Sinclair DNA Caithness Z346

Hay, Saint-Clair, and the Origins of the Roslin Sinclairs

By Brian Dreadon

Get the latest on our U106 Lineage
at our Sinclair DNA blog

Father Hay and Roland Saint Clair did not arrive at different conclusions about the origin of the Roslin St Clair family.

The confusion probably comes about through the editing and presentation of Hay's book which does not make it obvious when the relating of van Bassan's genealogy ends, and where Hay's commentary starts. But when read carefully there is no conflict between Hay and Roland St Clair. Hay rejected the fanciful genealogy written by van Bassan. That is clear when you read page 34 of Hay's edited book of 1835:
"All what is above recorded by the genealogists doth not agree with the Evidences, Historys, Registers, and other private memoirs I have found in Gentlemen's hands."

If that is not clear enough Hay adds on page 173, "The foregoing pedegrees .... require a particular examine, being framed by one Van Bassan, a Dane, who understood not our printed historys, and had not knowledge enough of our manuscripts and charters."

This also gives a lie to the often quoted line that Hay's genealogy is based on documents now lost. As Hay didn't support van Bassan and van Bassan's genealogy was not based on any known documents - nothing has been lost! (The fire and the lost charter from the king is a debate of later centuries about St Clair of Roslin patronage of the masons)

On page 34 of Hay's genealogy, Hay immediately goes on to give a short summary of the possibly ancestry of the Roslin St Clairs. He comments there are several places named St Clair in France and itemises St Clair-sur-Epte and St Clair near Moncontour. Hay then mentions the St Clairs who came to England with William the Conqueror, "proving" that various St Clairs were established early in England.

Following those comments Hay then devotes the last third of page 34 to Robert Earl of Dreux and his daughter Elenor who married Robert de St Clair-sur-Epte. Note that this is the ONLY alternative suggestion Hay makes after rejecting the unsupported genealogies of van Bassan. Hay then starts to list the documents that are evidence of the St Clairs settled in Scotland - the first of which is St Clair of Herdmanston.

Roland St Clair's book on page 279 then takes up Hay's suggestion of Robert de St Clair sur Epte and his wife Eleanor de Dreux for the ancestry of the Roslin St Clairs. Roland labels it "the best theory" and explains it in more detail - suppying a chart illustrating that family's relationships to the Scottish royal family on page 277. On pages 279-80 Roland Saint Clair even takes care to explain how the events within the life of William St Clair the first of Roslin, had been utilised when creating the fictitious story of William 'the seemly" St Clair of 200 years earlier.

So Hay raises the possible descent from Robert de St Clair-sur-Epte and Eleanor de Dreux, and Roland Saint Clair endorses it with more detail. Both Hay and Roland Saintclair rejected van Bassan's descent from William "the seemly" St Clair and the Normans. Therefore it can't be said that they reached different conclusions about the origins of the St Clair family of Roslin.

'No-one is sure who Henry of Roslin was".

It is well evidenced that William St Clair the 1st of Roslin married Henry's daughter Amicia de Roscelyn.
For our purposes here I don't think it particularly matters who the "de Roscelyn" family were, as this is not the male St Clair ancestral line.

But anyway, the reason why Henry de Roscelyn's identity is often questioned seems to originate from a misreading of Hay's Genealogies. Hay gives several charters demonstrating that there were others of the "de Roslin" name in Scotland at a similar time.

On page 37 "As for Roslin, it was not in the Saintclair's hands till that King's time att soonest, for in thebeginning of his reigne, I find Thomas de Roslyn witness to a charter ....., and Roger of Roslin is witness to several charters..." Then on page 41. "Henry of Roslin resigns his lands to Alexander the second or third, which are disponed in favour of William Saintclair. Whether this Henry was of the same surname or not, I cannot determine till further inquiry."

Hay was asking whether Thomas and Roger de Roslin were from the same family as Henry de Roscelyn, but didn't go on to answer his own question. It is just that the distance between page 37 and 41 obscures that context. Despite the proximity of the names within the text, Hay WASN"T asking whether Henry de Roscelyn might have been of the same surname as William Saintclair. There is no similarity between the names of Roslin and St Clair and no reason why he would ask that question.

(A reading of the charters with "de Roslin" witnesses shows that a number of similar names also occur within St Clair charters and a reasonable inference might be that the "de Roslins" were all from the same extended "de Roscelyn" family, despite the different spellings. Therefore it could be concluded that the "de Roscelyns" were an established family in Scotland).

Thurso descent from the Salian Franks

If the Caithness DNA lineage points toward the Salian Franks, then it might be interesting to compare that result with the most plausible St Clair of Roslin ancestry suggested by Father Hay and supported by Roland Saintclair.

Robert de St Clair -sur-Epte who married Eleanor de Dreux in 1230 was from the de Chaumont family of Vexin in Northern France. The male line of the de Chaumonts is well enough documented in French genealogical circles and goes back through 7-8 generations of seigneurs de Chaumont to a descent from the de Chaumont counts of Vexin. The earliest de Chaumont descent is from Geoffrey 1st seigneur de Chaumont, a son of Gautier Count of Vexin, Valois, Amiens etc.

Count Gautier (Walter) of Vexin who died in 998 was the son of Raoul de Guoy whose father's identity is a hotly debated genealogical topic of the last few decades. Because of his inheritance of Vexin lands Raoul's father is arguably Theoderic Nibelung, with a descent that runs directly back through several Nibelung generations to the Carolingian Franks and to Pepin de Heristal the male line great grandfather of Charlemage himself. Frankish to the core.

If, as argued by others, Raoul de Guoy's father was Hucbald of Ostrevant, then a Frankish descent is not so readily confirmed but still very likely. Ostrevant is in the very North of France and its position in southern Flanders saw it within the Francia earlier controlled by Clovis of the Franks. The best guess is that Hucbald too would be descended from the Frankish ruling families.

So, quite independently of your DNA research, the plausible male line ancestry of the St Clair sur Epte family in Vexin Northern France, might go back to the Carolingian Franks who replaced the Merovingian Kings - or at least to the ruling families within the Franks at the time of the Carolingians. The Carolingians are said to be of Riparian Frank origin and the Merovingian line from the Salian Franks, although the historical boundaries between the two Frankish groups do seem blurred and arbitrary.

In other words - the DNA results and most plausible documented genealogy for the St Clairs of Roslin are a reasonable match. If I am reading your Caithness DNA origin commentary correctly?


Brian L. Dreadon is a genealogist and author of "Driden - Dryden - Dreadon, The History & Mysteries of a Family Name," Ashby Russe Books, 2013 ISBN 978 0 473 23694 6

He has also sent me a genealogy entitled "Family tree for St Clair of Driden, A cadet of St Clair of Roslin, superior lords of Driden within the St Clair of Roslin estates," Compiled by Brian L. Dreadon 2012



AMH  |  Germany  |  DYS390=25  |  DYS390=23  |  S21-U106  |  Anglo-Saxon Visigoths  
E1b  |  I1  |  R1a  |  CCR5-Delta-32  |  Mutation Rates  |  Lineage Smugness

Home  |  Contact  |  Join Google Discussion Group