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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 11:38 am    Post subject: The Medieval Signet Ring         Reply with quote

I recently completed a project almost a full year in the design and making (well, I paid for it and mostly contributed by waiting and pestering, but still), and I thought what better place to share it than with “my people,” our little on-line community of medieval history and culture enthusiasts.

I became interested (okay, obsessed) with signet rings and swords several years ago after seeing the movie Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott. Liam Neeson plays Godfrey, Baron of Ibelin, returning to his home to find his long lost son Balian. I’m sure most people on this forum are familiar with the movie, so I won’t rehash it here, but Neeson’s character wears a large and distinctive gold signet ring in the movie. He eventually passes the ring and his sword on to his son during a knighting ceremony where he also confers on Balian his title as Baron of Ibelin. All good stuff, and I’m sure the knighting ceremony resonates with any man in general, and members of this forum in particular. Historically accurate or not, that movie and those two items, a sword and signet ring, are really evocative to me of nobility and knighthood.

It was also around that time several years ago that my mother, as family historian, became heavily involved in researching our family genealogy. Thanks to all the genealogical resources now on the Internet like ancestry.com and others, she was recently able to trace our family history all the way back to 75 A.D. This in turn rekindled my interest in medieval history when my mother informed me that I was a direct descendent of several notable historic figures such as Charlemagne, William Marshall, and several members of the Plantagenet family including King John and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Going all the way back to 75 A.D. we also discovered I was directly descended from a certain Welshman named Caracatacus Pendragon. That name in particular really resonated with me as I’m sure it does with many members of this forum, but to find out I could trace a direct relation to an individual bearing the title of Pendragon was probably the most exciting discovery of all.

It all came together and eventually something clicked in my head. I decided I “needed” a signet ring, something I could pass on one day to my own son should I be lucky enough to have one some day, and so my quest began.

There are many signet rings available on the market, but most are common and cheap baubles, easily found in any strip mall, but I wanted something special, a true heirloom-quality piece that could be handed down from generation to generation. After several weeks of research on the Internet, and speaking to local jewelers, eventually I found a company, 3D Jeweler, located in Vancouver B.C., and its owner Michael Dreschsler who was willing to take on the project.

Over the course of a year Michael was very patient with my constant questions both via email and telephone conversations, frequent budget fluctuations and setbacks, several design changes, and of course deciding which coat of arms to go with from my family history. Eventually though it all came together and I’m proud to say with Michael’s help I have a signet ring that just screams heirloom quality and Old World craftsmanship.



The ring itself is 14 ct gold, custom designed by Michael. The stone is a blood-red Carnelian intaglio, sourced and exquisitely hand carved in Germany by a family that has been in the gemstone carving business for over 300 years. It’s not a stretch to say that if I came across this ring sitting in a museum showroom under lock and key, I wouldn’t hesitate to believe it was worn by William Marshall or King John. It is that spectacular.



I hope that by posting this that members of this forum will be inspired to research their own family histories, and maybe help me bring back the manly tradition of wearing signet rings!

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 11:52 am    Post subject: nice ring         Reply with quote

That's a very nice ring.
I guess we must complement both Mr Dreschler, the jeweler, and your geneology experts, on their creativity.
I do like how Dreschler's creativity ended up producing a ring. The geneology buffs are another kettle of fish.

Bon coeur et bon bras
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 12:01 pm    Post subject: Re: nice ring         Reply with quote

Jean-Carle Hudon wrote:
That's a very nice ring.
I guess we must complement both Mr Dreschler, the jeweler, and your geneology experts, on their creativity.
I do like how Dreschler's creativity ended up producing a ring. The geneology buffs are another kettle of fish.


Wow, really? Was that necessary to disparage me and my family history in this forum? What a mean-spirited thing to say when I simply wanted to share an exciting project with others who might be interested.

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36


Last edited by Joshua Anthony on Tue 04 Oct, 2011 2:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Tomas B




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The ring is very nice. Most people will read the family history as a piece of fiction rather then fact. A lot of amateur genealogists make some rather large errors when it comes family histories.
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Skeptics are one thing, calling one's mother "creative" with family history steps over the line. It was just a mean and smarmy comment to make and completely unnecessary. He doesn't believe me, fine, but why make those comments in the first place, especially on this forum where people are usually so nice and helpful? I just thought people would like a little context with my ring project.

Haters gonna hate.

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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T. Arndt




PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua Anthony wrote:
Skeptics are one thing, calling one's mother "creative" with family history steps over the line. It was just a mean and smarmy comment to make and completely unnecessary. He doesn't believe me, fine, but why make those comments in the first place, especially on this forum where people are usually so nice and helpful? I just thought people would like a little context with my ring project.
Haters gonna hate.


