Thursday, 18 June 2009

Appendix 3: The bizarre pedigree of Joseph Comerford (1724)

Château d’Anglure ... did the desire to acquire a title inspire Joseph Comerford’s extraordinary pedigree?

Patrick Comerford

In 1724, Joseph Comerford of Clonmel, Dublin and Anglure [see 9: Joseph Comerford (d. 1729), Marquis d’Anglure], registered a pedigree with the Ulster King of Arms, William Hawkins, claiming descent from the Comberfords of Comberford, Staffordshire, and providing a fantastically imaginative pedigree for the Comerfords of Co Kilkenny.

A year later, Joseph Comerford erected a plaque in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth [see Comberford 6: ‘A family brought low …’].

The plaque commemorating the Comberford family erected by Joseph Comerford in 1725 in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Most of the pedigree is without foundation, and it is a work that weaves little fact with the most misleading yet imaginative and bizarre claims.

The sharpest critique of the claims in this pedigree came over a century ago from the genealogist George Dames Burtchael, who scrutinised it while he was working in the Ulster Office of Arms in Dublin Castle as Athlone Pursuivant and then Deputy Ulster.

By the beginning of the 20th century Burtchaell had earned a reputation as the most reliable and critical of Irish genealogists. He worked closely with Thomas Ulick Sadleir (1882-1957) – his eventual successor in the office of Deputy, and Acting, Ulster King of Arms (the last man to hold the office) – in editing the Admission Registers of Trinity College Dublin, Alumni Dublinenses. Sadleir describes Burtchaell as “probably the most accomplished genealogist Ireland has known.”

In a pencilled note written across the first folio of the Comerford pedigree, Burtchaell declared forcibly: “All this is pure and unadulterated rubbish. [… illegible] GDB.” His critical notes on the Comerford pedigree are hardly unkind when we consider the fictitious confection that is this pedigree, the bizarre creation of an early 18th century fantasist.

Critique of the pedigree

There are ten generations and 220 years between the fictitious Allen de Comberford, who is said to have died in 1504, and Joseph Comerford, who registered the pedigree in 1724, or an average of 22 years for each generation, which is highly improbable and totally unbelievable. But even more startling is the claim that Richard Comberford, who was living in Staffordshire in 1547, married a niece of Bishop Edmond Comerford of Ferns, who died in 1509, and was the direct ancestor of Joseph Comerford, who registered this pedigree in 1724 – an unbelievable and impossible average of less than 15 years for each generation over a span of 177 years.

A substantial part of the pedigree is based on the registered pedigrees of the Comberfords of Comberford from the Visitations of Staffordshire and Warwickshire. Indeed, it is this clever interweaving of fact and fiction that makes the pedigree and Joseph Comerford’s work so credible for his contemporaries, so deceptive for later generations, and such a minefield for genealogists who approach it today.

The supposed immediate Comberford ancestor of the Irish Comerford family was, according to this pedigree, Judge Richard Comberford (ca 1512-post 1547), second son of Thomas Comberford who died in 1532 [see Comberford 4: Comberford wealth from Wednesbury], and his wife Dorothy Fitzherbert.

However, Richard Comberford was, in fact, the ancestor of the Bradley branch of the family. He was born ca 1512. With his brothers, Canon Henry Comberford and Humphrey Comberford, he was educated at Cambridge (BA 1534, MA 1537, Fellow of Saint John’s, 1534).[1] A senior barrister, Richard Comberford was a serjeant-at-law or servillus ad legem, according to the Visitation of Staffordshire.[2] He held one of the highest judicial posts as the King’s Remembrancer from about 1547.[3] He was also a Ranger of Hatfield Close.[4]

Richard Comberford married Isabel Biggs.[5] In Lichfield in 1530, as “Dame Isabella Cumberforde,” she was admitted to membership of the Guild of Saint Mary and Saint John the Baptist while her brother-in-law, Humphrey Comberford, was Master of the Guild.[6] [see Comberford 4: Comberford wealth from Wednesbury].

