Royal roots

Last Updated on September 30, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

This past summer, someone told me he’d traced his genealogy back to William the Conqueror. I acted impressed, but I didn’t believe him. I dismissed it as wishful thinking.
When I traced myself back to the late 1600s, I felt pretty proud of myself. I mean, I wanted to go back further, but there just didn’t seem to be any trace of Adam Farquhar’s father or Dugal McQueen’s parents. Dugal was shipped over because he participated in a little rebellion intended to overthrow the King of England. I don’t know why Adam did. It was probably something boring, like an inability to get land.

The only way at the time to go back further was to trace a few other mothers’ families. The majority of them only went back a generation, maybe two. Then I got to my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Stratton. I mentioned that via her, I was a very distant cousin of the patriots John Adams and Samuel Adams. But it goes further than that. She also makes me a distant–very distant–cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, his wife, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush. I always knew I probably had distant relatives in Texas, but I didn’t expect Dubya to be among them.

But I wanted direct relatives, so I traced her back. And back. I started finding knights. Then I started finding people with higher noble titles, like Duke and Baron. Then I found someone with a title of Princess. One link later, I’d connected with William the Conqueror. And within a couple of hours, I’d also with Charlemagne (twice) and Alfred the Great.

I also found people who fought in the Battle of Hastings (besides William), a number of kings of France and Italy (you know something’s wrong when you cease to be impressed when you see a note on an ancestor that lists his occupation as the King of Italy), and people who appeared to be among the invaders who led to that whole Anglo-Saxon thing.

Eventually I had to return to the 19th century though. The inconsistency of last names gives you a headache when you research genealogy in 3-digit years.

Along the way, I found speculation that every person of European descent is probably related to Charlemagne. One genealogist has identified more than 50,000 descendants of Charlemagne. I’ve lived half my life in towns smaller than that. I wonder if the same thing is true of every person of British descent and William the Conqueror.

I think I also know where the plot of the John Goodman movie King Ralph came from now.

But now I want to trace my line back to 1382 in Scotland, when the Farquharson clan was founded. I now believe that Adam Farquhar’s father was a James Farquhar, who lived from 1670 to 1728 in Aberdeen, Scotland, and that James’ father was named Robert. That still leaves a gap of 300 years.

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9 thoughts on “Royal roots

  • November 19, 2003 at 1:19 pm

    “It was probably something boring, like an inability to get land.”

    I read that as “an inability to get laid.”

    Which, in itself, might be a good reason to emigrate, come to think of it.

  • November 19, 2003 at 3:59 pm

    It all sounds cool, but do you have tips for people wanting to get started in tracing geneology? The only cool thing I know that I can say for sure is that my wife is the great great great great great (give or take a couple of greats) granddaughter of Daniel Boone.

  • November 20, 2003 at 12:06 am

    My mother just informed me that she’s traced the Schkerke part of my family line back quite a ways, circa 1400. I believe she’s going to give me it as a Christmas gift — she knows I’m in search of myself — and I believe there’s probably a surprise or two in store for me. (She’s already informed me that my family fought and died in the American Revolution. An awe inspiring thought. My family was here when the foundations of this land were laid politically via my Polish ancestry; yet I am this land in more ways than that with Cherokee and Blackfoot blood running in me – diluted yes, but there. [25% Cherokee and 13% Blackfoot as near as my Mom can figure. This is why I can’t grow facial hair apparently. ;)])

    The best way to start (from her) is to just dive in. She purchased Family Tree Maker which has quite a few resources for use — but you might not want to pay. What FTM does provide is a proven path to follow. By the time you get to the point where FTM’s resources fail you you are ready to forge onward on your own. If you’re not looking to pay start with the Mormon Church records. Despite any hostility you may harbor those records are an accurate and ground breaking resource for anyone looking to trace their roots, and they do not contain only Mormon families.


  • November 20, 2003 at 3:31 am

    It is interesting to discover the famous groups and individuals we’re related to, but it’s equally important to know the “black sheep”. My mother’s side goes back to the Mayflower and included, my Grandfather was pleased to point out, many notables. Unmentioned were the rum-runners, slave traders, robber barons, and lesser scoundrels. I am either all of them or none of them. History can both enlighten and entrap. A great freedom in our country is that while we are of our past, we are not bound to it.

  • November 20, 2003 at 1:10 pm

    Do my eyes deceive me? Has Brian posted something? Hey, I emailed you a few weeks ago. Can’t you give your old co-sysop the courtesy of a reply? Geez… 😉

    This genealogy stuff is interesting. We (or more precisely several relatives) have traced my paternal line back to the early 1300’s. Our family’s roots are in Flemish part of modern-day Belgium (formerly part of France), and we held the hereditary mayorship of Hainault. My 5th-great-grand uncle represented both Spain and France when the Louisiana Territory was signed over to the U.S. His parents and siblings fled the French Revolution. There are mountain men, fur traders, and maybe even an influential Renaissance composer in my bloodline. There are tales of horrible deaths suffered and dealt out.

    My life is boring in comparison. 🙂

  • November 20, 2003 at 1:38 pm


    Chances are you got hit by either my (temporary) white list filter or my (permanent) Bayesian spam filter. Because of my recent PASS Summit trip (2 weeks in length) I had nearly 4000 emails in my Inbox and didn’t get to give the possible junk emails the look I normally give them. Please email again.,, or

    No, I no longer worry about spambots scraping those emails. Trust me. They’re on every spammer’s list already. 🙂


  • November 20, 2003 at 3:45 pm

    Oh, and Charlie, speaking of your misreading, I think in medieval Europe, “inability to get land” and “inability to get laid” were almost one in the same. Right?

  • November 20, 2003 at 4:00 pm

    Brian: Steve’s emails have a way of finding themselves getting filtered by spamassassin. Might have something to do with his pimp jive.

  • November 20, 2003 at 5:26 pm

    Brian, I’ll give you a shout when I get a spare moment.

    Dave, you may have just explained the reason men went to sea.

    Jamin, what up wit’ that schnizit? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Glock, glock. Know what I’m sayin’?

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