Old World Ancestors


Tracing ancestry for (non-Native) Americans has the unique quality of having a distinct cut-off point between the New World and the Old World, between those born in this country and those born overseas. When I started delving into genealogy I assumed I would be able to trace a few families back before they immigrated to Europe. As it turns out, there are many families that can be traced back very far. But just as there are many dead-ends and gray areas in tracing New World ancestors, there are that many more the farther back you go.

You may have heard of claims like “I am a direct descendant of (fill in the blank) William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, Adam (see here for example). Well, it seems that the McKay/Stevens families can reasonably claim to be direct descendants of William the Conqueror, Charlemagne and the English Plantagenet kings. (But, no, we can’t trace back to Adam definitively.) Given my skepticism about the validity of distant relatives, how can I say this with confidence? Probability!

If you trace your direct ancestry back to the time of Charlemagne, forty generations or so, you would hypothetically have a trillion ancestors. That’s about two thousand times more people than existed on Earth when Charlemagne was alive. Chances are if you are of European extraction as we are, especially if you have a lot of English ancestors, you have at least one ancestor who can be connected to the various Dukes, Barons, Counts, Earls, and Knights and their spouses from the Middle Ages. A large percentage of the European nobility can claim descent from Charlemagne.

Besides, royal descent is easier to prove than descent from less notable ancestors, because genealogies and public records are typically fuller, better known and well preserved, in the case of royal descent, than in the case of descent from commoners (who usually only had their records recorded in the family bible). Furthermore, rulers tend to have more children than the overall population (Charlemagne had 20 children), and the children of rulers are more likely to receive adequate food and medical care than the children of a less wealthy person, who are more likely to die of starvation or disease.

Here's an exercise (it may take a while to load) that shows just how many likely descendants Charlemagne had even in our (very incomplete) family tree. You can follow the descendants earlier than the 12 earliest generations of Charlemagne's descendants by clicking any of the yellow right arrows at the far right of the table to go forward in time another twelve generations. Since Charlemagne lived more than 40 generations ago, you can see a rough approximation of how many times we are possibly connected to him.

Barack Obama

A connection with President Barack Obama is an example of how, if we can trace back far enough, we can find links to many people assuming they have traceable European ancestry. President Obama can trace his ancestry to James Harrington (1448-1498). In our family tree here are at least six of our ancestors (three on the McKay and three on the Stevens side) that also trace back to James Harrington: Sarah Coe [PR], Peletiah Daniels [PR], Jacob Ford [MM], Michael Letson [MM], Israel Tripp [MM] and Elizabeth Pyle [SS].

A Note about Descendants Tables

Many of the links on this page trace descendants of the ancestor mentioned. Some of these links may take quite a while to load depending on how far back they lived, how many descendants they have, the internet connection speed of the user and the speed of their computer. Be patient.

The family tree software only traces descendants for tweleve generations. So to see the most recent descendants for a long-ago ancestor, it is necessary to click on the right arrow of one of the most recent descendants shown on the original list. Not all paths lead to a living family member some led to dead ends.


Most Americans with significant New England Yankee, Mid-Atlantic Quaker, or Southern planter ancestry are descended from medieval royalty, especially those of England, Scotland, and France. The English geneticist Professor Stephen Jones estimates that 25% of the British population is descended from the Plantagenet forebears.

Of course, there were illegitimate offspring, lost records, padding of pedigree, etc. but, in the case of our ancestors there are many different paths that all lead to the Plantagenet and Capetian dynasties. See for example the descendants of Robert 'The Strong' of Neustria (820 - 866), an early king of what now includes France or English King Henry Plantagenet II (1133-1189). It is very likely that one of those paths is likely to be correctly linked to our family.

With all the Plantagenets in the family, there is at least one Tudor. Sir Jasper Tudor was the brother of King Henry VI. Jasper’s brother Edmund Tudor was the father of Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII, the first monarch of the House of Tudor. That leads to a distant relationship to Tudor King Henry VIII as well. Sir Geoffrey Boleyn is Anne Boleyn’s great grandfather. The second wife of Henry, Anne was beheaded in the Tower of London in 1536. Baroness Lady Margaret (Bourchier) Bryan was Governess to Henry VIII children including young Elizabeth I after Anne Boleyn was beheaded. If you examine Jasper Tudor in the McKay/Stevens family tree there are eleven possible descendant connections.

