147 Generations

That’s the number connecting me to Eve and Adam — at least by one count on one line. When I was a kid, our ward had a large chart entitled THE ROYAL LINE hanging on the wall near the library. The chart traced lineage from Adam to Judah through European kings like Charlemagne and Alfred the Great to modern leaders including Queen Victoria, George Washington, FDR, and the prophet Joseph Smith.

THE ROYAL LINE (detail)
This chart fascinated me and eventually I convinced my mother to get me a copy. Going through the Bible’s many begets, I checked it, corrected it in a few places, and added names that the original compilers left off. With the help of a book from our public library, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, I further supplemented the Biblical information with more elaborate charts showing the kings of England and Scotland and the Czars of Russia, among others. Here’s a picture of my faded and marked up copy as it looks today (most of my notations were added in the early 1980s).

THE ROYAL LINE Chart
One of the things that fascinated me most about this chart was the inclusion of names drawn from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. Little had I known that Joseph Smith’s ancestors included Priam, King of Troy, Cronus the Titan, and Odin, chief of the gods of Valhalla! This was one of the earliest indications to me that myths might overlay actual historical persons (i.e., most of the stories associated with Zeus were surely myths, but there might have been an actual person of that name in history). Of course, this also got me pondering the corollary: was it possible that stories about the Biblical figures on the chart had a mythological component?

In adulthood I took another look at this chart. Using information from a family genealogy book compiled by my grandfather’s second cousin, Marian Proctor Brandley, as a starting point, I finally tracked down the exact points where my own genealogy supposedly connected to “royal lines.” There are actually several points of connection and I decided to concentrate on the one that extended through Charlemagne. I took some time to research the links and the histories of the ancestors leading to the medieval Emperor of the Franks and I produced a series of charts.

For convenience, I’ll only include one chart in this post, but will provide links to the rest.
CHART 12
CHART 12 (above) shows Charlemagne and his immediate descendants. The circled numbers at left is a generational countdown leading to myself at generation #1. By this count, Charlemagne is generation #42 — which is to say, on this line he is my 39th great grandfather.

The next chart (CHART 13) contains the Carolingian counts of Vermandois — a county northeast of Paris that was important in the 10th century. CHART 14 connects the heiress of Vermandois with the Capetians, France’s new royal line. CHART 15 follows a Norman count William II of Warren to England, where the line is quickly watered down into lesser nobility. CHART 16 and CHART 17 follow generations of knights into the modern era. By CHART 18 the line has slipped to craftsman class. CHART 19 sees the blacksmith John Prescott emigrate from Yorkshire to Massachusetts. During CHART 20, the line begins moving west and becomes Mormon: Stephen and Nancy Winchester were baptized in the winter of 1833-34. CHART 21 brings us to the present day.

With these links reasonably well established, I turned my attention back up the line. How would the earlier generations stand up to scrutiny? Or rather, given that the links were clearly fictional, where had the names come from? We can follow Charlemagne’s ancestry through history back a few more generations. His father Pepin the Short seized the throne from the last of the Merovingian kings. The Merovingians were the first Frankish royal dynasty and Pepin’s wife Bertrada of Laon, a great grand-daughter of King Theuderic III, had Merovingian blood, see CHART 11. Theuderic’s ancestors can take us back another eight generations to the eponymous founder of the Merovingian dynasty, Merovich I, see CHART 10 and CHART 9. At generation #54, Merovich himself is only a historical memory and his father Clodion the Long-Haired borders onto myth. History takes us no further.

Filling out the chart, I was also able to build down. The Bible famously includes whole lists of “begets,” which many Biblical scholars hypothesize are derived from an early source known as the Book of Generations. Prior to the flood, Genesis takes us from Adam and Eve to Noah’s father Lamech, CHART 1. Next, the line runs through Noah’s son Shem to Peleg (everyone’s favorite beget “for in his day the world was divided”) and then to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, CHART 2.

Judah’s son is Zara and Zara’s son is Darda, but at this point we leave the Biblical account. According to THE ROYAL LINE chart, we reach the legendary King Priam of Troy in just five generations. How is that possible? It turns out the linkage is quite clever. According to Homer’s Iliad (20:215-293), Priam’s father was Laomedon, who was the son of Ilus, the son of Tros, the son of Erichthonius. Erichthonius’s father was Dardanus, the son of Zeus. At some point, a genealogist made the connection between Dardanus and Darda, and thus equated Zara and Zeus, see CHART 3.

