National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons

Chancellor's Remarks, 2001

THE CHANCELLOR'S REMARKS
PRESENTED AT THE ANNUAL LUNCHEON
NATIONAL SOCIETY MAGNA CHARTA DAMES AND BARONS
BY LEWIS L. NEILSON, JR., CHANCELLOR
APRIL 16, 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Magna Charta Dames and Barons, I am delighted to attend this luncheon and honored to address you as your Chancellor.

On behalf of the Officers and Council of our Society, I welcome you to this luncheon. I will briefly report on the purposes and activities of our Society. We then look forward to a presentation by Arabella Churchill.

Our most important focus continues to be our purposes, which are:

The 1st purpose is: To establish and maintain a Society for the encouragement of patriotic and literary fellowship.

The 2nd purpose is: To perpetuate the memory of the Barons of England who in or before the year 1215 rendered actual service toward securing, and who, after many defeats, finally did secure the articles of constitutional liberty, properly called Magna Charta, from their sovereign, John, King of England, which he ratified and delivered to them "in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines," on the Thames, above London, on the 15th day of June, A. D. 1215,

The 3rd is: To promote good fellowship among the descendants of those who compelled King John to grant Magna Charta,

The 4th purpose is: To keep ever in mind the events connected with this most celebrated episode in the annals of the English race,

The 5th purpose is: To inspire the members of this Society and others with admiration and respect for the principles of Constitutional Government, first established by the statutes of the Great Charter granted by King John, and

The 6th purpose is: To observe the anniversary of the date of the granting of this the most famous Charter of rights and liberties.

As we move forward to the future, please remember these purposes.

Our Society meets to honor and memorialize the actions of our ancestors over 785 years ago. The impact of those actions in securing certain rights for mankind has been dramatic, resulting in part in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Magna Charta established that leaders are subject to the Law a principal which was vividly illustrated in our recent election. We each choose how we spend our time and I commend each of you for allocating time today to attend this luncheon in support of our Society.

This has been a very special weekend for my family and our Society. We have had the privilege and pleasure of hosting Arabella Churchill and her husband, Haggis McLeod, this past weekend. They arrived in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon and we did some sightseeing and had a quiet and delightful supper. Saturday, the Society held an informal luncheon for Philadelphia area members and guests where Arabella made some remarks about her grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, Chartwell, the Magna Charta and the work she is doing with the Children’s World Charity. She has a remarkable ability to share her commitment to the children she helps and it was a very special luncheon for all of us. Saturday evening she was the guest of honor at a small dinner hosted by a former Honorary British Counsel in Philadelphia. At the dinner, the present Honorary British Counsel in Philadelphia presented her with a certificate of welcome from the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia. We went to Easter Service yesterday followed by Easter Dinner with my family. Following dinner, Haggis, a professional juggler and teacher, enchanted both young and old as he demonstrated his exceptional skill. We have had a delightful time and I particularly look forward to her talk today.

While our Society relies on traditional methods of education and communication, like our luncheons and dinners throughout the country as well as Newsletters sent by mail, the presence of Arabella today is a result of our involvement with the Internet. After having the privilege of her tours of Chartwell and her acceptance of membership in our Society, I included her E-mail address on our address list. She responded to one of our Electronic Newsletters and I invited her to speak today. When I invited her I explained that we would be willing to cover her expenses but that we could not afford to pay her for speaking to us today. We appreciate that she accepted and encourage our members to consider contributions to the Children’s World Charity of which she is the founder and director. Also she and her husband are visiting Washington for the next several days and any of you who might have suggestions to make their visit more fun and interesting are encouraged to speak to them after the luncheon.

I would like you to join me in a moment of silence in memory of one of our long term Heralds, Mrs. Thomas S. Greenwood of Philadelphia, Mr. Almon C. Emory, the husband of our Herald, Mrs. Ella Emory, Mr. H. Grady Collier, Jr., husband of our Vice-President, Mrs. Joan Westmoreland Collier, and Mr. William J. Findley, the husband of our Vice-President and Chaplain Mrs. Nell Findley. Mr. Findley died suddenly within the past week. Our prayers are with the families of each of them.

