Thanks to receiving a large number of old family photographs from my cousin Mike, I’ve at last got round to investigating the family tree on my mother’s side of the family. Up till now my father’s side had provided sufficient entertainment to keep me busy for a few years, including the subject of my recent book ‘The Chieftain‘. This time however, literally and metaphorically, I’ve hit the mother lode! Tracing the ancestry of one of my 3x great-grandfathers yesterday afternoon has led me back to the Vikings. Apparently I’m 29 generations removed from a friendly Viking from Orkney called Thorfinn Skull Splitter, and also a few more generations removed from another Viking, Rollo, who fathered William Longsword (William I of Normandy), who himself fathered ‘Richard the Fearless’.
How did I find that out in a single afternoon you may ask? Online searches of course. Having built my family tree online, the host website’s search engines voraciously whirl round and select possible matches between the various family trees that it hosts. I must admit that checking some of these links makes one a bit uneasy when one comes across an ancestor in the middle ages whose birth location according to another ‘tree’ was apparently in an American township that had not been founded at that time….a sign perhaps that some considerable editorial checking will be needed to ratify my new findings.
However, having decided to check up on Thorfinn and Rollo etc. on other websites I’m pretty convinced that there are enough similarities between us to justify my likely Viking ancestry. Firstly, I understand that Rollo was known as ‘The Walker’, apparently because he was so big that no horse could carry him. That definitely sounds like me. Secondly, it appears that the Vikings were not without a sense of humour in the nicknames that they bestowed upon people. There was, apparently, a Thorfinn the Short who was actually noted for being very tall, and it is therefore within the bounds of possibility that Thorfinn ‘Skullsplitter’ was so named because he was a gentle old soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. That I hope provides the definitive proof. We apparently share the same sense of humour.
I’m a bit worried about the ‘Richard the Fearless’ connection. But I suppose being a Viking means that one can ‘walk tall’. So just remember – don’t mess with me!