The Josselyn Family
Josselyn Name
Gate at Tollymore Park, Co. Down, Ireland

Josselyn Family Album

The name "Jocelyn" originates from a Norman / French christian name - probably initially spelt as "Goscelin". There are many modern spellings including Jocelyn, Jocelin, Josselin, Josselyn, Josline, Joslyne, Joslen, Joscelyne, Joselyn, Joslyn, Joslin, Josslin, Josolyne, Josling, Goscelin and Gosling.

For consistency I have normally used "Jocelyn" when describing the family in general terms and for the senior (Roden) branch and Josselyn for the junior, Essex, branch.

It seems highly likely that the first English ancestor of our Jocelyn / Josselyn family was a Norman Knight, however as many of the Normans were known as "Jocelyn" (there are several listed in the Domesday Book), we can be reasonably sure that there are several independent "Jocelyn" families today.

Overview and Sources
The Josselyn family are without doubt of Norman origin. Unfortunately, like many old families, their early story was obscured, probably by 18th and 19th C. 'research'. The following quotation from Sir Jonah Barrington's book "Personal Sketches of His Own Times" written in the the 1820's is an excellent comment on the times and the need for caution:
"It is said that "he must be a wise man who knows his own father;" but if there are 30 or 40 of one's forefathers to make out, it must necessarily be a research rather difficult for ordinary capacities. Such are therefore in the habit of resorting to a person who obtains his livelihood by begetting grandfathers and great-grandfathers ad infinitum; namely, the herald, who, without much tedious research, can in these commercial days furnish any private gentleman, dealer, or chapman with as beautifully transcribed, painted, and gilt a pedigree as he chooses to be at the expense of purchasing, with arms, crests, and mottoes to match: nor are there among the nobility themselves emblazonments more gaudy than may occasionally be seen upon the tilbury of some retired tailor, whose name was probably selected at random by the nurse of a foundling hospital.

But as there is, I believe, no great mob of persons bearing my name in existence, and as it is pretty well known to be rather old, I fancied I would pay a visit to our Irish herald-at-arms, to find out, if possible, from what country I originally sprang. After having consulted everything he had to consult, this worthy functionary only brought me back to Queen Elizabeth, which was doing nothing, as it was that virgin monarch who had made the first territorial grant to my family in Ireland, with liberty to return two members to every future Parliament, which they actually did down to my father's time.

The Irish herald most honourably assured me that he could not carry me one inch farther, and so (having painted a most beautiful pedigree) he recommended me to the English herald-at-arms, who, he had no doubt, could take up the thread and unravel it to my satisfaction.

I accordingly took the first opportunity of consulting this fresh oracle, whose minister having politely heard my case, transferred it to writing, screwed up his lips, and looked steadfastly at the ceiling for some five minutes. He then began to reckon centuries on his fingers, took down several large books full of emblazonments, nodded his head, and at last, cleverly and scientifically taking me up from the times of Queen Elizabeth, where I had been abruptly dropped by my fellow-countryman, delivered me in less than a fortnight as handsome a genealogical tree as could be reasonably desired. On this I triumphantly ascended to the reign of William the Conqueror and the battle of Hastings, at which some of my ancestors were, it appears, fairly sped, and provided with neat lodgings in Battle Abbey, where, for aught I know to the contrary, they still remain."

Fortunately, unlike the Barringtons, the Josselyn family is well documented back to about 1150. Prior to that however, the story appears to have resulted from the grafting of the family on to two others with the name Jocelyn. Firstly to the family of Jocelyn of Sempringham (which included St Gilbert of Sempringham - see photo) and secondly grafting the family of Jocelyn of Sempringham to that of Lambert I of France. Modern research shows that neither of these links to be possible.

This raises two questions: at which point is the Jocelyn story 'rock-solid' and can we identify the Jocelyn's prior to this point?

I have assumed here (rightly or wrongly) that the family as listed in the 1999 and later editions of Burkes Peerage can be accepted with a reasonable degree of confidence. This edition of Burkes resulted from extensive new research, revisiting the earlier versions to separate myth from fact. As it is backed up by some independent sources, I feel confident in following their lead. On this basis the family history back to James Josselyn (G24) in about 1150 can be assumed to be reasonably accurate.

To allow you to make your own judgement, in separate pages, I have retained the documentation of the old, discredited family history, the contrary evidence and also have collected information on a number of Josselyn's documented in the Domesday book.

I am indebted to John Hallum for the detailed history of the Josselyns on this website, what you see on these pages is largely his work - see the side bar.

The family tree is complex and so use the following chart to make navigation easier. Each box represents a separate web page. The story focuses on the Senior lines and the Essex line of descent to Charles Josselyn of Lexden.

Introduction (this Page)
The Family myth?
The old family history
- before 1200
A summary of early Josselyns
from the Domesday Book and other sources
Early History
c. 1200 to 1480
G24 to G14 (Ch 1)
Earls of Roden
1480 to today
G14 to G0 (Ch 2)
East Anglian line
1480 to 1710
G14 to G6 (Ch 4)
The Lay Family
1630 - 1920
(Ch 7)
American Josselyns
1500 to today
from G11 (Ch 3)
James Josselyn (Horkesley)
1690 - 1900
G7 to G0 (Chs 6 and 8)
John Josselyn
1700 - 1800
G6 to G5 (Ch 9)
John Josselyn
1770 - 1900
G5 - G2 (Ch 10)
James Josselyn
1770 - 1860
G5 - G3 (Ch 11)
Charles Josselyn
1830 - 1900
G3 - G1 (Ch 12)
Mary Unmarried
Henrietta Thomas George Hallum
Augusta Rev Arthur Lennox-Robertson
Elizabeth (1) Arthur Cooper, (2) Geoffrey Siddons
Bertha Joseph Suche
Eleanor Richard John Guy
Rosalie Charles Hardy Tomson
James A.W. Alice Maud Brettingham
Marion Sir Francis Dymoke
Emily Percy Woolad

In the diagram, the G numbers refer to the number of the generation, starting at G0 with the great-grandchildren of Charles and going back to G24 for the earliest known ancestor.

As can be seen from the 1881 English Distribution, the family have lived mainly in Suffolk and Essex from at least the acquisition of Hyde Hall in the 13th century until modern times.

Notes & References
  1. Thanks to John Hallum

    The Josselyn family history has been researched over many years by John Hallum, a descendant of Henrietta Josselyn and Thomas George Hallum. John wrote this story and sent me a copy on CD as it was too large to e-mail. This made me think that there must be easier ways to communicate such stories to others in the family, which triggered me to set up this web site.

    I have kept John's document as close as possible to the original. However changing from a paper based document to a web page necessitated significant changes to the layout. I have also added new images and facts as they have come to light. Apart from this, the only significant change to the text was to change John's personal references ("I" and "me") and personal reminiscences, to make it clear that they are John's and not mine.

    The chapters refer to John's original chapter numbers.

    Without this excellent material, not only would I still be in the dark on the Josselyn family, I probably would not have started this web site and so I am highly indebted to John!

  2. The Domesday Book
  3. Burkes Peerage (1999 and later)