Scholars throughout the centuries have studied these families and have presented us with their histories and genealogies. These were of at least four sources: (1) Normans; (2) Bretons; (3) West Flanders; and (4) Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians. The most famous of them and about which we have the most information were the close associates of William ‘the Conqueror’ (William I) and his family members – which included many relations of his wife, a countess from Boulogne in West Flanders. The Duke of Brittany also participated in the Conquest (1066 AD). Twenty years after in 1086 the census of landed families (most of them King William’s followers) provides a summary of the constituent elements of the Conquest. Every major family received many villages and the humblest knight or foot soldier involved in the Conquest probably received at least one village.
Researchers studying these families have left a considerable heritage of writings on their style of life and inter-family relations under the Norman and early Plantagenet rulers and we have made a cut-off point for the history of these families at circa 1350 AD – the beginning of the era of the plagues and prior to the Wars of the Roses. The number of the families concerned reaches to about 2000, and our research, gathered by the miraculous work of the computer and word-processing, reaches 5 volumes of texts of over 600 pages each. Much of the research for FDB was done at the Duke Humphrey's Library (Bodleian Library) in
Because of the computerization, new information on a particular family can be easily inserted into the WORD ‘document’ about that family. When all available information has been collected, those documents can be arranged in alphabetical order regarding family name, and genealogical charts could be constructed in order to summarize the collected information.
Aside from the multitude of individual family research, we have dealt with published reports available generally, citing important authors such as Horace Round, D. R. Bates, Jacques Boussard, Sir Bernard Burke, David Crouch, R.H.C. Davis, David C. Douglas, William Farrer, J.C. Holt, J.F.A. Mason, Sidney Painter, A.L.Poole, F.M. Powicke, I. J. Sanders, Sir Frank Stenton, etc. We have consulted, as well, all volumes in series such as Victoria County History and other similar works. At the base of all the materials collected is the Domesday Book itself, it its county elements. Certain counties received less attention than others, namely in the north and south-west of England, but an attempt has been made to fill this gap by wider searching. The British Library has provided most of the materials used in our work as well as printed books available on the market.
The narrative for each family has not necessarily been arranged in strict historical order. As each new item was received, it was placed more or less with other relevant materials, and this has produced, with the genealogical charts (most of them created by the author on the basis of the text), an overview of the available information in each family document. Inter-relations between the various Domesday Book families themselves and connections with the hypothetical Domesday Book families, has been an important feature of the work.
In order to show a certain hierarchy of the families involved in the Conquest and its aftermath, we have separated groups of families - those with more than 5 pages of text, those with 3-5 pages of text, then those with less than 3 pages but more than one page, and finally those families about which we could write only a page or less of text. It is evident that more was written about the leading families than the lesser families and we have divided our system along such lines of popularity (which was related to leadership positions at Domesday Book time and afterwards).
Scholars dealing with this material have come up against certain difficulties in naming the families and owners of, or residents in, properties. Sometimes, for example, a ‘Hugh the chamberlain’ is the reference, or Ralf the dapifer, or simply ‘Ralf and his brother William’ or ‘William the nephew of the bishop’ How can these Domesday Book entries be attached to a certain family in our list? An hypothesis must be established, and the opinions of various authors consulted. We have tried to provide all the available evidence or hypotheses and have emitted our own preferences. Moreover there was a widespread tendency to misunderstand the French names and when these were ‘anglicized’ variations and confusion arises. Is ‘Bollers’ the same as ‘Buillers’? Also, some families kept their Norman (French), Breton or West Flanders seats as their name, such as Hugh de Bolbec, Robert de Picquigney etc, whereas others among William the Conqueror’s followers attached the name of their English residence as their correct family name: e.g. Robert of Stafford (a de Tosny / de Toeny family member) or the owners of Badlesmere (Kent). Besides this, variations in genealogical order occurred in the various sources, as editors of various Victoria County Histories differed in their appreciation of who followed whom in paternity during the period covered by our work (1030-1330).
