Somerset DNA (Linton and Relatives)

Somerset is a beautiful county in South West England. In the north are the Mendip Hills running east-west the home of Cheddar Cheese. South of this are lowlands just above sea level, known as the Levels which flood not for weeks but months at a time. Travel is therefore difficult and knowing the routes is very important. Despite the drainage being improved over the centuries last winter this area was closed for months. South again from the flood plain is a broken ridge running from Curry Mallet in an easterly direction through Curry Rivel, Langport, Somerton, Lovington to Castle Cary which itself sits at the end of another higher ridge running to the south. Finally due north of Castle Cary is the town of Shepton Mallet.

Somerset produces not only Cheddar Cheese and apples for cider, but rare male chromosome readings from DNA group i1.  This DNA is characterised by 459=9-9, 464d=17, 460=11 GATA H4=9, 607=13. This unusual sequence seems to be limited to a small number of Somerset names Pyke, Perkins, Ward, Norman, Newport, Newberry,  Pounds and Linton who all derive from a common ancestor. One of these names can be dropped as Newberry descends from a Pike ancestor. Two additional names have to be added where there has been a multiple deletion at 464d which has gone from 17 down to 12 in one mutation. This means that at 464 rather than the rare 12-14-15-17 there is the even rarer 12-12-14-15. The two names are Magee and a further Ward hereafter referred to as Ward 2.

Three of the names derive from the leading Norman families in post conquest Somerset. Mallet pronounced with a silent t gives rise to Magee and slightly later in time Pointz gives rise to Pounds and Warre gives rise to Ward. Two of the names originate from Somerset place names. Newport is a manor  between Curry Mallet and North Curry. There is plenty of water in Newport but you won’t find the sea and there is no port. Port here as in Langport, does not mean a seaside port. It derives from the French words meaning a door or to carry which give us the English words porter and transportation. Port is therefore a route or a way. Langport means a long port/way/route, Newport means a new route. Near Newport is a road called Old Way. The Newport was an attempt to create a new shorter route from the south through Curry Mallet and the flood prone area which now bears the name Newport to the important hundred village of North Curry about 1190AD. There was probably some earth or wooden trackway constructed in the Newport area to allow at least foot traffic and cattle to get through. There seems to have been a settlement on land owned by Wells Cathedral. Because Newport is really a road going through Curry Mallet through Newport to North Curry the surname could derive from anywhere along that road not just what is now called Newport. The obvious derivation is that the name was assumed by the person that owned the route and they were probably from Curry Mallet the main beneficiary of the new port, indeed given the date 1190, the person was most likely a Mallet.

Langdon, Langton and Linton are surnames that share a common origin. When Somerset was settled by the Saxons in the early Middle Ages hills acquired the Saxon word ‘don’ or ‘down’ meaning a long ridge, it was a Lange Don. A similar sounding word was ton which is an element in both Somerton and Lovington. Ton eventually gave us the word town but in Saxon times meant any small settlement. A small settlement at a Langdon came to be called Langton even though it wasn’t necessarily a long-ton but just a few basic houses. The settlement name might drift between Langdon and Langton, there isn’t much difference between the names. Indeed during the following centuries the name would drift further to a variety of forms including Linton, Lanton, Landon and Langston. It is frequently said that lin as in Lindon derives from the welsh lyn meaning lake, but it doesn’t. By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 the Somerset settlement was probably pronounced something like Lungt’n. However the French speaking Norman settlers had great trouble saying this word. The –u sound was difficult and as for the collection of consonants –ngt that was just impossible. Having visited France I know the French still can’t say Langton and say something like linteu. What happened was the awkward –u sound was replaced by a soft –v as in Voila! The –g was dropped and the Domesday Book entry in 1086 reads Lovintune, which today is Lovington below Castle Cary. This is where the name Linton derives from being the non –v version of the name. Lovington looks up to Castle Cary which sits on the Lange-don. So Langdon, Langton, Linton and Lovington are all the same word. Linton even produces a number of rare surname variants in the surrounding area, Lintern, Mintern, Leavington, Lintell, Linteen and Litton.

Another two or three of the names carry ethnic information. Norman means that the people that carry this sequence including 459=9-9  were not unsurprisingly Norman, they arrived in 1066 or soon after as part of the post conquest military settlement. However Norman needs to be understood as a broad term as applying to anyone in the victorious army, not necessarily as being from Normandy. The other name is more definite, Pyke/Pike, these people came from Picardy the area immediately to the north of Normandy, they were Pickards. Perkins and perhaps Perry may well be a derivative of this and the origin is reflected in other local surnames Pittard and Pinkard.

Poyntz were lords of Curry Rivel and one branch that relocated to Iron Acton in Gloucestershire were patrons of William Tyndale the translator of the English Bible and they also gave Henry VIII and Anne Boelyn somewhere to lay their heads, that is whilst Anne still had hers. Ward occurs in two different genetic strands one with 464=12-14-15-17, the other with 12-12-14-15. In the early Middle Ages name changes often occurred if a man married an heiress or wanted to identify with a more prominent family. In one or both of these Ward cases the adopting of the bride’s Warre name looks probable.

464=12-14-15-17 is rare, but the sequence 12-12-14-15 is even rarer. Two names have this rarer sequence but in other respects seem to match the rest of the group, the names are Ward and Magee. These two have a common ancestor as they share unusual mutations. It looks as if at 464d there was a multiple deletion of 5 from 17 down to 12, so that 12-14-15-17 became 12-14-15-12 or to rearrange it 12-12-14-15. In this case also there would be greater certainty with 111 markers. So although at first glance these two look as if they don’t belong in fact they do. Magee is often mistakenly thought of as a Scottish name where in fact it most frequently occurs in the north of England. In this case Magee has nothing to do with the North or Scotland, it occasionally occurs in Somerset. Mallet as in Curry Mallet and Shepton Mallet is a French Name and in its original form the –t is silent pronounced Malee. Magee is a drift from this and was originally Malee/Mallet.    

The final mutation of the distinctive five markers was an addition at 459 from 8-9 up to 9-9. The Somerset area contains names with similar sequences which do not have the mutation. There are 459=8-9 Normans who match with the name Blanscett. There is Newberry, Dunham, Hull, Hall, Ham, Gilbert, Early and other local names. This suggests that the 459=9-9 settlement of an individual in Somerset or a group of closely related men was part of a wider migration from  Northern France in 1066.

Copyright David Langton All Rights reserved 11th December 2013

Test results reviewed are from FTDNA the world leader in genetic testing.