[This article has been slightly modified from a posting which was made to GEN-MEDIEVAL /
soc.genealogy.medieval on 12 July 1999.]
His parents very probably were Ralph, lord of Alost (Aalst in Flemish), and Gisele, daughter of Frederick count of Luxembourg.
Sherman has given the most recent detailed account which is the basis for what is summarized below, unless another reference is stated. All the records cited by Sherman have been published. He emphasized the evidence was very strong, but not conclusive.
Gilbert I de Gant (d. ca.1095) was in England by 1069 when he and William Malet unsuccessfully defended York castle against the Danish invasion and local rebellion [Sherman; EYC 2:432; CP 6:672n; P. Dalton, Conquest, anarchy and lordship, 1994, p.11].
A 1075 transaction in the Watten abbey chronicle was witnessed by Gilbert, described as having come from England and as the brother of Baldwin of Ghent. In 1052 Ralph of Ghent and his son Baldwin attested a charter of the abbey of St. Peter of Mount Blandin, Ghent (Gand, Gent), presumably the same Baldwin. Their records are the main source of information for this family.
Ralph the Advocate was one of the advocates of St. Peter from as early as 1026 to sometime before 1058. He was succeeded by Baldwin the Advocate. They are believed to be Gilbert's father and brother mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is from their service as advocates that some members of their family were called 'de Gandavo' (of Ghent). Sherman proposed the castellans of Ghent were the other family of advocates of St. Peter. He also noted that while Gilbert's family were the lords of what was probably the county of Alost, they were never titled counts in any records.
In a 1094 gift to the abbey of Bergues St. Winnoc, witnessed by Baldwin of Ghent (son of Gilbert's brother Baldwin who d. 1082), Ralph the Chamberlain identified himself as a son of Ralph of Alost and Gisele. He was a fellow witness with Gilbert to the 1075 transaction mentioned above. He may have been the Ralph son of Ralph in a 1056 charter of St. Peter, prior to his appointment as chamberlain. Alternatively, the 1056 Ralph son of Ralph might have been Gilbert's father, but he appeared to have been dead in that year, or someone unrelated.
The annals of St. Peter record about 1042 a gift from Ralph of Ghent and his wife Gisele -- their earliest joint appearance. They had at least 3 sons: Baldwin (their heir), Ralph the Chamberlain, and Gilbert. It is thus extremely probable that she was the unidentified Gisele in 1056 and 1058 who gave land and a serf to the abbey for the souls of her father, her husband Ralph, and her sons. Both of her gifts were witnessed by Baldwin, Ralph, and Gilbert, described as her sons. Although they were not called 'of Alost' or 'of Ghent', it would be an extraordinary coincidence if these were not the members of that family.
Rubincam, using a source not used by Sherman (and published after Vanderkindere), found that in 1036 Ralph of Ghent and his wife Gisele made a gift to the abbey. Neither Rubincam nor Sherman provided sufficient details to determine if this was the gift Sherman reported occurred in 1042. Rubincam also found, but didn't cite a source, that Ralph in 1056 witnessed a gift by count Baldwin to the abbey of St. Omer. Rubincam believed he was Gilbert's father, but he was probably the brother.
Assuming this was Gilbert de Gant in the 1056 gift and that he was about 16 or older, then he was born about 1040 or earlier. His brother Baldwin was probably the Baldwin of Ghent who witnessed a St. Peter charter in 1046, suggesting he was born about 1030 or earlier.
Also, if that was a grant by Gilbert's mother, then his father Ralph had apparently died sometime between 1052 (his last occurrence) and 1056. His parentage is unknown, but it seems likely that he was a descendant of the Ralph the Advocate who appeared in the abbey's records in 994.
Vanderkindere (1:121) mentioned a Baldwin occured as advocate in 962 (not discussed by Sherman) who may thus be another ancestor of Ralph. Moriarty assumed Baldwin was the father of the earlier Ralph who was in turn the father of Ralph husband of Gisele. In view of the large gaps, however, there may have been additional generations.
Gilbert's mother was probably the Gisele who was a sister of Otgiva (Ogive), wife of Baldwin IV count of Flanders, and thus Gilbert was one of Charlemagne's descendants. The burials of both Otgiva (d. 21 Feb 1030) and Gisele (d. 21 May, year unknown) are mentioned in the annals of St. Peter, but it, unfortunately, did not name Gisele's husband.
Europaische Stammtafeln (ES), 6:128 (1978), identified Gisele as a daughter of count Frederick and wife of Ralph of Alost, but didn't show their children on that page. It also showed her sister Otgiva married about 1005 Baldwin IV. ES 2:5 (1984) had 1012 for Otgiva's marriage date, as did K.F. Werner's 'Die Nachkommen Karls des Grossen', in Karl der Grosse, ed. W. Braunfels, vol.4 (1967).
Sherman wondered if the erroneous ancestry for Gilbert given in Monasticon Anglicanum (5:491) may have arisen when the unknown author, writing after 1307, found in an unknown source that Gilbert was described as 'nepos' of William the Conqueror and assumed it to mean 'nephew', although in this case its less frequent meaning of 'kinsman' was intended. Gilbert was the first cousin once removed of William's wife, if the assumption about Gisele's identity is correct.
Gilbert's name appears to have come from his mother's family -- her older brother was Gilbert count of Luxembourg (1047-59), and she had a paternal uncle also named Gilbert. He had a son named Ralph and a grandson named Baldwin, while his brother Baldwin of Ghent named one of his sons Gilbert [CP 7:672; Sherman].
Sherman didn't mention if any tenants of Gilbert de Gant in England can be traced to Flanders. Gilbert did not seem to hold any land in Flanders.
The identification of Gilbert's father as Ralph of Alost first appeared in A. Duchesne, Histoire genealogique des maisons ... de Gand, ..., 1631. Among the many later writers who have given it were the following:
- L.V.J.A. Vanderkindere, Histoire de la formation territoriale des principautes belges au moyen age, vol.1 (1899).
- W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters (EYC), 2:432 (1915).
- Complete Peerage (CP), 7:672n (1929).
- M. Rubincam, 'The true origin of the house of Gaunt', Genealogists' magazine, 9:1-7 (1940).
- F.M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, 1st ed., 1941, p.621; 3rd ed., 1971, p.629 (no source). D.C. Douglas, William the Conqueror, 1964, p.267, only cited Stenton for it.
- G.A. Moriarty, 'The ancestry of Gilbert de Gant', The American Genealogist, 34:39-40 (1958).
- R.M. Sherman, 'The continental origins of the Ghent family of Lincolnshire', Nottingham Medieval Studies, 22:23-35 (1978).
Sherman did not use Farrer, Rubincam, nor Moriarty. See his paper for references to additional works discussing this family.