I’m told by many of the blog’s followers that they have traced their ancestry back to the Middle Ages and some are sure they have identified Templar ancestors.
For my part, I’m addicted to Ancestry.com and have managed to link up with several of my Irish-American long lost cousins. This year, I went with two third cousins I’d never met before to see the musical Hamilton in London and share our family knowledge over dinner.
They were grandchildren of my great grandmother’s sister who left county Tyrone in Ireland to marry a grocer from Connecticut. She never returned to the old country and died in Arizona aged over 100 in the 1980s. So, I know the power and awesomeness of Ancestry.com
Which brings me to what tools are available if you want to find any Templar ancestors. The first step for any American today is to find out where your family came from in Europe. Ancestry.com or other family tree websites should hopefully get you back a century or two to establish that. Then the fun starts!
Ireland is problematic because Catholic church records weren’t so good before the 1820s; many records were lost forever when the Custom House in Dublin was burnt down in 1921 by Irish Republicans (including a cousin of mine!) and of course names may have been recorded in Gaelic and not English. So, check out different spellings and anglicising of ancient Irish names.
Services like Irishgenealogy.ie and nidirect.gov.uk (for Northern Ireland) will help enormously. And read this helpful article in the Irish Times. Also search Ireland’s National Archives online. You will most likely find a Templar antecedent if your family were of Anglo-Norman stock as opposed to pure indigenous Irish. The Templars were basically part of the invading Norman forces, though there may have been local recruits.
For the United Kingdom, birth, marriage and death certificates are held by the General Register Office. But your best bet as you go back beyond the 19th century is going to be local parish records. Therefore, you need to find out where your family was from and pester the local church or council to find where the records are kept and if your family features. The National Archives have court documents going back to the medieval period but no family records, like birth and death certificates.
If you manage to get back to the Middle Ages, then check out medievalsoldier.org Incredibly, the medieval authorities kept very detailed records of peasants enrolling as soldiers in the wars between England and France between 1369 and 1453. There is also data on individuals who fought in England’s wars against the Welsh, Irish and Spanish.
Medieval people sued each other, joined guilds and were contractually bound as apprentices. This kind of very valuable information has been kept by London’s Livery Companies (ancient trade associations) and they have now pooled their data on the London Roll website, otherwise referred to as ROLLCO. The rolls, incidentally, are literally rolled up parchments with details of transactions, court rulings, etc.
Wills and land transfers will help you trace Templar era relatives so try medievalgenealogy.org.uk where there are probate and manorial records galore. There are also details of church monuments that might give you useful clues.
As I’ve found with my Irish ancestors, the spelling of names goes all over the place from one century to the next. Census takers often didn’t seem to bother getting the name spelt correctly or couldn’t spell very well or there are linguistic factors. Your family might have had a French Norman name that confused a Saxon scribe. Check out variations in documents like the Domesday Book and through your own detailed research.
To make the Templar connection, find out if your family’s origin was in a place where the Templars had an estate. Helpfully in the UK, the clue is in the names of villages and towns like Templecombe (county of Somerset) and Temple Meads (city of Bristol). But….Temple Grafton in Warwickshire has no obvious Templar link – so beware.
In Scotland, the Templar headquarters were at a place called Balantrodoch, just outside the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. And of course, you’ve all heard of Rosslyn, home of the chapel made ultra-famous by Dan Brown. One service you can use to trace Scottish links is ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk
Good luck with your hunting and I’m keen for you to share your experience of tracking down Templar ancestors – so share your discoveries!