Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Home | Where McGee's Come From | A Brief Family History | Early Family History | Cemetary Page | McGee Family Beginnings In Photos | Early McGee Photos | McGee Photos | Oliver Horatio McGee Siblings Photos | Generation Photos | McGee Family Stories | Family Reunion | Researching Your Own Family History | Contact Me
McGee Family Ancestry

Early Family History

Here you will find the earliest history of our lineage that I could find recorded.  There is a brief history of the region known as the Franks, and Charlemagne. I hope you will enjoy reading about our early humble beginings.

The Franks or Friingii, formed one of several west German Tribes who entered the late Roman Empirefrom Frisia  as foederati and established a lasting realm in an area that covers part of today's France , and Germany (Franconia), forming the historic kernel of both these two modern countries.

The Frankish realm underwent many partitions and repartitions, since the Franks divided their property among surviving sons, and lacking a broad sense of a res publica, they could only conceive of the realm as a large extent of private property. This practice explains in part the difficulty of describing precisely the dates and physical boundaries of any of the Frankish kingdoms and whoever ruled the various sections. The contraction of literacy while the Franks ruled compounds the problem: they produced few contemporary written records. In essence however, two dynasties of leaders succeeded each other, the Merovingians and then the Carolingians.

The word frank meant "free" in the Frankish language. Freedom did not extend to women or to the population of slaves that moved with the free Franks. Initially two main subdivisions existed within the Franks: the Salian ("salty") and the Ripuarian ("river") Franks. By the 9th century, if not earlier, this division had in practice become virtually non-existent, but continued for some time to have implications for the legal system under which a person could go on trial.
Foundation of the Frankish kingdom

The earliest Frankish history remains relatively unclear. Our main source, the Gallo-Roman chronicler whose History of the Franks covers the period up to 594, quotes from otherwise lost sources like Sulpicius Alexander and Frigeridus and profits from personal contact with many leaders of the Franks known to Gregory. Apart from Gregory's History there exist some earlier Roman sources, such as Ammianus and Sidonius Apollinaris Modern scholars of the period of the migrations have suggested that the Frankish people emerged from the unifications of various earlier, smaller Germanic groups inhabiting the Rhine valley and lands immediately to the east, a social development perhaps related to the increasing disorder and upheaval experienced in the area as a result of the war between Rome and the Marcomanni , which began in 166 C.E., and subsequent conflicts of the late 2nd century and the 3rd century C.E.

For his part, Gregory states that the Franks originally lived in Pannonia , but later settled on the banks of the Rhine. A region in the northeast of the modern-day Netherlands-- i.e. north of the Roman border -- bears the name Salland, and may have received that name from the Salians.

Around 250 CE a group of Franks, taking advantage of a weakened Roman Empire, penetrated as far as Tarragona in present-day Spain  plaguing this region for about a decade before Roman forces subdued them and expelled them from Roman territory.

About forty years later, the Franks had the Scheldt region under control and interfered with the waterways to Britain ; Roman forces pacified the region, but did not expel the Franks.

In 355- 358  the later Emperor Julian once again found the shipping lanes on the Rhine under control of the Franks and again pacified them. Rome granted a considerable part of Belgica to the Franks. From this time on they become foederati of the Roman Empire.

A region roughly corresponding to present day Flanders and the Netherlands  south of the rivers remains a Germanic-speaking region to this day. (The Dutch languagepredominates there now). The Franks thus became the first Germanic people who permanently settled within Roman territory. (For a map see the external link <http://www.roman-emperors.org)

 At first they helped defend the border as allies; for example, when a major invasion of mostly East Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine 406, the Franks fought against these invaders. The major thrust of the invasion passed south of the Loire river. (In the region of Paris, Roman control persisted until 486, i.e. a decade after the fall of the emperors of Ravenna, in part due to alliances with the Franks.)

The Merovingians

The reigns of earlier Frankish chieftains -- Pharamond  (about 419  until about 427 ) and Chlodio (about 427  until about 447) -- seem to owe more to myth than fact, and their relationship to the Merovingian line remains uncertain.

Gregory mentions Chlodioas the first king who started the conquest of Gaul by taking Camaracum (today's Cambrai) and expanding the border down to the Somme. This probably took some time; Sidonius relates that Aetius surprised the Franks and drove them back (probably around 431). This period marks the beginning of a situation that would endure for many centuries: the Germanic Franks became rulers over an increasing number of Gallo-Roman subjects.

