Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2000-07 > 0964109718

From: "John P. DuLong" <>
Subject: Re: Royal Descent of Americans
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 12:15:18 -0400

I think there are a number of factors in the craving Americans have for
royal descents. Among them are: (1) a desire to push back their research as
far as possible for the fun of it; (2) a way to reconnect with a lost
European heritage; (3) for bragging rights; and (4) a subconscious desire
among many to reclaim our lost loyalty to the Crown. I have always found it
amusing that in a republic so many genealogists want to lay claim to
descending from royal tyrants! It is as if there are some unresolved
seperation issues left over from our Revolution.

I do not think we have more descents from royalty than the typical English
or Scottish genealogist. Nor do we have better or worse records. (Though I
would argue that records in Qubec are fantastic.) It is just that we are
more motivated to find these connections for what ever reason. I do believe
that the British colonies and New France were populated by a cross-section
of their respective societies. If you can trace back to a large enough pool
of ancestors, say about 1,000 in 1650, then one or two of them are bound to
be nobles.

Also, I have noticed in interacting with some British genealogists, they
seem more concerned with learn a lot about their most recent generations,
while we Americans tend to learn a little about each generation. A gross
generalization would be that Americans do genealogy, the British do family

There is also an interesting parrallel to this issue that perhaps our
friends across the ocean are not aware of. This is the "Indian Princess"
syndrome. This is where people claim to descend from a daughter of a chief.
Often the tribe is Cherokee, Mohawk, or Chippewa. What is interesting about
this is that the daughter of a chief was not a princess and had no
particular prestige in most tribes. This is a way for Whites to ground
their ancestry in America and claim royal ancestry at the same time. See
Vine Deloria's _Custer Died for Your Sins_ (1969) for a discussion of this
theme. I am always amazed at how many Americans claim Indian ancestry from
a princess, far more than claim European royal descent.

Whether Indian or royal descent, the biggest problem is the lack of sound
genealogical research to back up these claims. It has been my experience
that it is very easy to make these claims but expensive and time consuming
to verify them. In fact, I would suggest that verifying an Indian ancestry
is often far more difficult than finding that royal gateway ancestor.

P.S. This race to claim native ancestry does not always happen in former
colonies. For instance, I remember reading a few decades ago about a
genealogist in South Africa who found that several prominent Afrikaner
families had Black ancestresses. His work was not appreciated to say the
least. I wonder how Australians and New Zeelanders embrace their native
ancestry? I believe most Canadians with native ancestry are comfortable
with it but do not brag about it like Americans.


This thread: