Monday, September 26, 2011

The Flow and Ebb

From Central Asia, the Huns started the ethic flow to the west. No other ethic group seemed to match their martial skills and ferocity. They are credited with annihilating everything in their path! By 370 AD, the Goths had been divided by the Danube with a western branch (Visigoths) and an eastern branch (Ostrogoth). Their western flow pressed on to the City of Rome itself, being sacked by Alaric, "The Visigoth" in 410 AD.

It was at this time that the Christian Church was trying to make heads or tails out of all these happenings. A mystic in North Africa named Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote down his thoughts. It certainly contained the view held by what was left of the Church at Rome. [Augustine began to write his book three years after Alaric completed his work in the city of Rome.] The destruction of the city of Rome, who many had thought "would stand forever", left just as many feeling demoralized. There were still folks remaining in the Empire who wanted to blame these "Christians" for its very downfall. Of course the Christians wanted to blame the "pagans". Who indeed were guilty for all this catastrophe.

In 22 chapters (called Books), Augustine writes his "City of God". In Book I, he censures the pagans especially for the sack of Rome. Book II - Book III he reviews the calamities suffered by the Romans before Christianity, claiming their gods had plunged them into corruption and vice. He then presents his view of theology, and the workings of a "Supreme God" who really had things in hand all along. [Book IV- Book XXII] The "real" city was not Rome, but a "City of God". In his first paragraph Augustine writes:

"For the King and Founder of this city of which we speak, has in Scripture uttered to His people a dictum of the divine law in these words: 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.'"

The flow and ebb continues...right up to the Celtic Church located at the end of the world.

Reference: "The City of God by Saint Augustine", translated by Marcus Dods, with an Introduction by Thomas Merton. The Modern Library, NY. Random House, Inc. 1950.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Ebb and Flow

The ebb and flow of the forces that effect mankind make for some interesting genealogy. Having explored these forces "on and off" for many years [roughly 52 years now!], I often think I have made some progress in understanding what factors impacted our ancestors lives. What seemed to make them do what they did to survive!

Welsh genealogy has opened many doors to this exploration. It is certainly not a simple matter for those of us from this side of the great pond. Where to begin is a key questions, but where to end this tree climbing endeavor is a never ending one. [There is always another branch to climb out!]

For most of my years I had operated under the assumption that Welsh genealogy began with the fall of the Roman Empire. It was the withdrawal of this central Roman government that left the Celtic tribal groups to return to their own roots. [Starting around 410 AD.] It was then important to try and understand this Celtic culture that surrounded the folks who occupied the most western part of the Island. [Starting around 400 B.C.]

I then realized that it was this very Roman Empire that conquered the Celtic culture hundreds of years before, leaving the Celtics at the western fringe of the world. [Take that you Romans I thought.]

The earliest writers on the Island, (Gildas, Bede, and the like), begin the fall of the "Britons" [meaning those Celtic tribal groups left on the Island] with the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. However, it is clear that the Romans had already faced these folks across the Channel with their extensive coastal defenses called "Saxon Shore forts". [Some started as early as 300 AD!] It is now clear that these "Saxons" [By some the word means pirates.] were themselves being forced westward by forces beyond their control.

Originally called "Hsiung-nu" , these folks from Central Asia became the most feared military force to arrive on the central European theater. They became known as the "Huns". [It is believed that the "Great Wall of China" was built to keep these folks from moving eastward.] Thus, turning westward they forced the "Goths", who became the "Visigoths" (western Germany) and the "Ostrogoths" (eastern Germany) to moved further westward by 376 AD. It was some of these folks who sacked Rome in 410 AD! Thus begins the start of the Welsh nation and Welsh genealogy.

The ebb and flow...will it ever end?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Normanisation: The Beginning of the End

Two "counties palatine" were created by William I on the newly formed borders of Wales. The "earls" selected were practically independent administrators of the lands they had been awarded. The Palatinate of Chester, and The Palatinate of Shrewsbury were designed by this military mind to oppose the more powerful Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys. Chester was over against the Princes of Gwynedd, whose power stretched out from Snowdon to Flint in the northwest. Shrewsbury was over against the Princes of Powys, who where settled on the upper Severn and upper Dee. These "earls palatine" had to hold the border [for William I], and were allowed to conquer across this border as they could.

The first "Earl of Chester" was the nephew of William I, named Hugh of Avranches. The first "Earl of Shrewsbury" was Roger of Montgomery, who had been left in charge of Normandy while William was taking control of Anglo-Saxon England. Personal loyalty was the key. This loyalty was expected to bind them to "the crown" [William I], and keep them from deciding to take matters into their own hands, and rebel against the crown.

Thus, the "Normanisation" of the Welsh borders began. This began as a conscious co-operation under sanction of the king, William I. A Norman colony with its own rights planted at the most important posts along the border of Wales. The beginning of the end!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Palatinate

For the genealogist, words often make a difference in the understanding of time and travel into the past. This is especially true when one travels "into the past" of Welsh history.

"The Palatinate" is such a word. It comes from the Latin... palatinus...which means, of or relating to, a palace. Of course you would have to live in a palace to really grasp its meaning. Living in a palace implies that the owner of the palace possesses "royal privileges". He, or she, would be considered to have sovereign power within its walls, and within the domain that surrounded the palace.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the Germanic kingdoms that came to the forefront. Of these Germanic kingdoms only the Frankish kingdom survived to form "The Carolingians". [Charlemagne and all those folks.] The main regions of their kingdoms were placed in the hands of the strongest noblemen who came to be called "the mayor of the palace". It would seem that great families struggled with each other for this position, thus laying the ground work for this concept.

After the Saxons, and then the Normans arrived to claim some land of the Welsh, this concept had been established. A "Palatine" was a feudal lord having sovereign power within his domains.
He was to have "complete" and "absolute" ownership of the land. A "Palatinate" was the territory of a "Palatine". Whew, enough already!

All this is said to help the genealogist understand that some of the earliest "English" records pertaining to Wales are called "Records of The Palatinate of Chester". This included the county of Flint. [I was always confused with the terms Palatinate because I thought Chester was a town, and then a county]. These records consist of the financial, judicial and administrative activities of the Exchequer of Chester, and of the common-law records of the ancient Sessions of the county.

Ancient Deeds have been assembled mainly from these records. [Ancient Deeds, Series F (Wales 29), from Edward I to Elizabeth I, a total of 516 deeds.

Anyone still live in a palace?