Another significant feature in this research involves the fact that the many ‘Christian names’ are used in the Domesday Book without further explanation: ‘Ralf’, ‘William’, ‘Hugh’, Gerald’, or ‘Renold’ resided with their lord or owned a certain place. Very often the family connections of these person is quite obscure. We have made a considerable attempt to place some of these within the various families outlined in our work, particularly in the Annexed names (not necessarily ‘family-named’ Domesday Book descendants). Yet, many are unclassified. If anyone today is searching for his Domesday Book ancestor, it might be the ‘Ralph’ or ‘Hugh’ noted in Domesday Book - not specified with any family name. In order to deal with this we have taken materials from post-1086 material and, using the location of the ‘Ralph’ or ‘Hugh’ in 1086, found some families (in our Annexe) which inhabited these same locations later, and then we leave the reader to arrive at his own conclusions whether he had a Domesday Book ancestor ‘Ralph’ or ‘Hugh’ at that place. The fact that certain Christian names persist in a family might aid the researcher in making credible links back to Domesday Book times.
This explains the Annexe where 426 families are presented, along with the possibilities of their descent from a Domesday Book personality. In fact one might argue that any person who could trace his or her family back to the 14th century in England could probably be considered a descendant of someone mentioned in Domesday Book, since only the major families have family references in existence at that early date. However, the great mass of people in England in 1086 are not named in the Domesday Book. They can be included under the ‘villeins’, ‘bordars’, ‘cottagers’ etc. as vassals of such and such owner of land - they were mainly the conquered Anglo-Saxon stock. A few Anglo-Saxon and other thegns were named in the Book – those who received bounty from William I because of support to his government. The mass of people also included the Scandinavian immigrants to England in the centuries following the Viking invasions (beginning circa. 850 AD). Moreover there were noted in Domesday Book the Northumbrian lords made ‘hostages’ by William I – these mainly settled in Yorkshire or Cumbria.through William’s ‘gifts’,
Very few women had property at Domesday Book time, yet in our familiy histories and genealogies women are equally represented with the men and many land transfers were made on the basis of female rights.. We have shown the importance of women in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry. Moreover, female princesses and countesses played important roles in this early period of what was called the ‘High Middle Ages’ in Europe, and in particular before and after the Conquest of England.
Descriptions of the ‘coats of arms’ for many families have been presented in the text.
What is the value today of such studies? Primarily they can be used to assist families in proving that their ancestry existed in Domesday Book. With the Annexe we have enlarged this possibility. Secondly, we have made the aftermath of the Conquest more personalised – the adventures of the Domesday Book families become highly interesting, in particular because they span a wide area of continental and insular Europe, from Lorraine to Brittany, from Calais to Paris, from Somerset and Winchester to Carlyle and Northumbria. These families provide major input for the history of Europe in the High Middle Ages. In many cases the origins of the families are quite obscure e.g. the Plougenets (Plunketts) from a small Breton village who held only one village in Berkshire after the Conquest but who held seven or eight a couple of centuries later.
We have estimated that about 2000 families (by one or several of their members) took part in the Conquest in 1086, and we have tried to present in our work as many of these families as possible.
On the other hand, we do not take the Conqueror’s role as our own – whenever Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian families appear in documents related to the period we have included them, never forgetting, moreover, that unnamed persons in Domesday Book (i.e. ‘villeins’, ‘bordars’ etc.) have a multitude of descendants today in England and around the world.
Our study may have interesting echoes in the Commonwealth and the United States. It would be quite normal for an Australian, Canadian, continental European or USA family to determine that a person noted in Domesday Book was his or her ancestor. Family histories assisted by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) may be supplemented by land records going back to the 14th century.
Our study has not neglected the ‘natural’ or ‘illegitimate’ offspring in the follow-up to the Domesday Book time. .In particular we have made an attempt to name the illegitimate offspring of the monarchs and leading counts or barons.
As mentioned earlier, local history studies, unavailable to the author, would considerably enlarge the field of documentation. But to have found and consulted these would have made our task overwhelming. We have depended on the scholars mentioned above to have searched the multitude of family histories in their efforts to make sense of these. However, it is to be admitted that certain local family histories may contradict some of our findings. For that we ask to be excused.
In the presentation of the materials sometimes the genealogical charts overlap two or more pages, but hopefully the schemes and lines are understandable. Because of the amount of subsidiary material attached to many of the individuals, and our presentation of this along with the person’s name on the chart, computerized ‘genealogical matrixes’ as an aid have not been employed – hence the rather primitive charts of genealogical connections.
This work began in the 1980s and the collecting of materials lasted about 35 years, with multiple visits to the British Library in St. Pancras, London.. We give thanks for the Reading Room facilities offered there.
In general, one might say that our work was unique – gathering together materials on about 2000 families living in the High Middle Ages, and placing such material in relatively well-organised fashion.
Please note that these volumes are scanned reproductions of Charles Graves’ original manuscript.