Since the luncheon in Washington last April up to December 31, 2000, the total enrollment has increased from to 27726 to 27906 an increase of 180 members, now consisting of 22836 Dames and 5070 Barons. Of that number, 16389 have current addresses, 5751 are deceased, and 5766 have unknown addresses. I would like to emphasize that the role of members has increased over 5,000 members since September of 1989.

Since we mailed over 20,000 Newsletters, over 1,400 were returned, however, we remailed all but 300, not including deceased, of whom approximately 200 were members who will be posted on the WebSite as lost members. There are some Newsletters which are still being returned, so these numbers are approximate.

Before introducing Arabella, I would like to emphasize several points:

I continue to be amazed at the effectiveness of our WebSite and the Internet. The home page of our WebSite has been visited 31,777 times since it began, 12,667 times during the past year, an average of 35 visits per day. We have been contacted by many lost members and potential members. Our Email address list has made significant strides, now at 1750, it was 1350 last Christmas. This increase of 400 can be attributed mostly to our annual newsletter which was sent to over 20,000 members and friends. The use of Electronic Newsletters enables us to contact some of our members and friends on a regular basis, however, we must keep in perspective that it represents only a small portion of our membership.

Please send us your E-mail address to receive our Electronic Newsletters; also please send the E-mail addresses of your friends who might be interested. Since the primary mission of the Society is to develop awareness of the Magna Charta we strive to expand our E-mail address list to include members of our Society, potential members and those who share our interest in the principles of constitutional liberty.

Please visit our Web Site to learn about our Society and exciting projects. One of our current projects is to add pages for immigrant ancestors with noble ancestry. Starting with 56 we plan for over 1000 pages including links to Baron ancestors. We seek volunteer help to add biographical information to the pages for the immigrants. Striving for genealogical excellence, we plan for these pages to be a source of information and forum for discussion concerning each immigrant.

Our Society needs to continue to emphasize our fund raising efforts. While the financial report has not been finalized for the year 2000, the loss was approximately $5,000 which is about the same as last year. Our assets continue to be slightly over $50,000.00. You will observe that we included a reminder about annual giving in the invitations for this luncheon. I appreciate that many of you have contributed to our Society, however, we need to increase participation.

One idea which was suggested by one of our members was to enhance the memorials program by announcing at future luncheons those for whom memorial gifts above a certain level were given. I believe this is an effective way of memorializing your ancestors and others, from the Barons to recently deceased members. Any additional suggestions would be welcome.

I would like to discuss a few of our projects in more detail.

A project we have undertaken is to computerize the lineages of the immigrant ancestors. We have over 28,700 entries in our "top" database including over 800 immigrant ancestors. This database includes over 700 of 950 Knights of the Garter. As this database is developed it will form the base for the individual immigrant pages on the WebSite. It is also a work in process. My late friend Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr. edited many times two books containing Magna Charta ancestry to keep up with the changing information revealed by historians and scholars. I had the pleasure of meeting with him at his home, several weeks before he died, surrounded by a remarkable collection of research material. He maintained that the 13 volume Complete Peerage is the most reliable work on the ancestry with which we are concerned; I discussed with him my interest in updating our information based on the 14th volume of the Complete Peerage, a volume which has recently been printed with changes and additions to the original set. Our database has been used to identify the Barons from whom the 56 immigrants listed on the WebSite descend and will be used to identify the Barons from which over 1,000 immigrants descend when they are included on the Web Site. We may even be able to print charts as the computer programs develop. We may be pleasantly surprised at the future unexpected benefits this database will provide.

