My mother’s family always has claimed to have descended from Scottish Royalty. Most of the time I dismissed the notion. I’ve heard many people make such claims and most of the time I assumed these assertions were just delusions of grandeur. After I had done some genealogical research of my own I discovered there might be a shred of truth regarding my families Scottish heritage.
My own last name is Italian but my maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Greathead. When I began to research Scottish Royalty I discovered a line of kings known as the house of Canmore. A relative of mine pointed out to me that Canmore translates to Greathead. This could not be just a coincidence.
The house of Canmore began with Malcom III in the year 1058, and ruled until 1290. The fall of the house of Canmore coincided with England conquering Scotland in the late 13th century. Edward the first of England (also known as Edward Longshanks) had squashed the Scottish rebellions, claimed Scotland for himself and appointed the Anglo-Norman John Balliol to the throne of Scotland. Scotland would fight to gain its independence for the next several hundred years. By this time the descendants of Malcom Canmore had dispersed all over England and many would eventually settle in the U.S and elsewhere.
Some of my older relatives had bragged that they are descendants of the man who killed Macbeth. For those who are not familiar with Shakespeare’s play Macbeth dies at the hands of Malcom III of Scotland. Since my maternal family is not particularly literary this must have just been hearsay. After researching Scottish history I wanted to see if I could trace my Scottish ancestry back to the house of Canmore.
While doing some researching on the internet I stumbled upon a Greathead genealogical site created by a distant relative living in England. The website provided detailed charts linking all the Greatheads who had settled in the US. After searching for hours I was able to find my great aunt Charmane Greathead on the genealogical chart and extrapolate backwards from her. First I had to confirm that Charmane was actually my aunt because I had always known her as Norma. I didn’t even know her birth name was Charmane until she had passed. My grandmother who was Charmane’s sister was able to confirm her identity.
I knew it would be too daunting to trace my Scottish ancestry back to the 13th century. I discovered my oldest known relative was William Greathead who was born in Norfolk county England about 1710. He appears to have been a tax collector who married a brewer. His descendants include an army officer in India, a ship captain who sailed to Australia and a Union leader in Oakland CA who happened to be my great-grandfather.
While I’m far from being able to link my family to Scottish royalty at least I can now determine when my mother’s family settled in Oakland and the United States. Someday when I have more resources I’ll search through the England’s tax records and census to find my link to Scottish royalty.