European and English Roots

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Viking Roots § The Mainwarings of Cheshire § Early English Families § Denne § Hougham/Avranches § Austen/Spry § Whitney § Dutton § Despenser § Grosvenor § Fitton/Downes § Pakington § Intermarriages

Viking Roots

More than a dozen family names in the Jackson pedigree can be traced back to England prior to the fateful 1066 Invasion. Some of these ultimately are related to the Germanic Anglo-Saxons, while a few appear to have likely descended from 8th-century Viking families.  Ancient kinship information is scant, revealing –perhaps only– birth, death and marriage dates. The next few sections present summaries of several early Medieval English familial lines with possible Viking and/or Anglo-Saxon roots.

The Mainwarings of Cheshire

The Mainwaring name represents one of the longest ancestral lines in England.[1] Some genealogies trace the Mainwaring ancestors to the ninth century Viking, Hrolf (or Rollo), Duke of Normandy (ca. 842-931). Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror and was a noted warrior in his own right. He was one of the leaders of the Viking invasion of France, participating in the Siege of Paris in 885, the invasion of Normandy in 890, and the Siege of Chartres in 911. He was named first Duke of Normandy and indeed it was his followers whom history knows as the “Normans.” If one trusts all these ancient relationships, Rollo could be Bonnie Jackson’s 32nd great-grandfather, one of the oldest ancestors in this narrative, rivaling Waleran de Muelan (in the previous section).

However distant and tenuous these Viking and Norman nexuses night be, countless families can unquestionably claim a medieval “Manwaring” as an ancestor. Some texts say that “Ranulphus Mesnil Warin,”[2] the primogenitor of the English branch of the family, was awarded territories around Cheshire by William the Conqueror personally.[3] From the earliest years, modernized variants of “Ranulphus” —Ralph, Roger and Randle— appear in almost every generation. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, many of the Mainwaring men were granted knighthoods and married into entitled families such as Trussell (see In the Beginning page) Venables and Cholmondeley (also dating from the era of William the Conquerer).[4]

While it is possible to establish apparent unbroken marital lines for the Mainwaring name from Anna Mainwaring (1556-1633) back for many centuries, the certainty of these relationships is nebulous. Thus, for purposes of tracing the Jackson family, it is prudent to go back no further than Henry Manwaring (1526-1590) and his wife, Eleanor Venables (1532-1590), Bonnie’s 11th great grandparents.

Whatever the genealogical confusions, there is no doubt that the 16th-century Anna was a member of the famous Mainwaring clan and that the pedigree was passed on through the marriage of Anna, Bonnie Jackson’s 10th great-grandmother, to Peter Daniels (1554-1652) and then via their grandson, William Daniel (1625-1678), who set foot in Massachusetts in 1648. The story of the Daniel family in America is picked up later on Inland Migration: Westward from Boston page.

Early English Families

Numerous Old English families are known to be among the Jablonski/Jackson ancestors. Like the French forebears described above, not enough is known of the individuals to garner insights or even conjecture as to how they might have influenced our contemporary relatives or shaped our personalities. However, for completeness and pure historic interest, the following are a few of the medieval period English families with connections to 20th and 21st century American Jacksons.

We know about these surnames because they were wealthy aristocrats whose lives were rather well-documented. Several of these clans occupied the region of Cheshire County. Of the other, countless commoner ancestors we know nothing, of course.

Sources often disagree on birth/death dates, so readers should not be alarmed if such inconsistencies appear in this text. And intermarriages among these families were common: I’m thinking of the Fittons, Downes and Duttons (see the European and English Roots page), for example. Hopefully the mini family trees will help sort out these relationships and unions.


The early history of the Denne clan is often mentioned in medieval texts, but precise lineages are difficult to ascertain.[5] There were four branches in the family and fathers, sons, uncles and cousins –often sharing the same name—are easily confused

The Denne family tree likely has roots in the late 10th or early 11th centuries; some historians conjecture that the earliest known figure of the clan was Robert de Dene (1020-1066),[6] a Norman Lord contemporary with Edward the Confessor (ca. 1003-1066), the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. He held large estates in Sussex and Kent and in the Duchy of Normandy. Subsequent generations occupied these estates for some six centuries.[7] Several were granted knighthood.

