Anyone know about Cerdic of Wessex's family line?

+4 votes
Hi, I was wondering if anyone knew how to verify that a certain line of Cerdic of Wessex is real. The line traces back to Adam.
WikiTree profile: Cerdic of Wessex
in Genealogy Help by Living Lehman G2G Crew (410 points)
retagged by John Atkinson
Hi Francis, I've just changed your tags to ones that are likely to get more attention to your question.
Oh thanks, I am still not up to date in thinking that is fabrication though. Maybe remove the disproven existence tag.
I've removed the disproven existence tag as per your request and then realised I should have added some others related to projects that would have an interest in this question.

3 Answers

+7 votes
The line is in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, so it's really about whether you think that's a reliable source.  The early part of the line agrees with the Bible, but the central part isn't given anywhere else, except where it was copied from the Chronicle.

Some people believe all ancient writings are true until proved otherwise, and would accept the whole Chronicle.  Others will use the Chronicle selectively, some more selectively than others.  But it's a matter of taste really.  You have an "authority" to cite, so nobody can call it unsourced.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (573k points)
Thanks RJ,

Personally, I 'm not sure what to believe. However my current process is to add until disproven. I do a little bit of research on other sites but I'm fairly new to genealogy.

Originally the Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies only went back to Woden/Odin, it was only later that they were extended back to Adam.  There is a reasonably good Wikipedia article that discusses when some of these genealogies first appeared.

The Wessex genealogy is particularly an issue, because it appears that it may have been developed only once Wessex became the predominant of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and adapted from the Bernician genealogy.

When a genealogy or part of a genealogy is only found in one source, and can't be confirmed in any other independent source, then that can be an indication that it has been wholly or partially fabricated for whatever reason.

I hate not knowing if this is fabrication or not. Sometimes, I wish that I had a time machine. wink

We can consider it fortunate that WikiTree does not accept profiles for people born before the year 1 of the Common Era.  Therefore discussions -- which can be quite heated -- of whether the Bible, or the Qur'an, or other sacred writings are true -- are ouside the scope of WikiTree.  

When I was a boy several Sunday school classmates and I started a family tree of the Bible starting from the beginning, and entered names on a huge sheet of paper.  Then we got to Noah and the Flood, and all the lines ended except for Noah's; all the work we had done on other people seemed to be in vain.  That probably soured me on biblical genealogy for ever!

I maintain a free-space page entitled Genealogies Reaching Back to Adam and Eve and add things to it from time to time.  It sounds like the line you describe needs to be a part of it.  From a history perspective, what is historical is that some one -- or ones -- developed the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.  We can figure out when that happened, and a bit of the background involved.  As to the content, we can make certain deductions as John Atkinson has mentioned.  

People had different standards of truth and belief in the days these documents were put together.  If I published a genealogy showing you were the grandson of Queen Victoria, that would be a fabrication;  if you paid me money to do that it would be a fraud.  But who's to say what was in the head of a medieval monk who helped put together the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles?  I'm content to simply report what we know about when it was written, and who was involved, and where they may have gotten their ideas.  

But as for the profiles of people reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, they need to reflect today's standards of truth as much as possible.  When the profiles already exist, we try to document them as much as possible;  we will no longer create new profiles for pre-1500 people without solid evidence that they existed.


Which brings us back to square 1.  A rack full of books about Anglo Saxon England are full of statements for which the only "primary" source is the Chronicle.  So the "solid" criterion depends on your estimation of the Chronicle.

It doesn't help that there tends to be a gap between American and European attitudes in these areas.  American Wikipedia tends to take everything at face value.  If there were a British Wikipedia, it would be different.
I have not seen that. As a Wikipedia editor I'd say the typical style that has developed is genuinely international. I think in many medieval areas the articles are seen as needing work but the trend forward is clearly going to make a lot of those articles more sceptical.

Wikipedia's basic guideline is to follow what books by experts say, and I'd say also among historians, it is easier to talk about differences between different schools of thought than between American and British ideas.

I think on most of these types of questions it comes down to logic, and it is not just a case of one source not being enough, but also that there is often conflicting evidence, that raises doubts.

The rows of books as far as we see them getting quoted on Wikitree tend to be 150 years old and not reflective of contemporary ideas.
Hi, I am awe of your Adam to Noah accomplishment, I tried to do that a few months ago but was unsuccessful. As for deciding what you want to cite, that is an interesting point to discuss. As for now, I'm very selective to call it truth but I personally would use that lineage. To me that line is very interesting, I would love to know how many people they describe in the chronicle and to know if that Woden that they talk about in the chronicle is actually Odin from Norse Mythology. I'm a bit sceptical if to think that they are talking about him, it might just be another person.
I would totally avoid the word "truth" because it would result in arguments nobody can ever win.  Keep the scope down to "what can we learn from the earliest sources?"

That does not sound like a way of avoiding controversy to me. 

It sounds similar to the approach on Wikipedia, where editors avoid talking about "truth" as well. But they have a replacement called "verifiability", and they make it easier by avoiding all original research and only summarizing what the best (normally the latest) expert publications say. 

If we make it our aim on Wikitree to learn whatever we can from the earliest sources, then we give up any sort of standard which tells when not to include information.

Secondly, in practice, what Wikitree does far too often in early profiles is that it willfully avoids the known analyses of early sources which experts publish in recent generations. Instead there is far too much use of sources such as 19th century popular histories.

I feel there are serious ethical concerns in the approach Wikitree takes too often in the period of say pre-1100.

My comment applied strictly to a free-space profile addressing Genealogies back to Adam.  There is no possibility whatsoever of achieving some kind of scientifically or historically verifiable documentation regarding the "truth" of someone named Adam.  The only thing that can be verified is the a monk named XXX in the year 850 wrote a document containing such a genealogy.  The only avenue for further research is to inquire as to where said Monk obtained the information, perhaps from an older writing, perhaps from a visiting bard, or perhaps from his fellow monks in a nearby kingdom.  The research topic then is the writing, not the content.

WikiTree as a site does not address -- or permit -- any genealogy that is pre the year of the Common Era.  WikiTree does permit and encourage free-space profiles on any topic that the creator thinks is of interest to others on WikiTree.
+9 votes
I think we can be quite confident that lines which trace back to Adam or Odin are all fake. The question is where the fake part begins. I don't think it is just a matter of taste, because if we accept that we should not believe in something without evidence then there are clearly normal ways to try to confirm if something is fictional or not.

The most common approach for historians and serious genealogy is to see whether there is any kind of independent confirming evidence to back-up the claims of such documents. There is quite a bit of published discussion about them.
by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (116k points)
+5 votes
As Adam is a mythological figure and not an actual historical person the answer to your question is "no" (also, Cerdic himself is poorly attested and potentially of questionable historicity).
by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (189k points)
I think that is an interesting point. Would you maybe give me a link for an article talking about the first people? One of those lines might be true and just need to be proven. You just have to look at all possibilities and then it's just estimation until it's proven.

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