Most of the time I share a completed family history story. You know, it has all the wrapping, bows ribbons and finishing touches. This isn’t one of those posts. It’s a good thing, really. It’s the perfect illustration for what we all have to go through when researching our ancestors.
Some background to this tale…
Right. So, in previous posts I’ve explained how two different Roane families arrived in the American colonies around the same time in the early 1700s. One Roane family is English and is connected to Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane from Surrey, England. Dear old Charles settled in Virginia. This is the chap I thought I was directly descended from. A DNA test has proven otherwise.
The second Roane family is Scots-Irish. This Roane family is connected to Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, who lived in Argyllsire, Scotland. He was granted an estate in County Antrim due to his service to William III of England. His sons settled in Lebanon County, PA and Essex County, VA. It is from him that I am descended.
Too many trees mis-represent that Archibald Roane is the son of Robert Roane (Charles’s father) and/or Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane. He is the son of neither.
A Coat of Arms answers one question
Interestingly, the Scot-Irish Roane family and the English Roane family share the same coat of arms. So there is a link between them somewhere in the mist of Medieval British history. Their common ancestor remains elusive.
Roane Coat of Arms
There is a variation with eagle’s head online, however, I haven’t actually seen that variant associated with the Roane family. In crypts and in the houses associated with the British Roanes, I have only ever seen the Coat of Arms given above.
At this point, I’m going to quash the fabled link to the ancient Norman noble house of Ruan. The clue that there isn’t a connection between these two families is in their coat of arms. The main de Rouen coat of arms is below:
The coat of arms for la Maison de Rouen (senior branch)
Typically, a ‘cousin branch’ or junior/minor branch of a noble house will share at least one element with the senior branch. There are no such common or shared elements between the two coat of arms. For instance, there is no doubt of the relationship between the senior house of de Rouen and the junior branches of the family in France through the motifs used in the families’ crests.
While the Roanes more than likely did come from Normandy (as suggested by DNA test results), this is about all I can find that they share in common with the noble house of de Rouen.
Coats of Arms can answer important questions
Having a coat of arms opens up some interesting research opportunities. The fact that a Yeoman, or ‘gentleman’, was granted a coat of arms says something about his progress in English society (I’ll get to the Yeoman thing in a bit). When a coat of arms is granted, all manner of information is recorded with that grant. This information will be held at the College of Arms in England http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/ and perhaps the Heraldry Society of Sctland http://www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/beginners.html
Please do not email either of these organization asking for information. You must make an appointment with them and visit in person. I can’t stress that enough. Really. It doesn’t matter that you don’t live in the UK or anywhere near their respective offices. You must, must make an appointment and visit them in person.
These organizations will have information about who the coat of arms was granted to, the date it was granted, where he was living – and perhaps why it was granted.
The Roanes of Northumberland and York – and being Yeomans
Now, as far as I can see, the oldest known British areas of residence for the Roanes are Northumberland and York. Which, given Norman English history, doesn’t come as a surprise. Land, probate and parish records show Roanes in these two counties as early as the mid-1300s. These Roanes, however, were of the Yeoman class. Yeomans were a kind of ancient prototype for the Middle Classes, without the power or prestige. Yeomans manoeuvred a kind of netherworld, they weren’t peasants owned by the local lord – but they weren’t knights or nobility either. They owned land and/or business and paid taxes which gave them a measure of respectability.
This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a minor noble in the family in the early Norman period of English history. I just haven’t found one. What I’m finding may either be junior branches; descendants of a minor noble who became commoners. Or, Yeoman was all they ever were.
Tracking this family from Northumberland and Yorkshire, I can see where they branched out and came to reside in southern England, notably in Sussex and Surrey.
I haven’t found a trail that shows them going further north. That isn’t to say one doesn’t exist, I just haven’t found it. Scotland is, after all, really only a hop skip and a jump from both York and Northumberland. They are actually closer to Scotland than they are to London.
Roanes in Scotland
Now what is interesting are some factoids that I’ve found about the Scottish Roane family.