European interconnections

It is difficult to describe the extent which distinguished European/English families intermarried. The best way to understand this is just to examine our family tree. These families obviously represent just a fraction of the noble families since they are just the ones we are related to. But you can see how families married off their daughters to other noble families almost to the exclusion of any other matches. The Quincys and the Staffords and the Bassetts and the Beaumonts and the Beauforts and the Spencers and the Percys appear over and over marrying others of the same class. And if they get lucky they marry a Plantagenet or a Tudor and become part of the English royal family (well, not so lucky if they married Henry Tudor VIII – see Anne Boleyn).

Some examples of these multiple connections can be seen at Ranulf de Briquessart (1048-1129), Ralph de Neville (1364-1425), and William de Warenne (1256-1286) as well as many at Henry II Plantagenet and Charlemagne, all the way back to Alfred the Great (849 - 899) "King of the Anglo-Saxons." Or take the very prolific King Henry Beauclerc, son of William the Conqueror. He was married at least three times and by four generations had 16 descendants that we are related to. Just one of those 16, John De Warenne (1231-1304) had another 20 descendants that we are related to after another six generations. And so it goes down to the present day. So the upshot is, take any of the early English lords and ladies in the family tree and they very probably come down to you.

Alliances between royal families have given us some international ancestors. King James III of Scotland married Margrete of Denmark, daughter of Christian I, King of Denmark, who gave the Orkney and Shetland Islands to Scotland in lieu of a dowry. Henry I of France married Anna, the daughter of Yaroslav I, czar of Russia. Yaroslav’s wife was the daughter of Olof Skötkonung descendant from a long line of Viking kings. Edward I of England married Eleanor, daughter of Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Toledo (Spain).

Christopher Columbus is a distant relative through García Fernando Alvarez De Toledo.

Note: Because there are so many interconnections with these Old World ancestors, I am going to depart from identifying which descendant McKay or Stevens line these Old World ancestors represent. Unless specifically identified, assume that at least one Stevens and one McKay connection exists.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta

Magna Carta ("Great Charter"), is a royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War.

The following ancestors were among the council of 25 barons who were created to monitor and ensure John's future adherence to the charter: Richard de Clare, Robert de Vere, William de Forz, Saer de Quincy, William de Mowbray, John de Lacy, William Malet, Geoffrey de Saye, William de Huntingfield, Henry de Bohun, Robert d'Aubigny, Robert Fitzwalter, Gilbert de Clare, Eustace de Vesci, Robert de Ros, Hugh and Roger Le Bigod.

Ancient Scottish Roots

Although both the McKay and Stevens families have less Scottish ancestry than was assumed (DNA shows about 12% in each family), starting with Robert II of Scotland (1316-1390), first monarch of the House of Stewart, our ancestry can be traced down to King James IV (1473-1513). Going back even farther, Duncan I (1001 –1040), the king of Scotland from 1034 to 1040, has many connections. He is the historical basis of the "King Duncan" in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Another famous Scottish ancestor, Robert Bruce was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329.

Irish Roots

Our family has old Celtic roots. There is a possible connection with Brien Boru (941-1014), an Irish king who ended the domination of the High Kingship of Ireland, eventually becoming King of Ireland. He was the founder of the O'Brien dynasty. He was succeeded by a series of Kings of Leinster.

Most recent immigrants from Ireland were either Ulster-Scots (relatively recent immigrants to Ireland from Scotland) or Irish whose roots go back to Gaelic Ireland. But some of our more ancient ancestors were invaders or oppressors of the earlier Irish people, either Viking, Norman or English.

Richard "Strongbow" De Clare played leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland which took place during the late 12th century, at a time when Ireland was made up of several kingdoms. The Welsh Carew family were feudal lords in Ireland. Maurice Fitzgerald (1191-1257) was a Norman-Irish justice who mustered many armies against the Irish. Lionel Plantagenet, the son of Edward II of England, was appointed governor of Ireland in 1361. Lionel’s efforts to secure an effective authority over his Irish lands were only moderately successful.

