Americans of Royal and Noble Ancestry

What are the odds that you have royal blood? It’s a question more and more of us are asking these days. As genetic testing gets faster, cheaper and more accurate, the age-old fantasy of suddenly learning you’re descended from a king or a queen – the premise of countless movies, books and daydreams – is inching closer to reality.

But we’re not there just yet. While a genetic test can tell us a lot – 23andme can even pinpoint how much Neanderthal we have in us – there’s still no single test for royal blood.

“DNA testing only reveals a general ethnic breakdown that changes over time, as the science becomes further refined,” says Joshua Taylor, president of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society. It “might identify that two individuals share a common ancestor within a certain number of generations, but research is still needed to identify who that common ancestor might be.”

And ancestral math is messy. The number of ancestors we have increases exponentially, not linearly — more like a meshed web than a branched family tree, says the geneticist Adam Rutherford. If we went back a thousand years, each of us would have over a trillion direct ancestors, which is more than all the humans who have ever lived. This paradox exists because, as Rutherford writes: “Pedigrees begin to fold in on themselves a few generations back.” Meaning “you can be, and in fact are, descended from the same individual many times over”.

The work of identifying royal lineage to establish “direct descent” can be challenging. However, through research of immigrants with royal ancestry and documenting five generations of their descendants, many people today can use the research to find their own royal ancestry.

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