There are also multiple theories about the origin of the surname itself. There is an Anglo-Saxon word, denne, that refers to rough clearings made in woodlands to help move livestock from one pastureland to another. It is equally or perhaps even more likely that the name derives from the Norman French word, Dene, meaning “the Dane”, suggesting a Viking or Scandinavian origin for the family.

The oldest, unambiguous member of the Denne clan for purposes of this narrative is Walter Denne (1245-1280),[8] who probably represents the eighth generation in the line. He was a contemporary with King Edward I (1239-1307) but no details of his life have been preserved. Walter is Bonnie Jackson’s 20th great-grandfather.

A bit more is known about Walter Denne’s grandson, Sir William Denne (ca. 1305-1346). He was the owner of several manors and twice served in Parliament, representing Kent and Canterbury. He married Elizabeth de Gatton (ca. 1279-?), co-heiress of another Anglo-Norman land-owning dynasty in south-east England.

Richard Denne (ca. 1335-1391), William and Elizabeth’s son, was a loyal supporter of King Richard II (1367-1400) during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. He, too, married into landed family, taking as his bride Agnes Apuldrefield (ca. 1340-1376), whose ancestry was as long and noble as that of the Denne’s.

There were five more generations of Denne in the Jackson line until the marriage of Agnes Denne (1517-1588), Bonnie Jackson’s 12th great-grandmother, to Richard Austen (1512-1592) about 1536 (see Austen / Spry, below).

Hougham / Avranches

The Hougham lineage is included here because it links eventually to Margaret Solly (1550-1615), a verifiable Jackson ancestor. However, the relationships among the many generations preceding her are the most muddled of any in this document. So I include the following as much for historical interest recognizing that it may add little to the completeness of the Jackson/Billick family tree.

Hougham is another surname with a long history in Normandy and medieval England.[9] The family is thought to be offshoots of a noble d’Avranches family that ruled over this region in north-western France in the 11th century. That ancestry is somewhat speculative, however, and won’t be detailed here. Some histories also conjecture a Scandinavian ancestry for the family.[10]

The Hougham surname, the meaning being the same as Avranches —a home in a hilly place—, is part Norman and part Saxon: “hough” meaning “on a hill”, and “ham” meaning “home.” The earliest patriarch was Robert Hougham (ca. 1150-1230). He is Bonnie Jackson’s 23rd great grandfather. Born and died in the city of Dover, Robert participated with King Richard 1st “The Lion Heart” (1157-1199) in the Siege of Acre in Palestine during the Third Crusade. He was knighted and granted a deed to a manor house in the village of Boxley, in Kent.

A long line of Hougham’s –ten generations from the late 1100’s to the mid 1500’s– can be traced from the first Robert to the marriage of Margaret Hougham (1526-1556) to Stephen Solly (1520-1590), Bonnie’s 12th great-grandparents. They are the parents of Margaret Solly (1550-1615) who married into the Austen family (see immediately below).

The Solly surname is also of Anglo-Saxon origin with numerous variants like Sollye, Sollie, Sale, Sayle, etc. Margaret Solly’s ancestors all hailed from the village of Ash, in south-east England about ten miles east of Canterbury. Historical records provide unremarkable historical details about the Solly family. They held significant agricultural lands and eventually, by marriage, came to own a manor house as well.

Austen / Spry (Spray)

The Austen ancestors can be confidently traced back to Richard Austen (1398-1460), member of another aristocratic family of the Kent District. Many other relatives are documented but the Austen surname in very common and superficial records obscure precise relationships; nor do historical documents offer insights into the family’s involvement in 15th– and 16th-century society. The last Austen represented in the Jackson ancestral line was Valentine Austen (1547-1616), son of the above-mentioned Richard and Agnes. Born in Adisham near Canterbury, he married Margaret Solly (1550-1615), another Kent District blue-blood. No details are preserved about the couple, save the record of the twelve children they begat in scarcely more than twenty years. Birth dates show that Margaret gave birth every eighteen to twenty-four months between 1571 and 1593. The first child, Agnes Austen (1571-1613) married Walter John Spry (1568-?)Bonnie’s 10th great-grandfather— in 1589.

This is likely the aristocratic Spry (often Spray) clan of Cornwall that produced numerous notable figures in English history. Ancestors prior to John, however, are scantily documented so no further details will be recounted here. Walter and Agnes’ daughter, Anna Spry (1598-1624) wed William Hagar (1594-1675), whose lineage is described with the “First Massachusetts Settlers” page.


