Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Little Britain and the Origins of the Bruce Family

Chart #33 begins with the Kings of Brittany from where we left off with King Arthur (Chart #20, who was descended from the earlier Kings of Brittany. As the Anglo-Saxons moved into Britain (5th-7th centuries), earlier Britons moved westward and also fled to the continent. On the Armorica peninsula they settled an area they renamed as Brittany ("little Britain"). Conan Meriadoc is the legendary leader credited with founding Brittany. His ancestry goes back to Beli Mawr the ancestor of many early British and Welsh rulers, as can be seen in Chart #20 and then #16.

Not shown in the Chart is Conan Meriadoc's wife, who was Saint Darerca, a sister to St. Patrick, the famous patron saint of Ireland. In addition, Conan's son, Gradlonus was married to Saint Tigridia who is also thought to be another sister to St. Patrick. This second is less certain. If true, this would mean that Gradlonus married his mother's sister. I have seen stranger things in old genealogies, some which I believe are correct.

The historical Kingdom of Brittany starts in 851 with Erispoé of Vannes, Duke of Brittany claiming kingship.

This chart shows how Conan I "la Tort", Duke of Brittany, a descendant of the Kings of Brittany married Ermangarde, who was a descendant of Bustanai (Mustanai) ben Haninai, Exilarch at Babylon, who we left way back in Chart #6, and Charlemagne through his son Pepin I Carloman, the King of Italy. Since Charlemagne had been crowned the Holy Roman Emperor, Italy also fell under his control, so although there were Kings of Italy for some centuries, they were actually ruled over by the Holy Roman Emperors.

Near the bottom right of Chart #33 you will see Robert I de Bruis, who was one of the most powerful Lords in Britain. His grandfather Bruse Sigurdsson is the first we see of the Bruse/Brusi/Bruce name which became a famous family name when Robert the Bruce became the King of Scotland. Yet, Bruse Sigurdssun was a Gaelic-Norse Viking whose grandson moved to Normandy.
In the beginning, the first Robert Bruce listed by the historians (1025-1066) arrives in Normandy and becomes Lord of Brix. Together with his son Adelm (1050-1094), he follows William the Bastard to conquer England and takes part in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Having won the battle, William the Bastard (William the Conqueror) sends him to the north of England. Robert is then one of the most powerful lords of his country. As for Adelm, he becomes Lord of Brix and Lord of Skelton. [Bruce Castle website: http://www.bruce-castle.com/histoire.php?lg=eng]
So the famous Bruce family were of Nordic descent by way of Orkney's and then Normandy. Robert or Adelm mentioned above must have built the Castle of Bruce in Normandy, which at times has served as shelter for Richard the Lionhearted and John Lackland. We will discuss the Orkneys in a later blog, as well as the genealogy of Robert the Bruce who is descended from Adlem (or Adam),  a brother to Roger de Pitres, Sheriff of Gloucester, shown in Chart #33.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: "Peaceweaver", by Judith Arnopp

The main protagonist in “Peaceweaver”, a historical novel written by Judith Arnopp, is Eadgyth, the Queen of England, wife of King Harald Godwinsson.  This period in history is a key turning point in the history of England, as all the main characters in this fictional story lived during the time of the Norman Conquest of England.

The story begins before the conquest when Eadgyth is given by her father, Ælfgar "the Saxon" who was the Earl of Mercia, as a wife to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Deheubarth (Wales).  This was done to cement an alliance between Gruffydd and Ælfgar.

This historical novel also tells the story of how Harold and Tostig Godwinson took over Wales in alliance with Gruffydd’s Welsh enemies.  After Gruffydd  was killed, Harold then married Eadgyth. Their marriage was short lived since Harold was then killed by William the Bastard (the Conqueror) from Normandy in the famous Battle of Hastings on the 14th of October 1066.

Before his death, Harold was also involved just weeks earlier in the Battle of Stamford Bridge (25th September) where Harold won a battle against his brother Tostig and the Norwegian King Harald Hardrade. 

Judith Arnopp brings all these stories alive from the perspective of a woman, Eadgyth.  It would be easy to miss that at the time of King Harold's death, Eadgyth was only 21-22 years old, having survived the deaths of two husbands and had 5 children.

Although so much of this novel is historically accurate there are embellishments which add wonderful color to the story.  This story puts flesh on people that are in my genealogy. Please note "Author's Note" at the end of the story explaining in more detail which parts are actual history and which parts are fictional.

