The World of Grandpa Don

Townsend, Atherton & DeMolis
Clans in England & Normandy


This page looks at our ancestors extending back from  Lydia Townsend  and Maj. Gen Humphrey Atherton each of whom is our ancestor in separate lines. Each of their lines have been traced back several centuries in England and in antiquity are connected by intermarriage. A third branch follows the DeMolis line of ancestors. These three lines all emerge from the common Patriarch Rollo's descendants.

We have not independently proved this line of ancestors but have relied on the published family trees of others. However the facts seem logical and reasonable.

We welcome corrections.

This is their story, as I know it.

Your return trip to ...

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Our story picks up with two people;

Lydia Townsend.

Lydia Townsend married Lawrence Copeland on October 10, 1651 in Braintree, Massachusets. They were my 7th great grandparents. The Copeland story is found at Copeland Line.

Lydia Townsend Pedegree


Major Humphrey Atherton

Major Humphrey Atherton was my 8th great grandfather. For his story and line of decendants see Atherton/Weeks Family Line

Humphrey Atherton Pedegree


Agnes of Lancashire

Agnes Lancashire was the wife of William Atherton (1225-1280) They were my 20th great grandparents.  She was descended from the DeMolis line of Normans.

Agnes Lancashire Pedegree



The Three lines of ancestors (above) emerged from the descendants of Rollo, a Norsman who settled in the coastal area of France which became Normandy under the rule of him and his descendants.

Descendants of Rollo


The story unfolds:

If other researchers are correct, I discovered that the wife of Lawrence Copeland, Lydia Townsend (My 7th great grandparents) come from a long line of titled Englishmen who, like many others, had roots in the Normandy province of France. I find my 24th great grandfather may have been William De Tunneshende born in Normandy in the year 1145. The family name has had several alterations over the years going to Atte Tunneshende in the 1200's, and them to Tunnesende and back to Atte Townshende before becoming Townsend in the 1300's. Many of those who carried the name were awarded knighthood.  Interesting ... but just interesting. But I am left with a small mystery. Can anyone tell me ... is "Atte" is a prefix like "De" or "Von", or is it a given name? Any ideas? But, not all that surprising, we find that Roger Townsend (1330-1400) my 17th great grandfather, was married to Catherine Atherton and we find the Atherton clan among our ancestors in America. Maj Gen Humphrey Atherton (1607-1661) was my 8th great grandfather. In addition, Walter Tunneshende (b1188), my 22nd great-grandfather was married to Elizabeth DeHautsville. Gerard Tancred De Hauteville (930-1001) was my 29th great grandfather. He, of course was an ancestor of our Chamberlain line of ancestors, the line that came to Brittan with William the Conquer from Normandy. Our ancestry is a tangled web.

I  tried to make that connection with Our Townsend ancestors and the Atherton ancestors way back in England in the 1300's. I couldn't do it. Catherine Atherton who married Roger Townsend, was the daughter of John DeAtherton but her line ended at that point. I traced the Atherton line back to Robert Atherton (b 1100), my 24th great grandfather Lancashire, England and there was a period around the 1300's that the family used the last name of De Atherton so I am reasonably sure that there is a connection. The use of DeAtherton seems to indicate roots in Normandy as did the Townsend clan. But that is put in doubt by the suggestion that it derives from Aethelhere, an Old English personal name and the suffix tun, meaning an enclosure, farmstead or manor estate  Along the way in our search we find this:

Atherton Hall replaced the moated Lodge Hall as the seat of the Athertons who had been lords of the manor of Atherton since the township emerged in the Middle Ages. In 1723, Richard Vernon Atherton, "Mad Richard", began building a new mansion to designs by William Wakefield at a cost of £63,000. (£2,380,000 as of 2016), The hall's construction was described by Lunn as, "A testimony to his pride, vanity and insanity". It was unfinished at the time of Richard Atherton's death in 1726 and completed by his son-in-law Robert Gwillym in 1743 The hall's façade was 102 feet wide supported by Ionic fluted pillars and pilasters. Its Great Hall measured 36 feet by 45 feet. The hall is described in "Vitruvius Britannicus" vol.iii p. 89.

Mad Richard was most likely a cousin since he built his "hall" well after our Maj Gen Humphrey Atherton immigrated to America. We also find in reference to the town of Atherton ...

Atherton was recorded as Aderton in 1212 and 1242, and Atherton in 1259. Opinions differ as to the derivation of the name. One is the farmstead or village of a man named Aethelhere, an Old English personal name and the suffix tun, meaning an enclosure, farmstead or manor estate; another is adre, Saxon for little brook with the suffix tun. Either is possible as Atherton is bounded by brooks to the west and south, and crossed by several others. The western boundary is Hindsford Brook, originally named Goderic Brook after a Saxon saint. The manor was held by the Atherton family from the de Botelers, whose chief manor was at Warrington. William and Nicholas Atherton fought at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The manor house was situated towards the south of the ancient township.

Apparently this William is the same as Sir William ATHERTON (1384-1435) our 15th great grandfather. Many of the clan held the title of "Sir" indicating knighthood.

I discovered that William Atherton (1225-1280) married Agnes Lancashire, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Sherriff DeMoels with a long line of ancestors who included Richard I "The Fearless" Duke of Normandy. He, of course also initiated our Tankerville line of ancestors, yet another connection in our tree which looks to be more and more like a web. See Agnes Lancashire Pedegree. To tie it all together I invite you to view The Descendants of Rollo. Rolo was my 31st great grandfather. See Rollo  Hi is our tie to our Scandinavian roots and is the patriarch of several branches of ancestral lines. If anyone could be named as the Patriarch of our family it could be Rollo. Why not. It's a good name that kind of rolls off the tongue.

Statue of Rollo in Rouen.
There are two bronze replicas of this statue:
one at Ålesund (Norway) and the other one at Fargo, North Dakota (United States)



© Grandpa Don Plefka
aka Harry Ronald Cecora
 March 25, 2016
March 28, 2016