Gilberts and the Holy Grail


200px-gilbertarms_medium The quest to find the first bearer of the Gilbert surname in our line, focusing on the origins of one William Gilbert (1202/10 – 1270), finds me knee-deep in a gigantic meta-analysis of hundreds of potential ancestors. So far, I’ve studied about 150 individuals of what will likely be around 400 descendants of Gilbert “Crispin”, 2nd Count of Eu, 2nd Count of Brionne (c. 1000 – 1040). This man, bearing the first name ‘Gilbert’, is thought by some scholars to be the source of the Gilbert surname in Devonshire due to the popularity of ‘Gilbert’ as a first name among his descendants in that area. However, so far I have not found a single instance of a descendant of Gilbert “Crispin” taking the surname of Gilbert in the several generations between his lifetime and the year 1200 (about which time we see our William Gilbert arrive on the scene).

Around the late 1100’s and early 1200’s, when Anglo-Normans started taking surnames due to the new-fangled idea of personal taxation, we see the 150 descendants so far researched become around 80 separate families having surnames as varied as Malet, Peyton, Clare, Lacy, Neville, and Marshall. This goes to show that just because ‘Gilbert’ may have been a popular first name among the descendants of Gilbert “Crispin”, it does not necessarily mean ‘Gilbert’ would become anyone of their surnames. Adding to the difficulty in linking William Gilbert to Gilbert “Crispin” is that not everyone got recorded in history. Certainly, notable descendants (e.g. children who became barons, monks, or great warriors) got recorded in public records, but lesser children and those who had meager or no inheritances were not likely to show up in the tax rolls and deed records of the day. Our William Gilbert, if he indeed descended from Crispin, might have been one of these lesser children who married well by the high-born Elizabeth Champernowne, thereby establishing the Gilberts of Compton. Judging by the notable rate of illegitimate children among the Anglo-Norman aristocracy (William the Conqueror, himself, originally being known as William the Bastard), it is even possible our own William Gilbert was, himself, illegitimate. This gave me pause to consider the fanciful tale of one “Gilbert the Bastard” we find in Arthurian legend.

Sometime in the mid-1400s, while in prison, Sir Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur, the authoritative English version of the tales of King Arthur. In it is the weird, otherworldly, and highly symbolic tale of Sir Lancelot and his magical encounter with a knight by the name of Sir Gilbert the Bastard. It wasn’t an insult. Gilbert’s wife identified him thus, and added that he was “one of the best knights in the world”. Coincidental to our William Gilbert, Malory’s Gilbert lived in an old manor in the middle of a swamp – putting me in the mind of the claims that William or his near ancestors came from Manadon Manor in the middle of Dartmoor. Of course, no one knows why Malory chose that setting or even the name ‘Gilbert’ in his version. The original name of the knight, found in the source material Malory was working from called Perlesvaus (or The High History of the Holy Grail), was one Ahuret the Bastard. (My own theory: ‘Ahuret’, apparently being a name entirely unique to that story, may have derived from the Arabic الآخرة, meaning ‘the hereafter’, a concept brought back by the Crusaders. Malory, writing about 250 years afterwards, might have chosen ‘Gilbert’ as a more palatable name for the readers of his day – the tales of Arthur supposedly taking place around Devon and Cornwall and Gilbert being a popular name in the region.) Of course all of this is speculative, but still a fun and tantalizing thought of connecting the Gilberts to Arthurian Legend.

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Origins of Gilbert as a Surname in Devon


200px-gilbertarms_mediumThe name ‘William Gilbert’ arises from the mists of Dartmoor, a place I’d visited once – before I even knew it was likely the land from which the Gilbert surname originated. I was visiting friends in nearby Tavistock, back in 1999, and they took me exploring the surprisingly still-wild moorland full of castle ruins and stone monoliths. I didn’t know that just on the other side of the moor, about 25 miles, was Compton Castle, medieval seat of the Gilbert family. Closer yet lay the little parish of Ilsington. The conquering Normans wrote this as ‘Ilestentonia’ in the famous Domesday Book in 1086. Even earlier, the Saxons had divided their land in units called ‘hundreds’. The land around Ilestintonia was called the Hundred of Teignbridge. This Hundred encompassed the manor and lands called Manadon (now Manaton). This holding is the only connection, so far, to the possible origins of William Gilbert of Compton (1204/10 – 1270).