What I like about these historical novels is linking the people in the stories to the people in my family tree.  In the accompanying diagram I have identified some of these family relationships. Everyone on the chart except for those in blue are in my direct ancestral line.  For me the stories just seem to have more meaning when I can see their family relationships and how they are related to me personally.

As I explained in my blog post on Aug 25, 2016 “Am I Descended from Royalty?” many of these same people are most likely also ancestors of yours, if you have ancestry from Europe, especially northern Europe.

A few comments on some key players:
  • Bronwen, Grufydd's first wife is a fictional name. Historically there is some evidence that he kidnapped Howel's wife and took her for his own. However, her name is not mentioned in the historical records.
  • Godgifu, Eadgyth's paternal grandmother was the lady of legend "Lady Godiva" who rode naked through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband had imposed. (Godgifu is on Chart #30)
  • Harald Hardrade has an interesting life story of his own as a Varangian Guard in Constantinople. (See Chart #25a Kings of Norway.)
  • Rognvald the Wise was the Norwegian Jarl (Earl) of More during the time King Harald Hårfagre united all Norway.
  • Rollo (Gange-Rolf) "the Walker" was expelled from Norway during Harald Hårfagre's conquest of Norway. Rollo and his people settled in Normandy (France). He and his descendants were just discussed in the prior blog.  (See Chart #31 The Normans Invade England)

Here are some links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Click here to go to Judith Arnopp’s Blog

 Other novels in which Eadgyth is the main character

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Normans Invade England

Chart #31 is a continuation of the story of Britain from Chart #30 as it now shows the genealogy of William the Conqueror and the subsequent Kings of England. William was related to Edward the Confessor (see Chart #30) of the House of Wessex through Edward's mother, Emma, who was a sister to William's grandfather, Richard II "the Good", Duke of Normandy. When Edward was young he fled with his mother to her childhood home in Normandy due to Viking attacks. This was during the time when King Canute of Denmark conquered all of Norway and England.  Edward's mother, Emma, ended up marrying King Canute, while Edward spent at least a quarter of a century in exile.

After King Canute's son, Hardacanute (Edward's half-brother) died, Earl Godwin invited Edward back to England to become King. This connection of Edward's mother to the Normand Dukes is the link that gave William his claim to the English throne, wherein he claimed that Edward had promised him the throne at one time. Since Edward had no children and he did not seem to have given clear directions on his succession, this caused the two famous battles in 1066, the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Battle of Hastings, which finally put William and the French-Normans on the throne of England.

The fascinating part about William is his ancestry, which only goes back five generations to the first Duke of Normandy, Rollo or Hrólf the Walker (Ganger-Hrólf). He was said to be so large that no horse could carry him, so he walked everywhere he went. From Chart #13 we show his father as Rognvald I "the Wise" "the Mighty" with descent from Njord. Rollo lived during the time Harald Fairhair was conquering Norway and it is thought this may have been the impetus that drove him from Norway.  The Viking Rollo managed to acquire the Dukedom of Normandy (which the word itself means "Land of the Norseman") as a concession to help protect the interior of France from other Viking raids.

Most of Rollo's descendants married into the French nobility and the Normans soon adopted the French language and culture which William brought with him to England. Many of the Norman knights who came with William to England were given Earldoms across England in order to keep control of the populace. All of these Earldoms over the subsequent generations would intermarry with the locals and thus in my ancestry, especially my English ancestry, I am descended from many of these local Lords of Norman descent, some of which I am sure to cover in subsequent blogs.

Associated with the events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England is the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which I am just fascinated with. You must read more details and see a nice photo of the entire tapestry on wikipedia (link below). This tapestry, though it is only 20 inches tall is 230 feet long! It portrays the story leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings. According to Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry: "The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque .... Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous ... Its exceptional length, the harmony and freshness of its colours, its exquisite workmanship, and the genius of its guiding spirit combine to make it endlessly fascinating." [Wikipedia: The Bayeux Tapestry]

Chart #31 shows only the Kings of England which I am descended from. Note two people in Chart #31 that married daughters of Spanish Royalty in Chart #22.

