Charlemagnia, Part Deux

Let’s pick up where we left off.  (If you haven’t already, please read “Charlemagnia, Part One“.)  As I stated, my Barnett line potentially leads to a marriage between John Bernard (1437-1485) and Margaret LeScrope (1440-1496).  It is through Margaret Le Scrope that a possible link exists to the Plantagenet Kings of England, and ultimately Charlemagne.

The thing is, I’m not sure.  I can research all I like online, but is that enough?  I suppose once you get to the children or grandchildren of royalty, you’re probably safe.  But it’s the 6 generations between John Bernard and Margaret de Clare that are “unproved” in my opinion.  And that is because I have not yet seen the documents that prove this connection to satisfy my standards.  Is it probable?  Yes.  But proven?  No.

But for the sake of conversation, let me continue the line that leads to Charlemagne:

10. John Barnett, b. 1437 and Margaret Le Scrope, b. 1440

11. Henry Le Scrope, b. 1418 and Elizabeth Le Scrope (her actual maiden name), b. 1417

12. Richard Le Scrope (father of Henry), b. 1394 and Margaret Neville (Um, yes, Neville again!)

13. Ralph Neville, b. 1364 and Margaret Stafford

14. Hugh de Stafford, b. 1344 and Philippa de Beauchamp, b. 1344

15. Ralph de Stafford, b. 1301 and Margaret de Audley

16. Hugh de Audley, b. abt 1291 and Margaret de Clare, b. 1293

17. Gilbert de Clare, b. 1243 and Joan Plantagenet (Joan of Acre), b. 1272

18. Edward I Plantagenet, b. 1239 and Eleanor of Castile, b. 1241

Let’s pause for a moment here.  If all proves out, Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile are my 23rd Great-Grandparents.  If this is true, it’s like the mother lode of information about the times, the places, the people that lived over 700 years ago.  And because of the good documentation you get a sense of who these people actually were, which is rare when you’re doing genealogy.

OK. let’s continue:

19. Henry III Plantagenet, b. 1207 and Eleanor of Provence

20. John Plantagenet (Angevin Line), b. 1167 and Isabella de Angouleme, b. 1188

21. Henry II Plantagenet (Angevin Line), b. 1133 and Eleanor of Aquitaine, b. 1122

23. Geoffrey of Anjou (Henry’s father), b. 1113 and Matilda of England, b. 1102

Pause again.  Matilda of England was the granddaughter of William The Conqueror, and at one point was poised to be Queen of England in her own right (she ended up settling with an agreement to make her son, Henry, heir to the throne.)  I’m sure there will be a post about this another time.  Also, The romantic side of me would love to think that perhaps my g-g-grandmother, Viola Matilda Barnett, was named after Matilda of England.  Most likely this was just a coincidence.

24. Fulk, King of Jerusalem, b. 1090 and Ermengarde of Maine, b. 1196

25. Fulk IV, Count of Anjou, b. 1043 and Bertrade de Montfort

26. Geoffrey, Count of Gatinais and Ermentrude of Anjou, b. abt. 1018

27. Fulk III, Count of Anjou (father of Ermentrude), b. 972 and Hildegard of Sundau

28. Geoffrey I, Count of Anjou, b. 940 and Adele of Meaux, b. 934

29. Robert of Vermandois (father of Adele), b. abt. 907 and Adelaide de Chalon

30. Herbert II, Count of Vermandois and Adele

31. Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, b. 848 and Bertha de Morvois

32. Pepin, Count of Vermandois, b. 818 and an unknown mother of Herbert I

33. Bernard, King of Italy, b. 797 and Cunigunde

34. Pepin (Carloman), King of Italy, b. abt. 770 and an unknown mother of Bernard

And the ultimate find:

35. Charlemagne, b. 747 and Hildegarde of Vinzgouw, b. abt 758

Over 1200 years of history there, from Charlemagne’s birth to mine.  Charlemagne and Hildegarde would be my 39th Great-Grandparents, with 42 generations of time us.  But, is it real?

Mathmatically speaking, yes.  If you go back 10 generations, you have 1024 potential ancestors (ancestors are exponential, you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and so on).  If you go back the 42 generations from me to Charlemagne, you’re looking at many trillions of ancestors.  Which is impossible when you consider the entire world population was a lot smaller at the time of Charlemagne’s birth in 747.  What the supposition states is every living European will have, among others, at least one line that leads back to Charlemagne.  (See http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/07/charlemagnes-dna-and-our-universal-royalty/)

It’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it myself.  After reading about this for many years, I know that it has not only to do with the size of the past population. You also have to take in to consideration things like major epidemics (like the Black Death which some think may have killed off up to 60% of the population), natural disasters, war.  There is a genetic term, “bottleneck”, which refers to a substantial reduction of members of a species, in our case the human species.  When you have a bottleneck and a reduced number of people survive to continue the species, you can see how all descendants from these people would have the same ancestors in common.

Another way of looking is to stop thinking of our ancestry as a tree, with an unlimited number of branches that divide indefinitely.  What we should do is start thinking of our ancestry as a road system, as in the idea that “All roads lead to Rome”.  If you start from Berlin and make your way to Rome, as you move south you have more and more roads to choose from, but as you move closer to Rome itself, those roads start to converge until ultimately only a few roads lead into the city itself.  And then again as you move out of Rome towards another destination, the road choices begin to multiply again.

The trouble is, of course, records.  Written records are rare prior to about 1400 when it comes to common family lines.  This is why I find it so exciting to find that perhaps the Plantagenet family, William the Conquerer, and Charlemagne are my ancestors. It’s the sheer number of records that survived about these that will help me imagine my family living in the Medieval world that I love to research so much.

But my ultimate take away is this:  I still need to validate these connections by doing my own research.  I cannot succumb to the glamour of having a series of celebrities in my tree.  This may simply be checking on sources to validate they’re OK, or I may need to start contacting librarians in far away places to find the records I need to prove, once and for all, that these people were really my ancestors.  And even in this age of the internet, you still occasionally need to pack yourself up and go to some tiny basement library to find that one document that proves (or disproves!) a family link.

To wrap this all up, I’ll end with some questions for you.

1. If you’re of European descent, have you found Charlemagne in your tree yet?

2. If you’re not of European descent, is there someone in your tree or heritage (like Genghis Khan) that you know or suspect may be your ancestor?

3. How do you feel about the idea that we all are related?

4. How do you go about “proving” your family connections, especially when you find a potential link to famous person

More reading:

A decent explanation of the population problem:

http://www.olivetreegenealogy.com/misc/ancestors.shtml

Articles about bottlenecks in human population history:

http://news.discovery.com/human/genetics/human-diversity-bottlenecks.htm

A guide for good research in Genealogy:

http://www.sog.org.uk/learn/education-sub-page-for-testing-navigation/hints-tips-six-standards-and-good-practice-in-genealogy/

Organization for Charlemagne descendants (to help you with leads if you suspect Charlemagne in your tree)

http://www.charlemagne.org/

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