Tracing your ancestors back beyond the 1500s
Last names didn't come into common use until the 15th century, unless your family was royalty. My family wasn't. How do I know? Well, if we were, I would know, it's as simple as that. My family were common folk, you know, peasants. In England, my name might have been named with whichever Lord owned the land I lived on. For example, I might have been Brad of Nottingham. That was really all the information that would be needed to identify me - my name and where I lived. If I were royalty, I would still only go by my first name, such as King Arthur, but people would record my lineage, because without that, well, I wouldn't be royalty.
So those of you out there who know that you are descended from royalty can trace your ancestry back hundreds of years farther than I can. If you are English, you will start to get stuck in pre-Roman times, because while the written word had been used for thousands of years in other places of the world, Britons did not use a written language at that time. Everything was remembered by the elders, and with a system like that, information can get blurred pretty quickly. So, there are no written records of King Arthur, who would have lived in the 500s or 600s. But that doesn't mean that he didn't exist!
Posted by Brad Hall