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Preface to the First Edition of Extraneus

from Extraneus, Volume I-A, Le Strange of Britain and Aquitaine
(including Acknowledgements)
Author: John R. Mayer

A man had as good go to court without a cravat as appear in print without a preface.
                                          Sir Roger L’Estrange

This work owes its existence largely to the diligent efforts of two historians, Hamon le Strange and Alexander Taylor Strange. Hamon le Strange (1840-1919) of Hunstanton, Norfolk, studied hundreds of primary source documents, and wrote Le Strange Records, A.D. 1100-1310. Hamon’s contemporary, Alexander Taylor Strange (1850-1932) of Hillsboro, Illinois, corresponded with scores of people throughout America, and wrote Strange: Biographical and Historical Sketches of the Stranges of America and Across the Seas, covering the period from 1619 to 1911.

Although there are several Strange families in America, the collected evidence does not yet conclusively link each line to all the others, and we cannot yet identify many specific connections to the European families. Our inability to identify these relationships lies in the fact that the principal American lines arrived in Virginia and elsewhere along the eastern seaboard quite early in colonial history, roughly between 1619 and 1700. The Virginian Stranges apparently came from western England, from Devon, Gloucester, and Salop, where Stranges had lived since the reign of Henry I (1100-1135).

In 1310, the le Stranges of Hunstanton in Norfolk officially broke away from the le Stranges of Salop. The break between the family in East Anglia and the family in Mercia began a rift which endures to this day. We suspect that just a few le Stranges and L’Estranges of East Anglia, and handful of L’Estranges from Ireland, may have settled in the northeastern United States, and that some of these people dropped the particles or prefixes le and L’E, assuming instead the name Strange. It also appears that many people named L’Estrange emigrated to Australia, where the name is more common than Strange. The spellings le Strange, Le Strange, Lestrange, and L’Estrange are quite rare in the United States and Canada. The accents of people from East Anglia are similar in some repects to what we hear today in Boston, Massachusetts, and we suspect that the most likely candidates for relationship with the East Anglian le Stranges are some of the Strange immigrants to the northeastern states.

Over the several decades of genealogical research in the United States, persons named Strange have almost invariably expressed the desire to find how they are related to the le Stranges of Hunstanton Hall. Anyone who has heard of the illustrious Hunstanton family have wanted to be connected to, or identified with it. After all, we know almost everything about their household there is to know, from the plan of the Eagle Garden in 1842 to how many porpoises were consumed in 1536. We know elaborate details about the clothes Sir Thomas le Strange purchased in London before attending the coronation of Anne Boleyn. We know the cost and description of materials used to build a large canopy bed at Hunstanton in the mid sixteenth century. By almost any set of criteria, the Hunstanton le Stranges were exceedingly wealthy, being able to dress a staff of a dozen people in liveries during the Tudor period.

However, it seems implausible that many people could be related to this colorful, albeit small, le Strange family at Hunstanton. The manor house at Hunstanton was occupied by an exclusive set of individuals, who did not produce a very large clan of male heirs. Sir Roger le Strange (1468-1505) had a son who died without issue, so the succession passed to a junior line. This type of thing happened not only once but at least a half dozen times over the half millenium that preceded extinction of the male succession.

By the time the name of Sir Roger L’Estrange (1616-1704), Knight, became a household word, in that he published England’s first newspapers, British society was thoroughly acquainted with the people at Hunstanton Hall. Sir Roger’s brother Hamon L’Estrange of Pakenham (1605-1660) was a first-rate theologian and historian. Sir Roger’s eldest brother was the 1st Baronet of Hunstanton, Sir Nicholas L’Estrange III (1604-1655). Nevertheless, when the male line became extinct in 1762, there was not a single individual in England, Ireland, America, or elsewhere, who could restore the patriarchy at Hunstanton Hall. The Hall remained unoccupied for seventy-four years thereafter. When it was reopened in 1836, the owner was a Styleman, who later changed his surname back to his great-grandfather’s surname, L’Estrange.

This set of data indicates that anyone claiming to be descended from the Hunstanton le Stranges would be fortunate to hinge his pedigree together with any fabric stronger than the weak and unsubstantial gossamer that has held several dubious genealogies together. When Sir Henry L’Estrange (1698-1760), 6th Baronet of Hunstanton, died in 1760, the family genealogists had to find a third cousin once removed to succeed him, namely Sir Roger L’Estrange of Harleston (circa 1674-1762), 7th Baronet of Hunstanton.

