v3.0. Updated 12 May 2016
MEDIEVAL LANDS - INTRODUCTION
Medieval Lands is an on-going European medieval history project which was started in 2006. The third edition is now available here on the website of the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.
In this work, the families of rulers and nobility in more than 180 geographical and political entities in medieval Europe, North Africa and western Asia are being reconstructed from scratch. Outline tables on royal and noble families presented in published secondary works, such as the Europäische Stammtafeln series, have provided the basic informational framework into which data from primary sources has been incorporated. The ultimate objective is to verify and correct all secondary source data against primary source material and supplement it with accurate historical background information. The project is on-going, but the eventual result will be a complete encyclopaedia of accurate and reliable historical information which will benefit all medieval historians, professional and amateur.
Medieval Lands represents a new approach to the presentation of royal and noble families, and the historical context in which they lived. Most existing published works in the field have two important drawbacks. Firstly, the information, even if complete, is usually limited to dates and outline relationships. Secondly, information is copied from previously published secondary works without adequate verification against primary sources: connections which started life as speculative have been transformed into apparent certainty and errors perpetuated. The problems are understandable. In the case of works published in traditional printed format, there is insufficient space to record more than basic information. So far as verification of data is concerned, the task is monumental if attempted on a Europe-wide scale and until now has only been tackled by specialist works dealing with specific families or precise geographic locations.
Medieval Lands covers the whole of Europe as well as those parts of Asia and North Africa which impacted the development of European civilisation, for example Georgia and Armenia, the Crusader states, the Turkish emirates, the Caliphate, and the Mongol Empire. The information is presented within a territorial structure, contrasting with the family-based approach usually adopted by works in this field. The Medieval Lands project is about the history and development of medieval territories, not just family history. This territorial approach enables attention to be concentrated on how each area evolved in the context of the families which guided its development. In addition, the broad scope of the project allows innovative comparative conclusions to be drawn about the different ways in which the role and influence of the nobility evolved in different parts of the continent. Grouping by geographic location also serves to highlight the extent of intra-territorial contact between local noble families and provides a basis for further study on many other matters of interest, including the extent of intra- and inter-territorial marriages, the acquisition and transmission of lordships within families, and the importance of family relationships to the development of local political power.
The documents within Medieval Lands are structured within ten broad geographical categories: Balkans & Eastern Europe, British Isles, Eastern Mediterranean & Asia, France, Germany, Iberia, Italy, Poland & Baltic States, Russia, and Scandinavia. Documents within each category are further sub-grouped geographically by region. In many cases, the documents dealing with a particular territory are linked in pairs, one document showing the families of the rulers of the territory, the other those of the prominent nobles who lived in the same area. For instance, the document "BAVARIA, DUKES" shows the families of the ten different dynasties of dukes of Bavaria, while "BAVARIA, NOBILITY" sets out details of other Bavarian noble families. This serves to highlight the extent of the influence of the nobility on the rulers in each territory, and vice versa, as well as the cohesive nature of the noble class within that area.
All the documents are fully indexed in the INDEX document. They can also be accessed quickly by means of the drop-down menu bar which floats at the right of each web-page, designed by the FMG. If the sphere of activity of a family moved from one geographical territory to another, the presentation of that family shifts to the other corresponding document, hyperlinked from the first document. By way of illustration, the origins of the Welf dynasty are shown in the document "SWABIA, NOBILITY", indicating the German province in which the family first rose to prominence. The Welf family moves to "BAVARIA, DUKES" after they received the dukedom of that territory, and again to "SAXONY, DUKES & ELECTORS" after they lost Bavaria and were appointed dukes of Saxony. Lastly, their descendants are shown in "BRUNSWICK" after their power was limited to that dukedom. These moves underline the importance of the geographical structure of the research, but are easy to follow by using the hyperlinks. The database is fully searchable by name or keyword using Google.