Henry I had many mistresses and many children. Wikipedia shows only 3 legitimate children, but 24 known illegitimate children (with unknown mothers). My database shows 32 children with various mothers, some unknown, several of which I show descent from. I have never validated all these carefully as my sources have come from a variety of other genealogies. With all these rulers like Henry who are so profligate with their mistresses and children it should be no surprise that most people today would find them in their ancestry.

Just a few comments on a couple of kings. Henry II (Henry Curtmantle) is known for the conflict he had with his old friend Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended in the murder of Beckett in the Cathedral. Historians give Henry's son, John Lackland  a mixed review. Though he is sometimes thought of as an effective administrator, he was also known to be petty, spiteful and cruel, which earned him his "evil" portrayal in the Robin Hood stories.

Yet, John's grandson, Edward I is considered one of the best Kings of England. Known as "Edward Longshanks" for his unusual height, he also became known as the "Hammer of the Scots" for the brutality of his campaigns through Wales (not Scotland). Despite his father's lackluster leadership, Edward solidified the government, reforming the common law and the royal administration.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Anglo-Saxons Invade Britain

During the years after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when they abandoned Britain around 410, Anglos, Saxons and Jutes from northern Germany and Denmark invaded Britain. The nearby map will give you an idea of the areas that these tribes came from. As we have stated in earlier blogs, all these tribes claimed that they were descendants of Odin. Chart #30 shows the early rulers of the various small kingships in England that claimed descent from Odin.
"Writing c.540 Gildas mentions that, sometime in the 5th century, a council of leaders in Britain agreed that some land in the east of southern Britain would be given to the Saxons on the basis of a treaty, a foedus, by which the Saxons would defend the Britons against attacks from the Picts and Scoti in exchange for food supplies." [Wikipedia: Anglo-Saxons]

There is also the legend of Vortigern who I mentioned way back at the bottom of Chart #26 - which we still need to continue. Vortigern was supposedly the British leader who invited Hengest and Horsa into Britain to help him fight the Scots and Picts. You can see Hengist in the center of Chart #30 near the top.

From Nennius, British History [Historia Brittonum, c. 800 A.D.], we are told that when Hengest arrived with his ships, his beautiful daughter Rowena was onboard. Vortigern said he would trade up to half his kingdom in exchange for Rowena's hand in marriage. Thus Kent was given to Hengest to rule and for many generations his descendants were Kings there as can be seen in Chart #30. As one would expect there were still conflicts between the native Britons and the new arrivals. Eventually, Hengest betrayed Vortigern and was able to obtain several other districts for the Anglo-Saxons. Specifically mentioned were Essex, Sussex and Middlesex.  Earlier we told a little about King Arthur, who was a British Ruler still fight against the incursion of the Anglo-Saxons.

Some of the names of the current counties in England still reflect the names of the tribes that settled them: East Anglia settled by the Anglos; Essex, Sussex, and Wessex were settled by the Saxons and thus named East Saxon, West Saxon and South Saxon, respectively.

It used to be that for centuries historians believed that these Scandinavian tribes eliminated or pushed the Britains westwards and northwards to Wales and Scotland. However more recent DNA evidence suggests that even in east Britain the genes for the original Britains are more than 50%. This does get higher further west in Wales and especially in Ireland, but the point is that the original inhabitants were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons but intermarried over time. Since the Y-DNA is basically the same for Anglo-Saxons and the Viking invaders a few centuries later, it is harder to differentiate these two groups. Interestingly, though my own DNA admixtures says that I am 85% Scandinavian, my Y-DNA shows I am R1b which is associated with the older dominant western European population (the older Celtic or aborigines).

The Kings of Wessex are of particular interest due to the fame of King Alfred "the Great". Alfred's ancestor, Cerdic, the first King of Wessex, landed at Hampshire in 495 with his son, Cynric (shown in Chart #30 as his grandson) and over the years wrested Wessex from the British rulers. However, the first historical King is normally said to be Egbert, Alfred's grandfather and subsequent Kings of England, down to William the Conqueror traced their ancestry back to him. 

By the time of Alfred the Great's death, he had become King of all England. There is a statue of Alfred in Winchester, Hampshire which was the capital city of England until William the Conqueror moved it to London. In the Winchester Cathedral are still mortuary chests containing the bones of some of these early kings including Egbert, Æthelwulf and King Canute. I remember visiting Winchester in 1987 and being fascinated with these chests, although I could not see what was in them.

