A mention of ealdormen in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Ealdormen were appointees of the king and were originally mostly from the ancient and powerful families, but later were often chosen from among the king's comites (plural of comes, lit. "companion") and many, especially in the early Danish period, were new to high office. When smaller kingdoms such as Sussex and Essex were absorbed within a larger one, e.g. Wessex, the former ruling family seems to have been suffered a diminution of their title from "King" or "Sub-King" to Eorldorman. Presumably this office would have initially been hereditary among the former royal family but in later Anglo-Saxon times the office was clearly not hereditary or where it was this was exceptional. There are several examples of tenth-century ealdormen whose sons became ealdormen (if not always of the same district), such as Æthelstan Half-King and Æthelweard the Chronicler.