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Castlebob
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« on: July 22, 2012, 05:02:21 AM »

Hello All,
I've been researching various combinations of  the epithets 'arm' & 'strong' in a bid to uncover a progenitor for my Armstrong surname. The Siward myth has been found wanting!
In 35 years I've researched a number of possibilities from the British Isles & the Continent,  but recent Y-DNA findings strongly suggest a Brythonic Celt link. For that reason, I've been focusing on Brythonic Celt figures such as Peredur 'Steel Arms' & Caradoc 'Strong Arm'. I appreciate that the name may have derived from something later, such as jousting prowess: Armstrongs were pardoned for involvement in such events.
I understand that 6 or 7 of us have L21-   DF27-  DF19-  L238-  etc. My surname originated in the 1220s in Cumbria, while two of the others who follow the above pattern have typically Welsh surnames. Another is potentially via the ancient Scottish Kingdom of Strathclyde. Another similar testee had an ancestor from Yorkshire who lived near the site of the Battle of Hatfield Chase (633 AD). That battle saw Welsh forces from Gwynedd helping to push back the Northumbrians.
Peredur fought a battle at Arthuret, Cumberland in 573 AD. Peredur (Percival ?) & many other names from the region suggest  potential Arthurian links. However, that's a very tricky topic!
Finally, it'd be useful if others with potentially  Brythonic Celt links would test further. Pugh & Powell etc would be useful candidates.
Cheers,
Bob
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 05:44:17 AM by Castlebob » Logged

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Jean M
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2012, 06:02:40 AM »

"Armstrong" is typical of the type of surname that is derived from a nickname given to a particular man around the time that hereditary surnames were developing. Nicknames can refer to a notable physical attribute, such as red hair or being strong in the arm. So the nickname could be given to various unrelated men, both at the time surnames were developing and long before that. Finding a figure from history with a similar nickname does not mean that he is your ancestor.

To give a well-known example, William II of England was known as William Rufus (the red). That does not mean that everyone today with the surname "Redhead" or similar is descended from William Rufus. He had no sons, as it happens. :)

As you will know, Armstrong is a well-known Border name. Adam and William Armstrong appear in 13th-century records in Cumberland and Northumberland. The language used to form the name is English, because people were speaking English in the region by that time, but the area (as you will know) was Brittonic-speaking earlier. The Cumbric language closely resembled Old Welsh. It would not be at all surprising if the nickname Armstrong was an English version of a Brittonic nickname. But as I say - such a nickname could be given to any man who was noted for his brawny arms. It would not be inherited by his sons in the period that Cumbric was spoken.  

It was just chance that dictated that hereditary surnames developed at the time that one or two particular men happened to have that nickname, including an ancestor of yours.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 06:08:15 AM by Jean M » Logged
Castlebob
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 06:16:26 AM »

Thanks. I appreciate that there may not be an historical figure which led to the name being founded, Jean. However, the Cumbrian Cartularies show lists of names such as:
Roberto de Hamton, Alan de Langthwaite, William de Kariol. In amongst these is plain old Adam Armstrang (sic). On some occasions he's Adam Armestrang de Ulvesby.

There are  other reasons for my pursuing this line of enquiry, but I won't bore everyone to tears! I do feel it would be negligent not to search every possible avenue to at least try & find an answer. I've looked at several potential origins for the founder: Norman; Pict; Fleming; Breton etc & a reasonable case can be made for any of them, however, Y-DNA is suggesting Brythonic Celt.

Finally, the majority of our name share the same history, and the surname certainly wasn't one found across England. It is largely centred within 35 miles of Carlisle, before being forced/encouraged to depart to Ireland & N America etc.

Cheers,
Bob
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Jean M
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2012, 06:26:50 AM »

Finally, the majority of our name share the same history, and the surname certainly wasn't one found across England. It is largely centred within 35 miles of Carlisle,

Yes. That is why I feel that it does make sense to suppose that the nickname (as a nickname for individuals it happened to fit, not hereditary surname) carried over from the time that the area was Cumbric speaking. Lots of people in  the area would have Brittonic descent. So even though they were speaking English by the time that Adam Armstrang is recorded, they just translated the old nickname into an English form.

Your ancestral line could well be solidly Brittonic. That doesn't mean that you descend from someone who was called the Welsh version of "strong arm" way back in the days of Caradoc. Adam looks like the progenitor of the surname.