Edward the Confessor was the next to last King of the House of Wessex. He was married to Edith, the daughter of Godwin, and a sister to Harald and Tostig Godwinsson. Edward and Edith had no children, so at his death there was uncertainty on who the next king would be. Both Harald Godwinsson and William the Bastard (the Conqueror) claimed the throne. Harald defeated Harald Hardrade (the Norwegian King) who was in league with his brother Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, but then shortly thereafter lost the Battle of Hastings to William from Normandy. We will discuss this again in later blogs since all of the actors in this momentous time are direct ancestors of mine - as well as likely most all Western Europeans.

I know I am short changing this, since there are more stories concerning many of the individuals shown in Chart #30, but since I am only trying to give a brief overview of all my genealogy - and much of history, I won't write about everyone here.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles was written around the time of Alfred the Great (9th century). The earliest entry is dated 60 BCE and at least one manuscript had been updated to as late as 1154. This work is really not a single work but a collection of various manuscripts that had been copied and distributed to various monasteries across England with the local scribes sometimes continuing to update the copy they possessed. This is the single most important work concerning the history of England that exists covering the period between the withdrawal of the Romans (5th Century) and sometime after the Norman Invasion (1066). I have provided a link to amazon for a printed version below, as well a link to an on-line copy of the book at Google Books.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Vikings in Russia

For most of the history of mankind the easiest way to travel was by boat along rivers and lakes, so it is no wonder that the Vikings found their way in all directions with their unique ship designs, some with shallow drafts to easily navigate rivers. The accompanying map shows several trade routes. The route from Uppsala to Novgorod and then south to Kiev and even further south to Constantinople was probably close to 90% by water.

Russian history typically begins in 862 with Rurik, who is believed to have been a Rus from Birka, Sweden, who gave Russia it's name. He ruled from Novgorod, meaning "New City" on Lake Lagoda from the Gulf of Finland. The old legends say that the Slavs of the area invited the Nordic Varangians to rule over them to establish order. Thus the Russian ruling class (specifically of Novgorod and Kiev) were then ruled by these Varangian Vikings.

There are some legendary or mythological rulers before Rurik, specifically Askold and Dir who are shown near the top of my ancestry Chart #29. While Rurik founded Novgorod in the north, Askold and Dir ruled at Keiv in the south. After Rurik's death it was his brother, Oleg (Helgi) the Seer, that tricked his fellow Vikings, Askold and Dir onto his ship, where he killed them and then claimed Kiev for himself. From then, all the way until the Mongol invasion in 1240, descendants of these Varangian Vikings ruled Russia from Kiev. However my direct ancestry with the Rus Rulers ends with Izyaslav II (1096-1154), whose daughter married into Polish Royalty. There are actually many more connections between Poland and Russia, as well as Constantinople and the Scandinavian Vikings than shown in Chart #29, all in my online genealogical database.

Saint Olga was the first Rus to convert to Christianity. She ruled as regent for her son, Svyatoslav I, after her husband, Igor's death. But it was her grandson Vladimir I "the Great" who would convert the entire nation to Christianity. Initially, Vladimir fled to Norway after his half-brother, Yaropolk seized control of Russia. With the help of Ladejarl Håkon Sigurdsson, who we have seen in earlier Charts, Vladimir assembled an army that retook Russia.

About the year 987, Vladimir sent envoys to the neighboring countries to choose a new religion. He wasn't keen on Islam due to restrictions on pork and alcohol. "Drinking is the joy of all Rus'. We cannot exist without that pleasure." He felt that the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem meant that their god had abandoned them. He sent emissaries to both the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. The later is what he decided as his envoys reported on the beautiful pageantry and liturgy they saw at the Hagia Sophia Basilica. I would suppose that their close ties with Byzantium also influenced his decision. As with all great rulers of the past, Vladimir had so many wives and concubines that it is hard to know how many children he actually had. There were at least 7 known wives. My database shows 12 with a few unknowns. But he is said to have also had hundreds of concubines! I show descent from 5 of his children.

As you can see in Chart #29, it is the daughters of these Kiev Rulers who marry into other European Royalty that brings them closer to my native European countries with Sigurd I in Norway, Knud Lavard in Denmark and even Polish Rulers with their descendants eventually marrying back into Scandinavia.

