request for clean up of one pre Magna Carta family

+10 votes

A cry for help. 

The cluster of people who are ancestors or probable ancestors of the Curwen family, and the de Lancastre barons of the 12th century are a good example of why Wikitree profiles pre Magna Carta are not only low quality, but also almost impossible to improve. I have been posting about them since I started in Wikitree some years ago, and although I have been able to rewrite the texts on the profiles the relationships are still an depressing embarrassment. I can not see any way in which project protections and profile management systems help these types of articles, especially since pre 1500 editing became more resitrcted. These systems actually make it impossible to improve profiles. This is unfortunately NORMAL on Wikitree and I have proposed in the past that we need an equivalent to the Magna Carta project but going backwards (using King John's father Henry II), and also we should not have profile managers before 1500 anymore, just a normal watchlist system.

Anyway, I would like to say that the following changes are needed. Can someone please help? If it helps to get attention, I am sure there will also be "data problems", such as technical inconsistencies between dates that were openly guesses, and not just major paper trail disgrace that is obvious to any member of the public who looks at wikitree.

1. Kendal-65. Ketel the son of Eldred. 

1.a. His Wikitree surname Kendal has no justification. If he can not simply be fitz Eldred, which is how he is always referred to, his descendants were Curwens and his line were sometimes "of Workington" (never called "of Kendal"). But why not just fitzEldred?

2.b. The mother he and his father have been attached to has no connections, and the closest I can find for an original source is an old 18th century speculation, but that would make her the same person as Northumbria-6 and Northumberland-87. For the old pedigree and a more modern correction (which still has problems) see Ragg's Culwen article (1914). Ragg did not keep her connection to Eldred and Ketel despite working on a speculative basis. One good reason is that we know she married a well-known Maldred, not Aldred, as shown in Wikitree and Ragg's pedigree.

2. Taillebois-15. Ketel's wife Christiane

All we know about her is her first name. Taillebois is a nice speculation, and a best guess, but not the only possibility. The LNAB and parents should therefore be changed.

3. FitzReinfred-8 . William de Lancaster's mother, Godith.

All we know for sure is her first name, but because Ketel fitz Eldred was called an avunculus of William de Lancaster, we have some small justification to say there is evidence for her being Ketel's sister. On the other hand her present parents are I think not real people, but internet creatures. They should definitely be disconnected, and her LNAB changed. I would find it acceptable if a connection to Eldred replaced that but if not the she must be treated like Christiane: LNAB unknown, and parents unknown.

4. Radcliffe-648 . Nicholas Radcliffe, supposed relatives of the de Lancastres and/or Taillebois families is a myth as far as I can see, and the myths are not even consistent, so we can not leave them in and treat them as a reasonable guess. The Radcliffe family should start with William Radcliffe, currently the grandson of Nicholas, because the Victoria County History makes this remark clearly. That history also shows how types of evidence available. Possibly we could leave in Henry, one generation further back than William Radcliffe, but certainly marked as uncertain. Nicholas, a generation further, seems like a non person to me but should in any case be disconnected from his current "parents".

5. Taillebois-55 Ketel's father Eldred (various debates about spelling). The parents and LNAB should be removed. There are lots of theories around but this one is not even a leader, and arguably there is no real leading theory. If he needs a new LNAB then his connection to Workington perhaps provides one. His most secure descendants are the Curwens.

WikiTree profile: Ketel FitzEldred
in Genealogy Help by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Mach 9 (97k points)

Just so we do not miss the point: there are bunch of edits needed in a small group of profiles. How do we get them done? There are many various project managers and project protections. Over the years I have been posting messages, here, on the profiles themselves, and sometimes in discussions with managers. Progress has been so slow that it will take 10 years at this speed to get this small family fixed up to a reasonable point. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of such families.

I will list the clearest ideas I can see right now:

  • Eldred: no surname; no wife; no parents (current wife to be isolated as a non person, maybe to then merge to her real version married to Maldred)
  • Ketel: no surname unless we use FitzEldred; no mother (current mother to be isolated as a non person as mentioned above)
  • Christiane: no surname; no parents
  • Godith: no surname; no parents (connecting to Eldred maybe OK, but must be marked as uncertain); current parents to be isolated as non people (I know of no real people they can be merged to)
  • Nicholas: no parents; either isolate already as a non person or at least mark as probably not a real person
I have already changed Godith's father to Eldred, and marked him as uncertain, and removed Alice de St Quentin as her mother, but I haven't yet changed Godith's LNAB.

However neither Fulk FitzReinfred nor Alice de St Quintin are 'non people'.  Alice was not actually married to Fulk FitzReinfred but his son Robert was her first husband.
Good to hear there might be a home for them.
Still doubting wheter Workington is an aceptable surname foe Eldred and Ketel.
Concerning their chronology it seems both the 1094 charter used for Orme, and the post 1120 charter used for Ketel have been questioned. That type of charter often seemsvto have ended up being added to later.

