Garrett DNA Project

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An Annotated Historical Timeline of the Development of the Name

Garrett/Garret/Garratt/Gear—id and also some Fitzgeralds & Chamberlain

Written by Donald Garrett Dickason, former project administrator, (deceased July 17, 2006)

Etymologists have, for a long time, declared that the name 'Garret' comes from the French Gerard (or Girard). But it has not been clear how this evolved. Now there is an interesting historical trail which seems to explain how this happened.
About 1086 there were about 18 men whose first names were Gerard within the forces of the Normans under William the Conqueror who invaded the British Isles. Over time it is believed that these Gerard names evolved to Garret (and variants), as well as some Fitzgeralds, and a few Chamberlains. That is roughly the same period during which surnames also began to evolve. The Gerards, loyal to the invading king, became 'Yeomen,' administering and sometimes owning land on behalf of the King, and employing the indigenous population. Sometimes these persons were called 'tenants-in-chief,' or 'under tenants.'

Some of the descendants of these Gerards eventually came to Ireland and evolved to Garret (and variants) and Gear—id. Some of these Irish immigrants came to the predominantly Protestant North, the ancestral home of the Dickason Garrets. Others, some now with the Irish spelling of Gear—id, settled in the Catholic South. These and other name trails are spelled out in the time lines in Section II and Section III below.

The study of Garrett heritage in America has been very active. There are many Garrett citations leading back to England. Prominent lines of these 'English Garretts' emigrated to America in the early 18th century. However the only Garrett lines that have been identified as coming from Ireland or are in Ireland today relate to the Dickason's ancestral Garrett line.

From the point of view of studying the relationship of various Garret lines it is important to realize that there could be as many as 18 different Garret, Fitzgerald, and Chamberlain lines, each developing from the 18th century yeomen named Gerard. Fitzgerald derives from 'son of Gerald,' an old Irish naming convention. And at least one Gerard became the Chamberlain to King William, and adopted Chamberlain as his name.

Through the use of DNA various sub lines of 'Irish Garretts' have been proven, probabilistically, to be closely interrelated. Significant lines of these 'Irish Garretts' emigrated to America in the late 18th and early 19th century. Many 'English Garretts" have tested, and more are coming in all the time. Consistent with the '18 Garrett Line' hypothesis, these lines - for the most - part, do not seem to overlap genetically.

We are deeply grateful for the information about the early history of the Garratt/Garret/Gerard names provided by Mr. Henry Garratt of England. (Sadly, he was deceased 29 June 2005) His perceptive study of this history far exceeds the simplistic comments concerning the history of these names usually offered to interested family historians.

The 'Domesday Book,' a survey of British life ca 1066 - 1086 is the major source of the information leading from Gerard to Garrett and variants. The identification of the original 18, plus or minus, Gerards comes from this source. It is impossible to know how many Gerard lines survived independently because some presumably intermarried, and some probably were wiped out by the great plague. Mr. Henry Garratt concludes that Gerards became Garrets or variants on the fact that the geographical locations of the Gerards at the time of the Domesday Survey, were the same geographical locations that Garrets and variants were found in the next 100 years or so. The primary reason for this name evolution was simply the Anglicization of the French Girard to the English Garret or variant.

--Donald Garrett Dickason
January 2005