Charlemagnia, Part One

If you are of European descent, and have been at the genealogy game for some length of time, you may have heard the theory that all Europeans alive today, statistically speaking, are descended from Charlemagne.  In fact, just this season on “Who Do You Think You Are”, Cindy Crawford’s family tree was traced back to Charlemagne and Hildegarde of Swabia.  As a gal from the Midwest myself, I thought this episode was really interesting, especially since it aired I have discovered that I may also be a direct descendant of Charlemagne as well.

(See clips from Cindy’s episode at and

Before I begin the story, let me reiterate once again that I am never “looking” for royalty in my family tree.  I’m not going to accept a suspect link in order to “prove” my connection to the Kings and Queens of England, nor any other royal family or gentry.  To me the stories of the common folk are a lot more interesting for their bravery, adventure and perseverance.  But, it seems that perhaps my friends are correct when they teasingly call me a “Princess”.  It seems that in a way I could actually be one, genetically speaking. (This, by the way, completely cracks me up.)

And in my other pastime as a historical researcher, one of my favorite topics is leadership and power on a social level.  The question of how does a President, Royal, Dictator convince the masses that he or she should lead, and why does everyone else should follow this person, has always fascinated me.  Especially when the leader started life as a social underdog, such as a woman or a minority.  Because of this interest I have a good feel for the families that shaped English history, and have always been aware that my own tree didn’t have any of these family names…until recently.

OK, I’ll stop teasing now and get to the nitty-gritty of what I have discovered.

Through one line of my tree on my Mother’s side, I happened upon British relatives that may have been minor landholders by the last name of Barnett, a variant of the French “Bernard”.  The trail began with my g-g-grandmother who had the wildly romantic name of Viola Matilda Barnett.  Her story will be told in another post, but let me just say here that finding her records was a huge win for me, and led me through the Barnett line to Viola’s grandfather, John Barnett (1807 – 1870) and his wife who was variously known as Cena Merriman and Ceney Merryman (you all know what I’m talking about here as far as name spellings go!).

John and Ceney lived in Adams Co. Indiana during the mid-late 1800s.  Even though the census records out of Indiana pointed to John’s birthplace as Culpeper County, VA, I sat dead ended on this particular John for a few years, thwarted by the many John Barnetts living in VA during this period.  Finally I contacted the Culpeper historical society in Virginia and I was lucky enough to find that there was only one John Barnett born in the county during the right time frame.  AND, more importantly, I was able to find a marriage record for parents, James and Mary (Spinny) Barnett, and finally, the name of James’ parents, Ambrose and Judith (Neavill) Barnett.

The name Neavill stopped me in my tracks.  Since I knew that the “Neville” family was a fairly affluent and influential family in England, I wondered if I would finally happen upon my first link to royalty, either because someone was a valet to a King, landed gentry, or perhaps most influential of all, actually related to an English royal family.  After all, the mother of Edward IV and Richard III was Cecily Neville.  Plus, I found this link at the same time that Richard III’s body was discovered under a car park in England, so I doubled my effort to research this line.

Unfortunately so far the Neavill/Neville line has been a dead end with Judith’s father George.  What happened instead was I found that Ambrose Barnett is included in multiple family trees of various credibility that leads directly to the Plantagenet family.  As in the Plantagenet Kings of England.  As in, well…read on.

The line as I’ve been able to trace so far, is as follows:

1. Ambrose Barnett, b. 1741 in Virginia and Judith Neavill

2. John Barnett, b. 1704 in Middlesex, Virginia and Marran Gibbs, b. abt 1708 in Virginia

3. John Barnett, b. 1694 in England and Ann

4. William Barnett/Bernard, b. 1658 in England and Loretta Pannell

5. Richard Bernard, b. 1608 in England and Ann Corderoy (also a last name that appears in Tudor records later)

6. Richard Bernard, b. 1580 in England and Elizabeth Woolhouse

7. Francis Bernard, b. 1526 in England and Alice Haselwood

8. John Bernard, b. 1490 in Abington, Northamptonshire, England and Cecily Muscote, b. 1500 in England

9. John Bernard, b. 1469 in Abington, Northamptonshire, England and Margaret Duadelyn, b. 1470 in Duddington, Northamptonshire, England

10. John Bernard, b. 1437 in Abington, Northamptonshire, England and Margaret LeScrope, b. 1440 in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, England.

OK, let me pause here and explain a few things.  First I was able to find credible records for John Barnett (2) that link him to a John and Ann Barnett as his parents, through his birth record in VA.  It’s John (3) where the records get a little sketchy.  There is a database on Ancestry called “U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560 – 1900” that cites a marriage between John Barnett and Ann Barnett, but I don’t normally like using this as a source.  Originally this database was more trustworthy, but in recent times they have begun using family tree data to fill out the database.  And as we well know, family trees are filled with bad data.  And since Ancestry does not give me any info on where the record was obtained, it needs to be filed in the “To Be Researched” file.  This would be the first thing I need to confirm directly with records in VA, if they exist

Second, the link between John (3) and William (4) is taken from family tree data.  This obviously has to be researched further.  BUT, the reason I am taking this link as mostly truth is because I have run across some very well-cited documentation online that has this connection.  As a researcher, it is then up to me to check sources from this documentation and also attempt to come up with citations of my own to prove the connection.  So for now let’s just go with it as it serves the story I am (eventually) trying to tell.

Which, as you have probably already figured out, will be continued in my next post titled “Charlemagnia, Part Deux”, coming out yet today.  Stay tuned!

Until then, here are a few links to more information about the theoretical mathematical descent from Charlemagne for you:


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