I am still waiting for biographical information from our members concerning their immigrant ancestors. The concept of the individual immigrant pages has several objectives, one of which is to enable volunteer effort to be shared with other members. The biographical information will basically be a mini - book about the life of the ancestor and will be of special interest to his or her descendants. Another is to provide a forum for questions about the ancestry of certain of the immigrants. As new information reveals possible changes to previously well researched conclusions we will be able to explore the validity of the new information and the assertions of some genealogists concerning the information. We may be pleasantly surprised at the future unexpected benefits these pages will provide.

An additional project is to computerize the lineages of our members, starting with the immigrant ancestors and going down. This database has over 10,000 entries, however, work on it has been suspended due to time limitations. As this database is developed and as new computer programs become available we will be able to easily and economically print out the lineages of our members in a chart form. At the present we do not have the time to furnish this information for our members. As this database is developed it could also provide future unexpected results.

I am now anxiously waiting for the development of a DVD recorder which will enable us to economically transfer our videotapes to DVD format. This may be just in time as the tapes we have made over the past six or seven years begin to degrade. Since I purchased the camcorder which we are using today I have recorded every meeting of the Society I have attended and have a remarkable collection of presentations which have been made concerning Magna Charta. Once they are transferred to digital format and as the computer capacity to edit is enhanced we will be able to effectively utilize this material. Of particular interest is the video tapes we have made on our Tours. Our Tours are and have been fantastic, however, relatively few of our members have taken advantage of the opportunity. The experiences which we are able to enjoy on a premium Tour are very unusual. I have spent most of the Tours taking video whenever I was allowed to do so. Some of the presentations have been the same quality as you might see on educational television. We may find that the Internet will enable us to share some of these experiences not only with our members but also with the public enhancing our mission of developing awareness of Magna Charta.

An additional significant current program is our essay award program, encouraging students to creatively interpret the Magna Charta and its implications for Society followed by the publication on our Web Site of the essays. Hopefully, the language and ideas expressed by our award winners will spark interest among other students, particularly in those countries which do not recognize the rights of the Magna Charta. Please participate in a program at your local college or university. We are particularly interested in undergraduate and graduate students who can provide a mature scholarly effort which may strike a responsive cord in students throughout the world, particularly in those countries which do not enjoy the rights enumerated in the Magna Charta. Please make sure that the participants are willing to publish their essays on the Web.

We are mindful of privacy issues and the Internet. Essays by children will not have any indication of the author. Essays by adults will include author information only if specifically requested. Some of our members have specifically requested that the lineage information they submit not be furnished to a public institution. While the Internet was not anticipated we interpret the restriction to apply to that also.

There are challenges as well as goals and projects.

One of those challenges is time. Those who have sent well documented lineages to known immigrants have been promptly processed notwithstanding a few have inadvertently been delayed. If you know anyone who has submitted lineage information without the necessary documentation, please ask them to send it in to complete their information. They will become members sooner.

The most significant issue, however, is that some candidates for membership are unable to properly document their lines to a qualifying ancestor and do not join our Society.

Despite the challenges of declining numbers for our Tour Program, we are continuing that Program and are looking forward to an outstanding Tour this June. We are also planning a Charlemagne Tour. Since mentioning the Charlemagne Tour in an Electronic Newsletter and the regular newsletter we have had considerable interest. I plan to contact each of those who have expressed interest to ascertain the most convenient time. Unlike the England Tours which are timed to coincide with certain England events, the Charlemagne Tour which has been planned does not yet have the dates selected. If you might like to participate in our tour this June or future Tours, please let me know.

I believe that the time which I am dedicating to our Society will have a lasting and important effect. I trust that you have the same confidence and share the same belief about your efforts. My challenge as a leader is to innovate and to encourage creativity among our membership so that we will continue to maintain our relevance in a constantly changing world. Our Society is almost 100 years old and our meeting today reinforces our relevance. I enjoy maintaining the tradition, gleaning relevance and maintaining flexibility.

Please let me know your suggestions.

I am pleased to be with you today.

Copyright 2001 National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons

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