Thursday, July 02, 2015

Finally! The Genealogy of Blackbeard the Pirate!

Bristol Harbor with cathedral and quay. In 1750 Bristol ships still transported 8,000 of the 20,000 slaves sent to the British Caribbean and North America.


From: "The Journal of Edward Thache"

16th day of September in the Year of our Lord 1690.

Leaving home... 

It was unseasonably cold the day I left the only world I had ever known. 

Indeed, the weather made quite the impression. An easterly wind brought an early chill to our shores in mid-September, preceded by a heavy fog that lasted a full week. By the end of the month in that chilly fall of 1690, despite many an objection from not only my mother and other passengers of the fairer sex, we departed Bristol Bay at 8 and a half of the clock on my father's brigantine, the Elizabeth

My mother bade me dress warmly and comforted me in that wintry portent. It was even colder at sea and I wondered more than once at my father's insistence upon joining the convoy in such weather. Mother oddly said the sea air would remain rather bracing in the latitudes about Bristol port, but that it would warm as we pushed southward toward the Azores. Why, I wondered? Till then, I should wear the coat always, she insisted. She calmly explained to me that, afterwards, the trade winds would warmly transport us to the West Indies, even in the ides of November and the customary time of winter. She seemed satisfied with her odd prediction. 

Not only was my mother an astute observer, as it turned out, “winter” should never again carry the same meaning for me. I remember not fully believing my mother then. Tis too strange for a lad of my age at the time to understand the ways of latitude and the full rise of the sun against the horizon upon the weather. Mother’s lively emerald eyes flashed amusement at my bemused expression. She smiled as a stiff wind caught a few strands of her auburn hair and pulled them across her cheek. In a rare glimpse of that orb, the rising sun beamed light across my mother’s gentle face just as she brushed her hair back under her blue silk scarf. Just as quickly, the light was gone. As if prodded by the infrequent sun, she put her arm around me to aid the coat’s task in keeping me warm. She smelled of lavender – it was the strongest memory I had of my last day in Bristol.

Edward Vernon (1684-1757) was a naval officer, known as 'Old Grog' after his habit of wearing a grogram coat. He was the fourth son of Henry Vernon (1663-1732) of Hilton, Staffordshire. His chief claim to fame was his 1740 order to dilute rum with water and lemon or lime juice which unwittingly helped prevent scurvy amongst sailors.

Mezzotint by J. Faber after a painting of 1840 by Thomas Bardwell.

The coat was a bit large for me then, but I grew into it. I passed it to my cousin when I was fourteen – didn’t miss it for I rarely needed a coat in the heat of Jamaica. Rather coarse, dark, and gloomy, the woolen fibers were more than enough to stay the cold when we left Bristol. I met a man once, during Queen Anne's War, a Royal Navy captain known for wearing Grogram coats like the one I then possessed. Good man, that Edward Vernon. Overly dutiful to the later foreign sovereign and His Royal Majesty's amusements, I thought -- still, a loyal Englishman and Crown servant. Couldn't find much fault in that – even now. He had been placed in command of His Majesty's naval forces at Jamaica during that war. I had seen my own service in that war as well, once in consort with Capt. Vernon's H.M.S. Mary when he first arrived in Port Royal in 1708. The coat looked right on Vernon, though he sported a lighter shade of brown. I remember then, at the tender age of seven leaving England for the first time, only that mine made me itch profusely. 

Bristol Castle - James Millerd's 1673 map of Bristol

The cold easterly wind blew harder it seemed, hindering our departure from Bristol. Slowly, we slipped stealthily away, more at length did we rise and fall with the turbulent seas than we made distance from Bristol’s familiar scenery. The briny spray stung my eyes, but I cared not. I watched in rapt attention as they slowly faded from sight - in time, the spires of Redcliffe, Bristol Castle, and then St. John the Baptist had settled below the horizon as our convoy sailed south and away from my whole world. I was christened in St. John. The sharpness struck my heart and I felt somehow betrayed at that tender age of seven. The world appears much larger and more frightening to a lad of that age. My fond experiences, as limited as they were, seemed priceless to me. Somehow, the wind felt colder, I remember, in the open seas, with nothing solid on which to tether the lonely and anxious mind. The Cornish coast also faded from my view. We had left mother England. 


The above passages are fictional, but they have been based upon the history researched by maritime historian Baylus C. Brooks with the help of Dianne T. Golding Frankson, genealogist, historical researcher, and consultant archaeologist with Genealogy and Historical Research Plus!  These passages are the beginning of a fictional work that will follow Brooks' soon-to-be-published non-fiction mega-treatise called Quest for Blackbeard: The True Story of Edward Thache and His World (cover shown at bottom).

1706 deed of Edward Thache, Jr. (aka, "Blackbeard the Pirate"), then serving aboard the HMS Windsor, deeding his portion of his deceased father's (Capt. Edward Thache) estate to his father's second wife, Lucretia "for the love and affection I have for and bear towards my Brother and Sister Thomas and Rachell Theache..."; from the Registrar General's Department of Spanish Town, Jamaica.

For nearly three centuries, Blackbeard the Pirate's past has been mired in a deep morass of confusion, deception, and playful banter. Documents recently uncovered by maritime historian Baylus C. Brooks reveal that the enormously successful aristocratic privateer Edward Thache was not the notorious and villainous “Pirate King” Blackbeard - or Satan “from hell,” as Capt. Charles Johnson wrote him to be. He was an educated aristocrat, likely grandson of an Anglican minister trained at Oxford. His family owned a large estate with slaves; they probably rode in their personal carriage to church in the capital of Spanish Town, Jamaica and conversed with assemblymen and their families in the palace square. Moreover, he was a Royal Navy veteran of Queen Anne’s War, having served his nation aboard the massive 60-gun HMS Windsor.

An 1825 engraving of Spanish Town's colonial offices.

The July issue of North Carolina Historical Review will feature an article by Baylus C. Brooks titled "“Born in Jamaica, of Very Creditable Parents” or “A Bristol Man Born”? Excavating the Real Edward Thache, “Blackbeard the Pirate”"

This publication will feature a genealogical chart of the Thache family, from Gloucestershire to Jamaica. Finally, after almost 300 years of misinterpretation, this genealogy is the documented and definitive family history of "Blackbeard the Pirate." That heavily researched and verified chart has been enhanced and reproduced in multiple poster sizes available on

Genealogical Chart of Edward Thache, aka "Blackbeard the Pirate" - Copyright 2015 Baylus C. Brooks

Keep an eye out for the journal article which explains the sources of these genealogical relationships. Also keep your eye out for the book which expands upon this genealogy into his family and friends. It also explains the implications for this knowledge in relation to Blackbeard's birth, life, and death.

Coming in 2016!

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