Seize Quartiers

copyright 2004 by Nathaniel Lane Taylor

In the France of the Ancien Régime it was customary for people with noble aspirations to compile a dossier of ‘seize quartiers’, to prove the noble extraction of all one’s sixteen great-great-grandparents. ‘Sixteen quarters’ sounds like an oxymoron, but ‘quartiers’—in English, ‘quarterings’—refers in heraldry to an inherited segment of one’s ancestry, represented graphically as a quarter (or smaller portion) of one’s shield—one could have a large number of such ‘quarterings’, depending on the national customs followed. Genealogically the term came to be used explicitly for the great-great-grandparents, and implicitly in the context of verifying their nobility. In the more egalitarian twentieth century, ‘seize quartiers’ came to indicate a shorthand sketch of one’s immediate ancestry, as represented by the great-great-grandparents.

In the modern American context, how do we represent our ancestry? More than ever before, we are likely to be the product of migrations and intermarriages, resulting in a diverse mixture of social, religious, or ethnic groups. Many of these migrations and intermarriages happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a time of social and geographic mobility on a scale hitherto unknown in human history. Yet if one goes back four generations from the present (far enough to get the ‘seize quartiers’), one arrives at early or mid-nineteenth century folk who represent more stable populations, stretching back in their respective populations as far as the records will allow (if one is lucky enough to have ancestors from places where accessible records survive).

In this case, my children’s ‘seize quartiers’ pretty well encapsulate their geographic and national-origin diversity. In every case, the people in question represent stable populations, though in their own lifetime, they or their children intermarried with other groups. So no. 7, an Irish gardener, came to New York and married no. 8, a German domestic servant. Numbers 11 and 12 were both journalists who met and married in Washington DC, though one was a Connecticut Yankee and the other a Georgia planter (though ironically the latter’s patrilineal ancestry appears to be traced to a Scottish immigrant to the Hudson Valley). There are two significant intermarriages in the previous generation, as well. The mother of number 6 was from Nova Scotia, and the mother of number 10 was from Arkansas, though she came as a girl to Boston.

In the following list of ‘seize quartiers’, the numbers represent the quarters: add 15 to get the numbers of these individuals (nos. 16-31) in the Ahnentafel of my children.

1. Henry Barnes Taylor (1863-1926) of Kentucky, descended via Western Kentucky pioneer farmers from Richard Taylor (d. 1679), North Farnham, Richmond County, Virginia.

2. Mildred Ann Matlack (1861-1939) of Kentucky; apparently descended from the partly-Quaker Matlacks of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

3. Georg Albert Schmitt (1862-1931), of Louisville, Kentucky. Grandson of Christian Schmitt, of Neunkirchen in the Rhineland-Palatinate.

4. Emma Wilhelmina Magdalena Schillinger (1864-1953) of Louisville. Her parents immigrated in 1854 from Kippenheim in the Grand Duchy of Baden (now Baden-Württemberg). Ancestry can be traced for up to ten generations in some lines, and includes agnate descent from Johann Adam Schillinger, of Emmendingen, Baden, who married and settled in nearby Kippenheim in 1701.

5. Benjamin Franklin Tucker (1873-1947) of Gloucester, MA. Descendant of William Tucker (d. 1666), an early settler of the Isles of Shoals; and from many, many other Essex County lines of mariners and farmers.

6. Nellie Mae Lane (1876-1935) of Gloucester, MA. Descendant of James Lane (d. 1675/6), of Malden, Massachusetts, and Westcustigo, North Yarmouth, Maine; and from many other Essex County lines. Her mother, Anne Elizabeth (Andrews) Lane, was from Guysborough, Nova Scotia; her ancestors include a relocated English loyalist, a Scots immigrant, and a Hessian pensioner.

7. Richard James Brownell (1857-1906), immigrant to New York City from Stackallan, County Meath, Ireland.

8. Martha Sophie Lembke (1868-1938) of Staten Island, New York. Her parents immigrated to Staten Island, probably from Ehrenburg, Nieder-Sachsen (near Bremen) in the 1850s.

9. William MacArthur Scott (1881-1948) of Drumclamph, near Castlederg, County Tyrone, Ireland. Immigrated to the US around 1906; lived in Spokane (Washington), Massachusetts, back in Ireland, then in Massachusetts at the end of his life.

10. Mary Lillian (or Mary Stapleton) Nye (1882-1965) of Somerville and Wellesley, Massachusetts. Descendant of Benjamin Nye, who immigrated in 1637 and settled at Sandwich (Cape Cod), Massachusetts; and from many other eastern and central Massachusetts families. Her mother, Cora Emma Stapleton, was born in Arkansas, daughter of an English immigrant father (De Vere Stapleton) and a Virginian mother (Mary Anne Williamson). Both Stapleton and Williamson have now been identified by people seeing this website and contacting me.

11. Dudley Harmon (1886-1976) of Meriden, Connecticut. Descended from John Harmon (d. 1661), early settler in Springfield, Massachusetts; and from many other Connecticut Valley families.

12. Selene Ayer Armstrong (1883-1932) of Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia. Descendant of Rev. James Armstrong, apparently born in New Hampstead, New York in 1776, but who settled in Savannah, GA; other descents in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

13. Harry Wilfred Fitts (1876-1940) of Lowell, MA & Nashua, NH. Descendant of Robert Fitts (d. 1665), early settler in Salisbury, Massachusetts, and a host of other Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts families.

14. Mabel Elvira Porter (1877-1972) of Manchester, NH. Desc. of John Porter (d. 1676), early settler of Hingham, then Salem, MA; and also of many other Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts families.

15. Eugen Gruenewald (1879-1943) of Ditzingen, Württemberg. Immigrated to Iowa, then Indiana, around turn of century.

16. Pauline Haak (1871-1928) of Davenport, IA. Her paternal grandparents, Carsten and Lesette (Oldendorf) Haak and came to Scott County, Iowa around 1857, from the region of Elmshorn, in Shleswig just a few miles Northwest of Hamburg. Her mother’s parents, Karl Kuhrdt and Maria Hagemann, immigrated from Stettin (Pomerania) around 1853.

Nathaniel Lane Taylor, July 2004; rev. June 2006

back to ancestry

back to index

rev 04/06/2008