William the Conqueror

Did Your Ancestors Come with William the Conqueror?

There is no greater challenge in British-American genealogy than establishing a connection to William the Conqueror. After all, in the year 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, William, Duke of Normandy, was the last person to conquer England. All subsequent British history is an outgrowth of the amalgamation of the victorious Norman and the vanquished Anglo-Saxon cultures. They don’t make milestones much bigger than this!

So, if you are on the track of William and his companions, where do you start? We’ve pulled together some resources – some new and some originally printed in the 1800s – to help you in your search.

Perhaps the best place to start looking for where your history ties to William the Conqueror is the powerful little book, My Ancestors Came with the Conqueror, by Anthony Camp, former Director of the Society of Genealogists (London). This book contains a consolidated list of the companions of William the Conqueror. Preceding Mr. Camp’s list are the most important essays of the last century concerning this subject and, in particular, the list of companions named in the famous Battle Abbey Roll.

Mr. Camp also references those companions of the Conqueror whose names appear in the Domesday Book of 1086, that remarkable “quasi-census” of William’s domain taken 20 years following the conquest. Mr. Camp cross-references them to Lewis Loyd’s, The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families among others (both of these publications are discussed in more detail below). In the end, as he states in the subtitle to the work, Mr. Camp has come up with a fascinating list of “those who did and some of those who probably did not” come with the Conqueror.

As mentioned, tracking down less famous companions of William can be incredibly helpful. Used in addition to the information in My Ancestors Came with the ConquerorThe Roll of Battle Abbey contains the names of several hundred of the noble companions of the Conqueror. It is considered a cornerstone in feudal English genealogy as well as an extremely interesting and controversial record. This version, a compilation by John Bernard Burke, is a heavily annotated list of the companions of the Conqueror. These annotations provide an account of the origins of each companion and his relationship to William, a description of his baronies and estates, an assessment of his position in the feudal hierarchy, and a concise history of his life and times.

The Falaise Roll, an additional resource we recommend when trying to trace your lineage to William the Conquerer and those closest to him, is a list of 315 names engraved on the bronze memorial erected in 1931 in the chapel of the castle of Falaise in Normandy. These individuals were chosen because of the probability of their having fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Most of the work consists of biographies of those recorded on the roll. Additional biographies are given for other companions chosen from among many names for whom participation at Hastings has been specifically claimed.

Straddling the same time period and geographic regions, The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families deals with the Norman origins of several hundred families and related individuals, primarily those who settled in England between 1066 and 1205. The work contains two indexes – one of the families’ names and places, and the other of Norman overlords and their under tenants in England.

Mentioned earlier, the Domesday Book is the true starting point of English genealogy. In A General Introduction to Domesday Book (2 Vols.), Sir Henry Ellis’ work is designed to throw light upon the holdings of lands as well as instances of the hereditary descent of land from those who had possession in Saxon times. By far the greatest achievement of the work is the three indexes which comprise alphabetical lists of the names of all landowners and tenants, instancing the counties wherein they held land, the location of the original citation in Domesday Book, and details of their properties, marriages, and heirs.

Do you have another great resource that has helped you find your link to William the Conqueror? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image credit: A late-1800s engraving shows William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings, By Unknown engraver [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.



Hard to find Ancestors, Irish Immigrants

Hard to Find Ancestors – Maybe They Took a Detour?

If you’re frustrated on the trail your hard to find ancestors, you may have to consider – did your immigrant ancestors detour on their way here?

The Canadian port of St. John, New Brunswick, was a magnet for Irish immigration during the 1840s, the decade that culminated in the Great Famine. A majority of these Irish immigrants eventually relocated to Boston or elsewhere in New England to rejoin other family members. Since many of the aforementioned Irish arrived in Canada in a destitute or infirm condition, however, they were required to take temporary refuge in the alms and work houses, hospitals, and asylums of St. John. (See the publication, Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of St. John, New Brunswick,1841 to 1849 for additional information. A number of records of these institutions have survived and now serve as a surrogate record of these persons “missing” from the official passenger lists. Irish Emigration to New England Through the Port of St. John, New Brunswick,1841 to 1849 identifies some 7,000 persons of Irish birth from the records of alms houses, hospitals, parish houses, etc.)

As in the case of the Irish to St. John, an immigrant’s stopover could last a generation. For example, a number of the 17th-century pioneers of Long Island, New York, actually came from Connecticut, not directly from Great Britain. You should not assume that immigrant ancestors who lived in one place necessarily came there directly from their birth country, especially if no record of the immigrants can be found among the records of the state or colony you associate with them. Continue reading…

crash course in genealogy, genealogy research trip planning

Need a Crash Course in Genealogy?

Did you know that you might be able to find your ancestor listed in an 18th-century newspaper broadside or in other obscure sources? Have you ever located one of your family members in a book, only to discover that the name had been transcribed incorrectly from the original record? Are you looking for your 19th-century Irish ancestors in passenger lists for Liverpool – where most of them embarked?