Another change needed:

  • Orme. No surname. 

Unless we decide in favour of Workington for this family. (But even then keep in mind it seems to have been out of the family in this specific generation??)

Actually we must also look at Orme's son Gospatrick

  • Gospatrick. No surname or Workington? (Currently called Ireby?)

The article currently says he was the first one in the family to have Workington. Seems more complicate than that.

3 Answers

+3 votes

Katherine Keats-Rohan in her Domesday Descendants, calls Ketel the son of Eldred and the daughter of Ivo de Taillebois (p. 881) but I can't see what source she might have used to make that claim.  Perhaps it is only based on the fact that Ketel gained (inherited?) some of the Barony of Kendal?

by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (430k points)
More or less. The main point is that there are many hypotheses like that of Keats-Rohan (who is one of the ones mentioned now in the profiles), but no strong evidence to choose between them. I have put a lot of work into telling the whole story on some of these articles. But in a nutshell:

1. There is the proposed Kendal connection you mention. But actually there probably was not even a Barony of Kendal or even anything similar in these chaotic generations, it was not even clear the area was going to stay in England. William de Lancaster (son of people called Gilbert and Godith) was given a big fresh grant later on and his family became the eventual barons. But does that mean his ancestors had some similar sort of power? Apart from the names of his parents, he also names his avunculus as Ketel fitz Eldred, who was at least a local lord. Commentators do not agree on whether we should take the avunculus to mean generic uncle, or maternal uncle, which is the more correct meaning. But given that Ketel, Eldred and Godith would be bizarre names for a Norman in this period... I have also seen it suggested by Farrer that Gilbert, William's father, might have been assigned by the Normans to collect tax etc.

2. There are also two monastic pedigrees which famously put all their patrons in one big male line: Ivo de Taillebois (definitely a known Norman hardliner), then Eldred and his son Ketel (who lived about the same time as Ivo and almost certainly having Scottish and Anglo-Danish links to the pre-Norman aristocracy), and then Gilbert and his son William de Lancaster, who represents the period where the southern kingdom was taking control again. It was long ago noticed that this pedigree is impossible, but people want to recover something from it.

3. The grand daughter of William fitz Gilbert the first Lancaster referred in a charter to him having been a Taillebois before he became Baron of Kendal. So even though we must reject the monastic pedigrees, everyone wants to at least put some type of connection to that surname in the family tree. (That does not mean he is in Ivo's legitimate male line. All evidence points to Ivo having only one heiress.) I think we can and should certainly mention the various published speculations in the profiles, but the exact link is something authors do not have any way of agreeing about.
John maybe another point about KRs pedigree i should expalin is that it is traditional to say that Beatrix is probably illegitimate meaning her mother is not Countess Lucy. But if you look in her online article about Lucy my reading is that she does not feel the evidence for that is all that strong. It just comes down to Beatrix not apparently inheriting much.
John any ideas how to get these edits made? The response is not exactly overwhelming here, and the only thing I have left is to start picking on the many many profile managers individually? But with so many of them my experience on Wikitree says they will be nervous to get involved and will suggest posting on G2G. :)

Andrew, I'll see what I can do over the next week about making these changes.

A couple of questions/comments?

Is it a good idea to change Godith's father to Eldred and mark it as uncertain?  Or should her father be left blank. (As an aside according to Keats-Rohan, her current parents are real people, but not her parents).

Also K-R does refer to Gilbert as Gilbert de Lancastria, and one of the sources is Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum, volume 3, which refers to Willielmus filius Gilberti de Lancastria, in a donation of Swartehef to the Priory of St Bee in Cumberland.  See here p. 577 under Number III

Hi John.

Concerning Godith I think I have a slight preference for the option which connects her. One reason is to avoid worse connections being made.

Another reason is that although the evidence is not totally conclusive there is no evidence in any other direction, and the evidence for it is imperfect but not suspicious.

Concerning Gilbert there was a thread on this years ago and the option we have now was one from that discussion. It is a compromise between...

1. Saying he was "of Furness" which is almost the only serious proposal any author has made about him (but Wiki editors hate "of" and want pretend surnames).

2. The "de Frunesco" nonsense all over the internet which has spread like a virus from some long ago typo of someone trying to write "of Furness" in Latin.

Once again we have very little evidence either way. The quote you mention concerns William not Gilbert so I think it is (to say the least) ambiguous who is meant to be "of Lancaster", even ignoring everything else. (Honestly, I feel very comfortable it refers to William only.) But we know William's grand daughter specifically wrote a charter seeming to indicate that the surname was somehow assigned to him during his lifetime. (That is also not strong evidence.)

To be honest as a genealogist I think it would really be best to give Gilbert (and Eldred) no surname. It is one of those cases where wikitree pushes for something that grates with good genealogical standards.
I'll have a look at the discussion to see what is was said, and there is probably a discussion on the Med Gen site.

