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  • Yngvi-Frey (c.175 - c.220)
    In the Íslendingabók Yngvi Tyrkja konungr 'Yngvi king of Turkey' appears as father of Njörd who in turn is the father of Yngvi-Freyr, the ancestor of the Ynglings. Yngvi, Yngvin, Ingwine, Inguin ar...
  • Memnon, King of Aethiopia (c.-1260 - -1183)
    In Greek mythology, Memnon (Greek: Mέμνων) was an Ethiopian king and son of Tithonus and Eos. As a warrior he was considered to be almost Achilles' equal in skill. At the Trojan War, he brought an army...
  • Winta, King of Lindsey (c.253 - d.)
    His descendants claimed he was a son of the Norse god Odin . 9.WINTA. Born in Scandinavia about 253. He married (unknown) in Ancient Saxony, Northern Germany. Although not historically attested, ...
  • Weothulgeot (deceased)
    His descendants claimed he was a son of the Norse god Odin . Weothulgeot or Wihtlæg . According to the genealogies in the Anglian collection, Weothulgeot was ancestor to the royal house of Mercia and...

Am I Descended from Odin?

In orther words, can anyone today prove a descent from Odin? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. The scholarly consensus is that the evidence is insufficient to substantiate Odin as a historical person. On Geni, we have many different opinions. This project gives a very high-level overview so that individual users can draw their own conclusions.

Odin the god

Odin (Woden) was the ruler of the ancient Norse and Germanic gods, similar to Zeus in Greek mythology. His family, the Aesir, fought a war against the Vanir, another family of gods. When the two families made peace, Odin became the ruler of the gods. With his brothers Vili and Ve, Odin killed the giant Ymir and created the world out of Ymir’s body. Then, he and his brothers created created the first humans, Ask and Embla.

Modern research shows that Odin as a god evolved from an unknown proto-Norse god during the Migration Period (400-800). His original name might have been something like *Wōdin. Odin displaced Tyr, the original king of the gods, who was culturally connected to Zeus, and perhaps also connected to the Celtic god Lugh. Some scholars believe that the war between the Aesir and Vanir is an echo of this early period when gods from the Continent (the Aesir) replaced the indigenous gods (the Vanir).

The Norse and Germans had many stories about Odin’s life and deeds. These stories were handed down orally by poets (skalds) in the form of both poems and stories (sagas). When the Norse encountered the Christians, they adopted the Roman alphabet and began to write down the old stories. The oral tradition died out. We know these stories only from the people who wrote them down.

Conversion to Christianity

According to Snorri Sturluson's Edda (1995, p. 11) Odin was the son of Borr, who was son of Búri. Búri himself is supposed to have emerged from a rime-stone by the licking of the primeval cow Auðhumla. That's as far as the mythological genealogy goes. However, when the Germanic peoples converted to Christianity, missionaries argued that pagan gods such as Odin had once been mortal men, who were later worshiped by the pagans (euhemerisation). Historians thus came to believe that Odin must have been a descendant of Adam like everyone else on earth. Christian monks invented the required genealogies, thus providing royal and aristocratic patrons with continuous genealogies to Odin and Adam. For information about these Christian inventions, see the Descents from Antiquity project.

There are a number of mutually contradicting versions of Odin's descent from Adam. The genealogy most widely circulated on the Internet is from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where Odin is a descendant of Sceaf, a son of Noah who was born on the Ark but not mentioned in the Bible. According to the older A manuscript of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle", Hathra was the son of Noah, born in the Ark.

The first genealogies of Odin, however, culminate with him before being gradually extended to Sceaf, and Adam, by the provision of names from other legendary genealogies such as Beowulf.

