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Are You Long Lost Royalty? Ancestry.com May Know

Do you love NBC's genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? as much as I do? The show, sponsored by Ancestry.com, takes some of America's most beloved celebrities and documents their journeys as they trace their family trees back to the root. It's always fascinating to see where they end up, and I always come away with an incredible, powerful sense of how connected to the past we all really are, and just how easily forgotten those connections can be.

Ancestry.com Free Trial

Is William the Conqueror your great grandpa? Ancestry.com may have the answer.

When I was growing up, my family never really had a sense of where we came from. My friends all knew that their families were Irish or Italian or what have you, but for me the answer was just "Chicago". My Dad's great grandparents were German, we suspected that Grandma was probably Irish, and my Mom's family name is undeniably English... and that was pretty much everything I knew. Would I ever be able to trace my ancestry back any further than turn of the century Chicago? These kinds of questions are precisely what Ancestry.com helps its subscribers to answer. I'm a research junkie at heart, so I claimed my 14 day free trial to find out.

What did I learn in 14 days for free?

  • My Dad's great grandparents in Chicago emigrated from Germany, specifically Bavaria and Saxony. Very cool to find the record of my great-great grandfather's Atlantic crossing!
  • I found my grandfather on a census record, age 4, living just two neighborhoods away from where I live now. I could ride there on my bike.
  • My mother's family detours through nearly every royal family in Europe to William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, and Mark Antony. Yeah, that Mark Antony. And his wife, the one he cheated on with Cleopatra.

Mark Antony, you ARE the great-great-great-great grandfather!

Whoa whoa whoa, you say. You can get all of that with a 14 day free trial? Yes, but all of this info comes with a few points that are well worth keeping in mind as you go.

Nearly everyone of European lineage is somehow descended from William the Conqueror.

Historians and genealogists have some interesting theories about why this is true, but the fact is that pretty much everyone on the planet is descended from royalty. So my find is not particularly special. That doesn't make it any less thrilling when you find the connection, though. And it will impress your aunts and uncles at your next family reunion.

While royal lines are very well documented, less glamorous ancestors are a lot harder to nail down. 

That leads to a lot of frustrating dead ends that can be difficult to get past without the sort of serious digging that goes well beyond a two week free trial. But once you find a connection, the whole project kind of takes on some crazy momentum that, if you keep digging and digging and digging, will lead you to Catholic saints, Viking rulers, Russian warlords, Scottish kings and, yes, Julius Caesar's BFF.

Following hints on Ancestry.com is not a substitute for actual genealogical research.

Professional genealogists will tell you to research connections yourself before committing them to your family tree. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and you don't want to mistake someone's wishful thinking for a valid piece of your family tree. I freely admit that I did not do this for every connection, but I will say that Wikipedia was a fantastic quick resource when something seemed fishy or needed clarification. In my case, my tree included an English princess, married off to a Scottish king, who was erroneously attributed to the king's wife rather than to his mistress. Interestingly, once properly attributed, it was the mistress who led me back to the Roman era.

It's stunning what you can discover about yourself in just 14 days. I came away with a much deeper sense of my roots, from 21st century Chicago all the way back to the Roman Empire. Amazing.

Who's lurking in your gene pool? Check out the 14-day free trial at Ancestry.com and let us know who you find! And don't forget to sign up for Brad's Daily Alerts to get more tips and deals like this one delivered to your inbox!


About the Author: Rebecca Lehmann

Rebecca writes and manages blog and site content for Brad's Deals. She loves finding online deals on shoes, knitting supplies, and anything that lets her spoil her nieces rotten.

9 Responses to “Are You Long Lost Royalty? Ancestry.com May Know”

  1. gerri hansen says:

    I would so love this. My grandson is questioning me and Ido not have th eanswers he so wants.

  2. Gerri,

    I was pretty much in the same boat. Luckily, the Ancestry.com trial is 100% free, and I was able to get really far really fast just following hints. If you give it a shot, let us know what you think!

  3. MattB5 says:

    I had done the Ancestry.com and Geni.com free trials at the same time & filled in everything I could find from both of them.

  4. Sue says:

    I have been able to trace my roots back to the 1600′s in just a few weeks. The Canadian records are great too. I wish they had more information available for those of Greek Heritage.

  5. Nichole Clements says:

    Sadly my 14 day free trial left nowhere! I was so dissappointed, as I lost my parents at a young 17 and have no other family left to ask these important questions. Yet Ancestory couldn’t even find my mothers mom and dad or anything psst my fathers Mom and Dad. I DUG FOR 48hrs STRAIGHT even, frustrated that my lineage cannot be traced. I even emailed their specialist but unfortunately their fee is beyond my reach. It saddens me. Not only for myself but for my children whom never even got to know their grandparents on either side. So many questions and no answers.

    • Hi Nichole,

      I ran into the same thing with my great grandfather on my Dad’s side. We don’t know much about him, which makes it difficult to research. The next step for us is to get a copy of Grandpa’s birth certificate. It seems like more recent relatives are often more difficult to research on Ancestry since there are fewer other people likely to be researching them as well. That’s why it becomes easier the further back you go – more descendants means more people researching the same ancestors. Good luck!

  6. Debra says:

    I found out about a week ago I am—-But ha —- who’s really knows–I am going to do the DNA test though Ancestry.com so I can really find out

  7. Bev Lane says:

    I really would love it. I have been searching for years but cannot get past my great grandparents. I know my grandmother’s family lived in a castle in Palermo (according to my deceased aunt) but her father’s side we don’t even know his real name. And on my father’s side, I know that my great grandparents were married in Cork, Ireland. I couldn’t get any further (YET)!

  8. flora68 says:

    The first few years I was on ancestry.com, I didn’t really get very far; I was excited just to find my grandfather’s WWI draft card. I didn’t expect much from this hobby, but every few months I’d search the site again and sometimes something new would appear. (Those little green leaves)

    Through the years, as more records were added to the site, I visited more often and my tree grew and grew, to over 16,000 people and more every week.

    It looks like all 4 of my grandparents were descended from European royalty, but of course that was long, long ago- I guess you could say we peaked early. (Try the 12th century!). I learned that if you’re descended from ANY royals, you’re descended to a TON of them. And OMG, the SAINTS! I had no idea that people with families and children were eligible to be canonized, but I’ve got over a dozen actual Saints in the tree, too, which is a humbling discovery.

    I got REALLY excited when I found out I’m not only related to Barack Obama AND the Georges Bush;), but also a fellow who fell off the Mayflower in a storm (and was safely fished out), and a couple of other people on the Mayflower who survived the trip as well, and the man who was considered the father of literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, poets Truman Capote, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Greenleaf Whittier, astronomer Sir Thomas Digges, actress Katharine Hepburn, and a lot of other important people who I’m afraid wouldn’t approve of me at all. The Emperor Constantine was apparently my 43rd great-grandfather.

    All this made me wish I’d paid much more attention to Ancient History in school; I had no idea that so many of those people were my actual great, great, great etc. grandparents! Now I realize more than ever that practically that everyone is related to practically everyone else. Even found out that one of my best friends is also a very distant cousin.

    I’ve also started family trees for 22 other people, and in a couple of them I couldn’t find ANYTHING beyond the most recent two generations. Then there are others like mine just keep going and going..…

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