Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Out Of Their Trees : Lance Bass

Perhaps today’s subject should feature in a “Star Gayzing” article. Former boyband member Lance Bass has made no secret of the fact that he wants to be an astronaut. This has been life’s ambition since he was 9 years old when his father and grandfather took him to visit his uncle who lived near Cape Canaveral. There Lance witnessed the first Space Shuttle launch which inspired him to study engineering in the hope that he would become a NASA shuttle crew member.

There’s no spacemen in Lance’s ancestry and it’s a bit complicated, especially his father’s line, so to make things easier for myself I’ll leave his mother’s ancestry for another time.

The Bass family can be traced back several hundred years. It’s not certain when they arrived in America but the earliest record of them is in Georgia. They moved to North Carolina in about 1820. Wilson Bennett Bass established a 100 acre farm near Andalusia in Covington County, Alabama. His son, however, Bennett Bridges Bass, was forced out of the farm during the American Civil War.

The Bass family were Union sympathisers. The Governor of Alabama ordered a crackdown on Confederate deserters and Union sympathisers and the Bass moved down to Florida (too far away from Cape Canaveral for me to claim Lance has any ancestral links to the place other than his uncle!).

On 15th March 1864 the Confederates attempted to arrest the Covington County state representative who was trying to escape behind Union lines. The Bass family knew him and were helping him to escape by boat. The Confederates ambushed them and sank the boat, capturing the representative’s son in the process. The representative escaped, but 3 members of the Bass family were killed, 2 of Bennett’s sons and his brother.

After the war the family returned to Andalusia, Alabama. Bennett Bass is Lance’s 3x-great-grandfather.

The Bass family intermarried with several other Alabama dynasties. So much so that, in fact, that it becomes confusing. If we look at Lance’s father James and his 8 great-grandparents, we find that 4 of them are members of the same family, the Gunters, and 2 are from the Hutto family.

The Gunters sound like they may be German in origin but they’re actually Anglo-Welsh. They do have German blood though. In 1710 three ships of German immigrants sailed across the Atlantic. The ships got blown off course on the way and it took a week to get back on track. As soon as they reached America they were attacked by French pirates. Among these German immigrants was 6-year-old Georg Kuntz and his family. They survived the attack though many didn’t. The Kunz family made their way from their landing point in Virginia to a settlement in North Carolina. Tragedy was to follow Georg and his family.

Less than a year after the 13-week voyage landed, after being blown off course and being attacked by pirates, the village was attacked by the Tuscarora Native Americans on whose land they had settled. Georg’s family were massacred. He was the only survivor. The Tuscarora held him captive for 6 months before releasing him under the wardship of one Jacob Mueller.

Several decades later in 1771 Georg’s daughter married John Gunter. Through intermarriage Lance has 6 lines of descent from this couple. It was probably John Gunter’s great-grandfather, also called John, who emigrated to America in the 1640s.

Another family who are Lance’s ancestors through the Gunter family are the Kirklands. There are several places on the internet which claim the Kirkland’s are descended from Native Americans – from the sister of Pocahontas, no less. So far I haven’t been able to verify this, and mention it as an intriguing possibility. Perhaps I’ll have verified this line of descent by the time I write about Lance’s maternal ancestry.

Back to the Gunters who, as I said earlier, were Anglo-Welsh. The later generations lived in Berkshire, but earlier ones lived in Wales. It is said that they are descended from one of William the Conqueror’s Norman barons. Indeed they are, but not one called Gunter.

Lance’s direct ancestor Charles Gunter (1562-c.1645) married Anne Turville. The Turville’s certainly have Norman blood (and are ancestors of ice dancer Jane Torvill). Through the Turville’s Lance Bass has several lines of descent from English noble families descended from Norman barons, and inherits royal DNA from King Edward I of England, a descendant of William the Conqueror.

We’ll end where we started with Lance Bass’s desire to be an astronaut. Because we can trace his ancestry so far back, and specifically to English royalty, there are many thousands of famous people we know are related to him. Some of these relatives are astronauts and the most appropriate one to mention first is the only known lgbt astronaut, Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Other astronauts who share Lance’s and Sally’s royal blood are the first American man in space, Alan B. Shepherd, and Senator John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Charles Conrad, Virgil Grissom, Christa McAuliffe, Brewster Shaw and possibly (if I can verify them) Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

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