually to the United Kingdom. It was there that she learned that the Alexandre line was descended from Scottish highlanders, more precisely Clan Donald of the Isle of Skye among Na h-Eileanan a-staigh ("the inner isles") along the western coast of Scotland. They fought with the Jacobite rebellion for restoration of the Scottish crown, and independence from England. When the cause was lost, many of those of Clan Donald had sufficient means to find exile in France, the result of their alliance with "Bonnie Prince Charles" and a mutual disdain for the English. Much of this part of our heritage was lost to the mists of time until the present.

Now we get to the really good part.

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One of Andre's sons, Albert, married Ann Katherine Grilliot (originally "Grillot," pronounced "GRILL-oh," before some idiot at Ellis Island inserted a typo), and they eventually bought a farm elsewhere in Wabash Township.

In my encomium to my father, written six years ago, there is related a bit of family folklore.

Leonard had been a teetotaler before getting into "the family business" operated by his mother, the former Ann Katherine Grilliot (Grillot), a feisty and formidable woman, who produced a byproduct of corn in the bathtub of their farmhouse, and had husband and sons on the payroll of her enterprise.

Annie Kate's mother was a woman named Marie Anne Aubry, a family that originated elsewhere in Meuse, in a town known as Herbeuville. It is from here, that our lineage can be traced back to King Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great, also known as "The Sun King" who ruled France from 1643 until his death in 1715, as well as his grandson, Louis XVI, who reigned from 1774, until his overthrow in 1792 in the French Revolution, and his execution the following year. By extension, this links our family to the House of Bourbon, the rightful claimants to the French throne, currently in the person of one Prince Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon and Anjou, who would assume the regnal name of Louis XX.

So, not only is this writer descended from a President, but also from royalty!

Of course, we'd probably just call him "Cousin Louie" if he shows up at reunions.

As if that were not enough, our lineage through the Aubry-Grillot line has been traced all the way back to Charlemagne (Charles the Great), born in 742, who ruled as King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and Emperor of the Romans from 800, until his death in 814. Under his rule, much of Europe was united, enabling the rise of Christendom in the Middle Ages.

Further records have traced our lineage as far back as 600. Our ancestors held title to lands in the provinces of Burgundy, Brittany, and Normandy, all at one time separate realms, until brought together under a united France as the centuries came and went.

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So, what to make of all this?

When I was a little boy, and first heard I was descended from the French, it sounded glamorous, as some Americans might grow up imagining the French to be. I drew pictures of myself riding in a horse-drawn carriage, imagining that I was the lost Dauphin, awaiting the entourage that would rescue me from my dull existence, and return to me the crown and scepter that were rightfully mine. It was then that Grandpa Alexander told me the awful truth, that his own Grandpa and Grandma were poor. Andre was a wagon-wheel maker with a shop in North Star, who spoke very little English. His children, on the other hand, spoke very little French, having already acclimated themselves to the new world, and certainly having forgotten a long-buried heritage, only to be uncovered by a descendant more than a century later.

Paul David Alexander, posing with a fellow cast member, on the set of a remake of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Then there was my son, Paul, to whom I first broke the news. Judging from his announcement in social media, he didn't take it in quite the way I expected.

Just found out I'm a descendant of the House of Bourbon on my dad's side, so I have to behead myself now.
I'm also descended from Jacobites on my dad's side. My forefathers gave zero f***s about my leftist cred.

It's tough to be a card-carrying socialist, only to discover that you're descended from the very flower of the bourgeoisie. Imagine no longer being invited to all the right (or should I say left) parties. I only hope he can move on with his life.

In recent years, I have managed to make the acquaintance of a number of aficionados from the arcane world of Catholic Monarchism. There are the usual congratulations, of course, and one of them telling me simply to "enjoy it." (Obviously I already am.) One of them told me of more than one account, of friends discovering they were descended from some figure of history. All this (and the potential invasion of privacy) is possible through the magic of DNA testing.

My siblings are finding out along with the rest of you, dear readers. They probably think I'm just showing off. Then again, I also wonder how my “Cousin Hiram” would react. Maybe this proves that we really are all descended from Adam and Eve, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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This writer extends the most heartfelt gratitude to his cousin, Angela Alexander, of Fairborn, Ohio, for her years spent in genealogical research. It is her tireless efforts that have contributed greatly to this account.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Assumption of Mary

There will be an important announcement here at man with black hat, coming exactly one week from today, on that which according to the traditional Roman calendar is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. That day was chosen for reasons that will become clearer at that time. But until that time, we return this time to our regular (such as it is) programming ...

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Fly, my soul, with Mary fly,
Soar beyond the golden sky,
Mount to Mary's throne on high.

Bright the queenly crown she won,
Sweet the reign she has begun,
As she stands beside her Son.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

How endure this long delay?
Living here how can I stay
From such beauty far away?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Sad my lot is here below;
Who can hope or life bestow?
Who will help or pity show?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

But though far away from me,
Still our sovereign Queen will be
Full of love and clemency.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

With a mother's loving care
She will lift those hands so fair,
And will save us by her prayer.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Mother's heart can ne'er forget
That we are her children yet,
By such dangers fierce beset.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Gently, still, she bends her eyes
On the soul that longs and sighs
For her love, the heavenly prize.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Blest the soul who, like the dove
Borne upon the wings of love,
Follows her to heaven above.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

St Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787). Eugene Grimm, editor. The Glories of Mary. New York: Redemptoris Fathers, 1931.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The View From Charlottesville

Concerning the recent violence in Charlottesville, the home of Thomas Jefferson in the heart of the great Commonwealth that is Virginia, there are four lessons to be learned.

First, those in the so-called "alt-right" movement speak of defending their "European, American, and Christian heritage." Catholics, specifically traditional Catholics, must bear in mind that for most of American history, "Christian" was a euphemism for "Protestant." Until the 1960 election of John Kennedy as President, most Protestants, alt least in the South, did not consider Catholicism to be Christian. Most if not all of the neo-nazi and KKK types marching in Charlottesville despise Catholics every bit as much as they do Jews and persons of color. Those of the "alt right" would also be loathe to remember that the very flower of Western civilization, that of the rise of Christendom in Europe, was specifically Catholic is its origins.

In other words, while "American heritage" is inherently Protestant, what they proclaim as "European heritage" is inherently Catholic.

Second, the incident may have been sparked by an attempt to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, but in the end it had little to do with that, never mind that Lee himself would never have approved. The history of the War Between the States (more commonly and misleadingly known as "The Civil War"), and the tensions between North and South until that time, had to do with a lot more than slavery. If it did not, then explain why blacks fought on both sides of the war, and to this day, black men comprise part of the membership of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and proudly carry the Southern Cross in public.

PHOTO: A counter-demonstrator used a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator. (Steve Helber/Boston Globe)

Third, acts of violence were initiated by elements of both sides of the confrontation, but the mainstream media likes simple little bedtime stories of "good guys" and "bad guys," and the truth doesn't fit the narrative. And both sides, including the counter protesters, gave the purveyors of dirty laundry exactly what they wanted. Those who didn't want violence would have accomplished more by staying home.

"Both sides sprayed chemical irritants and hurled plastic bottles through the air."

And one poor woman was killed by a maniac.

Fourth, and finally, the cause of political and social conservatism, and whatever heritage it embodied, has been set back by years, thanks to a bunch of stupid jack@$$ rednecks with time on their hands, and no real idea of the ideals for which they claim to stand.

And so it goes.