Preface to the Third Edition of Extraneus
and Biography of John R. Mayer
from Extraneus, Book XI, Strange of Blisland
Author of preface: Barbara Jean Way
L'utilité du vivre n'est pas en l'espace, elle est an l'usage; tel a vécu longtemps qui a peu vécu
Il gît en votre volonté, non au nombre des ans, que vous ayez assez vécu.
The value of life lies not in the length of days but in the use you make of them; he has lived for a long time who has little lived. Whether you have lived enough depends not on the number of your years but on your will.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592), "That to Study Philosophy Is to Learn to Die," Essais, 1.19.35. See also Essais, 3.12.510, where Montaigne quotes Cicero: Tota philosophorum vita, commentatio mortis est, "That the whole life of a philosopher is the meditation of his death." Cicero, Tusc. Quæs., 1.
The author, my brother John R. Mayer, died in San Francisco, California on March 31, 1998 at the age of 45. He was born September 16, 1952 in Hillsboro, Illinois to Charles John Mayer and Floy Marie Strange.
The manuscript for all of Extraneus was on John’s computer when he died. He had substantially expanded all of the books since they were last printed. His mother, Floy M. Mayer née Strange, and I took on the task of adding some new information and illustrations, indexing, editing, and printing new hardcover editions of each book.
Genealogy can be a never ending endeavor. The Revised Second Edition of Strange of Blisland was 748 pages. The Third Edition would have been somewhere around 1,000 pages, except for the fact that the editors have made every effort to condense the text, make the margins smaller, and use smaller fonts. We also added several appendices as well as doubling the size of the index.
A broad knowledge base gave John R. Mayer the qualifications to author his books. His undergraduate degree was earned from the University of Michigan, with a major in Far Eastern Languages and Literature. One year of his undergraduate studies was completed at Waseta University in Japan. He received his master’s degree in Oriental Languages from the University of California, Berkeley.
A true scholar, with a deep and abiding interest in classicism and philosophy, John read extensively on history, philosophy, religion, genealogy, anthropology, and the classics. He was also a linguist and had studied Japanese and Chinese and was familiar with French, German, Latin, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Greek. He had a wonderful library: a large selection of history books, numerous genealogy books, a number of books dealing with Buddhism, many dictionaries covering a wide range of languages, several bibles, some written in Greek and Latin, lots of books written in Japanese and Chinese, and probably 100 beautiful leather-bound classics. The walls of his small apartment were lined with books.
He was an antiquarian, a collector of antiquities. In Book XII, Strange of the Carolinas, he wrote:
The simpleton might view the archivist as an eccentric, but the historian sees him as the priest of his craft, for he holds the materials for making things matter, he has the clue or the trail of records that will surely embody some new biographical creation, another human life resurrected from dusty chronicles of the past.
John was most noted as a genealogical researcher and a gifted author. For most of his adult life, John researched the Strange family and related surnames and was considered a worldwide authority on that family. This book is but one of a series of twelve books that he wrote entitled Extraneus: The Annals Quinquepartite of Strange Lives which focuses on the following surnames: Strange, Extraneus, le Strange, de Lestrange, Alloway Strange, L'Estrange, Strang, Strong(e), and d'Estreng. The series Extraneus covers the period 1082 to 2000, and describes families living in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, United States, Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
Originally, in 1986, Extraneus was published as one volume. It has since been sub-divided into twelve books, only eight of which have been published. John also wrote a genealogical dictionary, a book about calendars, and another book about affinity and kinship. The publishing company that he established, Arapacana Press, intends to eventually publish all of his books.
John was a very warm, kind, generous, and patient person. He had a great smile and a wonderful sense of humor and a genuine interest in his fellow human beings. His wide knowledge of history supported his strong views in favor of religious freedom and equal rights. He had a phenomenal memory, a brilliant mind, and great talent.
In the course of John’s genealogy research, he had corresponded with over 1,800 people around the world. After his death, many of his correspondents expressed their condolences and their admiration for his humanity, his intellect, and his work. Following are some excerpts from their letters:
Your brother, John Richard Mayer, was an active participant and a major contributor to the Strong Mail List, which included other similar and/or related surnames, particularly Strange. I am sure that I speak for all the approximately 170 subscribers to the Strong Genealogy Discussion Group when I say that John's participation will be greatly missed. We respected and admired his intellect. knowledge, and productivity and his willingness to share his knowledge and time with us. We will miss his brilliant intellect and his stimulating messages. His accomplishments loom even larger in view of his health problems, regarding which most of us were not fully aware.
Robert T. (Bob) Strong, Jr., Madison, AL
This last November, I met with John at his home in San Francisco. At that time, I knew John was quite ill. However, John preferred to "soldier on" in the face of his illness, pursuing the things he loved most, which were the intellectual pursuits of research and writing in the fields of literature and genealogy. My last vision of John from that occasion was of him perched on a stool behind his small writing desk, pen in hand, commencing to parse through yet more research materials, looking for genealogical data and clues.
I am perhaps the only person on the [Strong Mail] list who personally met John Mayer; I liked and respected him, and found his work to be of superior quality. I will miss his brilliant mind, and know that his was a loss which we Strong(e) and Strang(e) researchers will mourn for a long time. I sincerely believe that John had one of the best overall "pictures" of how the various Strong(e) and Strang(e) genealogical lineages fit together. His enormous compilation of research was a great asset to us all, and will be sorely missed. We will need to do much work to bring us to the same level of knowledge that John already possessed, and we have now lost.
Dave Strong, Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
I wish to express my deepest sympathies to you, and all of your family at John's going home. I met John via the Strong list early last year. I was so thrilled that he was researching the L'Estrange family. We became regular correspondents. I would supply info I had gleaned from my searches on the L'Estrange roots. John would give me guidance and show me where possible connections were, and where to look further. I found John to be unstintingly kind. He was to my mind the ultimate pro; a man with a great mind, and a very disciplined scholarly approach to his work. He encouraged me to persevere in my quest to find my family, which has so long been both a mystery and a dream unrealized. I will surely miss him. I planned to visit him this spring, but it was not to be. I remember John in my daily prayer.
Jerry L'Estrange, Grass Valley, CA
The fact that you took the time and effort to inform people whom you did not know of his passing, proves that the caring and generous nature I saw in John’s efforts in helping others with their genealogy was indeed a family trait. Reading his work had a great effect on my own research. His scholarly approach set a standard I hope I can some day reach. And although I never met him, from the few correspondences we exchanged, I felt I would have liked him instantly.
Fred W. Hendrick, Willits, CA
It has been eight years since John died. In genealogy, so much has changed; so much is new. He would be absolutely amazed.
- The Internet has exploded with genealogy information.
- Just having census records available to search online is a huge step forward.
- John would have been fascinated by the concept of DNA testing benefiting genealogy research.
- I know he would have been impressed with the Arapacana Press Web site that has been developed since his death.
- The Web site has allowed people all over the world to find his books. In the past eight years, Arapacana Press has sold books in 32 states and 10 foreign countries.
- John would have been so pleased to see his books published in hardcover editions.
I miss my brother enormously, but feel honored to be able to continue to make his writings available. It is my sincere hope that those of you perusing this book will find something of use for your research.
Barbara Jean Way née Mayer
1999/7/1, revised 2006/9/23
from Extraneus, Book XI, Strange of Blisland