To assert, as I do in this series, that these ancient figures were my ancestors, is not good genealogical practice, since none of the popular genealogies linking me to them are backed up by reliable sources. Hell, no such sources even exist for what we call the Dark Ages (c. 500-1500 AD). However, as I have pointed out, statistical genealogy proves that any person who lived in ancient times, any of whose descendants are living today (estimated at 80% of the ancient population), is an ancestor of every person living today(!). Do the math.
I, Claudius, Great-Grandpa
Claudius (1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54, emperor from AD 24) occupied Britain in AD 43. As part of his pacification program, his eldest daughter Genuissa (Venessa Julia) Claudia married a Briton king, Aviragus (Arviragas Arfyrag). Those two had a son, King Marius, whose son in turn was Old King Coel, mentioned below. Coel was an obedient vassal of Rome, and had probably been educated there before becoming king. Turns out he had Roman blood, Emperor blood even, and so have we. Coel was the great-grandson of Claudius, and all of us relatives are approximately 65th great grandchildren of this Roman Emperor. There is also Claudius’ maternal grandfather, Mark Antony, at around 67th.
Old King Cole, Great-Grandpa
The English nursery rhyme, “Old King Cole was a merry old soul …” has been traced by scholars to as early as the third century C.E. (or AD). One of several possible rulers the ditty may refer to is a certain Coel (Latin: Coilus I), a king of Britons who lived from about 85-170 C.E. The Britons were a Celtic people, one of several inhabiting the British Isles before the Roman occupation.
Well, this particular Coel fellow was a willing vassal of the Roman Empire; indeed, he spent much of his youth in Rome. More on that later. Moving forward from King Coel, we find that his daughter, Athildis of the Britons, married Marcomir IV, king of the Franks. By this political matchup, Coel became an ancestor of that “other” Frank, Charlemagne, 26 generations later. Thus for me and all my relatives, “Old King Coel” is our approximately 62nd great-grandfather.
Emperors and Vandals
About a month ago, I announced that I was “nearly finished” tracing all the threads of the European nobility to which a certain ancestor of Dan Myers had led me. At that time, Dan’s pedigree had over 800 names in my records. It took all this time, but now I really have finished, and the count stands at over 1,000! In the course of adding these names, and cleaning up some data problems, Anna Moen’s pedigree also increased to over 1,000 names. Isaac Larson’s increased by a handful, still in the low 200’s (but one line does go back to the early first millennium). I have updated the “Full Pedigrees” pages for those three individuals. Please visit them and let me know what you think.
One further ancestor of note: the Roman Emperor Constantine I.
Constantine, you may recall, was the first emperor to embrace Christianity and end persecution of Christians. He also conquered large swaths of territory, reunifying the fragmented empire for the final time. Soon after his reign, the Roman Empire went into steep decline. Constantine is not an ancestor of Charlemagne (surprise!), yet is an ancestor of both Anna Moen and Dan Myers by a very different path. which includes a marriage between a proto-Viking king and a princess of the Vandals(!)
A century and change after Constantine, his great-grandson, Valentinian III was murdered, and his daughter Eudoxia (438-530 CE) married to Hunneric, king of the Vandals, who, well, you know, “vandalized” Rome, big-time, in 455. Hmmm. Not what I would call a peaceful union; nevertheless they had children together. Eudoxia & Hunneric’s “Vandal” grand-daughter, princess Hildis, married a certain Valdar Hroarsson (b. 547), a king in some part of Denmark, who was one of the earliest Vikings. They passed their genes on through Scandinavian nobility for almost 400 more years, until one of their someteenth-great-granddaughters married Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and had sons named – OMG! – Harold Godwinson and Tostig Godwinson of 1066 fame, both of them 28th great-grandfathers of ours, by two different routes.
And now I just read that the Vandals themselves came from Scandinavia, centuries before they sacked Rome! Looking into this …
Now that we have solidly established that the emperor Charlemagne is an ancestor of both the Larson’s and the Myers’, it opens up a rapidly branching path reaching back many more centuries – in some cases beyond the “B.C. Barrier.”
As I argued earlier, it is not surprising that nearly everyone who can trace their genealogy back to the middle ages will at some point get into royalty, and that will likely lead them to Charlemagne. The sheer number of ancestors is overwhelming. At the time of Charlemagne (742-814 CE), each person on earth today must have, mathematically, 68,719,476,736 – 36th great-grandfathers! No more and no less. Hundreds of times the earth’s entire population in that period. One of them almost has to be Charlemagne. Still, following the threads is a lot of fun.
Charlemagne himself was a big genealogy nut, and worked hard at documenting his ancestry. Combine that with the fact that he is an ancestor of so many modern genealogists, and there is huge information on his pedigree, back a long, long way. It is true that in pre-Christian Europe, even the kings were mostly illiterate, their history propagated by oral tradition for centuries before it was formally documented. Even so, the consensus between researchers is quite strong along many of the blood lines.
Cousins of the Queen
This is the story of my 33rd(!) great-grandmother, Judith Martel (844-870 C.E.). That was her English name; she was also known as Judith of France, and as Judith of Flanders. We are related through my paternal grandmother, Anna Moen, according to the research of cousin Orrin Moen.