When Sir Roger L’Estrange of Harleston passed away in 1762, the family had in their archives at least one large, heraldic pedigree, prepared by Sir Roger’s father, Roger L’Estrange of Hoe. Furthermore, the archives contained practically every land deed and household account back to 1310 and before. In short, they had at their disposal every reasonable documentary means to find any male heir within a span of four or five generations who was entitled in his own right to inherit the le Strange estate at Hunstanton Hall. Since they found no one to succeed to the baronetcy, we might conclude that at least 100 years or so before extinction there arose no Hunstanton L’Estrange lineage to survive after 1762.

I would like to suggest to a future researcher that he explore the Inheritance Act of 1833, and detail the way in which passage of that act, and the less restrictive criteria for inheritance it newly permitted, may have enabled Henry L’Estrange Styleman, Esq. (1815-1862; le Strange from 1839) to reopen the hall as soon as he came of age in 1836. Prior to 1833, an ancient principle called seisina facit stipitem ‘heir of the person last seised’ was in effect, which may have disqualified the Styleman heirs from taking possession of Hunstanton. This is certainly not known to be a fact by the writer; but it seems plausible in light of the hall’s long abandonment. Perhaps Henry’s acquisition was planned beforehand, when the Inheritance Act opened inheritance to ascendants and half-bloods, and made the ‘last purchaser’ the root of descent rather than the ‘last seised’.

Virginia Colony was tightly administered by London, first by the Anglican church, and then briefly by the Puritans. If any of the Strange immigrants to Virginia since 1619 had been remotely connected to the Hunstanton family, surely they could have been contacted, and surely they or their descendants would have put forward a claim for Hunstanton if they had any evidence of their hereditary rights. A search for an heir could have easily been conducted in Virginia through the parish system, because for many decades no one except members of the Church of England were even allowed to go there.

It is highly doubtful we will readily find evidence of the relationship between the Hunstanton line and American Stranges, particularly Stranges in Virginia. Each of the possible progenitors of junior lines at Hunstanton since 1310 have been carefully noted. A genealogist in England has checked several possible lines for American Strange families that might descend from the Hunstanton family; but we have yet to establish any relationship. We know of L’Estranges ultimately descended from the Hunstanton family who immigrated to America from Ireland, and we know of a few other individuals named le Strange or L’Estrange who immigrated here. Nevertheless, with respect to the Hunstanton le Stranges living from the 17th century until modern times, we do not even have an educated guess exactly who might descend from this family in the United States. The surname le Strange was re-adopted by a Styleman in 1839, but Hamon Styleman le Strange (1840-1919) dropped the surname Styleman altogether in 1874.

Notwithstanding these efforts to perpetuate the lineage, the surname le Strange will probably become extinct once again with the present Hamon le Strange (born 1904). The heir of Hamon le Strange is Michael George le Strange Meakin, so a second interruption in the consecutive use of the surname will occur in the future. The Hunstanton line simply does not permit many claims of descent, because at least three centuries have passed without the establishment of younger lines.

An examination of the generations between 1310 and 1762 reveals few le Stranges of Hunstanton who could have perpetuated the name. Between 1583 and 1762, there were only seven males who could have established collateral lines: Hamon L’Estrange of Pakenham (1605-1660), John L’Estrange (1636), William L’Estrange (1639), Edward L’Estrange (1640), Thomas L’Estrange (1651), and possibly the brothers Charles and Thomas L’Estrange (born between 1661 and 1665). It appears, however, that none of these seven men left any male heirs who could claim Hunstanton. The 7th Baronet of Hunstanton belonged to the twentieth generation, at a time when all other males from the eighteenth through the twenty-second generations had already died without surviving issue. As stated above, with relation to the Inheritance Act, there were in effect several old principles governing inheritance, and one of these excluded ascendants, stipulating the a ‘lord cannot be heir’. Thus, it was difficult in some cases even for collateral lines to become heirs. If the ascendant through whom the collateral line was related happened to be alive, then he could not be an heir, and he could not pass the inheritance to the collateral line. Additionally, a line already seised was considered to have already established its own independent lineage, and could not inherit. Given these restrictions, it was prhaps lucky that the 7th Baronet was found eligible for inheritance.

In the earlier period, from 1310 to 1583, there were eleven generations, and in this pool of offspring we can identify about eighteen men who could have bequeathed the surname to their sons. Unless these enumerations and conclusions are wrong, any Strange, le Strange, or L’Estrange families claiming to be fairly close cousins of the Hunstanton le Stranges would necessarily stem from one of these eighteen men living from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. If even this cannot be demonstrated, then the younger family must prove descent from some of the related branches that arose in Salop before 1310.

From 1619 we find Stranges immigrating from western England, Wales, and Scotland to Virginia. Men and women immigrated for a variety of reasons, including poverty, adventure, religious persecution, and opportunity. People often financed their Atlantic crossing by indenturing themselves as servants for periods as long as seven years. Since many of the American progenitors were humble in social status and erratic in their movements, always searching for better and larger farms, it is especially difficult and perhaps impossible to know their lines of descent from the more noteworthy Strange and le Strange households of England.