My Polish ancestry begins with Piast the Wheelwright, although there were legendary rulers before him which are not in my genealogy. Mieszko I was the ruler who could be considered the founder of Poland and was also the ruler who adopted Roman Catholicism in 966 as the state religion, creating a boundary with Eastern Orthodoxy to the east in Russia.

Moving further down the chart and closer to our time we see Peter Steyper and his wife, Ingbjørg Magnusdatter. Peter Steyper was a Norwegian chieftan, the son of King Sverre's half-sister, and grew up on the Faroe Islands. He was mentioned among King Sverre's men in 1192 and died on a crusade to the Holy Land. Peter had three sons, two shown in Chart #29. Ogmund as his name "Jorsalafarer" indicates also went on a crusade. Peter Unge means the young Peter. Though the sources are not real clear on the connection here they are certainly related and lived at the Sponheim farm in Hordaland. Some of Ogmund's descendants moved to Byre, which is on Finnøy island in the fjord north of Stavanger. Tjentland and Fevoll are also farms in the Ryfylke area of Rogaland county - more on the mainland to the northeast of Stavanger. I have many closer relatives from these areas which I will blog about later.

I want to make note of a particularly interesting book called "Royal Families of Medieval Scandinavia, Flanders, and Kiev" by Rupert Alen and Anna Marie Dahlquist. This book is filled with some good genealogy diagrams as well as stories about many of the rulers and families that I have discussed in the last several blogs on the Kings of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. It also includes some good information on Scandinavian connections to Flanders, which I will likely cover in a later blog. (Link to amazon for this book can be found below.)

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Monday, November 21, 2016

Early Kings of Denmark and Sweden

As can be seen in Chart #28, most of the early Kings of Denmark and Sweden were descended from Ragnar Lodbrok, who has a number of old legends surrounding him. I find many inconsistencies about his various wives and he is considered a legendary figure, although the men mentioned as his sons are usually thought to be historical.  His son, Sigurd Orm-i-Øye was born with a mark in his left eye that looked like a snake with it's tail in his mouth, thus his name Orm-i-Øye which means Snake in the Eye.

Many sources actually attribute Gorm the Old as being the first truly historical King of Denmark. There are two large carved rune stones in Jelling, Denmark, known as the Jelling Stones that are attributed to King Gorm and his son, Harald Bluetooth. I have provided a link below to Wikipedia's description of this site, which is really interesting stuff!

All the people shown in Chart #28 lived during the heyday of the Viking Era. Perhaps the most famous of all these was King Canute (Knut) the Great, who became King of all Denmark, Norway and England. I am not descended from King Canute. In fact, I can find no descendants except 4 children and 2 grandchildren who either died young or became a Monk or Abbess. So perhaps he has no direct descendants even today.  I am, however, descended from two of his sisters; Gyda who married Eirik Håkonsson, Earl of Lade and Estrid (Astrid) who married Ulf "Sprakalägger" Torgilsson and was the mother to King Svend (Sweyn) Estridsøn.

Svend II Estridson was married 3 times and said to have fathered over 20 children out of wedlock, including 5 future kings. In Chart #28 I show my descent from 2 of those Kings, Erik I "Ejegod" and Knut IV "den Hellige" (the Holy). But in my database I am also descended from King Nils (Nikolai) as well as two of Svend's daughters.

In my next blog I plan to discuss the relationship of the Vikings to the early Kings in Russia. Thus we see that Knud Lavard "the Pious" marries Ingeborg, a princess from Kiev (in modern day Ukraine) and gives his son a Russian name, Valdemar I "the Great", who through his mother's side really was descended from Vladimir I "the Great", the Grand Duke of Kiev.