As will be seen below (“The Colonial Whitneys,” below), the Whitney family had a prominent role in Colonial America. But prior to 1635, the family had some 600 years of history in France and England. Originally of Norman origin, the first English ancestors took their name from the ancient village of Whitney-on-Wye, in Herefordshire, near the border with Wales. First was probably “Turstin the White” or Turstin the Fleming (ca. 1050-1081), one of the few proven companions of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings where he served as a flag-bearer.[11] The name Turstin is of Old Norse origin meaning “Thor’s stone.”[12] He is thought to have been born in the French commune of Bec-de-Mortagne, a bit north of Le Havre, across the English Channel from Brighton. In the Domesday Book, Whitney in Herefordshire is but one of many properties held by Turstin. Turstin’s wife, Agnes de Merleberge (ca. 1050-ca. 1100), was the daughter of another Norman warrior, Aluron de Marlborough (ca. 1020-?), a favorite of William the Conqueror and squire of numerous estates awarded him by the new King.

Turstin’s and Agnes’s son, Eustace Whitney (ca. 1080-ca. 1150), was the first to take the locale as his surname. He was Bonnie Jackson’s 25th great-grandfather. Whitney ancestors from the 12th through the 14th centuries –mostly with the given names Robert, Eustace or James—enjoyed the patronage of various English monarchs. They were knights, members of Parliament, sheriffs. But they were also an independent lot, living according to one historian “on the outer reaches of royal control,” maintaining their own small armies, and ruling over lands that were not part of England, not part of Wales. The Whitney estate grew to over 2,000 acres and was held by the family until 1893.

Common sources —Wikitree,, Geneanet,— for the early Whitney family trees are not in agreement about the generational relationships between the several Thurstin, Eustace and Robert Whitneys from the 11th through the 14th centuries; thus I won’t attempt a detailed family history here.[13] More reliable lineages begin with Eustace Whitney (ca. 1411/13-1468).

The last of the European Whitneys in the Jackson family tree was Thomas Whitney (1550-1637), Bonnie Jackson’s 10th great-grandfather, who was born and died in Westminster, along the River Thames. His great-great grandmother was Juliane Trussell (ca. 1410-1441) of the Trussells discussed earlier (“In the Beginning“).

It was Thomas’s son, John Whitney (1588-1673), who migrated to North America in 1635 and is considered one of the founding fathers of Watertown, Massachusetts (see “The Colonial Whitneys,” on the First Massachusetts Settlers page).


The Dutton story could well have been placed among the Norman ancestors since it seems that the oldest relatives hailed from 11th-century Normandy. However, those pre-Conquest relationships are tenuous, and the Dutton line has a very ancient pedigree in England.

The family patriarch was the Norman soldier, Odard de Cotentin (1046-1096),[14] one of five brothers in William the Conqueror’s contingent, each of whom was awarded land in the newly conquered isle. He is Bonnie Jackson’s 27th great-grandfather. Odard married into the blue-blooded English Dutton family, taking as his bride Lady Alice of Dutton (ca. 1060-ca. 1103).[15] The Duttons (in some Medieval texts written as Duntune) were already an ancient family at that time. Lady Alice’s and Odard’s son, Hugh FitzOdard Dutton (1086-ca. 1135), was born in Dutton in 1086. The “Fitz” portion of this surname comes from the Old French (fils) meaning “Son of,” signaling here Hugh’s father.

In 1127, Hugh wed Alice Picard (1105-1130), daughter of Nicholas Picard (1066-1160), a native of Cheshire (and another of Bonnie’s 27th great-grandads). Monsieur Picard[16] was also of mixed Norman and English blood. The family name appears on the afore-mentioned Battle Abbey Roll (see under “Trussell” on the In the Beginning page). Their son, Hugh Dutton II (1128-1154), may have been the first of the line to acquire the title Lord Dutton. Two subsequent Hugh Duttons contributed to the construction of the Norton Priory in Runcorn and the early versions of Dutton Manor. They also took as brides ladies from other noble families: Hugh Dutton III (1155-ca. 1185) married Isabel Massey (1155-1200) (see above); and, Hugh Dutton IV (1172-1234) wed Muriel Despenser (1181-1216) in 1211 (see below). These are all direct great-grandparents in the Jackson family. A final linking of ages-old families occurred with the marriage of Margaret Dutton (1237-1293) to Hugh Fitton (ca. 1220-1263) (see below).


