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.