What do you know about this ancestor (or ancestors) you suspect has royal family ties? Determine what sources (books, films, microfiche, indexes, etc.) are available at libraries for that surname, recommends Hilary Jefferies, a professional genealogist in Aurora, Colo. She says to look for sources such as:
- The Complete Peerage, Scot’s Peerage and other peerage books (see below for more royal resources)
- Family histories and surname books: More recent histories are best because new facts and documentation have been added.
- County or place histories: These are geographically oriented and deal with a parish, manor house or county, and with the prominent local families.
- Documented visitations: Records of church-related parish matters (fees, attendance and deaths).
- Periodicals containing local history and genealogy
- Related surname family histories
- Royal genealogies
- Gentry sources, such as Burke’s Landed Gentry or Burke’s Commoners: These may not be as accurate as other sources, but they will usually deal with the extended family in addition to the eldest male line.
- Heraldry books: These books contain genealogies and coats of arms granted to individuals in a family. (For more on heraldry—and coats-of-arms scams—see “Unzipping Your Coat of Arms” from the August 2000 Family Tree Magazine.)
For more specific sources, consult a genealogy reference librarian or other knowledgeable professionals. Check all sources for the common surname spelling plus variant or alternative spellings, and photocopy the pages where that surname is found. Then make a list of sources for that family by locality and title. Be careful not to assume that because someone has the same name as your ancestor, he must be your ancestor. Find corroborating evidence such as a birth date or spouse name before coming to a conclusion.
Look for the following royal resources at the library:
- Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage (two volumes) edited by Charles Mosley
- Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain & the United Kingdom by George Edward Cokayne
- Kings and Queens of Europe: A Genealogical Chart of the Royal Houses of Great Britain and Europe by Anne Taute
- Plantagenet Ancestry of 17th-Century Colonists by David Faris
- Royalty for Commoners by Roderick W. Stuart
- Colonial Americans of Royal and Noble Descent Alleged, Proven and Disproven by Patricia Ann Scherzinger
Susan Wenner is managing editor of Family Tree Magazine.