Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2000-07 > 0964062545

From: Renia Simmonds <>
Subject: Re: Royal Descent of Americans
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 04:09:05 +0100

Comments interspersed.


> In a message dated 7/19/00 3:28:24 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> writes:
> << That's not true at all, as far as the British are concerned, where very,
> very few have royal blood that they know of.
> It is only every American of English extraction who descend from the
> Royals. :-)
> Renia >>
> You know why the English have such difficulty in finding their royal
> ancestry? Two reasons: first of all, very few people in England do descend
> from royalty, while millions of Americans of British heritage do because it
> was the wealthy aristocracy's descendants who went to America to begin with.
> Secondly,

Only in some cases. Some of the original emigrants to America were transported
convicts, which role was eventually taken over by Australia. Many of the original
emigrants to America were religious cultists. Elizabeth I had encouraged
protestantism, while maintaining toleration of other religions, viz, Catholicism.
By the end of the 16th century, war with Spain was becoming a probability, and
Elizabeth began to persecute Catholics whom she suspected of being in league with
Spain, or of spying for Spain.

At this point, Protestantism was still quite new. Rather like the Internet, it was
seen as new-fangled nonsense by most people, who wondered why on earth we couldn’t
just live our lives in the old-fashioned way. For 1500 years, European lives had
been dominated by the Catholic Church, with its own laws, and rules. Without TV or
radio, people’s only introduction to what went on in the world, was what they were
told in church on Sunday. Whether the King had died, or the Pope, or whether there
were new laws on the statute book. It was the Internet site of its day, that is,
as regards ordinary people getting access to information.

In 1603, upon Elizabeth’s death, came James VI of Scotland, who was now known as
James I of England, for he was the first king of that name that England had had.
He was the son of Mary Queen of Scots (executed by Elizabeth I as a threat to her
kingdom), and of Lord Darnley. Mary Queen of Scots was a direct descendant of
Henry VIII’s sister, hence the legitimacy of James I’s claim to the throne. The
English welcomed James I, but being a Scot, had little idea of how things were
done in England. Henry VIII and Elizabeth, particularly, had been practical, fair
monarchs. James was hungry for absolute power. He believed in the Divine Right of
Kings; that they were blessed and chosen by God, that they were Gods. He saw
himself as the Head of the Scottish Church, with more power than the bishops. But
the Scottish parliament did not go along with this, abolished bishops, and
established Presbyterian church government, under which all ministers were of the
same rank. James had to accept this, for the time being. With this attitude, he
built up the foundations of the civil war to come; his insistence on the Divine
Right, and the absolute power of the king over church and state, bringing in more
and more advisers and courtiers from Scotland, all of which served to irritate the

His son, Charles I succeeded in 1625, and was staunchly Catholic, and another firm
believer in the Divine Right of Kings, so much so, that he tried to rule without
referring to Parliament for many years, as a dictator. He had expensive tastes,
spending vast sums of money on his art collection. This money was raised by
taxing the people. His Archbishop, Laud, introduced a new liturgy, which declared
that the protestant Churches of Scotland and England, were organisms within the
Catholic Church, and thus came under its, and the royal power. Protestant
puritanism was to be destroyed, to which Scotland, in particular, replied with
defensive violence in 1639, placing an army base in northern England.

It was in this climate that many of the early immigrants to America took their
leave of the country, in order to practice their faiths unhindered. Some were
aristocrats, some were gentry, and some were farmers and yeoman with enough money
to finance such an undertaking. Probably, some took their servants with them, poor
people, with no money of their own, reliant on their masters.

Not all aristocrats were wealthy. Time and again, the aristocracy has had to marry
into the rich merchant class in order to boost their finances. It has always been
how the British class system has worked.

> Americans in the Colonies simply kept better birth, marriage, and
> death records than were kept in England at the time,

What a silly thing to say.

> and, more importantly, th
> eir descendants realized the importance of these records and preserved them.

The Public Records Office in London (among other places) contains records well
over 1,000 years old. This is because they realised the importance of these
records and preserved them.

> This is why Massachusetts vital records all the way back to the founding of
> the colony, and to England can readily be found. The towns of Massachusetts
> published these records in the mid-19th century in books, one for each town.

There are many societies in England which have been publishing parish records for
well over 100 years. These books are the foundation of the IGI. Be grateful.

