“Miss Winters in the drawing room”

The drawing room in query.

A number of months again, Chris Child and I began taking part in a recreation we’ve dubbed “Genealogical Clue.” Taking part in a great recreation of it may be fairly enjoyable and difficult. Largely, it’s a recreation whereby we try and find a person in our respective household bushes with a primary title that resembles or is close to an identical to their surname. From this jumping-off level, the publish or story is then titled by how we “place” these people in a Clue game-like scenario. Maintaining with a grasp participant like Chris hasn’t been simple, although. I’ve actually needed to dig deep to search out a few of my higher “recreation board connections.” Sadly, most of my potential protagonists by no means appear to fairly lower the ‘Colonel’ Mustard. (lol)

Due to this, I’ve expanded the search past my restricted provide of individuals with first names that ‘mirror’ their surname. I’ve moved extra in the direction of an space of Genealogical Clue that resonates in situ, corresponding to “within the library” or “within the gallery.” (And naturally, I’m making an attempt to avoid these people inclined to any weapons of premeditated ardour!) In fact, then there are these pesky verifications that come together with making an attempt to each create and resolve the riddle to play the sport. This actually helps preserve issues extra attention-grabbing … if no more sophisticated. As everyone knows, verifications can crumble on the drop of a hat when piecing collectively “the remainder of the story.” I attempt to not get too discouraged when this occurs. In spite of everything, how can we place “Colonel Mustard within the conservatory” if certainly I can’t show he ever existed? (Such are the issues of the existential genealogist…)

…then there are all these pesky verifications that come together with making an attempt to each create and resolve the riddle to play the sport.

So I’ve gone again to the place all of it started for me. I’ve gone again to the place I began to study household historical past, and to my paternal grandmother, a multiple-line Mayflower descendant who was in flip adopted by a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of William Bradford. I’ve all the time believed it was due to her adoption that my grandmother grew to become extra attuned to household historical past than “the typical bear.” Certainly, she might recite the names and relationships between completely different branches of the household for a number of generations. It was by means of my grandmother that I got here to crave ancestry and the attention-grabbing characters contained in any household’s historical past. There was nevertheless one other very influential one who precipitated me to affix myself to the examine of household bushes. His title was Barnabas Collins.

Wait?! What?! Hey, what can I say? I’m a toddler of Nineteen Sixties tv, and proper or unsuitable I fell beneath the spell of the mysteries of an outdated mansion in Maine known as Collinwood. If you find yourself a child rising up in sunny California (and you’ve got a Mayflower descendant/Kansan grandmother regaling you within the lore of your lineage), the ancestry of a 200-year-old vampire’s household in Maine, nicely, all of them simply appeared (to me) to go hand in hand. (What can I say? I used to be twelve years outdated!) These people in Collinsport appeared to reside their historical past. Heck, even ‘the ghosts’ knew their pedigrees. All of this made that wannabe genealogically-inclined child need to hear and be taught extra. (I imply, we will’t all be as lucky as Jan Doerr and reside in our ancestor’s cool 200-plus-year-old home, proper?)

So, in considering of latest angles for a great recreation of Genealogical Clue, I made a decision to see simply what I might discover out about Barnabas Collins. (I used to be in spite of everything a descendant of the immigrant Henry Collins,[1] so perhaps I had an opportunity.) I understand {that a} vampire from New England’s pedigree could be fairly “sophisticated” however, nonetheless, I needed to see if there was a genealogical connection between myself and Jonathan Frid, the actor who portrayed the well-known vampire. Sure, I do know that each one of that is wishful ‘phantasmagorical’ considering on my half and actually fairly foolish. (Nonetheless, in my protection, nobody ever stated {that a} good recreation of Genealogical Clue couldn’t even be enjoyable.) A fast investigation revealed nevertheless that I had little to no probability of discovering any speedy connections to the venerable Mr. Frid. (Darn it anyway.) This meant I used to be simply going to need to look additional on the forged of characters that had schooled me within the want for a vital household pedigree chart so early on.

I appeared on the actors who had performed Quentin Collins and the well-known witch Angelique Bouchard Collins (actors David Selby and Lara Parker respectively), however once more it was a ‘no-go’ by way of any shared frequent ancestry simply coming to gentle. (Darn it anyway – I appreciated that witch.) Undaunted in my process, I made a decision to stretch out a bit additional and take a look at actress Joan Bennett, who performed the reclusive Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the matriarch of Collinwood. I reasoned absolutely if there have been any genealogical connections they should be together with her. The character of Mrs. Stoddard simply screamed outdated New England ancestry, and since Miss Bennett had performed the half so nicely I needed to imagine that she drew from some inside Yankee or Mayflower spirit to make her portrayal of Mrs. Stoddard so profitable.

