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How far back can you trace your family tree?

(74 Posts)
chocolatemad24 Sat 26-Nov-16 22:41:17

After reading the thread about Danny Dyer on Who Do You Think You Are, it made me wonder how many people can actually trace their lineage back to Edward III. I have never traced my family, but would love to one day. Can any of you trace your family back to royalty or any historical figures?

timelytess Sat 26-Nov-16 22:42:12

I went back through the census records and didn't take it any further. I got back, on dates of birth, to around 1800.

Flisspaps Sat 26-Nov-16 22:45:09

DH and my mum have both managed to get back through to the 1600s!

PossumInAPearTree Sat 26-Nov-16 22:47:11

I'm descended from Anne Askew who was the only woman to be tortured in the Tower of London I believe. She was burnt at the stake. She was a friend of one of Henry viii's wives.....maybe Catherine Parr and refused to name other protestants.

ghostspirit Sat 26-Nov-16 22:49:43

I would love to trace back my family but I can't sad

PossumInAPearTree Sat 26-Nov-16 22:49:52

On my dad's side I'm related to a poet called John Clare, who I'd never heard of and to be honest I don't think most people have. But google reckons he's one of the greatest English poets!

averylongtimeago Sat 26-Nov-16 22:50:27

I have traced my mum's family back to 1450 on one line, my husband's back to 1700 but my dad has traced his side back to pre 1066 (a Norman knight). It is relatively easy to get back to about 1800 by using the census records, before then you are relying on parish records mostly, luckily more and more are on line.

IrenetheQuaint Sat 26-Nov-16 22:51:43

Yes, I can trace mine back to Edward III (assuming the family tree my grandfather put together is right!). The relevant branch of the family were landowners in a small way which makes things much easier to trace.

FernetBranca Sat 26-Nov-16 22:52:58

John Clare was a fabulous poet. I studied him at Oxford - respect for being related to him

My ancestors on one side had one of the country's most common names - it's really hard to trace and three generations back they were signing things with an X so not much joy.

kiwipie Sat 26-Nov-16 22:54:36

1500, on my mothers side.

Dizzybintess Sat 26-Nov-16 22:55:26

I have gont back to 1415 on one side of my tree

PossumInAPearTree Sat 26-Nov-16 22:55:50

fernet. Must admit Ive never read any of his poetry. I keep meaning to go on a visit to Clare Cottage which looks like a little museum to him. I don't live too far away so will make a priority after Xmas to go.

FlouncingInAWinterWonderland Sat 26-Nov-16 22:56:17

Inca royalty, french aristocrats, Irish 'characters' and English ecentrics in my lineage.

RueDeWakening Sat 26-Nov-16 23:00:28

I can trace my mums family back to about 1760, but haven't got further.

We're related to some well known painters of pottery, not that I'd ever heard of them. And a one-armed station master on the railways. And my many-greats grandfather, who was an ag lab and who died "falling over a stile, drunk".

NannyR Sat 26-Nov-16 23:01:32

I've got back as far as 1790 (reliably, with sources that I've double checked in record offices).
To be honest, I'm not that bothered about tracing my line back to centuries old historical ancestors - when you look at how many thousands of descendants they have and what a tiny, tiny percentage of DNA you would share. I tend to take my research sideways, as well as finding birth, death and marriage dates, I also look at school and employment records, where they lived, sometimes criminal records, newspaper articles, immigration records, stuff like that to build up a fuller picture of my ancestors lives.

CondensedMilkSarnies Sat 26-Nov-16 23:03:23

We go back to 1545ish to the chap that arrested Guy Fawkes

divineinterruption Sat 26-Nov-16 23:05:36

some people on both sides of my family have done research and have traced family back to about 1700s. in my DH's family they traced the roots to about 1400s/1500s. but looking at the family tree, in the 1400s/1500s up to about 1700s, everyone had pretty much the same name so not sure how reliable it is....

SaagMasala Sun 27-Nov-16 10:19:48

I'm related to Danny Dyer on my dad's side! Haven't counted up but it must be at least 10th cousins!

That line taps into the English monarchy so it goes back as far as you can be bothered.

Not got so far back on the others, some resolutely stuck in the late 1700's/early 1800's due to lack of information in areas where there are several families with the same surname, or the families tended to move between villages for work every couple of years.
Most parish records started in 1660, though some have been lost, and some started earlier. You need other records such as land leases or Wills to be able to confirm the details. So if your ancestors were poor, law-abiding, hardworking folk there's not usually much of a paper trail.

olderthanyouthink Sun 27-Nov-16 10:43:04

I'm sure my mums family is traceable a fair way back, that's the white/English side of my heritage.

