Are we all descended from royalty?

Are we all descended from royalty?

Short answer: Probably!

Long answer: Most of us are distantly related to rulers such as Charlemagne, Genghis Kahn, and other historical figures with an abundance of descendants. But can we prove it? And is it important?

Most of us are distantly related to royalty. But can we prove it? And is it important? Click To Tweet

Am I related to Charlemagne?

Charlemagne descendancy


I found this chart on It was a “leaf hint” for some of my ancestors (the ones noted in red in the lower left-hand corner of the chart). It details quite the lineage — all the way back to Charlemagne, the 9th-century ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Cool! Right?

Well…..yes and no….

On the one hand, there is no documentation that accompanies this chart. Even if there were, I would never graft this branch onto my tree without first examining every single leaf and supporting record.

On the other hand, though, once you get back far enough to tie into a royal line, they are often rather well-documented.

I found this article about why and how everyone is probably related to someone ancient and notable, and I thought you might enjoy it too: So you’re related to Charlemagne? You and every other living European… (it’s not just for Europeans, though, and not just about Charlemagne). So, maybe being related isn’t as preposterous as it sounds.

How many ancestors do we have?

How many ancestors do you have?


Keep in mind, for each generation going back in time your number of direct ancestors doubles. (Let’s not worry right now about endogamy and pedigree collapse.) So, at the level of my 8th great-grandparents who are shown on the Charlemagne chart, I have a total of 1024 ancestors! Have you researched all 1024 of your 8th great-grandparents? I certainly haven’t, and I’ve been doing this (on and off) for decades. (Also keep in mind, when you see a tree with thousands of people on it, that it includes siblings, children, in-laws, etc. They are not all direct ancestors.)

Even if you’re descended from the king’s stable boy, and you can prove it, some of your other ancestors are probably descended from the king, so you are too. And even if all you know is that one branch of your family were farmers in 1850 Iowa, just imagine how much more there is to know about their ancestors, and about every other branch of your tree that you probably haven’t researched yet. (Because no one has. Genealogy is never finished!)

Here’s another related article (pun intended): Are you descended from royalty? Six things to consider. Shout out to not only Charlemagne and Genghis Khan, but to Muhammad, Giocangga, Atahualpa, Confucius, and Nefertiti. King Tut’s in there too, but for reasons other than successful procreation.

HINT: Treat Ancestry Member Trees as hints

The first time I saw this Charlemagne chart I dismissed it as being silly and unsubstantiated. I didn’t even keep a copy at the time, but was recently happy to find it again. It’s a hand-drawn equivalent of the Member Trees that are routinely offered up by Ancestry as hints. Emphasis on members and double emphasis on hints. Same goes for any tree you find anywhere, such as on Family Search. These trees are not blessed by Ancestry or Family Search (or any other genealogy site). They are just search engines for giant repositories of documents with some built-in genealogy tools for our convenient use. The trees themselves are created by members just like you and me. And some are better than others.

Sometimes people accidentally introduce errors into their trees and supply no supporting documentation whatsoever. It can be frustrating to notice that others researching that same family have perpetuated errors without concern for verifying the information. Sometimes the information is correct, and documentation does exist. But for some reason it is not attached. Other times there are lots of records attached, but they have no bearing on the individual in question — right name, yes, but wrong time, place, and family. Ugh! It’s up to you to evaluate each leaf before proceeding to the next branch, to ensure you aren’t climbing someone else’s tree!

Consider the source

I do use an Ancestry Member Trees on occasion, but only as hints, and only as a last resort if I get stuck. Sometimes I find a piece of supporting documentation that I didn’t already have, or other clues that I can work with. And sometimes they lead to a rewarding real-life connection with a distant cousin who is researching the same branch of our mutual family. If I think someone has made a mistake, I try to understand how it could have happened and not judge them too harshly. After all, my own tree is also an Ancestry Member Tree, right?

Although many of us are, indeed, descended from Charlemagne (or someone equally ancient and notable), I hesitate to believe anyone who says they have traced themselves back that far….unless, of course, it’s the President of the New Mexico Genealogical Society: Is your last name Vigil? You’re likely a descendant of European Emperor Charlemagne.

