Recovering the Gunn lineage

I don’t have any known Gunn ancestry but I got interested in them a lifetime ago. Someone at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City suggested the Swanstroms, if they were originally Scottish, might have been Gunns.

Actually, I think the idea was that the Swanstroms absolutely, positively had to be Gunns for a variety of reasons, but we won’t worry about that because they’re not. Nevertheless, I was left with a lifelong interest in the Gunns.

A tradition that evolved only in the past few hundred years claims an illustrious descent for the Gunns. They are said to be descended from Sweyn Asleifson, poetically called The Ultimate Viking.

However, this descent is known to be nonsense. It’s endlessly repeated because so many people prefer romance to reality. I’m not immune myself. For many years, I carried Eric Linlater’s novel The Ultimate Viking (1956) on my list of use books to find and read. It was long out of print, so I had very little hope of finding it. It was only a few years, with the advent of the Internet, that I was able to find and buy a copy.

As I struggle to break the addiction to romantic fantasies, I’ve come to admire the work of Alastair Gunn, whose no-nonsense style is bringing Gunn history into the light of reality. His idea is that the first known ancestor of what became the “chiefly family” was George Gunn (“Coroner Gunn”), died 1464. Everything before him has been concocted out of unconnected bits and pieces.

There’s a Facebook group for Clan Gunn that posts occasional updates. See it here. I haven’t watched it long enough yet to know the general feeling about the legendary origin of the Gunns, but on, which is supposed to be a respectable genealogical site, there has been quite a bit of vitriol around conforming the Gunn line to the facts. I created a Clan Gunn project there a few years ago and did some cleanup. It hasn’t been an easy sell.

Some day I need to go back and clean up my own notes.

Side note: If I have any Gunn ancestry at all it would be through Bessie Rorieson [Gunn], mistress of John Sinclair, Master of Caithness (d. 1575). They were the parents of Henry Sinclair of Lybster, speculative father of immigrant John Sinclair (d. 1700), of Exeter, New Hampshire.

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