Bogus (or Mythical) Old World Ancestors

It is asserted that William Walker [FF] was William Shakespeare’s godson. While it is true that Shakespeare did have a godson named William Walker who was born at about the same time, they come from different parts of England and while one went on to become high bailiff of Stratford on Avon; our William emigrated to America about 1622.

One of the oldest family lines seems to come from the Windsor connection. This line goes back to pre-Renaissance Florence when English kings recruited continental knights and warriors for the conquest of Ireland, who were given noble seats as their reward. One such was reputed to have been Gherardo Gherardini (980-1006), Lord of Tuscany and his son Otho. In fact this fictional connection can be traced to Irish priest called Maurice who passed through Florence in the 1400s.

I was disappointed to learn that I’m probably not a descendant of Emperor Claudius. This is all part of that whole European royalty line. You have to accept at some point that you’ve crossed over from (possible) reality to mythology. The story is that farther back from the Plantagenet line, back through William the Conqueror, and Charlemagne and Charles Martel, you finally get to King Aviragus of the Britons (10-60 AD). He was supposedly given the hand of Genuissa, daughter of Claudius to bind the Britons to the Roman Empire. Historians say this never happened. Oh well.

Regardless of the probable lack of a Roman connection, that line of kings from Aviragus goes back to 700 BC (about the time of the founding of Rome) and King Brutus. To quote Wikipedia, “Brute of Troy, is a legendary descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas, known in medieval British legend as the eponymous founder and first king of Britain. I’m sure this one is legitimate [as our family tree software says “Direct ancestor (94 generations)”].

Politics, Religion, and Intrigue

In my foray into Old World ancestors, I turned up a number of interesting stories.

White Ship

Robert Fitzhugh and Gilbert de l'Aigle died in the sinking of the White Ship 1120. The White Ship was a vessel that sank in the English Channel near the Normandy coast, on November 25, 1120. Only two of those aboard survived. Those who drowned included William Adelin, the only surviving legitimate son and heir of King Henry I of England. William Adelin's death led to a succession crisis and a period of civil war in England known as the Anarchy (1135 to 1153).

We are distantly related to two knights, Hugh de Morville and William de Tracy, who assassinated Archbishop Thomas Becket on December 29, 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral acting on the words of King Henry II who famously said “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest."

William Tyndale [SS] [PR] was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his translation of the Bible into English. Tyndale's translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English one to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation. It was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and the laws of England maintaining the church's position. In 1535, Tyndale was arrested and jailed in the castle outside Brussels for over a year. In 1536, he was convicted of heresy and executed. The King James Bible (authorized by James I) drew significantly from Tyndale.

There is an interesting family connection between two of the most famous privateers (or English government sanctioned pirates) in history. John Hawkins [SS] [FB] was related to Francis Drake [MD through father Edmund Drake] and both are related to us. John Hawkins is a 2nd cousin once removed from Francis Drake. They were both among a group of sea-raiders and slavers known as the Sea Dogs. The Sea Dogs were essentially a military branch that was authorized by Queen Elizabeth I of England to attack the Spanish fleet and loot their ships in order to bring back riches and treasure. Drake was awarded a knighthood in the year of 1581. Hawkins made so much money from this business that Queen Elizabeth I gave him a special Coat of arms which prominently featured a bound slave.

Another contemporary of Queen Elizabeth and a prominent member of her court was John Harrington [FB] [MM]. He was a writer and inventor popularly known as the inventor of the flush toilet. In 1596, he published A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, describing a forerunner to the modern flush toilet installed at his house. Eventually Queen Elizabeth visited his house at Kelston in 1592. Harrington proudly showed-off his new invention, and the Queen herself tried it out! She was so impressed it seems, that she ordered one.

Edward Arden [PR] was beheaded for being involved in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth in 1583 and his head displayed on London Bridge.

The Rev. John Gorsuch [FF] appears to have been an aggressive Royalist who met his death in England in 1647 when the Puritans, according to tradition, caused him to be smothered in a haystack.


