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How reliable is our data?

Examines key points in the family trees where there are questions marks

General observations

Places, counties and countries change over the period. Some places no longer exist, or were once in one county or country but are now in another. The nation states of England and France (and others) did not exist, but were often a network of alliances between dukes and counts which changed considerably. Have a look, for instance, at a map of France in 1429. Northern Ireland has existed only since the 1920s - prior to that it was part of Ireland.

In the database, most addresses are listed in a modern context for the sake of the map feature - notes will sometimes tell you what the historical adrress was known as.

Dates are discussed in a separate page - worth a read to give you some idea of the complications. Let us just note here: the calendar year was not always used, years being numbered according to whoever the sovereign was - which is fine while the monarchy is stable; the calendar was changed at various times throughout Europe into the present "Gregorian" calendar; the year started on 25 March until then, at least in England. In addition to that confusion, records of births and deaths were not kept or registered by governments and we have to rely on other records such as baptism/christening (but how old was the child?), marriage, burial, wills (but how long before death was it written, or after death was it "proven"?).

Some assumptions are made when entering event data:

  • Where a baptism date prior to about 1900 is known but the birth date is not, it is assumed that the birth occurred in the months prior to the baptism. It is entered either as "bef [baptism date] or as the month-year of the baptism date. This is not, of course, reliable but helps with the sorting of events. (Adult baptisms are identified as such.)
  • Where a burial date is known it is assumed that the person died within the prior week - but if you think about it there are situations where a burial may not have happened until some time after the death.

Without DNA tests and in the absence of registers of birth, paternity information cannot be guaranteed because of practices of covering up incidents that might bring shame, or adopting a child as one's own at a time when no record of such adoptions was kept. For instance, a couple may bring up as their own a child of a previous relationship of one of them or a close relative, and to all intents and purposes that child becomes their child. To do that today would result in a chain of evidence in registries and court action.

Spelling was not standard until printing and widespread literacy developed. Therefore names can have a wide variety of spellings. Some examples:
a. Toustain, Toustein, Turstain, Thurstan;
b. Hougham, Huffam, Hufham, Huffham - there are over 20 variations;
c. Royes, Royse, Royce, Rice
Some names have variations depending on language:
a. Guillaume, William;
b. √Čtienne, Stephen

scribeHandwriting was of course the norm - and it is incredibly difficult to read sometimes! I found Solomon Hougham Royes by accident - he was transcribed as "Rogers". Or how about "Math" for "Smith" and the inevitable "Ray" for "Roy". Worthwhile keeping this in mind when you are researching.

"Last names" were not "fixed" as they are in our day and could vary for the one person. A person might be identified by their relationship to their father (Nichol's son), or to the family place of residence (d' Avranches), another in regard to an appointment (Duke of Edinburgh), or by their trade (Tailor). Thus we have Baldwin FitzGilbert (= son of Gilbert) de Moels (where the family comes from) of Okehampton (where he is appointed Baron).

Sometimes the place of origin becomes a surname as we understand it: "d' Avranches" and "[de] Hougham" became a family name rather than an indication of where they lived or had some sort of holding. In the course of time a prefix was either dropped (Eg de Hougham) or merged with the main name (Eg DeHavilland, Leroy).

Some appointments may give the impression that the person lived in a particular area, but sometimes such appointments were administered "from afar" or were merely honorary. Former Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies was made a Warden of the Cinque Ports, but he lived on the opposite side of the world from his "constituency" in Kent.

Surnames became necessary when the Poll Tax was introduced in England in the 14th century, to distinguish people of the same first name in a village or parish. It could be argued that this was when the surname or last name became a universal part of a person's identity.

See Last Names Origin Meaning or Glossary of Last Name Meanings and Origins and associated links.

First names tended to be repeated throughout the family, and some were universally popular. Around the 12th century every other girl must have been named Maud! Look in the index and see how many Houghams were named Robert or Richard, especially around the 12th and 13th centuries. In the chart showing the relationships between George Roy, myself, Robin Young and Marion Hurley Pratt, note how many similarities there are in names. Imagine, if you were researching Sarah Hougham and came across a reference indicating residence, what a challenge there might be in identifying which Sarah/Sara Hougham/Huffam/Hufham you have found and whether it was a maiden or married name!

Electoral Rolls are useful sources of information, giving name, address and occupation in a particular year. However, this information is not necessarily accurate since it requires the person to notify the electoral office of their change of address - and not every one was so zealous. In some years a draft roll is produced before the final one and reveals an old address and a new address - just to remind us that people did not notify change of address until they had to! Some people disappear off the electoral roll even though we have evidence of them still living and working, perhaps in a different location. There is one instance of a person still being on the roll three uears after she died. I initially entered this type of data as "Residence" but it seems preferable to indentify them as "Roll" to alert you to the unconfirmed status of this information.