While I’m still in the process of tracking down the source document that identifies this first William Gilbert to more recent genealogists (probably the marriage record to Elizabeth Champernowne b. 1210), it is interesting to note that some sources claim the first mention of ‘Gilbert’ as a surname was in 1202. This much repeated claim is said to derive from the mention of one ‘Willelmus Gilberti’ (a commonly Latinized rendering of ‘William Gilbert’) in the Curia Regis Rolls for Wiltshire (a set of legal records) from the reign of King John. I have personally searched the Curia Regis for the period noted and found no such reference. (There may be another document more specific to Wiltshire that I’m not aware of yet, however.) I did, however, find one Willelmus Gislebertus (another common Latinization of ‘William Gilbert’) who, according to the Pipe Rolls of Normandy for 1198, was paying taxes. It was around this time in Europe, anyway, that people began using ‘last names’ due to the introduction of personal taxation. While this may be one of, if not the, earliest uses of ‘Gilbert’ as a surname, it is impossible to tell if this William is related to our William Gilbert in any way. (I am investigating an account in an 1899 volume on pre-Revolutionary American ancestry of a “Gilbert of Compton in the parish of Manadon, Devon, in 1068”, which I find dubious due to many large mistakes elsewhere in the work.)

Back to the land holdings near Compton Castle. Many sources quote an author named Wescott (unidentified so far) who said that the original Gilberts “…possessed lands in Manaton (in or near Dartmoor) in Edward the Confessor’s days.” The earliest reference I’ve found to this is in C.S. Gilbert’s An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall, 1817, but I have not found Wescott’s original works or sources. If this is true, it puts the Gilbert surname in Dartmoor as early as 1042 to 1066. What we do know is that ‘Gilbert’, in its many forms, was a popular first name among a prominent Norman family in and around Dartmoor during that period. One exceptional source is the Domesday Book (1086), which tells us that two noble brothers, Baldwin “the Sheriff” Fitz-Gilbert (c. 1022 – 1090), and Richard Fitz-Gilbert (c. 1035 – 1090) controlled huge amounts of land in Devon. Baldwin himself built Okehampton Castle on the north edge of Dartmoor and held 159 manors in Devon, to include the one know as Manadon. It is more than likely that the genealogists and historians of more recent centuries were referring to these two brothers, who accompanied William the Conqueror in 1066 and were duly rewarded with holdings in Devon (Baldwin and his descendants being made perpetual sheriffs of Devon), when speaking of the origin of the Gilberts at Manadon.

While I have yet to find any direct genealogical link to the Fitz-Gilbert brothers, it is very likely that our William Gilbert of Compton descended from this family. One cannot discount the frequency with which ‘Gilbert’ and ‘Fitz-Gilbert’ (‘Fitz’ meaning ‘son of’) appear in their family tree, that tree having root in Devon – the home of William. It reasons geographically as well, Compton Castle (and the Lady Elizabeth) being only a few short miles from Dartmoor and positively surrounded by Fitz-Gilbert holdings. Perhaps William Gilbert, the taxpayer of 1198, is somehow a link in all of this.

Beginning the Quest for the First Gilbert


200px-gilbertarms_mediumConi’s previous work on the patrilineage of the Gilbert family makes my job a lot easier as I search for our most ancient ancestors. Her work has solidly identified the 15 generations of Gilberts who ascend from my children through Thomas Gilbert, the first of the line to immigrate to America. Considering the time of his arrival in Connecticut (probably the early to mid-1600s), and the ‘biblical’ names of two of his sons (Ezekiel and Obadiah), it is likely Thomas was part of the great Protestant exodus from England. Incidentally it was those two sons’ names, a conspicuous break from earlier Gilbert tradition, that helped Douglas Richardson (researcher for The American Genealogist) identify Thomas as being the son of Richard and Mary (Morken) Gilbert of Yardley, England. With the Atlantic Ocean thus crossed, research on the Old World Gilberts could begin.

Fortunately for me, the Gilbert line from which Richard descends is a very well-known, and thus well-researched, family. Again benefiting from the work of those who came before me, it is fairly clear that Richard is one of 12 more generations known collectively as the Gilberts of Compton Castle. These Gilberts, being landed gentry in Devonshire after the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066, would most certainly be of Norman-French heritage (the previous Anglo-Saxon landholders being thereafter almost entirely dispossessed). This Norman ancestry is also evident in the first names of these Gilberts (William, Geoffrey, Thomas, Otho, etc.), as well as the name ‘Gilbert’, itself (being a Norman first name originally).