In 451 Aetius  called upon his Germanic allies on Roman soil to help fight off an invasion by the Huns. The Salian Franks answered the call, the Ripuarians fought on both sides as some of them lived outside the Empire. At this time Merovech  reigned as king of the Franks. Gregory's (oral) sources did not seem sure whether Chlodio was his father.

Clovis engaged in a campaign of consolidating the various Frankish kingdoms in Gaul and the Rhineland, which included defeating Syagrius in 486. This victory ended Roman control in the Paris region.

In the Battle of Vouill, Clovis, with the help of Burgundy defeated the Visigoths, expanding his realm eastwards up to the Pyrenees mountains.

The conversion of Clovis to Roman Christianity, after his marriage to the Catholic Burgundian princess Clothilde in 493, may have helped to increase his standing in the eyes of the Pope  and the other orthodox Catholic rulers. Because they were able to worship with their Catholic neighbors, the formerly Arian Franks found much easier acceptance from the local Gallo-Roman population than did the Visigoths, Vandals , Burgundians. The Merovingians thus built what eventually proved the most stable of the successor-kingdoms in the west.

Stability, however, did not feature day-to-day in the Merovingian era. While casual violence existed to a degree in late Roman times, the introduction of the Germanic practice of the blood-feud to obtain personal justice led to a perception of increased lawlessness. Disruptions to trade occurred, and civic life became increasingly difficult, which led to an increasingly localized and fragmented society based on self-sufficient villas. Literacy practically disappeared outside of churches and monasteries.

The Merovingian chieftains adhered to the Germanic practice of dividing their lands among their sons, and the frequent division, reunification and redivision of territories often resulted in murder and warfare within the leading families. So, on Clovis's death in 511, his four sons divided his realm between themselves, and over the next two centuries his descendants shared the kingship.

The Frankish area expanded further under Clovis' sons, eventually covering most of present-day France, but including areas east of the Rhine river as well, such as Alamannia (today's southwestern Germany) and Thuringia (from 531 ). Saxony , however, remained outside the Frankish realm until conquered by Charlemagne centuries later.

After a temporary reunification of the separate kingdoms under Clotaire I , the Frankish lands split once again in 561  into Neustria , Austrasia , and Burgundy.

In each Frankish kingdom the Mayor of the Palace served as the chief officer of state. From about the turn of the eighth century, the Mayors tended to wield the real power in the kingdom, laying the foundation for the new dynasty, the Carolingians.

The Carolingians

The Carolingian  kingship traditionally begins with the deposition of the last Merovingian king and the accession in 751  of Pippin the Short , father of Charlemagne. Pippin had succeeded his own father, Charles Martel, as Mayor of the Palace of a reunited and re-erected Frankish kingdom comprised of the formerly independent parts.

Pippin reigned as an elected king. Although this happened infrequently, a general rule in Germanic law stated that the king relied on the support of his leading men. These men reserved the right to choose a new leader if they felt that the old one could not lead them in profitable battle. While in later France the kingdom became hereditary, the kings of the later Holy Roman Empire were unable to abolish this tradition and continued as elected rulers until the Empire's formal end in 1806.

Pippin solidified his position in 754 by entering into an alliance with Pope Stephen III  against the Lombards ; this papal support proved crucial to silencing any objections to his new position. Pippin donated the re-conquered areas around Rome to the Pope, laying the foundation for the Papal States, of which only the Vatican City remains today, and in turn received the title patricius Romanorum, protector of the Romans.

Upon Pippin's death in 768 , his sons, Charles and Carloman  once again divided the kingdom between themselves. However, Carloman withdrew to a monastery and died shortly thereafter, leaving sole rule to his brother, who would later become known as Charlemagne and become an almost mythical figure for the later history of both France and Germany.

From 772  onwards, Charles conquered and eventually defeated the Saxons to incorporate their realm into the Frankish kingdom. This campaign expanded the practice of non-Roman Christian rulers undertaking the conversion of their neighbors by armed force; Frankish Catholic missionaries, along with others from Ireland  and Anglo-Saxon  England, had entered Saxon lands since the mid-8th century, resulting in increasing conflict with the Saxons, who resisted the missionary efforts and parallel military incursions. Charles' main Saxon opponent, Widukind , accepted baptism in 785  as part of a peace agreement, but other Saxon leaders continued to fight.

