Has any American researcher traced his ancestry back to "Rollo" (the 1st Duke of Normandy, France)? [closed]

+21 votes
closed with the note: Very old question asked by anonymous person.
in Genealogy Help by
closed by Darlene Athey-Hill
ROLLO was baptized and given the christain name Robert
Yes, BUT, the connection would come down through the Dukes of Glendonwyn to Clendenin, and the latter connection is fiction. The name connection is legitimate, but not, as presented, through a son of a latter Duke. If there is a connection, it would have to be through an earlier Duke. It was also a common practice of servants to take on the surname of their boss. . . . so . . . ?
Rollo was not a Norweigen, but a Dane.

According to Dudo of St. Quentin (writing early 11th century), Rollo was from Denmark.

According to the Icelandic Sagas written much later, Rollo was from Norway.

According to Richer of Reims, writing between 996 and 998, Rollo was the son of another Viking invader of France named Catillus (contradicting the Sagas which were written much later).

Every early source - Dudo, the Sagas, Richer of Reims, William of Malmesbury, Geoffrey Malaterra, etc. - can be shown to be highly flawed and untrustworthy.  Basically, we cannot say if Rollo was from Norway, or Denmark or any other area controlled by the Vikings of the time.  We cannot say who his parents were with even the slightest degree of certainty.  It is all a guess based on untrustworthy sources. 

We do not know when he actually arrived in France.  It is even incorrect to call him the Duke of Normandy, as is usually done.  He was the leader of the Vikings who established themselves around Rouen.  He was ceded extensive lands around Rouen, and so properly called Count of Rouen  or Princeps Nortmannorum (Leader of the Normans [of Rouen]).  This would grow over the next two to three generations to become the Duchy of Normandy, and his grandson or great-grandson is probably the first who should be properly called Duke of Normandy.

I guess Denmark is in the lead given that the Normans were pretty consistent about saying their chaps were from there in general, and also the Icelandic saga seems to be the more dubious of the named sources?

Dudo of St. Quentin is the only source which puts Rollo's origins in Denmark.  He wrote his History of the Normans at the behest of Rollo's grandson Richard I way before the Icelandic Sagas.  You might expect that since he was writing much closer in time to Rollo's lifetime and that he had full access to the court of the Duke of Normandy that he would be the most accurate.  However, he was more of a propagandist for the Normans and he can be shown to be wrong on so many details that there is not a single word which can be trusted.  This includes the Danish origins of Rollo.  There is reason to believe he was trying to establish a relationship between Richard I of Normandy and the kings of Denmark for political reasons, and that he did not actually know Rollo's origins.

But then again, maybe he did know?  No way to be sure, but Dudo is not a trusted historical reference.

From Rollo's profile at Geni.com 

Rollo Ragnvaldsson  MP

French: Robert RognvalssonNorwegian: Hrolf RagnvaldssonNorse, Old: Gange-Hrólfr Ragnvaldsson
Gender: Male
Birth: circa 860
Mære, Nord-Trondelag, Norway 
Death: 930 (65-75)
Rouen, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France 
Place of Burial: Rouen Cathedral, Rouen, Haute-Normandie, France 
Name: Ragnvaldsson - only if you believe the Icelandic Sagas, which are centuries out-of-date, internally inconsistent, and contradicted by other records.  The name of his father is unknown.
Gender:  Correct.
Birth date 860: Complete guess based on nothing.  He was probably born a bit later.
Birth place: No evidence whatsoever.
Death date: Close but not known (died between 925 and 933).  He might have died as early as 925 (at the siege of Eu according to Richer of Rheims), probably died by 927, possibly died in 928, and was certainly dead by 933.
Death place: No evidence whatsoever.  The only account which gives him a place of death is the one that says he died at the siege of Eu, but this is doubted.
Burial place: Maybe, probably not.  The tomb of Rollo in Rouen Cathedral was built many centuries after his death.  If he is there, it is not much of him; the tomb is said to contain one thigh bone.
Rollo was my 34th times great grand father, but I live in New Zealand
Hi, I'm Canadian but yes I have traced my ancestors back to William the Conqueror and back to Rollo.

24 Answers

+30 votes
Best answer
Rollo was the third great-grandfather of William the Conqueror.  So anyone who has gotten their line back to William has automatically gotten it back to Rollo as well.  

For Americans, of course, the trick is getting across the pond and latched on to some nobility.  Relatively smooth sailing from then back.  

