Two living members of the deQuetteville family have recently undergone DNA analyses that reveal genetic markers characteristic of Norwegians[i]. Though the traces only comprise between 5% and 10% of ethno-genetic composition, it is sufficient to determine that a deQuetteville progenitor was of Norwegian origin. One is P*(xR1a) common among southwestern Norwegians and another is N3, which is associated with Sami and Finnish men, found among northwestern Norwegians, both of which are distinct from haplogroups found in Danish or Swedish individuals.
In addition to the preponderance of Celtic and Germanic markers, these results tell a story. When surnames first started being used in Normandy in the 12th century, someone who came from the village of Quetteville was recorded with that name. Was that person related by blood to a Viking who founded the settlement? If so, what available evidence would allow us to corroborate that fact with the DNA evidence?
Presumably, our man would have been important or wealthy enough to have left the village and to merit having his name recorded. From that we might gather that he was a land-owner descended with some probability from the original settler, Ketil, who gave his name to the settlement. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Some 100 to 200 years intervene between the time when Ketil’s farm became known as Quetteville and the time when our progenitor received his surname.
Perhaps, the farm that was Ketil’s passed into the hands of an unrelated Frankish family — or maybe a descendent of a slave who had been brought to farm the land from Scotland and who had since gained freedom as a ‘karl’ – who then had a son who went off to war or made a donation to a church and was subsequently recorded as having done so. Fortunately, the DNA analysis is one piece of evidence available to resolve this otherwise intractable problem, and that evidence shows that anyone with the name deQuetteville has a high probability of having a Viking forebear, with some concession made to the possibility that it might not exactly be the one we know as Ketil (further genetic corroboration would otherwise be needed to establish this fact).
So, what is known about Ketil? And how did he and his descendants go from Norway to Normandy to Jersey to Canada? Most of what is known about the deQuetteville surname and its people derives from the island of Jersey. From sometime in the 10th, 11th, 12th or 13th century until the mid-20th century, an unbroken line of deQuettevilles inhabited the island and married, had children, carried on business and died there.
In his 1859 Armorial of Jersey, J Bertrand Payne identified the family as having “been settled from a very early period in the eastern parish of St Martin…. Its name is very probably derived from the village of Quetteville, in Normandy; and the fief of Quetivel, in Jersey, received the name of this family, who were probably its first proprietors…. The family has continued to reside in its old ancestral house, and is now represented there by Francis De Quetteville”.
As with many such families, one of the most interesting aspects is understanding the circumstances surrounding how they came to be on the island. Many of the descendants of the old Channel Island families that appear in the earliest records, from about 1180 and 1274, wish to know whether their ancestors arrived there before 1204 or after; 1204 being the date when Angevin England’s King John ‘lost’ his Norman possessions to the Capetian French King Louis Philippe. Families that already resided on the islands had to choose allegiance with one or the other King; those who chose John forfeited their lands in Normandy, while those who chose Louis forfeited their lands in England. Knowing the circumstances of one’s family’s choice helps to understand a fundamental characteristic of the narrative arc of that family’s history. It may also be considered as an organizing principle for understanding the trajectory of their subsequent history.
After 1204, King John obligated his Channel Island subjects who claimed feudal rights to land there to reside on their property so as to enforce their loyalty to him. Those who wished to visit their properties or family in Normandy were allowed to do so for no more than two weeks. One of the oldest documents mentioning family names on Jersey is the 1274 Extente. It happens also to be the first time a deQuetteville appears in the Jersey records. The specific question that needs to be addressed in regards to the deQuetteville family of that era is did they arrive on the island sometime after 1204 and before 1274 as an Anglo-Norman family in the service of one of King John’s seneschals, or were they among the families who were already there and who simply rose to prominence as the result of King John’s administration of the islands?[ii] If the weight of the evidence proves that they were residents of the island before 1204, the question then becomes how long before? Under what circumstances might they have landed there? Were they relatively recent Norman arrivals, or were they there since the time of the Vikings?
[i] Channel Islands
The Channel Islands were once part of Normandy, a region of France founded by the Norwegian Viking Rollo. With the help of local historian Frank Fale, the UCL team decided to test the people of Jersey and Guernsey to see if any evidence of these early Viking settlers in France could be found in their DNA. The volunteers were split into two groups, those with Norman surnames, and those with English surnames.
The DNA of those with non-Norman surnames was found to be very similar to that from men in England. This was a mixture of Ancient Briton with those of the ‘invading’ populations. These invaders included both the Angles and Saxons who arrived in England in the 5th and 6th centuries and the Danish Vikings. These two types of DNA could not be distinguished but, like men tested in England, Channel Islanders with English surnames had a significant proportion of DNA from these ‘invaders’.
The DNA of those with Norman surnames was markedly different. These men were found to be very similar to the Ancient Britons. But on top of this ancestry was a hint of the Norwegian DNA signature, indicating that Rollo could possibly have had an effect on the genes of people from the Channel Islands today.
[ii] This is one of the central questions posed by Professors Holt and Everard in their book 1204:The Forging of an Island Community (2004).
(It should also be noted that Bernie deQuetteville (1914-1998), whose father came from Jersey, had red hair and blue eyes; a sign of Celtic-Norse genetic heritage).