Upon his victory in 787 at Verden , Charles ordered the wholesale killing of thousands of pagan Saxon prisoners. After several more uprisings, the Saxons sufferred definitive defeat in 804. This expanded the Frankish kingdom eastwards up to the Elbe river, something the Roman empire had only attempted once, and at which it failed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. In order to more effectively christianize the Saxons, Charles founded several bishoprics, among them Bremen , Paderborn , and Osnabr

At the same time (7730, Charles conquered the Lombards and thus could include northern Italy in his sphere of influence. He renewed the Vatican donation and the promise to the papacy of continued Frankish protection.

In 788, Tassilo, dux (duke) of Bavaria rebelled against Charles. After the quashing of the rebellion Bavaria became incorporated into Charles' kingdom. This not only added to the royal fisc, but also drastically reduced the power and influence of the Agilolfings (Tassilo's family), another leading family among the Franks and potential rivals. Until 796 , Charles continued to expand the kingdom even farther southeast, into today's Austria and parts of Croatia .

Charles thus created a realm that spanned from the Pyrenees in the southwest (actually, including an area in Northern Spain after 795) over almost all of today's France (except Brittany, which the Franks never conquered) eastwards to most of today's Germany, including northern Italy and today's Austria.

On December 23 and 24, 800, Pope Leo III  crowned Charles as Emperor  in Rome in a ceremony that formally acknowledged the Frankish Empire as the successor of the (Western) Roman one. The coronation gave the Empire the backing of the church, and gave permanent legitimacy to Carolingian primacy among the Franks. The Ottonians later resurrected this connection in A.D. 962 . In 812 the Byzantine  Emperor Michael I acknowledged Charlemagne's position as Emperor.

Upon Charlemagne's death on January 28 , 814  in Aachen, he was buried in his own Palace Chapel at Aachen.

Charlemagne had several sons, but only one survived him. This son, Louis the Pious, followed his father as the ruler of a united Empire. But sole inheritance remained a matter of chance, rather than intent. When Louis died in, the Carolingians adhered to the custom of partible inheritance, and the Treaty of Verdun  in 843 divided the Empire in three:


Louis' eldest surviving son Lothair became Emperor and ruler of the Central Franks. This kingdom was in turn divided among his three sons, into Lotharingian, Burgundy  and (Northern) Italy. These areas would later vanish as separate kingdoms.

Louis' second son, Louis the German, became King of the East Franks. This area is the kernel of the later Holy Roman Empire, which eventually evolved into modern Germany. His third son Charles the Bald became King of the West Franks; this area is the foundation for the later France.

Legacy

Although an historical accident, the unification of most of what is now western and central Europe under one chief ruler provided a fertile ground for the continuation of what is known as the Carolingian Renaissance.

Despite the almost constant internecine warfare the Carolingian Empire endured, the extension of Frankish rule and Roman Christianity over such a large area ensured a fundamental unity throughout the Empire. Each part of the Carolingian Empire developed differently; Frankish government and culture depended very much upon the individual ruler and his aims. Those aims shifted as easily as the changing political alliances within the Frankish leading families. However, those families, the Carolingians included, all shared the same basic beliefs and ideas of government. These ideas and beliefs had their roots in a background that drew from both Roman and Germanic tradition, a tradition that began before the Carolingian ascent and continued to some extent even after the death of Louis the Pious and his sons.

When modern historians (from the late 18th century on) hearken back to an example of a unified Europe, they turn to the Carolingian Empire, not to the Roman Empire.

Whether the Carolingian Empire lasted (or, it could be argued, ever really existed as an Empire per se) in a geographical or political sense has no material bearing on this view. The model of several individual kingdoms (or regna, to give them their proper names) under one rule clearly resonates today. One might argue that the divisions of Verdun still provide the general borders of Germany, France, and Italy, but one can scarcely suppose that they provide any clear cultural divide. They cannot divide the Germanic-Roman Christian legacy begun by the Carolingians.

Charlemagne

Charlemagne (April 2 - January 28  or Charles the Great, in German Karl der Gro?, in Latin Carolus Magnus, and hence the adjective form 'Carolingian'), was king of the Franks from 771 to 814 , nominally King of the Lombards , and Roman Emperor.

Life

Arguably the founder of a Frankish Empire in Western Europe, Charlemagne was the elder son of Pippin the Short  (751-768), the first Carolingian king, and his wife Bertrada of Laon .