  • Woden (Bede, "Historia Ecclesiastica" c. 731)
  • Uuoden, the son of, Frealaf, the son of Frioðulf, the son of Finn, the son of Godulf, the son of Geot ("Anglian-Collection" [V] (Cotton Vespasian B.vi) 805x814 Mercia, originally perhaps 774x765 (Northumbria). In David Dumville, The Anglian collection of royal genealogies and regnal lists. Anglo-Saxon England 5 (1976), p. 31
  • Woden, son of Frealaf, son of Fredulf, son of Finn, son of Fodepaid, son of Geta, son of a god. (Historia Brittonum c. 830 31. Harleian MS 3859. See also Nennius. British History and the Welsh Annals, ed. and trans. Morris. J. Phillimore (Chichester 1980), pp. 26 (English) and 67 (Latin).)
  • Woden, the son of Frithowald, the son of Frealaf, the son of Frithowulf, the son of finn, the son of Godwulf, the son of Geat, the son of Tætwa, the son of Beaw, the son of Sceldwa, the son of Heremod, the son of Itermon, the son of Hathra. He was born on the ark. Noah, Lamech, Mathusalem, Enoch, Jared, Malaleel, Cainon, Enos, Seth, Adam, the first man, and our father Christ. (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 173: The Parker Chronicle, (MS A) fol. 13v. From the end of the ninth century)
  • Woden, son of Frithowald, son of Fealaf, son Frithowulf, son of Fingodwulf, son of Geata, son of Taetuua, son Beauu, son of Sceldwea, son of Heremod, son of Itermod, son of Hathra, son of Huala, son of Beduuig, son of Seth, son of Noe (Noah). (Asser, "The Life of King Alfred", ed. W. H. Stevenson (Oxford, 1904), cap. I. Dated to c. 893)
  • Woden, son of Frealaf, son of Finn, son of Godwulf, son of Geat, son of Tætwa, son of Beaw, son of Sceldwa, son of Heremod, son of Itermon, son of Hrathra, son of Hwala, son of Bedwig, son of Sceaf, i.e. son of Noah. He was born in Noah's Ark. Lamech Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Mahalaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth, Adam, the first man and our father, i.e. Christ. ("Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" MS B, C, and D from the end of the ninth century)
  • Uuothen, son of Frithouuald, son of Frealaf, son of Fithouulf, son of Fin, son of Godfuulfe son of Geat, son of Tetuua, son of Beo, son of Scyld, son of Scef, [son of Noah]. ("Fabii Ethelwerdi Chronicorum libri quattuor" Monumenta Historica Britannica. vol. I. (1848), lib. III, cap. III, p. 512.) From the end of the tenth century.
  • Ƿoden, son of Frealaf, son of Finn, son of Godulf, son of Eat, son of Beaƿ, son of Scealdƿa, son of Heremod, son of Iterman, son of Haðra, son of Bedƿig, son of Sescef. He was son of Noe (Noah) and he was born in the ark. Noe was Lamech's son, Lamech Maþusalem, he was Enoch's, Enoch, Iared, Malalehel, Caino, Enos, and Adam, the first man. And the father of all, who is Christ. (The "Anglian-Collection" [T], Cotton Tiberius B.V, fol. 23r. From the second quarter of the eleventh century).
  • Voden, whom we call Odinn. From him are most royal dynasties in the northern part of the world descended. He was king of the Turks and fled here north from the Romans. Frealaf, Finn, Godulf, Eat, Beaf, Scealdva, [H]eremoth, Itermann, Athra, [B]edvig, Sescef. (MS AM 1 e ß II fol. ff. 85v-91r. Copy of a manuscript from c. 1254, but possibly attesting to an older twelfth-century tradition). Anthony Faulkes, The Earliest Icelandic genealogies and regnal lists‘, Saga-Book 24 (2005), 115-19.
  • Woden, that we call Odin, Fridleif, Friallaf, Finn, Gudolf, Iat, Biar, Biaf whom we call Biar, Scialdun, whom we call Skiold, Heremod, Itrmann, Athra, whom we call Annar, Bedvig, Sescef, Magi, Moda, Vingenir, Vingethor, Einridi, Loridi, Tror or Thor, Munon or Mennon and Troan. daughter of high king Priam. (Snorri Sturluson, Edda. Tr. Faulkes, 1995, p. 3)
  • Wodenius, ho was the son of Fridewaldus, who was the son of Finnus, who was the son of Godwinus, who was the son of Getius, who was the son of Phillida, who was the daughter of Assaracus, who was the son of Ebraucus, who was the son of Mempricus, who was the son of Mandanus, who was the son of Locrinus, who was the son of Brutus. (Richard of Devizes, "Annales Wintonienses", Cambridge Corpus Christi College, MS 339, f. 12r.

