Jacob's Ladder

The search for the ancestors of Jacob Harley has taken me on a long and confusing trail. There have been many forks along the way that have led in false directions, but gradually a glimmer of light began to be discernible in the distance. The beginning was that distant ray of light which shone on the ancestral Harley family.

The English/Wales Soldier Harley and wife Anna

In a codicil hand-written by our Great-grandmother, Juliette Harley, she identified the origins of Jacob Harley as Danish or Holstein. This seemed a dichotomy, as the sur-name Harley is of English origin. Census records listed Jacob's place of birth as Wurtemburg, Germany, (Conflict: death records for Jacob list his place of birth as Pennsylvania)

Then, a year ago, a book found at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, UT, Historic Origins and Progressions for Glen and Mona Harley and Their Families, 1653-1992, sent me off in another direction with a clearer understanding of why a family with English origins wound up in Germany.

The apparent earliest known direct ancestor of the family in the United States was the Soldier Harley, a native of England/Wales who emigrated to Ireland, and from there to the continent.

Welsh Roots

What of the earlier Harley's on the British Isles? Is there a connection to the Soldier Harley? I believe the link lies in the book, Puritans and Roundheads, the Harleys of Brampton Bryan and the Outbreak of the English Civil War, by Jacqueline Eales; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge:

The Harleys first settled in Herefordshire in the early fourteenth century and in 1309 Brampton Bryan had become the property of Sir Robert de Harley, Shropshire, through his marriage to the heiress Margaret Brampton. Three centuries later, at the start of the seventeenth century, the Harleys had become established as one of the leading families in Herefordshire, which bordered on Wales in northern England.

In 1520 John Harley, the elder (1491-1542), married Ann Croft, daughter of Sir Edward Croft of Croft Castle, and aunt of the Sir James Croft who would later become Comptroller of the Household and a Privy Councillor during the reign of Elizabeth. His son, John the younger, was born in 29 Oct 1521. These family links were reinforced when John Harley the younger and Sir James Croft married two sisters, the heiresses Maude and Alice Warnescombe of Hereford, daughters of Richard Warnescombe of Herefordshire, who died in 1606. John the Younger's son, Thomas (1548-1614), married first, Margaret, daughter of Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet, Staffordshire. By 1600 Thomas Harley owned not only Brampton Bryan but also the smaller manors of Buckton and Aylton.

Thomas' son, Sir Robert Harley (1579-1656), was born at Wigmore Castle, in Herefordshire, and parish records show that he was baptized on 1 March 1579. Robert was the sole surviving child of the union between Thomas and Margaret Corbet Harley. Sir Robert spent the first year or so of his life at Wigmore, where his father was steward to the Earl of Shrewsbury, and the family probably moved to Brampton Bryan at the death of Robert's grandfather, John Harley, the younger, in 1582.

Although Thomas' father, John, was a Catholic, he did not embrace the Catholic religion. Thomas' wife, Margaret Corbet, came from a family where the practices of reformed Protestantism was openly encouraged. Margaret was probably the earliest Puritan influence in young Robert Harley's life, but her religious guidance was abruptly cut short by her death, and in 1589 Thomas Harley married for a second time. His new wife gave Thomas another son, who was baptized James.

Thomas Harley had been able to improve the family fortunes by the purchase of the manor and borough of Wigmore from Sir Henry Lyndley, a former steward of the Earl of Essex. Wigmore was a former monastic property and was part of the great influx of land onto the market which had followed the dissolution of the monasteries. The acquisition of Wigmore was of particular value to the Harleys, not only because it was a substantial manor, but also because it lay so close to the Brampton Bryan. Thomas immediately conveyed the entire estate of Wigmore to the use of his son, Sir Robert Harley, for life.

There is little information about the early lives of Robert and James until they were sent to Oxford university, where their father had received his own education in the 1570's. Robert remained in London after his studies ended and in 1603 was made a Knight of the Order of the Bath at the coronation ceremony of James I. In the spring of 1604 he was returned to his first Parliament as burgess for Radnor and about that time was admitted to the bench of justices in Herefordshire.

