William the Conqueror
King Edward III
King Potatau Te Wherowhero
King Louis VIII “The Lion”
Pharaoh Ramesses XI
What do all these history shapers have in common? Me.
I have always had a fascination with genealogy, largely thanks to my beautiful Nana who has been a genealogist as long as I can remember. Parts of my childhood were spent at the Auckland War Memorial Museum helping Nana enter tons of data into the system. Also because my father’s side of the family has remained quite the mystery, and me being the curious bugger I am… Well I had to find out all I could.
Enter ‘My Heritage’. It all began with a DNA test for my Nana, just for laughs we wanted to see what she was ‘made up of’. Then our curiosity peaked, we ordered DNA kits for the whole family and lo and behold, answers were found but even more questions arose.
“Who am I?”
Well, according to the DNA results, I’m:
40.6% Irish, Scottish, Welsh
10.2% Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)
9.7% Iberian (Spanish, Portuguese)
5.6% Central Asian (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, etc)
1.1% Native American
I knew I was a mixed bag, a classic Kiwi mutt, a perfectly balanced genetic cocktail, however this raised more questions, such as… “Who are my ancestors? Where did we come from?”. I knew that most of my family (both sides) were from the UK, and commoners, but these DNA results show that there is far more to the story than we currently knew.
So we began digging into our family tree. As I said earlier, Nana has been a genealogist ever since Marie Antoinette proclaimed “Cake is AMAZEBALLS!” (or something to that effect), and has done a lot of both her family tree, and my grandfather’s family tree. We were armed with plenty of information on that side of the family, no major expectations, but excited to see where these people would take us.
My father’s side though, they were a slightly different story. I was only armed with my grandparents names, and my grandfather’s parents names. I knew my Polynesian blood came through my grandmother’s line, and I knew my grandfather was VERY Scottish… and that was about it.
So, as I have been recovering, I have been helping my mother dig into our past, it almost became a wee competition between us – “Who can go back furthest?” We surprised ourselves with just how far we could venture back! But we’ll get to that shortly…
One morning, after dropping my brother off at school, my mother had an unexplainable feeling of excitement, like something amazing was just around the corner. We had been following her father’s lineage back and earlier that week she had found nobility. How exciting was that! To know that we had well-to-do ancestors that were important persons in society was empowering. I, who grew up in borderline poverty, descend from fairly notable people! Who knew??
Little did I know that on that morning that my mother felt she was nearing something unimaginable, she would strike literal gold.
King Edward III.
I heard a scream of shock and amazed laughter, I hobbled as fast as I could downstairs to see what on earth that crazy mother of mine had found.
“Steph, we descend from King Edward III. We descend from royalty! A direct line to the King of England!”
I was shocked. And speechless. A rare thing for me.
I followed the line back down the generations… A direct line that led to me.
How do you describe that? How do you put that feeling, that discovery into words?
I, Stephanie, descend from royalty. Me? The injured waitress, comes from a royal line that goes back generations? Beg pardon, say what now?
So I did what anyone would do, I fired up the old laptop and followed his lineage back as far as I could, spanning centuries and countries. Circa 900AD is where I hit a ‘dead end’, in France. I was floored. It was empowering to know this information. I come from a long line of Kings and Queens…. What happened? Where’s my castle (with overflowing wine cellar)?? Also, my name now seems quite apt. “Stephanie”, meaning “Crowned”. Too bloody right!
Fuelled with this knowledge, I jumped onto my father’s side of the tree and began following the lineage via his father, and very quickly arrived in Scotland. Soon I began to hit wall after wall. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t quite break through. I was intent on following my father’s name back as far as possible, because I wanted to know where we came from.
Then one evening mum called me over, “Steph, does the name ‘William the Conqueror’ mean anything to you?”
“Yes, of course! Why do you ask?”
“I’ve followed a direct line, via one of the wives on your father’s side, all the way back to him. You descend from William the Conqueror. And this means that your father’s line and mine meet here.”
Again I was speechless, but not for long. I immediately began poking around the names that had appeared, one name jumped out at me, so I followed the trail. Mum had ‘returned to her side of the tree’ and made it back to 75BC before challenging me to “Beat that!” before toddling off to bed.
She knows I’m competitive. She knows that I will make it my mission to ‘Beat that!”.
I kept following this one line back, nobility led to royalty….. and remained so. One of the perks of finding nobility and royalty is their information is public knowledge AND well documented. I followed this line through generations of royalty in Northern Scotland, seeing their names slowly change to more Scandinavian sounding names. Soon I arrived in Scandinavia, still chasing a solid royal line. Then it began to be quite interesting… We arrived in Turkey. Then Mesopotamia. The Seleucids appeared.
Seleucus I Nicator, who served under none other than Alexander the Great as an infantry general. He eventually rose the ranks to gain the title of ‘Basileus’ (King/Emperor) and thus began the grand Seleucid Empire.
Continuing up the tree we follow a direct line that includes the likes of: King Darius of Persia, King Xerxes the Great of Persia and Queen Esther (Hadassah) the Great. Following Queen Esther’s line, we have a direct lineage to Abraham himself (and further).
Jump to my father’s line, my sister had been digging around and discovered an ancestor with quite the unique last name. Te Wherowhero. I recognised that name from my school days. In New Zealand it’s a pretty big deal. The first Maori king.
See, I never knew much about my Dad’s side of the family, but I remember two family rumours. One, that there was Native American in my history. Two, that once upon a time, my family were on the throne in New Zealand. Turns out family rumours always hold a margin of truth to them, so you should never fully rule them out until you’ve researched them thoroughly.
So where does this now lead me? What does one do with this rich information? Well, I’m not sure! But when I know, I’ll be sure to fill you in.
For now, smile peasants, it’s wine o’clock!