Pippin the Short indulged in the monopoly of the coining of money, deciding on the opening and closure of minting shops, the weight, title and the subjects represented. European coinage began with Pippin the Short who revived the system put in place by the ancient Greeks and Romans and kept going by the Eastern Roman Empire (1 libra = 20 solidi = 240 denarii). On the death of Pippin the kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman (Carloman ruled Austrasia ). Carloman died on December 5, 771, leaving Charlemagne with a reunified Frankish kingdom.

Charelemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign. He conguered Saxony in the 8th century, a goal that had been the unattainable dream of Augustus. It took Charlemagne over 18 times at battle to win this victory. He forced Catholicism on them, and led massive slaughters of those who refused. He dreamed of the reconquest of Spain, but never fully succeeded in this goal.

In 800, at Mass on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III  crowned Charlemagne emperor, a title that had been out of use in the West since the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in 476. While this title helped to make Europe independent of Constantinople, Charlegmagne did not use the title until much later, as he feared it would create dependence on the Pope.

Pursuing his father's reforms, Charlemagne did away with the monetary system based on the gold sou. Both he and king Offa of Mercia took up the system set in place by Pippin. He set up a new standard, the livre (pound -- both monetary and unit of weight) which was worth 20 sous (as per the solidus, and later the shilling) or 240 deniers (as per the denari, and eventually the penny). During this period, the livre and the sou were counting units, only the denier was a coin of the realm. Charlemagne applied the system to much of the European Continent, and Offa's standard was voluntarily adopted by much of England.

Charlemagne organized his empire into 350 counties, each led by an appointed count. Counts served as judges, administrators, and enforced capitularies. To enforce loyalty, he set up the system of Missi Dominici, meaning 'Envoys of the Lord.' In this system, one representative of the church and one representative of the emperor would head to the different counties and every year report back to Charlemagne on their status.

When Charlemagne died in 814, he was buried in his own Cathedral at Aachen. He was succeeded by his only son to survive him, Louis the Pious, after whose reign the empire was divided between his three surviving sons according to Frankins tradition. These three kingdoms would be the foundations of later France  and the Holy Roman Empire.

After Charlemagne's death, continental coinage degraded and most of Europe resorted to using the continued high quality English coin until about AD 1100. It is difficult to understand Charlemagne's attitude toward his daughters. None of them contracted a sacramental marriage. This may have been an attempt to control the number of potential alliances. After his death the surviving daughters entered or were forced to enter monasteries. At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne's court circle.

 Cultural significance

Charlemagne's reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art and architecture. Most of the surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. The pan-European nature of Charlemagne's influence is indicated by the origins of many of the men who worked for him: Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon; Theodulf  a Visigoth ; Paul the Deacon, a Lombard; and Angilbert and Einhard, Franks .

Charlemagne enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture. One of the great medieval literature cycles, the Charlemagne cycle or Matter of France, centers around the deeds of Charlemagne's historical commander of the Breton border, Roland, and the paladins who served as a counterpart to the knights of the Round Table; their tales were first told in the chansons de geste. Charlemagne himself was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the 12th Century. He was a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies.

 It is frequently claimed by genealogists that all people with European ancestry alive today are probably descended from Charlemagne. However, only a small percentage can prove descent from him. Charlemagne's marriage and relationship politics and ethics did, however, result in a fairly large number of descendants, all of whom had far better life expectancies than is usually the case for children in that time period. They were married into houses of nobility and as a result of intermarriages many people of noble descent can indeed trace their ancestry back to Charlemagne.

Unification legacy

The greatest European unifiers: Frederick Barbarossa , Louis XIV , Napoleon , Jean Monnet , Helmut Kohl, and present leaders such as Gerhard Schröder have all mentioned Charlemagne's name in the context of unification.

Wives

Himiltrude, Desiderata ,Hildegard of Savory (married Abt 771) Fastrada (married 784died 794) Luitgard (married 794died 800)

Children

Pepin the Hunchback (d. 810) Charles, King of Neustria (d. 811) Pepin, King of Italy (ruled 781-810) Louis I The Pious, King of Aquitaine, Emperor (ruled 814-840 ) Lothar (d. 780) Six Daughters (Hildegarde?, Gisele?, Adelheid?, Bertha?, Lothaire?, Rotrud?) Aupais ?

 

 

 

 

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here