I am making good progress is writing my book, and am trying to give a very comprehensive view into our ancestry. Herewith a list of chapters so far covered;
The Origins of the Normans. Robert de Gernon and the events that led to his arrival in England. An Hypothesis: Who was the father of Robert de Gernon. Eustace II Gernon, Count of Boulogne. Possessions of Robert de Gernon at Domesday. The Feudal System and the Gernons. The Gernons settle in East Anglia. Hugh Gernon, Grandfather of Suffolk Garnhams, & Wickham Skeith. The Expansion of the Gernon family. The Origin and Ancestry of the Garnham name. The early Garnhams of Suffolk. Thomas Garnan (Garnham) born 1524 in Gosbeck. The Garnhams of Badwell Ash, Suffolk. The Garnhams of Badwell Ash and the Mingay family. The Post Napoleonic Garnhams. The Kings of England, Dukes of Normandy, how we are related. Gernon aka Montchitchet aka Fitche. The Ancestry of the de Sackville family. The Ancestry of the de Briwere family. The Ancestry od the de Basset family. The Ancestry of Lady Hawiz de Tregoz. The Cavendish/Garnons. The Garnhams and the Earls of Oxford. Lucia de Essex and her Ancestors. The Malets and Gernons. What were our Norman Ancestors like? The Heirachy of the Feudal System. What were our Tudor Ancestors Like? The Garnhams of Suffolk in 1861. The Gernons and the "Conquest" of Ireland. Our Ancestors the Kings of Scotland. The Descendency of Robert de Gernon to Thomas Garnham (Garnan) of Gosbeck 1524. Ancestors (in variety) through our maternal line. The Post Aristocratic Ancestors and their marriage alliances with wealthy families of Suffolk. The Garnham and Luard families. Our Quantrell cousin who became part of American folklore. The Heraldic Arms of our ancestors.
Doubtless there will be further chapters included, watch this space...
My name is Paul Garnham, I live in Felixstowe, and have been researching the origins of the Garnham name and ancestry. For years, the Garnhams have been told that the name derives from the French 'Gernon' (Gernoun), which means a Norman with facial hair, or that we are named after some long lost village, or the name is dervied from 'gar' and 'ham', meaning 'spear' and 'hamlet'. The latter two are complete nonsense.
There is a place near Epping, Essex, of the name Theydon Garnon, which has some relevance, as will be revealed. The association with facial hair, also has some relevance; but our name derives from a surname of French nobility.
The man in question, was a noble Norman, related to William the Conqueror. This nobleman was the Baron, Robert de Gernon; rank and file Norman soldiers were not permitted beards or moustaches, but knights and nobles were. Sources say that Robert de Gernon is portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry as sporting a beard, one of the few, he was therefore quite unique. The Gernon in question on the tapestry, howver was probably Eustace, (Gernon) Count of Boulogne! Robert is said to have been connected to the House of Boulogne.
He had a castle Gernon in Calvados, Normandy. I think that others were likened to him, who also had beards, "ala Gernon," which coined the name Algernon . I can now set the record straight, and will give the Garnhams their true identity.
I am thankful that we do have a unique name, derived from a family surname, rather from one derived from either locational of vocational origins, as they are usually very commonplace, and can be very "needle in a haystack" from research points of view, particulary when you are preceeding the 15th century.
I am grateful to Suffolk records, who have the latin records translated into modern English, which has been invaluable in this research. As the Gernons were a family of some note, they have been pretty well documented throughout the centuries. We DO originate from Gernon, a noble French family..........
The first Gernon mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, was Robert Gernon. Gernon probably being pronunced with a soft G. He appears to pop up in various places: Bacton in Suffolk, Symonds Green in Hertfordshire, Stanstead, Copford Hall, Wivenhoe Mill, in Essex; Stutton, Sproughton near Ipswich, Brantham and Tattingstone, and many other manors and estates. Robert was in fact, the Norman Baron, Robert de Gernon, Baron Monfiquet, and Lord Forrester. Said cousin of William le Bastard, or the Conqueror, a descendant of Richard II of France, fourth Duke of Normandy. Modern day people who live around the area of his birth place, will tell you that he was an illigitimate brother of William the Conqueror.
