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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Royalty is back in the genealogy promotion arena

Back in the 1800s unscrupulous genealogical hacks advertised finding connections for U.S. clients to royal lines in the British Islands. See "Genealogy as a Fraud." (Sorry about the broken link in that post. Here is the updated link: The most complete discussion of this huge problem is in the following book.

Weil, Fran├žois. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Before spending you money or your time on a quest for royal lineage, you should carefully read the info/advertisement post from entitled "Do You Come From Royal Blood? Your Last Name May Tell You." A superficial reading of this article would seem to indicate that you could establish your link to royalty simply by looking for people with similar surnames. However, name searches absent knowledgeable research are unlikely to establish parentage or a valid relationship. Interestingly, the Ancestry post actually discourages searching for a surname connection despite the come-on in the title.

The Ancestry post mentions the following six surnames as "aristocratic": Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham. What the post fails to mention is that there are perhaps 45,000 different surnames in England alone as posted by Ancestry in another blog post entitled: "What does your surname say about you?" Using the program, I searched each of those six surnames to see their frequency in's vast collections of records from England and the United Kingdom. I did a global search of all the records and then searched for the same names in the United States and Canada. Here are the results of my search:

  • Atthill U.K 2,642 U.S. and Canada 110
  • Bunduck U.K. 240 U.S. and Canada 14
  • Balfour U.K. 212,990 U.S. and Canada 22,250
  • Bramston U.K.  6,399 U.S. and Canada 226
  • Cheslyn U.K. 1,917 U.S. and Canada 256
  • Conyngham U.K. 4,973 U.S. and Canada 1,707
Let me give you a little bit of perspective about this extraordinarily small numbers. Here are the results using the same search for Tanners and Smiths.

Tanner U.K. 428,068 U.S. and Canada 283,601

Smith U.K. 22,364,774 U.S. and Canada 15,577,482

What are the chances you are related to any of the aristocratic named individuals? Immeasurably small. Starting out with a search based on finding a royal line and then trying to connect to it is a really bad idea.

Ancestry isn't the only one trying to cash in from connecting people to royalty. Here is a recent post from, "Are You Related to British Royalty?" Here is a quote from that post:
If you have British ancestors, there’s a chance that you could have royalty somewhere in your bloodline. Dive into your family tree, and you may find proof of what you’ve always known deep down—you are royalty!
By the way, if you have always known deep down that you are royalty, I would like a ride in your Ferrari. Attracting customers with a promise or implied promise that you are related to royalty is one of the oldest scams in genealogy. However, royalty did have children and some people are related but you need to do careful, documented research whatever your ultimate goal or reason for researching your ancestry.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who seemed to think his genealogy was "done" because someone in their family had found one or more lines tied to some kind of "British Royalty". Doubt if I was able to talk them out of that attitude. I like your reference to "one of the oldest scams in genealogy".