Uppsala, Sweden is a very historical place in Scandinavian history. It was the original location where Odin and Frey settled and built a great temple to the old Norse gods. I can't help but include here this fascinating quote from Adam of Bremen concerning the old ceremonies:
At this point I shall say a few words about the religious beliefs of the Swedes. That nation has a magnificent temple, which is called Uppsala, located not far from the city of Sigtuna. In this temple, built entirely of gold, the people worship the statues of three gods.
A general festival for all the provinces of Sweden is customarily held at Uppsala every nine years. Participation in this festival is required of everyone. Kings and their subjects, collectively and individually, send their gifts to Uppsala; - and – a thing more cruel than any punishment – those who have already adopted Christianity buy themselves off from these ceremonies. The sacrifice is as follows; of every kind of male creature, nine victims are offered. By the blood of these creatures it is the custom to appease the gods. Their bodies, moreover, are hanged in a grove which is adjacent to the temple. This grove is so sacred to the people that the separate trees in it are believed to be holy because of the death or putrefaction of the sacrificial victims. There even dogs and horses hang beside human beings. (A certain Christian told me that he had seen seventy-two of their bodies hanging up together.) The incantations, however, which are usually sung in the performance of a libation of this kind are numerous and disgraceful, and it is better not to speak of them. [Wikipedia quoting from Adam of Bremen, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamla_Uppsala]
Bjørn "Jarnsida" (Ironsides), a son of Ragnar Lodbrok was an early King of Sweden, ruling from the old capital at Uppsala. However, historians typically start the first "historical" King of Sweden with Erik VIII "Seigersal" (the Victorious) and then his son, Olof III "Skøtkonung", the first Christian King of Sweden.

Of all the Swedish Kings shown on Chart #28, I suspect it is really Birger Brosa and his nephew, Birger II, who are more famous as powerful and highly regarded Swedish Earls (Jarls). Magnus "Minneskjöld", brother of Birger Brosa named his own son Birger, in honor of his brother.

There is a really cool movie about this era which I watched on Netflix called "Arn: The Knight Templar" which is also a book trilogy by Jan Guillou (links to amazon are below). Although Arn is a fictional character, there are a number of historical people in the movie. Arn's father would be Magnus "Minneskjöld" Bengtson,, shown as an ancestor of mine on Chart #28. Magnus was brother to Birger Brosa, a famous Swedish Earl, who also appears in the movie.  Also appearing in the movie are King Knut (Canute) I Erikson; Knut's wife, Cecilia; Ebbe Sunesen, father-in-law to Sverker "the Younger" II; Eline (Helena) Sverkersdatter, shown as a direct ancestor; King Sverker "the Younger" II Karlsen;  and Eskil Magnusson, Arn's brother (a real historical person). In any case the movie and the books are highly recommended.

One more mention is Saint Birgitta right at the bottom left of Chart #28. We will continue her descendants in a  later blog to show how her granddaughter married a judge in Rogaland, Norway, thus  many Norwegians in southwest Norway are now descendants of Saint Birgitta, the patron Saint of Sweden.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are the three books of the Crusades Trilogy by Jan Guillou:

 Here are some other useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Settlement of Iceland

Norway is famous for it's beautiful fjords and soaring mountains, but the reality of life there has been that farmland was scarce and travel has been primarily by water. Up and down the west coast, Norway is broken by a multitude of islands and fjords reaching deep inland that were often the only access to remote farmsteads, surrounded by mountains and rocky soil. This lack of farmland, as well as the strife created by King Harald Fairhair's push to conquer all of Norway, created the conditions for some Norsk to leave Norway and find other more suitable places to live. One of those was places was Iceland, which being uninhabited was an attractive alternative.

Between 874 and 930 the whole of Iceland had been claimed by the Norse, often with Irish, Scottish or English slaves. Almost every family that migrated to Iceland during this short 56 year settlement period is known and mentioned in various Icelandic Sagas, primarily Íslendingabók by Ari Thorgilsson, and Landnámabók. As can be seen in Charts #27a, #27b, #27c I am descended from several of the early settlers in Iceland. Many of the people in these charts deserve more than the mention than I will make here, as there are many stories for many of these people.

Norr, the Sea King (Chart #27b), is supposedly the one who founded Norway and where Norway derived it's name, although this is quite suspect and Norr is somewhat legendary or mythological. His ancestry goes back to Kvenland, which is is northern Sweden and Finland (Lapland). He was the ancestor of the Kings of Rogaland, shown in Chart #27b.  At least two lines of Hogne "den Hvite" Oblaudsson's descendants had migrated to Iceland and are mentioned in some of the Icelandic Sagas.

Alrekstad was a large royal estate near Bergen in Hordaland County during this time, so we see Kjetil Flatnose's paternal ancestry as the Kings of Hordaland and Agder (far south in Norway). Another group of Icelanders that settled in Vatnsdal (northern Iceland) were descendants of the Kings of Romsdal (Chat #27c). Romsdal was a district further along the coast, north of Hordaland, part way to Trondheim.