Unfortunately, large numbers of lines on WikiTree that jump the Atlantic and latch on to nobility without sources fall apart when the research is done.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (478k points)
selected by Living Joslin
The best discussion of Rollo is Stewart Baldwin's:


I was able to trace my lineage to Rollo. His wife was the daughter of Berengar II. Richard He firsts whife had a younger sister that married my ancestor Turing de Audemer which was my 33rd great grandfather.

I got back to Henry I of Normandy who married Queen Matilda Dunkeld of England. I had not pursued the issue further back. Now if it were Hereward the Wake that would be something. I have the Howard name but do not know if that is one and the same.

Rollo is an ancestor of Henry I. 

Concerning Hereward, I don't think serious research has found any real evidence of descendants. But for better or worse Wikitree has at least two profiles for him claiming descendants, one a bit more justifiable than the other. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Mercia-74 and https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hereward-1 . Beware of such claims.

The surname Howard seems to have several different origins, including placenames and the old job of Hayward (Hay Ward). I doubt that any Howard family was originally named after anyone called Hereward. (The letter "r" might often be dropped in modern dialects but not necessarily in old ones.)

Howard is also the Surname of the Premier English Dukes (Norfolk), and a host of other Earldoms, Countdoms and Baronies and a number of substantially important aristocratic households.

Other premiere duchies are Fitzgerald (Dukes of Leinster, Ireland) and the Dukes of Hamilton in Scotland.

From William I and Matilda I was able to get back to the ancestors of Alfred the great and the Irish Kings who invaded Scotland.
Yes and that particular family, it has been argued, may have been Hay wards.
I did some research on White slavery in the American colonies. I can imaging what you say about Colonists and squires is very likely. Younger sons with no prospects to have their own estates flocked overseas I read and were granted 50 acres for each member of the family and servant (indentured slave) they brought from England. With so many wouldbe gentleman going up a few generations back would discover an aristocratic blood. Britain is never thought to be slave owning from the Black Death but one has the treatment of the Irish and Highlanders to consider. Some say during the enslavement of children lasted well into the Victorian period.  No until 1949 were employees protected from being beaten by an employer and corporal punishment for children lasted to 1999. The word servant and slave is interchangeable in English. Anglican always told there parishioners to be obedient to those placed above them by God.
Servants were paid, slaves weren't. There is a difference.
Cathleen, that distinction is clear to us.  It wasn't so sharp a division in the 1600s.  Slaves were sometimes called "servants for life."  Servants were generally not hourly employees, but had a contract called an indenture that basically made them slaves for a period of years, quite often for seven years.
+18 votes
It wouldn't be an uncommon thing for someone to trace their ancestry to him, as it is estimated that about 1/3 of all Americans could be descended from the European monarchy at least once.  The hard part for most is proving it, as in Europe in the past few hundred years there have been countless wars that have destroyed records of all sorts.


It is also estimated that approximately 3/4 of the population of England could at least in theory trace their ancestry to William the Conqueror.
Hence,  the expression   "Father of His Country."

merely a figurative expression when referring to George Washington.

Kings kept concubines for breeding purposes, as well as pleasure.   An heir was VITAL to achieving a smooth succession.   Even though it didn't often go as well as they had hoped.
There is an old joke about this, but I forget who wrote it. It is said that it is mathematically likely that everyone with English ancestry descends from someone who lived about 1066. But the thing is that it might have been William the Conqueror's stable boy. The joke is based on reality and could be true. Everyone in Europe may also descend from someone in about the time of Charlemagne, possibly his stable boy also. The trick of going beyond the joke, and being a real genealogist, is actually finding a real path of descent. Obviously it will tend to be easier to find those ancient ancestors who were not stable boys, at least not for the whole life. But it will be difficult enough, and a noble cause that we can all aspire too. :)
The stable boy could very well have been a descendant.
I beg to differ with you about the stable boy. He would have been so excited about being the King' s son, that he would have told everyone. Someone would have questioned whether or not it was true even in those days. If it were true, they would have made a record of it.
Howard unfortunately they did not have anything like Facebook at that time, or if they did it was lost and we have no record of it. Paper records were scarce, expensive, and serious. Furthermore, gossip about kings was taken quite seriously and regularly led to people getting bits of their bodies removed. There are in fact rumors of hidden illegitimacies, that have survived, but these had to be made by powerful people such as clerics. The few that survive are the subject of endless discussion.

In short: the Middle Ages did not work like that. We will never have a perfect record of all the biological members of any very large family, let along the 11th century royal family in England, who were a special group of people indeed.
There is a pamphlet available at Ely spuriously claiming  Hereward's ancestry goes back to the first King Edwin of Northumbria. Perhaps with DNA one day they can prove it.

