Derivation of the Surname RAMSDALE

Part 1: Etymological & Teutonic Sources

Part 1 Index:

Part 2 Index:

Etymology

The place name and English surname Ramsdale are both likely derived from Ramsons, being a widespread colloquial name for wild garlic (Allium ursinum), the likely derivation of which is

The surname Ramsdale is related etymologically to the surnames Ramsden, Ramsdell, Ramsgill and Ramsbottom, all of which

Alternatively, the surname Ramsdale derives directly from the Norse place-name Raumsdalr (the valley of the river Rauma in the counties of Oppland and Møre og Romsdal in Norway - modern: Romsdal) an eponym after "Raum the Old", son of King Nor, legendary founder of Norway who may have been descendants of the ancient Gothic "Raumii" tribe.

The actual derivation of the surname will likely only be discovered through improved Y-DNA testing of males of the Ramsdale surname to more accurately determine their paternal line.

Earliest Recorded References

Ramsdale Ha [Ramesdala 1170 Oxf], Ramsdale - YN [Ram(m)esdal 1240 FF], Ramsden Bellhouse, Crays & Heath Ess [Ramesdana DB, -den 1158 BM, 1208 Cur, Ramesden Belhous, Gray 1254 Val, Ramesden Crei 1274 RH], Ramsden - O [Ramesdon 1179 RA, Rammesden 1279 RH, 1316 FA]. "wild garlic valley" or possibly "ram valley". See HRAMSA, RAMM, DENU.

RAMSDALE
Ramesdale 1210 Dugd iv. 319, 1240 FF
Rammesdale 1240 FF

The early forms suggest that we have here OE hramse, ramese 'garlic, ramson' as in Ramsey (Hu), v. PN Wo xli. Alternatively we may have OE ramm, hence either 'garlic valley' or 'ram's valley'.

Ramsdale farm in Nottinghamshire (EPNS Nt 114) was held by John de Ramsdale in 1332 - per Dr Gillian Fellows-Jensen (2 April 1997)

Ramsden Bellhouse was held by Ricardus de Belhous in 1208 (Cur). Bellhouse means "belfry". Ramsden Crays was held by Simon de Craye in 1252 (Cl). Craye is from CRAY or CRAYE in France.

Old English & Old Norse Derivations

Hramsa, hramse OE, wild garlic, sometimes appearing as hramaes-, hremesin OE place name spellings and is therefore difficult to distinguish from rammes, genitive singular of ramm, as in (a) Ramsbottom La (botm), Ramsdale Ha (denu), Ramsey Ess, Hu (g), Ramsholt Sf (holt), Romsley sa, Wo 300 (leah) [Middle Low German ramese "garlic"]. [7]

The suffix -dale is derived from the OE doel, or, perhaps nearly always in old names, ON dalr, a dale, the root meaning being probably deep, low place [cf Gothic dalath, down]. Found from the Scottish border south to Derbyshire, but much commoner in the north, where Norse influence was strong, and there usually a river valley between hills, a glen - Allendale, Borrowdale, Ennerdale, etc. [2]

Similarly, the English surname Dale is a topographic name for someone who lived in a valley, ME dale (OE doel), reinforced in Northern England by the cognitive ON dalr, or habitation name from any of the numerous minor places named with this word. [1]

Of the numerous place-name elements denoting a valley, valley itself is very rare and vale, also a French loan-word into English, is infrequent … Dale on the other hand is common enough, particularly in Scandinavianised areas of the country, and sporadically elsewhere. OE doel, modern dale meant "pit, hollow" and the general view today is that it was really only in general use with the sense 'valley' due to the influence of the cognate Scandinavian word dalr which did mean 'valley'. It would appear, therefore, that it was only in late Old English, for the most part, that doel denoted a 'valley'. The usual English word for this topographical feature was denu, modern dene … The widespread use of dale in later minor names and field-names must, it would seem, ultimately be the result of Scandinavian influence … in major place-names the occurrence of doel 'valley' is rare indeed and south of the Thames it is not found at all. In Devon, for example, Dalwood is not recorded before 1175 and is probably of post-Conquest origin, while the other dale-name in Devonshire is Dymsdale, in Alwington, first recorded in 1371. The editors of The Place-Names of Devon comment "As the element dale is otherwise unknown in Devon the name can hardly be of local origin". Indeed, there can be little doubt that Dymsdale is derived from the topographical surname Dymmyngesdale, that of a miner or miners from Derbyshire or Staffordshire impressed into work in the royal stanneries in the south-west, for which there is evidence certainly from 1295. A John Dymmyngesdale is actually mentioned in the 1371 document noted above. The surname itself is doubtless derived from a place-name such as Dimmin Dale in Taddington (DBY) or Dimsdale (STS), but unfortunately the first element has not yet been fully explained. Dale is found most frequently to the north of the River Mersey and River Humber but it also occurs as far south as Northamtonshire. Even in the north, however, it is comparatively rare in Durham and Northumberland, where Scandinavian influence is much less than in Yorkshire, and it has been plausibly suggested that the degree of Scandinavian influence is crucial in the use of dale in the formation of place-names. Further because of "its wide currency as a term for 'valley' it often replaced the more usual OE word denu". This has happened in the self-explanatory Deepdale (NTH), Oxendale (LAN) 'where oxen are found', Saxondale (NTH) 'valley of the Saxons', and Stavordale (SOM), the first element of which may mean 'stake'. [8]

Dale has been added to a number of river-names like Airedale (WRY), Eskdale (CUM), Lonsdale (Lune, LAN), Ribblesdale (LAN), Swaledale (NRY), and Wharfedale (WRY). It is named from animals in Cowdale (DBY) and Kiddal (WRY) 'cows', Grisdale (WES) 'young pigs', and Withersdale (SFK) 'wether-sheep', from plants in Farndale (NRY) 'fern', Matterdale (CUM) 'madder', and Mosedale (CUM) 'moss', from a cross in Crossdale (CUM), a church in Kirkdale (LAN, NRY), and from a fortification in Borrowdale (CUM, WES). In the north-west the first element is sometimes a Scandinavian personal name as in Bannisdale (WES) from Bannandr, Belasdale (LAN) from Blesi, and Skelmersdale (LAN) from Skelmer, while Patric, an Irish name, is the first element of Patterdale (WES). [8]

OE denu has been referred to as "the standard OE term for a main valley" and as such is widespread in this country. We have seen how it has sometimes been replaced by dale and in at least one name, Longdendale (DBY), the latter has been added to an original Langdene 'long valley'. Indeed, it has been shown that most valleys derived from denu are long and sinuous, and as Ann Cole notes that "denu is mostly used of long, narrow valleys with two moderately steep sides and a gentle gradient along most of their length". [8]

