ONE of England’s oldest families may not have Anglo-Saxon origins after all, new genealogical research carried out by the University of Strathclyde has revealed.

The Berkeley family, who still own Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, can trace their ancestry to the mid-11th century prior to the Norman Conquest.

However the new research suggests that the Berkeleys may actually have a lineage that dates back long before the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the British Isles in the fifth century.

Members of the Berkeley family were tested as part of the Battle of Bannockburn Family History Project run by the Genealogical Studies Postgraduate programme to mark the 700th anniversary of the battle. A number of Berkeley family members fought in the battle.

Until now the family’s earliest known ancestor was Eadnoth the Constable, who served as Royal official to King Edward the Confessor and King Harold. His grandson Robert Fitzharding was granted the Barony of Berkeley and Fitzharding’s son Maurice married one of the Berkeley family and took on the surname.

But DNA testing of Eadnoth’s male line descendants has suggested the family’s origins may go back much further than Eadnoth.

One of the researchers from Strathclyde’s Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Progrmme, Graham Holton, said: “Eadnoth’s male line ancestor was a member of a people who appear to have travelled over a period of time from southern to northern Spain. Some eventually arrived in Britain, possibly earlier than the Roman period.”

It is also possible, Holton suggested, that the family’s ancestor was a Roman soldier recruited in Spain who settled in Britain during the Roman occupation between the first and the fifth centuries.

“With the subsequent dominance of Anglo-Saxon culture, it would almost be inevitable that, over time, the family would adopt Anglo-Saxon names and become assimilated into the Anglo-Saxon culture,” Mr Holton added.

“It is possible that the family maintained its status from the end of the Anglo-Saxon period into the Norman period – a very unusual occurrence – but may also have held this position from an even earlier Roman or pre-Roman period.

“This could be evidence of the longest period of noble status maintained in the male line by one family.”