Hey Josh, I care not if your reconstruction of your family history is actuate, or not; however, I would never be so uncivil to tell you if I thought is was inaccurate, especially in public.

In any case the ring is fantastic Josh! Thank you for sharing this project with us. Now I am going to have to look into medieval rings and see how they compare to modern ones.

If you would, can you give I rough idea of cost? I don't know if this was a $1,000 or a $10,000 dollar project. Since you made changes to your budget along the way, maybe you can provide guidance as to which feature drive up and reduce costs.

Thanks again.

Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association (WHFA)
A HEMA Alliance Affiliate

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” -Juvenal
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Job Overbeek




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

VERY nice ring, now that I see such quality I'll probably want to get myself one someday :P
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 1:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks T. Arndt, PM sent re price and I appreciate the kind words. His comments were simply unnecessary and reflect on him alone. He's not representative of the forum as whole. Most people like yourself make this a forum I really feel at home in. And gee whiz, why would I lie? It's not as if we have a monarchy in the United States....

As regards to features and price, of course the fluctuating price of gold made it expensive, but no more so than, say, an Albion sword once shipping, insurance, etc were factored in. The custom carving wasn't cheap either, but there are very few people that can still do it by hand, and for authenticity I thought that was important. Choice of gemstone will drive price too, and for most signet rings that will be something like Carnelian, Bloodstone, or Jade. I even came across gemstones like Black Jade, Lapis, and Dinosaur bone for people that really want to get creative. Another option is to have a very simple all gold ring (without the stone) and to have your family crest engraved rather than carved.

Thanks again!

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

now thats an interesting bit of work done there. i like to see old things either remade or rediscovered in all metal crafting.
it's both historical and inspiring. especially since you were passionate enough to have something one of a kind made for yourself and your family.

you mentioned handing down this work - it's truly something of legacy. where as it's pretty hard to hand down a sword (which a lot of us have personal value in) a ring is something that everyone in the family can appreciate.

and it sound like you have a illustrious family history - so those that you pass it to - may they be just as special
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Daniel for the kind words. It was a very special project to me, and seeing such a archaic item reimagined and brought to life was really fun. I've never worn jewelry before, so I approached the project with a little trepidation since it was such an investment, but you're right, it will be a legacy I (hopefully) pass down to my children.
"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Sean Poynter




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Josh, the detail on the dragon stamp left by the ring is quite impressive! That would be such a cool heirloom to pass on Happy

I'm curious: with so many possible choices, how did you choose which gemstone to use?
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean. Thanks for the interest. I vacillated quite a bit on the gemstone. Originally I wanted a more traditional Bloodstone (green with red spots), then I considered Black Jade, but ultimately I went with the blood-red Carnelian (Carnelian comes in a wide spectrum of colors from deep red to pink) because it was the most dramatic color, and really seemed to stand out visually.

My choice might have been influenced by the ring from the movie as well, since I came to associate the two in my head.



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"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 5:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a signet and seal for the house of Percy. I'm afraid they are small photos of them but might enlarge a bit, also another family token and a larger picture. A brooch type item.

Cheers

GC



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D. S. Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua, excellent job on bringing your dream to life. The ring looks fantastic. I never knew that signet rings had actual carved stones in them, so I learned something new (I've been doing that a lot on this forum Happy).

Family histories are a funny and interesting thing. Who knows how accurate they are when we start going back many generations. But that said, I think that it is important we know who we came from. Props to you and your mother for taking the time to research.

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Oct, 2011 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For those wondering about the different possibilities, here's a link to Youtube that features several different types of signet rings by 3D Jeweler:

http://www.youtube.com/user/3djeweler#g/c/1C73E1770D2E1027

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With respect Joshua, I find the family ancestory you've outlined exceedingly difficult to believe in. For starters, the claim that your ancestory has been traced back to AD 75 implies that there is a continuous chain of records or other documents that can link your family all the way back to the original ancestor Caractacus Pendragon in the first century. I have serious doubts that such a chain of evidence exists; to say it is extremely improbable is an understatement. Further complicating this is the fact that, as Ancestory.com states, "Before the Merovingian dynasty (about 500 to 800 A.D.) in France, virtually all so-called lineages are really lists of tribal chieftains, with no proven father-son relationship," (http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=6827). Therefore, reliably tracing family histories from documentary evidence prior to this time period simply is not possible. Another complicating factor is that the usage of surnames only developed with consistency during the high to later Middle Ages. This means that, lacking surnames, trying to reliably trace a family history back prior to this time is a bit like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

I've also noticed an interesting phenomenon when I ask people about their geneology. I've discovered that nearly everyone is related to aristocracy or royalty in some way. I know a man with Welsh ancestry who claims he is descended from Welsh monarchs. Another man claims to be related to one of the numerous dukes and counts of the Holy Roman Empire. Nobody tells me "I'm descended from common peasant stock"- which, by the way, I am, my family having traced my paternal ancestory back to farmers from Penzlin, in 18th century Germany. Interestingly, Andreas Capellanus commented on this phenomenon back in the 12th century. He wrote something to the effect that nearly every peasant and commoner claims to have a relative, close or distant, who is a king or an aristocrat. Not surprisingly, he was skeptical, and I am too.

