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Re: George F. Black's Summary on the Sinclair Name

At 14:51 17/05/99 -0600, you wrote:
This is what George F. Black had to say about the Sinclair surname.  Thought his assessment of their "clanship" interesting in light of recent discussions about origins.
"SINCLAIR.  This Caithness surname is of territorial origin from St. Clare in the arrondisement of Pont d'Eveque, Normandy.  The first Sinclairs in Scotland appear to have been vassals of the great territorial magnates, de Morville.  Their first possession in Scotland was the barony of Roslin, near Edinburgh, which they held in the reign of David I (1124-1153).  The earliest bearers of the name appear in charters connected with the abbeys of Dryburgh and Newbattle, the Hospital of Soltre (now Soutra in Midlothian), the church of Glasgow, etc.  An early offshoot of the family became all powerful in Caithness and held the earldom there from 1379 to 1542.  The frequency of the surname in Caithness and in the Orkneys is due to the tenants on the lands of the earldom adopting the name of their overlord just as we find tenants who possessed no surnames of their own doing likewise elsewhere.
"The Sinclairs, like the Gordons and some other families, cannot be called a clan in the true sense of the term.  They were a powerful territorial family, whose relationship to their dependents was entirely feudal...  An old rhyme referring to the bickerings between the Sinclairs and their neighbors says: 'Sinclair, Sutherland, Keith and Clan Gunn, There never was peace when thae four were in.'
"...In Argyllshire the name is used as an Englishing of Gaelic Mac na cearda."
The earliest mention of the St Clairs is, of course, in France from where they took their name.

Charles 'the Simple' of France offered Hrolf 'the Ganger' the Province of Neustria and his daughter Gizelle in marriage if Hrolf (known as Rollo in France) would cease his raiding of the French coast. That Treaty (912) was signed at Castle St Clair-sur-Epte and it is from that place the St Clairs take their name.  Neustria soon became known as Norse -man's-land or Normandy.  Hrolf soon added Brittany and the Channel Islands to his Duchy.  His
marriage to Gizelle was childless so all subsequent Dukes of Normandy (and St Clairs)
are descended from Hrolf's first wife, Popa, the daughter of Count Berenger of Bayeux.
Within three generations St Clairs are to be found in every Provinbce of France and Alsace.

The first St Clair to arrive in France accompanied Margaret (later St Margaret) from Hungary
in 1057.  He was William 'the Seemly' St Clair.

The English Sinclairs arrived in force with their 'bastard' cousin, William 'the Conqueror' in 1066 and, again within three generations, are to be found with land in 43 English Counties and in Wales.

The word 'clan' simply means a family and, on that basis, the Sinclairs are certainly a Clan.
However, they have always had a European dimension which they retain to this day and,with an estimated 250,000 Sinclairs worldwide, their Viking wanderlust has remained undiminished.  The World is their oyster.

Niven Sinclair

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