Ludlow, Shropshire

The Whittington line is deeply rooted in Great Britain long before it was great and before it was ever Britain. The terms Britain and England are not interchangeable. England stands alone, as does Scotland and Wales. Together the three countries are referred to by the name of the island they share: Great Britain, often shortened to Britain. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland. The county of Shropshire, from which much of the Whittington family history evolves, is to the west in England and shares a border with Wales. Our recent journey to Britain found us in Shropshire, Cheshire, and then Yorkshire to the north of England, before heading north to Edinburgh, Scotland. We also spent a day in Caernarfon, Wales.

My sense of British history is that the island was a hotbed for world travelers over the past two millenia and many of them were far more violent than grandmother Betty in their approach to the locals. Some of those early travelers stayed on in Britain and engaged in community development and colonization. There are prehistoric sites all over the island, sites in which hunter gatherers began farming around 4000 b.c. Those numerous upright rock monuments (like Stonehenge) began showing up around 3000 b.c. The Wessex culture which becomes important in our ancestor’s history appears around 1800 b.c. The Wessex culture initiates the Bronze Age in Britain. Agrarian lifestyle became increasingly important. The first Fleet Farms were organized and agri-business was soon underway. While Monsanto was still germinating in the mind of some Wessex planters there is no doubt these early farmers were rapidly learning the importance of seeds, growing seasons, soil conditions and moisture content.

The iron age comes in with Celtic Culture around 800 b.c. and the Roman influence shows up at the time of Christ. The introduction of Christianity is an off again/on again adventure in political manipulation.  Emperors introduced Christ per their need for power and control and they squashed the worship of Christ when persecution seemed appropriate for subjugating the masses. The collapse of Rome introduced wave after wave of immigrants into Great Britain and Ireland. Some of the invaders chose to stay and pushed previous tenants around in a search for “living space.” Hitler wasn’t the first to seek Lebensraum.  Other invaders came and went from the British island in a search for wealth, women and better cellular connections. “Can you hear me now?” was a catch phrase that originated with an angry Viking warrior prior to eliminating an insubordinate Saxon serf.

Our ancestors came to the British islands (there are one thousand islands of varying sizes) at many different times from several directions. One part of the family tree would invade and seek to subjugate another part of the tree.

Around 400 a.d. The last of the Roman Empire military regiments, which included native British soldiers, were pulled from Britain and deployed on the European mainland in Gaul as various forces jockeyed for control on the continent. The battles in Gaul constituted the Romans Last Stand.  The removal of the Roman army left Britain open to attack by the Picts, Saxons and Scots. These guys had a field day terrorizing the coastal villages and marauding their way up the various rivers. Citizens native to the island at the time of the Roman collapse are called Britons. The Britons were continually under attack from the north and west by the Picts, Scots and Irish. Britons tended to be pro Roman in their political leaning. Those Britons with any semblance of wealth were secure when the Romans were in command. Subjection to outside rule had advantages to those locals who gained power and wealth from the relationship. This truth would appear again and again as our family tree and wealth moved from Europe to the Americas. Alliances of various kingdoms with invading armies were common and would form and disintegrate with the passing of iconic rulers and lesser kings.

The Saxons begin showing up on the British island from German soil around 450 a.d.. Saxons arrived as warriors who quickly developed fortified communities. They were contained by the Britons to Saxon coastal villages. Saxon attempts to move inland were thwarted and Saxons became somewhat content owning the best beachfront properties. Peaceful coexistence became a periodic thing as Saxons and Britons, tired of warfare, explored the idea of sharing the Earth with one another. Intermingling began to blur the blood lines and cultures merged as the individuals merged. Saxon names in our family tree (Cerdic and Cynic) begin showing up in the year 500 a.d. While the thread of royalty in the family tree is apparent and accurate, keep in mind that we are talking about people forty generations ago.  If we do the math on that we realize that Cerdic and his concubine were one set of great grandparents among many in our family tree at that time. Others on the island and across the face of Europe were also contributing to the DNA pool that has become me, you and that guy over there in the corner washing down a pizza slice with a cold beer as he keeps a furtive eye on the stock market, simultaneously checking Facebook, searching Tender for a date, dropping an email on his staff and an ‘F bomb’ on his newspaper as he discovers the truth about Donald Trump.  Yes. He is no doubt a distant cousin.