In the twelfth and thireenth centuries, historians such as Richard of Devizes and Snorri Sturluson adopted and adapted the line of Woden into of descent from Trojans such as Brutus and Priam, like the one used by the Frankish kings.

(1) Múnón or Mennón, married Tróán, a daughter of Priam, king of Troy, parents of (2) Trór or Thór, married Sibyl or Sif, parents of (3) Lóriði, father of (4) Einridi, father of (5) Vingethór, father of (6) Vingener, father of (7) Módi, father of (8) Magi, father of (9) Seskef, father of (10) Beðvig, father of (11) Athra or Annar, father of (12) Ítrmann, father of (13) Heremóð, father of (14) Skjaldun or Skjöld, father of (15) Bíaf or Bjár, father of (16) Ját, father of (17) Guðólf, father of (18) Finn, father of (19) Fríallaf or Friðleif, father of (20) Vóden or Óðin. (Snorri Sturluson, "Prologue", Prose Edda (early 13th century), trans. Jean I. Young (Berkeley, 1954), pp. 25-26).

Later versions extended the line back from Múnón (Memnon) to Noah through the kings of Troy and Abraham:

(1) Noah, his son (2) Shem, his son (3) Arpachshad, his son (4) Selah, his son (5) Eber, his son (6) Peleg, his son (7) Reu, his son (8) Serug, his son (9) Nahor, his son (10) Terah, his son (11) Abraham, his son (12) Isaac, his son (13) Jacob, his son (14) Judah, his son (15) Zara, his son (16) Darda, his son (17) Erichthonius, his son (18) Tros, his son (19) Ilus, his son (20) Laomedon, his son (21) Tithonius, his son (22) Memnon.

There are also other manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries that might or might not preserve variations of Odin's ancestry from lost “originals”.

Odin the man

In the thirteenth century, the Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson wrote that Odin came to worshipped as a god, but he was originally a famous warrior who led his people out of Turkey and into northern Germany.

Earlier in the thirteenth century, the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus wrote that Odin was a sorcerer from Byzantium. The other gods there stripped Odin of his rank and power, then banished him. He fooled the poeple of Scandinavia into worshipping him as a god.

Paul Henri Mallet (1730-1807) might have been the first to formulate explicitly the idea that the historical Odin was a man named Sigge Fridulfsson. He says, "His true name was Sigge, son of Fridulph; but he assumed that of Odin, who was the Supreme God among the Scythians". In Mallet's version of the story, Sigge (also known as Odin) was an ally of Mithradates, a Persian king defeated by the Romans. (Mallet, Northern Antiquities, 1770, 1809).

According to one tradition, Odin is buried on the Estonian island Osmussaar (Swedish: Odensholm).

The controversy

The idea that Odin was originally a man intrigues many genealogists. The sagas give the genealogies of many historic kings, and show how they were descended from Odin. If Odin was a god, then he is just an old myth. No one can be descended from a god. But, if Odin was really a man then we should be able to strip away the fantastic stories and find one of our earliest known ancestors.

It isn’t that simple. We know that over time storytelling can turn men into gods, and it can also turn gods into men.

The story of the Norse god Baldr might be an example of a man who was turned into a god. in Gesta Danorum (Saxo Grammaticus, late 13th century), Baldr was a warrior favored by Odin, but in the Prose Edda (Snorri Sturluson, early 13th century), Baldr was a son of Odin. Some scholars think the story of Baldr grew up around a famous warrior. They think he evolved from a man who was first a warrior favored by Odin, then metaphorically a son of Odin, and finally he became Odin’s literal son.

After the Norse converted to Christianity, the church forced the Norse to go the other way, turning their gods into humans. The historians like Snorri Sturluson and Saxo Grammaticus who preserved the sagas were Christians. They could not say Odin was a god. If he was really a god, then from the Christian point of view he was a false god and a demon. Good Christians could not tell his stories. However, if Odin was a man who was falsely worshipped as a god, then they could tell his “real” story, with pious disclaimers.