What is interesting about Hereward is he was a leader resisting the Catholic takeover of the British Churches in England Scotland and Ireland. The worst thing the Normans did was break the independent Churches using a Papal Bull.
As genealogists the thing is to go beyond saying we are surely all related, which is true, and to actually work out the details using concrete evidence. In the case of Hereward I don't think there is much evidence which exists.

I don't see how DNA can help in the case you mention. We would need Herward's own DNA, and the DNA of King Edwin - of course the DNA of someone with a strong paper trail connection as a close relative. But then you need those paper trails.
It could be very traumatic to be low born and realise one was a prince. When princes were discovered to be commoners as in Richard III it ended badly for the princes.  Edward VII left myriads of illegitimate children who he just abandoned.
+11 votes
Yes, it was part of a genealogy done for my uncle.  Lillian O. Russel took it back to Robert the Bruce and a bit further through the Lords on Annondale,  His mother was a descendent of Rollo through the  de Clares. This from Leo van de Pas 's Genealogics.org.  Actually I'm am descended from him from several lines, not suprising as it was a very long time ago.  In the process of putting it in but am waiting for a nonresponsive manager before I can link in.
by Jeff Gray G2G6 Mach 1 (10.3k points)
+14 votes
I have, but I am skeptical of the accuracy of record keeping that long ago.
by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.7m points)
Yes you should be sceptical. Many proposed lines rely on assumptions about specific links. It is really fun to make a good proposal, but even better to tie up all the loose bits.
I have, too.
Among the classes we are talking about, record keeping, at least genealogical record keeping, was very very good indeed! And there's a good reason for this: the Catholic Church prohibited marriage if two people were too closely related. But would relent if coaxed by a suitable amount of cash.

The problem with this is that cash could also buy high quality forgers.

And oh yes ... don't think "closely related" meant only by blood ... "affinity" meant as much as "consanguinity". That means you were not related, for this purpose, NOT ONLY (edit) to your grandfather and grandmother, but also your grandpa's earlier wives.
If they didn't keep accurate records,then no one would be able to prove that they were related to anyone.
You are possibly being sarcastic Howard, but you are right.

Even the relatively rich and powerful had great difficulty proving who their close relatives were sometimes. In fact one of the sources that medieval genealogists use most are court cases where people used to have to drag out older members of the community to testify that they remembered when young such and such was baptized not long before the big storm that knocked down the church, etc etc. I am not joking.

This means when there was no court dispute (most cases) we have no record, for all but the very highest levels of society, and even then, this really only starts centuries after William the conqueror.

The Middle Ages really were different.
They actually did care a VERY lot about proven ancestry back before AD 1000. It was documented in court cases and various "charters" and other things. They were very careful to keep these things physically, in a chest in their castle. They meant a lot.

What this means is, that if the they didn't have a necessary proof, they were very careful and conscientious to pay the very best in forgers to forge the necessary documentation, and these have often been carefully kept until the present day.

I'm not joking. Thus, many of our problems today.
I agree. My cousin has a family bible with at least 9 generations recorded. It can be done. It was completed with accuracy to assure that inbreeding did not occur. The joke in the family is 3rd cousins are "kissing cousins" i.e couldn't produce children. So the relationship is also notated. Churches of all types kept records. Unless razed to the ground, they would've survived.
That sounds great Donna but I think that 9 generations does not get you back to the middle ages, and I am going to philosophize and say that it also does not mean that we should not always remain cautious and skeptical in our research about generations where the records are less good.
I realize nine generations do not go back that far. But WikiTree is not the only site I am using / working on.  I will leave it at that... and say, I only am placing what is carefully researched on WikiTree! Slow but steady at this...
Agreed, they documented their lines very carefully and protected them at all costs.  I hadn't heard of the Royal descendants book mentioned on here, but you can look up Almanac de Gotha
Justine: yes! ..... but .... where those lines were not as "desired" they, at all costs, hired the very best in forgers to forge the line they wanted.
+19 votes
A convenient place to start is the Magna Carta project's list of Gateway Ancestors (colonial immigrants with proven descents from Magna Carta Barons, and they all link back to the Norman dukes as welll) at http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Space:Gateway_Ancestors_-_Magna_Carta_Project&public=1