This famous surname has many variants in medieval English records: Despenser, Le Despencer, Spencer, etc. Their ancestors are thought to have been among the Norman troops that invaded England in the fall of 1066. Unfortunately, the relationships among descendants has been unclear from very early on. The earliest patriarch of this Despencer line may have been the Norman Lord Hugh de Berges (ca. 1045-ca. 1086), Bonnie Jackson’s 28th great-grandfather. He was granted land in Leicestershire known as the village of Burton on the Wolds which was listed in the Domesday Book. His heirs continued to occupy properties there and in the nearby hamlet of Prestwold for many generations.

It’s important to point out that this familial line is not related to the more famous patriarch, Thurston le Despencer (ca. 1095-ca. 1181). Researchers have established this dichotomy, but genealogists often still link the two. So why the same surname? The name is a court title meaning “steward,” i.e., someone who managed a lord’s estate and household. Thus “as an occupational surname, Despenser/Spencer families would have originated in a range of different jurisdictions, and the possession of the shared surname is not an indication of genealogical relationship.”[17] It is probable that the De Berges family eventually took on such a role and by the time of Geoffrey also assumed the title/surname “Despenser.”

The Despenser surname leaves the Jackson line with the marriage of Hugh’s 3rd great-granddaughter, Muriel Despenser (1188-1216), to Hugh Dutton IV (1172-1234)Bonnie’s 23rd great-grandparents— around 1211.


Grosvenor is an ancient surname of Norman origin meaning “master of the hunt” or “great hunter” (le gros veneur in French). It is the longest running surname in the Jackson family lineage, persisting for sixteen generations from 1139 until 1663. During all those centuries, the family resided in the area of Cheshire, on the banks of the River Mersey. In the early 1400s the family moved its center to Eaton, when Ralph Grosvenor (1328-ca. 1356) of Hulme in Cheshire married Joan, the heiress of Eaton (Joan of Eaton, ca. 1310-ca. 1347). “From the fifteenth century onwards, the Grosvenor family steadily increased its landholdings, finances and status in the community. Particularly profitable from the 1580s onwards were the rents and royalties from mines of coal, stone and lead in North Wales.[18]

The first known member of this clan, and Bonnie Jackson’s 26th great-grandfather, was Gilbert Le Grosvenor (1139-1199), born in Budworth, an ancient city east of Liverpool. Gilbert was a relative, perhaps a nephew or grand-nephew, of William the Conqueror; and also a nephew of the D’Avranches family (see above).

Through the births of many Roberts and Ralphs, the surname persisted in the Jackson line for some seventeen generations and nearly 400 years. During these early years, one of the most illustrious representatives was Robert Grosvenor (1160-ca. 1230), Bonnie’s 25th great-grandfather, who fought with Richard the Lion Heart in the Third Crusade around 1190-1191.[19] The Grosvenor name falls from the Jackson lineage in 1610 with the marriage of Christina Grosvenor (1587-1663) to Peter Daniels (1584-1652) (see “Daniels,” on the Inland Migration page).

The family continued to grow in wealth and influence over the centuries and persists today as the Grosvenor Group, an international property management mega-company.

Fitton / Downes

Records document seven generations of Fittons in the Jackson ancestral line from 1234-1480. The first was Richard Fitton (ca. 1189-1246), born in Cheshire, England;[20] Bonnie’s 22nd great-grandfather. They were an aristocratic family of Anglo-Saxon origins that acquired titles and lands associated with the village of Gawsworth, some ten miles south of Manchester. Several of the Fittons were knighted and at times held rights to the Great Harwood Manor, about twenty miles north of Manchester. Richard’s granddaughter, Margaret Fitton (1255-?), wed Robert Downes (1238-1306), bringing into the Jackson lineage another old Cheshire family, with antecedents back at least two more generations.

The Downes family is said to have roots in the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Sussex.[21] The tribe first appears in civil documents in the 13th century wherein the above-mentioned Robert is recorded as a “forester” which in Medieval times meant keeping the lands suitable for hunting, mostly for venison; kind of like a game warden today.[22]

Thomas Fitton (ca. 1402-1449) wed Ellen Mainwaring (1404-1480), of the noble Mainwaring clan (see below). Their daughter, Johanna Fitton (1447-1480) (Bonnie’s 15th great-grandmother), married into the Grosvenor family around 1450.[23] The Fitton name grew in prominence throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and produced numerous famous and colorful characters in British history. Some historians claim Mary Fitton (1578-1647), was the infamous “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets.[24] She was also maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth I. Edward Fitton, “The Elder” (1527-79), was Provincial Governor of Ireland. Other Fittons include several cricketeers and soccer players, a Member of Parliament, a painter and a professional darts player.