Today, there is no way to know whether Odin was (1) a god who became a man, or (2) a man who became a god, then later became a man again. Choosing one opinion or the other is a personal preference, not an absolute fact. Academic opinion shifts back and forth in long cycles. Most modern scholars would probably say that the question is pointless because it’s too simplistic and there is no way to know. If pressed, most of those scholars would probably agree that Odin was a god whose myth continuously incorporated stories from other gods, from famous men, and even from Christianity, until Christian pressure suddenly demoted him to a mortal between about 900 and 1000.

Reliability of the sagas

Another problem is the reliability of the sagas themselves. They come down to us in written form, composed by men who knew the oral tradition. We can assume, broadly, that the written forms accurately report the oral tradition -- which is not the same as saying the oral tradition was accurate. There are problems, however. We find the problems by comparing one version with others. We can see differences in regional traditions. We can also see signs that the compilers sometimes misunderstood their material, signs that they sometimes forced disconnected pieces to make a connected story, and perhaps even signs that they were choosing between competing traditions.

For the early generations after Odin, there is no way to “look behind” the sagas. They are all we have for evidence, and they generally agree with one another. The fact they agree reinforces the idea that they accurately report the same oral tradition, whether or not the oral tradition was accurate.

The biggest problem with reliability comes in later generations. In pre-Christian times the Norse and Germans expected all kings to be descended from Odin. In theory, no man became a king unless he belonged to a family that was known to be descended from Odin. In effect, a king’s genealogy proved his right to be a king. In spite of the theory, however, there are signs within the sagas themselves that a man who became a king could find a poet to invent the right genealogy and prove his right to rule. The reasoning becomes circular -- if a man became king, that was proof he must somehow be a descendant of Odin.

Odin's human sons

In legend, Odin had many human sons who became the founders of royal families. These include:

  • Beldeg, king in Westphalia (Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda). Snorri identifies him with Odin's son Baldur. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says he was ancestor of the kings of Bernicia and Wessex. Historia Brittonum derives the kings of Deira from Beldeg rather than from Wægdæg.
  • Cagles / Capur. No source found. More research needed.
  • Casere, ancestor of the kings of East Anglia. He is thought to represent Julius Caesar.
  • Gauti, ancestor of the Goths or Geats. (Herrauds saga). Historia Britonum calls Geat a son of a god but Asser in his Life of Alfred says the pagans worshiped this Geat himself as a god. In Old Norse texts Gaut a common byname for Odin. Jordanes traces the Amelungs to a figure named Gapt, who is said to be the first Gothic hero (The origin and deeds of the Goths). It's possible Gapt is another version of Gauti.
  • Sæming, ancestor of Jarl Hákon (Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda), but son of Yngvi-Freyr in the Ynglinga Saga, also by Snorri Sturluson.
  • Seaxnēat, ancestor of the Saxons, and the kings of Essex. He seems to have been added as son of Odin relatively late, in order to harmonize the Essex line with other royal genealogies.
  • Sigi, ancestor of the Völsungs and the Burgundian kings (Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda).
  • Sigrlami, king of Gardariki (Hervarar saga ok Heidreks konungs, versions H and U). In version R his parentage is not given.
  • Skjöld, ancestor of Danish kings ((Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda and Ynglinga Saga). However, Saxo Grammaticus makes Skjöld the son of Lother son of Dan (Gesta Danorum). English tradition makes Skjöld (called Scyld or Sceldwa) the son of Sceafa or of Heremod when a father is named.
  • Vegdagr / Wægdæg / Wecta, king of East Saxony (Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda). Snorri makes Vegdeg ancestor of the English kings of kent and Deira. The Anglian Collection of English royal genealogies has Wægdæg in both genealogies.The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has two different characters, Wecta, the ancestor of the kings of Kent, and Wægdæg, the ancestor of the kings of Deira.
  • Weothulgeot or Wihtlæg, ancestor of the kings of Mercia (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Anglian Collection). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says Wihtlæg was the son of Odin, but in Historia Brittonum Wihtlæg is a grandson of Weothulgeot, who is the founder of the Mercian dynasty according to genealogies in the Anglian Collelction.
  • Winta, ancestor of kings of LIndsey / Lindisfarne (Anglian Collection""). Not included in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
  • Yngvi, ancestor of the Swedish Yngling dynasty (Snorri Sturluson, Poetic Edda), but identified with Freyr son of Njörd in the Ynglinga Saga, also by Snorri Sturluson.

