Four Rivers Flowing Into Form:

Brief genealogical recollections by John Major Jenkins


Of my four grandparents, my mother’s parents were:
1. Alice Amelia Doepp (nee
Andersen) (name changed to Depp by her son, my uncle, Don.)
2. Walter Doepp.


My father’s parents were:

3. Beatrice Moreland Jenkins (nee Riffle)

4. Frank Lukenbill Jenkins


My maternal grandmother, Alice Andersen, was born in Chicago in 1906. My sister and mother found the house she was born in. She died in August 1997. Her mother came through Ellis Island in 1896 at age 16, from Norway. She was from the town of Stange, farm country north of Christiana (near Hedemarken?). Her name was Anne Andersen, and she married another Andersen, Carl, her first cousin. I have a painting of a waterfall he did – a place on the border of Minnesota and Iowa called Minnehaha falls. I don’t think it exists anymore. They met in Minnesota and moved to Chicago together around 1900. My grandmother had many siblings – I think eight. Carl's parents were prominent farmers and business people in Minnesota – I have a drawing likeness of them both; they were of course named Andersen. Land holdings were not given to my great-grandfather, because he married his cousin and ran off to Chicago. He was a wood grainer by trade – making imitation wood grain effects on walls and ceilings and so on. I vaguely remember my great grandmother, Anne, whom my grandmother Alice took me to see several times when I was very young – they lived close to each other in Chicago; she died when I was 4 years old. My Aunt Lillian (Alice’s sister) visited Stange in Norway and made a family tree which my mother must have. I exchanged letters with a distant cousin of mine, Jan Rune Peterson, in Norway. He disappeared in the late 80s and they think he drowned while swimming.


Walter Doepp (pronounced “Depp”). He died when I was 2 years and 2 months old, in 1966, so I don’t really remember him. He died of lung cancer at age 66. His sister, my great-aunt Jeanette, lived in Florida and I visited her during my vision quest trip in March 1985. They were the only children of Jeanette (Jennie) Crume and Walter George Doepp, who was a carriage driver in Chicago. I have a picture of her, she was pretty, and kind of looks like my wife Ellen. My father said she died of peritonitis contracted while having an abortion, because they didn’t want (“couldn’t afford”) any more children. That sounds a little fishy, as Catholics were willing to crank out multiple kids. Her family hailed from McComb in western Illinois, and before that Kentucky. There is a family genealogy for her line (the Crumes) that goes back through the Murray family of Kentucky to a well-known patriot named John Hay (fought in Revolutionary War) and therefore—supposedly—to Robert the Bruce in Scotland. My great grandmother Jennie Crume died when Jeanette and Walter were small. My grandfather’s grandfather, a Doepp, was involved in a Johnny Depp-like intrigue. It is said that he eloped with the daughter of the Mayor of Buffalo New York (name Denler/Denlir), and fled by steamer through the great lakes to Chicago. This would have been circa 1850s. They then had children including Walter and John (John Doepp), who lived a long life and was an elevator operator in a fancy hotel in Chicago in the 1920s-40s.


My grandmother always insisted that the Doepp name was taken by Hugenot ancestors who were originally named Durugan (or D’ Rugan), indicating a border country French heritage. There are several families of Doepps or Doeppes from border country Switzerland; I met a guy from Switzerland named Doepp when I worked at ILE in Boulder in 1999. He said there were two or three different families in the region, with variant spellings on Doeppe / Deppe / Doepp. Durugan and variants are strangely scant in internet lists of Hugenot exiles relocated to England – I think there was one D’Rogan or D’Rougan, suggesting a French naming convention “from Rougan.” One must look for a border town of that name that, however, probably no longer exists, considering the Hugenot diaspora. A town in France that just might be a place-name source of the name D’Rougan is Rouen. If this is pronounced in French with a guttural “ue” it could sound like “roo-gen”; the family oral tradition passes “from Rouen” onward as “De Rougen.” (I have confirmed from a French speaker that Rouen is indeed pronounced as two syllables with a rough split before -en.) It might not even have been a family name, but simply a memory of where they were from; it is not clear why the name Doepp(e) was taken as a replacement for an earlier Hugenot name. As mentioned, there is a group of Doepp / Depp families in Switzerland. Rouen in France is near the Jura Mountains that divide northeastern France from western Switzerland, which is the area that Algernon Blackwood wintered in (town of Bole near Neuchatal). The Hugenots were persecuted. So my Walter Doepp grandfather’s background appears to be German/Swiss/French via Doepp and then Scotch/Irish via his mother (Crume).


My father’s mother, who died in December 2003 at age 96, had Scotch/Irish ancestry via Moreland and Riffle families. She also has a very interesting and well-documented line going back to the Plantagenet rulers of England, and thus further back to the Merovingians. I wrote about this in March 2002 in my document called Pharamond. The family traces back from Riffle to Barnum, Barnham, Lennard, Fiennes, Bouchier, etc, to the Plantagenets. P. T. Barnum is a cousin on the line. Thus it is possible for me to trace a direct genealogy back 51 generations to the Merovingian ruler Pharamond. This all connects into the Holy Blood, Holy Grail mystery of Mary Magdalene, made popular recently by the bestseller The Da Vinci Code. Connection into this rulership line ultimately gives access to many other ruling dynasties of Europe, such as the Angevins, William the Conqueror, the troubadors of Aquitane, and founding kings of France, Ireland, Finland, and Scotland.