Beyond that, the Grenville family claims a direct male-line descent from Rollo.  A convenient entry point to the Grenville family is here: http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Grenville-8
by Living Schmeeckle G2G6 Pilot (107k points)
In pre internet days, genealogy was the realm of the landed and titled, because they had access to the documentation. Now that we have many great resources online and archives have become accessible, the average person can trace their ancestry much more easily. The strange thing is that more and more people are finding that,though they are mostly descended from humble people, that there is at least one landed line in their background, usually in the late middle ages. The landed class of England is descended from perhaps only 250-300 Norman families, so it is inevitable that, if you get a good line going, you will find more and more of these Anglo-Norman families in your background. Given the fluidity of English society in the late middle ages, you might even find a line that gradually becomes grander and grander till it reaches a royal line. This line may be an illegitimate one, or it may be a legitimised one (such as the Beauforts, children of John of Gaunt, 3rd son of Edward III and his mistress-afterwards wife- Katherine Swynford.) These lines are as valuable as any 'legitimate' line and take you back into the Plantagenets, who then descend directly from William the Conqueror. He is, of course, direct descendant of Rollo of Normandy.

The descent is there, almost certainly in the lines of everyone of British descent (as it has been calculated that we all have at least one descent from Edward I Plantagenet): the only problem is finding that line. It means following every female line and taking it as far as it goes, and looking online for those who might have already traced some of the ancestors in our lines.

I hit the jackpot in the early 2000s when I found out I had a gateway ancestress, Harriett Bromfield, who took us straight back to the Plantagenets on a number of lines and thus to the house of Normandy.
There are different perspectives on this.  Brits are generally reluctant to believe in descent from royalty, and if they find they've got it, they tend not to mention it.

But many Americans think it's almost their constitutional right.  There's hardly a known early immigrant who hasn't been supplied with noble forebears.  Many of these lines are breathtakingly bogus, but widely believed.

Hereditary Societies were founded on the firm belief that their qualification would keep out the riff-raff, but of course all the right people would meet the requirement.

At one time it was almost taken for granted that if your immigrant had the same name as a Duke, he was in fact the Duke.  The Wentworths spent a lot of time and money looking for their assumed close connection to the Earls of Strafford, and the Houghtons sent a detective to England to look for the missing millions.

Strangely there's no culture to spread the word.  You'd think the RootsWeb forums and Genforum might have straightened things out a bit when they were active, but they never did.  I can think of one surname that was very actively discussed on Genforum for a decade without anybody mentioning that the famous family pedigree was a fake (and it's not even a subtle one).  The occasional reality check that did get posted on the old forums was generally ignored as people continued to pursue the myths.

And now they pursue them on G2G.  And we still have hundreds of "Questionable" gateways.
According to the Magna Carta project, I am related to all of them.
I have most of the Magna Carta barons so far. I am probably descended from the others as well. I am also descended from King John. And the man who composed the document was Cardinal Stephen Langton of Langton by Wragby in Lincolnshire. I am descended from the Langtons of nearby Langton by Spilsby/Partney...we are still trying to find a link between the two families, if link there is. Would be fun if I were related to the Cardinal as well.
So glad you mentioned the Magna Carta gateway, I was going to suggest that for those finding themselves connected to William the Conqueror it seems Magna Carta and Charlemagne are pretty easy after that.

Many years ago the Ghetty in Los Angeles had an exhibit of the House of Aragon.  There was a large tapestry of their family tree, dishes and other items, it was truly more magnificent than anything you see in movies.  THAT was cool.

It's also fun to come across a name and learn / relearn History forgotten, but I don't imagine anyone takes the road of "Well, I'm of noble blood, bow or loose your head."  It's just fun to learn whether it is or isn't true everyone is or not.
+11 votes
Yes. Is there more to your question, or were you just wondering how many people had done this?
+10 votes
Yes! I recently received a half-brother's Ancestry.com Tree which has all my ancestors on my Father's line (Clifford) back to Richard the Fearless.  I then dug a little more and found Richard's Father to be William I, Duke of Normandy, and his Father was Rollo.
by Sherlynn Clifford G2G Crew (500 points)

Have you reviewed the tree and confirmed all of the people in the lineage back to Rollo?  As John mentioned last year, a convenient place to start is the Magna Carta project's list of Gateway Ancestors (colonial immigrants with proven descents from Magna Carta Barons, and they all link back to the Norman dukes as welll) at http://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Space:Gateway_Ancestors_-_Magna_Carta_Project&public=1

Unfortunately, the bulk of trees on ancestry.com aren't well researched.  That's why we encourage people to locate other sources that are deemed accurate when they add people.