Teutonic Sources

Many old Norse names had roots and meanings similar to old English names, for the Saxons had themselves come as invaders from the opposite shores of the North Sea, like the Vikings. This makes it often impossible in their modern forms to distinguish between names which are in fact Viking from similar names which are Old English. [3]

Many names used by the Norman settlers after the Norman Conquest were also of Norse origin and indeed the name Norman itself simply means Northman. Some of these Norse names brought to England by the Normans are known to have been already used in England, for they occur in Saxon Charters, and other such names may also have been already used in England though they do not happen to survive in any of the Saxon charters which still remain to record the fact. Names of this kind became more common thanks to new arrivals with similar names from Normandy; but, whether used by conquerors or conquered, spelling and pronunciation took on the French air which was to be fashionable in conquered Anglo-Norman England for the next two centuries and more after 1066. [3]

The main source of English place names is Teutonic and came at two distinct times

  1. at the Anglo-Saxon invasions during the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries
  2. during the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th centuries when the Danes came direct to this country from Denmark and the Norsemen or Northmen from Norway penetrated into the north-west by way of Ireland and the Hebrides, passing up the Wirral peninsular and spreading over Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. [4]

In addition to the direct invasion of England by the Danes via the east coast there was also a Norwegian conquest of northern Scotland, the Orkneys and Shetlands and other islands, as well as the over-running of most of Ireland. It was from the Hebrides and Ireland that they penetrated into England via the west coast, especially into Lancashire with an overflow into Yorkshire. Well over 50% of place names in Yorkshire are of Scandinavian as distinct from Anglo-Saxon origin. [4]

This double Teutonic influence has made it difficult in every case to say definitively to which source a place-name such as Ramsdale belongs, but if the root is to be found in Old English it will be allocated to the Anglo-Saxon period; if the root is to be found in Old Norse it will be placed in the period of the Danish and Norwegian invasions. Often, as perhaps in the case of Ramsdale, the root is to be found in both these old Teutonic languages (OE doel and ON dalr), and then it is immaterial to which source we allot it. [4]

Professor Stenton, in an article published a recent number of the Historical Review, noted this Scandinavian influence in place name nomenclature in many ways, among them being … the frequent replacing of Old English names by Scandinavian, eg Scandinavian dalr replaced Old English denu, accounts for the large number of dales and the comparative rarity of deans or dens. But everywhere it is the Norse element that predominates, recalling the Scandinavian settlements of exceptional thoroughness in the 9th and 10th centuries. Remember that in 915 Norsemen from Ireland captured York, and for 35 years Irish Vikings ruled there. [4]

Viking Influence

In the same way that the Danish names in England are seen to radiate from the Wash, so the Norwegian immigration seems to have proceeded from Morecambe Bay and that part of the coast which lies opposite to the Isle of Man. [5]

In the North Riding, in the western half, in Gilling, Richmondshire and Langbargh, there is very definite evidence of extensive Norse settlement, as well as on the coast near Whitby, the latter, no doubt, reached directly from the North Sea. These Irish Vikings, on their way east, quickly came into contact with the earlier Danish settlers and in places there was a considerable mixture of races, Norwegian, Danish and Anglian. [6]

The Norwegian movement from the north-west into Yorkshire culminated in 919 in the capture of York by Ragnall mac Bicloch, who was the first of a series of Irish Viking Kings of York which lasted for 35 years, during which constant intercourse must have been maintained between Yorkshire and Ireland, with a constant increase of Irish-Norwegian settlers all along the route. [6]

Scarborough is one of the few place-names of which the exact origin is known. From the Kormaks saga we learn that two brothers Thorgils and Kormak went harrying in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland: "They were the first men to set up the stronghold which is called Scarborough"

From two poems which Kormak addresses to his brother, we know that Thorgils was nicknamed Skarði, the hare lip, hence the Scandinavian form of the name, Skarðaborg, found also in English as Scartheborc circa 1200 later Scareburgh (1414). Thorgils died in 967; the brothers' expedition to England took place immediately after their return from one to Russia in 966, so that Scarborough must have been founded late in 966 or in 967. [6]

The mixture of races is well illustrated by such names as Danby, Normanby and Ingleby, each of which occurs three times in the North Riding. These denote villages of Danes, Norwegians and Angles and can have been given only by Scandinavians in districts where these races were in a minority. Normanby, found four times in Lincolnshire and three times in the North Riding, was a village where Norwegians lived, among an overwhelming Danish population.

"External Influences on English: From its Beginnings to the Renaissance" (2012) D. Gary Miller

Several places with the name Normanby in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire mark Norwegian settlements while Denby/Danby is Danish (Cameron 1958; Fellows Jensen 1972: 189ff, 1973: 18) …

In Norfolk, names in -by are rare except on the Norse-settled coast (Sandred 1987) …

-DAL(E). Valley names in -dal(e) (cf. OIce dal-r 'valley: DALE') are frequent north of a line from the Mersey to the Humber, excluding Northumberland and Durham (PNL 95), e.g. Grisedale 'valley of pigs' (OIce griss 'young pig: hog') …

The distribution of these names is interesting and unexpected. They provide evidence for Norwegians in the eastern Danelaw who could hardly be Vikings from Ireland. They may have been Norwegians who had joined the armies of Halfdan and Guthrun, and the scanty evidence of their presence in the eastern Midlands may be due to the known hostility between Danes and Norwegians. The capture of York from the Danes and the establishment of a Norwegian kingdom would not conduce to friendly relations, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the 10th century not only gives proof of the internecine feuds between them but also provides evidence of similar hostility farther south. [6]

"Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe" (2010) Peter Heather

Chapter 9: Viking Diasporas

Vikings and the West

In western Europe, Viking raiding began with a vengeance in the late eighth century. The first really spectacular act of Viking destruction came in 793: the sacking of the famous island monastery of Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian coast of Britain on 8 June. Within two years the raiders had worked their way around the north coast of Scotland and down through the western isles, where they sacked an Irish monastery on Raithlin.

