The very odd places family history can take you …

I have an interest in Egyptology, or more importantly the impact of the re discovery of ancient Egypt on the culture of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe and America, from patent medicines with vaguely pharaonic packaging through buildings designed in a vaguely Egyptian style to all these crap ‘B’ grade movies and TV shows about the returning ghosts of dead Egyptians.

So naturally I was sucker for the documentary by Ella Al-Shamahi about possible toxins in the tomb of Tut-ankh-amen and how they could have caused the deaths of some of the supposed victims of “Tut’s curse”. (The documentary is actually quite sensible and can be watched via SBS on Demand if  you are interested.)

Anyway, one of the early supposed victims was George Jay Gould, the son of the US railroad baron Jay Gould.

In one of the pictures of him visiting the tomb, there is a partially cropped image of a young woman with unusually extravagant ringlets, almost dreadlocks, incredibly unusual among the rich of the gilded age.

I was so struck by the image that I tried to find it online, with complete lack of success, but from other images I’ve found online of his daughter Helen Vivien Gould with similar looking hair I’ll guess it was his daughter.

Strangely, here’s a very odd family history connection here to Helen Vivien Gould:

One of my forebears was the long term companion of Thomas Carter Allen, of whom it was alleged by his legitimate son that Thomas Carter Allen was an illegitimate descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

This was of course complete bollocks, but it gained some traction as his son, John Sobieski-Stuart (as he took to calling himself) managed to single handedly instigate the great con of Tartanry.

Thomas Carter Allen himself was connected by (legitimate) marriage with the Anglo Irish aristocracy, all of whom were incredibly in bred as they tended to marry each other.

It’s a quirk of my genealogy feed that it has trouble distinguishing between formal and informal relationships, with the result that I get lots of posts about digitised records referring to members of the Anglo Irish aristocracy connected to Thomas Carter Allen’s legitimate relationship.

They’re absolutely nothing to do with me, but you do get to recognise the names if only to go ‘another bloody de la Poer descendant’ and delete it without reading.

They all seem to have been incredibly dull people and never involved in a scandalous marriage or arrested for buggering a bishop so I feel justified in ignoring them. Until now.

Helen Vivien Gould married one of the Beresfords – she got the title, and he got the money, a common enough story.

But why the connection to Tut-ankh-amen?

It turns out that Helen Miller Gould, George Jay Gould’s sister was fascinated by ancient Egypt and assembled a large collection or artefacts, most of which she donated to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

I havn’t been able to find any indication that George Jay Gould was particularly interested in Egyptology, unlike his sister.

Likewise I havn’t found any record of Helen Miller Gould visiting Egypt much after the 1880’s – did she badger her brother visit or was she travelling with her brother and insist on a visit?

At the moment I don’t know, but his sister’s fascination with things Egyptian does explain his visit to the tomb …


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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