Sir Robert's first attempts to start a family were traumatic. In February of 1603 he married Ann, the daughter of Charles Barrett of Belhouse, Essex, but on December 1st she died from complications of childbirth. She was buried with her baby son, Thomas, near the home of her step-father, Sir John Leveson of Halling, in the parish church of Saint Michael, Cuxton, in Kent.

Sir Robert next married Mary, daughter of Sir Francis Newport, of High Ercall, Shropshire. By the end of 1614 Sir Robert had two children, but they did not survive infancy, and were dead by the time their mother died in 1622.

Sir Robert Harley married his third wife, Brilliana Conway, in July 1623 at Greenwich, the site of a favorite royal palace. The choice of Greenwich was significant for, in marrying Brilliana, Harley secured a vital link with the court. His new father-in-law was a prominent courtier, trusted by two successive monarchs and by their favorite, the Duke of Buckingham. At the time of this marriage Sir Robert was in his mid-forties, and Brilliana was about 25. Brilliana's father, Sir Edward Conway, had first made his career as a soldier and later served as a diplomat; in 1622 he had been admitted to the privy council and at the start of 1623 was appointed Secretary of State. As part of the marriage settlement Thomas Harley turned over the rest of his estate, including his main seat at Brampton Bryan, to the use of Sir Robert and Brilliana for life, although Thomas reserved board and lodging for himself at Brampton Castle.

There was a strong religious affinity between the two, and Brilliana's Puritanism had its origins in her own family background. She had spent her earliest years in the Netherlands and the Earl of Clarendon influenced Brilliana's cousin, Anne Vere, whose father, Sir Horace, succeeded his brother, Sir Francis, as governor of the Brill, in the Netherlands. In 1637 Anne married Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Commander-in-Chief of the parliamentarian army from 1645-1650.

Holland was the traditional refuge for English Protestant exiles no longer able to tolerate the established church in England.

In October 1624 their first son was born, named Edward after Lady Harley's father. In April 1626 a second son was born and Brilliana named him Robert. In 1628 there followed the birth of a third son, Thomas, and in the following year their first daughter, Brilliana, was born. The births of Dorothy and Margaret followed in 1630 and 1631. Finally, a fourth daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1634. She appears to have died in early childhood. Lady Brilliana was also responsible for the upbringing of her nephew Edward Smith, whose wardship had been granted to her brother, the second Viscount of Conway. Edward joined the household at Brampton Castle in 1632 and was raised with the Harley's own children.

In 1626 Sir Robert was appointed Master of the Mint, which brought him an annual income of just under 500 Pounds between November 1626 and September 1633. By the late 1630's Harley had achieved a position as one of the wealthiest and most powerful gentlemen in Herefordshire.

Through ties of blood and of marriage the Harley's were related to a bewildering network of families scattered throughout the Midlands and parts of southern England, including the Crofts of Croft Castle, the Scudamores of Holme Lacy, the Pyes of Mynde Park, the Kyrles of Walford and the Rudhalls of Rudhall.

The 1620's and 30's were decades in which a close-knit group of Arminians were gaining the highest preferment within the English church. Many Puritans were alarmed by their introduction of church ceremonies such as bowing at the altar, and ornamentation such as the railed altar, which they saw as redolent of catholic practices.

The Arminians were those who adhered to the doctrines of Jacobus Arminius, (1560-1609) a Dutch Protestant theologian who opposed Calvinistic belief in divine sovereignty. Charles I openly employed Arminians as royal chaplains and sanctioned their promotion in the church, and in 1628 the house of Commons drafted the Remonstrance which advised the King of what they saw as dangerous innovators who wished to re-establish links with Rome. The attack in Parliament was led by John Pym, who was one of the first members of the Commons to argue the danger of Arminianism. Sir Robert was amongst those MPs who linked Arminianism with Rome.

Puritanism is best regarded as a style of piety, a mode of behavior, a set of priorities. The survival of an exceptional manuscript amongst Sir Robert Harley's papers outlines which religious issues he saw as priorities. He drew up in 1621 his own definition of a puritan, which he intended to send to Sir Horace Vere. He noted that a puritan desires to practice what others profess, is one that dares do nothing in the worship of God or course of his life, but what God's word warrants him. He also touched on the subject of symbolism in church worship, which puritans regarded as superstitious. Much of the non-conformity in the English Church between 1559 and 1640 hinged on the argument that the surplice, the sign of the cross, kneeling during divine service, and other symbolic practices or images, had no warrant in scripture and were inherently superstitious. Discipline for puritans had a wider meaning signifying the active regulation, in every congregation, of the behavior of the individual, using both spiritual and moral sanctions ranging from private admonition to excommunication, in order to enforce godly standards of behavior on all church members. There was also the implication that in the apostolic Church discipline had been rooted in the congregations, only to be usurped later by the bishops and other church officials....that congregations had lost a great deal of power.