These acts of destruction were carried out, it seems, largely by Norwegians, led to the northern coasts of the British Isles by a natural combination of winds and currents. The prevailing easterlies of springtime carried the Norwegian raiders across the North Sea to Shetland, Orkney and north-eastern Scotland. This involved braving the open sea between the coasts of Norway and Shetland, initially out of sight of the land. This was a major undertaking, but not an overwhelming one. Going from Bergen in western Norway to Shetland took no longer than coasting round southern Scandinavia through the Skagerrak and into the Baltic. And once you had reached Shetland, everything else could be done without losing sight of land. Scotland was in easy reach, and straightforward coastal routes then led the Norwegian raiders round its north coast to the Hebrides, the Irish Sea, western Britain and Ireland itself. Then - very conveniently if they had no wish to stay longer - the prevailing winds of autumn in the North Sea being, by contrast, westerlies, took them home again. If seasonal winds and currents were reversed, we might now be writing about medieval Scottish invasions of Norway.

At the same time as northern Britain and Ireland were coming under attack, there was also trouble along the coasts either side of the English Channel. Sometime between 786 and 802 (the incident cannot be placed more definitely because of the vagaries of the dating system employed by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), in what was possibly the first recorded raid of the Viking period, three ships containing North-men landed at Portland on the south coast of Britain. The local royal official wanted to take them to his king, but they killed him; it has been argued that he mistook them for traders. The ships were from Horthaland in Norway. Other evidence of trouble is less direct, but clear enough. As early as 792 Offa, King of Mercia and overlord of England south of the Humber, allowed a coastal monastery in Kent to prepare a place of refuge for itself further inland, safe inside the still-standing Romand walls of the city of Canterbury. In 800, the Emperor Charlemagne strengthened his defences at the mouth of the River Seine. Viking raiders had already sailed much further afield. The previous year they had made their way round the coast of Brittany to attack the monastery of Noirmoutier at the mouth of the River Loirein in western France. Ten years later the Emperor decided to establish fleets at Ghent and Boulogne, their purpose again the suppression of sea-borne raids.

Like the sack of Lindisfarne, the Portland incident involved Vikings from Norway. For the most part, however, the action on this southern front in the ninth century would be carried forward by Scandinavians from Denmark. Again, this was due to facts of geographical proximity that made the eastern seaboard of England and the entire Channel zone highly accessible to Danish Seafarers. This was, however, only a tendency. 'Norwegian', 'Dane' and even 'Swede' are anachronistic categories in the Viking period. At its opening, none of the three existed as a cohesive political unit, and leaders of note recruited manpower from right across the Baltic.

Raiding

Some aspects of the violent but smaller-scale raiding characteristic of the first phase of Viking activity in western Europe are better documented than others. The action in northern Britain was both dramatic and early. Already by the ninth century, the island systems of Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides had not only been raided, but were playing host to large-scale colonisation. This story is largely untold in historical sources, but there were already established Norse leaders in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) by the year 850, and, for their northern counterparts, place-name and archaeological evidence are both eloquent. In the long run, every older layer of name-giving was wiped out in Shetland and Orkney. Every name for every place in these islands derives from the Old Norse language …

Further south, in England and Ireland and on the continent, historical sources help establish some clearer patterns. Odd references to Scandinavian attacks appear in continental and insular sources for the early decades of the ninth century, but then the raiding intensified dramatically. In Irish sources, the first named Viking leaders appear in the Chronicle of Ireland for the mid-ninth century: a greater knowledge had been born of more intense contact. And the narrative confirms the point. Monasteries within Ireland, not just coastal establishments, became subject to attack for the first time in 836. To do this, the Vikings had penetrated the island's internal river systems and loughs: another sign of the greater knowledge they were building up of their target. At the same time, Channel ports were being heavily hit. Between 835 and 837 the port of Dorestad in Frisia was attacked in three successive years, while Sheppey in Kent was attacked in 835 and Wessex in 836 …

… long-distance raids were the exception, however, not the rule. Sustained attack went no further than south-western France, and the Garonne River system of Aquitaine. These assaults were eventually countered by the efforts of the rulers of the region - Charlemagne's grandson Charles the Bald and his nephew Pippin - but even Aquitaine was a sideshow compared with the increasingly intense raiding unfolding further north on either side of the Channel. Here the increase in Viking assault manifested itself in three ways: a growth in the number of Viking groups involved, an increase in the frequency and duration of the individual assaults and, as in Ireland, the spread of raiding from the coast up through the river systems leading into the interiors …

From about 850 the level of assault intensified still further. For the first time, the Vikings began to overwinter in western Europe, reducing the respite that usually came between November and March when the North Sea was too dangerous for navigation. This was also ominous for the degree of detachment it suggested in the attackers' attitudes to their Scandinavian homelands. Raiding groups occupied the Isles of Thanet and Sheppey in east Kent in the winters of 850/1 and 854/5 respectively …

… For the first time the Chronicle of Ireland noted the arrival of a Viking leader whom they styled 'king'. At the head of 120 ships, this individual set about subduing those Vikings who had already moved west, as well as extracting further tributes from the unfortunate Irish. By 853 there were two 'kings', identified in some sources as brothers, operating in Irish waters, and they had forced all the Vikings already resident in Ireland to acknowldege their leadership. They stayed in Irish waters until the mid-860s.

The identity of these kings has been much debated, but they were probably brothers - Ivar the Boneless and Olaf the White - who from 866 switched their attentions to England where, as we shall see in a moment, they started a further dangerous escalation in the level of Viking assault with the help of perhaps a third brother, Healfdan. Although this has been disputed, it is also likely that they came to the British Isles directly from Scandinavia in the 850s, and did not originate in Scotland and\or the Hebrides as has sometimes been claimed. More legendary material, preserved only in much later sources written down over two hundred years after the events, also suggests that the three were sons of Ragnar Lothbrok ('Hairy Breeches'), whose death in the snake pit of King Aelle of Northumbria, after a spectacular career of destruction in which he mistakenly sacked the Italian city of Luni thinking it was Rome, is said to have inaugurated the Viking conquest of England. None of this is at all likely, but the Ragnar of legend may indeed preserve some memory of Reginharius of Paris fame, and the importance of Ivar, Olaf and Healdan requires them to have been from a very significant family …

Danish or Norwegian Origin ?

It is frequently impossible to decide whether a particular word or personal name is of Danish or Norwegian origin. Both "by" and "thorp" were used alike in East and West Scandinavia, whereas in England, whilst "by" was clearly used by Norwegians, "thorp" may be regarded as a sign of Danish settlement. [6]

Place-names on the North Yorkshire coast ending in -dale, -by and -thorpe (e.g. Fylingdales, Whitby, Normanby, Ramsdale, Fylingthorpe, Sneaton Thorpe) are indicative of settlement by Norwegian adventurers in the ninth century AD who had joined Danish Vikings in subjugating the whole of northern England (the Danelaw) before settling there as farmers and traders and developing great mercantile cities such as York.

