As I was watching this week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? when the genealogist tells Brooke that she is also a descendant of St. Louis (IX) of France I turned to Michael and said, "so are we. Big deal." In this week's round up at Transylvanian Dutch, he linked to a Dick Eastman posting and also had his own queries. I wish to respond to both.
First I can say that both Mr. Dutch's [not his real name] proposed royal lines are bogus. Such is life. It was de rigeur in the 19th and early 20th century to try to include a royal descent in most surname driven genealogies. Most are crap. They exist because of the ignorant "I'll copy anything in print" mentality which is now uploaded and will obviously live forever. However, Mr. Dutch then says, "The issue is not whether mathematically we all must be descended from Charlemagne - the issue is can we accept as accurate any descent that claims we are?" That is a strange sentence coming from a genealogical blogger. Of course not. Would you accept any descent from anyone, whether royal or not? No. You accept a line if it stands up to the genealogical proof standard and scholarly scrutiny. Such royal lines do exist. I don't think Mr. Dutch knows this. And the reason why I know this is he's relying on Dick Eastman for advice.
Dick Eastman is a genealogist in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. Mr. Eastman is a computer expert. He's a techie. If you want to know about computers, software, Internet databases and the like, Mr. Eastman knows his stuff. But when it comes to actual genealogy--not so much. I'm sure because he's an "in demand" speaker, he's tired, perhaps even sick and tired, of hearing people ask about royal lines and famous ancestors and cousins, etc. etc. etc. That may drive his attitude--I don't know.
What I do know is that this particular blog posting is factually inaccurate from start to finish. Charlemagne had 21 children not 20. 23 U.S. presidents** have known and provable royal ancestors not 14. Two more have provisional lines that need more work. Those presidents run the complete gamut from Washington to Obama (both descendants of Charlemagne). Not all Europeans are descended from Charlemagne. Most western Europeans are. And then I would exclude in the western parts, the Irish, the Icelandic, and the Basque. It would be unlikely for anyone from Central, Eastern or Southern Europe to descend from Charlemagne. Not all Europeans find nobility in their backgrounds. I've blogged about this before. My father's Slovak ancestors were never noble in any lines and are not descended from Charlemagne. Not even his illegitimate children.
Mr. Eastman then sort of illustrates, but rather badly, ancestor collapse. That is we descend from the same people over and over. The proto-example is Prince Charles. By his tenth generation when he has 1,024 ancestors, he has less that 500 individuals to fill those 1,024 slots. That is, his ancestry is collapsed by 50% at that level. This happens to all of us, just not as rapidly as modern royalty generally. But those of us with ancestors from small villages are likely to descend from someone who lived in the year 800 literally hundreds, if not thousands, of times. That, however, doesn't make them royal. The false assumption here is that by the sheer number of ancestors we must have had, that Charlemagne must figure in. This is simply untrue. The other idea is that because the royal and nobility had greater advantages, their progenies were more likely to survive over time. That may be true also, but it is a false assumption that most Europeans descend from them as opposed to your average serf.
Most Americans can trace their royal lines via a gateway ancestor from the British Isles to colonial America. More studies are being done and there are now a few French Canadian gateways and at least one New York Dutch gateway. I would say anyone with any British or French ancestry is more likely than not to be a descendant of Charlemagne. The same cannot be said for any other European nationality.
**ADDENDUM: All these descents are from British forebears. Who's not on the list? The Irish, the Scots-Irish, and the Germans (Hoover gets in through his colonial New England forebears, Eisenhower gets skunked).