But is it important?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. It’s not important to me; I see it as just a bit of fun. My research has no agenda other than getting to know each family, in each generation, on each branch, as I discover them, working my way back into history, and adding them to my tree. It’s not any more important to me to prove I’m descended from royalty than it is to complete the paperwork to join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). I qualify based on one branch of my family, but they might kick me out if they knew about the Loyalists in another branch! LOL?

I do, however, think that my recent client might be interested in this blog post. An unusual surname — BOYKIN — caught my eye while researching her family because it’s in my chart too. I surmised that we could be related and built a “quick and dirty” tree (in which I did not take the time to prove each step along the way, just followed where the hints led me….because it’s not important, just fun…and the “quick and dirty” tree is marked PRIVATE so I don’t lead anyone astray) and sure enough, we are very likely 8th cousins once removed. It was through taking another look at the BOYKINs that I found this chart again. This means that my client, too, is probably descended from Charlemagne. See? We’re all related!

Are we really all related to one another?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Watch this 6:25 minute PBS video — Are We All Related? — for their explanation.

Here are some of my favorite reader comments on the video:

🎶We are family…🎶

So, if you’re adopted, you’re just living with distant family.

Wait, that means that I am related to Albert Einstein.

All 7.7 billion of us should make a family group chat!

So, we’ve been marrying our cousin this whole time?

So, racism is just bullying our cousins?

So, every war was a civil war?

Can we trace ourselves back to Adam and Eve?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Theology issues aside, this 36:13 minute video will explain Why You Can’t Trace Your Lineage Back to Adam. (Spoiler alert: Records don’t go back that far!)

Related Wikipedia articles: Mitochondrial Eve & Y-chromosomal Adam


What about you — are you related to royalty, or someone famous?

Are you sure? Do you care?

Whatever your genealogy goals are, I’m here to help you.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment!

Copyright 2020 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life.
I welcome social media links directly to this page!
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  1. Seana Turner on August 3, 2020 at 7:56 am

    I have a client who is very interested in ancestry and some pretty neat stuff. I have to say I’ve never considered the possibility that I am related to royalty, nor do I really care. It is pretty fun to think about. Maybe I’ll just tell my husband that I probably am a princess and leave it at that:)

    • Hazel Thornton on August 3, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Ha ha — love it!

  2. Janet Barclay on August 3, 2020 at 8:06 am

    This is so fun and interesting! From what I’ve found so far, my ancestors didn’t come from high society, but maybe if I go back far enough… The most impressive thing I’ve come across is the likelihood that my great-grandfather’s uncle was a US senator (and seriously, that’s not very impressive…)

    • Hazel Thornton on August 3, 2020 at 8:32 am

      My family? In recent generations? High society? Ha! I suppose that’s why I ignored the Charlemagne chart when I first saw it.

  3. Diane N. Quintana on August 3, 2020 at 8:22 am

    This is great, Hazel! Yes. I am related to Royalty… Several of my family members are fascinated by ancestry and have created charts all the way back to .. I’m not sure where. Like you, I find it fun and fascinating to see all the inter-relations and to learn about some of the things (good and bad) that my ancestors have done.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 3, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Some of my favorite discoveries have been about skeletons in the family closet!

  4. Linda Samuels on August 3, 2020 at 9:09 am

    I love what a great sleuth you are, Hazel! And I also admire your passion to learn about your ancestry. My dad was the one in our family that was always on the look for new family members and piecing together some of the history. My brother is great at looking up “Machover” wherever he travels. And he’s found and befriended many of them. I tend to hold the family stories I know of and share them when I can. But other than going back several generations, I haven’t done the deep dive.

  5. Melanie on August 3, 2020 at 11:04 am

    I find this sort of research fascinating! This topic is often at the root of why people hold on to certain things and lineage is really important to many of us. I attribute many of my interests and character traits to my Italian and Scottish lineage. Namely, single malt scotch and cooking the perfect Sunday gravy

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