The word "beck" (e.g. Ramsdale Beck, Thorpe Beck), a brook, is more frequent in the Norwegian than in the Danish region, and this is also the case with the suffixes -haugh, -with, -tarn and -dale. The word "force", which is the ordinary name for a waterfall in the lake district, is exclusively Norwegian, and corresponds to the Icelandic and Norwegian foss. The word fell is also derived from Norway, where it takes the form fjeld (pronounced fi-ell). It is the usual name for a hill in the north west of England. [5]

Møre og Romsdal, Norway

Click here to view old images and a large scale map of Møre og Romsdal, Norway

Romsdal is the name of a traditional district in the Norwegian county Møre og Romsdal. It is located between Nordmøre and Sunnmøre. The district of Romsdal comprises the eight municipalities of Aukra, Fræna, Midsund, Molde, Nesset, Rauma, Sandøy, and Vestnes. It is named after the valley of Romsdalen, which covers part of Rauma.

The Norse form of the name was Raumsdalr. The first element is the genitive case of a name - Raumr - and this was probably the old (uncompounded) name of the Romsdalsfjord again derived from the name of the river Rauma - "The Dale of Rauma". The name Rauma is itself a mystery, but a clue may be found in the works of the Gothic historian Jordanes [12] who mentions a tribe called "Raumii" which might be the origin of the river Rauma. The old fjord name is derived from the name of the river Rauma in the counties of Oppland and Møre og Romsdal. It runs for 68 km from Lesjaskogsvatnet in Lesja to Åndalsnes in the Rauma Municipality (basin area 1.202 km²).

The meaning of the name Rauma is unknown (it is probably very old). The river was once famous for its salmon-fishing, but since an infection with Gyrodactylus salaris (salmon fluke) only 5 to 10% of the original stock survives. The Romsdal (Rauma valley) and the Rauma river is by many regarded as the most beautiful river valley in Norway. The river runs very clear with a green tint, and the mountains towers 1,500 to 1,800 metres above the river in the lower and middle parts of the valley.

The Romsdal Valley, through which the Rauma river passes to the Romsdalfjord, has been described as a worthy rival for Yosemite, being surrounded by the mountain range Romsdalsalpene.

The 1,550 metre tall Romsdalhorn has been compared to the Matterhorn, while the Trolltindane peaks, according to legend a bridal procession of trolls turned to stone by the morning light, stands opposite across the Rauma. The North Face of Trollryggen peak (1,740 m), Trollveggen (Troll Wall), is the tallest vertical cliff in Europe. Norway's most famous hair-pin road is Trollstigen, or "Troll's Trail", which leads to the south out of Åndalsnes to the beautiful Geirangerfjord.

Fosna Culture

The Fosna (8,300 BC to 7,300 BC) was a late Palaeolithic/early Mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture that lived by the coast in the Nørdmore district of Møre og Romsdal county in northern Norway and is named after a location in Kristiansund. The oldest Fosna settlements in eastern Norway are found at Høgnipen in Østfold. New finds (2008) on Pauler in Larvik seem to be even older. The settlements were located close to the contemporary seashore but, due to constant land uplift after deglaciation, they are now 60 to 70 metres above present-day sea level. Site locations indicate that fishing and seal hunting were important for the Fosna economy and on settlements archaeologists have only found stone tools and the remains of the production of the same. Characteristic tools include flake axes, lanceolates and tanged arrowheads.

Viking Romsdal

In the early Viking Age, before Harald Fairhair, Romsdal was a petty kingdom. According to legend, Romsdal is an eponym after Raum the Old, son of the equally eponymous king Nor, legendary founder of Norway.

Jøtunbjørn ("Giant-bear") the Old, was the son of Raum the Old and Bergdis, a giant's daughter. He inherited Raumsdal (modern: Romsdal) from his father, and was again the father of King Raum, who is the father of Hrossbjörn, who is the father of Orm Broken-shell, who is the father of Knatti, who had two sons: Thórolf and Ketill Raum (in one version, Thørolf and Ketill Raum are sons of Orm). Among Thórolf's descendents, according to legend, came some of the first settlers of Iceland.

The Laxdaela Saga claims that Raumsdal was the home of Ketill Flatnose, a descendent of Ketill Raum. In the 850s AD Ketil was a prominent viking chieftain. He conquered the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. Some sources refer to him as "King of the Sudreys" (Hebrides), but there is little evidence that he himself claimed that title.

"Ketill Flatnose was the name of a man. He was the son of Bjorn the Ungartered. Ketill was a mighty and high-born chieftain (hersir) in Norway. He abode in Raumsdale, within the folkland of the Raumsdale people, which lies between Southmere and Northmere." per Laxdaela Saga

The Norwegian king appointed him the ruler of these islands, but he failed to pay tribute to Harald Fairhair and was outlawed. He and his family left Norway and fled westwards across the sea, to Scotland, then Ireland, where he married off his daughter, Aud the Deep-Minded, to Olaf the White, king of Dublin. Aud went eventually to Iceland where she began that country's shift to Christianity. The crosses she had erected to mark her places of prayer are still to be seen in their original locations.

Ragnvald Eysteinsson (830 to 890) (Norwegian: Ragnvald Mørejarl), was jarl (earl) of Møre, approximately of today's Møre og Romsdal. He died in the Orkney Islands. He was son of King Eystein "Glumra" (the Noisy) Ivarsson of Oppland, and a contemporary of king Harald Fairhair, whom he supported in the unification process, and received his fiefdom from. He is likely to have resided on or nearby the important township of Veøya, Romsdal's Viking Age hub for commerce and communication. With Ragnhild Rolfsdaughter, he had the sons Hrolf Ganger, and Tore Teiande who inherited the earldom after his father's death. Another, illegitimate, son was Turf-Einar, ancestor of the earls of Orkney. Although historians are divided on this, Hrolf Ganger might be identical with Rollo of Normandy, and if so the great-great-great-grandfather of William I of England.

The legend says Ragnvald was the one to cut the hair of king Harald Fairhair after he became king of all Norway. [10]

King Rodulf (Roduulf rex), a Scandinavian-Gaut (Germanic chieftain or petty king) of the Ranii tribe during the Migration Period in Scandza (in modern-day Norway), appears in the Getica of the Roman historian Jordanes.

Building on the now lost "History of the Goths" (Historia Gothorum) of Cassiodorus, Jordanes wrote his account at the request of Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths and ruler of Italy.

