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Fay Sampson’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)




This surname occurs in many forms: Paulet, Poulet, Pawlett, Powlett, with one or two ‘t’s. The name is thought to have come from the village of Pawlett on the Somerset Levels.

There are colourful stories about the origin of this family. Colin Winn, who researched the Pouletts of Hinton St George, quotes two of them.[1]

One story states that about the year 1135 Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and third son of Henry II, landed in England. Among his followers came a knight of Picardy, one Hercules, Lord of Tournon. After the accession of Henry II [1154] the services of Hercules of Tournon were rewarded by a grant on Fee of the Lordship of the Manor of Pawlett, a village near Bridgwater in Somerset, where he took up residence and from which he assumed the surname of Poulet or Paulet. This story, however, cannot be traced back further than the 16th century, and was probably the invention of the Elizabethan heralds.

Arthur Collins, in his Peerage of 1741, tells this story: [2]

  1. POWLETT, Duke of Bolton

Hercules, Lord of Tournon in Picardy, came to England with Jeffery Plantaginet, Earl of Anjou, third son of King Henry II and having, among other Possessions the Lordship of Paulet in Somersetshire, was wrote of that Place, and his Posterity retained the Name. And his Son, William de Paulet, residing at Leigh in Devonshire, gave to it the Denomination of Leigh-Paulet, and dying in 27 Henry III 1242, was succeeded by William his Son and Heir, who was also wrote of Leigh-Paulet, and died in 10 Edw I 1281, leaving issue Walter Paulet of Rode in Com. Somerset, who died in 8 Edw.II 1314, and was succeeded by John his Son and Heir.

Collins is not a reliable source, and Winn does not agree with his genealogy, but documentary evidence links the early Paulet family to the places Collins mentions.

Some family trees equate Hercules de Tournon with the first William Paulet. There is no evidence for this.

Winn continues:

“Another source suggests the Paulets are descendants of the Aunou family, who owned Pawlett in the 12th century. Henry is said to have granted to Foulque d’Aunou, and his heirs, the manors of Grondson and Pawlett in North Petherton, Co. Somerset. Foulque d’Aunou, who was living in 1124, was said to be descended from Baudric le Teuton, Seigneur de Becqueville-en-Caux and Sire de Boquencé. Baudric himself is said to have been an illegitimate son of Charles de Cambrai, Duke of Lorraine, the son of Louis IV of France, and was living in 1022. His grandson fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. However, there appears to be no documentary evidence to support either the descent of the Aunous from Baudric or Baudric’s parentage. Nor is any relationship established between the Paulets and the Aunous. It is more than likely, therefore, that the Paulets are an old Anglo-Saxon family who lived and farmed in the area and took their name from Pawlett village.”


Nowadays, a third story had been added. A number of internet family trees have the first William Paulet as the illegitimate son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. This would make him a grandson of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and thus descended from William the Conqueror, through the Empress Matilda or Maud, who fought King Stephen unsuccessfully for the throne of England.

This theory is ascribed to Collins. It’s a nice story, but the text does not bear that interpretation. There is no indication of either Hercules de Tournon or William de Paulet being Geoffrey’s illegitimate son. Hercules was just one of Geoffrey’s retinue. And Winn does not even believe that Collins’ account of the Paulet origins is true.

That said, Winn’s conclusion that the Paulets were an Anglo-Saxon family should be treated with caution. After the Conquest, almost all the land in England fell into Norman hands. Pawlett was no exception. The Domesday Book says of the manor of Pawlett:

“Rademer holds of Walter PAWLETT. Sæmær held it TRE [in the pre-Conquest time of the English King Edward the Confessor] and it paid geld for 1 virgate of land. There is land for 1 plough, which is there in demesne with 1 slave, and 2 bordars and 3 cottars, and 5 acres of meadow. It was and is worth 10s.” [3]

The Walter referred to here as Pawlett’s feudal lord is not Walter Pawlett, but Walter de Douai.  Pawlett was one of the smallest and poorest manors if which he was overlord.

The first William Paulet may be descended from an Anglo-Saxon farmer, like Sæmer, who was able to take back some land. Aspiring Anglo-Saxons gave their children Norman names like William. Or he could be the descendant of a Norman supplanter, like Rademer.


[1] Winn, Colin G, The Pouletts of Hinton St George, Research Publishing, 1976
[2] Arthur Collins, Peerage of England. www.books,google.co.uk.
[3] Williams, Ann and Martin, G H (eds), Domesday Book, A Complete Translation, Penguin 1992.




Sampson Tree