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Mark Sutherland-Fisher's Genealogy

One of the most ludicrous sayings in genealogy and family history is that “he or she comes from a very old family”. We all come from old families. Indeed every family is as old as every other family. It is a biological fact! What genealogists are trying to say is that the individual concerned belongs to a family which has been documented for many generations, usually because it is a noble or landed family and usually related in Europe and other countries to the royal line of monarchs or in the USA descended from a Mayflower immigrant or related to one of the small number of powerful families which have dominated commerce, the law, the church and politics since before 1776 and a member of which was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence.

Mark has known much about his maternal family history since he was old enough to understand the stories his grandparents were sharing with him. He began to learn about his paternal family history when he was able to tease some information out of his father in his teens. Mark has been an active student of genealogy and family history since the age of 15 and over more than 40 years has amassed a huge collection of records and documents relating to his family and those other families to which his family is connected.

Few families are truly “working class” or “upper class”. Most families have a mix of people from all social backgrounds. Mark’s maternal family is almost exclusively Scottish with a tiny sliver of Welsh thrown into the mix. The majority of his maternal Scottish ancestors arrived in Scotland in the advent of the Norman Conquest of England and subsequent migration north of Flemish and Norman families at the request of Malcolm Canmore and David I in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. Mark’s paternal family is almost equally English and Scottish with a tiny sliver of Irish thrown into the mix. Many of these ancestors were almost certainly Viking settlers. This has been confirmed by the development of DNA testing which shows Mark to be predominantly British (non-Celtic), Flemish and Norwegian with traces from Finland, Turkey, India and possibly even Central America!

The story of Mark’s family is like that of so many others. It has swung from incredible wealth and power to absolute poverty and all parts in between. His ancestry is overwhelmingly rooted in the land among the farming community.

Throughout history, the ownership or occupation of land has been the key to power and influence. It has also been the pre-requisite for a family to be recorded in the written annals of history. Most people struggle to research their family history pre 1750-1790, generally the first generation to have been automatically documented in society. Prior to then, it tended to be only the powerful and those who fell foul of the law who made it into the records. For a great many families in North America since British Colonial days, their best hope of identifying the emigrant ancestor lies in the hope that either s/he was a common criminal transported before 1775, often for a trivial offence or was a man serving in the British army sent to fight the French and Spanish who then settled on government granted land as reward for a long career.

The ruling class has always comprised two groups, the titled and untitled nobility. The titled nobility comprises those individuals who belong(ed) to a royal house or aristocratic family. The untitled nobility comprises those individuals who belong(ed) to what has been known as the landed gentry and other gentry who have been marked as having distinguished themselves in some way, usually recognised with Letters Patent from the Crown.

Mark’s paternal grandfather’s family hails from Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland, the north-western counties of England now collectively known as Cumbria. They have lived there since at least the reign of Henry VIII. Some have simply got on with life as Yeoman farmers occupying the lowest rank of landholders, squires of small communities. Others have gone on to distinguish themselves in public life and society. Mark’s family name lives on in the area through James Fisher & Sons plc, the major shipping company founded by his family in the mid-19th century. In North America they are better known as Pioneer members of the LDS, the Mormon Church.

Mark’s link to his paternal family was recognised in 1996 when he received Letters Patent of Arms from the Earl Marshal of England and Garter King of Arms by authority of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. His personal Coat of Arms and Letters Patent can be seen in the photographs below.

Mark’s grandmothers’ families both have a mix of Highland and Lowland origins, generally coming from the area through the central strip of Scotland on either side of Stirling from Perth in the North to Glasgow and Edinburgh in the south. Many of these folk were farmers, Burgesses of the major towns and cities and people of commerce. He also has some roots in London through his paternal grandmother.

Mark’s maternal grandfather’s family hails from the 6 counties bordering the Moray Firth in the Northern Highlands, namely  Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty, Inverness, Nairn and Moray. His paternal ancestor Freskyn of Moravia was a Flemish noble who conquered and then settled land in the area around modern day Elgin in Moray in 1130 at the request of David I.

If you wonder if you are related to Mark in some way, you can find him on Wikitree as “Sutherland-Fisher-1” and on the DNA database at GEDMatch as T606222.

Mark's Coat of Arms
Mark's Coat of Arms
This is a close up of Mark Sutherland-Fisher's personal Coat of Arms. You can see it illustrated in the top left hand corner of his Letters Patent
Mark's Letters Patent
Mark's Letters Patent
These are Mark Sutherland-Fisher's Letters Patent of Arms granted in 1996.
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