The reason that Robert had so many manors and estates, was do to the fact that after the success of his Conquest over Harold and the Anglo~Saxons; William I had instigated the greatest land transfer in British history. Lands, manors, estates etc. were taken from the existing nobles and lords, and were shared out amongst Williams 300 plus nobles, knights and family members; the new ruling elite! Only a dozen or so of the original English nobility retained their property.
William had been promised the throne, by the late King Edward the Confessor. Harold was sent as an envoy to see William in Normandy, to advise him of that fact. Harold said that he would back William when he became king.
But when Edward died 5th January 1066; Harold lobbied the Witham (English Council), telling them that Edward, on his death bed, had told him that he wanted Harold to be king. Harold Goodwinson, was duly enthroned. He had been King for only a few months, when William mustered his army, but he cancelled his original conquest, due to unfavourable conditions. However, in September, he had mustered his forces, ready for the invasion: 600 ships, 10,000 foot soldiers, and some 2000 mounted knights. The cost of armour and a good horse, would cost the same today as a semi-detached house. Not only Normans, but Bretons, Flems, and some Germans too, all rallying to William's cause, who wanted to seek riches!
In true Norman fashion, they came to collect, what had been promised; the throne and all that went with it! Harold had no blood rite to the throne, he was a brother~in~law to Edward; whereas William had blood ties with the old King, Aethelred II, he wed a Norman wife, Emma, William's grandmother!
The battle took place on 14th October 1066. Harold was slain, William Mallet, William's confidant and a general, was given charge to guard and later bury Harold's corpse. The Normans had devastated the Anglo~Saxon army. They were the first to use mounted knights (cavalry), William was a brilliant strategist and commander. The Normans were now very much in charge.
They would now take whatever they wanted, land estates, manors, tiltles~ anything! Anything that already existed, would be surpassed by the Norman ideal. If there was a church, the Normans would build one five times bigger, maybe alongside the existing one! Great castles were built, they were brilliant architects, builders and soldiers., and first class at intimidating the beaten Anglo~Saxons. The de Gernons, and other nobles attained so many properties in East Anglia, and to this day, boasts probably the most Norman churches, castles and ruins etc. than in any other part of the country!
The bulk of the Gernons' properties were in East Anglia; as we will find later, the majority of them ended up living in Suffolk.
Robert de Gernon had a castle built in Standsted, Essex, which was his first family bastion. Gernon descendants were posted to other parts too.
By 1400, there had been a number of male Gernons born here. Fortunately, as the Gernons were nobles, they were fairly well documented. There were no birth certificates at this time, parish records, and vicar's registers, were the only way such records were kept. Therefore it is very common to find people either mis~dated, wrongly placed, or both!
Those family members who were not 'mainstream 'either became vicars or landed gentry, with any titles going to the first in line. I have some examples of Gernons who became vicars: John Gernon (Gernoun) vicar of Honyngge (Horringer) will date 1381. William Gernon (Gernoun) vicar of Woodbastwyck will date 1400. Robert Gernon vicar of Ufford St.Mary (the Assumption) will date 1486. Peter Garnon parson of Wrottynge Magna will date 1508.