A gap still remained between the mythological Priam at generation #118 and the first semi-historical Clodion at generation #54. Since the Romans had famously connected themselves into Greek mythology by claiming Trojan descent through Aeneas (see Virgil’s Aenied), many other peoples had followed suite. The Franks who claimed to revive the Roman Empire were among these, and I naturally assumed that some enterprising monk in the early Middle Ages had dutifully created the missing generations.

The legend of Trojan descent does date to some of the earliest Frankish sources. A 7th century collection known as the Chronicle of Fredegar tells how the exiled Priam was succeeded by a king called Frigia and then another named Francio — with the name “Franks” deriving from this later king. Another early source, the 8th century Liber Historiae Francorum has Priam succeeded by a son named Marcomeris and a grandson named Faramund. This Faramund is the father of Clodion the long-haired and the grandfather of Merovich. In other words, this confused chronology requires some 1,600 years to pass from the traditional fall of Troy to the historic rise of the Frankish Kingdom in only seven generations!

Modern genealogists, probably from the 15th century or later, recognized the gap of generations between Priam and Clodion and it is they who seem to have made up the names that appear on THE ROYAL LINE chart. Their inventions weren’t consistent — Greek names like Antenor, Nicanor, and Diocles are almost randomly intermixed with Frankish names like Richemir, Clodimir, and Dagobert. Worse, in order to fill out the generations the names repeat and repeat (there are no less than five Marcomirs). So unfortunately, while the final links shown in CHART 4, CHART 5, CHART 6, CHART 7, and CHART 8 are myths, they are neither particularly ancient nor particularly creative. On the internet they survive primarily on Mormon genealogy sites.

Thus, 147 generations of the Royal Line extend from ancient mythologies through modern fictions to medieval histories and finally to all of our own modern genealogies. Have you been doing your genealogy lately? I’m still working on mine.

Comments

  1. Wow. Brilliant. I’m working on a InDesign file of my line, hoping to turn it into a real nice poster for the living room. I love graphic design, history, and families. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nuts.

  3. Ha! We totally had a poster like that when I was little.

  4. The Token Average Member says:

    So those 7 generations in 1600 years couldn’t have been Methuselah’s relatives?

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Dibs on Charles Martel’s temple work.

  6. You missed one. I’ll get back to you later.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    This is awesome, John. I’ve known many members who proudly trace their genealogy all the way to Adam and Eve, and I knew in principle some of the issues, but this is the first close up view of this sort of thing that I’ve had. (When I inform these people that the furthest back we can responsibly go is to the Merovingian kings, ooh, stand back! This is knowledge that is not appreciated!)

    BTW, there’s a great “I Have a Question” article on this topic in the February 1984 Ensign here.

  8. John Hamer says:

    Tod (#1): Those are all interests we share. I really like it when people take the time to create original things for their homes that are personally meaningful.

    Ardis (#2): Sorry to disappoint.

    Cynthia (#3): I figured somebody would recognize that thing.

    TTAM (#4): Methuselah is part of the Antediluvian story on CHART 1. The 7 generations over 1600 years come much later. That last one would be living some 400 years after Christ.

    Steve (#5): I bet you’ve probably missed out on such an important figure. I wonder if the work’s been done for Martel’s defeated rival Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi?

    Bob (#6): d’oh!

    Kevin (#7): Thanks. I don’t want to discourage people. I searched these links out because I find them very interesting, even still. Actually early Frankish history is also fascinating and tracking back to Clodion the Long Haired († 447) is no small feat.

  9. The Token Average Member says:

    # 4 was supposed to be a joke but obviously didn’t work out that way. Forgot the emoticon – doggone it!

  10. I have the chart “The Royal Line” and have traced back to Adam on several generations. Charlemagne is one of them–it’s so exciting to find out you’re my cousin, John!

  11. Larry the cable guy says:

    #10

    As do I, and probably about 1 in 3 with significant European roots. Usually we see family trees diverging away from a present individual, when in reality, the human family shrinks together as we go back in time–and inverted tree if you will.

  12. There was a member of our ward a few years ago who literally covered his apartment wall with a chart showing his genealogy as far back as he had it traced. The chart, btw, was created from regular rolled paper (the kind that comes in a huge roll and can be cut to any length) and filled in by hand with a magic marker. It was . . . interesting. I immediately thought of it when I saw the pictures with this post.

    (He was in town alone with a new job, while his wife and kids finished the school year, so he had lots of time on his hands for a few months – but I’m not sure that really mattered.)

  13. StillConfused says:

    I am also a Charlemagne descendant so I look forward to seeing all of his ancestors.