Certainly not boring me, Bob. It is an interesting case. You have shed light on the surname's origins.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 06:35:30 AM by Jean M » Logged
Castlebob
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2012, 06:55:38 AM »

True Jean. Adam is the first we've found of the name. We're lucky in having had a core of Armstrongs researching over the last 40 years. We've amassed over 2,100 refs to Armstrongs in Cumberland alone. Numerous refs also in Rox & Dumfriesshire.We reference everything for future genealogists. Sadly, the Victorian researchers fought to find Germanic origins for their families, to fall in with Victoria's love of Albert,  hence the nonsense re Siward etc.
Because the earliest family worked alongside Norman-descended families in the Lanercost & Wetheral Priories in the 13th C, plus in their verdering roles etc I , & others, delved deeply into potential Norman roots. This led to finding a definite route from the Cotentin to Lincs, then on to Cumberland. However, my name plus Dacres & Carlisles didn't seem Norman-linked. I then pursued Augustinian links as I found Flemings were pivotal in the wool trade in the Roxburghshire Abbeys. I feel Beryl Platts has some useful info re there being more Scottish clan ties to Flemings than sometimes thought. There was also an influx of Lincs folk to Cumberland - encopuraged by Rufus. A real melting pot!There was a Pictish settlement in Liddesdale, too.
I only mentioned Caradoc as he found refuge withthe Brigantes in the north. As you know, they held land around the areas I'm interested in. There is a carving in Dumfriesshire dedicated to Brighid.
You'll have to excuse my lack of clarity: I meant to say that Adam's ancestor's origins are what I'm keen on finding. Possibly naive, but would a family needing a surname, delve back in their history & use the nickname of an ancestor?
Cheers
Bob
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rms2
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2012, 07:15:01 AM »

I have some interest in the surname Armstrong because one of my third great grandmothers was an Armstrong. In fact, she was the wife of my most distant known y-dna ancestor. Her name was Sarah Ann Hill Armstrong, and she was born in 1810 in Somerset County, Maryland. Her father, Matthew Armstrong, came from Ireland (probably Northern Ireland) to Philadelphia in 1803, when he was in his early twenties.  He was born about 1780, and Bob found a record for me of a Matthew Armstrong born in 1777 in Kershopefoot in Cumbria right on the Scottish border, the son of John Armstrong and Jane Scott. Could be my Matthew, but I cannot yet confirm that.
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Jean M
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2012, 07:15:44 AM »

Possibly naive, but would a family needing a surname, delve back in their history & use the nickname of an ancestor?

That's not the way it worked. People didn't generally choose their own surnames. Names were what people called you. You got your personal name at the font. Then if there were others of the same personal name around, with whom you could be confused, people would tack on a descriptive name to make matters clear. The same man could have a number of different descriptive names in the Norman period, and indeed for some time afterwards. In the case of your ancestor he could be Adam of Ulvesby or Adam Armstrang. Once the name Armstrang had appeared in documents it might be convenient for Adam's heirs to call themselves Armstrang/Armstrong to make clear the relationship. The usual system was to say William, son of Adam. But William, son of Adam Armstrong, would leave no room for doubt about paternity (and William's claim to the family farm, etc.) So gradually Armstrong became a surname.  

See Surnames and Y-DNA.  


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Castlebob
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« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2012, 07:53:02 AM »

We believe Adam Armstrong wed into the  de Ulvesby (Ousby) family, & gained land via that route, Jean.  
I agree that surnames were generally as you described. However, in a few cases,  I wouldn't totally rule out people having to select something to describe themselves in written docs.
On a different tack: In southern & midland England, the Normans could employ/utilise Normans & those of Norman descent in postions of power. However in the far north of Cumberland, 'natives' were required. An expert in Cumbrian history told me that in the early days of Norman rule, the clergy had to have 6 armed knights to escort them to various houses of worship in the county. A similar story occurred in parts of Northumberland. He was  of the view that the far-flung parts of Cumberland were never under Norman control.
I'm intrigued by the use of the Christian names Lancelot (Lanty) & Ninian (Ringane)  in many 15th C Armstrong lineages. I wonder if they were a nod to Brythonic Celt ancestors, or merely plucked from the air?
Finally, I wonder if Craddock (Caradoc) & Percival (Peredur) surnames will eventually have testees for L238 etc. A long shot, but interesting if one of them was L238-, too!
Cheers,
Bob
PS Apologies for bringing up the contentious Arthurian names!
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 08:27:43 AM by Castlebob » Logged