The Harleys believed that those whom God had chosen for salvation were part of a definable and recognizable community on earth. The chief sign of election to this community was complete faith in God, which was revealed by a religious and sober life. For Lady Brilliana, the final result of her religious introspection, her emphasis on self-examination, prayer, reading and meditation, was the certain knowledge of her own salvation. Both Lady Brilliana and Sir Robert were also interested in seeing further reforms within the Church and the religious life of the nation. In Parliament in 1626, Sir Robert supported a bill to punish "scandalous and unworthy ministers". Two years later he supported a bill to reform abuses of the Sabbath; another bill to prevent drunkenness and adultery amongst the clergy. Sir Robert was one of the MPs eager to hold public fasts, and at the start of the 1628 Parliament he declared: I joy to see the sense of this House to join to humble ourselves before God.

Under Sir Robert's guidance Brampton became a center of zealous puritan worship. Days of fasting and prayer formed a regular part of their religious life.

Prior to the calling of the Long Parliament, the Harleys' Puritanism revolved around an emphasis on the faith and godly life of the individual, combined with attempts to eradicate what they perceived as any surviving catholic influences from the church. They did not want to separate from the Church and they did not see themselves as opponents of the established Church. Their long-term desires for a range of reforms, which would finally purge the Church of catholic usage and influence, would also be central to their opposition to the crown in the 1640's.

Parliament was a meeting place for King and people, where grievances could be aired and resolved and where royal policies could be endorsed by the representatives of the political nation. The existence of Parliament was seen as a barrier to tyranny. Although Sir Robert was outspoken in the House about religious matters, he rarely made direct criticism of royal policies on other issues. The political methods of the first two Stuart monarchs, James I and Charles I, raised the question of whether the King would continue to call Parliaments. Although statutes dating from the reign of Edward III did provide for annual Parliaments, it was not expected that they should meet so frequently. However, Charles I determination to rule without Parliament during the 1630's left an obvious gap in this traditional political process.

The war against Scotland was another crucial factor in arousing grievances against the crown amongst the English, for it provoked disapproval for aggression against a fellow Protestant nation and also presented the gentry with mounting problems of administration. The conflict started as the direct result of the introduction of the English prayer book into Scotland by royal proclamation. in the summer of 1637. Absence of Parliament during this time created bitterness over the forced funding of the conflict and collection of ship money. In 1639 the recruitment of troops for the Scottish campaign and the exaction of coat and conduct money to pay for them also placed further strain on the local governments.

In the summer of 1640 a secret commission given to the catholic Earl of Worcester by the King revived fears that the King had fallen victim to a catholic plot. Those who believed that there was a plot to force Catholicism upon the English nation also believed that traditional liberties were being eroded in the process. The opening of Long Parliament in 1640 secured the passage of a bill which prevented Charles from dissolving Parliament without its own consent.

During 1642 the statements issued by Parliament continued to stress the existence of a "popish plot", and belief in the plot was a fundamental tenet of parliamentarianism once the war had broken out. The MPs who investigated the plot were convinced of the truth of their findings. One of the major divisions between royalists and parliamentarians was the question of whether to retain or to abolish bishops. Another central division between supporters of the King and supporters of Parliament in 1642 would be the extent to which they were prepared to trust the King to rule according to the laws. The belief that there was a wide spread catholic plot, which the King had been unable to counter, persuaded Harley and many others that the King was untrustworthy.

On January 10th, 1642, the royal family fled from Whitehall Palace to Hampton Court, and throughout the next two months King Charles traveled uneasily through England, arriving on March 19th in York, which became the rallying point for loyalists to the royal cause. The House of Commons took emergency measures to meet in the City of London, where a committee of twenty-five was named to sit in the Guildhall to consider the King's blatant breach of parliamentary privilege.

