Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Surname Saturday: Holy Roman Emperor, Batman!

I have no idea what to make of this. Charlemagne was my nth great-grandpa? Seriously? Genealogically speaking, it seems almost meaningless to me. And "Charlemagne" ... what is that? A first name? Last name? Nickname? How am I supposed to put that in my database?

Did all those King Henrys have a surname? 

And how about this: William T. Conqueror?

All I wanted to do was find out who Mary Ann Russell's parents were. Somehow I found her at,
a website I'd never heard of before. Have you checked it out? It's a membership website, and you'll want to read the explanation about this global project on their Access page.

I found navigating a little tricky. From the start page, you click on your language of choice. You'll be taken to a page with a short menu in the left sidebar. You'll need to return to this page to access the menu again, as it's not available on the other pages. Using the back-button on your browser can end up being pretty laborious when you start clicking through the links you'll find; I found it easier to keep the menu page open, and wheel-click or right click to open my menu selection in a new tab or window. You'll also see a log-in box in the left sidebar. You needn't be a member, though, to use the search box on the right and click through the lineages.

I entered Mary Ann Russell's name in the search box and found her page. As I clicked and clicked up her branch of the family tree, I began to wonder what the colorful dots meant. Hovering revealed the secret:

A red ball identifies the descendants of William the Conqueror, king of England;
A yellow ball the descendants of Charlemagne, Holy Roman emperor and king of Italy;
A dark-blue ball the descendants of Hugh Capet, king of France;
A green ball the descendants of Ferdinand the Great, king of Castile and Leon;
A pale-blue ball the descendants of D. Alfonso Henriquez, the first king of Portugal.

Click around in Mary Ann Russell's tree long enough and you'll find dots in all five colors. The whole experience was a little overwhelming. Again, the navigation is confusing. Using this link to her branch of the family tree, you arrive on a page that shows Mary Ann with a yellow dot next to her name, dots of all five colors under her name, and a yellow dot beside her father's name. Clicking on her father's name will take you to his page, where he will be at the top with his yellow dot, and below you'll see it's his mother who has the yellow dot beside her name; i.e., it is through her lineage that he is descended from Charlemagne. You can click through the Charlemagne line that way.

But suppose you are on Mary Ann's page and you are wondering about the other colored dots under her name. Do they mean anything? Yes, they do. They mean she is a descendant of all those lineages. How do you follow her lineage back to William the Conqueror, or one of the others? You do so by clicking on one of the tiny flag icons at the lower right corner of the info box. You'll see the dot next to Mary Ann's name change color, along with the dot next to the name of her parent who is descended from that line. Now when you click through the parents' lineage, you'll be following a different line back.

I found that sources are listed (peerages and such) for some lines but not all. More information is available to members, but at this point I'm not ready for a membership. I'd like to know more about, though, and would appreciate comments from any of my readers who have used the site, either as members or as guests.

Now, about those ancestors of mythological proportions. I really don't know what to do with this! There are plenty of generations between me and my grandpa, the Holy Roman emperor, for which I have not yet found sufficient documentary evidence to support my connection, and in truth, I probably never will... although the odds get better as FamilySearch continues to add free online access to more and more of the world's documents.

Nth great-grandpa Charlie and me
(strong family resemblance, no?)

But what about now? I was blindsided. I can't even imagine how to think about this. So I'm making a list of questions that have come to mind, and I invite my readers to share their thoughts on any aspect of this topic in the Comments section, or on your own blog if you prefer, and let me know you've done so via the Comments section here.
  1. Have you found royal ancestors in your own family tree? If so, how did you find them? What were your thoughts at the time? If not, what do you imagine your thoughts would be if you did?
  2. How would you react to such news? Would you search for documentation? Accept the lines as they appear in peerages or other books which, presumably, have been well-researched by historians? Something other way entirely?
  3. How meaningful is (or would be) this kind of connection to world history for you? 
  4. Would you believe it? Question it? Doubt it? Disbelieve it? Disregard it entirely?
  5. Would you be inclined to add the lineage to your working database? If so, why? If not, why not?
  6. If you were adding the lineage to your database, how would you go about entering the names when, instead of surnames, you have stuff like "of Aquitaine" or "The Conqueror" or "III, King of England"? Is there a standard way of entering such descriptions? If you just put William in the Given Name field, with no surname in the Surname field, and the descriptors in the Title fields, The Conqueror is going to show up in your index as plain old William, right next to that guy Bill your third cousin Marlene married awhile back whose last name you don't know.
Yeah, I know. I'm just makin' fun now...

Dealin' with a touch of Sarah Jessica Parker Syndrome...!


Claudia's thoughts said...

I enjoyed the post. I never had one inkling of an idea that I may have been related to royalty.

I know O'Rourke's were kings of Ireland at some time and so were the Dowd's. When my daughter was young she asked me if we were related to the Kings of Ireland and I said "of course"

I will have to look at the site, I have never heard of it either.

Heather Rojo said...

Yes, I've found quite a few royal lines in books by Gary Boyd Roberts and others. Do you really believe them? Who was keeping track in those days? Well, royalty depended on "bloodlines" to keep their positions above everyone else. Charlemagne is too removed in history to really make a difference to me. We visited Fonetevraux in France and I did see Eleanor of Aquitaine's tomb, and Richard "Coeur de Lion" and that did make an impression on me, to know I had such a strong woman as an ancestress. I guess it only matters if you know their stories.

Lori E said...

I wouldn't put much stock in this sort of thing. My motto is Prove It.
I did do a research project for someone who was indeed descended from royalty. Of course once you go back to royalty you are usually related to royalty in many countries because they only married other royalty most of the time. You couldn't marry your brother so they married you off to some guy from a royal family in another country cementing ties.
Spend your genealogy money wisely. BTW I believe you can find Burke's Peerage online for free.

TCasteel said...

Enjoyed your post - I think we have the same sense of humor! :-)

T.K. said...

Claudia, good to know I'm not the only one who never heard of Sometimes I get the feeling I'm runnin' way behind when it comes to stuff like this. Our fellow geneabloggers are such a savvy bunch!

Heather, I think you're right about royal lines, they must be pretty well documented. Right too about appreciating them more if you know their stories. Which I don't. Now I suppose I'll have to go 'read' something... :-0

Lori, thanks for the explanation about royalty marrying royalty from other countries. I suppose this may have been explained in history class at some point, but I was SO not 'present' for that! Also appreciate the heads-up about Burke's Peerage. It's free to search, pay to see the full entries. But there's a 72-hr membership for £7.95, which is about $15--that's not bad since you are able to search first and know whether there's anything there for you.

T... thank goodness somebody gets me! LOL! I've been reading some of my old posts from my non-genealogy blogs and I gotta say, sometimes even I don't get me! :-P

Apple said...

Finding royalty in my tree was just plain fun. Do I believe it? Am I going to spend the time to research it myself? No and no but still it's fun and I have added a couple of lines to my tree.

T.K. said...

Hi Apple, that's about where I sit with it. I don't know whether I'll ever be able to finish documenting my 1800s peeps, never mind the ones before that. But the connection does make world history a little more personal.

John said...

I, too, have all five dots in my ancestry, though I doubt it's worth it to spend the $25 (for a six month subscription, current euro-dollar conversion) to see what they have for the sources.

T.K. said...

I'm not sure there's even a guarantee of that, John. It does show sources already, I think, if they're given. At least for the further-back royal lines. The promise of more information is pretty nonspecific about what else might be there. On my budget, this would fall well below Ancestry as a priority. I'm still hoping to get Ancestry for a month or two this year, but at the moment I have way too much to do already.

fsmunoz said...

Just to add that is well-known and very much considered one of the best sources in Portugal - where the project originated if I'm not mistaken. I'm not sure exactly to what extent that also applies to the "sister" sites. There is also a decent amount of information regarding Spain, and the denizens of the forum have an above-average knowledge in terms of genealogy (not surprising since it many of them do it professionally), and the forum is by a very large margin one of the best I've read in years (regardless of language or country), although it can seem intimidating to some due to being much more "high brow" in nature.

As for the benefits of membership, I actually think they are reasonably explained in the access page, but YMMV. In very broad terms what premium membership confers is the possibility to use extra tool to drill down the data in different ways, plus access to extra information not shown in the basic view (and yes, that includes information on sources as well). In general terms the information on tree is considered reliable, since nothing gets there without some sort of verification - the only issue being one's opinion on the relative credibility of different sources.

Is it worth it? Well, for Portugal (and Brazil to a large extent) and perhaps Spain I have little doubt that it is. For a US citizen with no links to Iberia, I really can't say, but I think that access to would likely be a better investment, if not only because it is much more likely to have relevant information, and because there isn't a forum in the English section of


T.K. said...

Thank you so much, fsmunoz, for your very informative comment. I'm glad to know more about I appreciate your taking the time to share an insider's view with me and my readers.

I probably will try it out for a short term, but not until I've done the same with Ancestry. No time at present to do either one, but maybe early next year.

Best wishes!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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