There are at least 5 Icelandic Sagas that cover the people shown in these 3 charts (#27a, #27b, #27c), which I will briefly discuss:
  1. Laxdæla saga begins with a focus on Aud or Unn the Deepminded, the daughter of Ketil Flatnose. She married Olaf the White, the Viking King of Dublin. After Olaf was killed, Aud and their son, Thorstein the Red went to the Hebrides where Aud's father ruled. Thorstein, along with Sigurd the Mighty of the Orkneys conquered quite a bit of land in northern Scotland. After Thorstein's death, Aud gathered some of her kinsmen and commissioned a ship to take them to Iceland where they settled around the Breiðafjörður area in western Iceland.

    The next main character is  Höskuldr Dala-Kollsson who has a child, Olaf Peacock by his beautiful slave girl,  Melkorka, daughter of King Mýrkjartan (Muirchertach) of Ireland. Olaf Peacock travels abroad and in a fight with the Irish reveals himself to King Mýrkjartan as his grandson by showing him a gold ring from his mother, Melkorka. Olaf is offered the kingship of Ireland, but declines and returns to Iceland.

    A major part of this saga (which continues for 200 years) tells of a love story concerning the beautiful Gudrun, the daughter of Ósvifur (Osvif) "den Vise" (Chart #27b). She marries 4 times, divorces her first husband, while the other three die before she does. Although I am not descended from her, I am descended from her brother, Uspak (Osbak). All of these people are in my online genealogy database. This saga is just full of adventure stories.
  1. Egil's Saga is a story about Egil Skallagrimsson, the father-in-law to Olaf Peacock from the Laxdæla saga. As most of the sagas are family sagas, this tells the story beginning with Egil's grandfather. Skalla-Grim and his father, Ulf "Kveldulf", fled Norway and settled in Iceland due to issues they had with King Harald Fairhair. Egil was said to be ugly, but very strong. At the age of 3 he was as strong as a boy of 6 or 7. He was a famous poet also. A real viking, if there ever was one! A great family is descended from him and all descendants from him are said to belong to the Myrar clan. The saga tells of Egil's travels to Norway and back and includes many other's in my ancestry line including some Kings of Norway.
  1. Gisli Sursson's Saga. I am not descended from Gisli, but from his sister, Thordis and brother-in-law, Torgrim "the Priest", who are central figures in the saga. Gisli, his brother Thorkel and two brothers-in-law, Torgrim and Vestein swear allegiance as blood-brothers in a ceremony that does not get completed since Torgrim retracts his allegiance to Vestein. A series of unfortunate and bloody events unravel, ending in the killing of Torgrim by Gisli, which then escalates to a blood feud between these closely related families.
  1. Eyrbyggja Saga is a rather complex story based on a long feud between Snorri the Goði and Arnkel Goði. A Goði is a priest of the old Norse religion. Snorri Torgrimson figures in a number of Sagas and is shown in Chart #27a in my direct ancestry line. This saga also has a lot of genealogy related to the earlier settlers around the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It also contains a little information about the trips to Greenland and Vinland (America).
  1. Vatnsdæla saga tells the story of how Ingimund Thorsteinsson moved to Iceland and settled in the north and follows the family's fortunes for about 200 years. As in most family sagas there are multiple stories in this saga as it begins with Thorstein, his son Ingimund, his son, Thorstein, his son Ingolf and finally Thorkel Scratcher. The first Thorstein and Ingimund are in my direct ancestry as is Thorkel Scratcher (Chart #27c). The second Thorstein is a brother to Thordis and Jorunn, two sisters I am descended from.
As mentioned in the prior blog concerning Lars Walker's third book about Erling Skjalgson, many of those from Iceland discussed here also appear in the book West Oversea.

Four of the sagas above (excluding Eyrbyggja Saga) are contained in a compiled volume of several key sagas called "The Sagas of Icelanders" with a preface by Jane Smiley (link to amazon shown below).

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: The Erling Skjalgson Series, by Lars Walker

Lars Walker has written some interesting historical fiction with Erling Skjalgsson as the main protagonist. The four volumes include: 1. Erling's Word 2. The Ghost of the God-Tree (Vols 1 & 2 printed together under the title The Year of the Warrior), 3. West Oversea, 4. Hailstone Mountain. These books are highly recommended to become familiar with Erling and the Viking world.