Source: Wikipedia: Sons of Odin, visited 30 April 2018.

Some known problems

Kings needed to have the professional guardians of tradition, the poets, make any changes because only a poet would know how to tweak the story. It wasn’t an easy task. Today, we can see (at least, we think we can see) some of the seams where the poets did a poor job of stitching together the stories. Most modern scholars agree that some of the following are obvious examples. Genealogical work around them needs to proceed cautiously.

  • Cerdic (6th century founder of Wessex). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives his descent from Odin, but his name seems to be Celtic, a form of Ceretic or Caradog. Some modern scholars believe Cerdic has been grafted onto the pedigree of the Bernician royal family. (See Wikipedia, Cerdic of Wessex)
  • Ragnar Lodbrok (8th century Danish “king”). He seems to be a composite figure based on the life of a famous pirate. His story has been extensively re-worked so that it is almost impossible to recover the truth based on what has come down to us. (See Wikipedia, Ragnar Lodrok)
  • Harald Fairhair (9th century king who united Norway). The sagas seem to show there was a conscious political propaganda to present Harald as the descendant of all prior dynasties and the ancestor of all subsequent dynasties. (See Wikipedia, Fairhair dynasty)
  • Rollo (10th century founder of Normandy). The sagas call him a member of the Yngling dynasty through the Jarls of Orkney. However, it isn’t clear that Duke Rollo was the same person as the Hrolf Rognevaldsson of Møre named in the sagas. Many academics argue strongly that the identification was probably either a mistake or an intentional fraud. (See Wikipedia, Rollo; Todd A. Farmerie, soc.genealogy.medieval, July 8, 1999)

Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

Composed by the English monk and scholar Bede in 731.

Bede says that Hengist and Horsa "were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vitta, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden, from whose stock sprang the royal house of many provinces."

  1. Woden
  2. Vecta
  3. Vitta
  4. Victgilsus
  5. Hengist and Horsa (5th century)

Historia Brittonum

Composed about 830, attributed to Nennius, a Welsh monk.

Nennius says, "In the meantime, three vessels, exiled from Germany, arrived in Britain. They were commanded by Horsa and Hengist, brothers, and sons of Wihtgils." He shows their descent from Woden as follows.

  1. Woden
  2. Wecta
  3. Witta
  4. Wihtgils
  5. Horsa and Hengist (5th century)

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Composed in the 9th century, probably at the court of the Kings of Wessex. It survives in nine manuscripts.

Descent of the Kings of Wessex

  1. Odin
  2. Baeldaeg
  3. Brond / Brand
  4. Frithugar
  5. Freawine
  6. Wig
  7. Gewis
  8. Esla
  9. Elesa
  10. Cerdic, 1st King of the Saxons in England, see the list of problems
  11. Crioda
  12. Cynric, King of Wessex
  13. Cealwin, King of Wessex
  14. Cuthwine
  15. Cutha / Cuthwulf
  16. Ceowald
  17. Cenred, King of Wessex
  18. Ingeld
  19. Eoppa, King of Wessex
  20. Eafa, King of Wessex
  21. Ealmund, Under-King of Kent
  22. Egbert, 1st King of England

Descent of the Kings of Mercia

  1. Odin
  2. Wihtlaeg
  3. Wermund
  4. Offa
  5. Angeltheow
  6. Eomer
  7. Icel, King of Mercia
  8. Cnebba, King of Mercia
  9. Cynewald, King of Mercia
  10. Cryda, King of Mercia
  11. Pybba, King of Mercia
  12. Penda, King of Mercia and Wessex

18th and 19th century scholarship

In the 18th and 19th centuries scholars rejected the idea that Odin was descended from Adam. They accepted the traditional idea that Odin was a man who had been transformed into a god, but re-arranged and rationalized the sources to create a purely Saxon pedigree.