But my dads side probably not further than anyone can remember, this would be the black side of my heritage. Records were kept of spaces but they burned years ago sad so I doubt we could figure out who were the first ones, who owned them, the ship that they were taken on etc. I imagine the county they were taken from could be figured out using DNA.

Dizzybintess Sun 27-Nov-16 11:30:04

My 1400 relatives are the Killick family. I'm welsh but my ancestors are English and hail from tenterden in Kent

OdinsLoveChild Sun 27-Nov-16 11:45:42

The late 1200's. One of my ancestors came over to England with the King Phillipe of France as his wine merchant. The King went back to France and refused to pay my Ancestor for the wine he and his court had consumed on their trip to England and they couldn't afford to return so were stuck here.

I have copies of Petitions from my ancestor to the French King asking for payment or a return trip but it was refused. He also Petitioned the English King Edward about the situation who granted him permission to stay in England but I don't know if he ever got his money. Im guessing not as he clearly stayed in England.

GiddyOnZackHunt Sun 27-Nov-16 11:57:19

DH's intersects with royalty in a number of places most recently about 300 years ago. We can obviously trace his line pretty easily back to Edward III. His non royal lines I can trace to about 1700 except for one which runs into a dead end at 1870.
I can get back to the 1500s in some places but other parts run into the Irish Famine with common Irish names that have meant I can get no further.

Mynameismummy37 Sun 27-Nov-16 11:58:51

It's sad isn't older?
I've just only been able to go back 3 generations on my dads side and I already knew about those, although I did find out my Gran had two other children before she came to England, sadly one was stillborn and the other died at 5 days old.

chocolatemad24 Sun 27-Nov-16 12:01:16

Lots of interesting stories here smile

dodobookends Sun 27-Nov-16 12:02:26

I've got back to the early 1700's on one side, but stuck on the other in the early 1800's. It helps if anyone on your tree has a connection with royalty/gentry as their pedigrees have already been done so you can get back a lot further, but no luck in our case!

lljkk Sun 27-Nov-16 12:02:45

If you can confirm English aristocracy in your line, then in theory you go back to William the Conquerer, although tracing the whole line may be impossible.

That I'm very sure about, I can go to about 1565 for me. Early 1700s for DH.

NapoleonsNose Sun 27-Nov-16 12:06:32

Generally back to the late 1700s, but one particular branch goes back to the 1400s. I'm 7th cousins to a famous English footballer and DH is very distantly related to Sarah Millican.

FrostyLeaves Sun 27-Nov-16 12:09:56

Get stuck in 1800s in England , can go back quite far in Scotland and records lost in Ireland.

Can only speculate on far off distant ancestors through surnames, some of which are quite informative. My roots appear to be as far from SEEngland and landowning Normans as a Brit can get so I fervently believe I am NOT a descendant of Edward III !

Loved Danny's programme as it was such a turn up for him.

chocolatemad24 Sun 27-Nov-16 12:10:22

Who is your husband's most recent royal ancestor Giddy?

lananzack Sun 27-Nov-16 12:11:17

How are you all tracing so far back?!
I got the 14 day free trial on Ancestry and got as far back as my grandparents' grandparents - only because my granny is also on ancestry and typed the info in so I could find it!
What am I doing wrong?!

lljkk Sun 27-Nov-16 12:16:16

How long have you been doing this, Lananz? My dad started in 1963. smile

FrostyLeaves Sun 27-Nov-16 12:18:20

Yes I started looking in the local library 30 years ago! Then other family members took over on the Internet searching.

lananzack Sun 27-Nov-16 12:23:36

I had a dabble at the thing a few years ago, and I nip on every now and then out of curiosity - to no particular avail.

My grandma has been tracing lineages for years, and I know she had gotten very far back... But I'm all, how?
Do you need to have particular info; surnames of long deceased relatives, etc? Because otherwise I'm buggered. I had a look through the census stuff, too, and didn't get any farther. I must be doing something wrong. Admittedly not brilliant with the Internet in any case blushgrin

Pidlan Sun 27-Nov-16 12:26:20

844! Managed to get back to 1600s which brought me to a famous Welsh baddie who could trace back to a Welsh prince.

