I am doing quite detailed research on the Nel Family history and have uncovered some astounding information. It appears as if we descend from a brother of the Norse Viking Rollo, who was the ruler of Normandy after King Charles “The Simple” of England ceded the territory of Normandy to him in the year 912.
Rollo was also the ancestral great, great grandfather of William The Conqueror who was Duke of Normandy and King of England and Scotland.
Surnames only came in to use in Europe in the 13th century. The surname Neel/Nel/Neil derives from the Norwegian first name Niall that means champion. In France, and particularly in the Rouen area of Normandy Niall became Neel or Neil.
In 938 the Neel 1 as he was known was appointed as the Baron of Saint Sauveur le Vicomte and occupied the Castle of Saint Sauveur close to Rouen. The ruins of this castle still exist today. His son, The Neel 2 inherited the title but lost it for a short while after he led a revolt against King William of England. He was, however, forgiven a couple of years later and was re-instated.
The Neel 2 had a son called Guillaume. This is the first Guillaume Neel that I can trace. The second Guillaume Neel that I can trace was a French Huguenot who was executed by the parliament of Rouen in 1553 during the French religious wars for refusing to take Roman Catholic communion.
Guillaume Neel, who became Willem Nel in the Cape was the owner of the well known wine farm Blaauwklippen which he bought from the Dutch artisan Gerrit Janz Visser in 1690. In 1711 he sold Blaauwklippen to his son-in-law Barend Pieterse and bought the farm Bootmans Drift next to the Berg River close to the town of Riebeek Kasteel.
Willem’s father was Pierre Neel (1637) who was married to Judith Gouye on 18 April 1660. Willem’s grandfather was also Pierre Neel (1610) and his grandmother was Anne Mauger nee Neel. Willems wife was Jeanne La Bat. Her father was Jacques La Bat and her mother was Susanna Laurant.
The amazing fact is that I have managed to trace all this history and a lot more but I cannot trace my ancestry from my grandfather back to Guillaume. My Grandfather was Willem Jacobus Nel (my name also) but he died when my father was 8 years old and with him the knowledge of the family before him. My father was Jacobus Nicholas Erasmus Nel. The name Willem and Jacobus recurs in the family quite often. Other regular names in the family are Louis, Hendry and Gerhardus. All that I know is that my grandfather settled in Kempton park area during the gold rush. He apparently came from the Eastern Cape, probably East London area. Any help will be welcome.