In the Getica it is said that Rodulf spurned his own kingdom, namely that of the "Ranii" tribe (which ought properly be read "Raumi", from Romsdal) and fled, likely together with a band of warriors, to seek the sanctuary and support of Theodoric in Ravenna around 500 AD.

Another unresolved issue is whether Rodulf could be the background for certain aspects of later heroic poetry, possibly including the Norse saga character Hrólfr Kraki.

Jordanes' work - an obituary of the Gothic nation - includes (Chapter XLV, sections 237 & 238) one of the earliest references to the original King Arthur, known here as Riotimus from Celtic Rigo-tamus "King-most", "Supreme king", later literarily confused with a Latin name, Artorius. Many of the events and dramatis personae sung about in the epic lays and sagas of the later Germanic north are described here as they originally happened. Above all, the ceaseless battles and unending bloodshed described here give us some idea of just what the decline of a civilization entails.

"De Origine Actibusque Gothorum" or "Getica" (The Origin and Deeds of the Getae\Goths) (551 AD) Jordanes, Chapter III sections 19 to 24

(19) Now in the island of Scandza, whereof I speak, there dwell many and divers nations, though Ptolemaeus mentions the names of but seven of them. There the honey-making swarms of bees are nowhere to be found on account of the exceeding great cold. In the northern part of the island the race of the Adogit live, who are said to have continual light in midsummer for forty days and nights, and who likewise have no clear light in the winter season for the same number of days and nights.

(20) By reason of this alternation of sorrow and joy they are like no other race in their sufferings and blessings. And why? Because during the longer days they see the sun returning to the east along the rim of the horizon, but on the shorter days it is not thus seen. The sun shows itself differently because it is passing through the southern signs, and whereas to us the sun seem to rise from below, it seems to go around them along the edge of the earth. There also are other peoples.

(21) There are the Screrefennae, who do not seek grain for food but live on the flesh of wild beasts and birds' eggs; for there are such multitudes of young game in the swamps as to provide for the natural increase of their kind and to afford satisfaction to the needs of the people. But still another race dwells there, the Suehans, who, like the Thuringians, have splendid horses. Here also are those who send through innumerable other tribes the sappherine skins to trade for Roman use. They are a people famed for the dark beauty of their furs and, though living in poverty, are most richly clothed.

(22) Then comes a throng of various nations, Theustes, Vagoth, Bergio, Hallin, Liothida. All their habitations are in one level and fertile region. Wherefore they are disturbed there by the attacks of other tribes. Behind these are the Ahelmil, Finnaithae, Fervir and Gauthigoth, a race of men bold and quick to fight. Then come the Mixi, Evagre, and Otingis. All these live like wild animals in rocks hewn out like castles.

(23) And there are beyond these the Ostrogoths, Raumarici, Aeragnaricii, and the most gentle Finns, milder than all the inhabitants of Scandza. Like them are the Vinovilith also. The Suetidi are of this stock and excel the rest in stature. However, the Dani, who trace their origin to the same stock, drove from their homes the Heruli, who lay claim to preëminence among all the nations of Scandza for their tallness.

(24) Furthermore there are in the same neighborhood the Grannii, Augandzi, Eunixi, Taetel, Rugi, Arochi and Ranii, over whom Roduulf was king not many years ago. But he despised his own kingdom and fled to the embrace of Theodoric, king of the Goths, finding there what he desired. All these nations surpassed the Germans in size and spirit, and fought with the cruelty of wild beasts.


"De Origine Actibusque Gothorum" or "Getica" (The Origin and Deeds of the Getae\Goths) (551 AD) Jordanes, Chapter III sections 23 & 24

Sunt et his exteriores Ostrogothae, Raumariciae, Rahnaricii, Finni mitissimi, Scandiae cultoribus omnibus minores;

And there are beyond these the Ostrogoths, Rauma-reikians (inhabitants of the south-east Norwegian district of Rauma-reiki domain of the Raumii), Rahna-reikians (inhabitants of the south-east Norwegian district of Rahn-reiki domain of the plunderers), and the most gentle Finns, lesser than all the inhabitants of Scandia.

Hae itaque gentes, Germanis corpore et animo grandiores, pugnabant beluina saevitia.

… All these nations surpassed the Germans in size and spirit, and fought with the cruelty of wild beasts.

Romsdal to Ramsdale (from Vé-ey to Lindisfarne)

By the end of the 9th century the Scandinavians had shifted their attention from plundering to invasion, mainly due to the overpopulation of Scandinavia in comparison to resources and arable land available there. Shetland was colonised by Norsemen in the 9th century, the fate of the existing indigenous population being uncertain. The colonisers gave it that name and established their laws and language. In 866 Harald Finehair (Harald Hårfagre) made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which then comprised Norway. In 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, Harald found himself king over the whole country. His realm was threatened by dangers from without as large numbers of his opponents had taken refuge in Iceland (then recently discovered) and the Orkney, Shetland, Hebrides and Faroe Islands. His opponents' leaving was not entirely voluntary. Many Norwegian chieftains (Jarls), who were wealthy and respected, posed a threat to Harald and they were therefore subjected to much harassment prompting them to vacate the land. From the Northern Isles they continued to raid Scotland and Norway, prompting Harald in 875 to raise a large fleet which he sailed to the Scottish mainland and islands to clear them of those Vikings hiding there.

The purge of 875 may have encouraged or forced a group of Norse Vikings to leave the Shetland Islands and sail south down the east of England to find a safe haven in which to settle - possibly Robin Hood's Bay and Ramsdale. Having arrived it was customary for such Norse invaders to give their name to the place where they settled - Romsdal or Raumsdalr (the Norse form of the Norwegian name Romsdal) which has, in time, become Ramsdale. Place-names in -dalr were only given to localities to which the generics were lexically appropriate and the generic dalr is of frequent occurrence in place-names in Scandinavia, where in hilly and mountainous areas it generally refers to a longish valley running between hill or mountain ranges. Fitting the description of such a valley, Ramsdale Beck falls sharply through a series of waterfalls and rapids down a steep narrow gorge in Oak Wood (formerly called Ramsdale Wood) lined on both sides by ramsons (wild garlic) which completely cover the beck's banks up and down stream. Ramsdale Beck joins and becomes Mill Beck and enters Robin Hood's Bay at Boggle Hole.