FruitCider Sun 27-Nov-16 12:29:55

Early 1800's. For a yugoslavian Bosniak/Romany gypsy I think that's pretty good going, considering the amount of genocides in my history.

lljkk Sun 27-Nov-16 12:33:35

What happened to the info your Gran collected?
What elderly relatives do you have now that you could interview.
Try to document richness of lives passed, as well as going back in time about their ancestors. I find the stories about my grandparents dating quite fascinating.

In 1960s, My dad interviewed elderly relatives, wrote down as much detail as he could get. One of my cousins showed me a book she had inherited but not looked at carefully -- it traced some family back to 1800s. You just keep pushing & pushing I find. Now I have a bank of collaborators I can chat to online, too, about specific lines. Other challenge is sifting thru the rumours & untrue family stories to try to find actual evidence of who they really were & what they did. I have distant cousins determined to connect us to Royalty. Could be true. Could be bollux.

ohdearme1958 Sun 27-Nov-16 12:40:20

Has anyone ever come across the name Brothers as a forename?

I did and it's got me stumped.

WetsTheFinger Sun 27-Nov-16 12:45:28

Mine is tricky to trace as I'm a Jew descended from German and Polish Jews who didn't even have surnames for most of the time, let alone records! I love to do other people's histories though, Anglo Saxon folk are the easiest. I've traced friends ancestry back to mid 1700s.

SaagMasala Sun 27-Nov-16 12:45:49

ohdearme, it was probably used as a surname further back. It was quite common in some areas to remember the female line in this way. A bit like double-barrelled names now, though they weren't as formal with it.

SaagMasala Sun 27-Nov-16 12:55:45

As for the Q about how to get further back. Depends to some extent how common the surname is, and whether they moved around or tended to stay in the same place. Sometimes its a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. My DH has a very very common surname yet we managed to get that line back to a chap born in 1777. I know his father's name but not much else (other than where he lived). This involved looking at all the baptisms, marriages & deaths in that area & piecing them together in families, using a very detailed local map that named all the farms & settlements, and then checking who was where on the censuses. Having a clutch of children with slightly less common first names helps, as does the tendency to reuse names between the generations.

If you are lucky enough to have ancestors born at the beginning of the 1800's in Northumberland or most of Durham, there is usually lots of additional family information recorded in the parish registers.

LumelaMme Sun 27-Nov-16 13:25:46

Late C16th (I tapped into someone else's research). The poshest line were millers and builders.

Famous relation? Del Boy. I kid you not.

PossumInAPearTree Sun 27-Nov-16 14:41:20 is good because if you find a relative who is already on someone else's family tree you can link into all their research.

SilverNightFairy Sun 27-Nov-16 14:48:30

I have been able to go back to mid 1600's on both sides of my family. I am a direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse (Nourse) the last woman hung in the Massachusetts witch trials.

dodobookends Sun 27-Nov-16 16:56:55

Iananzack You can't really do your research from Ancestry or the other online sources, you need to send away for actual birth, marriage and death certificates, and prove each generation backwards as you go. Otherwise you will end up barking up the wrong tree, literally! Marriage certificates are particularly useful as they have occupations and the fathers' names, and the names of witnesses are handy as they are usually relatives of one side or the other. If you are looking for a John Smith on the censuses you will have more luck if you know he was a watchmaker rather than an agricultural labourer, for instance, or that his father was called Harrington Emerson Smith.

FrostyLeaves Sun 27-Nov-16 17:06:49

I once spent a day at the records office in London looking up registration indexes then ordering certificates. Is that possible these days?

GiddyOnZackHunt Sun 27-Nov-16 17:56:37

Frosty you can used FreeBMD to look at the index for free and order certificates from the GRO online. FindMyPast actually has a lot of marriage certificates imaged so you can see them online which is quick smile
chocolate it meanders about so I'd need to check. He's 14th cousin to William and Harry in one I was looking at most recently.There are other links all over the place though as you follow an innocuous honourable who turns out to be a monarch's grand child.