The first of the Crusades began in 1095, when armies of Christians from Western Europe responded to Pope Urban II’s plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the Holy Land. After the First Crusade achieved its goal with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, the invading Christians set up several Latin Christian states, even as Muslims in the region vowed to wage holy war (jihad) to regain control over the region. Some of our ancestors joined various of the crusades.

Hugh Capet went on the First Crusade was wounded in battle with the Turks in September, 1101 and died of his wounds the next month in Tarsus.

Foulques De Anjou V died in Acre, The Holy Land, in 1143 from a riding accident while hunting near Acre Palace. He is buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel.

Pierre I, Prince of France and Lord of Courtenay, was a mounted Crusader who fought and survived the Battle of Belvoir Castle in 1182, but the next year he died in battle in Palestine in the return attack of Saladin's forces at the Battle of Al-Fule in 1183. There were a total of 1300 mounted Crusaders on horseback and 15,000 foot soldiers who participated.

William Ferrers joined the Third Crusade and died at the Siege of Acre in 1190.

James of Avesnes joined the Third Crusade as leader of a detachment of French, Flemish, and Frisian crusaders arriving by ship on the Israeli coast near Acre around 10 September 1189. James and his men came as military reinforcements for the Siege of Acre. At the Battle of Arsuf in 1191, James was thrown from his saddle and, after slaying fifteen enemy warriors, was himself cut down.

While participating in the Seventh Crusade in 1249, Robert d’Artois died while leading a reckless attack on Al Mansurah. He and the Templars, after fording a river, charged a Mamluk outpost in which the Mamluk commander was killed. Emboldened by his success, Robert, the Templar knights, and a contingent of English troops charged into the town and became trapped in the narrow streets where he was at last overpowered and killed.

King Louis IX of France took an active part in the Seventh and Eighth Crusade in which he died from dysentery in 1270.

In what was considered the last Crusade, a fleet of warships from Venice and Aragon arrived to defend what remained of the Crusader states in 1290. The following year, Qalawan’s son and successor, al-Ashraf Khalil, marched with a huge army against the coastal port of Acre, the effective capital of the Crusaders in the region since the end of the Third Crusade. After only seven weeks under siege, Acre fell, effectively ending the Crusades in the Holy Land after nearly two centuries.

Although the crusades to the Middle East had ended, Muslims also controlled most of Spain. Christian fighters joined the Spanish to fight there. James Douglas died in battle against the Moors in Spain 1330.

Intrigue and Executions

There seems to be a disproportionately large number of relatives convicted of treason and beheaded.

William Douglas joined with William Wallace in 1297 in the Scottish rebellion against England. But Douglas was made a prisoner of Edward Plantagenet, when he was accused of breaking his covenant of peace with Edward. Following Wallace's success at Stirling Bridge the English fled with Douglas as prisoner. He was later committed to the Tower of London and died there in 1298 due to mistreatment. In August 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.

In 1370 a feud arose between William de Moravia, 5th Earl of Sutherland and Aodh Mackay [FB] (chief of Clan Mackay). A meeting was arranged for them to meet at Dingwall Castle to resolve their issues. However Aodh Mackay and his son Donald Mackay were both murdered in the castle while they were asleep, by Nicholas Sutherland, brother of the Earl of Sutherland.

Richard Fitzalan was beheaded in 1397 for plotting against King Richard II. Thomas of Woodstock [MM] was murdered in 1397, suffocated under a mattress, by order of the same Richard II.

Thomas Grey [MD] participated in the Southampton plot to assassinate King Henry V and was executed at the North Gate of Southampton August2, 1415.

William Pole [MM]was held prisoner in the Tower of London for 37 years till his death, longer than anyone else in the Tower's history, for allegedly plotting against King Henry VII.

Henry Pole [MM], 1st Baron Montagu (1492-1539), along with his wife, Jane, and mother, Margaret, were arrested on a charge of treason by King Henry VIII. They were committed to the Tower of London. All the arrestees were beheaded.