Through William the Conqueror’s line, we can trace backward with certainty to Rollo, king of Normandy, and his father, Rognvald, Earl of More, the mighty and wise in council. These early Norse kings are mentioned in the ancient king lists recorded in Heimskringla and the Saga of the Orkneyingers (cousins founded and ruled the Orkney Islands.) The mytho-historical line listed in the old sagas of the far north begins with Fornjot, king of Finland and Kvenland, who lived in the late 6th century AD. The list seems reliable and includes colorful ancestor names such as Ivar the Uplander’s Earl, Eystein the Noisy, Gorr, and Sveidi the Sea King. The name “King Gorr” jumped out at me, and I remembered reading of a King Gorry (or King Orrey) in John Michel’s book At the Centre of the World. In ancient times a King Orrey landed on the northern shore of the Isle of Man, and when the native inhabitants questioned him as to where he came from, he pointed back at the arching Milky Way and said “that is where my country is.” There seems to have been at least one historically documented ruler (11th century) who later took over the legend and claimed the Royal Road (King Orrey’s highway) as his own (this was a pilgrimage route into the central shrine at Keeil Abban, mirror of the Milky Way overhead – today it is called Millennium Way). However, it is possible that the original King Gorry was the King Gorr described as an explorer of the western isles in the Orkneyinger Saga. King Gorr was the great great great great great grandfather of Rollo, king of Normandy, who was the great great great grandfather of William the Conqueror (who in turn was the grandfather of the Plantagenet brothers).


King Henry (Plantagenet) III, son of King John (Lackland), did a ceremony with a Holy Blood relic in 1247 AD; the relic was gifted from the patriarch of Jerusalem. The subject is revealing of a continuing fascination among the Plantagenets with “sacred blood” – see book by Nicholas Vincent called The Holy Blood, which discusses holy blood relics such as the one reported in Mantua (which gave rise to the Order of the Precious Blood that managed St Joseph church in Denver in the 1890s) as well as the Precious Blood relic in Bruges, Belgium.


My father’s father, who provides the name-sake line of Jenkins, is traceable to early settlers in New England – a John Jenkins landing circa 1650 (although my father questions a possible break). They were probably Quakers and lived in Taunton, Massachusetts and Springfield, Vermont. Roger Williams is a direct ancestor through a grandmother, and another branch, the de la Fields, was traced back to England circa 1480. Lots of German and Anglo intermarriages down the line. Though controversial, my great-great grandfather, Major Jenkins, may have married a part Cherokee woman named Gemima; she would thus be my great-great-grandmother. The name Jenkins is said to be Welsh, like all kin(s) names. Family of Jen / Jon. Robert Graves, in the White Goddess, gives an interesting derivation of the family name via its etymology “little john” - kins being a diminutive suffix, like munch-kins. Little John, more than being one character in the Robin Hood mythos, was apparently more like an occupation title, employed in festival plays performed in rural England, like the semi-nomadic mummers dances. It was almost a status title in the pagan hierarchy of rebels reflected in the Robin Hood ethos – the right hand man to the chief robber; lieutenant to duke robin or something like that. Refer to Graves for details. Through Grandma Bea there was at least one sheriff, a Barnham who was knighted by the successor to Queen Elizabeth. He was grandfather of the Thomas Barnham/Barnum who came to America and settled in Danbury, CT. My father wrote a little book, called Doc – the Life and Times of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr., which was an homage to his father. I converted and edited this manuscript and printed out four copies.


I’ve also seen Jenkins derived from a Flemish source, which may be the seeming variant of the name, Jonquins. It is unknown if the Flemish form precedes the Welsh one, and if it would even be possible to trace the family origins back to a Flemish past. I tend to favor Welsh roots. Recently, I was contacted by a possible distant cousin who encouraged me to do a DNA test. We could then possibly show a shared male Jenkins ancestor in the Jenkins "Men of Kent" county in eastern England. That group of Jenkinses, perhaps the original group, came to England as Danes in one of the Anglo-Saxon waves, from Friesland in coastal Netherlands & Denmark.


Heritage is always a question of what you feel identified with. Out of the many interweaving strands which character may be attributed to, several will manifest in any individual. I see myself as a mystic poet and synthesis scientist, a word weaver and song craftsman as well as a maverick thinker and geometer.  I’m a creative and imaginative writer and spiritual seeker. If the name counts for anything, I’ve chosen to use my middle name, Major, in my nom de plume. It is from my great-great-grandfather, born 1807, a Quaker and not a military man. I also have a second middle name, Scott, granted at the insistence of my sister when I was born (she being 6 at the time). Since I’ve often experienced confusion when using the full name, people being unclear what my surname would be, and whether it should be a hyphenated Scott-Jenkins and so on (which would greatly mess up the cataloguing of my books), I chose to drop its use. My ancestor and middle-name sake, Major, was a pioneer and explorer. Iin one report he traveled the high seas for two years out of Boston in the late 1820s. He settled in Iowa—west of the Mississippi!—in the 1840s and died 1903.


So, Depp, Jenkins, Crume, Barnum, Andersen, Riffle, Moreland, are the immediate names that factor into my heritage.  My father’s middle name, e.g., is Barnum (as is my older brother's). My paternal grandmother’s middle name is her family name Moreland. My paternal grandfather’s middle name is the family name Lukenbill (southern German, means "watchers in the hills"), which was his mother’s maiden name.                      


Of the four grandparents:

Alice Ameilia Andersen: 100% Norwegian

Beatrice Moreland Riffle: Scotch/Irish and English

Frank Lukenbill Jenkins: English/Welsh/German – grandmother was possibly half Cherokee

Walter Doepp / Depp: Swiss/German/French and Scotch/Irish.


March 3rd, 2004