Perhaps there is ambiguity about who is intended but I don't think there is any ambiguity about the quote; it clearly states 'William the son of Gilbert of Lancaster'.
John could it not say William fitz Gilbert of Lancaster? I would read it as being a merge of the two ways he was referred to. Actually i have a similar 12 th century case which led Keats Rohan to a similar conclusion that also matches no other records: William fitz Robert was also called William of Hastings (although the spelling variations might mean Easton was intended in this family) so when one record says William fitz Robert de Hastings is this proof that his father's generation used the Hastings surname? I think only Keats Rohan uses this argument.
Another example where Keats Rohan took the opposite type of position on this exact type of 12 th century name was a case where she disagreed bravely and completely correctly with Round. Robert fitz Walter de Windesor. Legal documents show that his father was Walter the Deacon, and not Walter of Windesore as Round would have it. Robert must have had his own connection to Windesore, for example we know he owed castle guard duty there.

Another article by Ragg, that you don't appear to quote, also cites a charter that calls Gilbert Loncastre, though again in relation to his son; Willus filius Gileberti Loncastre.

I think this and the previous charter clearly state that Gilbert was known by the name Lancaster.  What is the source for the charter by the granddaughter indicating that the name Lancaster was assigned to William?

Have added it to more articles today. Best is the gilbert article.
Note also there that Ayloffe is the source for Furnesio, apparently

John please let me know about the other Ragg charter though? I am aware of no such reference, but it might be interesting anyway.

But I do think names of the form "John fitz William of Newtown" are generally names of single individuals, and in the 12th century this means they tell us basically nothing about any second name for the parent (William). To read them that way is anachronistic because it assumes heritable surnames are normal, and this leads to errors as explained with the examples above, even by Round and Keats-Rohan. 

At the very least I would always be worried about any theory about a second name which can only be found in such forms.

+2 votes

I will happily and enthusiastically answer the cry, join you on the team as a junior apprentice with pre-1500 badge and a "hopefull" outlook that we together can be effective in pre-1200 or post-1200. You will hear from me via personal email also very quickly.

Each of your points above are worthy, and each should be reflected in WikiTree sooner rather than later.

Now,just of top of my head without my files, several personal inputs that may get someone else to chime in??

FitzEldred is fine. Workington I would place slightly ahead of Curwen as optional real world choices forced on us a bit by WT policy

Whoever changes LNAB should also change LNAB of Orm. Workington would be top of my list, but I wouldnt argue about Fitzketel or Curwen. Orm's eldest is of Workington. Seaton which is named lands of Orm is adjacent to Workington and the Curwen holdings. Get De Kendal into the trash bin.


Since the beginning of my learning curve on this family group, I have placed  Ketel and Ivo and Gospatric in the same generation. That may be unprovable. Anyway, i agree about listed mother for Ketel, i dont have a clue. I accept Christina which doesnt sound norman or scottish or norse,however I could never picture young Ivo having a daughter that could  marry Ketel and have the children listed. So although I am aware of Ivo's supposed connection to Lancaster, I cant fit himin as father in law of Ketel or GF of Orm mostly because of approximate dates.


Speaking of dates I am really confused by Ketel death date. Mostly because I personally had him pencilled into earlier birth generation.

These last inputs are just to invte others to comment. Nothing sacred.

Important challenge is "getting this hog out of the ditch"
by Marty Ormond G2G6 Mach 5 (54.3k points)
Indeed Curwen is probably not a good choice. It is the name of a branch of the later family, but I think other branches took other surnames. IIRC it seems Workington might have been an old connection and therefore more appropriate? On the other hand, arguably Eldred should have no surname and Ketel was normally called fitz Eldred, so he had a "one generation second name". Wikitree policy grates with those types of situations.

I seem to recall some good chronology discussions for Ketel on
I had a quick look at some of those discussions and I think some of it centred on the chronology of Orm being Ketel's son
I think somewhere there was a discussion about earlier generations and the impossibility of some scenarios for example with ivo de Taillebois also, as in the monastic "begat" pedigree.
I guess the Ragg article about Culwen might be the starting point, and any comments we can find to criticize or update that. But 2 key points seem to be that Orm son of Ketel was supposed to be an adult by 1094, and his son Gospatrick was considered old in 1174.

By the way the article confirms problems with all ideas to name Eldred and Ketel after a place they held because it seems neither of them held Workington or Culwen? (Unless they had held things before the Normans took control that they lost and later got back.)
(Not sure about the manor of Workington. So many authors confidently say Eldred had it but I do not see on what basis, and William de Lancaster swapped it with Gospatrick later, so given that William is no longer seen as Eldred's line, the line lost control of that place and got it back??)
Or continued to be associated with the place while under new overlords?
+2 votes
So . . . I've gone in and changed Christiane's LNAB to Unknown, and I've detached Nicholas from anyone and everyone.  It's hard to follow what else might need per your request since I have limited time.  I see Kathy did a name change on Godith.  Tell me what else you need and I will try to get to it this evening.
by Darlene Athey-Hill G2G6 Pilot (372k points)

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