While I’m still going through and verifying this earlier genealogy with source materials, I have little doubt that the line is fairly well established through a Sir William Gilbert (born either 1204 or 1210, and died in 1270). Because of William’s marriage to the high-born Elizabeth Champernowne (born around 1210 and descended from King Henry I “Beauclerc”, and therefore the House of Normandy, on her great-grandmother’s side), I am confident he existed. The mystery is this: Where did Sir William come from? Who was his father? Was he the first to bear the surname ‘Gilbert’? This is my genealogical challenge.

The next post will have my leads on the mysterious origins of Sir William Gilbert of Compton (1204/10-1270).

WELCOME to our blog: NEW Author – John Gilbert


WELCOME JOHN!!!

So glad to have you on board~

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I am so thrilled to be adding my cousin John Gilbert to our blog as our NEWEST BLOG AUTHOR~ He descends on my maternal side and will be working on the Gilbert side for all of us~ HE descends from my Mother Nancy (Gilbert) Allen’s – brother Bernard James (Jim) Gilbert.

The genealogy bug has bitten him also~ He will be adding post on his research on our Gilbert sides and like me has a passion for researching…. I am looking forward to all he uncovers~ He has been dabbling in genealogy now for a couple of years.

My Family Secret: A Brother by another Mother & Another Barkhamsted Lighthouse Descendant & family found~


Photo L2R
Top: My Father Rex Allen & Kenny Gilbert Jr.
Bottom: My Grandfather (Dad’s Father) Alvin Allen
and last my Brother Rex Allen Jr.
I BELIEVE PHOTO SHOWS IT ALL~
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When I was 3 years old (1970) I had a cousin born named Kenny Gilbert Jr.
He was suppose to be the son of my Mother’s Brother Kenny (Sr.) & wife Nancy Gilbert…  Kenny Jr. and I grew up around each other and stayed close thru the years – I consider him one of my dearest friends and closest relative and now I am proud to call him Brother!!!!
ABT a month ago we had a DNA test done (familyteedna.com) for Kenny Gilbert Jr.  REASON being…. THRU the years there was always talk of Kenny Jr. actually being my Father Rex Allen (Sr.) Son…..  So with this I am bringing our “family secret forward”
I want to note: this is not to hurt any of our families… but was to finally prove one way or other and without a doubt we are 1/2 siblings~
Here goes: My father (Rex Allen) had an affair with my Mother’s-Brother’s (Kenny Gilbert Sr.) Wife Nancy many years ago…. Kenny Jr. & I have known it was a “possibility” and Kenny Jr. & I have ALWAYS been close regardless…
Kenny Jr. recently visited me here in Louisiana (been a few yrs since we’ve seen each other) once he stepped out of his truck I was shocked to see my father in his face – mainly the eyes~ The possibility became reality to me AT THAT MOMENT… I had no doubt he is my father’s son & MY BROTHER… all we had to do was prove it~ My Mother & her brother found out abt the affair and forgave them both for their infidelity…. my Father Rex Allen thou never admitted to being the biological father to Kenny… was always whispered abt and a secret in our family…. until today~ With DNA we have proven that Kenny Gilbert Jr. is my 1/2 brother by my Father Rex Allen and Nancy Gilbert.
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1st on list to match Kenny in the Family finder is My Uncle Russ Allen
Him & Kenny share 1,955 Centimorgans
and 2nd on list is ME – Kenny & I share 1,940 Centimorgans!
He is also match to my cousin Tanna Chesser (All ALLEN SIDE’S)
Kenny should have NO MATCHES to the Allen’s if not an Allen!
(He should be Maternal side only)
States I am his 1/2 sibling~

Kenny 1Comparison Data for: Coni Marie Dubois, Half Siblings

(To Kenneth Gilbert Jr.)