Judith was the first daughter of Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor and grandson of the emperor Charlemagne. Are you with me so far? There is also a close connection (newly discovered, and Judith Martel is just one of several connecting threads) back in these ancient times, with ancestors of my maternal grandfather, Dan Myers. Stay tuned for more on this fascinating development.
Getting back to Judith: when she was twelve years old(!), her father expediently married her off to the King of Wessex (England), Ethelwulf, at that time 45 years of age and a widower. Trouble was, Ethelwulf died before Judith even reached puberty. Ethelwulf’s son Ethelbald succeeded to the throne of Wessex, and soon married Judith himself. This earned them the censure of the Church, on the grounds of “consanguinity” (incest (!) – not a correct judgment, biologically).
The same year that the marriage was annulled (860), Ethelbald died. So, by the age of sixteen, Judith was twice Queen of England (part of it anyway), twice widowed, and childless. She sold her properties in Wessex and moved back to her father’s court. He sent her to the monastery at Senlis, presumably intending to marry her off again when the politically correct opportunity presented itself.
Judith, however, had other ideas. She eloped with Baldwin (later Baldwin I, Count of Flanders) around Christmas of 861. Not surprisingly, her father was furious; the couple was forced into refuge at the court of another noble relative. Eventually, the Pope himself intervened on Judith’s behalf, and the family was reconciled.
Baldwin I and Judith Martel had three children, one of whom (Baldwin II) became an ancestor of not only Anna Moen and myself, but a slew of royal personalities, including (ironically, through later alliances) the reigning Queen of England, Elizabeth II. Judith died at the age of 26, a short but eventful life, to put it mildly.
So there you have it – we are cousins of the Queen.
Lovell and Reatha Were Cousins, Too!
Tracing back from the “Pilgrim connection,” I uncovered not one, but two common ancestors of my parents, Lovell and Reatha (Myers) Larson.
One is the emperor Charlemegne himself (742-814 C.E.), whom Orrin Moen traced as the 34th great-grandfather of Lovell through Lovell’s mother Anna Moen, and Charlemagne’s son Louis I “The Pious.” And now, I have identified another son of Charlemagne, Pepin of Italy, as the 34th great-grandfather of Reatha through her father Dan Myers, making Charlemagne Reatha’s 35th great. This makes Lovell and Reatha approximately 35th cousins, once removed. This is actually a redundant connection, as Charlemagne is again an ancestor of Dan Myers through another marriage several generations later; this time the nearest common ancestor is Louis I. Yet another “nearest common” is Baldwin II, son of Judith Martel. By the time I finished with all these threads, I ended up with at least eight different lines leading to Charlemagne .
The second distinct connection is in Kiev(!) Yaroslav I “the Wise,”(978-1054) Duke of Kiev, is the 28th great-grandfather of Lovell, and the 27th great of Reatha. By this line, my parents are approx. 28th cousins, again once removed. More proof that if you go back far enough, we are all cousins. These 11th-century rulers of Kiev were intermarried with at least one Scandinavian … perhaps my next project will trace Reatha’s ancestors into pre-Christian Norway.
Powers of Two
In an earlier post, I made mention of a mathematical quandry rooted in the powers of two. That is, genetically, each of us has exactly two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great and so on. By then it’s going up really fast: ten generations, over a thousand; twenty generations, over a million; thirty generations, a billion (4 times the estimated world population at that time). At 65 generations (the Emperor Claudius), the number is practically inconceivable: 36,893,488,147,419,103,232.
Of course that number is reduced by intermarriage of cousins; it is hard to fathom but obvious that the number is reduced by a factor of thousands. A statistical study that takes this into account is described here.
6 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Royal Ancestry Debunked, and RE-bunked « Ole's Blog
Sep 24, 2012
[…] my articles on ancient history (1, 2, and 3), I had a lot of fun claiming the great-grandparenthood of famous and infamous figures […]
Mar 7, 2014
Just last night, I noticed that I can trace our Lillegard ancestors back to Adam and Eve, not well-sourced or entirely believable of course.
Your new-found fifth cousin once removed, Joanne Lillevold
Jul 31, 2014
You say “the Vandals themselves came from Scandinavia, centuries before they sacked Rome!” While this may be correct, it implies the Vandals were Scandinavians. By language, Germanic tribes divide into North (Scandinavians), West (modern Germans, Dutch, and English), and East (Goths, Vandals, and others). The East Germanic tribes lived in Eastern Germany, then migrated south, sacked Rome (more stealing than “vandalizing”), overthrew the Western Roman Empire (AD 476), set up kingdoms around the Mediterranean, and then disappeared from history, assimilating into the surrounding cultures. Anyway, the “barbarians” who overthrew the Roman Empire were neither Scandinavians or West Germans.
Jul 31, 2014
Good point. I should have said “… from the area now known as Scandinavia,” just as, nearer in time to the fall of Rome, they came from the area now known as eastern Germany (and/or Poland, etc.)
Jan 14, 2015
I hope you don’t mind my mentioning that “millennium” should have two Ns, since it comes from mille annus (Microsoft’s spellcheck and dictionaries agree).
Jan 14, 2015
Thank you. I guess the spell checker doesn’t cover post titles.