THE ORIGINS OF OUR NAME
by Ron and Rita Duckett

As far as we are aware, the first published research into the history of our names was undertaken by Sir George Floyd Duckett (GFD) of Hartham, Wiltshire in the 1860's, when two editions of Duchetiana were produced. In these he writes:

"The earliest of the name, and presumed descendant of the Burgundian Duchets, whom we find in England is Raymond Duket (or Duchet), a justicier (or officer of the Curia Regis acting judicially) in the 10th of William The Conqueror, according to a deed of confirmation, reciting an Inspeximus of a Concord, acknowledged before him of that date."

Then in 1960 Thomas E Duckett (TED) of Bristol produced The Duckett Family History in which he links his Somerset Duckett family to GFD's Wiltshire line and gave this explanation of our roots:

"According to the author of the Conquerants de l'Angleterre, the progenitors of the Ducketts were a Norman family who were the Lords of Ducè.

Ducey, as it is usually written today, is a place on the banks of the River Selune, some five miles south-east of Avranches in Normandy and fifteen miles west of Mortain. An extensive account of the family appeared in the Annales Civiles et Militaires du pays d'Avranches."

coat of arms

Over the years learned researchers have cast doubts on some of the findings in these books, especially TED's links to the Lords of Ducè. Then in the mid 1990's, whilst professional research was being undertaken for Alan Duckett, the present Baron of Kendal, they discovered three fifteenth-century wills providing evidence that the Somerset Duckett's were in residence at Cheddar well before the name had arrived in the county of Wiltshire. Also, in the late Eric Banwell's research, he had discovered that one of TED's early ancestors shown in his Wiltshire link had in fact died at the age of five. This is not to say that all of TED's book is at fault, but that new research that was not available to him has now come to light.

When deciding on our early roots for the Duckett One-Name Study, we (as those of you who have visited the Duckett Website will know) have taken Nichole Duket as the earliest recorded spelling that resembles the different name variations we are now researching DUCAT ~DUCKETT ~DUCKITT ~DUGGETT

Nichole was Sheriff of London in 1191 & 1196, Bailiff in 1197 and Chamberlain 1199. His name also appears on the Charter Rolls of 1206, listing him as Nichole Duket, the son of Ranulphe Duchet.

Ranulphe's name is on the Great Roll of Exchequer, 1130 [DFH p4]

Both early books agree in their research that the wife of Sir John Duket of Fillingham Lincolnshire (a decedent of Nichole Duket) is linked to Gundreda the wife of William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey. There is little doubt regarding this line as the Heraldry link can be followed in their coats of arms. The question the learned researchers ask and cannot agree on, is whether Gundreda was the youngest daughter of William the Conqueror or only a step daughter? Knowing that family structures were very different in those days, it is still difficult to see how a youngest child could be a stepchild?

A few years ago when this argument was being raised a document was produced from the USA stating:

"As Gundreda is the key person in this Pedigree some documentary evidence of her identity is desirable. Lappendurg, in the "History of England under the Norman Kings" names each of the sons and daughters of William I, ending with "and Gundreda married to William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey". In a charter, on the occasion of the founding of the Priory at Lewes by William de Warrenne, King William calls Gundreda his daughter, and William de Warrenne names Queen Matilda as her mother. The original charter was sent to the mother house of Cluny. We are told that it still exists in excellent preservation in the National Library in Paris and bears the autographs of William the Conqueror, Queen Matilda, William de Warrenne, and Gundreda."

In an attempt to settle this we contacted Paris and got the following reply, which as you will see was not the most helpful as it needed translating.

This was our interpretation:

Dear Sir

The Department of Manuscripts of the National Library of France is indeed in possession of two documents (pieces No. 121 and 122) which are of interest to you. They are bound in the manuscript 78 of the collection of Bourgogne.

The first dated towards 1080, is a charter of Gundreda de Warrenne, confirmed by William the Conqueror, concerning the Saint - Pancrace de Lewes. According to the specialists it is an authentic document.

The second is a Vidimus dated 1407, which refers to older acts which are not in our possession. The information that you requested is contained therein. The Vidimus itself appears to be authentic but it would be necessary to study with prudence the base and form. Not being a "diplomatists" I cannot help you further.

The two acts have been edited by Alexander Bruel, Recueil des chartes of the Abbey of Cluny, IV, Paris, 1883 No's. 3558 - 3559 and 3561. The Vidimus is also published in the "Monasticon Anglicanum," V, p. 12 and 13.

I am sending a copy of my letter to the photographic Service of the National Library of France who will send you an estimate.

Yours etc ......

After much to and fro with letters over payments, we finally received four photographs of these documents. This started a fresh and more complicated round of translating, as they were beyond our capabilities.

The experts had no trouble with the earliest one, confirming the French interpretation but stated that it only contained the marks and not the signatures of the participants.

As to the second document, we are still awaiting to find a volunteer to attempt an interpretation of it. Due to it being quite a large document, we will just show the opening lines, in the hope of attracting a reader with the ability to achieve this.

Getting back to the origins of our name and its different spellings, these we consider can mainly be attributed to local accents when people move to and from different area? Changes often occur in records within families, when a new priest or vicar came to a parish. This lack of importance with the use of surnames in the middle ages can best be demonstrated by quoting Cambridge University, who list the founder and first president of Queens College in 1448 as Andrew Doket, son of Sir Richard Duket of Grayrigg, Westmorland.

The one variant that could have originated from a different source is Ducat, or did the money obtain its name from ours? Regarding this name, it is quite noticeable that although many Duket's/Duckett's in the middle ages escaped to Europe to avoid persecution, continental records we have seen only contain variants of the name Ducat. This adds weight to our own theory, that it was one of these exiles that introduced this name back into Scotland.

Mind you, no one (even us who carry the name on) can be sure of our roots, as there are a number of times when names have been changed to suit a situation and with all research it is not possible to rule out past infidelity without the help of DNA.

Bronwyn Rauk in Australia  has supplied her research on Gundreda, to see it click here

©Ron and Rita Duckett, Burton upon Trent, England.