These claims by people have lead me to conclude that either a) Basically everyone of European descent is related to the aristocracy and royalty in some way because of the incredible breadth of family trees over time, making such claims of ancestry not meaningful or b) Far fewer people are actually related to aristocracy and royalty than most of them claim.

Thus, when I'm confronted by claims of direct ancestry from especially famous and well-known figures such as Charlemagne and the 12th century Plantagenets, I'm am skeptical, to say the least. When I encounter claims of ancestory that has been traced to the first century, alarm bells start going off.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 4:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Drifting off topic i know, but like Craig, I must admit that when I read the proposed genealogy I too was sceptical. Having done a great deal of family history research (all in western Europe and UK), I just can’t see that it is plausible. Unless there was an intact family history that recorded the names of ancestors and was passed down through each generation it is highly unlikely that anyone could trace their ancestry back, with any certainty to Caracatacus Pendragon, which is only one step away from declaring yourself the direct descendant of king Arthur. The records simply do not exist to make those sorts of assertions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that anyone is a liar or a fantasist, merely suggesting that family history is notorious for the ease with which errors can be made and supposition and wishful thinking filling in the gaps. I have never been able to trace any of my lines back past about the late C16th. This is relying upon documentary evidence, online, offline, in graveyards and church registers. Unless the direct documentary evidence of relationship can be proven beyond any shadow of a doubt then it would not be proper to make the link. Also from my understanding of the Welsh annals and texts such as the Mabinogion, they are “legendary”, they are myths and tales of the fantastic and not an accurate record of history. So, not to be mean, smarmy, insulting or unpleasant, but to look at it objectively, dispassionately and without an bias, I remain sceptical.

However, Craig, I can say with absolute certainty that I have no nobility, kings, dukes or even a lord of the manor in my family history. One line was from the middle Rhine, dirt poor farmers who didn’t even own the land they worked; another line were Cornish tin miners, another were Irish farmers from Armagh, another was a ship jumping, brass worker from the poor end of London, and another was an Irishman from Dublin, convicted of theft and transported to Australia as a convict. So, there you have it, not ounce of blue blood nor one famous ancestor.
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 4:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Otoh, serious researchers tend to look at ancestry.com as feeding a greedy maw and offering similar articles some tend to quote with Wikipedia as the penultimate authority WTF?! Similarly when reading someone with a stoic inclination to stick to their own belief, it is sometimes easier to shrug it off. and point to commercial crest sites as an opportunity for some to enjoy.

Someone creating an heirloom item and passing on what they know of a family can never be wrong. Let the next generations sort it out if they care to or need to.

One part of my own background research has gone full circle back to notes shared with my grandfather 40+years ago. Ironically, it is the machine that is Ancestry,com (and similar) that screwed up assertions of the past decade while overlooking what was right in front of others working the same trees.

Cheers

GC
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First of all, let me say I appreciate the polite and thoughtful skepticism evident in your posts vs. the first snide comments I received. Honest debate is always welcome, but perhaps in the future we can restrict our discussion to a dedicated genealogical forum topic, as I really would like to keep this discussion dedicated to the medieval signet ring.

For now though let me say to Mr. Peters and Mr. Lee, you are both correct for your skepticism UNLESS one has aristocratic bloodlines in their lineage, because then there are MANY MANY records and ways to prove a family history and the process becomes much easier. Nobility has always been much interested in lineage, simply for the critical sake of making claims to the throne.

I think much of the above illustrates a lack of understanding for exactly how genealogical research is conducted, and how family histories are established. So, to show how my conclusions were arrived at and for simplicity’s sake I’ll focus my attention to one of my ancestors, Charlegmagne, trusting that it will be illustrative of the whole.

And for future reference, I only mentioned ancestry.com because that is a site that most people interested in genealogy are familiar with, and where most amateur genealogists begin and end their researches, and I didn't expect people here to focus on that one aspect of my post. My family certainly did NOT rely on one on-line source, as I will show.

