Being interested in ancestry and (to a much small extent) heraldry has nothing to do with vanity (not royalty in my side of the family!) but rather with a life-long connection with the hobby of building a tree and creating connections. It so happens that the French-Belgian-American author Marguerite Yourcenar was famous when I was a boy, being the first woman elected to the Academic Francaise. Her birth name was Cleenewerck de Crayencour and she had written a book about the Cleenewerck family entitled Archives du Nord.

Image result for marguerite yourcenar

My grandmother encouraged me to trace my ancestry which at the time involved writing to city hall (“la mairie”) to request birth and marriage certificates… Lots of work (and mail), to be done one step at a time. Yet, there was something exciting about begin 10 and writing my own letters and getting my own mail. The tree was taking shape going ever deeper into that 20-mile radius of ancestry around the French city of Lille, through the French revolution and into strange Flemish (or Latin) baptismal certificates. As far as connecting my tree with the illustrious Marguerite, no success, even today with the help of Ancestry. I go back to the 1500s which is not bad (but pathetic compared to my wife who has Swiss ancestry), but only the amazing prose of Marguerite Yourcenar (and she was an amazing writer) could make any of those people really interesting. Of course, I have since discovered that the truly interesting people are not those who seem historically successful, but that is for another day. It would have been nice to connect my tree with the cool-sounding Crayencour because it reminded me of one of the two heroes of the famous Prince Eric series (it was famous among Boy Scouts) in which Christian’s last name is De Creil D’Ancourt, very close to Crayencour. And that family tree came (in the novel), with a dark curse…

I have always wanted to see an association of the Cleenewercks be set up, so maybe this website will be able to serve this purpose…

Ancestry was a big part of one of my favorite books as a teenager: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft. Here is a quote:

His social activities were few; and his hours were spent mainly at home, in rambling walks, in his classes and drills, and in pursuit of antiquarian and genealogical data at the City Hall, the State House, the Public Library, the Athenaeum, the Historical Society, the John Carter Brown and John Hay Libraries of Brown University, and the newly opened Shepley Library in Benefit Street… Then, by insidious degrees, there appeared to develop a curious sequel to one of his genealogical triumphs of the year before; when he had discovered among his maternal ancestors a certain very long-lived man named Joseph Curwen, who had come from Salem in March of 1692, and about whom a whispered series of highly peculiar and disquieting stories clustered…

I confess to feeling strangely related to this reclusive and gothic Charles Dexter Ward, spending many hours walking the thousand-year-old narrow street of Montpellier and reading obscure alchemical manuscripts, including the mysterious L’Entrée ouverte au Palais fermé du Roi (Eyrenee Philalethe). These archetypes certainly did resonate in me, as I found a kind of equilibrium because the dark despair of Lovecraft and the luminous beauty of Tolkien.

My interest in ancestry was renewed with the arrival of my own descendants, as I could relate to the famous Patek Philippe ad “Begin your own tradition.”

Well, I could never grow my hair quite as long as the fellow shown on the photo above, but it so happened that my wife’s ancestry (and therefore my children’s) was Swiss! I still cannot afford a  Patek Philippe but I have begun my own tradition by keeping 10 SwissCorps SkyPeak A1s…

How exciting ~ records well-kept into the dawn of times, and instant access thanks to Ancestry.com and the amazing http://www.bernergeschlechter.ch/.

Within hours, I traveled from California circa 2010 to Pennsylvania, Germany (for a hop), Switzerland, and just more Bern all the way, into the 1200s. At some point, in a blog, I will discuss the importance of religion/faith in a person’s ancestry. It certainly shows in the Fosnaugh (from the Swiss Fassnacht) family time, which arrives in Rome, where else, with Scipio Lentulus.

Well, there is a new tradition here in my case with the merger of the Cleenewerck from France and the Swiss-grade ancestry from Bern, merging in California, under a Kievan sky!

Last modified: November 25, 2019