The process used in compiling Medieval Lands involves extracting and analysing information from a wide variety of primary sources, including contemporary chronicles, cartularies, necrologies and testaments. Analysis has been assisted by using Excel spreadsheets for recording and sorting material, which has proved particularly useful for the early charters of Anglo-Saxon England and the Spanish kingdoms, two cases where variations in spelling in a morass of names present obstacles to the correct identification and linking of individuals. Information extracted from primary sources is presented on a "full text" basis, including in most cases quotes in the original language (mainly Latin, but also, for example, medieval French and German for later sources). Translation has not usually been attempted, to avoid misinterpretation. This systematic approach is fundamental to the reconstruction of the mini-biographies of each individual. It also facilitates comparison of different sources consulted, and enables better judgment to be applied before proposing conclusions where information in different sources is contradictory. Where the same facts are repeated in different sources, these have not normally been duplicated unless they help provide corroboration in cases of conflict or a better picture of the chronology of the lives of the individuals concerned.
The results of the research are presented as narrative outline genealogies, broken down into small family sub-groups. Marriages and other connections between families are hyperlinked to enable easy navigation between different documents. The period covered is the thousand years between the years 500 and 1500, although more attention has been given to analysing primary source material for the period until about 1300. Each document includes an Introduction which provides a commentary on the results presented, summarises important background information about the development of the territory concerned in the context of its ruling families, and highlights comparisons with other territories where instructive.
Medieval Lands aims to present full background material and arguments to explain the basis for postulating relationships. Where a connection is doubtful, the reasoning is discussed in the context of the available source material. Doubtful connections are shown in square brackets. In the case of well-known historical figures, summaries of their careers have been added to place them in their proper historical context. The biographical details are brief. The purpose is not to repeat detailed information which is widely available elsewhere, but to shed light on the lives of lesser-known members of each family.
It must be emphasised that many areas still remain to be checked as the research is still incomplete. When consulting the documents, it should be assumed that any information which does not include references to primary source material falls into this category and should therefore be treated with the appropriate caution.
One further point is important to emphasise: what Medieval Lands provides is a record that "source X" says "Y". The project is not necessarily taking the next step of concluding that "Y" is therefore factually correct. Given the nature of the sources with which we are dealing in the medieval period, and the various different purposes for which those sources were compiled, the drawing of such conclusions would not always be appropriate.
The "back-to-basics" approach to primary source material has produced many surprises. It has enabled numerous new discoveries to be made and many challenges to traditionally accepted family relationships to be proposed. By way of example, browse for Æthelberht King of Wessex (ENGLAND, ANGLO-SAXON and DANISH KINGS) and the wives of Péter Orseolo King of Hungary (HUNGARY, KINGS). The approach has also highlighted many cases where little supporting source material has so far been found, despite extensive research, indicating the possibly dubious nature of some supposed connections.
The aim is to show all known descendants of noble families in the male line, including children who died young. Also shown are known illegitimate children, as well as children of morganatic or private marriages. Descent is shown in the male line in each document, the female lines being traceable to other documents by following the hyperlinks. Descent in the female line is shown by exception in some documents, either because the main title of the family was so transmitted, or where an individual, whose own family is not set out elsewhere, played an important role in the history of the territory concerned.
Information from a wide range of primary sources has been checked and incorporated into Medieval Lands. Source citations are included in the end-notes to each document. The BIBLIOGRAPHY document shows abbreviations used and provides a combined listing of the most widely used sources, although sources used in a limited number of documents have not been duplicated to avoid the document becoming too unwieldy. The range of sources used has resulted in a dramatic expansion in the amount of research results, which are now only suited to publication in electronic format.
The ever-increasing availability of source material on the internet, or in CD-Rom format, has been essential to the success of the project and has enabled most research to be done from home. Worthy of particular mention are the digital Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, produced by MGH in conjunction with the Bavarian State Library in Munich, the Gallica website of the French National Library, and of course Google Books and Internet Archive whose coverage is expanding all the time. Many other web-based databases with more limited coverage have also been used, for example the State Archives of Turin which provide extracts of documents relevant to the family of the counts of Savoy, and the New Regesta Regum Anglorum which publishes on-line translations of the royal diplomas of Anglo-Saxon England. The Editions en ligne de l'Ecole de Chartes provides an expanding collection of French cartularies, mainly from the Paris region. The Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal is also expanding its coverage of digitised published primary source material. Extensive material is also available on CD-Rom: the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire produced by King's College, London has been of vital importance in researching the families of the early Byzantine emperors, and many German primary sources are included in an easily searchable format on the two CDs produced by the Berlin-based publisher Heptagon. Other sources, as yet available only in hard copy, have been consulted in the library of the Institute of Historical Research in London, their on-line catalogue being of immense benefit when planning visits.