    I also like that I am related to Old King Cole.

  14. Dunno if it’s still there, but there used to be a chart on the wall of the Jacob Hamblin home in Santa Clara showing Jacob’s descent from Mary-the-mother-of-Jesus and Joseph. Not Joseph-the-carpenter, but Joseph-of-Arimathea. If I hadn’t known it before, I understood then what these charts were.

  15. Careful, Ardis. Jacob Hamblin is my third great grandfather, so an attack on his family history is an attack on mine!

    Actually, this must have been what Paul was condemning when he spoke of “fables and endless genealogies.”

  16. What amazing things we learn from internet browsing!

  17. John,

    I see that Charlemagne is the 42nd generation on your chart (i.e., your 40th greatgrandfather). Here’s some food for thought, although I’m just a hack so don’t take me too seriously:

    Everyone has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 greatgrandparents, etc. If you extend that back then everyone technically has over 2 trillion 40th-greatgrandparents. Of course that’s not really possible, because there weren’t that many people on the planet then (or now). In practice, many of your lines would merge as you went further back, so that your g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandma through one line would also be your g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandma through another line, etc.

    But still, the point remains that if you go back 42 generations, everyone is related to a huge number of people. I am largely of English descent, and I would guess the chances are pretty good that I am a direct descendent of most every person who lived in England 42 generations ago, and also a descendent of many many others whose lines got mixed in to English lines at various times.

    So anyone who has any caucasian ancestor anywhere in the past few hundred years could likely trace their line back to Charlemagne, if adequate records were available. We are all cousins indeed.

    (As an interesting sidenote, this makes talk of “one drop of negro blood” hit pretty close to home, since there’s a pretty good chance that at least one of everyone’s 2 trillion 40th-greatgrandparents may have been black . . . )

  18. StillConfused says:

    I checked my history and you and I “split streams” at Isabella Capet (1081-1130). So we are distantly related. if I didn’t have to get work done, I would figure out our actual relation…. Just in case I stand to inherit from you.

  19. Just in case anyone wants to get technical, I had better be more precise: Charlemagne would be John’s great-great-great-(39 times)-grandpa. I hastily called this “40th-great-grandpa” because he is 40 levels of grandparents back (first level has no “great”).

  20. Researcher says:

    Despite my appalling lack of tact in many circumstances, my invariable response when faced with these genealogies is to smile and nod and say, “Oh isn’t that lovely.”

    Doesn’t matter if they show descent from a non-existent child of Charlemagne. “Oh isn’t that lovely.”

    Doesn’t matter if they fudge for a few centuries here or there. “Oh isn’t that lovely.”

    Doesn’t matter if they jump counties or even oceans without documentation or historical proof. “Oh isn’t that lovely.”

    (If you ever show me your genealogy and I say, “Oh isn’t that lovely,” you’ll know exactly what I mean.)

    *
    They are very beautiful charts, John. I like the format and your line art and fonts.

  21. Julie M. Smith says:

    “BTW, there’s a great “I Have a Question” article on this topic in the February 1984 Ensign here.”

    Wow. The respondant sounded _ticked_.

    Can’t say that I blame him.

  22. That was lovely, Researcher.

  23. Researcher says:

    Thanks for the laugh, Mark B. I guess I was asking for that.

  24. John Hamer says:

    BIV (10), Larry (11), and SF (13, 18) — glad to know we’re at least 42nd cousins. Actually, we’re almost certainly much more closely related through the incredibly small world of pioneer Mormonism.

    Old King Cole makes his way onto these lists as part of the mythological ancestry created for the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed that Cole’s daughter was none other than St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine [History of the Kings of Britain v.6-7]. Joseph of Arimathea fits into the Cole legend because he and his daughter Anna supposed traveled to Britain after Jesus’s crucifixion. Anna then married a Celtic king or chief and their third great grandson was supposedly Coel, King of Colechester.

    Token (9) — Sorry! A lot of folks take this very seriously, but I’m not really one of them. Like you, I try to have fun with it.

    CE (17, 19) — When we visited Charlemagne’s cathedral at Aachen, I joked that I was something like 110,391,875th in line for my 39th great grandfather’s defunct throne. Like you say, we’re all cousins. Concerning the priesthood ban issue: if that policy were still in place, genetic testing would now be able to immediately disqualify and defrock all LDS priesthood holders.

    John Hamer visits Aachen
    Visiting the magnificent cathedral built by my ancestor (and yours) Charlemagne.