Chromosome Start Location End Location centiMorgans (cM) # of Matching SNPs
1 72017 54260005 74.09 14209
1 87327144 90738153 4.74 897
1 186046778 189431595 1.87 600
1 220332910 228418452 6.51 2000
2 8290848 71750583 74.65 17877
2 96668807 100690010 1.87 700
3 3624300 63396850 73.35 16600
3 120240560 122056825 1.6 500
3 129723971 133916846 3.54 900
3 134748222 178352192 42.93 9388
4 23843172 152999288 111.63 24842
5 91139 34509939 51.52 9099
5 128908924 132242229 2.4 600
6 8086378 170761395 170.02 45559
7 2575835 103624569 110.61 25120
7 105543030 153665262 56.2 10630
8 154984 29864735 52.42 12186
8 143508808 146264218 1.99 641
9 36587 31543846 50.19 11511
9 111474408 126634192 21.44 4389
10 852889 135327873 176.01 38980
11 34237487 35515324 2.83 600
11 36877321 40048945 1.79 600
11 48014889 56273717 1.3 600
11 93315872 94905820 1.88 500
12 2538733 122453322 136 31286
13 27304251 73111539 47.47 12200
13 85871398 89818627 2.36 700
14 53476772 101008560 63.23 13356
15 18331687 99751548 117.12 21566
16 1778641 17430539 32.78 5417
17 3908603 50326693 64.1 11453
17 64595397 78639702 34.18 4385
18 3034 3309915 8.99 1092
18 5414807 76116152 104.32 19873
19 211912 2409247 5.95 695
19 16200874 63156396 66.34 10207
20 40021065 62382907 50.32 7699
21 9849404 46897738 58.99 10222
22 16372437 45772802 50.55 8618

10/28/17: GPR was done at the Barkhamsted Lighthouse Archaeology Preserve Site


​Via email/photos/permission to share from Paul Hart of the Barkhamsted Historical Society also photos and video from Ken & Jenn Feder.

Coni –

We did the ground penetrating radar (GPR) at the Lighthouse cemetery today (Friday, Oct 27).  This was set up by retired state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni, who recruited Debbie Surabian to operate the instrument.

Debbie is a soil scientist with the US Department of Agriculture.  We walked up to the cemetery mid day, without the radar instrument, and did a quick survey. Based on the trees and rocks at the site, she did not feel that a grid could be set up, or that the machine would operate effectively at the site.  So a grid was not laid out.  But Debbie did take some readings anyway.  Most of the readings were in the limited area of where the old fence was located around the cemetery.  She found that the disturbed soil from where the CCCs put that fence in during the 1930s was visible because it was near the surface of the ground.  She was able to confirm where one corner of the fence was located.  But the few passes she took inside the cemetery did not produce any clear readings that could be interpreted, which was a disappointment.  She said that tree roots and rocks were the cause of that.

Besides Debbie Surabian, Kenny Feder was here, along with retired state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni and the current state archaeologist Brian Jones and also Marc Banks, an archaeologist that has done work for the Barkhamsted Historical Society.  So we really had some high powered people.

Paul

Photo 1 – Kenny Feder talking to current state archaeologist Brian Jones at the Lighthouse cemetery.

Photo 2 –  The group at the Lighthouse cemetery discussing the site.

Photo 3 –  left to right- Eric Chiapponi, Brian Jones, Kenny Feder, Marc Banks, Nick Bellantoni at the Lighthouse cemetery site.

Photo 4 – Debbie Surabian operating the GPR instrument at the Barkhamsted Lighthouse cemetery site.

Photo 5 –  Left to right- Marc Banks, Debbie Surabian, Kenny Feder, Nick Bellantoni looking at the radar display screen, Lighthouse cemetery.

Photo 6 –  Kenny Feder, Debbie and Brian Jones discussing the GPR effort at the Lighthouse cemetery.

10/28/17 – Facebook post from Jenn Davis to Coni Dubois:

It was too rocky/too many tree roots to determine number of graves, which was a bummer. The only thing that was clear while we were looking at the machine was where the fence was. But they’re going to look at the data and eventually get the info to Kenny and he’ll make sure you get it too.

The guy who is the state archaeologist now was very interested in the site and mentioned wanting to get LiDAR images. Basically they’re aerial images that wipe out all the trees and vegetation and give great images of the features and foundations. So that would be really cool.

We’ll keep you posted!

Photos & video below: by Jenn Feder

 

 

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Barkhamsted Lighthouse Village Family Gathering July 3rd & 4th, 2020


Event

CLICK HERE TO VIEW EVENT – VIA FACEBOOK

Please join us for our 2nd Family Gathering in 2020!

Mark the date and please share this event with family and friends so that we can reach as many people possible~

In link above please click if going, interested or not going so we can get a rough estimate of people coming~

I have set up a GoFundMe page – to help with cost of gathering~

ANY donations is appreciated & will help~

CLICK HERE TO DONATE