Richard and Isabel Comberford had a son and two daughters:

1, Dorothy,[7] who married Edward Bulkeley.
2, Elizabeth,[8] who died in childhood.
3, Francis Comberford.[9]

Richard has sometimes been named incorrectly as the father also of:

4, John Comberford, whose daughter Alice married Walter Littleton.[10] [however, see 4: Comberford wealth from Wednesbury].

Joseph Comerford’s pedigree registered in 1724, and the pedigree compiled at the College of Heralds in London in 1786 for the Countess of Crequy, make an even more fantastic claim, saying Richard moved to Ireland and became Lord of Ballymacken and Danganmore, Co Kilkenny, through his marriage to Mary, daughter and heiress of Allen de Comerford, last Baron of Danganmore, said to have died in 1504, and niece of Edmond Comerford, Bishop of Ferns, who died in 1509.[11]

As Richard Comberford was still living in Staffordshire in 1547, such a marriage is an impossibility, for this would leave twelve generations between Richard’s death, many years after 1547, and Joseph Comerford’s death in the 1729 – an average of less than 15 years for each generation over a span of less than 180 years.

With such bizarre possibilities, it is natural to ask why this pedigree should be given any consideration at all.

1, It has influenced other accounts of the history of these families, in particular the claims that the Comerfords of Ireland were the descendants and heirs of the Comberfords of Staffordshire.

2, It consolidated many of the myths about the Irish family, including the notion that the head of the family held the title of Baron of Danganmore.

3, It has sown the seeds of confusion, and needs to be unpicked at various stages.

Château d’Anglure in 1863 ... the château and estate gave Joseph Comerford his French title

Why did Joseph Comerford go to so much trouble to draw up, register and convince others of the veracity of such a pedigree?

Without a convincing noble pedigree, Joseph Comerford could not have acquired a French noble title when he bought the Chateau and estate of Anglure.

Indeed, we might ask whether he would have ever bought the chateau in the first place if there was no title to go with it, for its purchase and the costs of maintaining it eventually bankrupted his branch of the family.

On the other hand, Joseph was not the first Irish Comerford to have believed that this family was descended from the Comberfords of Staffordshire and to have believed in those ties of kinship: Nicholas Comberford, the Stepney mapmaker, used the Staffordshire spelling of the name throughout most of his career although he was originally from Kilkenny [see Comerford Profiles 6: Nicholas Comberford (ca 1600-1673), 17th-century cartographer]; and his contemporary and kinsman, Patrick Comberford, adapted a variation of the Comberford coat-of-arms when he became Bishop of Waterford and Lismore [see Comerford Profiles 5: Patrick Comerford (1586-1652), Bishop of Waterford and Lismore], so that the quartered arms of the Comberford and Comerford families, which have long been used by the Ballybur and Danganmore branches of the family, predate the fantasies of Joseph Comerford.

Joseph Comerford visited the Comberford chapel, and presumably visited Comberford Hall too at least on one occasion after he acquired his estates in Anglure and the title of Marquis d’Anglure, but his familiarity with the family history of the Comberfords of Staffordshire and the information from Sir William Dugdale’s Visitation of Staffordshire in 1663, indicate he may have visited earlier, and it is likely that he was not the first Irish Comerford to visit Comberford and the Moat House in Tamworth.

Despite its bizarre, fictitious, fantastic claims, there is a romantic side to Joseph Comerford’s family tree. And so this pedigree, in its own charming way, serves to emphasise how by the late 17th century and the early 18th century the Comerfords of Ireland totally identified themselves with the Comberfords of Staffordshire, and had forged strong ties of kinship and affinity.

