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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Documenting Royal Ancestry -- An Important Explanation

"Saxe Coburg Dynasty Family Tree" by self - self. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Documenting royal ancestral lines has always been a controversial subject. Now, FamilySearch is getting into the fray with a blog post by Nathan W. Murphy, M.A. AG. Here is a summary of Nathan's credentials in this are summarized on his FamilySearch Research Wiki User Page. Let's just say that Nathan is more than qualified to write on the subject of royalty.

The article is entitled, "Documenting Royal Ancestry." Nathan uses an example of "walking" through the process of applying to join a royal hereditary society as a basis for discussing what is and what is not an ancestral line of descent.

I most certainly agree with Nathan's statement about the status of the current online family trees. He states:
It would be very helpful if one day in the future, owners of online family trees improve the quality of royal lines in their databases by vetting them to conform to scholarly consensus. That would also improve the accuracy of tools that search for a person’s famous relatives, like Relative Finder (which draws its data from such databases; in this case FamilySearch Family Tree).
The process of establishing a royal connection from a lineage in the United States primarily involves connecting to a "gateway" ancestor, a person whose relationship to royalty has been established. Of course, you cannot rely on what is in an online family tree, each step in the relationship needs to be verified to the standard imposed by the society. Here is how Nathan explains the process:
First, check to see if the immigrant ancestor in your purported royal line can be found on accepted gateway lists. A finite number of American immigrants can be documented as descendants of royalty. These immigrants are known as “gateway ancestors” and are the focus of intense scrutiny and study by expert genealogists. Approximately 650 gateway immigrants are known to have arrived in what is now the United States during the colonial period.[2] One such list of gateways, which I help maintain, is on the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne website
If the immigrant in your family is a valid gateway, you are on track to documenting royal ancestry. If your immigrant is not on the list, the royal lineage presented to you is probably underproven or false. Major problems with online family trees purporting royal descents include:
  • Generations between living people and accepted gateways lack documentation.
  • Disproved gateways continue to be accepted.[3]
Document your pedigree back to an accepted gateway.
He included a list of the "best reference books" for establishing the identification of a gateway ancestor. Here is his list:
  1. Richardson, Douglas. Plantagenet Ancestry, 3 vols. 2nd ed., Salt Lake City, 2011.
  2. Richardson, Douglas. Magna Carta Ancestry, 4 vols. 2nd ed., Salt Lake City, 2011.
  3. Richardson, Douglas. Royal Ancestry, 5 vols. Salt Lake City, 2013.
  4. Roberts, Gary Boyd. The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States. Baltimore, 2008. 2004 edition available online at Ancestry.
  5. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard, William R. Beall, and Kaleen E. Beall. Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700. 8th ed. Baltimore, 2004. Available online at Ancestry.
  6. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard, and William R. Beall. The Magna Charta Sureties, 1215. 5th ed. Baltimore, 1999. Available online at Ancestry.
N.B. Two online databases I use when studying royal ancestry are:
  1. FamilySearch Medieval Unit. Community Trees. Available online at FamilySearch.
  2. van de Pas, Leo. Genealogics. Available online.
These compilations connect you back into works such as the Complete Peerage, a standard work that links to royalty.

I am happy that FamilySearch has given us some guidelines to start and thankful that Nathan has shared this valuable information. 

1 comment:

  1. The Medieval Unit Community trees research was done over a period of over 20 years under the capable supervision of Debbie Latimer. She had FS acquire the most reliable books on royalty that could be found, and I'm sure those listed 1-6 above were among them. These are known quantities as Nathan and you say, if you tie to a gateway ancestor.