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The DNA of Magna Carta II – Sheriff William Mallet of Somerset


This article should be read in the context of previous articles posted on Lost Langtons specifically Somerset DNA (Linton and Relatives) and Somerset Lintons II

William Mallet was one of the twenty five barons empowered by Magna Carta to overrule King John. The men of Somerset and Dorset paid King John to have their local man William Mallet made sheriff and get rid of the existing royal favourite William Brewer. William Mallet’s land spread around a flood prone area known as the Somerset Levels, which even today can quickly become impassable. The Mallet family owned this land in 1155AD and probably earlier, sufficient time for the Mallet name to become attached to three settlements Curry Mallet, Shepton Mallet and Sutton Mallet. This was not of course the full extent of their holdings. It was not just their surname that the Mallets deposited in Somerset they left behind their Y chromosome DNA as well. This is slightly surprising as shortly after Magna Carta was sealed in 1215AD William died leaving only daughters as heiresses. That was the end of the Mallet family’s prominence in Somerset.


The Visitation of Gloucestershire 1623 records, albeit four hundred years later that the Mallet heiress Helewise married Sir Hugh Pointz, another rebel against King John, who thus inherited Curry Mallet. From then on the most advantageous surname to possess in Somerset was Pointz, although later the Warre family became prominent.

The greater length of time DNA is in an area the more opportunity it has to multiply and the more difficult it becomes to distinguish a sequence from the multitude of similar readings. The main genetic group in England R1b has been present longer than the next most populous group i1 which is associated with Vikings and Normans. Whilst i1 is less dense than R1b it is still very confusing. However just occasionally there can be a mathematically unlikely run of mutations which is very distinctive. This is rather like being dealt a lot of picture cards in a game of cards. Statistically it doesn’t happen very often but it does happen and the player is delighted to see it.

Within the common i1 grouping there is a collection of distinctive test results with unusual readings DYS 459=9-9, DYS 464=12-14-16-17 (or the mutated 12-12-14-15), DYS 460=11, Y-GATA H4=9, DYS 607=13. This is very definitive and the people with these test results are all related in the male Y chromosome line. A statistical estimate of their common ancestor is roughly a thousand years.


Once the surnames are taken into account interesting patterns emerge. Three of the names are similar to the three great Norman families of the area surrounding the Somerset levels Mallet, Pointz/Points and Warre are represented by Magee, Pounds and Ward. Two of the names are place names Newport a manor near Curry Mallet and Linton/Lintern which is Lovington as the Normans would have said or Louintune as the Domesday Book records. The name in turn derives from the long ridge to the east, in Anglo-Saxon a Lang-don with the settlement below it a Lang-ton. Sitting on top of the ridge is Castle Cary where the original Norman, Walter of Douai built his castle. The administrative district known as a hundred which encompassed the hill is recorded in Domesday as the French sounding Blanchethorna, probably a clumsy attempt to record the impossible to pronounce Langeton/Louintune. Doubtless the hill did have white thorn trees on it as well. Not surprisingly the name soon got dropped.


The remaining two names are ethnic ones Norman and Pyke/Perkins. The ethnic composition of William the Conquerer’s Normans is interesting for they were not all Normans. Norman came to be used in a rather loose collective way for all the invaders. In Somerset not only were there Normans in the strict sense of the word there were Picards and Flemings. Walter of Douai in Castle Cary was not really Norman but Flemish. Pyke/Perkins looks suspiciously like Picard and indeed the form Pinkard survives in Somerset. The obvious conclusion is that Norman is used loosely here and therefore this DNA originates slightly further north in Picardy, Northern France.


In a similar way whilst not entirely impossible it is difficult to see how Mallet, Poyntz and Warre can all lay claim to being the original name, one would think that only one of them could be, so which one is it? Helpfully two Wards have tested one from the DYS464 = 12-12-14-15 subgroup, the other with the alternative reading 12-14-15-17. Other members of the group are closer to them than they are to each other. It looks like there has been a double somewhat late adoption of the prestigious Warre name. This indicates that the later prominent names are the adopted names and the earliest famous name is the original. In which case, the original name for this DNA in Somerset was Mallet.


The Mallet representative of this line is however called Magee not Mallett and Magee is a Lancastrian name from North East England, to conclude that Mallet in Somerset drifted to Magee there would need to be Magees in Somerset today. There are indeed Magees in Somerset and there is also the almost uniquely Somerset surname Male which may well derive from Mallett. It would be really good if we had more test results.


This DNA is found in Somerset, this group of names can all be found in Somerset and as a group they are not found anywhere else that I can discover. The ethnic origin seems to be Picardy and the original surname was Mallet. This group of people with their common Y chromosome possess the DNA of one of the twenty five barons, William Mallet. His DNA belongs to the i1 group most common in southern Scandinavia but also common in coastal areas of France and Belgium due to Viking settlement.


Mallet is a very common name all over France and there were probably several different Mallets that took part in the Norman Invasion. There was a Mallet family in the neighbouring county of Devon that seems to belong to DNA group R1b but the two families cannot be related although the heraldic shield of buckles from Devon has erroneously been ascribed to the Somerset family.

The conclusion that descendants of William Mallets family in the Y chromosome line survive and can be identified is surprising. Local records show that William Mallet was descended from two or three earlier William Mallets in Somerset. It is from these earlier William Mallets that the identified y chromosome group descend or perhaps earlier Mallets still.


William Mallet’s father was not the royal official Gilbert Mallet and he was not descended from the crusader Robert Mallet. That Mallet was group i1 is not earth shattering. The age and geographical location of this group seem to me to be robust. One could make out alternative arguments that the original Pointz and the original Mallet were brothers or cousins at the Battle of Hastings and were given land in the same area. Again one could argue that the original name was Pointz not Mallet but to me the most obvious conclusion is that this is the DNA of William Mallet one of the 25 barons of Magna Carta.


The DNA of William Mallet began 13 22 14 10 13-14 11 14 11 12 11 28 14 9-9 8 11 23 16 20 29 12-12-14-15


Copyright David Langton 3 May 2015 All rights reserved


All test results are from the leading genetic company Family Tree DNA. The conclusions drawn from the tests are entirely mine and not in any way the conclusions of FTDNA. For genetic testing I recommend FTDNA.