Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The limits of genealogical research -- Part Three

Apparently someone thought my last post was, in effect, throwing down the gauntlet. I got a response from an anonymous commentator that said, "I don't see why claims further back than parish registers exist are implausible. There are plenty of other records available, most of which amateur genealogists know nothing about. Anybody educated person in medieval genealogy knows that lines back to Charlemagne and beyond have already been established. See: for a well written, scholarly account of the ancestry of Henry II (which includes Charlemagne). Henry II is the ancestor of many immigrant colonists and lines connecting the two can be found in Douglas Richardson's Plantagenet Ancestry book, which has just been updated for 2011 and re-released."

Let's see what others in the genealogical history business have to say about the Medieval lines of ascent.  I would strongly suggest reading the entire commentary by ProGenealogists the official research firm. Their comments in part say, "The interest in tracing noble families has been high. However, because of sources that are difficult to use and the large number of people interested in these families, there is a lot of duplication and errors in this work" The site goes on to say:
When tracing medieval genealogies one should be aware of some areas where difficulties and errors are found. Difficulties and errors that you will want to be careful of include:
  • Accepting undocumented pedigrees as truth.
  • Separating fact from fiction.
  • Unverified or incorrect pedigree links.
  • False information.
You should be especially careful in the following cases:
  • Genealogies back to Adam.
  • Ancestry of Colonial American Families.
  • Fabricated lineages.
  • Lineages through illegitimacy.
Here is one last quote, "Most claims to the British noble class in America are unfounded and unsupported by evidence. If you have a connection to royalty through a colonial North American immigrant ancestor, you should look carefully at the documentation for that connection."

The commentator is correct that the Richardson book is considered a mostly reliable source, however, that book points out that royal lines can only be established for about 185 individuals who emigrated from the British Isles to the Colonies in the 17th Century. The book traces the descents of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou who died in about 1151.  By the way, here is the citation to the 2004 edition, the 2011 edition is just now for sale.

Richardson, Douglas, Kimball G. Everingham, and David Faris. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2004.

I will go back to one of my own posts in January, 2010 and re-quote an article in The Ensign Magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for February, 1984, Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist of the Church Genealogical Department wrote a short article entitled "I've heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam." He states,"In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. a.d. 450–a.d. 752). Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source."

By the way, in my comment about Charlemagne in my last post I did not say that documenting a line to Charlemagne was impossible. However, any pedigree that goes beyond 1500 must be considered with caution. You might want to check out the International Society of Descendants of Charlemagne. They have list of gateway ancestors that will get you back to Charlemagne. Or if you still insist, try The Society of the Descendants of Charlemagne.

Boy, I am way off my point however. Back to the records. Inevitably, on every single line of your genealogy, you will run out of records sooner or later. Now, here is the point: Don't give up. Most genealogist's lines end long before the records run out. But on the other hand, don't get so caught up trying to latch onto royalty that you neglect your real family history.

When you reach an end-of-line, you just might want to check to see if it corresponds with some end-of-record situation. I recently did some research for a friend, which I probably already talked about, but the point was that his family tradition had the person born in a place and at a time before the place was even part of the U.S. It was still unsettled Indian Territory. Possible, but likely a mistake.

Now really, back to the records. But I will have to do that in Part Four.


  1. I would consider books by Gary Boyd Roberts to be very reliable. He has books on Royal Lineages and the American Presidents that have impeccable sources. William Addams Reitwiesner also is considered a good source. There are many good books on the subject by excellent authors, not limited to only 185 colonists.

  2. All I can say is do you own a history book? Can't document Royals? My husband is British and knows them by heart. Even I can do a brief one by heart...I have heard of them btw....War of Roses does cause a bit of confusion though, all those related people fighting each other. Gives me headache.

    Lets see now William the....son Henry I...his daughter was named Maud I think..married a couple times, one by the name of Geoffrey Planatgenet or was that Anjou ,anyway, her cousin Stephen and she had this argument on who was supposed to be ruler.....a bit of a War happended (anyone seen a show called Cadfeil? About a monk and Empress Maud and King Stephen duking it out and this and thats)then her son, by the name of HENRY II who married a lady named Eleanor of and quite the juicy I can tell you! (see Lion in Winter), son JOHN (of Robin hood fame, not to mention a kuffle that ended up with a document called the Magna other word's get real...can't document? Nothing I've read by Douglas Richardson even hints at ADAM....and his ref's are spot on.....found the documents that got my family up to those "fictious" Royals..Edward the III....his father Edward II, Edward I, Henry III, John, Henry II, Maud, Henry I, William....easy enough...I even know how HENRY VII was related to etc....and This fella named Richard III....oh and John of Gaunt had a mistress who he did in fact marry....her sister was married to a writer...Named Chaucer.... a fair knowledge of history is a good thing...


    Work on it...I did....birth death marriage to the first notable (have you heard of court documents? When someone gets head chopped off it tends to get written down as well and wills and.... just thought I'd mention it) and lo and behold...I am. Happen to be a Colonial Dame XVII Century as well so......