It’s in the blood

You may or may not know that my Dad, Chris Penn, is quite a well-known authority on the Wild West. My sister and I grew up loving watching westerns and among our most prized toys were a replica Colt 45, a cap gun and a plastic rifle, which I ruined pouring “gunpowder,” or perhaps it was sand, down the barrel of (obviously my chronology of the history of firearms was a little confused at the time!). Dad was always researching some outlaw or lawman and was the first person to discover the baptism record of Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson, an army scout, gambler, gunfighter, and lawman, who served as deputy alongside Wyatt Earp in Dodge City.

Black Bart

So when Dad asked me if I would be interested in searching for the purported Norfolk roots of another outlaw of the Wild West, Charles E. Boles, also known as “Black Bart,” how could I resist? An associate and friend of Dad’s, John Boessenecker, was writing a new book on Boles’ life and wanted to get to the bottom of his English origins. It was a challenging case and involved using a number of genealogical research methodologies to solve. Over the next few days I will post a series of blog posts first published on Norfolk Record Office’s blog in 2018 and 2021, which detail how I did it.

Gentleman Bandit by John Boessenecker

John Boessenecker’s latest book Gentleman Bandit The True Story of Black Bart The Old West’s Most Infamous Stagecoach Robber has just been published and is available on Amazon. John kindly sent us a signed copy which has just arrived and mentioned my work in the acknowledgements.

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