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Raleghana, Vol. 3

Raleghana, Vol. 3

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Excerpt from Raleghana, Vol. 3: Remarks on the Ancestry of Sir Walter Ralegh

Under such circumstances genealogy, or the art of pedigree-making, has, to a considerable extent, partaken of the character of a romance. The omission of some names, the introduction of others, the transference of names from one branch of the family to another, intermingled with occasional pure guesswork, have, singly or combined, led to, or assisted in, the construction of many pedigrees.

These thoughts have been forcibly impressed on the mind of the writer, in his endeavour to investigate the ancestry of Sir Walter Ralegh, owing to the circumstance of these objectionable elements (not the sole ones) being present in so many of the accepted authorities on the subject. Ruskin asserted, "It is not easy to be accurate in an account of anything, however simple." How much more difficult, then, to construct a pedigree, where facts, tradition, imagination, and carelessness (if nothing worse), are so much interwoven to produce a continuous line of descent!

It is not encouraging at the onset of an inquiry into the pedigree of Sir Walter Ralegh to learn the result of the attempts of two authorities in this direction. Sir W. R. Drake declares, "The evidences of the early history of this [Ralegh] family are unsatisfactory and insufficient to substantiate a continuous pedigree" (312); and, according to Edwards, "the numerous Ralegh pedigrees... disagree among themselves" (i. 5). Nevertheless, although it may not be possible to frame a complete one, much may be done to facilitate the labours of future investigators by pointing out errors, although such may at the present time be irremediable; by rectifying others as far as may be practicable; by recording any additional facts bearing on the subject; and by drawing attention to sources of information that hitherto do not appear to have been utilised. At the same time, to state the reasons for selecting one line of descent in preference to another, and especially to consider some of the alliances, more particularly of the later members, it is necessary to state briefly the sources of information respecting the Raleghs.

The first and principal consists of the heralds' Visitations of the county (the Visitations throughout England commenced in 1528-9, and ceased about 1687), and two of these, viz. of 1564 and 1620, are well known; the former, edited by F. T. Colby, having been published in 1881, and the latter, by the Harleian Society and under the same editor, in 1872. The former embodied the Visitation made in 1513 by Thomas Benolte, Rouge Croix.

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