Message Boards > Surnames > Chamberlin
Subject: Re: John Count of TANKERVILLE, Castle, Normandy, France
Author: James Baldwin Parker
Date: 24 August 2004
I'm delighted to hear that you are interested, Ashley, in learning more about the origins of the Chamberlains in America and elsewhere, and the origin of the name itself, in antiquity. Much has been published, over the past 106 years (when the original Chamberlain Association of America was founded), as you can imagine, on these subjects. Unfortunately, we present-day active Chamberlain researchers/genealogists, who are very familiar with all of the "literature", now spend much of our time responding to, and debunking, lots of stuff that appears on the Internet, and much earlier in the "literature", that is just plain wrong, or simply guesswork.
I refer you to the homepage of the World Chamberlain Genealogical Society , of which I was a co-founder in 1996, which will answer some of the questions you have posed, in more depth than I can address here. But let me summarize, as follows, my own answers to these questions, based on my own knowledge of the subjects, and with reference to the extensive Chamberlain records I maintain here.
- Henry Chamberlin, "The Blacksmith", of Hingham & Hull, MA, (not to be confused with Henry "The Shoemaker" - a very detailed article was published in the NEHGR by David Conrad Chamberlin, Sr. just on this subject which I recommend that you obain and read), was born in England about 1592-1595, and his orgins remain unknown. This is the subject of continuing professional genealogical research in England (sponsored by the WCGS), but results to date are discouraging. DNA analysis of known descendants in the U. S. proves that Henry(1) is unrelated to the other early Chamberlain/lin immigrant ancestors in North America. The origins of Henry "The Shoemaker", who returned to England with his family, are likewise unknown, and his descendants haven't been traced, either, unfortunately.
- Welton Chamberlain, of Pinckney, Michigan (which is just a few miles from where I live here in Whitmore Lake, MI), the first President of the WCGS in 1996, and also my 5th cousin, published a well-researched, and richly documented book on the Tankervilles, their likely line of descent (he calls it "speculative"), and how it might tie into our own line of Richard(1) Chamberlaine of Braintree, MA, another one of the five earliest Chamberlain immigrant ancestors in New England. You can probably still purchase a copy of this fine book from Welton, if you wish. Years ago, I abstracted the data from this book into a "lineage" of sorts, together with detailed "notes" (which I'm studying as I write this message), tracing all known descendants (there aren't very many Tankerville lines which have actually been traced to the 18th or 19th century, as yet, but we are hopeful that more of them will be found/proven as the years progress). Research is continuing (mostly by Philip J. Chamberlain who is in charge of the "English Ancestries" research committee for the WCGS) to clear up some inconsistencies and "holes" in the speculative lineage that Welton wrote about, but that is another matter, much too obscure and complex to discuss here, though Philip is beginning to publish some of these results in the WCGS newsletter, the "Chamberlain Key." At present, DNA samples have not yet been obtained from known Tankerville descendants. Tankerville descendants probably include some relatively wealthy early Virginia colony immigrants (what we call the "Thomas" line), and numerous lines in England (most of which have not yet been traced, as mentioned above). If and when DNA samples can be obtained and tested, we will immediately know whether any of the major Chamberlain/lin families in North America do match. In the meanwhile, the WCGS is continuing to collect and test samples from the descendants of dozens of family "groups." Some of the results are very surprising, and are prompting us to question and re-research the lineages previously believed (from traditional research) to have been valid. One of these surprises occurs in the second generation of the "Henry" line, where two of his sons have DNA that doesn't match! Philip J. Chamberlain is also in charge of this DNA project, and routinely publishes very detailed internal WCGS reports about this DNA study, with anaylsis of each test result, which I receive here, and avidly study. You are welcome to contact Philip or myself if you have any questions concerning this DNA study and its findings, including data for the "Henry" group, to which you belong.