It is likely that the Norse vikings who invaded and settled in and around Ramsdale travelled by longship from Møre og Romsdal (Romsdalsfjord) to Robin Hood's Bay (possibly stopping en route to reprovision at the Shetland archipelago which had been colonised by Norsemen) being a far shorter, safer and more direct route than via Dublin and the Wirral across England to the east coast. As the crow flies, the distance from the Romsdalsfjord to Robin Hood's Bay (Ramsdale) is only 550 nautical miles. The average speed of Viking longships varied from ship to ship but lay in the range of 5 to 10 knots with a maximum speed, under favourable conditions, of around 15 knots. Assuming no stop-over in the Shetlands, the journey by longship from the Romsdalsfjord to Robin Hood's Bay would have taken between 37 hours (at 15 knots) and 110 hours (at 5 knots), respectively 1½ and 4½ days and, if undertaken in spring with the benefit of the prevailing easterlies, the journey under sail would likely have taken no more than 48 hours (2 days).

Perhaps the most infamous example of this preferred direct route from Norway being taken was the first spectacular Viking raid on the British Isles when, on 8th June 793, the island monastery of Lindisfarne off the Northumbrian coast was sacked and destroyed by Norse raiders. Lindisfarne (Holy Island) is approximately 120 nautical miles north of Robin Hood's Bay (and Ramsdale) [11]. This and similar acts of destruction were largely carried out by Norwegians, led to the northern coasts of the British Isles by a natural combination of winds and currents. The prevailing easterlies of springtime carried the Norwegian raiders across the North Sea to Shetland, Orkney and north-eastern Scotland and the prevailing winds of autumn in the North Sea being, by contrast, westerlies, took them home again. This involved braving the open sea between the coasts of Norway and Shetland, initially out of sight of the land. Sailing from Bergen in western Norway to Shetland took no longer than coasting round southern Scandinavia through the Skagerrak and into the Baltic. And upon reaching Shetland the rest of the journey could be undertaken without losing sight of land. Scotland was in easy reach, and straightforward coastal routes then led the Norwegian raiders either

The Norwegian fleet took this direct route when it embarked on an expedition to attack Scarborough [15] in September 1066 under Harald Hardrada [16] as it had possibly also done in 1058 under Harald's son Magnus:

Scarborough 966-1966 (1966) Mervyn Edwards (ed.), Scarborough and District Archaeological Society Research Report No. 6, at page 19

Some such attack on England had been impending for a long time, though the Scandinavians whom Tostig [17] had tried to interest in the project of a conquest of England had always been well aware of its dangers and doubtful of its profit …

Tostig's raids on his brother's kingdom [13] in 1065 were manned by Flemish mercenaries and were known to William the Conqueror in Normandy, but were also supported by Harald Hardrada's men from the Norwegian territory of the Orkneys. Late that winter Harald began collecting a force for an expedition against England, the greatest ever seen in Norway. He had nearly 200 ships (which would imply about ten thousand men), cargo vessels full of stores, and small boats. The fleet got split up on the crossing from Norway, and some landed in Orkney whilst Harald himself ended up in the Shetlands where he stayed some time. As we know that there were strong westerly winds in the Channel in early September that year, Harald's stay in Shetland may not have been entirely voluntary, as it would be very difficult for him to get to the southward against a wind which was probably stronger in those latitudes than it was in the Channel, and south or south-westerly. In the second week of September the wind went round to the north (and the weather presumably improved, as the depressionss had passed over) and Harald set off for England, making an unopposed landing north of Scarborough in Tostig's own territories [14]. It was therefore natural that he should ask Tostig the name of a hillock near their landing-place. Tostig attempted to turn the question aside saying 'We don't give names to every hillock' but Harald persisted, and learnt that it was the burial mound of Ivar the Boneless, son of the legendary Ragnar Loðbrok and leader with Halfdan of the great viking army which had attacked York in 866. Harald's sad reply 'Few have conquered England who have landed by this mound' shows him already seeing evil omens, and Tostig's attempted reassurance that this is mere superstition suggests that there was (or was later believed to have been) some belief that the mound was unlucky, though it is difficult to understand why, as Ivar was one of the most successful viking leaders. Possibly the obscure 'fleet from Norway' under Harald's son Magnus which raided England in 1058 had landed there, but this is pure speculation. It certainly had not conquered England.



The account in Codex Frisianus of the attack on Scarborough in 1066

"But when King Harald was ready & a fair wind came sailed he out to
sea & came from sea to Shetland but some of his fleet
came to the Orkneys. Lay King Harald there a little time before he
sailed to the Orkneys & had thence with him a great fleet
& the earls Pal & Erland, sons of Earl Þorfinn, but left behind there Ellisif
the Queen & her daughters. Thence sailed he south by Scotland, &
so along England & came there to land where it is called Cleveland. There went
he ashore & harried at once & laid the land under him, met no
resistance. Then put King Harald into Scarborough & fought
there aginst the townsmen. He went up into the mount there where it highest was
& had made a great bonfire & set fire to it, but when the fire was blazing
they took great forks and pushed it down into the town so that all the houses set fire to one another and the town surrendered."

[13] Tostig's brother was Harald, King of England.

[14] "Tostig's own territories" north of Scarborough is not thought to be a reference to either (a) the Manor of Falsgrave or (b) the Manor of Hougun. Tostig was the Lord of the Manor of Falsgrave (located about 1 mile west of Scarborough town centre on the routes of the main Scarborough to York and Scarborough to Pickering roads) which had jurisdiction over an arc of territory from Staintondale in the north, Ruston in the west and Filey in the south and this territory included Ramsdale mill. Accordingly, part of the Manor of Falsgrave is north of Scarborough (which appears to have been surrounded by the Manor of Falsgrave) whereas the Manor of Hougun is located in Cumbria on the north-west coast of England some 160 miles due west of Scarborough.

The Codex Frisianus records that King Harald's first landing in England after sailing from Scotland was at Cleveland where he went ashore and "harried at once & laid the land under him" meeting no resistance. Cleveland, being part of Northumbria, would have been part of Tostig's "territories" as Earl of Northumbria prior to his exile in 1065. Hence the need for King Harald's attack on, and subjugation of, Cleveland in August 1066 in preparation for his invasion of Yorkshire from the Humber.

Scarborough 966-1966 (1966) Mervyn Edwards (ed.), Scarborough and District Archaeological Society Research Report No. 6, at page 17 and at page 29:

"Now, King John leased the burgesses (of Scarborough) the tenancy of the Falsgrave manor, its Ramsdale mill and demesnes."