The War of the Roses (1455–1487) between the House of Lancaster and the House of York took a heavy toll on our ancestors both on the battlefield and off. Humphrey Stafford II died in St. Albans War in 1458 at the beginning of the war. Owen Tudor was an early casualty. He fought at Mortimer's Cross in 1460 but fell into the hands of the Yorkists, who beheaded him in Hereford marketplace and set up his head on the market cross. Humphrey Stafford (father of the above Humphrey) was executed by a mob after being taken prisoner in the Battle of Northampton in 1460 after Edmund Grey switched his allegiance from the Lancastrian to the Yorkist cause and leaving Stafford and others unprotected.

Upon the death of Edward IV in 1483, Henry Stafford (son of Humphrey II above) allied himself to the king's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, helping him succeed to the throne as Richard III in lieu of Edward's living sons. Becoming disaffected with Richard, Stafford then joined with Henry Tudor leading an unsuccessful rebellion in his name. Stafford was executed for treason by Richard on November 2, 1483.

After the Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, Richard Neville escaped the battlefield but was captured during the night. Upon discovery, he was taken to the Lancastrian camp. Although the Lancastrian nobles might have been prepared to allow Salisbury to ransom himself, due to his large wealth, he was dragged out of Pontefract Castle and beheaded by local commoners, to whom he had been a harsh overlord.

Sir Henry de Percy was killed in the Battle of Towton. It was fought on March 29, 1461, near the village of Towton in Yorkshire, during the Wars of the Roses. Richard of York also died in the Battle of Wakefield.

After the Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on July 26, 1469, Richard Woodville was taken prisoner at Chepstow. Following a hasty show trial, he was beheaded.

George Clarence [MM] a member of the House of York, switched sides to support the Lancastrians, before reverting to the Yorkists. He was later convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed (allegedly by being drowned in a cask of wine) in 1478.

On June 13, 1483, William Hastings walked into what he thought was a routine council meeting called by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. When Hastings left the chamber a few hours later, it was as a prisoner, being hustled out to execution. No trial was given to Hastings, whose death on Tower Green was such a hasty affair that no scaffold had been erected. He was the first of the four men who would die violently before Gloucester, who had been serving as protector of England during the minority of Edward V, who then took the throne as Richard III. William had fought on the winning side in the Battle of Towton.

John Radclyffe [MM] and Humphrey Cotes died in the Battle of Bosworth Field 1485, the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses. Fought on August 22, 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty (Henry VII). His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty.

William Stanley is best known for his action at the Battle of Bosworth, where he decisively attacked the Yorkists under Richard, helping to secure Henry VII's victory. However, in 1495 Stanley was convicted of treason and executed for his support of the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Though the evidence was circumstantial, he admitted the offence in the hope that through a full confession he would escape execution. It didn’t work; Sir William was condemned to death, and a few days later, beheaded.

Even kings were not immune from fatal intrigues. King James III of Scotland may have been murdered in 1488. Edward V [through his father Edward IV] was murdered in the Tower of London in 1483.

Thomas Wyatt [FF] led Wyatt’s Rebellion in England in 1554. The rebellion arose out of concern over Queen Mary I's determination to marry Philip of Spain, which was an unpopular policy with the English. The rebels were defeated by forces loyal to the queen. Wyatt surrendered, and was tried and executed along with approximately 90 rebels, many of whom were hanged, drawn and quartered. Wyatt himself, after being severely tortured in the hope of extracting a confession implicating Elizabeth (future Queen), was beheaded at Tower Hill.

John Lisle [PR] was an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1659. He supported the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War and was one of the regicides of King Charles I of England. Fearing for his life after the Restoration he fled to Switzerland, but was assassinated by an agent of the crown in Lausanne in 1664. His wife, Alicia was executed in 1685 for harboring fugitives after the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor. While she seems to have leaned to Royalism, she combined this with a decided sympathy for religious dissent. Her husband’s part in the execution of King Charles I played a role in her conviction. She was last woman to be beheaded in England.

There is a story in the Stevens family lore that we were descended from Mary Queen of Scots. As it turns out that is (probably) almost correct. The ancestors of Nancy Simonton, the wife of William Stevens [SS] – probable first immigrant in the direct Stevens line -- may be a descendant of James II King of Scotland is directly related to Mary Stewart (Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587).

