07 January, 2015

Speaking of Famous Ancestors........

Crown of England
On the theme of famous ancestors, I have recently been spending some of my genealogy time tracking down presumed royal ancestors.

If your family came to America, especially to Massachusetts or Virginia, from England, chances are fairly good that you can trace at least one line back to medieval or earlier English, Scottish or French royalty. (Connection to the more modern lines is also possible, but less likely.) Why? Because by the time you get back that far (about 20 or more generations) you have a huge number of great-grandparents. By the time you're out 19 generations, for example, you have two million, ninety-seven thousand, one-hundred and fifty-two great-grandparents, just in that generation! Since the population of England was so relatively small at that time, and the fact that many immigrants were products of younger children of a noble family (and therefore didn't inherit), chances are there is royalty among all those great-grandparents.

That is, if you are fortunate to have a good start with cohesive records in America that can be traced back to England. Which I do. Consequently, I regularly come across a line that appears to stretch back to British royalty. I say "appears to" because, of course, records get sketchier the further back you go, and since I have so far only sought out royal lines for fun, I've not taken the time to examine each link and verify it. Whatever you do, don't just follow a line out on Ancestry . com and conclude that you're of royal blood! Everyone wants to be royal, so unfortunately, many members on ancestry have either pushed the limits of verification or outright created links out of whole cloth!

However, I do think it would be fun to have a royal line that can be pretty well verified, at least as far as is possible given the limitations of ancient record keeping. Don't forget, too, that it only takes one secret affair in any marriage to break a royal lineage, and such dalliances were more frequent than you might think!

With all this in mind, I consulted a few online sources that offer lists of early American colonists who were of royal descent. I discovered that there were at least 650 early colonists who could trace a line to royalty, and I spotted several of my family names among these.

To get a quick idea if you may have ties to royalty or not, check out the Constitution Society's American Colonists with Royal Ancestries. If you do see a name or two there that matches your own family history, I would recommend going to Ancestry . com's indexing of the book The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants. I am not sure if you have to be a member to access this resource. If anyone finds out, please let me know. If you can't get into Ancestry, go back to the Constitution Society and try requesting an email about a specific name on the list. I sent such a request last night and it says to allow 24 hrs, but I haven't heard back yet, so I am assuming this feature is not available anymore, but you can try. Barring that, try simply googling the name from the list and see how far you can get.

I found The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to be an invaluable resource. It has detailed appendices and lists sources as well as offering easy to read lines of descent that simply list each couple in order from the specific monarch down to the name you are searching for. I checked several of these lists against my own research and some had dubious links or were simply wrong. But I did find a few lines that seem promising. The one that so far seems most likely to be accurate is one that begins with King Edward I of England (my 22nd great-grandfather) and proceeds through his youngest daughter Princess Elizabeth Plantagenet to immigrant Constant Southworth and eventually winding up at Mary Crocker Hall, my great-great-grandmother on my mother's side.

Rhuddlan Castle, Wales, birthplace of my 20th gr-grandmother Elizabeth Plantagenet

The links seem to be solid, but I still need to go back and scrutinize each one to verify that King Edward most probably IS my 22nd great-grandad! In the meantime, I lay tentative claim to an English  monarch and request to be addressed as Lady Katharine going forward. LOL! Pictured here is Rhuddlan Castle in Wales, where Princess Elizabeth (my 21st great-grandmother) was born in 1282.

Here's to Jolly Olde England!

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