Can you, like the weekend golfer whose smooth swing has deserted him, use a crash course in genealogy? If any of the aforementioned scenarios strikes a familiar chord, you’re certain to benefit from reading Judith Jacobson’s book, A Genealogist’s Refresher Course.

A Genealogist’s Refresher Course is less a how-to book than a collection of first-hand experiences, do’s and don’ts, and privileged information. Mrs. Jacobson, a museum curator, librarian, and the author of four previous Clearfield publications dealing with New England, Long Island, Great Lakes, and Mississippi-Alabama ancestors reminds us at the outset that success in genealogy is not an overnight experience, and roadblocks and dead-ends along the way are part of the process. She emphasizes the importance of verifying our findings against the original (primary) sources and not relying on secondary, or published, accounts as the foundation for our genealogies.

One of the most valuable chapters in the book contains a list of nearly 100 different kinds of sources of genealogical information, including anniversary announcements, bank statements, business licenses, memorial cards, health records, medals, newspaper clippings, subpoenas, and many other record categories that genealogists may fail to consult. Still other chapters discuss how to acquire rare or used books, what to examine among the records housed in museums, coping with the derivations and changes in names, understanding the meanings of the obscure or ancient diseases our ancestors succumbed to, and when and how to hire a professional genealogist.

All in all, Mrs. Jacobson has written a fresh guidebook that the intermediate or advanced genealogist can use as a crash course in genealogy, to hone his/her skills or double-check his/her methods. It may just be the crash course or refresher course you’re looking for.

Image credit: By Anna (Flickr: records) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Colonial Virginia, Order of the First Families of Virginia

The Cutting Edge of Colonial Virginia Genealogy – Adventurers of Purse and Person

Adventurers of Purse and Person – In Three Volumes

Membership in the Order of First Families of Virginia is limited to lineal descendants of someone who aided in the establishment of the first permanent English colony – Virginia, 1607-1624/5. Membership goes beyond exclusive and is actually by invitation only. All such members are in the direct line of either:

  1. Stockholders in the Virginia Company who came to Virginia between 1607 and 1625 and had progeny, or did not come to Virginia but had grandchildren who did; or
  2. Immigrants to Virginia between the years in question who left descendants. The first group is referred to as “Adventurers of Purse;” the second, “Adventurers of Person.” A grand total of 109 individuals have been authenticated in both categories.

Since its establishment in 1912, the Order of First Families of Virginia has striven “to promote historical, biographical, and genealogical researches concerning Virginia history during the period when she was the only one of the thirteen original colonies.” The Order has collected genealogical information on an ongoing basis; however, its principal mechanism for disseminating this early 17th-century Virginia genealogical scholarship has been through its book, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 1607-1624/5. First issued in 1956, this work had gone through three editions by 1987. To mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of colonial Jamestown, the Order asked John Frederick Dorman, its official genealogist and the leading authority on colonial Virginia ancestry, to prepare a fourth edition.

While the first three editions covered four generations of Virginia founding families, the fourth edition expands the coverage to six – a monumental achievement. The sheer scope of the new edition required that it be published in three large, indexed volumes.

The foundation of Adventurers of Purse and Person is the famous “Muster” of January-February 1624/25 – essentially a census taken by the Royal Commission, which succeeded the Virginia Company, to determine the extent and composition of the Jamestown settlements. The Muster, which is reproduced in entirety in Volume One, names about 1,200 persons, of whom approximately 150 are shown in this work to have left descendants to the sixth generation. In addition to the Muster, this work builds on the investigations of dozens of scholars, correcting, revising, and supplementing the best genealogical scholarship of the past half century. New discoveries, newly available information, and a further reevaluation of evidence concerning previously accepted relationships have led, in some instances, to wholesale changes in the accepted genealogies.

Whereas Volume One concerned 52 families from A through F, Volume Two covers 51 families, beginning with letters G through P, that were established either by settlers of Virginia prior to 1625 or by members of the Virginia Company whose descendants came to Virginia later. Volume Two identifies 7,684 individual descendants resident in Virginia (or subsequently in other states), and its index contains 20,000 name, place, and subject entries. Volume Three focuses (G-Z) concentrates on 46 main families possessing about 6,500 individual descendants, and boasts an index of 20,000 names:

  • Volume One, Families A-F: The first volume covers founding families alphabetically from A-F and includes the following: Andrews, Bagwell, Baley-Cocke, Barkham-Jenings, Barne, Bates, Bayly, Beheathland, Bennett (Edward), Bennett (Samuel), Bennett-Chapman, Bernard, Bibby, Bickley, Bland, Boyce, Boyle-Mountney, Branch, Buck, Burwell, Bush, Calthorpe, Calvert, Carsley, Carter, Chaplaine, Chew, Chisman, Claiborne, Clay, Clements, Cobb, Codrington, Cole, Cope, Cox, Crew, Croshaw, Crump, Curtis, Davis, Dawson, Delk, Digges, Edloe, Epes, Evelyn, Farrar, Fisher, Fleet, Flood, and Freeman.
  • Volume Two, Families G-P: Gaither, Gaskins, Gilbert, Gookin, Gosnold, Granger, Graves, Gray Grendon, Gundry, Hallom, Hampton, Hansford, Harris (John), Harris (Thomas), Harwood, Holt, Hooe, Hopkins, Johnson-Travis, Jordan (Samuel), Jordan (Thomas), Kent, Kingsmill, Knott, Laydon, Lloyd, Lovelace-Gorsuch, Lukin, Lupo, Macock, Martiau, Mason, Mathews, Menefie, Montague, Moone, Moore, Offley, O’Neil-Robins, Osborne, Pace, Parramore, Pead, Peirce, Peirsey, Perry, Pierce-Bennett, Price, Price-Llewellyn, and Purifoy.
  • Volume Three, Families R-Z: Reynolds, Robins, Rolfe, Rookings, Royall, St. Leger, Salter-Weld, Savage, Scarburgh, Sharp, Sharp-Baugh, Sheppey, Slaughter, Smith (Arthur), Smith (Richard), Smith (Roger), Southey-Harmar-Littleton, Spencer, Stephens, Strachey, Swann, Tatum, Taylor-Cary, Thorowgood, Tooke, Townshend, Trussell, Utie, Utie-Bennett, Vassall, Waters, West, West (Anthony), Whiting, Wilkins, Williams, Willoughby, Wood, Woodhouse, Woodliffe, Woodson, Woodward, Wroughton, Wyatt, Yeardley, and Zouche.

If you are into 17th-century Virginia ancestry, it doesn’t get any better than Adventurers of Purse and Person. Genealogical Publishing Company, the parent company of this blog, is honored to be the publisher of this fourth edition of a work that is nothing less than the bedrock of colonial Virginia genealogy.

Image credit: Map of land granted to the Virginia Company by the charter of 1609, according to the terms of the charter and current geographical knowledge. By Anonymous cartographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul Heinegg

Surprises in the Family Tree, Thanks to Paul Heinegg

John Archer first appears in Northampton County, Va., in the mid-17th century. He started a family that prospered, fought in the Revolutionary War and built a mansion. Generations later, Archer’s blood trickled down to me. It mingled in my veins with DNA from a gravedigger in 17th-century Wurttemberg, Germany; from an Appalachian clan with a recessive gene that turns their skins indigo blue; and from a rich young widow in Jamestown, Va., whose fickle heart led to America’s first breach-of-promise suit, in 1623.

I have been researching my past for two decades, since I was in high school, so finding a new ancestor is hardly startling. Learning about John Archer three years ago, however, was startling. He was black, a slave or indentured servant freed around 1677. I am white. That’s what it says on my birth certificate. Now I know better, thanks to Paul Heinegg.”

When New York Times Columnist Mitchell Owens’ wrote a story entitled Surprises in the Family Tree, he credited uncovering his own surprises due to the work of Paul Heinegg. While this may have been a new and welcome discovery by the author, we bet that many serious students of 17th-, 18th-, or early 19th-century African-American genealogy would have heard of him. Heinegg is the author of two authoritative books published by Clearfield Company: Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the Colonial Period to About 1820 (now in its Fifth Edition) and Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware from the Colonial Period to 1810.

Paul Heinegg’s interest in the early roots of African Americans goes back to 1985, when he started to research his wife’s maternal line. His findings confirmed that the blurring of lines between servitude and early slavery, occurring until about 1715, made for what Professor John Boles has described as a “biracial camaraderie” and frequent unions between blacks and non-slave-owning whites of the same class.

Such novel results encouraged Mr. Heinegg to expand the scope of his work; in fact, his goal is now to trace the roots of every free black family living in the Southeastern colonies. Working from microfilm copies of deeds, wills, tax records, and other local sources, he has been able to trace the origins of over 12,000 individuals who are related to colonial freedmen. His accomplishments are all the more remarkable when one considers that he conducted most of his research from places like Tanzania and Saudi Arabia, where his livelihood as a petroleum engineer took him and his family.

Mr. Heinegg’s books are important in other ways. From the standpoint of social history, they dispel a number of myths about the origins and status of free African Americans, such as the “mysterious” origins of the Lumbees, Melungeons, and other such marginal groups, and they demonstrate conclusively that many free African-American families in colonial North Carolina and Virginia were landowners. Considered from the standpoint of methodology, Heinegg’s work illustrates how to get the most mileage out of the scant records, particularly for African Americans, of the colonial period.

Image credit: Arch Goins and family, Melungeons from Graysville. Archival family photograph from the 1920s, provided to http://www.geocities.com/melungeonorigin/maomg2.html by Barbara Goins. By Badagnani at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by John at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.