In my experience, I have run into people who can trace themselves about as far back as the 1400s (pretty impressive), but is there any ‘definitive’ history to trace back to ancient greece and if so, would this lend some credibility to Ancient Greek Mythology? If you’re able to say, “my line traces back to Agammemnon,” wouldn’t that validate things like the Oresteia and the Iliad and such?
I think even Agamemnon would be surprised to learn that his line had survived.
First of all, tracing back to the 1400s is not all that uncommon.
Note that the following is based on what I have found during my own reseach. It is no doubt a subset of such lore.
Virtually all people with European ancestry are descended from the usual royal suspects of 1000+ years ago. E.g., I have traced my family in at least one branch on both my mother’s and father’s side to European royalty. Ditto for Mrs. FtG. That gets you back, e.g., to Frankish kings like Charlemagne and such.
There is one apparently reliable lineage from Charlemagne back to a late Roman Emperor. OTOH, there is a lineage based on Frankish folklore that traces the lineage back to the first Ceasars. Note that from there, there are claims to descent from Trojan War figures, gods and goddesses, etc. among the prominent Roman families. All this later stuff is debatable to total hogwash.
But, in principle, most people could have a chart drawn up that shows their (alleged) descent from a Trojan War figure. Which proves absolutely nothing about anything.
Note also that a prominent Hebrew family intermarried with a Roman Emperor’s family. So you can easily find people on the Net who give lineages back to Adam and Eve. These of course in no way prove the existence of those two people either.
(The Prophet Muhammed had a descendent who married into, what later became, Spanish royalty. So most people of European descent are also descended from him as well. This is actually reasonably well rooted.)
See Steve Olson, The Royal We, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2002. Olson’s article argues that
I was just thinking that yeah, I can trace my family back to the Trojan war, and by the way my great greatx65 grandfather KNEW Achilles, who, by the way was immortal…
Well I can trace my ancestry all the way back to the precambrian era. My great x50 billion grandparent (this was before gender) was Julius P. Protocell, a protein-and-water microsphere in the clays of Earth’s primordial seas who aquired RNA and began to transfer genetic information to it’s offspring.
The longest royal genealogy that can be in any way verified or confirmed is that of (depending on who you ask) either the High Kings of Ireland (who barely break into the B.C.'s) or the Chinese Imperial House (ditto). Neither has any known connection to Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, or any other ancient royal family.
Roman ancestry has been suggested for Charlemagne but there is no strong evidence of such – in fact, there’s not even a known descent to the present day from the Merovingian kings who ruled much of Western Europe before Charlemagne’s father put an end to their line. AFAIK, Charlemagne’s furthest traceable ancestor is his great-great-great-grandfather Arnoul, Bishop of Metz, born in the 6th century.
There is a possible descent from the Emperors of Byzantium back through the Gregorids and Mamikonians to the Arsacids, but this line is very tenuous in a number of places. Other lines attempt a connection through the Kushans, Iberians, etc. but none have solid proof behind them.
Btw, the “descendant” of the Prophet Muhammad who married into the Spanish royal family was Zaida, widow of the Emir of Seville, who took up with King Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon. For a long time it was thought she was a descendant of the Prophet; recent translations of the available documents show that no such claim was made for her, though her husband (the Emir) was a descendant of Muhammad. Zaida may have been, she may not, but we have no statement either way. In any case, the two surviving daughters she bore to Alfonso (an only son died young) both married minor nobles and their descendants disapear into the sands of time.
Charlemagne was crowned the “Emperor Of The Romans” on Christmas Day, 800 CE, so I don’t doubt that on December 26th, 800 CE, people started trying to prove that he was descended from Augustus.
Factoid: It appears in my research that there’s about 33 generations/ 1K years. To go back to the Trojan War era would mean around 110 generations or so. 68 generations is far too small.
Hypothetically, how far back could a white-bread American like myself expect to get if he/she went strictly patrilineally? IOW: I am Aaron H. My father is Mark H. Mark’s father is Laverne H. Laverne’s father is SomeGuy H. SomeGuy’s father is… and so on?
I mean, I have no delusions that I’m descended from royalty. Let’s face it, I’m descended from pioneers who got as far as central Illinois and figured they couldn’t do any better :wally . Those pioneers are probably descended from people who fled religious persecution back in England, who were themselves probably farmers or laborers or something. But I doubt that they kept very accurate records prior to, say, 1700-ish, particularly for commoners.