So, in 1210 King John gave 60 acres of Falsgrave Manor to Scarborough, along with its Ramsdale Mill and common pasture rights. This meant that Scarborough had its own arable land and no longer had to rely on trade with its neighbours for barley and wheat. In a reversal of the relationship implied in the Domesday report of 1086 (which seems, by omission, to have considered Scarborough a part of Falsgrave manor), Falsgrave was now a part of Scarborough. The name of Falsgrave is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but there is no mention of Scarborough. The devastation by fire of Scarborough by Harald Hardrada implied by the saga accounts of Harald's siege alone, without taking subsequent wastings into account (including William the Conqueror's famous harrying of the north in the winter of 1069-70), would suffice to explain the absence of Scarborough from the Domesday Book. The community was left abandoned and those who remained were slain and all their belongings seized:

"Harald went up onto the rock which was there, had a huge bonfire built and set fire to it. When it was blazing his men took large pitchforks and cast the fire down into the town. All the houses then caught fire one after the other, and the whole town surrendered. The Norsemen killed many there and took all the booty they could lay hands on." As reported in Heimskringla and confirmed by Fagrskinna.

[15] Scarborough figures in Snorre Sturluson's Heimskringla and the Noregs Kononga tal as an important stage in Harald Hardrada's expedition to Stamford Bridge where, on Monday, 25th September 1066, he died with an arrow in his throat.

[16] Harald Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Sigurðarson; circa 1015 to 25 September 1066), given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the sagas, was King of Norway (as Harald III) from 1046 to 1066.

[17] Tostig Godwinson (died 25 September 1066) was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson. The Domesday Book recorded twenty-six vills or townships as being held by Earl Tostig forming the Manor of Hougun.

The Manor of Hougun is the name given to a district recorded in the Domesday Book, and which now forms part of the county of Cumbria in north-west England. Of the three most northern counties of England surveyed in the Domesday Book of 1086 (Northumbria, Durham and Cumbria), only the southern band of land in the south of Cumbria was recorded. The western-most entries for Cumbria, covering the Duddon and Furness Peninsulas are largely recorded as part of the Manor of Hougun. The entry in Domesday Book covering Hougun refers to the time when it was held by Earl Tostig about 1060. The exact location of Hougun has been long disputed and Millom is often suggested, although High Haume near Dalton-in-Furness has also been suggested given that it was recorded in 1336 as Howehom. It has been suggested that the centre of the district was Furness, and that the territory included the Millom area, plus part or all of Cartmel - what would later be the Lancashire territory known as Amounderness. The name itself is thought to derive from the Old Norse haugr meaning 'among the hills,' which could refer to almost anywhere in the area. Houganai or island of Hougun was also the name given to nearby Walney Island.

North of the Hougun district, the land was part of Strathclyde/Cumbria, under Scottish over-lordship which would explain why Tostig's "sworn brother" was King Malcolm III of Scotland. Tostig spent the summer of 1066 in Scotland. He made contact with King Harald III Hardrada of Norway and persuaded him to invade England. One of the sagas claims that he sailed for Norway, and greatly impressed the Norwegian king and his court, managing to sway a decidedly unenthusiastic Harald, who had just concluded a long and inconclusive war with Denmark, into raising a levy to take the throne of England. With Hardrada's aid, Tostig sailed up the Humber and defeated Morcar and Edwin at Gate Fulford.

Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Proposals, Falsgrave (3 July 2008)

Falsgrave was once a separate township from Scarborough and in deed it pre-dates the latter. The name of Falsgrave is mentioned in the Doomsday Book - there is no mention of Scarborough. At this time Falsgrave was one of the most important settlements in the district being the head of a composite royal manor or soke with jurisdiction over an arc of territory from Staintondale in the north, Ruston in the west and Filey in the south. It is likely that Falsgrave had significant administrative, judicial, economic and ecclesiastical functions. It is thought the centre of the village was roughly where the Crown Tavern and Cambridge Place now stand, and the historic core can be recognised in the group of cottages around Cambridge Place and the former farmhouses, many now listed, and in commercial use, such as the Lloyds Bank building. However an alternative theory is that the original settlement was at the head of Ramsdale, close to the present junction between Valley, St. James' and Londesborough Roads. In this location too were probably the sites of the Chapel of St. Clement and the Guildhouse, the exact locations of which are now lost.

Falsgrave declined in importance as it became overshadowed by the growth of Scarborough from the 12th century and other than perhaps part of the street pattern there are no surviving traces of the medieval settlement.

In 1201 King John granted Scarborough 60 acres of his manor of Falsgrave, thus giving the town its own arable fields. The roles were reversed - Scarborough had been part of the royal manor of Falsgrave but now Falsgrave became part of the borough and liberty of Scarborough. From this time on Falsgrave must have begun to lose its administrative functions but must also have retained a strong economic function.

Staintondale is identified as the northern boundary of Falsgrave Manor and is located five miles south of Ramsdale. Accordingly, the reference in the 1210 lease by King John of 60 acres of Falsgrave Manor and "its Ramsdale mill" could be a reference to a mill in Ramsdale Valley in Scarborough rather than the Ramsdale Mill in Ramsdale.

"Vikings and Surnames" (1991) K. H. Rogers at pages 10 and 11

Choice of Sites for Settlement

Much account is taken nowadays of the rôle of geographical and geological conditions in determining land settlement (see M. Gelling Signposts to the Past, and G. Fellowes Jensen's books on Scandinavian settlement names). Obviously the Viking, like any other immigrant, was primarily concerned with food, shelter, safety and general means of livelihood. Among the priorities would be good soil and grassland, preferably low-lying for ease of access and nearness to a water-supply, but with drier ground available nearby for habitation. But forests would be sought for timber, and as a hunting-ground for food, also for leather and fur to make clothing. All these factors, and many more, such as ownership and demarcation of land, show up in the place-names which gave rise to surnames, and the range is enormous … The eye has focused on aesthetic as well as practical aspects; colours, shapes, landmarks go to make a picture and inventory of the new homeland … But survival demanded then, as now, a balance between cultivated ground and woodland …

Editor's note: the hamlet of Ramsdale and its environs - Oak Wood (formerly Ramsdale Wood), Ramsdale Beck (with its three waterfalls), Kirk Moor and Fyling Park in Fylingdales Parish - provide fresh water, food, hunting, grazing and arable land which, together, comprise the land settlement conditions sought by Viking settlers.




Robin Hood's Bay viewed from the west
showing the land settlement conditions sought by Norse Viking settlers:
"above the farmland, overlooking the bay and with easy access to the hill grazing lands …"

A Guide to Prehistoric and Viking Shetland (1986) Noel Fojut at pages 44 and 45

… many modern crofts bear Norse names, and occupy sites which fulfil the ideal for Norse settlement: above the farmland, overlooking the bay and with easy access to the hill grazing lands …

Editor's note: again, these "ideals for Norse settlement" are met by the hamlet of Ramsdale and its environs.