LiefieLiefie Sun 27-Nov-16 18:31:04

My family are near impossible to trace as we have some of the most common surnames ever. My mum's side would also be near impossible, coming from rural Ireland. My Nan's birth wasn't registered in the 1920s, so not holding out much hope for earlier records grin

DH comes from one fairly famous family who have their own book, website etc so the tracing is already done for him. The other side have a very rare surname that is easy to trace back so far. I've just spent a quick 5 minutes doing it and got back to the 1600s without even doing any proper research.

throckenholt Sun 27-Nov-16 18:50:23

I have been doing mine for years. Earliest is a Frenchman born in 1599 who moved to Amsterdam.
Not a hint or royalty on any side, the closest to landed gentry are a few farmers (DH's not even my side) - most of mine are ag lab or shoemakers.
Still find it fascinating.

franke Sun 27-Nov-16 18:55:06

I managed to trace all four lines (grandparents) back to the mid 1700s. Then there's a gap and then picked up paternal gf family from 1500s - it's an unusual name and we lived in small villages so I know we are related. I hope to close the gap one day. The Church of Laterday Saints site is good for just finding early parish records.

roseteapot101 Sun 27-Nov-16 19:17:16

can trace about 100 years back our family worked together and formed a tree we got family all over.From uk to canada,to america to the netherlands

we have people in various jobs i think it was my grandfather worked for technicolour he was one of the people who worked on colour films that or another relative

FrostyLeaves Sun 27-Nov-16 19:30:30

Thanks Giddy. I have been meaning to look up my husband's family for a while. It should be so much easier on line but there are many distractions!

olderthanyouthink Sun 27-Nov-16 21:00:56

Mynameis very sad, I've looked at the record of slaves for the island and its a very depressing thing to read. People given white names to overwrite their identities, babies and children, casual mentions of lost limbs... There are only records because people kept inventories of their property.

There are no real surnames so tracing is pretty much impossible and the surname we have now could have been the parish they were in, a owners name, a relatives first name, or random.

3 generations back from me would be my great grandparents (by my best guess would be born in 1920's), who I've technically met. I asked I could maybe manage 1 or 2 more generations.

Mynameismummy37 Mon 28-Nov-16 01:04:21

Slavery has a lot to answer for.
My Granparents were born in 1926 & 1930 their parents were born in the late 1890's any thing before that is a complete dead end, and like you say name changes were common after the abolition of slavery so it makes it harder to trace.

BillyJoel Mon 28-Nov-16 01:14:44

About 1550 on my mums side. Not too tricky as they all lived in the same parish over that time. My dads ancester lived next dooor to Gilbert White who was the first natural historian (ie kept a daily diary of nature) and my dads family was mentioned in it as "salt of the earth". About the time of the French Revolution, I think.

ivykaty44 Wed 07-Dec-16 20:26:19

1750 through parish registers and church warden records.

I'm interested in how those if you have searched before 1558, what types of records gave you used?

TwoLeftSocks Wed 07-Dec-16 20:41:22

Mum got back a fair few centuries. No one famous but there was a witch in there somewhere. I don't think she ended well.

museumum Wed 07-Dec-16 20:43:52

Not very far. My ancestors were poor illiterate Irish who moved to Scotland around 1800 to work in textile mills. The men were itinerant labourers so hard to find in the Scottish censuses. And I don't think it would be possible to trace them in Ireland as we've bo way to know where they came from.

froggers1 Wed 07-Dec-16 20:44:49

My Grandma's mother's maiden name was Duff. She went to Edinburgh Library and traced us back to Macduff from Macbeth..I have the family tree all typed out all the way's amazing!

ivykaty44 Wed 07-Dec-16 20:54:08

I thought Macbeth was a Shakespearean character, I didn't realise he was real, nasty murder blush

mateysmum Wed 07-Dec-16 20:59:21

My sister got our family back to the 1500's as they All stayed in the same area and had quite unusual names. All very though.

I have got Dh's family back to the 1600s. Nobody noble but lots of interesting Victorian industrialists who were local movers and shakers. They were responsible for building some iconic Victorian structures and have been mainly easy to trace because there are lots of additional records and references beyond BMDs.

Mind you I've been researching for over 10 years now and I'm still discovering new stories and getting in touch with extended family members both on line and in the flesh from all over the world.

saffronwblue Wed 07-Dec-16 21:04:02

My grandfather had a family tree that got us back to Edward 3rd. My sister recently discovered we are 5th cousins to Winston Churchill.

MadisonAvenue Wed 07-Dec-16 21:04:27

1540something on my Dad's side. There are ancestors who came from Arkansas so we have a bit of redneck blood blush and might explain why I've always been incredibly interested in the US South.