To find a royal ancestor, you can’t just follow a set path. You have to explore as many paths as possible. Patrilinearly, I only know going back to just before 1700, with not much chance of anything earlier being found. OTOH, my kids’ matrilinear line goes back surprisingly far.
So, to me, no one path is of special interest just because of gender or last name.
Assuming your ancestry is European, British, or Irish, most people could go back no further than the 16th century. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century caused a general increase in literacy, which led to a general increase in record-keeping of vitals, which had heretofore been kept only for royalty and aristocracy.
The Man in the Ice:
He lived c.5500 years ago. Taking his genetic material, it was discovered one of the archeological team working on the remains was a descendant.
There are bound to be others.
I believe that dates to before the time of the ancient Greeks?
No proof of ancestory - but one of my professors in Greece had a coin that he said was passed down to the oldest son/male child, or daughter (if no male heirs) from the time of Justinian. It was a small, low value coin, (I forget the denomination), in quite good condition, kept in a wooden reliquary (with some other crap from a later date). According to the family history, his ancestor Constantinios (I think) was a Roman (Byzantine) soldier and this was what was left of his final pay. My professor made no real claim for being descended from anyone (the original owner might have been an uncle or cousin twenty times removed), and thought that the scraps of cloth and glass in the reliquary were from the later middle ages (maybe 1300 or so) and were the usual phoney stuff sold as relics. He wasn’t even sure if soldiers at the time were paid in coin, but his grandfather claimed that his father and grandfather told the same story. He felt that it was in the realm of possibility that this particular coin was passed through the family up to the time he got it.
There is absolutely no way any such proof of direct descent can be established after 10 generations, let along 100s. Someone is overstating the claim significantly. Alll too often the media takes something said by a scientist and twists it into something else. But even a few scientists have made the occasional unsupported claim.
Recall the recent dispute over the descendents of Thomas Jefferson via Sally Hemmings. The DNA only proved they were descended from a close male relative of Jefferson. Maybe Thomas, maybe his brother.
Well, there’s always the Cheddar Man
On a more personal note, I have a copy of a translation of a family geneology (my paternal aunt has the original, which is in German) that goes back to the early 1300s. It is based on handwritten documents and town records, and goes into quite a bit of detail on the births, deaths, marriages and occupations of those chronicled. So if you take a generation as being about 20 years, that is a pretty convincing proof of ancestry of close to 30 generations.
No doubt. Actually, considering the legions of grandchildren and great-grandchildren born to Augustus, I’d be surprised if everyone in Europe (and probably some surrounding areas) wasn’t descended from him.
Christopher Bennett, on his excellent Royal Egyptian Genealogy website, includes a page on probable descendants of the Ptolemaic royal family. While the sources don’t allow us to construct a full line from them, he’s able to show what a descendant line probably looks like, based on current knowledge.
For instance, the famous Cleopatra VII had a daughter by Mark Antony named Cleopatra Selene; this daughter married the King of Mauretania. Their descendants probably married into the royal family of Emesa, which coincidently is the same house whence sprang the warrior queen Zenobia (who in fact claimed to be a descendant of Cleopatra VII) and still later the Severan Emperors of Rome, who originated from the High Priests of Baal at Emesa. Zenobia has traceable descendants into A.D. Another Ptolemaic princess, Kleopatra Thea, has descendants traceable even further than that, from Syria to Parthia to Armenia, and possibly into Byzantium (whose imperial families occassionally intermarried with Western European dynasties).
I can trace mine back to circa 1000 AD, when my ancestors were aristocrats in Jersey in the Channel Islands. Our last name has changed very little since then (dropped a “de” at the beginning, added a “te” at the end to Anglicize it), and it’s so distinctive that there’s little doubt it’s the same name. My grandfather has established bloodlines to everyone in the world with small variations on the name (de/no de, te/no te, and an e left out here or there). They’re supposedly having a huge “reunion” in France next year.
If your name is Smith or Brown, you’re probaby SOL.
MLS: Sorry, that article is bunk as well. There is no way to prove direct descent via DNA or any other technique that far back.
Think about it: Cheddar Man had parents. Those parents could have had other children. How are you going to disprove someone is a descendent of Cheddar Man’s siblings and but still give proof of descent from Cheddar Man? It’s a flat out ridiculous claim.
Also, think about this: What if Cheddar Man had an identical twin?