Family stories are often quoted to me as authoritative, factual statements. They often are not! There is usually a kernel of fact in an otherwise interpreted story to cover or put a gloss on a family situation. In Australia, families used to disguise any convict origins (even if they were only "political" convicts such as from Ireland or Canada) whereas now there is a lot of effort put into finding convicts in the family tree!

Reliability of our sources is sometimes indicated in the source reference at the bottom of a page. The genealogical standard is used, which numbers reliability from "0" (unreliable or estimated, such as birth year based on age stated in, for example, a census return) through to "3" (direct or primary source, such as a registered birth certificate). Anecdotal information rates "1" (see the previous paragraph) and secondary evidence such as data officially recorded after the event, is rated "2".

Roy-Royes Family Links

But apart from these general observations, let us make some observation about the reliability of the research in particular regard to our family tree. I will refer you to notes in the data rather than re-present the argument in full here - the purpose of this article is to highlight where some of the "weak" links are.


The Roy side is the easier one to examine so let's start there with just two issues.

Samuel Logan - was he a Logan?

Read the story The Logan Family for several theories about Sam's parentage. What seems common to the stories is that Sam's real father was not a Logan, and may have been a Jamieson. His mother's name may have been Logan. But then who was this Robert Logan who is on his birth certificate as his father?

Houston gaps

See the note in Capt John Houston's person sheet. There are clearly three or four generations missing between this Houston and Hugh who married Mary Hilditch.


The Royes-Hougham data is longer and older and therefore more likely to present problems as it moves back into periods with uncertain records. I won't deal with all of them, but only those salient to the Royes pedigree.

John or Robert Hougham - 15th century

You could say that the "modern" part of the Hougham story begins with Solomon Hougham ~1475-~1518. It is through him that the Theoffs, Royes and our fellow researcher Robin Young find our common ancestor. Solomon's parents were William and Elizabeth Hougham. On that much there is agreement.

But who were William's parents? See the chart. This shows two lines of thought. One based on historic research done by W.H. Ireland published in 1828 shows John and Joan Hougham to be his parents. The other based on research by Marion Hurley Pratt and further work by Robin Young shows that William's parents were Robert and Agnes de Hougham of Elstone. There are dates to go with this data and there is further information about John's parents.

If you choose the first option, that is the end of your Royes pedigree line as we know it.

If you choose the second option, then there is considerably more information going back nine generations until we come to the next question mark....

D' Avranches or Offam to Hougham - 12th century

Read the notes on Robert d' Avranches/de Hougham. There are three options for accounting for the connection between the Houghams and d' Avranches:

1. The Hougham's are descendants of the Danish "Offams" based on anecdotal evidence contained in a letter in Marion Hurley Pratt's papers. As Danish descendants they were "cousins" of their fellow Scandinavians from Norway, both groups having settled in Kent and Normandy respectively before the Norman invasion in 1066. Robert de Hougham bore the Arms of Hougham in token of the Hougham holding under the family of Avranches, Lords of Folkestone, such being a common practice in days of heraldry.

2. Robert de Hougham married a d' Avranches. Currently, we do not know who his wife was.

3. Robert de Hougham is a d' Avranches, son of Rualon (or perhaps Rualo), and assumed the name Hougham when he assumed the title Lord of Hougham courtesy of the d' Avranches family. This is the position assumed by most Hougham researchers. One source suggests that this name change took place in 1190. Note that the Hougham coat of arms are the same as those of William d' Avranches (see the photo in the article on Dover Castle listing The Medieval Constables of Dover Castle), which lends weight to the change of name theory.

Robert, Rualon and Rualo d' Avranches - 11th and 12th centuries

First, in regard to Robert and Rualon, see their notes. A search of the web will reveal that some people have as William and Emma d' Avranches' son, Robert, some Rualon, some both, and some combine the names into one person, Robert Rualon, probably as a compromise. It is complicated also by the fact that their appointments vary: Robert was Viscount and held various other offices in Devonshire and Rualon was Sheriff of Kent. There are also two wives and families. The best compromise at this point would seem to be to have two people.

Second, in regard to Rualon and Rualo, Robin Young includes these notes:

Recent research would seem to suggest that Robert was actually the son of Rualo who was himself the grandson of Ruallon but until the link is confirmed this tree stays with the traditional history... ( RY- October 2000)
February 2004 - Having just acquired a copy of Marion Hurley Pratt's working papers for her book, I see that she states that Ruallon is PROBABLY the father of Robert, which gives more credence to the [above]. -RY

There is little evidence on the web for Rualo's existence. In fact, Robin's comments above are all there is! There are also the notes from Planche in Rualo's person sheet, but is Planche the source for Marion? That is, is there only one source and is it right? The similarity in the names leads to speculation that they may be the same person! I have followed Robin's suggestion and included him as a grandson of Rualon via William, Lord of Folkstone. The "Robert" referred to is then either the son of Rualo or Rualon.

From the Hougham/Royes point of view, the pedigree depends on there being a Maud de Monville married to a son - doesn't much matter who he was! - of William and Emma d'Avranches.