Following the King's withdrawal into the provinces, local officials were called upon to execute parliamentary orders which clearly did not have royal sanction. The key matter of contention between the King and Parliament in the opening months of 1642 was control of the militia. The two Houses passed an ordinance on March 5th, nominating their own lords lieutenant to replace the royal nominees. The King's response was to declare that his subjects cannot be obliged to obey any act, order or injunction to which His Majesty has not given His consent. The next day the House of Commons formally claimed supreme legislative power for the Lords and Commons in Parliament, and stated that Charles' command that they should not be obeyed was a high breach of the privilege of Parliament. This claim by Parliament to be able to act separately from the crown proved divisive. The establishment of civil war parties has been interpreted as the reluctant response of the localities to central events.

King Charles emphasized the importance of the distinction between the role of King in Parliament, which was to make laws, and the role of the King alone, which was to govern.

Those supporting the King were called Royalists or Cavaliers, and those supporting Parliament were dubbed Roundheads. By the summer of 1642 both Lady Brilliana and Sir Robert were openly stigmatized by local folks as puritans and Roundheads.

The first bloodshed of the Civil War took place at Manchester on July 15th, 1642. Private houses were searched; property was seized or destroyed; civilians were imprisoned, injured or killed. Such actions violated the conventions of a peaceful society and led people into increasingly hostile behavior as they attempted to exact redress.

In spite of her fears that Brampton would be attacked, Lady Brilliana refused to take a neutral stand and she allowed Brampton to become a center of refuge for parliamentarians. She organized an efficient intelligence service, which operated even at the height of the siege of her home. The final decision of the royalists to move against Brampton Castle was taken by Lord Vavasour, who was acutely aware that the continued existence of a parliamentarian haven in the midst of territory already under royalist control could only reflect badly on his own command. Lady Brilliana was accompanied by her three youngest children, Thomas, Dorothy and Margaret, and by a number of friends. Inside Brampton conditions were extremely uncomfortable and dangerous. The siege lasted for just over six weeks, during which time the cattle, sheep and horses were plundered; the mills, town houses and barns were all burnt to the ground and the castle was extensively damaged by continual bombardment with cannon and small shot.

Outside events eventually saved Brampton, for on September 9th, the royalist forces were diverted to counter Essex's army marching to the relief of Glouster. Inside the castle this news was received with jubilation. Sir Robert now wrote to his wife advising her to leave Brampton. In her reply Lady Brilliana stated that she was not afraid to die in preserving the Harley estates and true religion in the country. She was convinced that she was not safe from further attack and took measures to secure the castle and its inhabitants. She ordered the leveling of the enemy's earthworks and the castle was restocked with provisions. In October of 1643 Lady Brilliana received a warning from Vavasar that he would renew the siege, but before he could act Lady Brilliana fell fatally ill, her final sickness and death being both sudden and unexpected. On October 29, 1643 Samuel More wrote to London warning Sir Robert that she was ill. She had suffered a "fit of the stone", from which she apparently recovered, but was then afflicted with a cough, had fallen into a fit and been seized with apoplexy, lethargy and convulsions. Lady Brilliana died two days later on the Sabbath, her final days fortified by her deep religious faith.

Catholic participation in the war had in fact been considerable. The siege of Brampton and the death of Lady Brilliana did nothing to shake Sir Robert Harley's firm support for the policies pursued by the parliamentary leadership at Westminster. This group was ready to negotiate with the King, but believed that only a vigorous war policy would persuade Charles to accept peace on their terms. By winter all that remained was the mopping-up operation, and in April of 1646 the King abandoned his headquarters in disguise with only two companions. He gave himself up to the Scots army. Charles was delivered in June 1647 to the English Parliament. Later he escaped to the Isle of Wight but was imprisoned there. By this time a serious division had occurred between Parliament and its army. The army's leader, Oliver Cromwell and his supporters, the Independents, compelled Parliament to pass an act of treason against further negotiation with the king. Eventually, the moderate Parliamentarians were forcibly ejected by the Independents, and the remaining legislators, who formed the so-called Rump Parliament, appointed a court to try the king. On January 20, 1649, the trial began in Westminster Hall. Charles denied the legality of the court and refused to plead. On January 27 he was sentenced to death as a tyrant, murderer, and enemy of the nation. Scotland protested, the royal family entreated, and France and the Netherlands interceded, in vain. Charles was beheaded at Whitehall, London. Subsequently Oliver Cromwell became chairman of the council of state, a parliamentary agency that governed England as a republic until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. * (see asterisk below) Sir Robert Harley never resumed his political career after his wife's death, but retired to Brampton Bryan where he lived until his death in 1673.