It is hoped that Medieval Lands will be of use and interest to a wide audience, and will inspire others to undertake further work in areas which have so far received only limited coverage. The author would be interested in serious offers of collaboration to improve coverage of particular areas, and of course also welcomes all comments and corrections. These can be submitted through the "Feedback" link on the Medieval Lands home page. The one proviso for submissions is that the current format for presentation of results, arrived at after a long process of trial and error, should be followed. Submissions will be acknowledged in the end-notes to the documents if contributors so desire.
The information in Medieval Lands is displayed in narrative rather than tabular format. Each document is divided into Chapters which deal with the different families whose history is connected with the territory in question. Each Chapter is further divided into sub-parts where this is helpful for clarity. Within each sub-part, the display is split chronologically into small family groups (in most cases showing at most two or three generations together). The format for each document, showing this Chapter, sub-part and family group structure, is as follows:
Each Chapter and sub-part is listed in the TABLE OF CONTENTS, hyperlinked to the relevant text. Background information on the history of the territory covered, and other general commentary, is set out in the INTRODUCTION.
The paragraph concerning each individual in a family group is constructed as follows, showing the different type-faces and colours adopted for the layout:
Hyperlinks are shown in red (reverting to purple when followed), either to family groups in other Chapters or sub-parts within the same document or to another document in which the individual's family is shown in full.
A range of dates within square brackets represents either the author's assessment of the approximate date of the event, in light of known factors such as dates of birth, marriage or death of children (in which case the basis for this assessment is explained), or the known range within which the event took place.
Dates are converted from the Roman calendar in accordance with the table set out in Cheney´s Handbook of Dates. As far as dates within the first three calendar months of the year are concerned, they are normally as shown in the primary sources. When the general chronology of the family indicates that such dates must either be Old Style ("O.S.", change of year taking place around end-March) or New Style ("N.S.", change of year taking place on 1 January), this is specified. If not specified, it must be assumed that there is no indication either way and that the date could be either O.S. or N.S. The context of specific sources shows that the O.S. year change cannot always be assumed to take place on March 25, as is often indicated. A range of dates in late March or early April is possible, which can in some cases be linked to Easter in any particular year.
Names of individuals are shown in the language of their country of origin or adoption. Where this country changes during a person's lifetime, the original version of the name is used until the moment of change. For example, WILLIAM I King of England is referred to as GUILLAUME II Duke of Normandy before he assumed the English crown. Names of major territories (mainly countries and dukedoms) are shown in English. Smaller territories (counties and other lesser lordships) are shown in the language of the territory, although considering the development of languages over the centuries these names will inevitably be anachronistic.
 Available at http://www.dmgh.de/.
 Available at http://gallica.bnf.fr/.
 Available at http://books.google.com/.
 Available at http://www.archive.org/details/texts.
 Available at http://ww2.multix.it/asto/asp/inventari.asp.
 Available at http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/chartwww/NewRegReg.html.
 Available at http://elec.enc.sorbonne.fr/cartulaires/.
 Available at http://purl.pt/index/geral/title/PT/P.html.
 Martindale, J. R. (ed.) (2001) Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire I: (641-867) (Ashgate).
 Bogon, W., Müller, T. and Pentzel, A. (eds.) (1999) Quellensammlung zur mitteralterlichen Geschichte/Fontes medii ævi (Heptagon GbR, Berlin), and the companion CD Fortsetzung/Continuatio.
 Cheney, C. R. (ed.), revised by Jones, M. A (2000) Handbook of Dates For Students of British history (Cambridge University Press), p. 146.