Transcript of document

Folio 102:

Table 1:

The Genealogie [sic] of the family of de Comberford according to Sir William Dugdale at the Visitation of Staffordshire Ao 1614 fol 115 and another visitation Ao 1663 fol 40

Allen de Comberford, Lord of Comberford [father of:]

Allen Ld. of Comberford[13] [father of:]

Roger Ld of Comberford[14] [father of:]

Richard Ld of Comberford[15] [father of:[16]]

William Ld of Comberford[17] [father of:[18]]

John Ld of Comberford, ob. s. p.[19] [brother of:]

Richard Ld of Comberford[20], Brother & Heir to John [married] Agnes[21] […] [father of:]

John Ld of Comberford[22] [married] Joanne[23] […] [father of:]

William Ld of Comberford[24] [married] Anne[25] […] [father of:]

John Ld of Comberford[26] [married] Joan Dau[ghter]: & H[eiress] to John Parls of Shialhange[27] [sic], [father of:]

(A) [continuing to fol 103]

(A) [continuing from fol 102]:

Thomas Ld of Comberford[28] [married] Dorothy[29] Daug[hter]: of Ralph FitzHerbert [father of:]

[1] Humphrey [Comberford][30] Eldest son [married] Dorothy[31] 2d Dau[ghter] & one of the Heirs of John Beaumont of Wednesbury.] [His brother:]

[2] Rich[ar]d de Comberford[32] 2d son Ld. of Ballymacken & Danenmore [married] Mary D[aughter] & H[eiress] of Allen de Comberford [see Table 2].

[The genealogical chart then continues with Table 3]

Folio 102:

Table 2:

Roger de Comberford of Staffordsh[ire] came into Ireland with King John & was Great Master of the Game. He took new Armes as many of the English did that settled in Ireland.

Roger de Comberford, [1st] Baron of Dangenmore [married] Ann daugh[ter] of Sir Hugh de Lacy [father of:]

Rich[ar]d de Comberford, [2nd] Bar[o]n of Dangenmore [married] Mary fitzMorris of the House of Kerry [father of:]

Tadias Comerford, [3rd] Bar[o]n of Dangenmore, left B out of his name. He was called in Irish O Comertune [married] Marg[are]t O’Brien of the House of Thomond [father of:]

Allen de Comerford, [4th] Bar[o]n of Dangenmore [married] Ann Butler [father of:]

Luke Comberford,[33] [5th] Baron of Dangenmore [married] Mary Butler[34] of the House of Ormond [father of:]

Fucus de Comberford, [6th] Baron of Dangenmore [married] Mary FitzGerald of the House of Desmond [father of:]

Fucus de Comerford, [7th] Baron of Dangenmore [married] Eliz[abeth] D[aughter] & H[eir] of Tho[mas] de Comerford, Lord of Ballymacken [father of:]

[1] Alexander [Comerford,] eldest son, ob s.p. Ao 1496[;]

[2] Edm[un]d [Comerford,] 2d son, Bishop of Ferns, died Ao. 1509[; and]

[3] Allen de Comerford, [8th and] last Baron of Dangenmore, died 1504, [married] Margaret Tobin of the House of Kimsenagh [father of:]

(B) [continuing to fol 103]

(B) [continuing from fol 102]:

Mary, D[aughter] & H[eir] of Allen de Comerford, [married] Richard de Comberford, 2d son [of Thomas Ld of Comberford, see Table 1 above], [parents of:]

[The genealogical chart then continues with Table 3]

Table 3:

[Folio 103:]

Thomas de Comberford [married] Ann FitzGerald of the House of Kildare [father of:]

Luke de Comerford, left B out of his name. He was called in Irish O Comertune, [married] Eliz[abeth] Butler of the House of Galmoy [father of:]

Tho[mas] de Comerford, Ld of Ballymacken & Dangenmore [married] Margaret Tobin of the House of Kimsenagh [father of:]

Gerald de Comerford [married] Catherine Bourk of the House of Duholiagh [father of:]

James Comerford [married] Margaret Tobin [father of:]

[1] Richard de Comerford, Eldest son [see below].

[2] Edw[ar]d de Comerford, 2d son [see below].

[3] Henry de Comerford, 3d son [see below].

[4] George Comerford, 4 son. [no further details given.]

[5] Amie.

[The pedigree continues with James Comerford’s eldest son:]

Richard de Comerford, Eldest son, [father of:]

Richard de Comerford [father of two sons:]

[1] Richard [Comerford] ob.s.p.