Charts #26b and #26c show some of the main characters of these novels as appearing in my database. There are quite a number of Icelandic people in the third novel, West Oversea, many which are also in my ancestry but not shown in the accompanying charts. There are about 5 different historical family groups mentioned that are not closely related at the time represented by the novel, but many of their descendants have surely intermarried, especially those with more recent Icelandic roots than myself. Even with my roots, which are 1000 years in the past, I still find myself descended from 4 of those family groups, since they had descendants who went back to Norway. However, almost every historical figure in Walker's novels will be found in my online database.

Erling's marriage to King Olav Tryvasson's sister Astrid, cemented a relationship with the King. However, after Olav's death, Norway was split, giving Erling more autonomous power over his region. Later, when Olav II Digre "Saint" Haraldsson became King, Erling and Olav set up an uneasy alliance. In his final battle, Erling was killed by his second cousin, Aslak "Fitjaskalle", with relationship shown on Chart #26c.

I am not going to tell the story in Walker's novels, but only a few brief comments. My intent here is really to show the genealogical connection and which figures are actual historical persons.

The first book, Erlings Word, starts out with the Vikings kidnapping a fictional Irishman, Ailill, who is rescued by the Erling Skjalgsson and mistaken for a Christian Priest. Although Ailill is not really a Christian Priest, he gets involved with converting the pagan vikings to Christianity. (Book #2 is not printed by itself, but only in combination with Book #1 in The Year of the Warrior.)

The third novel, West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure and Faith, is basically a novel adapting the stories of the discovery of Iceland, Greenland and America by the Vikings, including the sagas about Erik the Red, who founded the western settlements in Greenland and his son Leif the Lucky who "discovered" America in the year 1000. Although the story of the discovery of America by the Vikings is historically correct, Erling did not relinquish his power and go to Greenland and participate in the events found in Erik the Red's Saga as related in the novel. 

The fourth novel, Hailstone Mountain, is purely fictional as far as events in Erling's life. However, the portrait of viking life is likely as real as we can get. As one Amazon reviewer says, "This is an absolute ripping yarn, as ripping a yarn as you are likely to find, and unlike some TV series, it's steeped in solid historical detail. Do [you] want a fun sense of how Vikings lived in 1000 A.D.? Read Lars' Erling novels." This volume has also been very favorably compared to H. Rider Haggard, who wrote the very popular 1882 novel King Solomon's Mines, which has been turned into many films as well as follow-up books about  the adventurer Allan Quatermain. Haggard's books are also highly recommended. They are still as exciting today as they were over a 100 years ago. I remember reading King Solomon's Mine when I was young and have read it again since, although this really has nothing to do with my genealogy. Walker's fourth volume, Hailstone Mountain is only available as an e-book (Kindle) - no printed edition.

I wanted to also include this quote from a Norwegian website "Skilta fornminner i Rogaland" (Signposted Pre-historic Sites in Rogaland).  I have ancestry from all over this area of Rogaland including Jåsund and Sola as mentioned in the quote.
The Burial Mound Legend of Erling Skjalgsson
Here, at the entrance to Hafrsfjord where the sound is at its narrowest, is a burial mound with a stone monument on top. Haugen must have been clearly visible to anyone who was headed out into the bay. It has been another reminder that the dead are present and included for the good of mankind. The burial mound is raised over a pre-Christian burial, perhaps from the Viking era. The stone has no inscription. Perhaps it is simply a phallic symbol. We find several such monoliths in this part of Sola.  
A legend well known here, connects these stones with Erling Skjalgsson:     
"When Erling had been killed by St. Olaf's man, Erling's men rowed home with the corpse, and they landed at Jåsund to carry him home to Sola. Later they came back and placed a monument at this place and at every place the stretcher had been put down to rest." 
It is sobering that the tradition of the great Viking chief Erling Skjalgsson is still alive, and that he is attached to such monuments. There are another five standing stones in Sola lined up like pearls on a string along the west side of Hafrsfjord, right down to the church site at Sola.
[http://www.fornminner.no/Fylkeskommunen/27-sola-jaasund/skjalgsson-4.htm - translation by google with my own word-flow editing corrections, Ira Lund]

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are Lars Walker's Erling series books:

Here are some of H. Rider Haggard novels:

Cumberland Family Software: www.cft-win.com

If you would like to have new blog posts emailed to you as they are posted, email me a note with your email address and I will add you iralund@cft-win.com