I came across the first snippet when I was searching the Scotland’s People website http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website
So there was a definite Roane presence in Scotland as of 1583, approximately 2 generations previous to that of Archibald Gilbert Roane. Sadly, the Scotland’s Peoples website isn’t very generous with free previews, so I was unable to find out more about this Margaret Roane. Surprisingly, there are very few Roanes or Roans cited in its records. But this, at least, gave me something to go on.
The second snippet was this little gem I found on a site about Crogo and Holm of Dalquahairn in Scotland (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~alanmilliken/Research/ScottishRecords/Kirkcudbrightshire/CarsphairnParish/RecordsDocuments.html ):
 James Milligane in Nether Holm of Dalquhairn
April 14, 1698: Obligation by James and Roger McTurke in Upper Holm of Dalquhairn as principal and Robert Grierson, now in Glenshimmeroch, as cautioner, to pay to James Roane in Manquhill the sum of 300 merks and £50, with a terms annual rent, at Lammas 1698, with the ordinary annual rent and £50 of penalty. Dated at Glenshimmeroch and witnessed by James Milligane of Nether Holm of Dalquhairn and John McTurke in Little Auchrae, brother to the granters. Obligation registered Kirkcudbright August 16, 1698.
[Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1676-1700, no. 3132]
Naturally, I was curious about the correlation between Glencairn (for Margaret) and Moniaive (the closest place name Google Maps had for James Roane) – and generated the map below:
click for larger image
As you can see, Margaret and James are within the same region of Scotland. So this, it would seem, is another area associated with the Roane family in Scotland. It gives me a specific casement area to do further research.
Now the other area of Scotland is Argyllshire for Archibald Roane. I plotted the distance from Moniaive to Argyll, and, as you’ll see below, there is a bit of distance between the two.
click for larger image
It gives a rather large search area to investigate.
I’ve begun concentrating on the Argyllshire area. Now whether it has to do with the scarcity of Roanes in the county, or from Archibald’s family’s status, I haven’t found anything about the family through the records for this county. Posterity was definitely the preserve of the Upper Classes. However, I am surprised that I haven’t been able to find any mention of King William III’s warrant granting Archibald 1) the title of Sir (which is typically associated with a knighthood and garter of some sort) or 2) the landed estate King William III provided Archibald. It’s not unheard of – not finding a digitized record for either…but it is unusual. There’s no question that both of these things happened, I’ve seen it referenced in a Northern Irish account. However, what I’m after is the holy grail – the actual records.
I feel tempted to apologize for the random snippets of information, But I’m not going to. It’s on honest reflection of an active family history research project. Sometimes all we have to go on are seemingly random threads which may or may not have anything to do with each other. It’s what I love about the process – the quiet little thrill of the chase…and the victory dance (yes, I do have one) when everything finally falls into place.
If you’re going to research this family…
My thoughts on research both the English and the Scots-Irish Roanes are this:
If you’re planning to research the Scots-Irish Roanes, there are a few places to physically go to for research:
- Glasgow’s Central Records Office. This should have records and documents pertaining to the family in the area.
- Visit Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland
- Visit Argyll: with luck, this will have information about Archibald Gilbert Roane.
- Visit Belfast: The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland
- Visit Antrim, NI: The records office will definitely have information about Archibald Roane, his estate and, hopefully, his daughters and their descendants as well as any extended family members.
- Parish records in the towns and villages where they lived will have records of baptisms, marriages and deaths.
Truly, with the staggering amount of misinformation for this family, physically going through the original records is what’s required to stitch together the history of this family.
If you’re planning on researching the English Roanes:
My thoughts are along the same line as the Scots-Irish Roanes – physically going through the original records. .
- London: National records Office and the College of Arms
- Visit York: Central Records Office
- Visit Ashington, Northumberland: Northumberland Archives Office
- The above, in turn, will provide information about the towns and villages the Roanes of Northumberland and York lived in and/or owned property in. The local parish church will have records covering baptisms, marriages and deaths.
I’ve been thinking about using one of those online fundraising services to raise funds to spend a month ding all that I’ve outlined above. Having lived in England for nearly 30 years, I more than understand the British bureaucratic system. And it’s something I would love to do. Who knows!
With this family, I have the feeling that the truth will be far better, and more interesting, than the fiction.