Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Captain & His Wife Had Them

Courtesy of the ever-so-talented FootnoteMaven.

[This is a submission for Jasia's 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted on her blog Creative Gene.  This is also a second installment to my "They Had Balls" series, which I hadn't planned on making a series, but everyone seemed to like it.  So here goes...]

I was all set to talk about the ancestor who was surrounded by a whole bunch of really upset people who had fire in hand when another ancestor started squawking about how I never talk about him.  "Was he not good enough? " he asked.  "Was his story not captivating enough?

[See?  I told you on a good day I can't get some dead people to shut up.]

Anywho, this particular ancestor went on and on at 3am this morning.  Then he proclaimed that if his story couldn't captivate y'all, then no one's story could because, after all, he was a pirate.  [That's right.  A pirate.]  And that he didn't brave the high seas and defy nations just so everyone could forget him.  And that if he had wanted to be forgotten, he would've just been a candle maker.  [His words, not mine.]

[Sigh.]  Between you, me, and the gate post, some ancestors are really high maintenance.  And I should've guessed this one was when I met the man ~ Captain Edmund du Chastell de Blangerval.  See what I mean?  High.  Maintenance.

And I don't even know for sure if he really is mine.  I mean, his story took place such a long time ago, but I think I can make a pretty good circumstantial case that we are indeed related with tax rolls, militia rolls, land records, and wills.  I even tracked all the possible family members with the last name Casteel (which is what the Captain's last name ended up evolving to) through 1840 on a digital map using Family Atlas software.  And barring any male siblings along the way who managed to not leave a paper trail of some kind, I think the Captain is my 8th great-grandfather.

And why would I go to so much trouble?  Well, I think all ancestor's stories are worth the trouble, but we're talking about a pirate here.  Yes.  A pirate.  How cool is that?  [Aargh!]

So before I feed the Captain's ego any more, let's get to his story.

The Captain's recollections of his beginnings are rather fuzzy.  In his defense he says, "Who could blame me?  It happened a long time ago.  Before my pirate gig."  And he's right.  It's rumored that he was born in about 1668 in Kent, England and that his Flemish family fled to there because of their Huguenot status.   It sounds a bit "romantic" to me, but hey, he's a pirate.  And I haven't made it across the pond research-wise because I have my own Captain identification problems over here to sort out.

Here's what I do know about him.  He married a woman by the name of Christian VanBon (which later evolved into Bonde).  And what kind of woman married a soon-to-be pirate?  I dunno.  Probably some one with a whole lot of patience and faith, I would guess.  Also, she'd have to be able to handle the household by herself for long stretches of time.  At least she had her parents nearby there in Philadelphia.

To be fair to the Captain, though, he wasn't always known as a pirate.  He was more of a merchant and privateer.  And the difference between a pirate and a privateer?  Privateers owned and ran armed ships and they had a commission from the government to use these ships against nations and to capture merchant ships.  So.  Government-sanctioned hired guns.

And a pirate?  Non-government-sanctioned hired guns who have gone rogue, or at the very least, they're working for the enemy.

How did the Captain become known as a pirate?  Well, we only have one written reference to him being called a pirate.  When Captain Thomas Robinson came from England to report back to the Earl of Romney in 1697, he says there were warrants out for the arrest of some men, including our one and only Edmund du Castell.  He also complained to the Earl that these men were cocky "pyrates" who walked around Philadelphia liked they owned the place and no one seemed to care.  [I'm paraphrasing.  Obviously.]

Well, duh.  Of course they were cocky.  Who would want an indecisive pirate or privateer, right?  For goodness sakes, look at both job descriptions.  Would you really want someone who couldn't make a decision or someone who wasn't sure of one's self or their abilities to seek out and take over hostile ships with deadly force?  Of course not.  Personally, I want my pirate to bring his "A-game".

And I think Queen Anne wanted her pirate, um, I mean privateer, to bring his "A-game" to her war in 1702.  The sloop Resolution was outfitted for the one and only Captain Edmund du Chastell, and he went about doing what he did best under a Letter of Marque from Queen Anne.

So, pirate or privateer?  I would imagine he was a little of both depending on whose payroll he was on.

Either way, he had balls.  No two ways about it.

And Stephen Talty in his book, Empire of Blue Water, [which is a fantastic read about the life and times of Captain Morgan] explains how Captain Morgan's pirate ships would hunker down and wait out a hurricane while at sea.