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rms2
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2012, 08:41:52 AM »

An R-L238 haplotype is not usually hard to spot. The 11-13 that by far most of them have at 385 stands out like a sore thumb. And by far and away most of them are Scandinavians. R-L238 looks like the best "Viking marker" there is, bar none. It is overwhelmingly Scandinavian, with only a few British Isles hits.
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Castlebob
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2012, 08:51:01 AM »

It's very good news in some ways! Some of the 6 or 7 of us who are L238-  (& L21- , DF19-, DF27- etc)  are also taking L459 & Z245. One has already got neg results back, so guess we will, too. Still, worth a try.
I hear results are generally well ahead of schedule for these.
Cheers
Bob
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ironroad41
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2012, 10:33:32 AM »

I would recommend you visit the following website: www.freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gallgaedhil/dna_surname_1.htm.  The listing of Armstrongs is long.  I believe its commonly called the "Border Reivers" site.  My great grandmother was an armstrong from Northern Ireland.  I'm not sure how up to date the nomenclature is?
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Castlebob
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2012, 10:45:14 AM »

Thanks. It's been very useful as a ref list for various surnames. Your N Irish great grandmother being an Armstrong is interesting. Do you happen to know much of her lineage? If you wish to PM me the info, Ill see if she links to any of the numerous families we have info on.
We have some useful Y-DNA from some famous, well-documented Armstrongs. We also have folk whose ancestors lived close to Gilnockie Tower. Quite a small gene pool!
Cheers,
Bob
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 12:28:38 PM by Castlebob » Logged

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Jean M
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 09:57:50 AM »

I agree that surnames were generally as you described. However, in a few cases,  I wouldn't totally rule out people having to select something to describe themselves in written docs.

Sounds like special pleading to me Bob! Picture the scene in 13th-century Britain. A baker's boy decides to call himself "Waldo the Magnificent". Other people are liable to call him "Waldo Daft". A puny type decides to call himself "Adam Mighty Muscles". Other people might think him "Adam le Fol". Given that the English surnames Daft and Foll exist, whereas surnames derived from grandiose claims about oneself are noticeably lacking, I think we can take it that people didn't generally get away with making up names for themselves that didn't fit.

The idea of calling yourself after the nickname of your great-great-great-great-great-great -great-grandfather's second cousin is not in evidence at all.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 09:58:03 AM by Jean M » Logged
samIsaack
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2012, 10:14:05 AM »

I agree that surnames were generally as you described. However, in a few cases,  I wouldn't totally rule out people having to select something to describe themselves in written docs.

Sounds like special pleading to me Bob! Picture the scene in 13th-century Britain. A baker's boy decides to call himself "Waldo the Magnificent". Other people are liable to call him "Waldo Daft". A puny type decides to call himself "Adam Mighty Muscles". Other people might think him "Adam le Fol". Given that the English surnames Daft and Foll exist, whereas surnames derived from grandiose claims about oneself are noticeably lacking, I think we can take it that people didn't generally get away with making up names for themselves that didn't fit.

The idea of calling yourself after the nickname of your great-great-great-great-great-great -great-grandfather's second cousin is not in evidence at all.


"Waldo the Magnificent".. You have made my day!
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Castlebob
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2012, 10:23:27 AM »

The truth rarely gets in the way of a good story, Jean! A fellow researcher thinks the name may have arisen due to a knight who was at the siege of Brough Castle, Cumbria in 1173. The chronicler Jordan Fantosme describes a knight arriving at the siege & saving the castle from William the Lion, King of Scots.
The knight reputedly hurled three 'javelins' at the attackers & performed heroics against overwhelming odds. During the conflict, he shouted; "You shall all be vanquished!" Sadly for him, they burnt the stronghold, forcing him to surrender.
Of interest is that the site of the castle is only a few miles away from the land first held by Armstrongs. Also, the family motto is 'Invictus Maneo'. Many of the family graves in Cumbria feature three embowed arms. Possibly a case of adding 2 +2 & getting 5, but there just might be a grain of truth in the story somewhere!
I've told my wife I want to be called 'Bob the Magnificent', but that's fallen on deaf ears!
Cheers,
Bob
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Castlebob
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2012, 11:06:45 AM »