The Pakington family has its roots among Anglo-Saxon clans in the Worcestershire region of England, south west of Birmingham. The surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin and appears in civil records as far back as 1043.[25] Although the oldest identifiable Jackson ancestor is David Pakington (1269-?), Bonnie Jackson’s 20th great-grandfather, it was an uncle in this line, Sir John Pakington (1477-1551), who brought the family into prominence. He became a powerful member of the court of Henry VIII and the owner of some thirty manor houses and estates.[26]

The Pakington name persisted for ten generations until Catherine Packington (1530-1564) married John Lambert (1520-1563) (Bonnie’s 11th great-grandfather) in 1549. Their daughter, Alice Lambert (1554-1620) became the bride of John Haynes, Senior (1550-1620) (see the story of the Hayneses below, on the Inland Migration page).


Marriages between the gentry and noble classes were common. As noted above, Margaret Despencer became the wife of Roger Wentworth. Gilbert Grosvenor’s 8th great-grandson, Robert Grosveneur (1433-1502), wed Johanna Fitton (1447-1480); Peter Daniels, Sr. (1554-1652) married Anna Cathrina Mainwaring (1556-1633); and Alice Lambert married John Haynes. These are but a few examples of intermarriages between the families listed here. Many more are not noted because they involve aunts and uncles outside the scope of the direct ancestry tracked here.

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[1] Variant spellings are legion, including: Maingwarin, Manwaring, Maynwarin, Maynwaring
[2] Recorded as “Ranulph de Mesnilgarin” in the Battle Abbey Roll.
[3] Reginald Mainwaring, Short History of the Mainwaring Family (London: Biblio Bazaar, LLC, 1868), chapter II.
[4] See Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 10, p. 271. The “House of Names” web site has a nice, concise summary of the surname (see
[5] There is a detailed Denne family history online at the Denne Genealogy page:
[6] If confidently traced, this would be Bonnie’s 30th (or so) great-grandfather.
[7] This region of SE England was famous for it many manors in the years immediately following the Conquest; one account says there were some 180 in Kent at the time of the Domesday Book inventory in 1080.
[8] Some histories call him William.
[9] In some documents, the surname is rendered as “Huffam” or “Houghhame.” A very early collection of medieval manuscripts called the Pipe Rolls of 1207 refers to one William de Huham in Kent and the Domesday Book of 1086 lists the parish of Hacham.
[10] This may be the most speculative of the ancestral trees covered here. There is not a lot of agreement among resources like Wikitree and I base my relationships on 1) “The Hougham/Huffman Family Tree” ( and 2) “Roy-Royes Family Links…” (
[11] There is even some reason to believe that Turstin is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, the very famous 11th-century cloth illustrating the events leading up to the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings.
[12] Variants include Tosteins, Thurstan, Thorstein, Tostain, and Turstin The Fleming de Wigmore.
[13] Indeed, there are many articles and books that attempt to chronicle the Whitney family history. A web site, the Whitney Research Group ( has thousands of contributors with references to scores of original source documents.
[14] Rendered variously as: Udard, Hodard and Hudard.
[15] Dutton is a village just southeast of Liverpool
[16] Also written as Pykarde and Pikard.
[17] “Spencer (surname).” In Wikipedia. Accessed 24 December 2019.
[18] “Grosvenor – Synopsis.” In British Dukedoms…. Accessed 25 December 2019.
[19] Cutter, William Richard, New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial… New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1914. Vol. IV, p. 645.
[20] Alternate spellings: Fytton, Phiton
[21] Known to exist as early as the 5th century, Sussex was one of the most populous English kingdoms at the time of the Norman Conquest.
[22] A “forester” might also be called a “woodward” and they a oversaw properties called “bailiwicks.”
[23] Not all genealogies agree on this provenance. Johanna is the 5th great-granddaughter of Hugh Fitton in the Downes/Fitton tree just above.
[24] She is but one of several candidates, however.
[25] Spelling variations include: Packington, Packintone, Pakyngton, etc.
[26] More details about Sir John Pakington can be found in Wikipedia.
{last update: 28-Feb-2020}

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