[2] Edward [Comerford,] ArchB[isho]p of Cashell [sic].

[In a separate column on fol 103, the pedigree continues with James Comerford’s second son:]

Edw[ar]d de Comerford,[35] 2d son [married] Ann Hoar of the House of Harperstowne [father of:]

Peter de Comerford[36] [married] Honor Everard of the House of Fethard [father of:]

Edward de Comerford[37] [married] Barbara Brown[38] of Comins Co Limer[ick]: descended from the House of Montague [father of three sons and a daughter:]

(B) [continuing to fol 104]

(B) [continuing from fol 103]:

[1] Joseph de Comerford Esq now living in the City of Dublin Ao 1724 [married] Margaret Browne of the House of Comins, Com [i.e., county] Limerick.[39]

[2] Bonaventure de Comerford, 2 son.

[3] Luke de Comerford, 3d son, mar[rie]d in France.[40]

[4] Mary Catherine.

[In a separate column, the pedigree continues with James Comerford’s third son:]

Henry de Comerford [married] Ellenor Kearny of the House of Ballyduagh [father of:]

Geo[rge] de Comerford [married] Ann Butler of the House of Dunboyne [father of:]

Henry de Comerford [married] Ellenor Grace [and was the father of sons:]

(A) [continuing to fol 104]

(A) [continuing from fol 103]:

[1] John de Comerford, Eldest son;

[2] George de Comerford, 2d son.

Marginal heraldic notes:

There are two marginal entries on fol 103.

On the top right-hand corner of the page is this note:

These Armes Crest & Supporters were taken & borne by Roger de Comberford on his settling in Ireland

Azur[e] a Buglehorne A[rgent] stringed Gules bet[ween] 3 Mullets O[r]. Supported on each side by an Irish wolfedogg brown & white. Crest a Peacock in his pride P[rope]r. Motto So ho ho Dea ne.

In the margin close to the top of the left-hand side of the page is a second note:

These Armes [sic] & Crest were Borne by Richard de Comberford as descended on Him from His Ancestors –

Quarterly 1st G[ules] a Talbot pass[an]t A[rgent] –

2ly G[ules] on a Cross engr[ailed] O[r] 5 red roses p[rope]r –

3d as 2d. 4 as 1st.

Motto So ho ho dea ne

Crest a Peacock’s head out of a Ducall [sic] Cro[wn] P[rope]r.

A note at the end of fol 104 reads:

Arms: Q[uar]t[erl]y 1st G[ules] a Talbot pass[an]t A[rgent]

2ly, Az[ure] a Buglehorne A[rgent] stringed G[ules] bet[ween] 3 mullets O[r]

3rd, as 2d.

4ly, G[ules] on a Cross engr[ailed] O[r] 5 red roses p[rope]r.

Crest a Peacock’s head out of a Ducall [sic] Cro[wn] P[rope]r.

Motto So ho ho dea ne

The Armes last Depicted were Borne by Richard de Comberford who on his marriage with Mary Da[ughter] & H[eir] of Allen de Comerford Quartered her Armes with His, omitting the Supporters, Supporters being then used only by Peers, which Armes & Quartering & Crest are now borne by his Descendant Joseph de Comerford of the City of Dublin.

The pedigree is signed:

W.H. Ulster &c.

William Hawkins jr (1670-1736) was Ulster King of Arms from 1698 to 1725, having succeeded his father, William Hawkins, who held office until 1722.

Footnotes and references:

[1] Al Cantab, 1/1, p. 432.
[2] Visit Staffs, p. 142.
[3] NA, Exchequer, King’s Remembrancer, Certificates of Residence, E 115/112/96.
[4] Visit Staffs, pp 55, 142.
[5] Check Refs.
[6] Harwood, p. 413.
[7] Visit Warwicks, p. 34; Adams, p. 8.
[8] Visit Warwicks, p. 34; Adams, p. 8.
[9] Visit Warwicks, p. 34; Shaw, p. 434 and Adams, p. 8, where both spell his name Frances).
[10] Visit Staffs, p. 142, where it is said he was the father of John Comberford, whose daughter Alice married Walter Littleton, although this is not supported by other accounts.
[11] G.O. Ms. 160, ff 102-104; Crequy Pedigree, f. 12.
[12] Between the two tables, a pencilled note reads: ‘All this is pure and unadulterated rubbish. [illegibile] GDB.’
[13] This appears to be Alan de Comberford, son of Alan de Comberford, who claimed Wigginton Manor in 1278 but he was sued by the Marmion family for £10 in damages caused in fields in Coton and Wigginton, two villages within a mile of Comberford.
[14] This is Roger de Comberford who was living in 1256, 1266, 1286 and 1291.
[15] He was living in was living in 1313, 1327 and 1329.
[16] The pedigree does not name his wife Julian, who was a widow by 1333
[17] This William Comberford died in 1349.
[18] The pedigree does not name his wife Alice.
[19] He was Lord of Comberford in 1350, 1366 and 1382; his will was proved in 1414
[20] He was living in 1386, and probably died before 1391.
[21] She was a widow by 1389.
[22] He was Lord of Comberford in 1414, 1422, 1424, and 1429-1436. He died ca 1436-1439.
[23] She died ca 1436-1439.
[24] He was born ca 1403/1410, built Comberford Hall in 1439, and died on 11 June 1472.
[25] Anna or Anne Comberford was the daughter of Robert Browe, MP, of Teigh and Woodhead, Rutland, and the widow of John Heliwell of Whissendine, Rutland. When she was widowed, she married her third husband, William Newport, of High Ercall, Shropshire, High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1473.
[26] He was born ca 1426, was living in Lichfield in 1476, had succeeded to his father’s estates in Comberford and Tamworth by 1478, and died in 1508.
[27] Johanna Comberford was the only daughter and heir of John Parles of Watford and of Shutlanger, Northamptonshire.
[28] He was born before 1472, was living in Lichfield in 1495, succeeded to his father’s estates about the age of 36, and died on 6 January 1532.
[29] Dorothea Comberford was a daughter of Ralph Fitzherbert of Norbury, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
[30] Humprey Comberford was born ca 1496/1498, was living in Lichfield in 1530, succeeded to his father’s estates in 1532, and died on 23 December 1555.
[31] Dorothy Comberford was the second daughter and co-heir of John Beaumont of Wednesbury, Staffordshire; she died in 1565.
[32] Richard Comberford was born ca 1512 and died after 1547.
[33] Here Burtchaell has pencilled a note: ‘No such man.’
[34] Here Burtchaell has pencilled a note: ‘No such marriage.’
[35] Here Burtchael has pencilled a query: ‘MP of Callan?’
[36] Here Burtchaell has pencilled a note: N. Ross …’
[37] Here Burtchaell has added a pencilled note: ‘will 10 Nov 1679, pr 13 Dec 1679, of Clonmel.’
[38] Here Burtchaell has added a pencilled note: ‘will 11 June 1711, pr 1719.
[39] Burtchaell adds a pencilled note: ‘will 13 May 1727[?] pr 1729’ and an additional note giving Joseph Comerford a daughter: ‘Jane Barbara.’
[40] Burtchaell adds the name of his wife: ‘Anstace Lucy Gough.’

(c) Patrick Comerford, 2009, 2011; last revised, 11 and 12 January 2011; 18 May 2011; 27 October 2015.


Kevin Comerford said...

Interesting post Patrick. Am I understanding correctly then that there is no accurately documented connection between the Comerford's of Co. Kilkenny and the Comberford's of Stafforshire?

Kevin Comerford said...


Patrick Comerford said...

That's right Kevin. The Staffordshire link is a myth that was accepted by both families, and one that is perpetuated in popular books on Irish family names.

But the Irish Comerford family roots are in Quemerford in Calne, Wiltshire.

I'm a regular visitor to both Quemerford and Comberford, both charming places.

I suppose, though, you could say the perpetuation of the myth leaves ties of kinship one that is like adoption.

Find your way around this blog, and you'll see the full story.