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Norman ancestor!

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:55 pm
by Moe
On the One show (BBCTV) there was an article about the town of Hastings taking photographs of descendants of the battle to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the battle of Hastings. There was a list of names, one of which was my surname, Morton which was then shown as equating to "de Mortain" as the knight who fought in 1066. This knights descendants, I discovered had land in Cheshire, some of these then went into Scotland to fight for the Scottish King. My research has led me back to my family coming into England from Scotland during Tudor times. Is it possible I could therefore be descended from this Norman knight who fought at Hastings?

Re: Norman ancestor!

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:49 pm
by AdrianB38
Anything is possible. Most people alive in the UK today will be descended from most people alive in 1066 given that the theoretical maximum number of your ancestors doubles every generation. But whether your Morton name descends in an unbroken chain of Mortons from one specific Morton / Mortain is quite another matter.

The truth is that there are only a tiny handful of Norman knights from 1066 who are known to have descendants today. One is, of course, Duke William the Bastard (they called him that) himself. What's worse is that there are only a couple of dozen Norman knights whose names are definitely known - the rest are names from the Battle Abbey Roll and that is a highly dubious source.

Another aspect can be seen with my own surname of Bruce. Despite the Battle Abbey Roll, there is no evidence of a Bruce (de Brus at that time) fighting in 1066 - they seem to have come over later in the century as they were given land in Yorkshire as a reward for backing the right side in a Norman civil war (the right side being King Henry I of England). The Bruces were then given land in Scotland (like many) to act as the Scots King's "enforcers" up there. From that Scots branch, comes King Robert the Bruce. However, most holders of the Bruce surname do not get their Bruce name in direct descent from that family. Rather, the belief is that they gained their surnames through being tenants of, or working for, Bruce land-owners. (That's what I read and that's what Fiona Bruce was told in WDYTYA).

So if indeed Morton refers back to de Mortain (which itself is uncertain, I suggest), most of the Mortons could simply have been tenants of, or workers for, the de Mortain family.

Re: Norman ancestor!

PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:24 pm
by MysticDave
I had an interesting time with this. My first girlfriend's surname was Hackett, which she told me was a Norman name meaning 'blockhead'. When I ventured back into one branch of my family (the Elyots/Elliotts of Surrey), I came across a 'Jane Hakett' in the 1500s and looking at the battle Abbey Roll, there is a Haket listed as a knight, although I gather this was a fairly common Norman first name. When i had my DNA tested, I had a reasonable bit of French DNA, but no Anglo-Saxon/Danish DNA, so either Haket is a later arrival or one of the french, who was Normanised. Ironic about being distantly related to my first gf though!