With this political intrigue and religious fervor surrounding the Harley family, I found another source, a microfilm #0517163, item #1, at the LDS Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, UT, titled Rudolph of Amwell, The Harley Family Ancestor, by Herbert Harley. The following is taken from this film: “Jacob Herli, (Herli is Swiss for Harley) was over seven feet tall. The history handed down through the family was that the "Soldier Harley" was Welsh. (Herferdshire, where the Harleys lived at Brampton Bryan Castle, bordered on Wales. It fell under Welsh rule many times through the centuries until the Welsh princes accepted English sovereignity) Jacob Harley left Wales, going initially to Ireland. He was banished to Switzerland by Charles II upon the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660.

*Jacob's son, Rudolph was born in 1692. Rudolph became a soldier in the Prussian Army, serving as personal bodyguard to Frederick William I, King of Prussia (1688-1740). The development of the army was the King's fondest achievement; he was particularly proud of the Potsdam Guard, composed of exceptionally tall men hired, and sometimes kidnapped, from all parts of Europe.

Jacob served a military term with the King's Guard. While in Switzerland the guard was sent to break up a religious meeting; however, after listening for a while Rudolph decided to join them. Due to the religious persecution which followed, Jacob fled to Holland with Peter Becker's group.

Religious persecution was raging with increasing fierceness in Germany. From the early Piest movement in Europe, a group assembled in Schwerzenau, Germany to form the Tunkers (German for Dunkers, or those who believed in total immersion baptisms) whose members entered a solemn covenant with one another to forsake the worldly, formal religions of the day and return to the apostolic faith and practice in the minutest detail as revealed in the New Testament. (P.8) This correlates with verbal family history. Known facts include the knowledge that our Jacob Harley and his wife, Mary Powell, were early members of St. Paul's Evangelical Association, the northern class of the Moravians in Sandusky, OH. (History of Sandusky County, Ohio with Portraits and Biographies; Cleveland, Ohio: H. Z. Williams & Brothers, 1882; p.758)

The Moravian Brethren

To gain a clearer understanding of the Moravian movement, which our early ancestor apparently joined, I went to the Encyclopedia Britannica,vol. 15; p. 790; which reads:

Moravia, a province in central Czechoslovakia, a former Austrian crown-land, was the home of the Moravians, a Christian sect founded by the disciples of John Huss in the east of Bohemia. After Huss' death in 1415 the majority divided into two factions. Half were recognized by the pope as the national church of Bohemia (1433); but the other half wished to preserve Huss' teachings, which included moral purity, and a conviction that the official church was corrupt. They held to the literal teachings of the Sermon on the Mount denouncing war, and returning to the simple teachings of Christ. They accepted the Bible as the only standard of faith. Their teachings include:

  1. Apostle's Creed
  2. Rejection of purgatory, the worship of Saints, the authority of Catholicism
  3. Practice of infant baptism and confirmation
  4. Belief in justification through faith
  5. Declaration that true faith is to know God, love Him, observe the commandments, and submit to His will
  6. Stress Christ-like conduct

Rudolph married Barbara Reebly in 1713, and was blessed with two daughters while in Germany...Mary, born August 1714, and Elizabeth, born in 1716.

Rudolph and his small family left Holland for America, on the ship Allen, commanded by James Craigie, Ship's Master, sailing from Rotterdam, Netherlands, via the Isle of Wight south of England on 7 July 1719. They landed in Philadelphia, PA on September 15th, 1719 after a long and tedious voyage.

His first son, Rudolph Jr. was born at sea on July 14th, 1719. The small family remained in Germantown, PA for a short time, then moved to Somerset County, NJ. From there he moved to Amwell, Hunterdon county, NJ in 1721.

On June 25th, 1730 Rudolph went to Perth Amboy and applied for naturalization, which became effective on July 8th, 1730. He was elected Constable of Amwell in 1734. Jacob died in 1734 at the age of 72, and is buried on the farm in the family plot.