BUT, here is an alternative view of Wymund's and Guillaume's (William's) descendants put together from the site Ancient Ancestors. This site does not give its sources so it is not possible to ascertain on what basis Ronald Wells makes his judgments. Note that Robert d' Avranches d. 1130 has no sons and his daughter does not marry a Hougham. Offered for your confusion!

Emma and Albreda - 11th century

This family tree has followed the majority of researchers in having Albreda Goz d' Avranches marry Baldwin FitzGilbert de Moels/de Brionne/Duc de Sap, and their having a daughter Emma de Brion(ne) who married William d' Avranches. There are other possibilities:

Ancient Ancestors has Emma's mother as Emma [unknown surname and pedigree]

James Dow lists Albreda as a possible child of Richard, also names her Emma (de Brienne), and lists her children by Baldwin as Richard de Redvers and Adeliza de Meules - no daughter Emma. Several sites agree as to the children, and a few support the idea of a different mother. Some suggest (perhaps a compromise) that Adeliza and Emma were the same person.

A number of researchers list no known husband or children for Albreda. But keep in mind that it may not have been in the interests of a particular researcher to go down that track.

The implication for the family tree would seem to be a possibility that there is no link back to Richard Goz Count d' Avranches or Baldwin de Moels/Brionne via William d' Avranches wife Emma. So let's look at William himself...

Wymund - 11th century

Read the extensive notes in Wymund's person sheet. The main problem here is that Wymund's father was supposed to be Hrolf Turstan but there are three generations missing.

Note that J.R. Planche writes, "Contemporary with the Conqueror we find a William d' Avranches who was, according to Ordericus Vitalis, the son of Guitmond, Witmund, or Wymond, and cousin (i.e. blood relation) to Richard, surnamed Goz." In our present arrangement Richard is William's 3rd cousin twice removed.

In respect of the family tree, the good news is that in respect of Wymund's ancestors there seems to be some connection to the line that connects to Richard Goz and leads back to Hrolf Thurstan - we may not know exactly what it is.

Rollo - 9th-10th centuries

Rollo is often identified with Hrolf, son of Rognvald. But some argue that Rollo and Hrolf are two different people.

From Wikipedia: Rollo was a Viking leader, probably (based on Icelandic sources) from Norway, the son of Ragnvald, Earl of Moer; sagas mention a Hrolf, son of Ragnvald jarl of Moer. However, the latinization Rollo has in no known instance been applied to a Hrolf, and in the texts which speak of him, numerous latinized Hrolfs are included. Dudo of St. Quentin (by most accounts a more reliable source, and at least more recent and living nearer the regions concerned), in his Gesta Normanorum Ducum, tells of a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark, who then died and left his two sons, Gurim and Rollo, leaving Rollo to be expelled and Gurim killed.

It should be noted that for Franks, Scandinavians were called Danes irrespective of their precise origin in Scandinavia. This happened for instance in the case of Hygelac, a king of the Geats, who is called Danish, something that has caused many a Danish scholar to state that he is the first historical "king of Denmark". That Dane was confused with Dacia does not make the sources less confusing, and likewise the Geat Hygelac was not only called Danish but also Gothic and Getic depending on the manuscript.

The implication for the family tree is that the known Royes-Hougham pedigree may end with Rollo (or the unnamed father).

The Convenient Norwegian-Swedish Connection - 7th century

Some historians suggest that Olaf "Tree-hewer", Earl of Vestfold (in Norway) may not have been a son of Ingiald "The Wicked", King in Uppsala (in Sweden) on the basis that this is too convenient a link for the emerging Norway and its kings, and lacks confirmation from more historical sources. This is the turn of the eighth century and modern historians are dependent on the oral transmission of a people's story. The Scandinavians were good at this with an extensive tradition of "sagas". Such oral transmissions are subject to "interpretation" as any student of the Bible would know! So the suggestion is that the Norwegian connection into the rich saga of early Scandinavian kings (which they shared as fellow Scandinavians) is such an interpretation.

The implication for the family tree is, if we have gotten this far, then Olaf may be the end of the line.

Mythic figures of the first five centuries

Some family trees list names that are part of the Scandinavian saga of gods and kings. It is possible, even probable, that many of these mythic figures are based on a real person, but if so the connection to the real person is long lost. The first "independently attested" person is Egil in the late 5th-early 6th century. The family tree has him born in 530, which is a little early but none of the dates in the family tree at this point can be considered vaguely accurate. I have placed his alleged ancestors in a separate tree labelled "Scandinavian Sagas" to underline the tenuous nature of these claims.


Linked toEgil, King in Sweden; Olaf, King of Vestfold; Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy; Robert d' Avranches, Viscount of Devonshire; Rualon d' Avranches, Sheriff of Kent; Wymund d' Avranches, II; Robert d' Avranches - de Hougham; Emma de Brion; William Hougham

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