FruitCider Fri 09-Dec-16 18:53:43

Well I thought I would get nothing, but I've managed to trace my fathers maternal line back to 1617. V impressive! I'm not as Eastern European as I thought. More like American/Irish/Gypsy/Bosniak. Weirdly someone else had already done the tree on that line, and had uploaded birth certificates, baptisms etc. So glad I was inspired to look now...

Anasnake Fri 13-Jan-17 17:20:08

Direct descendent of William the Conqueror here (32nd GG). Thought that was very impressive until I read that 1/4 of the UK probably are too / puts my claim to the throne into perspective ! 😂

OdinsLoveChild Fri 13-Jan-17 17:29:18

ivycat if your still doing this I found that Wills are very useful before 1580's. They often left items to siblings , aunts and uncles so you can get names from there. Some criminal records go back a little further so its worth looking at those.
Parish records may still be held at the actual church rather than transcribed online so visits are necessary. I have also found town tax records can give you information about who was the employer and their employees. It often lists families living on the premises which can be helpful.
The National Archives has a brilliant collection of documents and I found their information the most useful, albeit difficult to read the original scanned documents.

languagelearner Thu 02-Feb-17 17:45:56

I entered a few facts onto "Geni" (an American site) and now it's hooked up "my" part of the family tree to that of others, and keeps posting me about supposed ancestors back to around the year 1500 all living in a far-away little place close to where my grandparents came from, so it makes sense.

AutumnBlossom Thu 09-Mar-17 19:22:50

I really want to open up my ancestry account again, I've been tempted to do the DNA swab too.

I got one line back to 1500's but that was amazingly hard work. Other lines cease in the 1700's mostly because that is when the census was first started in the 1800's.

What do you feel about the shaky leaf and getting connections to other family trees? Do you accept them and transfer it across or would you rather research yourself.

I have taken notes and double checked, but it still felt a little like cheating.

At the last funeral I went too, I spoke to a great uncle about the family tree, as there's one side you just don't talk about, without spending a fortune on birth certificates, there's little hope of it progressing. The Great Grandmother could be dead for all I know, she's in her late 90's if she's still alive. At the same time because such a fuss is made of 'don't talk about it' I don't think I'd dare ask. Even though I was told there was little reason not too and it was just my Grandmothers perception.

Frith2013 Wed 03-May-17 17:26:41

I used for a couple of years. Got one line of dad's back to royalty in 800! It would have been easy to pick up the family tree before that (being royal)

Was amused they have been in Shropshire for 500 years.

Apple23 Sun 03-Sep-17 03:25:44

Have got most of my mum's lines back to 15-16th century, but pretty much they all lived in the same two villages. The naming patterns helped, e.g. Dd1 named after maternal grandmother, DS1 named after paternal grandfather. Just have to watch out for cousins carrying the same fore-names.

Rather helpfully, the vicar of one of the villages listed all his parishioners, along with comments including whether or not the children attended Sunday School.

We had one ancestor who was transported to Tasmania in the 19th century after stealing a horse on the morning of his wedding. His wife fairly soon got together with her second husband but they lived together for over 30 years (in Victorian England!) and had several children before eventually getting married.

Haven't found anyone famous though...

pilatesofthecaribbean Fri 06-Oct-17 09:29:15

I haven’t done any research, but a few decades ago a distant cousin traced one line of our ancestors back to eastern Europe in the 16th century. I wouldn’t want to find out much about my English or French ancestors - it’d be my luck they were fighting on the sides I don’t like in various civil wars! :P

FoonaBaboona Tue 17-Oct-17 11:36:38

I've traced my paternal grandmother's line back to around 1140 and the first of her ancestors to bear her surname. They lived in a castle back then. Once i got quite a way back I also used Geni for the rest.

My maternal grandfather's family originally came to England from Ireland in the early 1840's (before the famine), I'd love to know more about the families they left behind as they were from the Skibbereen area. It makes me so sad to think of what they must have gone through.

LittleCandle Tue 17-Oct-17 11:42:51

I am back to about the 1600s in some lines. Thank heavens for the Scotland's People website - its invaluable. I haven't found any aristocracy or royalty, despite some people's claims who are researching the same people that I am, but I do have a murderess in the family! Its all very engrossing.

Bratsandtwats Tue 28-Nov-17 12:20:02

Back to at least the 7th century. Many of my ancestors were royalty which makes it easier to trace them.

Bratsandtwats Tue 28-Nov-17 12:27:45

Oh, and there is a Saint as well. St Clotilde is my 43rd Great Grandmother.

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