  25. Fascinating. I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, it is genuinely fascinating. What does the star say in the upper left hand corner of the original chart (from the 80s)?

  26. Steve Evans says:

    John, I would think at this point pretty much everyone named in the Song of Roland is a Mormon. I wouldn’t be surprised if Durandal got through.

  27. John Hamer says:

    Researcher (20) — Thanks :)

    For me, the lines aren’t too meaningful by themselves. I’ve tried to flesh out stories behind the names, because I’m more interested in history and sometimes this works as a way to get relatives interested in different periods of history, by giving them a personal connection.

    So, for example, I’ve done a fair amount of research on the actual lives of Stephen and Nancy Winchester who figure on Chart 20 at generation #6.

    Aerin (25): It says “And God saw these souls that they were good and He said I will make these my rulers (Abr. 3:23)”.

  28. #13: I liked Nate King Cole too!

  29. I am again with Kevin Barney on this. Its impossible to get past the French Mer. kings in a ancestral line. When you get to that point in time these timelines back to Adam get really spotty and make no sense. Lots of geographic jumps etc. I do not rec that you point this out to a proud holder of one of these lines though.

  30. If you can’t get past the Merovingians, then go around, by way of Scandinavia. Try the House of Yngling; problems of history shading into mythology remain.

  31. Marjorie Conder says:

    I grew up with this chart and then inherited it. It was created by Archibald Bennett THE Mormon genealogist of his day in the the 1930s. Lots of my relatives (on my father’s lines) took it way too seriously. My mother who was a complusive and careful genealogist said that as far as our lines go, it was credible to Rolf Duke of Normandy (who came to the British Isles with William the Conqueror) at which point our lines quickly vere off into nordic lines and mythology. So darn! I don’t even get to go back to Charlemange, to say nothing of Old King Cole.

    For Ardis’ benefit, this is my Parshall line.

  32. … and it becomes utterly unreliable at the point of the parentage of James Parshall (the New World immigrant). No one has ever produced a shred of evidence to go beyond that point.

  33. Last Lemming says:

    #5: Dibs on Charles Martel’s temple work.

    A friend of mine once stood proxy for Charles Martel in a sealing ceremony. He had no idea who Charles Martel was, just thought it was cool that he was doing work for somebody from so long ago. Even though it is wasteful duplication on one level, the opportunity to do work for famous historical figures can actually be a motivator for some people to go to the temple.

    #17: I would guess the chances are pretty good that I am a direct descendent of most every person who lived in England 42 generations ago

    You are probably a descendant of everybody living in England 42 generations ago who has living descendants. Huge difference, believe it or not.

  34. Someone just pointed out that the Bloggernacle Back Bench column mentioned my “Nuts” comment and referred to me as a “genealogical buff.” I have another one-word comment for her.

    Ugggh.

  35. Last Lemming (#33) –

    . . . who has living descendants.

    Great point. And since not everyone who lived 42 generations ago has living descendants, that effectively increases the likelihood that I am descended from the remainder who do.

  36. The new Family Search will cut out duplication of ordinances so there won’t be any more “famous” people to go through the temple for. Most of those have been done.

    This will avoid “motivating” people to go through the temple for the famous (in response to Lemming above) and get them to concentrate on the equally deserving relatives who love them and need their help! (Lemming, maybe I misunderstood your comment on 2nd reading – you said he didn’t know at first who it was.)

    I’m glad that my ward didn’t have this chart when I was a kid as I would have placed too much faith in such things. Fortunately, I had a grandma who was a pro at family history and taught me properly about documentation and the value of EVERY name (not just the famous and the infamous.) Although we descend “honestly” from the Pilgrims and the current Danish royal family, we were taught not to spread that around >>> but to live up to it. (“Where much is given, much is expected.”)

  37. While this is all good, what happens to Mormons likeme, who are Indian? As in Indian from India? :):)
    I doubt if it would even be possible to do a geaneological chart like John’s, because no records are kept in India- either at the family or government level.
    -Sid

  38. SinisterMatt says:

    Another interesting thing about trying to connect Charlemagne (I’m related to him through my mom) with Christ– and ultimately Adam– is that legend has it that the semi-mythical first Frankish King who’s name escapes me was related or married to a Jew who lived in Northern Italy around the time of the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I don’t remember the exact connection, but evidently that Jewess was related either to Mary or Joseph by common parents.

    I may have that way off, but I do remember northern Italy, The Franks, and a Jew connected to Christ somehow.

    Cheers!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,786 other followers