It is always a challenge to find out how far a person can delve into the past and locate a grandparent from whom we descend. The question has arisen in my discussions with relatives: Who was the first known Whittington ancestor to trod the bogs and dales of the British Isles? We know our family history leads back to William the Conqueror who arrived on the isle in 1066. He was a Norman with DNA that oozed out of the annals of Viking lore, among other places. Those kings and queens who preceded him in the bloodline spent their time in the pubs and on the beaches of France and Spain and fjords of Norway.
When William arrived in the Isles he was greeted by Anglos, Saxons, Jutes, Picts and other ethnic groups, each with a deep desire to corner the market on fish and chips. When William showed up offering foie gras it didn’t go over very well with the locals. In fact, it didn’t seem to help his cause when he let it be known that he had married a local girl of noble lineage. William’s wife, Matilda, had roots on British soil and could probably down a pint and throw a dart as well as any man on the island. She descended from among others Alfred the Great, also spelled Aelfraed and variations thereof. Historians credit Alfred (see mugshot above) with being the first to unite the core of what has become England. William entered England with one thing in mind: claim the throne of England at the death of the King, Edward the Confessor. Edward died without an heir to his kingdom. Nothing can leave a country in greater disarray than having the monarch die without offspring. To whom does the janitor turn when it is time to hand over the keys to the front gate?
We find our first ‘Brits’ in the annals of history prior to Aelfraed the Great. William the Conqueror was Norman and his ancestors Scandinavian Vikings. and go back in our time machine to the centuries before him. His wife Matilda provides the DNA linkage to the local “British” bloodlines that were already a mix of various ethnic groups and clans.
- William the Conqueror (1027-1087) m. Matilda, Duchess of Normandy, (1031-1083)
- Matilda’s parents: Baldwin V of Flanders (1012-1067) m. Adela Capet, Countess of Flanders, (1009-1083)
- Baldwin’s parents: Baldwin IV (958-1035) m. Ogive
- Baldwin IV parents: Arnulf II (960-987) m. Rozala of Lombardy (952-1003)
- Arnulf’s parents: Baldwin III (940-962) m. Mathilde Billung of Saxony (958-1008)
- Baldwin III parents: Arnulf I (890-965) m. Adele de Vermandois (915-960)
- Arnulf’s parents: Baldwin II (865-918) m. Aelfrida (AElfthryth) 877-929)
- Aelfrida’s parents: Alfred the Great (849-899) m. Ealhswith
William the Conqueror had an equally illustrious lineage that led back to Rollo the Great, an iconic Viking hero described as being too large to be supported by one horse, a fierce Norseman indeed. I am guessing it produced alot of laughter watching him ride in on two horses. Wait. That couldn’t have happened.
- Robert I, Duke of Normandy (1000-1035) and Herleva Arlette de Falaise (1003-1078)
- Robert’s parent: Richard II, Duke of Normandy (963-1027) m. Duchess Judith de Bretagne Normandy (982-1017)
- Richard’s parent: Richard I, 3rd Duke of Normandy ( ) m. Gonnor Crepon 936-1031)
- Richard I parents: William I Longsword (893-942) m. Sporte de Bretagne (911-940)
- William’s parents: Robert (Rollo) Ragnvaldsson (870-930) m. Poppa de Valois (872-930)
So back to the original question: Who were the first ‘Brits’ in our tree in the U.K.? Who preceded Alfred the Great? Keep in mind we are already in the year 849 A.D. Alfred is identified by our computer software as Betty’s 32nd great grandfather. That takes us back a few generations. We can go further back. These guys were all royalty, so the records are fairly well kept. Those records not only reflect on marriages and offspring, but on royal titles, property rights and territories governed.
- Alfred the Great (849 A.D.) was the son of AEthelwulf of Wessex (806-857) and his wife, Osburgh (810-846).
- AElthelwulf was the son of Egbert (755-839)
- Egbert was the son of Ealhmund, King of Kent. The birth and death dates are becoming more difficult to even estimate.
- Eahlmund (750-784) was was the son of Eafa (b. 730)
- Eafa’s father is not known, but the grandfather was
- Eoppa (b. 706), father of the unknown in line 5.
- Ingild (672-718) was the father of Eoppa.
- Ingild was the son of Cenred (b. 640)
- Cenred was the son of Ceolwald
- Ceowald the son of Cuthwulf (b. 592)
- Cuthwulf the son of Cuthwine (b. 565)
- Cuthwine the son of Ceavvlin Cynricing (535-592)
- Ceawlin the son of Cynric Cerdicing (494-560) and
- Cynric was the son of Cerdic Elesing, the first King of Wessex, ((c.475-534)
- The sagas that contain this information provide each of these names and several of their siblings. Cerdic landed on isle of Britain in 495 A.D. and ruled until 534 A.D. I copied the data from a website located at this link.
Eahlmand’s rule of Wessex and Kent was cut short by the rise of Offa of Mercia. Alfred the Great unified the Anglo Saxons and defended his turf against the Vikings.
To answer the question: our ancestor, Cerdic, appears to be the first of our family we can possibly identify as setting up our first family homestead on British soil. That claim is not however, guaranteed. There are several generations in between Cerdic and Cenred that are a bit sketchy. Sons of kings did not necessarily become kings. It is possible that an interloper or two usurped power and demoted our kin and claimed royal descent. It happened more than once in history, I can assure you.