There is variation in spelling, Gernoun is also common, but the same name, Garnon was a later change to the spelling, generally being adopted C 1490. The castle where Robert originated was Gernoun castle at Calvados in Normandy, in fact William I also came from Calvados. The change from Gernon to Garnon, was probably instigated by the Gernon family itself. From 1200~ 1220 Ralph Gernon, Robert's Gt.grandson would attain land in Essex which would later be called Theydon Garnon. Named as such, by the Gernons. When the Houses of Normandy and Plantagenet had terminated their reigns at 1399; French sounding names were losing their appeal, by the time the Tudors came to rule, after the battle of Bosworth in 1485, those of French nobilty would not gain any favour, and could still be seen as a possible threat to the monarchy. Therefore, the Gernons were morphing the name into Garnon, I don't consider this being done through misspelling, I think it was an intentional change. We do have an early example in 1464 of William Garnon in Leckhamstead (of whom we shall learn of later!) The Cavendish family, descendants of the Gernons, would also be known and Cavendish Garnon from about 1490, as indeed did the other family members become known as Garnons. In 1583 we find it recorded in a parish account as Garnan, and by the first quarter 1600's we see Garnon/Garnan disappearing, and Garnham arriving as the new family name. In 1627 we have John Garnam (Garnon) of Bacton, a Suffolk gentleman. In 1640 there John Garnon who married Elizabeth Garneys, also from Bacton, who was still holding on to the Garnon version, providing of course, the name has been accurately presented. The Gernon name may be found, but is very rare in Suffolk. Garnham is now regarded as essentially a Suffolk name. Indeed the greatest concentration of Garnhams worldwide is found in Suffolk. There are still Gernons present, in France, Canada, the USA and other parts of the world. But in England, the name generally is now very rare, now changed to a more "Anglicised" sounding name as Garnham, simply brought about by pressure from changes in Monarchy! The Dictionary of English and Welsh surnames, will also affirm that Garnham is the modern version of Gernon, and that we descend from the Gernon family. I have no doubt whatsover on this issue, as my research has traced our ancestry directly to the mainline Gernon family. Case closed! Today, as most Garnhams will know, we are always being called Garnom, Garnum, Garham, Gardner, Graham or Garland. The latter three have their own origins. Although in Ireland, they consider that Garnham, Gannon and Garland all stem from Gernon. In England the Garlands have their own origins, they were in existence long before the Gernon name changed, and they have no connection with the Gernons at all here. To say that Garlands come from Gernons, would be a great injustice to the Garland ancestors who were recorded here as early as 1290 in Yorkshire. In actual fact the Garland ancestry derives from the noble French family of de Garlande, Guillame de Garland born before 1095 at Garlande~en~Brie, and form part of the Paris region nobility. Despite what some websites say, Garlands have their own roots~ NOT Gernon roots. If the Irish wish to stem their roots from Gernon, they are free to do so! There was an estate in the west of England known as Easterton Gernon (named after Robert de Gernon), it was later renamed as Easterton Garnham! Robert was said to be a cousin of William the Conqueror, and indeed is stated as such in many accounts, but the modern day people of the Montfiquet area, say that Robert de Geronon was an unrecorded son of Robert I, "the Devil" of "Magnificent", 6th Duke of Normandy. This would make him brother to William the Conqueror. Many facts would back this theory up. The time scale is right, the place is right, there are other indications which would affirm this too. We are told that the Gernons were forester lords, who dominated the local market. The castle, Gernon, that Robert built was close by the forest of Cerisy, a castle that would last 350 years. Robert I, 6th Duke, founded a monastry at St. Vigor of Cerisy~ a direct contact to Gernon's domain. Robert de Gernon, forester of Cerisy; the Duke's gt.uncle, Herbastus de Crepon, was a forester too! The Forester d'Arques. Herbastus, was the son of Herfast Gormsson born 911AD, son of the King of Denmark. Herbastus was Gunnor's brother, Gunnor being the wife of Richard I, 3rd Duke of Normandy. So, being a forester seems to becoming something of a family tradition, timber being a highly important raw material, used in castle and ship building, weapons etc. Those lucky enough to possess extensive forests, would indeed be blessed with riches. Robert I had a couple of wives, he also had at least one mistress. It is very possible that he had Robert out of wedlock, indeed, William le Batarde (the Conqueror) was born out of wedlock! Robert de Gernon, was obviously no mere commoner, he was highly though of; being known as "Sire de Montfiquet", he was given the title Baron of Montfiquet, and was also bestowed the position of Lord Forrester. He was given a position of some standing, when the enterage of William was recorded, Robert de Gernon was usually in the top ten mentioned; he was treated very well with his "rewards" for his taking part in the Conquest. Both William and Robert were born in the same area, both seemingly out of wedlock, both given all privileges. It does seem very likely that Robert and William were more than mere cousins, they were probably brothers. There seems no alternative at this stage. Most accounts have Robert as being born in 1035, but, taking on board the aforementioned evidence; it would be more fitting that he would have been born 1030/33 of thereabouts. Due to the fact that Robert I went on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in late 1034; he died on his way home, in Nicaea (now in modern Turkey). William was born in Falaise in the autumn of 1028, it is very plausible that Robert de Geron was born a couple of years later. Of course, illigitimacy was not uncommon at this time, (indeed the same today!). Even Edward IV was illigitimate, his father was actually in France doing battle with his cousins, when Edward was conceived, unless, of course, his but, taking in all the aforementioned evidence but mother had a gestation period of twelve months!