> They contain records back to before 1600.

British parish records go back to 1538, but not all parishes are complete, for
various reasons. Many start just after 1600. There are all sorts of early records
available, such as Inquisitions Post Mortem (for those with land), Lay Subsidies,
(the original) 14th century Poll Tax, and many other forms of taxes. All stored in
the Public Record Office, and some of them published. There are the 1838 Tithe
Apportionments, where every field in the country is named, with who owned it, how
much it was worth, what it was used for, and who rented it. All stored in local
records offices, and the PRO. There are all sorts of estates records, some fairly
recent, only 300 years old, or so, others 800 years old. And, of course, don't
forget Domesday Book, and a whole myriad of sources in between, such as charters,
and settlement certificates.

> I am told the average Brit can't
> get back any further than that, and it isn't any surprise to me, as the
> earliest vital records available (that were kept on a regular basis) date
> only from 1830 in Britain.

Then you have been given wrong information. By law, the parish record system was
begun in England in 1538. Civil Registration was begun by law, in 1837. There is a
difference between these two, what you would call, vital record systems. The
parish register system records the baptisms, marriages, and burials of the people
in a parish, and the banns of marriage called. The civil registration records are
held at the General Register Office (GRO), in Myddleton Street, London (but were
previously in St Catherine's House, and before that, in Somerset House, where,
until recently, the wills from 1858 have been kept - prior to that, wills from the
11th century onwards are kept at various repositories around the country). The GRO
records the births, marriages and deaths (as opposed to baptisms and burials) of
(almost) everyone in the country since July 1837.

The method of genealogy in England is to work backwards, from the known to the
unknown, using the records (and others) cited above, (and in Scotland or Ireland
using their records, where there are differences - principally in Ireland where
much was destroyed in the Troubles of the 1920s, but work is afoot to try and
rectify some of that). Living in England, for example, we are familiar with
English names, and, judging by simple things, like the school register, we can
often judge which are common names, and which are more rare. Many Americans do not
seem to understand the spread of some English names, in England, let alone
America. Two chaps of the same name turn up in the same place, so they must be
related. For the last 20 years, I have been conducting a one name study of a
surname, of which there are about 300 entries in the entire British phone book,
and for which there were only 1300 or so entries in the 1881 census. 1300 births,
1200 marriages, and less than 100 deaths, since 1837. Almost without exception,
every one of them has their ancestry from within a particular 30-mile radius. Yet,
back to 1600, I cannot prove that they are all related. In one parish, I have two
separate couples with this same surname, both having children at the same time,
both couples (unrelated) called Thomas and Sarah. From the parish register, you
would think there was only one couple, judging by the timing of the baptisms of
the children (both couples married elsewhere, so you would never know there were
two couples). It was a Bible entry that someone sent me which pointed out the fact
that there were two separate couples. People of the same name, even in the same
place, should never be assumed to be the same person, or even related, without
some sort of proof.

> Also, once one gets back to before 1600, and
> certainly before 1500 (easily attainable for Americans of British descent,
> since our Colonial forefathers saw to it),

You haven't got a clue, have you?

> it's a piece of cake to begin
> finding nobles, and, yes, royals, popping out of the woodwork. And, no, these
> are not the "spurious" genealogies you Brits love to point to when attempting
> to disprove the royal descent of Americans;

Because many of them are spurious, because some of them seem to be based simply on
similar names in nearby places. I am connected to most of the aristocracy of this
country, and I have yet to find a royal ancestor, because, I don't really look for
it, and I'm not alone. (Though somebody did lately send me one lineage, which I
don't really understand.) I don't know many British genealogists who even think
about linking on to royalty like so many Americans seem to. We just like to find
our ancestors, whoever they might have been.

> these links can be found in the
> most trusted of sources. Blame your inability to find your own royal ancestry
> on the people who came before you and didn't keep the records of it: your
> English ancestors who were too timid to sail to the New World and build a new
> nation.

Too timid to sail to the New World? Balderdash. Some of our ancestors sailed off
to the New World for selfish reasons (if you like), but the majority stayed here,
and spent the next 300 years building democracy, and an empire. How many of those
who sailed to the New World came back, do you think? Names that you have come
across in early American records, a similar name in the next state, but all the
time, the chappie had sailed home, and you would never know it.

> Gary


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