Can I pick your brains re the following, Jean? (or anyone, for that matter!):
I was told that 'Armstrong' may feature characteristic Cumbrian inversion compounds. An example offered to me was the village of 'Birdoswald'. The  'burth' meaning animal, pen etc being placed first, with the differentiator, 'oswald' , being placed second.
I was told that a good example of English & Welsh approaches to place names was Newtown in Powys. In English, the town is placed second, while in the Welsh version, Drenewydd, the opposite is true - Dre (Tref) = town.
Does that follow your understanding of name construction?
Cheers,
Bob
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 11:48:01 AM by Castlebob » Logged

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Jean M
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« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2012, 03:40:38 PM »

No need to ask me Bob. You clearly know the answer. My younger son used to live in Newport (Casnewydd), Gwent. There are loads of Cornish/Welsh word starting in lann- or llan- (which meant church in its final form.) That is usually followed by a personal name. The Scottish and Irish equivalent is kil- as in Kilpatrick. A number of Cornish place-names start in tre- (farm), as in Tregony. tre can also occur in Wales and has the same meaning as dre- - could mean anything from "homestead" through "hamlet" to "town".
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 03:54:28 PM by Jean M » Logged
Castlebob
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2012, 03:59:02 PM »

I wondered how strongly that was adhered to, Jean? I ask, as I've seen Caradoc Freichvras (Caradoc Strong Arm) mentioned on many occasions. That seems to be at odds with the general rule.
I like to see original docs where possible, but I'm not in a position to do so. We're often led to trust those who transcribe the items.
I confess my knowledge of Brittonic languages is via Wiki!
Cheers,
Bob
PS Some of the 13th C Armstrongs were verderers, but a couple were clerks at the Wetheral & Lanercost Priories. It MAY be possible that they had some input into how the Armstrong name was written. I was assuming that  putting 'Arm' first would be a good indicator of a Brittonic connection.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 05:02:04 AM by Castlebob » Logged

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Jean M
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2012, 05:59:10 PM »

I've seen Caradoc Freichvras (Caradoc Strong Arm) mentioned on many occasions.

The name of this pretty certainly non-historical figure occurs in various spellings, including Caradog Brecbras. The Welsh word for arm is braich. So that is arm-strong in literal translation. See John T. Koch, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, p. 342.


« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 06:07:04 PM by Jean M » Logged
A.D.
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« Reply #19 on: July 29, 2012, 11:28:24 AM »

I came across a lot of Armstrong's when I was looking at Lavery's in the W.Armagh/E.Tyrone area.  Some are referred to as 'Souper's' because during the famine, they converted to protestantism changed their name from 'Lamh Roi'- lit Red hand poetic form of strong arm. There was some immigration too . It is possible that some one was a catholic Lavery in Ireland and entered the U.S. (or anywhere else)   as a protestant Armstrong. So if a trail suddenly disappears in N.Ireland it might be worth looking at Lavery. If you think I can help just ask.     
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Castlebob
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« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2012, 12:01:37 PM »

Thanks A.D., I'm familar with the Laverys. Another similar story concerns the Trainors/Traynors , whose name in Gaelic meant the King's Strong Men. It is said some had their name Anglicised to Armstrong in order to work in various regions.
Just to further confuse things: The Scottish Borders had a tradition of hand-fasting which involved couples joining in trial marriages for one year. If either party wasn't happy, they were free to quit the relationship. You can guess the inevitable results after nature had taken its course - not easy for 21st C genealogists to unravel!
Anyway, as you say, it may help Armstrongs in the US who are struggling to link back to W. Armagh/E. Tyrone. The fire that destroyed many Irish records has left many with brick walls to overcome. Thank goodness for Y-DNA!
Cheers,
Bob
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 02:44:12 PM by Castlebob » Logged

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Castlebob
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« Reply #21 on: July 29, 2012, 03:52:55 PM »

I've seen Caradoc Freichvras (Caradoc Strong Arm) mentioned on many occasions.

 The Welsh word for arm is braich. So that is arm-strong in literal translation. See John T. Koch, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, p. 342.