+13 votes

Yes of course. Anyone descended from English royalty, or indeed most English nobility, will also descend from Rollo. And there are very many such people amongst all populations descended from British ancestors. Of course very many American (and others) family trees which claim to know how someone descended from Rollo, and there are more than anyone can count, are badly wrong in the details. Seems to me genealogy is not about the claim itself, because a bit of maths tells us how extremely likely it is that any "Ango Saxon" descends from him, but about showing whether we really know those details.

by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (146k points)
Since I am related to the Queen Mother, does that mean that I am a descendant of Rollo, automatically?
+8 votes
My family descends from Godfrey of Mondaye who came to England with William the Conqueror, a descendant of Rollo. Mundy family oral tradition claim our lineage to Rollo too.
by Charles Markeaton-Mundy G2G Crew (590 points)
+9 votes
Supposedly. (Independent of William the Conquerer).

I have a Gunn Genealogy which traces back to George "the Crowner", who died in 1464 or1478 in the Battle of Champions.  It then traces back to Rollo, through the Viking Jarls.  The Gunns were originally Vikings who settled in the far north of Scotland.

Gunn-875 and Gunne-43 both seem to represent the Crowner

At least the more recent part of the genealogy was "blessed" by the Lord Lyon when they granted arms to James Gunn (honorary High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1984). But I think everything before the Crowner is pretty speculative (including the version given on Wikitree for Gunne-43)
by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
+7 votes
Yes I am, as far as I can tell. My name is Chad Russell, and I can indeed trace my lineage to Rollo. I am a direct father to son descendant.

You can trace the lineage of Rollo also through his half brothers, because they all carried the same Y-Chromosomes. I believe all the  Earls of Orkney descended from Rollo as well. They were all supposedly the sons of Ragnvald Mørejarl. My particular line came from the Barons of Briquebec Castle,in France, prior to the Norman invasion. Hugh de Rosel was from Calvados, France and fought alongside William at Hastings. The Dukes of Bedford descend from this ilk.

It will be quite a while before anyone confirms that Y DNA match. I think it is marvelous any time anyone uses DNA to prove something medieval, but I fear this one it is out of range for anyone without access to royal tombs and top line DNA labs.
+5 votes
Yes, I am an American that has proven (documents and all) that I am descended from Rollo. My 30th great-grandfather was William the Conqueror.
Hmm, I've been seeing a bit of people stating 20-30 generation descent of William.  I'm only 45 and he's my 43rd gr-grandather on both maternal and paternal lines of my tree when I'm using Family Tree Maker.  I'm confused on how it's possible to be so closely related this far down the line?  I know my software is accurate.  Ideas...Anyone?
+5 votes
Yes, through my 23rd Great Grandfather: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Capet-5 . So, that makes Rollo my 31st Great Grandfather I believe.
by Jon Bush G2G2 (2.9k points)
+5 votes
Yes. The records (38 generations of ancestors - Fitz Pons thru Clifford) were provided to my grandmother through The Clifford Association (thecliffordassociation.co.uk) pre-WWII.
+5 votes
Rollo is my 31st great grandfather

You can check by referencing Lawrence-6743 with Normandie-54

Lawrence-6743 is my great great grandmother

Mike, New Zealand
by Michael Griffiths G2G Crew (850 points)
+5 votes
I have also, Through William The Conqueror. (29th great grandfather) than to Rollo. (34th great grandfather)
+5 votes
31st great granddaughter here! Big hello to my newly found cousins from Cleveland, Ohio!
by Cheryl Aselin G2G6 (6.5k points)
+5 votes
My best line is the de Vere one as I can prove it Y, name continuation and documentary wise back to Captain Vere Hunt, grandson of Lady Jane de Vere
by Lloyd de Vere Hunt G2G6 Mach 4 (49.9k points)
+5 votes
I can trace my family line back to Rollo and to Ragnar and also to many Kings and queens along with Earl's and counts
Yes, I live in the U.S. and can trace my paternal family tree back to Rollo, through the Butler family.  Greatest resource was the two-volume CARTE'S LIFE OF THE DUKE OF ORMOND, which gives genealogy info from the 1700s back to the tenth century.  Before that, THE BUTLER FAMILY IN AMERICA traces from twentieth century America to the 1700s and the Duke of Ormond.  I use this info, loosely, in many of my Viking fiction novels.
Hi I'm a Canadian descended from Rollo through the Butlers as well. I'm visiting Ballin Temple this year.
+4 votes
yes i have traced my lineage to Rollo as well. 38 degrees on my maternal side with surnames including hill side, drake, wilcoxson.
I am American and traced Rollo to be my 33rd Great grandfather.

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