Mary is responsible for the death of shared relative John "The Martyr" Rogers [PR] [MD]. He guided the development of the Matthew Bible in vernacular English during the reign of Henry VIII and was the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England who was determined to restore Roman Catholicism.

Another Mary connection, ironically, is Thomas Andrews [SS] who was instrumental in the death of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. Being the sheriff of Northamptonshire, he was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to execute Mary.

Military Men

Some of the earliest military men in the family tree (along with Viking and Briton Kings) are the Norman knights that defeated the Saxons along with William the Conqueror in 1066. The Normans who invaded and settled in Normandy, the northwest region of modern France, in the 8th-10th century were descendants of Vikings from the northern countries of Europe (Danish, Norwegian, Orkney). Included among them are: William de Warenne, Eustace of Boulogne, Robert de Beaumont, Hugh de Grantmesnil, William Malet, William FitzOsbern, Bagod of Bramshall, Geoffrey du Perche, Aimery De Thouars, Walter Giffard, Hugh de Montfort, Raoul of Tosny (aka Ralph De Toeni, III), Robert de Hastings and Engenoulf de L'Aigle ('the only prominent Norman who lost his life in the battle').

Two other knights known to have fought at the Battle of Hastings but without offspring (but distantly related) were Odo of Bayeux and William d'Evreux. Another distant ancestor who was reputed to have died at Hastings in 1066 was Theophilus Fowke.

Being of the nobility was not all castles and servants. You were expected to fight and often die.

Brien Boru High King of Ireland was killed by the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Sir Ralph Basset IV was killed in the Battle of Evesham, one of the two main battles of 13th century England's Second Barons' War, a rebellion against King Henry III of England. Simon de Montfort was also killed in the same battle. Simon de Montfort's parliament of 1265 is sometimes referred to as the first English parliament, because of its inclusion of both the knights and the burgesses, and Montfort himself is often regarded as the founder of the House of Commons.

The Battle of Bannockburn fought in 1314 was one of the pivotal battles of the 13th/14th century Wars of Independence between the kingdoms of Scotland and England. It was a victory of the army of King of Scots Robert the Bruce over the army of King Edward II of England. Baron Robert Clifford, Michael Poynings, John Lovell, William Marshall, Robert de Pulford, Miles Stapleton and Payne De Tybotot were killed at Bannockburn 1314. Richard Basset was imprisoned after the Battle of Bannockburn and died soon after.

Edmund Stafford died in the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The battle, the first in which English archers fought each other on English soil, demonstrated "the deadliness of the longbow" and ended the Henry Percy challenge to King Henry IV of England.

Piers Leigh III was injured in the Battle of Agincourt, a major English victory in the Hundred Years' War. The battle took place on Friday, 25 October 1415. Henry V led his troops into battle and participated in hand-to-hand fighting. This battle is notable for the use of the English longbow in very large numbers, with the English and Welsh archers forming up to 80 percent of Henry's army. The battle is the centerpiece of the play Henry V by William Shakespeare. Sir John Savage II was knighted at the Battle of Agincourt by Henry V.

Many Scottish ancestors died in the conflict between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. In one battle, Flodden Field in 1513, James Henderson [FF], John Stewart [FB] and Archibald Campbell were all killed. King James IV was also killed becoming the last monarch of Great Britain to suffer such a death.

James McCoun II [FB] died at the Battle of the Boyne (Ireland) in 1690.

William Lovelace [FF] died in the Siege of Grol (Netherlands) in 1627 probably fighting as a mercenary in the Dutch Army.

Sir William Waller [PR] was an English Parliamentary general during the English Civil War. The war eventually led to a victory by the Parliamentarians and the Protectorate under the rule of Oliver Cromwell.

Family Origins

Many ancestors' family can be traced back to the first ancestor.


Trafford is a British surname of Anglo-Saxon origin. The Trafford family is one of the oldest recorded families in England, tracing its roots back to Radulphus, who died in about 1050. As (Anglo-Saxons), the Traffords initially resisted the Normans, but were granted a pardon shortly after the Norman conquest of England, when they took the name de Trafford.


Humphrey de Ogle, is the first identified Ogle (or Hoggell), ancestor among the English. In about the 11th century, he was granted, “all such lands and liberties as he or any of his predecessors had before the coming of the Normans.” To regain his land from the Norman conquerors of England, knowing his “predecessors” was of prime importance to the Saxon, Humphrey de Ogle.