Excuse me?  Wait out a hurricane?

On a ship in the middle of the sea?

A wooden ship?  [Shiver me timbers.]

Oh, and there was the time in 1701 when Captain Edmund was so sick in Barbados, that he had his ship's physician help him with making his will.  He was that sick.  Not to mention far away from home.  Could you imagine?  In that time period?  Yet, a year later he was working for Queen Anne.

No doubt.  The Captain had balls.

But he wasn't the only one who had them.

Christian, his wife, had some pretty big ones herself.  I would imagine she had a few sleepless nights while her Captain was out working.  Out making "it" happen on the high seas.

And I bet some days she wished the Captain had just been a candle maker.


  1. ha ha ha! great as an ancestor. nerve wracking as a husband.

  2. Shiver me timbers all right! Shiver in delight, really enjoyed this!

  3. Very enjoyable read. Thanks for making my evening.

  4. Wonderful!!! "Who would want an indecisive pirate" Who indeed? Maybe every family didn't have one (a pirate) but I'm sure glad that yours did - and that you told us about him!!

  5. Too funny....I'd love to have a pirate in my line.

  6. I guess every day was "Talk Like A Pirate Day" in that household.

  7. ...and here I thought I was the only one with demanding ancestors....

  8. Funny, charming, and so well told. A terrific contribution to COG 100! Thanks for sharing Captain Eddie with us!

  9. Very funny read! I would to have an ancestor like Captain Eddie. Now If I could only write like you............

  10. Delightful! Sorry he gave you a sleepless night - but considering how many sleepless nights he gave others I'd say you got off easy. And we're the beneficiaries!

  11. I have some of those high maintenance ancestors as well. Spectacular (and very funny) read!

  12. Well told. What evidence did you find that lead to an origin of Kent,England?
    Theresa Casteel (Tangled Trees)

  13. Thanks y'all for all the comments! I'm glad you liked it. Pesky ancestors always like to wake me up early in the morning. And talk. *rolling eyes heavenward*

    Greta~LOL. Indeed. Every day was "Talk Like a Pirate Day" in the Casteel household. Too funny.

    Theresa, I haven't been able to substantiate that rumor on the Captain's origins. I've only read it a couple of times in various trees, but have found that none were sourced. Quite honestly, I've concentrated on this side of the pond. If the Captain is mine, I don't descend from Edmund III, but from a "phantom" sibling of Edmund III, which makes research tricky. And challenging. Very challenging. And my evidence is quite circumstantial. To top it off, my line is through the John's then a daughter of John Henry (of Wayne Co, TN) named, of all things, Mary (who, along with her sister named Martha, married & moved to Johnson Co, IL). But he's fascinating, is he not?


  14. Thanks Caroline. Yes he is interesting - between him and our Deerfield ancestors, it is enough to get my two sons interested in genealogy. That is a good feeling.
    (Have you got your book yet? I did not get mine but am a little concerned based on some of the feedback. All we need is more erronious information circulating about.)

  15. Theresa,

    I actually did not purchase a book. I kind of could see this coming, so to speak. IMHO, I thought the group was and is too focused on getting "something" published rather than getting all the information straightened out. I'm still in the group, but do not participate much. O.K., not at all anymore. But when I last looked about a year ago, I noticed that only 80 people had submitted their contact info with their Casteel line out of 300+ people who were in the group, and only a portion of those 80 had submitted their info for the book (may have been more than a yr ago). So, my question was and still is, "Who are all those other possible descendants?" "Also, are they mine, yours, etc?" Who knows if one of those people were holding the key to someone else's research? The group did not and does not foster an atmosphere of research & discovery, and in fact discourages this, which only leads to a product that is erroneous. Though everyone was encouraged to upload their info for the others to read, there was no going over it with others in the forum for the most part. We were encouraged to do that on our own, and there was no one else in my line with info for me amongst those who shared. And I'm a problem-solver, so I took the info that was uploaded, and combined that with Casteel census research that I did, and mapped it trying to understand the migrations of the Casteel's as a whole to see what I could see. Also, entered all census info into a spreadsheet. Definite patterns emerged that explained the possibilities of the link of the Virginia Casteel's to the rest. Enough to probably justify the cost of DNA testing. I don't think they can be ruled out, IMHO. Also, it was explained to me on the list that unless we find birth and death certificates we'll never be sure. Well, yes, this is true, but standard genealogical procedure says that in the absence of those vital certificates, which is inherent in early American research, secondary sources can be used to make a circumstantial case. In fact, this is demonstrated in the NGS Quarterly and many others in case studies. Basically, I refuse to believe that it is impossible to identify the "phantom" siblings of Edmund III. And I think it's a shame that we had at one time 300+ members in the Casteel group and were not able to engage them enough to solve some of our problems. So that's why I didn't buy the book. What was the point when everyone already uploaded their info? I suppose if you were a part of the Edmund III line, and you wanted to give it as a gift to a Casteel relative, it would be nice, but as a research tool, it's flawed. And I certainly wouldn't put it on my local library's shelf. I say, let's solve some of the research problems and post it online or make a Capt. Eddie blog and post ongoing research info there. It'd be cheaper and perhaps we could solve a problem or two. :o)


