Genealogists may encounter family traditions that they are of royal or noble descent. Such traditions are often vague and frequently false. Researchers are encouraged to trace their ancestry systematically backwards in time generation by generation. If in that process you discover an ancestor for whom there is good evidence of royal or noble descent, you should continue to investigate that line of research – but not until then.
It is not usually good research practice to leapfrog back in time to a person one “thinks” is an ancestor and then try to move forward through several generations to a proven ancestor. Many researchers who believe they have royal or noble ancestry make this error; however, royal or noble lineage can be tempting for the genealogist if for no other reason than that such lines are well documented and can be easily taken back for several generations once a valid link is made. Although new research is always coming into print, there are several basic works that may be helpful to the genealogist who is investigating royal or noble lineages.
EUROPEAN REFERENCE WORKS
Also consult the Newberry’s “English Genealogy” and “German Genealogy ”guides for basic sources on English and German nobility. You will usually find reference works of this nature cataloged by country. Look under the subject heading “Nobility - [name of country]”. The subject headings “Kings and rulers - Genealogy” may also prove helpful. Although the Newberry holds hundreds of volumes for researching royal and noble lineages, a few titles especially deserve mention:
Burke’s Royal Families of the World. London: Burke’s, 1977. 2 vols. Call # CS27.B87 (2nd floor open shelf).
Europaische Stammtafeln. 1975-. Call # folio CS616.I85. Ongoing series. Coverage especially strong for Germanic and Central European families, although coverage extends to other parts of Europe in a few of its volumes.
Maclagan, Michael. Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. London: Orbis, 1981. Call # CR1605 .L68 (2nd floor open shelf). Although the focus of this work is heraldic, its numerous tables provide clear presentations of royal genealogy from medieval times to the present.
AMERICAN COLONIAL CONNECTIONS
The search for royal descents of early American settlers has become a highly specialized area of research. The following titles are the “gateway” works into this area:
Colket, Meredith B. Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe 1607-1657. Revised ed. Cleveland, Ohio: Founders and Patriots of America, 1985. Call # CS61.C64 1985. Although the focus is not on royal descents, this book is useful in alerting the genealogist to work that has already been done (at least by the mid-1980s) on a particular colonial family.
Faris, David. Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth- Century Colonists. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996. Call # CS55.F37 1996 (2nd floor open shelf).
Roberts, Gary Boyd. The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993. Call # CS55.R6 1993 (2nd floor open shelf).
Weis, Frederick Lewis. Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America before 1700. 7th ed. Additions and corrections by Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr. with David Faris. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. Call # CS55.W4 1992 (2nd floor open shelf).
Weis, Frederick Lewis. The Magna Carta Sureties, 1215: The Barons Named in the Magna Charta, 1215 and Some of Their Descendants Who Settled in America During the Early Colonial Years. 4th ed. Additions and corrections by Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr. with David Faris. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993. Call # CS55.W45 1991.