The First Christian In Our Family, Wessex King Ceawlin

Compiled by D. A. Sharpe


The passion for history in pursuing my ancestry includes a focus in learning the documentation and the extent of Christian experience that was present in my family lines.  This report covers the person whom I believe was the very first Christian convert out of our originally pagan ancestry.


In 591, Scottish King Ceawlin received Christian Baptism.  He is the earliest member of this ancestry which claimed Christianity, over 1,400 years ago.  Pope Gregory had sent a missionary circa 590, named Father Columba.  King Ceawlin is the 18th great grandfather of the 14th great grand uncle of the Edward Southworth, the first husband of my 7th great grandmother, Alice Carpenter.  My descending from Alice was through her second husband, Plymouth Colony Government William Bradford. 


Not only was my 7th great grandfather William Bradford a leader of the early Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, but he was the principal composer of the Mayflower Compact, that revolutionary document of self-governance agreed upon by the 41 men out of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower prior to their stepping onto their new land.  Bradford’s Christian leadership of the Pilgrims became legendary and was truly a Christian witness.


King Ceawlin (also spelled Ceaulin and Caelin) was born at an estimated 547 AD.  His death was 593, presumed from injuries incurred in battle, and he was interred in Wessex, England. 


Caledonia (pronounced kal ih DOH nee uh) is the ancient Roman name for northern Scotland. It later became a poetic name for all Scotland.  The Roman general, Gnaeus Julius Agricolo, invaded Caledonia in 83 AD.  The first Caledonians were the Picts.  The Caledonians of early English history were Picts and Scotts.  Their raids forced the Britons to seek the help of the Anglos and the Saxons. 


Father Columba’s ministry was to the Picts (pronounced pihkts) who were an ancient people of northern Scotland.  The Picts were given this name by the Romans, because the Picts painted or tattooed their skin.  The Latin word for painter is pictor.  The first historical reference to the Picts occurs in a speech made by a Roman orator in A.D. 297.  The Pictish tribes fought the Romans for many years.  The Romans built two long walls to keep the Picts out of the province of Britain.  Later, the Picts fought the Teutonic conquerors of Britain, the Anglos and Saxons.  They disappeared as a people about A.D. 900.


Contributor: Robert S. Hoyt, Ph.D., Author, Europe in the Middle Ages.


In 593, there was a great slaughter of Britons at Wanborough.  King Ceawlin was driven from his Kingdom.  This was the year ye died, at the young age of 46. The Picts have long been regarded as enigmatic savages who fought off Rome’s legions before mysteriously disappearing from history.  They were considered wild tribesmen who refused to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for the benefits of civilization.  Far from the primitive warriors of popular imagination, they did build a sophisticated culture in northern Scotland in the latter half of the first millennium AD, which surpassed their Anglo-Saxon rivals in many respects.



However, King Ceawlin is revered in our minds as a fellow Christian in our family lines.  The very first Christian we have identified as having that faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Father. Praise be to God!


Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe

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