"On Scandinavian Place Names in the East Riding of Yorkshire" (1879) Edward Maule Cole, British Library at page 13

… In several cases, perhaps in a majority, if we knew the actual facts, the prefix is a proper name. The Norse invaders originally gave their name to the place where they settled; in more recent times, families took their name from the place where they lived. Thus some Scandinavian warrior gave his name Grimr to Grims-tuna, and subsequently the owner of the soil, possibly a descendant, called himself "de Grimston", which passed into a surname, and is one of the most ancient in the East Riding.

Editor's note: from Raumsdal (modern: Romsdal) or Raumsdalr to Ramsdale would be a good example of this Norse naming tradition.


"Vikings and Surnames" (1991) K. H. Rogers at pages 37, 44, 45 and 47

Chapter V: Later Years of the Viking Period in England

'Scarcely a township, hamlet or farmstead existed before 1300 which did not supply a family name.' per J. H. Turner in "Yorkshire place-names as recorded in Domesday Book" at page xiii

Domesday Book - relevance to surnames

It has been estimated that Domesday Book fails to name about one fifth of the settlements and a good proportion of the population … The vast work names 13,418 places and is written up on about 1,000 sheepskins, apparently all in the same hand. One sympathises with a later copyist when he added a heartfelt postscript:

Explicit hoc totum
Pro Christo da mihi potum

or roughly, 'All this is finished - for Christ's sake give me a drink'. The book has, for us, an additional function - as the raw material for many surnames which developed a century and more later.

… Many surnames reflect relatively unchanging larger aspects of the landscape: DALE (dalr) …

Topographical and Toponymic (habitation) Surnames

Locative surnames derived from place-names may be divided into two broad categories: topographic and toponymic (habitation):

Toponymic Surnames

Toponymic (habitation) surnames are by far the most common type of surname in Britain. In many cases the location is as specific as an individual farmstead or a place no longer found on any map, in others a more generalised location such as a village or town. Some of these surnames have been identified because hundreds of years later the surname holders remain concentrated close to their point of origin and their family history has been traced back through early medieval documents.

Toponymic (habitation) surnames are derived from a pre-existing names denoting towns, villages, farmsteads, or other named habitations. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries [1]. Toponymic surnames are relatively more common in the parts of Britain that are sparsely populated with scattered farmhouses rather than larger settlements, for example in the far north and the south-west of England.

Some of these surnames could conceivably have arisen because an ancestor travelled away from his home region during the period of surname formation, so the principal modern-day heartland of the family could therefore be in that new settlement area rather than the area of origin. Studies have shown, however, that overall more than half the surnames in Britain still have a statistically significant association with a particular locality.

Like all surnames, toponymic surnames can "mutate" when name bearers change their locality, their name then being pronounced differently and leading over time to a change of spelling. Some modern surnames are unrecognisable abbreviations of familiar places e.g. "Deadman" being a contraction of "Debenham", a village in Suffolk.

Given that toponymic surnames are so specific in their origin, logic suggests that many of these surnames will probably have a single common ancestor at their head. Accordingly, DNA tests on modern-day name-bearers should reveal that they have identical or very similar DNA signatures.

Topographical Surnames

The second common type of surname is that derived from a general descriptive reference to someone who lived near a physical (topographic) feature in the landscape such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. These arose in the same way as toponymic surnames, but because they tend to describe a general feature rather than a specific location e.g. Brook, Green, Hill, Wood, it is generally assumed that they must have arisen in many places across the country independently of each other.

As a general rule, the further someone had traveled from his place of origin, the broader the designation. Someone who stayed at home might be known by the name of his farm or locality in the parish; someone who moved to another town might be known by the name of his village; while someone who moved to another country could acquire the name of the country or region from which he originated. [1]

Recent developments in surname studies [9] demonstrate that some topographical surnames are toponymic i.e. they are linked to a specific location rather than to a general landscape feature e.g. the relatively common surname "Sykes".

Given that topographical surnames are likely to have arisen in many different places across the country, it is to be expected that DNA results of men bearing one of these generic surnames should reveal its multiple ancestor origin.

Monogenetic surnames are those with a single origin, often being derived from just one original bearer or family of bearers at one particular place and time. Most polygenetic surnames were coined independently in many different places. It is not normally possible to identify the original bearer of a monogenetic surname, but it is sometimes possible to postulate that a name must be monogenetic on the basis of its distribution. [1]

Heraldry

It is highly unlikely that the surname is in any way deived from the word ram meaning a male sheep, although the arms of Ramsdale make a pun on this, a practice known in heraldry as canting.

Ramsdale Crest

Blazon of Arms: Argent, on a chevron between three fleurs de lis sable, as many rams' heads couped at the neck of the first.

Crest: An arm in armour erect couped at the elbow proper, holding in the gauntlet a fleur de lis sable.

Motto: Coelum non animum mutat (a change of skies does not change the mind).

Bibliography

[1] A Dictionary of Surnames Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, OUP 1988

[2] The Place Names of England and Wales Johnston, John Murray, 1915 (page 50)

[3] History Through Surnames W O Hassall, Pergamon Press, 1967 (page 15)

[4] Place Names and Surnames - Their Origin and Meaning Taylor Dyson, Alfred Jubb & Son, 1944 and Simpkin Marshall (1941) Ltd (page 43)

[5] Words and Places Isaac Taylor, London, published by J M Dent & Sons (pages 128 and 137)

[6] The Origin of English Place Names Reaney, Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1960 (page 175)

[7] English Name Elements, Part 1, A - IW Cambridge University Press, 1956

[8] English Place Names Kenneth Cameron, The Bath Press (1996) (pages 189 to 191)

[9] Surnames and Genealogy: A New Approach Dr George Redmonds, New England Historic (June 1997)

[10] Wikipedia

[11] "Vé-ey, an island in Romsdall in Norway = our Holy Isle;" On Scandinavian Place Names in the East Riding of Yorkshire (1879) Edward Maule Cole, British Library at page 17

[12] Editor's note: De origine actibusque Getarum (The Origin and Deeds of the Getae/Goths), or the Getica, written in Late Latin by Jordanes (or Jornandes) in 551, claims to be a summary of a voluminous account by Cassiodorus of the origin and history of the Gothic people, which is now lost. It is significant as the only remaining contemporaneous resource that gives the full story of the origin and history of the Goths and Slavs.


Top