- The surname "Chamberlain" was indeed originally a title, and a very distinguished one at that, more than 1000 years ago. For instance, you mentioned "John Earl was LORD CHAMBERLAIN to King Henry I, England." I have his name listed here as John de Tancarville, who was Lord Chamberlain to King Henry I of England, who reigned between 1100-1135. John was probably a son of William Fitz Ralph de Tancarville, who came with Duke William "The Conqueror" to England, then returned. William's father, Ralph (Fitz Ralph) was said to have been the mentor and companion of Duke William in his youth, and it is said that "Le Chamberlain de Tancarville was at Senlac Hill, near Hastings, during the great battle there on 14 Oct 1066. The next generation on back, Ralph Fitz Gerold, or "Raoul le Chamberlain", also called "Radulfus Camerarius filius Geroldi" in Latin, was the guardian of Duke William, and also went with him to Hastings [I question whether all of these Chamberlains indeed went with William the Conqueror to England, but perhaps they did]. Gerold, the next generation on back (who died c1056), was also probably the Chamberlain to the earlier Dukes of Normandy. The generations before that lived at Tancarville Castle in Hauteville, Normandy, and were probably also attached to the household of the Dukes of Normandy. Tancred de Hauteville I, a Viking descendant, received the Lower Seine River fief from "Hrolfr" (850-927) in 912, subsequently called Tancarville. Hrolfr was a Norwegian Viking who obtained the Dukedom of Normandy from Charles III of France in 911. The original Viking invasion of this area was in 1885. This brief account, which skips some early generations, should give you some idea when and where the Chamberlain title arose in this particular Tankerville family in Normandy. But the original Latin name/title, "Camerarius", meaning "of the Camera", was probably used much earlier, and by other unrelated families in Italy, France and elsewhere. It is my belief that this title was used by other baronies in France and in other noble families in other countries, but I haven't studied the subject carefully. So, one should expect many unrelated families to have used this title as a surname, over the course of many centuries. Also, one would expect some of their serfs, tradesmen, etc., who would be totally unrelated (by blood) to their Baron or nobleman, would also assume Chamberlain as a surname, which practice began in the 1500s in England. DNA analysis of present day descendants of some of the major Chamberlain (various spellings) families who came to America, prove to our satisfaction that many Chamberlain families are indeed completely unrelated to each other, going back more than 1000 years. The name Chamberland and Chamberlan (with several other variations of that French spelling including Chamlin, later changed to Shamlin, Camblin, etc.), continued to be used in France and Ireland (as opposed to England), and descendants were among early immigrants to Quebec, Canada, and in the southern U. S. colonies. I attempt to track all of these families and their origins here (creating lineages for each of them), knowing, however, that they are probably unrelated to each other, and probably unrelated to the Tankervilles, as well. DNA analysis should resolve most of these questions, within just a few years from now.
- Yes, there is a Tankerville crest, which you can see for yourself in the WCGS homepage/website, and WCGS members can tell you how to go about acquiring one for yourself, I suppose. Welton Chamberlain has a lovely large, wooden, painted Tankerville plaque hanging on the wall in his dining room at his home that I've seen there, for instance, which served as the model for the crest used in the WCGS website. Of course, Henry the Blacksmith, whose origins are unknown, and which are quite likely of very humble birth, would have had no family crest. I'm also a "Henry" descendant, by the way. Earlier generations have speculated whether Richard(1) Chamberlain might have been Henry(1)'s nephew, but DNA anaylsis proves that Richard(1) and Henry(1) are completely unrelated to one another, and also unrelated to the other early immigrant ancestors in North America. The other three original New England Chamberlain immigrant ancestors, Edmund, Thomas and William (some of whom probably lived in Virginia before coming to Massachusetts), have been proven by DNA analysis to be very closely related to one another, and the available historical/genealogical research shows they were likely brothers.
This should begin to answer (in a very cursory, condensed, abbreviated and undocumented way) some of the important questions you have raised. I hope this response is helpful to you and to other Ancestry.com Chamberlain Message Board readers. Please contact me via Email if you have additional questions or concerns.