  16. You are right. Many people were lurking and not much was openly shared. I shared everything and still do. I was sent an email by someone in the group directly asking me not to post some Casteel info in my blog! I wasn't too pleased about that. They don't own 'history'. I am a firm believer in sharing documents openly. It was also interesting that many are trying to force a connection with duChastel but there were one if not 2 other Casteels that came to the colonies abt the same time. There is some good stuff in the book though. I person found a couple other references in the UK archives regarding Edmund du Castle and his pirate associates. That was new information to me. So can I share this info...or does the finder of it claim ownership??? :-)
    Have a merry Christmas!

    1. did you ever share this information? if so, where can i find it, please?

  17. Hi. I just stumbled upon this site after doing some research on ancestry and linking myself back to Cat. Edmund de Blangerval Du Chastel, 1660 is about as far back as I can go in that family line. this was so very fun to ready :)

    Thanks Jennifer

  18. Hi. I just stumbled upon this site after doing some research on ancestry and linking myself back to Cat. Edmund de Blangerval Du Chastel, 1660 is about as far back as I can go in that family line. this was so very fun to ready :)

    Thanks Jennifer

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  20. he was a pirate well before his commission:

    "In 1696 Edward Randolph sent this roster of known “pyrates” to England. On the list appears Edmond du Castle.

    "...first arrived from the Red Sea in 1692 in Charleston, South Carolina where they shared a £1000 a man among a crew of eighty-four. The men offered a bribe to both the Governors of South Carolina and Pennsylvania and were allowed to remain as respectable citizens."

    there also seems to be some (quite a bit) discrepancy about his lineage. there is nothing that really links him to the house of flanders, and in addition to that, there is a description of a wax seal that he used. the description doesn't match with how noble insignias should have been used, especially for french or flemish nobility.

    the pro of it being a connection is the fact that it resembled a spanish seal relating to the latin empire. (not saying the correct thing, sorry i lost the source) the house of flanders is historically/ anciently connected to the holy roman empire and the latin emperor of constantinople.

    i lost the source but the description is given in an account of him signing a will for a shipmate. the account tells of him not signing it other than just using his seal. that would have been after his commission, i think.

    also, it wasn't the queen herself that commissioned him. it was the governor, but of course he couldn't do that unless he had orders to do so.

  21. ok i found the source that i got some of the above information. there is a bit more personal accounts from that time period that shows that possibly edmond wasn't the nicest guy around, however i say possibly because he isn't specifically named. no one is, though:

    "Markham, “highly incens’d,” did write one warrant directing Sherrif Claypoole to disarm Snead. “I liv’d five miles out of the town, and was often threatened by those Pyrates, & did at that time ride arm’d for my defence, for they were at liberty, Curtis, the Under sherrif accordingly served the warrant, & took from me my sword & pistols in the town of Philadelphia, and left me to ride home without any arms, keeping them till the Pyrates were Gone.”

    the person who created this site seems to have done a good job at being unbiased, and i appreciate this because i agree with a comment above stating " I thought the group was and is too focused on getting "something" published rather than getting all the information straightened out."

    that said, i haven't read most comments and therefore do not attribute that to any person here. i've noticed it elsewhere while looking up edmond's info.

  22. I just found out I am a descendant of his threw Mary Castell on my mother's side. What a treat to read about my pirate ancestor:) Thanks, Bill McGuire

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