Der Vogt was in fact the official representative
of a king or emperor, someone who himself also became a feudal
overlord and, in medieval Germany, had to have the status of
In the case of the Gisones they had more than
one vogtei. As it was, when it came to ecclesiastical
institutions the vogt had a very important role to play in
secular matters, everything from representing his charge in
the royal court to providing the necessary military assistance.
Perhaps a better translation would be 'reeve',
or more properly high-reeve, a title given to certain magnates
in tenth and eleventh century England (from the Old English
hēahgerēfa). Following the Norman conquest
they became the shire-reeve (sheriff). A similar use can be
found in Low Saxon (Germany) in hogref, a title taken
by medieval judges in areas such as Westfalen (Westphalia)
and Nieder-Sachsen (Lower Saxony). It is even possible that
the term 'graf' derives from Old German given the Saxon word,
'gräfe', the equivalent of the Old English 'gerefa'.
That the Giso counts can be considered
vögte of this monastery in Wetter is without dispute.
They already had their family seat at Hollende which was
already built before the first Giso is named (or at least
mentioned in any surviving records), which at the same time
was an imperial possession and consequently means that it
was an imperial fief that was transferred to the Gisones.
Further evidence for the legal status of Hollende can be
found in the Burgenregal des Reiches (the imperial
rule or law that applied to castles) of the eleventh century,
a sovereign right which affected all fortifications. Thereafter
they could only be allocated a fief not an actual family
possession such as an allöd (a non-feudal possession
which was directly owned).
So what has all of this to with Giso I? Namely
that he became the vogt for the aforementioned monastery
from 1015 onwards, which couldn't have happened if he'd been
a complete nobody, particularly given the necessity to provide
The origins of the Giso dynasty are unknown.
Diefenbach (?) suspects that they were not a hitherto local
power in Hessengau but outsiders from the valley of the Ohm
(a tributary of the Lahn), rather than from Lower Hessen. He
demonstrates this through the close contact between Count Giso
and Count Werner of Lower Hessen who together appear in documents
covering decades and were close advisers and loyal followers of
the Salian Emperors (Heinrich III-Heinrich V).
As it is, the existence of a county (effectively
an earldom) of Giso has yet to be properly established. Prevailing
opinion cannot accept that it existed owing to the lack of places
that were designated as belonging to the county (earldom) of Giso.
Furthermore, even official acts relating to the county are not
on record (Diefenbach 115f). (This could mean one of two things
- either they never existed or they are no longer extant.)
So where did the title of Count come from?
In the matter of classifying the Gisones it rests
for the moment on the presumption of whether they were official
or quasi-counts, given the lack of extensive family estates or
allodial title. The view taken, given their close connection to
the royal house, is that they only operated within the imperial
service. At the same time they had acquired considerable property
and disposed of the rights of others to their land which to their
mind (perhaps?) allowed them to adopt a title whether official or
not. The political and strategic importance of their domain is
difficult to assess but at the same time their bailiwick (domain?)
was worth a great deal which, owing to the social mores of the
time, put them in a prominent position.
There are also problems in the matter of
relationships with other governing county dynasties, as will be
demonstrated below, matters that cannot be proven easily.
The Giso dynasty, a family chronicle
Research into families - genealogy - is concerned
with the finding and recording of families and family connections.
One can try to obtain important information by checking out the
family name in parish (ecclesiastical) or civil (registry office)
registers, checking out the dates of birth (or baptism in
ecclesiastical records), marriages, and deaths (or sometimes funeral
dates in ecclesiastical records), and through such data establish
or try to establish genealogies and pedigrees so that family or
clan extension and inheritance can be explained.
This is a far from being a simple matter when it
comes to the Middle Ages. Family names (surnames) were unknown and
so often it is only the Christian (first) names that are recorded
when it comes to the desired information.