Warren ancestors go back to the marriage of Hamelin, the illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou, and one of the wealthiest heiresses in England, Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey. Hamelin and Isabella married in April 1164, and after the marriage he was recognised as Comte de Warenne. So Warren ancestors may of either Hamelin's and Isabella's line.


The Mortimer family can trace their ancestry back to Roger, lord of Mortemer, who fought in the Battle of Mortemer in 1054. In the Middle Ages, the Mortimers became a powerful dynasty of Marcher Lords in the Welsh Marches, first as barons of Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire and later as Earl of March from 1328 to 1425.


Robert Fitzmaldred, married the heiress to Henry de Neville, Isabel Neville, from Neuville in Calvados; their son was known by his mother's surname. The Nevilles became extremely powerful during the Wars of the Roses, supporting each of the factions at various times.


Sutton, originally de Sutton, is an English toponymic surname. One origin is from Anglo-Saxon where it is derived from sudh, suth, or suð, and tun referring to the generic placename "southern farm". Note that almost every county in England contains one or more placenames bearing the prefix "Sutton". The Domesday Book (1086) contains the first recorded spelling of the surname as "Ketel de Sudtone"; "Suttuna" also appeared in 1086 in records from Ely, Cambridgeshire. The Sutton are ancestors to the Dudley. John Sutton, the sixth of that name was born in 1400 and was created Baron Dudley in 1440. Sutton became the first of his family to take Dudley as their surname.


The Berkeley family descends in the male line from Robert Fitzharding, 1st feudal baron of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, reputedly the son of Harding of Bristol, the son of Eadnoth the Constable, a high official under King Edward the Confessor. Robert was one of the very few Anglo-Saxon noblemen who managed to retain their noble status in Norman England and successfully integrate with the Norman nobility, if not the only one.

The royal manor of Berkeley was originally granted by William the Conqueror to the Norman Roger de Berkeley. However, the royal manor was privatized by King Henry II (1154–1189) shortly before he became king. Most of the manor was then re-granted to his supporter and financier the Anglo-Saxon Robert Fitzharding, of Bristol, as a feudal barony. Shortly afterwards, under the encouragement of Henry II, who had clearly regretted the effect of his dispossession of Roger, the two families were contracted to the intermarriage of the eldest son and heir of each to the other's eldest daughter. Though only the marriage of Maurice FitzHarding and Alice de Berkeley was completed, the heirs of Robert Fitzharding thus adopted the surname "de Berkeley" and established this line as the feudal barons of Berkeley Castle. The Berkeley family retains possession of much of the lands it held from the 11th and 12th centuries, centered on Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, which still belongs to the family.


The progenitor of the Tyrrells appears to have been Ralf, sire of Tirel and Poix, in 10th century France. He had made his home on the Seine river just below Paris near a village named Tirel (now Triel) from which the family got its name. According to Cuvillier-Morel-D’Acy’s 1869 book Genealogical History, the Tyrrells were a prominent seigneurial family in both Picardy and Normandy and Sir Walter Tyrrell accompanied William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066. The Tyrrell line died out in France in 1417. But the English and Irish Tyrrell lines have continued.

Sir Walter Tyrrell’s name was on the list of distinguished noblemen who had fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Afterwards he was granted large tracts of land in Hampshire (in the New Forest) and in Essex. He died in 1068 and these lands were held by his successors. His son Walter, who was implicated in the accidental slaying of William Rufus the king, fled to France in 1100. He later died on a Crusade in 1136.

Avon Tyrrell in the New Forest was the initial base for the Tyrrells. It was from there that Sir Hugh Tyrrell departed with Strongbow for the conquest of Ireland in 1170. However, by 1200 the family focus had switched to Essex.

James Tyrrell had married the heiress Margaret Heron in the early 1300’s and the Tyrrell estate at Heron Hall near East Horndon in Essex was to remain with the family until the early 1600’s.