I, too, have innumerable peasants, farmers and other ancestors whom I’ll never be able to trace, sadly. I am particularly sorry about my great-grandfather’s lost Irish parentage in the poor houses of the Potato Famine. However, not looking for kings, or queens certainly, I found that having several lines of ancestors on my maternal grandmother’s side who were among the earliest settlers in Massachusetts led me, in the local Mormon genealogical library to a singular 3 volume, 3,672 page genealogical work. This is the Royal Ancestry Bible: Royal Ancestors of 300 Colonial American Families. Seventy million Americans are descendents of these so it is no rare privileged few. Among these 300 families, I found that my maternal grandmother was a direct descendent of several family lines. Once I began using this, coupled with what I had learned from my mother and her mother, I found lineage that led back to King John, thence to King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. I was enormously pleased, as once one has one aristocratic ancestry the genealogy as a whole becomes much more easily traceable. As I stated previously, nobility has always been much interested in lineage, simply for the critical sake of making claims to the throne. As it says in the aforementioned Royal Ancestry Bible, “Many colonists are shown to have hundreds of different descents from the Emperor Charlemagne.”

Ancestry.com has its drawbacks and one must be diligent in research. However, a big plus for me came in the form of an email, directed on site to my mother who is a member, from a titled English cousin in England with whom she shares a four greats grandfather, a general on the English side in the American Revolution. This cousin has helped set us right on several erroneous entries on ancestry.com as he has been working with family papers several hundreds of years old and traveling to various places all over Europe including Switzerland, France, and Norway to research further. He has sent us copies of these documents, and directed us to speak with royal archivists in charge of other documents, so I can say without a doubt they are genuine. Consequently, I feel as sure as anyone can, given the thousands of ancestors when one goes back so far, that what I believe to be me ancestry IS true. The process only became easier with King Henry, King John, and William Marshall since there were many more records to draw from. Oddly, going backward to Caractacus Pendragon was also fairly easy because he was a historic figure as well, captured by the Romans and living out the remainder of his life under house arrest in Rome. Romans were totally anal about keeping records....

Hopefully this brief detour off topic will give my critics something to chew on, and note that I do not make wild claims. Though not exhaustive, this brief reply will hopefully show that I’ve done my research, verified my genealogy to the extent one can, and not relied on dubious entries from a single source.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming….

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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Joshua Anthony




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is my direct ancestry to Sir William Marshall:


Sir William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke, Sir Knight (1146 - 1219)
is your 27th great grandfather

Isabel MARSHALL (1200 - 1240)
Daughter of Sir William

Richard IV Earl Gloucs Hertsclare DeClare (1222 - 1262)
Son of Isabel

Gilbert IV (Earl Gloucs Hertsclare) /De Clare (1243 - 1298)
Son of Richard IV Earl Gloucs

Isabel de Clare (1262 - 1338)
Daughter of Gilbert IV (Earl Gloucs

Thomas KG de Beauchamp (1313 - 1369)
Son of Isabel de

Maud De Beauchamp (1335 - 1400)
Daughter of Thomas KG

Catherine Clifford (1358 - 1413)
Daughter of Maud

Sir John Greystoke (1389 - 1436)
Son of Catherine

Sir Ralph Greystoke (1408 - 1487)
Son of Sir John

Sir Robert Greystoke (1438 - 1483)
Son of Sir Ralph

Elizabeth Greystoke Greystoke (1471 - 1516)
Daughter of Sir Robert

Elizabeth Dacre (1495 - 1594)
Daughter of Elizabeth Greystoke

William Musgrave (1462 - 1532)
Son of Elizabeth

Robert Cuthbert Musgrave (1480 - 1533)
Son of William

Phyllis Ann Musgrave (1510 - )
Daughter of Robert Cuthbert

John Biscoe (1539 - 1606)
Son of Phyllis Ann

Edward Biscoe (1569 - 1605)
Son of John

Nathaniel Biscoe (1595 - 1651)
Son of Edward

Sarah Biscoe (1626 - 1693)
Daughter of Nathaniel

Nathaniel Bond (1660 - 1700)
Son of Sarah

John Bond (1690 - 1748)
Son of Nathaniel

John Bond (1724 - 1808)
Son of John

Josiah Bond (1756 - 1795)
Son of John

Theodosia Bond (1790 - )
Daughter of Josiah

Mary Ann Boyden (1812 - 1891)
Daughter of Theodosia

Augustine William Prevost (1836 - 1897)
Son of Mary Ann

Lillian Merriam Prevost (1873 - 1954)
Daughter of Augustine William

Helen Augusta Bosselle (1897 - 1977)
Daughter of Lillian Merriam

And thence to my mother whose name I will keep private, but I trust this should be enough to show just one example of how it works.

"...He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." - Jesus, Luke 22:36
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