Land wars, looting, fighting, murder, hangings, beheadings, illegitimate births, divorces, adultery, feuds, alliances, royalty, poverty, fierce loyalty, deeply feared and dearly beloved, all have their place in our Gordon ancestry.
Our quest now is to figure out where we fit into this fractious family. It seems that there are actually two main branches of the Gordons that most of the history books are chronicling. Most histories agree on the beginning Gordon as Adam who had sons, Richard of Gordon and Adam of Huntley. Both lines continue down until the 1200's when Richard's daughter, Alicia, married Adam's son, Adam. The line follows with Adam who d. 1296 at Dunbar, then his son, Adam, had 2 sons, Adam and William. Adam's line went on to become the Ducal Gordon line and resided mainly in North Scotland, while William became William of Stitchel and resided mainly in theSouth of Scotland. This would have gone on well and good with the Gordon inheritance passing from father to son for centuries. BUT, it seems that Sir Adam's son, John had 2 sons, Sir John who d. in 1394 and Sir Adam who was killed at Homildon Hill in 1402. Sir John had never expected to inherit and so had married Elizabeth Cruikshank in a "handfasting" marriage and had 2 sons, John (Jock or Jack) and Thomas (Tam or Thom). When Sir Adam was killed he had only a daughter, Elizabeth, to inherit. She successfully challenged the old custom of only males inheriting and was helped greatly by the fact that Jock and Tam were product of a "handfasting marriage" which was beginning to be unacceptable for both church and law. She basically had them declared illegitimate!
Now, in order for her to inherit, she had to agree to marry a male of Gordon blood who would agree to carry the Gordon name for himself as well as his heirs. She wasted no time in marrying Alexander Seton of Winton, their line becoming the Seton-Gordons. We are fortunate to have a proven descendant of this line in our test group to validate our own testing. This family, while not as large in numbers as the family of Jock and Tam is just as prominent in our research of the ancestral Gordon lines.
Whether Jock and Tam were actually illegitimate is under great dispute. The most convincing evidence of their legitimacy is they carried his armorial bearing into battle, which was not done lightly and were at his side in all activities. Further, all their descendants carried the ancient Coat of Arms with no mark of illegitimacy. Therefore they probably were of a "handfasting" marriage, a custom which was accepted at that time.
Today, Jock and Tam's descendants greatly outnumber any other Gordon descendants in Scotland and Ireland. They are known to have settled in many areas where our testers from the Adam de Gordon group believe their ancestors lived. In fact, the testing proves that many of those early history researchers were right, but it also proves some were wrong. We need to carefully document our findings as now we have scientific proof to back us up.
So, how do we get all these names and variations of our DNA results? Just as we have seen in history throughout the times, land and power are the driving forces behind many marriages and alliances. Marriages were made and battles were won over land and property. Usually the name came from the place name, such as the Gight Gordons, or sometimes from a maiden name such as Sutherland Gordons. Also as in the Sutherland Gordons, the head of the family may demand that the subject family use the Gordon name and arms, which they did for 200 years until a Sutherland silenced the Huntley Gordon by using the argument that he should declare himself a Seton. From time to time, a son may decide to use his mother's name in order to inherit property that would have belonged to her family. There's also a little matter of earlier times when families were encouraged to take the name Gordon in order to expand their holdings. The "fee" for taking the Gordon name was a Bow a' Meal, hence the name Bow a' Meal Gordons. See, we have lots of avenues for our research!
I have charted out the Gordon lines for your use and would like anyone who has Gordon history books that can do look ups to let me know so that we can post them on the website.
Tentative Table Showing the Chief Branches of the Gordons in Northern Scotland
The Laird of Gordon
(Chart by Janice McGough)