The following incidents were told by Alvin P. Harley, of Royersford, PA:

One winter Rudolph and Barbara came down from Amwell, crossed over the frozen Delaware River in a sleigh, and journeyed to Philadelphia. They met Jacob Pruss and went to a religious meeting in Germantown. He and Barbara left suddenly, giving as his excuse that he had to go home to tend his cattle. When they came to Corywell's Ferry he was stopped by two guards. They said that a sudden thaw had set in and no one could cross over the ice. When one of the guards tried to stop him, Rudolph jumped from the sleigh and pushed the guard aside. The other guard ran away. Rudolph then ran out to the middle of the river and judged that the ice would hold. He than ran back, bringing Barbara out to the middle of the river, left her there and ran back for the sleigh. After another tousle with the guard, Rudolph whipped the horses across the frozen river. As he dashed along, Rudolph reached out and grabbed his wife into the sleigh, and continued speeding across to the New Jersey shore. All the time the ice was cracking and breaking under the runners of the sleigh. They reached the safety of the riverbank. The next day a deputy and his companion came to Rudolph's home to arrest him. Rudolph told the deputy to go about his own business. Finally he had to throw the deputy over the picket fence. The companion, a big burley Irishman, then went into the house to make an arrest. He met with the same fate. So far as we know, this probably ended the matter.

...Another story tells of Rudolph's horse that was to turn the wine press. Several men tried in vain to get the horse up the ramp. Rudolph pushed them aside, picked the horse up, and carried it to the top of the ramp...

Film Area

Witcraft, John R. (John Randolph), born 1858.
Title: The Heiligh and Harley Family

  • p.4
    Heindrick Heiligh, Sr. came to this country in 1745 from Amsterdam, Holland on the Peggy, Captain Abercrombie, Master. He was descended from Prince William of Orange. With him came two brothers, John and George. Heindrick's wife was Susannah. He died in 1775 leaving four children:

    1. John: died 7 Apr 1841; married 28 Jun 1769 to Elizabeth Taney
      1. John
      2. Jacob
    2. George: married 1st, Sophia Omenzetter on 14 Jul 1763. She died 9 Feb 1768 at age 22 years less 9 days. She was the daughter of John Omenzetter and Sophia Heiligh. Sophia was born 17 Feb 1746 at Goschum in the Dutchy of Wurtemburg. She emigrated in 1753 at age 7. Sophia was wed 4 years and begat two children. She was ill 8 months prior to her death.
    3. Anna Maria: married Michael Slonacre
    4. Susannah: married Henry Taney on 24 Oct5 1769
    5. Henry, Jr.: married Margaret_________. He died 1766

  • p.28
    Thomas Harley purchased 5000 acres of land from William Penn in 1682, part located in Hatfield, and part in Franconia and other townships in Montgomery County, OH. (question: was this Thomas one of the sons of Sir Robert Harley?)

  • p.30 Abraham Harley was born 14 Jun 1765; married Christianna Gresz; had 8 sons and 2 daughters, moving to Montgomery County. His father, John, lived in Pikeland, Twp, Chester County, PA, and in Mercerburg, Chester, PA

I have included these additional families because I have not found the link as yet; however, I am sure it exists. There is still further research to do, but I feel I am on the right track. There were additional families in Scott Twp, Sandusky, Ohio that I came across in marriage records. A man named Samuel Harley, Jr. was listed who was two years older than our Jacob. He is listed as being from Pennsylvania, too. With the territory fairly new, and with Harley not being a common name, I'm sure they are related. They may even be brothers. I recently had my autozomal DNA done through Ancestry which lists my DNA as 75% British Isles and 25% Scandinavian. This tells me that I am on the right trail, as no European ancestry shows up. Time will tell.....

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Graphics for this Web Site were obtained from: Fantasyland Graphics

Web Author: Dianne Elizabeth, 1999
To reach me by E-mail: deharley@yahoo.com

Web Site: Dianne Elizabeth's Family History, Created July 17th, 1999
Page Title: Jacob's Ladder
Page Created: July 17th, 1999
Additions: May 27th, 2000
Revised: December 29th, 2012
URL: http://dianneelizabeth.com/jacob.html