Archive for March 2011

Trust but verify

Many genealogists, both professional and amateur alike, tend to depend on publications to perform their research. There is nothing wrong with this and many times it is the only way to find any information on a particular family or person(s).

I am fortunate enough that half my family has had many genealogical studies made on them over the years by various serious and well respected genealogists, published in peer reviewed journals. Most of my genealogical research has been based on the works of others before me (apropos for genealogy I think) and it’s perfectly fine.

However, since these books are publishing second or third hand information and to “err is human” one should keep President Ronald Reagan in mind by always thinking “trust but verify“.

Case in point a recent discovery of mine in my Chilean genealogy.

According to all sources I could get my hand on, my great-great-grandmother Javiera Ortúzar Bulnes, who married Fernando Edwards Garriga, was the daughter of Ángel Ortúzar Montt and Elena Bulnes Pinto. I was happy with this information and confident it was correct. I mean, it was published in the official, peer reviewed journal of one of the most respected genealogical societies of the world: the Instituto Chileno de Investigaciones Genealógicas (ICHIG).

With President Reagan’s saying in mind, I’ve been collecting copies from the original sources by working with official government authorities or ecclesiastical sources.

In one of these documents I got my surprise: My great-great-grandmother was the daughter of Adolfo Ortúzar Gandarillas and Carmela Bulnes Pinto. Oddly enough, Adolfo was the half brother of Ángel and Carmela the full sister of Elena!

So, what does this mean? First of all, you can never trust the books 100%, though they may just be the best alternative, but always try to get original primary sources. Secondly, a big chunk of my family tree is not really mine!

This second part is the one that really hurts – it means that several generations of people from my tree belong to someone else! The time spent on that part of the tree will never come back… oh well… lesson learned and one to share with everyone doing any genealogical research.

Heraldry and Orders of Chivalry

Over the past years or (more accurately) decades, the world of heraldry has been merging with the world of orders and I think it’s ridiculous!

I agree that the two intersect but they are not the same!

Let’s examine each a little closer:

The world of orders of chivalry has traditionally been a world where the “best” or “noble” or richest would enter either to deal with a particular cause or as a reward by some sovereign. I won’t go into the details of their medieval origin as it’s very well known but, I will mention that heraldry was a part of it as a means of identification. It was no more important than genealogy to establish the proofs of nobility that many orders required.

Heraldry, as most would know, was originally and still is primarily a means of identification. Having a coat of arms did not and does not imply any nobility, merit or anything special just like having an email address doesn’t imply you are a computer hacker (in the Hollywood sense). The study, analysis, etc. of heraldry in the various jurisdictions and in the specific areas of the Church and elsewhere has been a passion and a noble endeavor for centuries. In Spanish, the study of heraldry is called “ciencia heroica” or “heroic science” showing that it is something that stands on its own.

It is not a problem that the same people are in both, the problem is that the prejudices of one affect the other. Especially, the prejudices of the world of orders affecting the world of heraldry.

Put another way, the study of heraldry is an academic endeavor and the people in this sphere should be judged on the academic work they’ve produced and nothing more. However, even some of the most respected “academic” (and I put the word in quotes on purpose) institutions of heraldry seem to be blind to that and let their patently unchivalrous (not to mention completely uneducated and stupid) prejudices guide them.

It’s no different that to deny a professor tenure because he supports the “wrong” soccer team.

Heraldry blogger awarded major award from the Order of St. Lazarus

Arms of Major José Juan Carrión Rangel

It was an absolute pleasure to read this morning in the blog Salon del Trono that my dear friend, the Spanish Royal Air Force Major and maintainer of the best heraldry blog online, don José Juan Carrión Rangel has been awarded the Medal of Honor of the Grand Priory in Spain of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem in the category of Gold!

The award is in recognition of the outstanding promotion he has done in favor of the St. Lazarus initiatives through his blog, the famous Blog de Heráldica.

Well deserved and my sincere congratulations to a man who almost single-handedly has given heraldry a home on the Internet!


Medal of Honor in the category of gold