Until September 1st, 2002, the Gemeny Family’s universal assumption was that the first member of the family in America was Anthony Gemeny, married in Salem, Mass., to Catherine Richards.  But, on that date, information came to light which may cast some doubt on that assumption.


We have always assumed that Anthony Gemini (his spelling) came from Italy.  Indeed, today, the surname does appear in Italy, but, relatively infrequently, even less frequently in France, and in very rare instances in Holland, Germany, or elsewhere in Continental Europe, but, never to my knowledge in England.


We have at least casually, but unsuccessfully, searched to find evidence of our Italian ancestors. But, always plagued by any real indication of Italian immigration into New Eng-land in that era. Matter-of-fact, strangely, most of the immigrants in New England came from (surprise) England!


On September 1st, I stumbled across a page I had apparently photocopied from a book at the Library of Congress perhaps 15 years earlier:  “Dictionary of National Biography” Volume XXI, an English compendium published by Macmillan and Co., in 1890. And then, somehow, I had overlooked it.


On page 118, a biographical sketch of GEMINI, GEMINIE, or GEMINUS, THOMAS, (also, sometimes spelled Gemyne) who was an engraver, who may have introduced the first copperplate engravings known in England, as early as 1540. He is probably best know for his engravings in an early anatomic work of a French surgeon he reproduced in his engraving and printing shop in Blackfriers, London. His anatomy work was published under the nom-de-plume of “GEMINUS” (and has been criticized because he is thought to have failed in giving adequate credit to the original French author.) His engraving and artistry is noted for having an Italian and French flair.


But, to my thinking, his greatest contribution to science was his work in the drafting and reproduction of early maps and in the further development of the Astrolabe, with knowledge he seemingly brought to England from the Continent. The Astrolabe is an astronomical device, which became critical to British success in maritime navigation. Gemini presented astrolabes to King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I, which survive today.


Apparently Gemini, who reportedly died about 1562, came to England from Louvain, Belgium. He had worked there as a journeyman in the shop of Gualterus Arsenius, along with Gemma Frisius and Gerard Mercator.


According to a web page posted on the internet at www.Astrolabes.org/SAPHEA.HTM, “Some of the workers from the Arsenius shop revolutionized calligraphic engraving and artistic design and raised European map and instrument making to an esthetic level that is still admired.  Thomas Gemini, a protestant who worked with Gemma in Louvain as a journeyman, migrated (or was banished for heresy) to England where he had enormous influence on the English instrument making tradition.”


The odds are probably against the chance that Thomas Gemini was an ancestor of our Gemeny family, and considering the fact that there is a period of nearly 200 years between his death and the first known appearance of Anthony Gemini in Salem, it would be a tremendous (probably impossible) gap to jump. But, still, we must remember that those 200 years are less than the 250 year gap we have already crossed from Anthony’s arrival in 1756 to today, much less than the 360 years from Naomi Tewkesbury’s ancestors arrival.


And, if nothing more, the presence of Thomas Gemini in England in 1550 clearly establishes the possibility that Anthony Gemini could have been of English, as well as of Italian, ancestry.


W. Gordon Gemeny,

PO Box 163,

Dowell, Md., 20629




September 2nd, 2002

Elizabethan Instrument Makers
The Origins of the London Trade in Precision Instrument Making