A visit to the Mathers ancestral castle in Scotland

According to some researchers, the Scottish name Mathers originates from a place name on the east coast of Scotland, a place name associated with the Clan Barclay. The Barclay lairds of Mathers took the title “laird of Mathers” or equivalently “Second of Mathers” etc, and some Mathers claim that this is the origin of the Mathers surname, and by implication, that the Mathers descend from the early Barclays of Mathers. There are certainly quite a number of people called Mathers who lived in this area in the nineteenth century, but its more than likely that they took their name from the place rather than by descent from the Barclays. But I won’t let that stop me from claiming a cannibal laird as an ancestor – see my earlier post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/01/20/my-cannibal-ancestors/

Heading towards the village of East Mathers on the east coast of Scotland

Heading towards the village of East Mathers on the east coast of Scotland

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Maternal ancestors: Bronze age, iron age, Roman Britain

This is the last of a series of posts on my deep maternal ancestors, identified through analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which is passed only from the mother to the child and so provides a trail of maternal ancestors identifiable through the mutations accumulated in the mtDNA. In this post I summarize the “recent” maternal ancestors who lived through the beginnings of agriculture in Britain, the British bronze age, the British iron age, the Roman occupation, and post-Roman Britain.

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Cathar castles: Montréal de Sos and the Grail Cave

Further up the Vicdessos valley from the ice age paintings of Niaux ( https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/02/23/the-ice-age-paintings-of-the-grotte-de-niaux/)  is one of the less well known Cathar castles, known as Montréal de Sos. It sits on a rocky outcrop, the Vic de Sos, from which the valley gets its name. Occupied since the Bronze age, this was the site of an Iron Age oppidum, a Carolingian fortress, and during the Cathar period one of the most powerful castles of the Foix region, Montréal-de-Sos. Under the castle remains is a cave with two exits – or an entrance and a different exit. Such caves were used for initiation rituals in Cathar times.

The Vic de Sos, 2011. Montréal de Sos on top, the Grail Cave below, 2011.

The Vic de Sos, 2011. On top is Montréal de Sos, entrances to the Grail Cave below.

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Origins — the fascination of ancestors — recent, ancient, extreme

I have had an interest in the history of my family since childhood, when I wrote a short history of the Mathers family that drew heavily on documents and recollections of family members, particularly those of a great-uncle and great-aunt born in Scotland in the 19th century. When I discovered Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as a teenager, I was fascinated by the genealogical charts in the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings. For some reason, I find the tracing of connections to a larger history deeply satisfying. Over the last ten years, I returned to researching my ancestry using the powerful tools offered by the Internet, with access to databases and historical records that I would not have dreamed possible before.

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Cathar castles: Peyrepertuse and Quéribus

Peyrepertuse 1996

Peyrepertuse 1996

The Cathar country in the foothills of the French Pyrenees is one of my favourite places. I first went there in 1992 while living in Montpellier, then again in 1996, 2002 and most recently in 2011 with my family. I have pulled together a few photos from these trips and this first post features Château de Peyrepertuse and the nearby Château de Quéribus. Continue reading