The English had a particular interest in descents from Odin (Woden) because of their national origin from the Anglo-Saxons. This interest was heightened after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha.

One example of this genre is James Anderson, Royal Genealogies (1732), 69, 447. Anderson's work is the original source for many genealogies that later became the standard lines used by British and American genealogists. The line given by Anderson runs as follows:

  1. Harderich, King of the Saxons, A.M. 3914, before Christ 90
  2. Anserich, King of the Saxons, A.M. 4004, or A.D. 1
  3. Wilke I, King of the Saxons, A.D. 8, d. A.D. 30
  4. Swarticke I, Prince of the Saxons, A.D. 30, d. A.D. 76
  5. Swarticke II, Prince of the Saxons, A.D. 76, d. A.D. 80
  6. Sigward, Prince of the Saxons, A.D. 80, d. A.D. 100
  7. Witekind I, King of the Saxons, flourished A.D. 106
  8. Wilke II, Prince of the Saxons, d. A.D. 190
  9. Marbod, King of the Saxons, A.D. 190, d. A.D. 256
  10. Bodo or Woden, King of the Saxons 256, d. 300. He was their deified Mars. Md. Frea or Fria, his Queen, by them adored as the Goddess Venus.
    1. Witte I or Vecta, King of the Saxons, A.D. 300, d. 350 (son of Veldec (p. 69) or of Bodo (p. 447)
    2. Cacer or Cacera, the 2nd son
    3. Saxoneta or Seaxnod
    4. Witelgetha or Wethelgeate or Witholgiarus
    5. Weagdeagus or Webdeg
    6. Bealdeagus or Beldeg

Another example is George Fisher, A Companion and Key to the History of England (1832), 24, who used the line from Anderson. He says, "The first Saxon king we read of is Harderick, who died B.C. 90. The second, his son, Anserich, who died, A.D. 1. He was succeeded by Wilke I. who died A.D. 30. Svarticke I. his son, succeeded and died, A.D. 76, being succeeded by his son, Svarticke II., who died in 80. Sigward, son of the last king, reigned till the year 100, and was succeeded by his son, Witekind I. who flourished till 106. Wilke II., his son, reigned till 190, and was followed by his son Marbod, who reigned till the year 256. Marbod was father of Bodo, or Woden, who was also king, and from his warlike deeds, was the styled God of War amongst the Saxons. (emphasis added)

Jacob Grimm

The German philologist and mythologist Jacob Grimm (1785 - 1863) was the first to try recovering the original story of Odin using academic methods. Grimm compared different versions of the surviving stories, with the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus (1st century).

Tacitus wrote that the Germanic people were divided into three tribes, who believed they were descended from the three sons of Mannus, the son of Tuisto. (Tacitus, Germania):

  • Ingvaeones, along the coast of the North Sea
  • Istvaeones, at the border of the Rhine
  • Herminones, in the interior, around the Elbe

Grimm’s reconstructed genealogy was as follows (Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, 348-49).

  1. Tvisco, identical with Búri, who was produced from stone
    1. Mannus, identical with Borr
      1. Ingvio, identical with Odin
        1. Nerthus, identical with Njord
          1. Fravio, identical with Frey
          2. Frauja, identical with Frejya
      2. Istro, identical with Vili
      3. Irmin, identical with Ve

Later philologists, working along the same lines, suggested that Ingvio might have been identical with Yngve-Frey, Istro or Istvo with Odin, and Irmin with Thor.

Thor Heyerdahl

The most recent attempt to find the historical Odin was a project of Thor Heyerdahl, the 20th century adventurer. In Jakten på Odin (The search for Odin), he used both traditional stories and archeology in Azov and Norway to try proving that Odin emigrated with his followers from what is now Azov on the Caspian Sea through Russia to Denmark, then to Sweden. Heyerdahl’s work has been widely dismissed by scholars working in the same field.

Famous Families

  • Grant. The chiefs of Clan Grant claimed to be descended in the male line from Odin. See the Clan Grant project.

Resources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources