Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ancestral Migrations

2011-1820: New York, United States
My mother is the last Riddle in our line, according to how the Western world understands genealogy. The truth is that the blood will continue to travel down in the lives of my nieces and nephew, and their children, and their children. Just because the name will fall out of use on our tongues doesn’t erase the blood.

It always comes back to the blood. Over a century, Riddles moved westward from the Massachusetts coast into the unsettled lands of Western New York. They were soldiers and farmers and family men.

1820-1759: Massachusetts, America
In America, we can trace the Riddles back to Thomas Ridel who married Rebekah Moulton in Monson, MA in 1759. He emigrated from Tyrone County, Ireland. Beyond that, there is no documentation as to who his parents were or when he actually came to America (barring a trip to Ireland to hope to root through old documents). I could have assumed this was the end of the trail, which it is, if the names of my ancestors are the only goal I am concerned with.

It’s just as important to me to know where my people came from, where they travelled, what they struggled through. I ran a search for the “history of Riddles in Tyrone County Ireland.” In the 1700s, many Presbyterian Scots were pushed to move out of the country, resulting in five great migrations of Scots-Irish to the New World. I assume one of the first four migrations were when Thomas came over:
  • 1717-1718 (drought)
  • 1725-1729 (poverty)
  • 1740-1741 (famine)
  • 1754-1755 (disastrous drought)
  • 1771-1775 (poverty)

1759-1687: Tyrone Co., Ireland
The Riddles who settled in Tyrone Co. did so during a time in Europe when William and Mary, Protestants, were fighting the Catholic King James to keep England from falling back under Catholic rule after he gave birth to a legitimate Catholic heir. Protestant landowners began seeking out others willing to move to Northern Ireland and push out the Catholics there. The Riddles settled in Ulster and Tyrone Co. and for just over a century, taking on the description of Scots-Irish.

1687-1100: Lothian, Scottish Lowlands
The people of the lowlands were not Scottish, nor were they English. They did not wear kilts, speak Gaelic and they didn’t live in clans. They were descended of Viking blood, the children of Normans who interbred with Scottish families.

They were Northmen who became Lowlanders, existing in between political and geographical countries in lands that were difficult to farm and subjected to multiple cattle raids that eventually left them no option but to attempt the same. The Ridels were among the first Normans to hold estates in Scotland.

In 1125, Walter Ridel received the oldest charter gifted from a King to a layman, in the lands originally called Lilliesleaf. They were called by the name Riddell in the 1400s. Because of this original charter, Riddell became a denotation of lands held by families not of Scottish heritage (i.e. Cranston Riddell and Glen-riddell).

Walter Ridel was thought to be a brother or nephew of Gervasius/Gervase/Geoffrey Ridel, both of whom travelled to Scotland with David I, Prince and Duke of Cumberland. They were both favored friends of the court. Gervase was appointed High Sheriff of Roxburghshire in 1116. The Ridels lived in the lowlands for generations.

1100-1066: England
Where did they come from, if they weren’t Scottish or English? Thanks to historians, I found an answer. The Sieur de Riddel, and his brothers, accompanied William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings and was a man of importance to William, who appointed him Lord-Chief-Justice of England. They were Norman invaders, come to conquer the island. Gervase was granted lands there, perishing at sea in 1120 on return trip to France. His sons stayed on in England.

1066-940: Normandy, France: Land of the Northmen
In 910, the Viking Jarl, Thorfinn Rollo the Ganger, invaded France. Rollo is considered to be the first great Norman invader (and is an unverified paternal ancestor of mine). The Vikings were explorers who began their raids in search of food. When they discovered the fertile lands of France, some of the Scandanavians decided to stay. My ancestors were among these men.

940-unknown: Rugdale or Ryedale, Scandanavia
The Ridels were Scandanavians who are believed to have originated in Rugdal or Ryedale, known as the Valley of Rye. It was thought that the spelling changed in the pronunciation of Rye-dale on the Scottish tongue. Another theory is that the meaning of the name never lost its original meaning.

A riddle was a tool, or instrument, used to clean and winnow rye and other grains. The surname Ridler or Riddler denoted one who winnowed grain.


Ancestral Migrations
How many other families would find themselves traced back to the same Scandanavian people? The lesson in this for me is that we cannot afford to define ourselves by who we are- all those labels and boxes- because we all were the same people at some point in time. Remember that the next time you are walking about your city, and look around at your human kin.


  1. Sure wish we could find Thomas's parents in Ireland. On a side note it is interesting to see the interplay of families across the generations. On my Mother's side I am a grandson descended from William I.

  2. I have dreams of travelling to Tyrone Co. Ireland and searching churches for birth records. As far as I can tell, no one has done that yet. My favorite Grandpa was a Riddle and I would love to extend that line in memory of him.

    That's amazing that both of your family lines take you to the same time in history! I have a post from Jan 30, 2013 about how I discovered my parents actually both share an ancestor in Henry II!


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