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Author: Dr John S Plant (bio)
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The Plant Millennium Reunion (1999)

Keith and Mavis Plant

The late W Keith Plant was at that time the active Group President and he and his wife Mavis were amongst those welcoming visitors from widespread parts of the world to the Plant Millennium Reunion at the Village Hall near Chelford in Cheshire, UK.

Though some of us were already active on the internet, it has since become more commonplace to interact through email and by this website (started the following year) along with such developing means as the Plant Facebook Group (started a decade or so later still). In that year of 1999, an occasional reunion along with the paper-based Plant journal (started 1990) were more the essential forms of communication for the Group.

The day included a coach tour of the surrounding countryside, which already appeared to have been a major location for the Plants ca.1380-1680. There was also a presentation on the medieval Origins of the Plant Name by JSP of the nearby Keele University.

This is outlined by the Presentation Slides which has led on to further developments such as journal articles by JSP (1999-onwards), Roots and Branches, Issue Number 18 onwards [though see also the update below].

John Plant

Update on the slides of the presentation

It should be added that evidence is sparse for the Plantagenet name in the times when the Plant surname was forming. The term 'Plantagenet child' was used in the talk [and included in the slides] to indicate a child in the context of an Angevin ('Plantagenet') nobility. The presentation concluded with an hypothesis whereby the Plants could have been assorted 'auxiliaries', particularly in the context of 'Plantagenet' campaigns against the Welsh.

According to earlier nineteenth-century claims, the Plants had been seen as illegitimate descendants of the royal Plantagenet line though this is debunked elsewhere on this web-site, not least in the light of recent DNA evidence. Feality of the Plants to the Plantagenets is a lesser claim. Substantial evidence has come to light since this 1999 presentation and this shows proximities of early Plant records specifically to the lands of one particular line of illegitimate feudal Lords who descended from Henry II. This loosely links to Plantagenet, in as much as Henry was the eldest son of Geffrey Plante Genest (later Plantagenet) of Anjou. Further evidence that the surname Plant might have initially indicated fealty to Plantagenet is lacking however. It now seems possible that specifically a Longspée-Audley illegitimate line of feudal Lords could have coined the name Plant for some of their peasants who were living on their lands near a 'planted place' - this is in broad agreement with the French origins of these Lords and the medieval Norman name forms de la Plaunt and Plaunt (as a toponymic surname, Plant would be somewhat similar to such a surname as one that related to a locally distinct Hill).

Perhaps the biggest development since the presentation is that Y-DNA evidence for the Plants started to be obtained in 2002. This was first taken to indicate that the early Plants could perhaps have had many polygynous children producing a large single family. That placed more emphasis on the Welsh meaning 'children' than, for example, a more general 'to establish' sense of the Middle English verb plaunten, 'to plant'. Though the main Plant family is surprisingly large, other explanations besides illegitimate children have since been developed for this main Plant family's vigorous growth, such as an early or fast start to the main Plant family. Much of the high growth for this main family can be ascribed simply to chance, as well as to the life sustaining means of the Plants later known to have been yeoman farmers in the main Plant homeland, around the Staffordshire Moorlands, who could well have been able to extend the boundaries of their moorland and valley farms with relatively liitle friction (Plant yeoman farmers are now known to have abounded especially here in early Plant wills). This could have been sufficient to raise an above average number of children with adequate sustenance (perhaps sometimes because of more than one fertile wife to prolong some early Plant men's fertile years).

The 'to establish' sense of plant, listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, was highlighted in the presentation as it might have been appropriate to the 'colonising' of land in the Welsh Marches, especially near Chester by some 'auxiliaries' of the nobility who assembled there by around 1300. This has since been varied into more emphasis on peasants by around 1360 bringing new land into use around 40 or so miles to the east, especially in connection with the Cistercian abbey in their NE Staffordshire homeland. More generally, the name could mean living near some such 'planted place'. The more widespread Plant records show around twenty locations of early Plants that coincide in particular with the widespread English lands of the Longspée-Audley feudal Lords who came from Normandy, likely bringing a 'vegetal' tradition, not least to the main Plant homeland.

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