Thanks Jean,
I made the classic error of assuming the French 'bras' (arm) equated to 'vras' in the epithet!
Cheers,
Bob
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« Reply #22 on: July 29, 2012, 08:19:50 PM »

I was told that 'Armstrong' may feature characteristic Cumbrian inversion compounds.
...
I was told that a good example of English & Welsh approaches to place names was Newtown in Powys. In English, the town is placed second, while in the Welsh version, Drenewydd, the opposite is true - Dre (Tref) = town.
Does that follow your understanding of name construction?
I don't know if this is going to be of much use, but up here in Former Gododdin the rule is not consistent.

For ex., on the Peffer Burn (pefr, "radiant, bright, beautiful"), what is now a rough estate (public housing project) was originally a shiny new rural settlement, Niddrie (newydd-dref, "new town").
Further along the coast is Longniddry. First bit is either Northumbrian lang, or (tenuously) gaelic long, "ship", as in longphort. (There was a very late and transient period of Gaelic-speaking landownership, just to add to the fun. And don't get me started on the vague hints of post-Roman Pictish arrivals, squeezed in between the Empire's end, and the Angles .. )
To the east is another Niddry, and an Ochiltree (uchel tref, "high town", hard "t", not "d", for some reason). There's another in south Ayrshire.

 Nearby, there's the formation Tranent (tref-yr-neint, "town of springs" (or "valley")) or, passing over Soutra (sulw tref, "- of the wide view") there's Trabroun in Lauderdale (tref-yr-bryn, "hill town") another Trabrown in Lothian and in general tref+descriptor is markedly more common (there's an extensive catalogue).
Some dialect shift, or just sounded clumsy the other way on ??
Seems to me that maybe the Germanic incomers had a half-comprehending hand in constructions such as Penchrise Pen, in the same way they seem to have adopted Gaelic cnoc and stuck it on all sorts of minor excrescences as (knock+random english word/name).  Over in the west we get such (later, of course) horrors as "Rig of the Jarkness", testifying to the gallgaidhil/norse overlay on the Anglians in Wigtonshire, and up into Galloway. [rig (angl.), "ridge, back"+dearg (gael.), (a specific shade of)"red"+ness, (norse/danish) "nose,promontory"]. Or, given the word-order, mediaeval English over Norse-Gaelic?
Always a very mixed, if not to say chaotic milieu, as even Y Gododdin shows, with apparently Brythonic individuals of distinction being of (part?) Germanic  descent. Shades of Octa and Ebusa! (me-a-joke-o).
All we need to do now is start adding Norman and ecclesiastical French and Latin ... >:¬[

The Armstrongs were, like the rest of the raiders, not more than a day's hard riding away to the south (even pregnant Queens could manage it, cross-country, when sufficiently motivated (Elliots beating up her BF)).
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 08:48:30 PM by glentane » Logged
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« Reply #23 on: July 30, 2012, 03:08:44 AM »

Thanks Glentane.
As you know, the territory surrounding Hadrian's Wall was a real hotch-potch of tribes/clans etc. Also, research reveals irritations such as one of the Gospatrics taking the de Neville surname! The 1349 plague decimated large parts of the Borders. Ironically, that led to a Scottish Douglas widow marrying an English Dacre, who proceeded to open up the Scottish side of the border to an influx of Cumbrians. Some of those Cumbrians were probably Kingdom of Rheged remnants, moving into their close cousins' Kingdom of Strathclyde. However, some were probably of old Norman stock, plus folk from Lincolnshire & elsewhere,  with no close historical ties to the area.
As stated previously, the Normans & their descendants couldn't rely on just their own  to run Cumberland, so perhaps some of the scribes of Cumbrian Brythonic Celt stock were describing places & names in their own style? I've seen many examples of a person being described in old manuscripts in half-a-dozen different ways!
Interesting to see your explanation of place names in the old Gododdin territory.
My heart sank at the thought of ecclesiastical French & Latin!
Cheers,
Bob
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 07:35:40 AM by Castlebob » Logged

Y-DNA: R1b1b2a1b P312+ Z245- Z2247- Z2245- Z196-  U152-  U106-  P66-  M65-  M37-  M222-  M153-  L459-  L21-  L176.2-  DF27-  DF19- L624+ (S389+)
mtDNA: U5b2b3
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