This week, a man in the United Kingdom became rich overnight after learning that he was heir to a a multi-million dollar estate, according to Global News. This fairytale discovery may prompt the question: how can one tell if they are descended from European nobility?
Royal lineage is more common than you think in North America. In fact, according to The Guardian and a 2013 study published in the PLOS journal of biology, all people of European descent likely share a common ancestor who lived within the past 1,000 years.
"We are all distant cousins, related to one another via a vast network of relationships," the study authors state in the article summary, which you can read here. This suggests that all people in North America with European ancestors can claim some connection to royalty.
For some people, however, that lineage may be easier to trace. The last names of English and French noble figures who colonized North America have persisted through centuries.
Descendants of aristocratic families need only scan their family trees for one of these names to make a cursory claim to ancient nobility. Of course, identifying a common last name is just the first step. More thorough research is necessary to locate a noble or royal ancestor.
But the discovery of an aristocratic last name can be a fun way to spark a conversation at the next family reunion. Below, we've compiled a list of English and French last names in North America that have a connection to royal and noble houses.
The geneology of early French settlers is archived by FrancoGene.com. According to its page on settlers in Quebec and Acadia with verified royal connections, the following last names are among those of regal origin. Some of these names may no longer be extant.
To explore the FrancoGene database and identify specific colonial figures with these last names with documented or rumoured royal relations, refer to this page. Each name links to a more detailed history.
Because the British aristocracy endures and the history of British colonization of and immigration to North America continued well beyond that of the French, the list of probable aristocratic and royal English last names is much more extensive.
According to Family History Daily, one of the first and most comprehensive geneologies of English royal descendants in North America was compiled by Charles Henry Browning in an 1891 publication.
Browning's book is in the public doman and available online here. Below are reproduced some of the pages that list North American settlers with royal connections. Refer to Browning's book for more information on these figures and their families.
Of course, Browning's book does not detail the emigration of British people to North America that continued into the 20th century. Many more Canadian individuals not on this list likely also descend from British royalty.
This list of British and French names is by no means comprehensive and more research needs to be done. But this may be a good starting point for anyone with an interest in geneology.