A branch of the family moved to Gipping in Suffolk in the 1450’s. But this line had its problems. William Tyrrell was executed for treason in 1462, as was his son James in 1502. James had allegedly confessed to the murders of the Princes in the Tower under the orders of Richard III.

House of Plantagenet

Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, used the nickname Plantegenest from planta genista, the Latin for yellow broom flower, which the Counts of Anjou wore as an emblem on their helmets. Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, adopted Plantagenet as his family name in the 15th century.


The Clare family were a prominent Anglo-Norman noble house that held at various times the earldoms of Pembroke, Hertford and Gloucester in England and Wales, as well as playing a prominent role in the Norman invasion of Ireland. They were descended from Richard Fitz Gilbert, Lord of Clare (1035-1090), a kinsman of William the Conqueror who accompanied him into England during the Norman conquest of England. As a reward for his service, Richard was given lands in Suffolk centred on the village of Clare. As a result, Richard and his descendants carried the name of ‘de Clare’ or ‘of Clare’.

Leigh and Venables

These familes run back to the first Gilbert Venables, who fought with William the Conqueror. The Leigh and Venables family are likely linked through Hamon de Legh who was the great-grandson of the original Gilbert Venables and the son of Gilbert Venables II. It is possible that Hamon de Venables of West Hall took the toponym de Legh, which eventually became Leigh. Gilbert and his descendants were given lands in Cheshire that they held for 700 years.


Tradition says that the Corbeau/Corbet/le Corbeau/ Fitz Corbet... family descended from a Roman Valerius who is said to have had a raven land on his helmet at a critical point in a battle. Corvus, Corbeau refer to Raven. The progenitor was Roger de Corbeau(Fitz Corbet) married to Giovanna Carnaghi. Their child was Hugh Corbet.

Saints and Sinners and Bare Naked Ladies

Sir Everard Digby [FF] was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Although he was raised in a Protestant household, and married a Protestant, Digby and his wife were converted to Catholicism. He met Robert Catesby (related through George Throckmorton), a religious fanatic who planned to blow up the House of Lords with gunpowder, killing James I. Catesby then planned to incite a popular revolt, during which a Catholic monarch would be restored to the English throne. The plot failed, however, and Digby joined the conspirators as they took flight. But he was soon captured and taken to the Tower of London. He was tried on January 27, 1606. Despite an eloquent defense, he was found guilty of high treason, and three days later was hanged, drawn and quartered.

Another family connection is with Robert of Bellême (1056 – 1130) who was notorious for his alleged cruelty. The chronicler Orderic Vitalis calls him "Grasping and cruel, an implacable persecutor of the Church of God and the poor... unequalled for his iniquity in the whole Christian era." The stories of his brutality may have inspired the legend of Robert the Devil.

Lady Godiva Of Coventry, Countess of Mercia (in Old English Godgifu) was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants.

To end Stevens-McKay family Old World connections on a positive note, the McKays and the Stevens are mutually related to four saints:

Theodora (c. 815-867) was a Byzantine Empress, as the spouse of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos, and regent of her son, Michael III, from 842 (Theophilos' death) until 855. For her restoration of the veneration of icons, which ended the Byzantine Iconoclasm, she is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

King Louis IX (1214–1270), commonly known as Saint Louis, was a Capetian King of France, who reigned from 1226 until his death. A devout Catholic, he is the only canonized king of France.

Saint Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093), also known as Margaret of Wessex, was an English princess of the House of Wessex. Born in exile in Hungary, Margaret and her family returned to England in 1057, but fled to the Kingdom of Scotland following the Norman conquest of England of 1066. Around 1070, Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland, becoming Scottish queen. She was a pious woman, and among many charitable works she established a ferry across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to Dunfermline Abbey. Margaret was the mother of three kings of Scotland and of a queen consort of England. According to the Life of Saint Margaret, attributed to Turgot of Durham, she died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093, just days after receiving the news of her husband's death in battle. In 1250, she was canonized by Pope Innocent IV.

John Fisher [MM] [PR] was executed by order of Henry VIII during the English Reformation for refusing to accept the king as Supreme Head of the Church of England and for upholding the Catholic Church's doctrine of papal primacy. He was named a cardinal shortly before his death. He is honored as a martyr and saint by the Catholic Church.

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