“Am I Related to Royalty?” Researching Gateway Ancestors in Your Family History
Do you descend from royalty? Determining if your pedigree contains a gateway ancestor will help prove or disprove a royal connection!
Many Americans of colonial descent believe they are connected to royal or noble European lineages. While in many cases those lineages are accurate, most often they are not. Separating the fact from fiction of royal and noble pedigrees can ensure your genealogy is accurate and well sourced.
Gateway Ancestors of Royal and Noble Descent
A gateway ancestor is a person on your genealogical tree who descends from royalty or nobility. Most often they are from seventeenth-century colonial America and connect to the aristocracy of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and other European countries.
Gateway ancestors of royal and noble descent have been the focus of intense genealogical and historical research. The vast majority of seventeenth-century American colonial gateway ancestors lived in Massachusetts and Virginia. Collaborative works have been published which prove many lineages while debunking others. Examples of such works are:
1. Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Douglas Richardson, 2011).
2. Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Douglas Richardson, 2011).
3. Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, 5 vols., (Salt Lake City, Utah: Douglas Richardson, 2013).
4. Frederick Lewis Weis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004) available online at Ancestry.
5. The Complete Peerage of England. Scotland, Ireland, Great Britan, and the United Kingdom, all editions. First published in 1887. Some volumes are available for free on Archive.org.
6. Gary Body Roberts, The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2018) The 2004 edition of an earlier work, The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies is available online at Ancestry.
The newest work, published in 2018, is Gary Boyd Roberts’, The Royal Descents of 900 immigrants to the American Colonies, Quebec, or the United States, which notes 970 immigrants who have proven royal and noble lineages. Of that number, 489 settled in the American colonies and left descendants.
Bogus Gateway Ancestors
The internet and online trees are plagued with bogus gateway ancestors. Many of the bogus claims have been disproven for decades, but the information persists. If your ancestor is not on the official gateway ancestor list check the sources of your tree to determine why. Red flags that suggest fictitious royal pedigrees include:
1. Common names: Many common surnames are plagued with false royal and noble lineages. Surnames such as Stewart, Randolph, West, Morgan, link to royal and noble lineages, but also to many fictitious family trees.
2. Sources: Always check your sources and do not accept hints from other trees as your sole verification. If the only sources linked to an online tree are other unsourced online trees or family history books, the lineage is most likely incorrect.
3. Dates: Make sure the lineage makes sense. If there is more than a 40-year gap between generations, there is most likely an error in the tree.
4. Country of origin: If the online tree has a sudden jump from one European country to another, the lineage is probably incorrect and most likely suffers from Same Name Syndrome.
5. Genealogical fraud: The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a rise of genealogical trees fictitiously created for prominent families. False locations, wills, names, and documents were created to force lineages together. Be aware of these false pedigrees and do not use them as sources. Always locate original sources or works that cite original sources.
New Gateway Ancestors
One of the most difficult genealogical problems is connecting a new American or Canadian colonial ancestor with royal or noble connections in Europe. Occasionally documentation surfaces that links a connection to a previously-unknown gateway ancestor but most often that documentation is many hundreds of years old. The discovery of new documentation is rare but can exist.
Research to verify a new connection can take many hundreds of hours, assuming the line can be proven at all. Research in seventeenth-century Virginia and other parts of the south are especially challenging due to loss of records throughout the centuries. Records in medieval Europe are written in languages and script not decipherable to most, such as Anglo-Norman, Middle English, and Latin. It may be necessary to seek professional assistance when such a roadblock exists. Although time consuming, with careful, well-sourced research, it is possible for connections to gateway ancestors to be proven (or disproven) to ensure an accurate family pedigree.
Legacy Tree Genealogists can assist in organizing your family tree and separate the fact from fiction. Our team of expert professional genealogists is trained to spot fictitious pedigrees and search for documentation from original sources that can prove or disprove a lineage. Request your free quote today!