I positive didn’t discover a lot. I had no luck discovering any connection in New England linking me to the actress. I suppose I needs to be content material in that I did discover a sign of very robust Mayflower ancestry in frequent between myself and Joan Bennett’s first husband[2] (we each descend from Stephen Hopkins), however nothing way more than that. Oddly, I did discover a distant connection between myself and Joan Bennett within the Schooley household of New Jersey, making her a relative of my dad’s. (Go determine!) So I assume my train in connecting to the actress who portrayed the matriarch of Darkish Shadows wasn’t utterly in useless. Each Miss Bennett’s and my Schooley ancestors seem in the identical quantity of Trails of Our Fathers.[3] Nonetheless, the connection feels extra anecdotal than one simply documented. It positive isn’t within the place I’d hoped it could be. (A hyperlink between Miss Bennett and myself to these Salem witches would have been superior!)  What was I going to do? I used to be working out of doable candidates for this potential recreation of spooky Genealogical Clue…

I used to be working out of doable candidates for this potential recreation of spooky Genealogical Clue…

I made a decision to provide my efforts right here one final hurrah and have a look at Collinwood’s erstwhile heroine, Victoria Winters, or fairly on the actress that performed her, Alexandra Isles. I admit I didn’t have a lot hope of any shared connections. Nonetheless, it appeared value a shot to analyze.

Ms. Isles is of predominantly Danish ancestry that connects her to minor the Aristocracy and past. Her grandfather Rely Carl Moltke was the Danish ambassador to the US.[4] Whereas all of this was attention-grabbing sufficient, I wasn’t seeing how any of it’d join me to the actress, and thus to her function as Collinwood’s tragic heroine. Nonetheless, earlier than I get too far, I want to say that one thing did catch my eye about her. (And, sure, I do know I’m digressing once more…) It was Ms. Isles’s connection to a reasonably outstanding title that considerably sadly I discovered in my household tree. It was in her relationship with a distant cousin of mine. A cousin whose title was Martha Sharp Crawford.[5] Who???

Perhaps it’s no large deal, nevertheless it felt a bit curious that Cousin Martha, aka Sunny von Bülow, and the spouse of Claus von Bülow,[6] an uber-wealthy fellow to whom Ms. Isles was romantically “linked” (and a person acquitted twice of making an attempt to kill his spouse) was the identical Sunny in my household tree. Whereas “the jury isn’t in” on all of this simply but, it seems that Martha Sharp Crawford and I are at the very least, in concept, distant cousins. Severely although, was that going to be sufficient to beat Chris Little one at a recreation of Genealogical Clue? 

Nope, it wouldn’t be. I used to be going to want only a wee bit extra if I needed to play a great recreation. So I took an extra ‘gander’ at Collinwood’s “Miss Winters.” I needed to imagine that Ms. Isles absolutely wasn’t nearly her Danish royal ancestry and attention-grabbing love connections. It was then that I discovered “it;” a reputation that might additional draw out my connection to Alexandra Isles, and thus to the character of “Miss Victoria Winters.” It was a reputation that might place us each (fairly figuratively) there “collectively” within the drawing-room of Collinwood. Her title was Sarah Taylor, and he or she was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, and an ancestress of, you guessed it, Alexandra Moltke Isles.

Sarah Taylor wasn’t anybody I’d paid a lot consideration to earlier than.

Sarah Taylor wasn’t anybody I’d paid a lot consideration to earlier than. A distant determine within the tree of my maternal grandfather Frank White Lee,[7] she was born ca. 1647 in Boston and married 3 times. She married first Thomas Canney, second John Wingate, and lastly Richard Paine. I found that Alexandra Isles descended from Sarah’s second husband and myself from her first. This labored in giving me the genealogical connection I hoped for. I imply, how might I’m going unsuitable with a connection to the character of “Miss Winters,” once I had not solely an agnate tie to Alexandra Isles but in addition (albeit a tenuous one) to the tragic Sunny von Bülow – her competitors for the affections of Claus von Bülow? Are you able to say cleaning soap opera? Certainly, are you able to say Darkish Shadows?

So many because of Barnabas Collins; to my grandmother, in fact; to Chris Little one; the exceptional Miss Joan Bennett; and to cousin Alexandra Moltke Isles for serving to me to collect up the items of an actual household tree “to attract” out in opposition to the fictional (wait – they’re not actual?) characters of Collinwood for a great old style recreation of Genealogical Clue. It’s been a blast to comb by means of the completely different ancestries of the actors who performed these sudsy components to see simply the place I may need ‘slot in’ on any day of the week as I tuned in to look at that spooky outdated present. (Hey, it’s not simple working from vampires!) I can nonetheless hear that somber music begin to play because the waves crash in opposition to the rocks of Widow’s Hill beneath. Now I can hear that voice communicate up as soon as once more over the credit and with new which means say “My title is Victoria Winters…”

Comfortable Halloween!


[1] Robert Charles Anderson, The Nice Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, 7 vols. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999-2011), 2: 164.

[2] John Marion Fox (1900-1963) was married to Joan Bennett 1926-28.

[3] Thomas Henry Silliman Schooley, James Bertram Schooley, Trails of Our Fathers: Some Descendants of the American Schooley Household and Associated Households (1988).

[4] Rely Carl Poul Oscar Moltke (1869-1935) married Cornelia Van Rensselaer Thayer in 1907.

[5] Martha Sharp Crawford (1932-2008) was married to Prince Alfred von Auersperg 1957-65 and to Claus von Bülow 1966-87.

[6] Claus von Bülow (1926-2019).

[7] Frank White Lee (1908-1988).