One overall purpose of this work, therefore, was once to compile the available genealogical data into one convenient and indexed volume. This compendium of data should facilitate future attempts to prove connections between families. Linking together various lines may take several years; but the tasks of tracing the lineage and more fully describing the history will be considerably eased by the fact that an enormous body of evidence lies preserved in the Lestrange Collection in the Norfolk and Norwich Record Office. Jean Kennedy, the archivist of this office, has assisted me in obtaining copies of the le Strange records and deserves our thanks for administering the preservation of this valuable collection.

We suspect there may have been independent origins for Strange families in Scotland and England. And yet, we have a remarkably firm and enduring legend which states that the family of Extraneus was established around the time of the Norman conquest. Whether or not we eventually prove a unique origin for the surname, we have adequate reasons for providing data on all Strange families. Related or not, the extant histories of the Strange families represent an entirely comprehensive view of social history in northwestern Europe and America. Described herein are a boy killed by Indians, a courtier to Anne Boleyn, a Crusader, and a pistol-wielding heroine in the Civil War. The Strange genealogies take us through a wide expanse of space and time.

The compilation which follows encompasses the works of several Strange genealogists. Sir Nicholas L’Estrange III, 1st Baronet of Hunstanton, and Sir Nicholas L’Estrange (1661-1724), 4th Baronet of Hunstanton, both had the family’s pedigree designed and written by hand during their respective tenures. Roger L’Estrange of Hoe prepared a large pedigree in June 1686, and copies of his pedigree were later copied and illuminated with coats-of-arms. Several recent genealogies have been preserved, thanks to the efforts of Daniel Strange (born 1840), Lewis Alexander Alloway Strange (born 1853), George Garnett Strange (1874-1956), Miss Margaret Alexander, Mrs. Donald R. Betzsold (née Ruby C. Strange), Mrs. Clover Ann Strange Hankins, M. Robert Strange, Colonel William A. Barton, John Drake Strange III, Cecil Henry L’Estrange Ewen, Mrs. Juanita Alloway, and several others.

I wish to express special gratitude to my grandmother the late Floy Belle Cannon Strange and her sister the late Myrtle Cannon Smith, who together gave me the initial inspiration to study ancestry, and who transmitted to me the notes and dreams of my great-grandfather Alexander Taylor Strange.

Friends and associates who have encouraged and supported my efforts were the late Bruce A. Elfstrom, Marc Joseph Rabideau, Michael Nightingale, Richard L. Sund, Jr., the late Michael Lynn Zimmer, Elise Alberta Bryant, the late David Royse, Nina Glaser, the late David C. Bendle, the late Dr. Robert M. Searle, and the late Mark Halberstadt. I am grateful to Professors William H. McCullough and Helen Craig McCullough of the University of California, Berkeley, for having patiently stimulated my interest in literary history and research.

Lastly, I wish to acknowledge, in all piety, the love and encouragement of my aunt and uncle, Geraldine Strange and Harry Byron Landholt, and of my parents, Charles John Mayer, Jr., and Floy Marie Strange, without whom the historical adventure called Extraneus would not have been possible.

John R. Mayer
San Francisco
8 December 1986
Revised 16 September 1991


The text of Extraneus owes its existence
to sundry and several works precedent, namely those of

John Leland
Sir Nicholas le Strange III, 1st Baronet of Hunstanton
Roger L’Estrange IV of Hoe, Norfolk
The Reverend R.W. Eyton
Lewis Alexander Alloway Strange of Lafontaine, Kansas
Alexander Taylor Strange of Hillsboro, Illinois
Mrs. Josephine C. Frost of Brooklyn, New York
Hamon le Strange VI, M.A., F.S.A., of Hunstanton Hall, Norfolk
George Garnett Strange of Nails Creek, Georgia
Charles Hilbert Strange, F.R.I.B.A., of Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Nora Kathleen Strange
The Reverend William Lindsey McDonald
Rear Admiral Hubert E. Strange of Annapolis
M. Robert Strange
Colonel William Alexander Barton of San Antonio
John Drake Strange III of Tulsa
Neal P. Wood of Porth, Mid Glamorgan, Wales
Henry Frederick Lippincott, Jr.
Mrs. Donald R. Betzsold of Anaheim, California
Mrs. Clover Ann Strange Hankins of Indianapolis
Mrs. Woodrow Wilson Kessler of Iowa City
Mrs. Juanita Alloway of Derby, Kansas

and the many scholars listed in the bibliography.

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