Skip to Content

Were Your Ancestors Royalty?

Do you want to know if your ancestors were royalty? Believe it or not, you can find out for yourself, and in this post, I will tell you how.

It is very common for people to wonder if they are descended from someone famous in their family tree. More frequently, people wonder if their famous ancestor might have been famous because they were royalty.

Were Your Ancestors Royalty?

While I think that every single ancestor is fascinating, even if they weren’t known for anything special during their life, I do understand the draw to learning about royal ancestors. Famous ancestors are pretty interesting, after all.

If you know who your parents and grandparents are, and you don’t mind learning how to do a bit of family tree research, you might be able to discover if you have royal ancestors and exactly who they were. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll be put in the line of succession for a throne somewhere, I do believe you will have a lot of fun learning about your ancestors.

How to know if your ancestors were royalty

It is possible for most people to discover whether their ancestors had a royal or noble connection. Below, you will find a few tips for where to begin your research for your royal ancestors.

Find out if the country where your ancestors were from has a royal family

While many people immediately think of the British royal family when they imagine royalty, there are many royal families all over the world. Almost every country on earth has a historical royal or ruling family, even if the members of that family no longer have any real political or social influence.

Denmark, Japan, Norway, Jordan, the Netherlands, Cambodia, and Spain are just a few countries that still have royal families. Members of royal families around the world might have distant ancestors from whom you are also descended.

There are many more countries that no longer officially acknowledge their royal families. In some cases, those royal families still maintain their position, albeit unofficially.

For example, Italy abolished the monarchy in 1946 as permanent punishment for cooperating with Mussolini, but the House of Savoy and its descendants live on. A princess living in France has been named heir to the House of Savoy, and would someday be Queen of Italy, if such a thing still existed.

The great thing about royal families constantly maintaining headlines in the news is that there is great public interest, which leads to family tree research being done about them. If you have ancestors from a country that has a royal family, you can look at your royal family’s family tree to find the surnames of their ancestors going back many generations.

Check your family tree for names that might have a royal connection

Believe it or not, there are some surnames that are more likely to have a connection to royalty than others. After you start building your family tree, you can be on the lookout for the following names that may indicate a connection to a royal family.

Of course, if you do find any of the names below in your family tree, you will need to be sure to build that line of your tree back further in order to see if you can find the connection. There are many reasons that people were given surnames, which means that having ancestors with any of the names below does not guarantee that that ancestor was descended from royalty.

Common surnames in the British Royal family

The following surnames list, which is not a complete list of surnames, might be connected with a branch of the British royal family. Some surnames might have been connected to royals many hundreds of years ago, and others have more recent ties.

  • Howard
  • Seymour
  • Byron
  • Fitzroy
  • Barclay
  • Hastings
  • Maxwell
  • Stanley
  • Herbert
  • Robertson

It is important to do thorough research on a surname that you find in your tree that might match one found in a noble or royal family tree. For example, I am descended from a John Howard, born in 1716 in Devonshire, England.

However, I have found no evidence that my particular Howard family is related to the famous Catherine Howard, one of the wives of Henry VIII. Since the furthest back I have been able to trace reliably on my Howard line is 1716, I would have to go back 200-300 more years to determine for sure whether there is a relationship.

However, I feel confident that I am not descended from Catherine Howard, as she had no children. Plus, since she is a woman, her offspring would not have passed down her surname.

When we do our research, we often have little control over what we might find, which actually makes it more fun. For example, I have found no blood relationship to the famous Howard family, but I do have some evidence that the infamous Thomas Cromwell, who was, coincidentally, executed on the day of the marriage between Catherine Howard and Henry VIII, may have been my 15th great-uncle.

So, connected, yet … not connected.

Understand the difference between nobility and royalty

When you are building your family tree, you might stumble upon an ancestor who had a title, such as “Lord” or “Baron”. These ancestors may have belonged to the nobility.

Sometimes, there is a genealogical connection between royal and noble families, but not always. More often, the noble family was awarded the position by a King or Queen based on political or economic connections.

Regardless of whether an ancestor was a “Lord” because they were distant cousins to the current monarch, or for some other reason, it’s still interesting to learn about them. It is also just as interesting, if not more so, to learn about all of the other “common” ancestors along the way.

Are we all related to the royal family?

You might be surprised to discover that almost everyone is probably related to a royal family, at least distantly. For example, did you know that almost everyone who had ancestors living in Europe in the 9th century is probably descended from Charlemagne?

Indeed, it’s true. This means that almost anyone with any European ancestors is probably related to the British Royal Family through their relationship to Charlemagne.

The same is likely true for any ancient royal rule anywhere in the world. So, we are all special, yet with a unique family history that is fascinating to explore.


I hope that this post has helped you understand exactly how to figure out if you are descended from royalty, how many royal bloodlines there could contain our ancestors, and whether we are all related to a royal family.

If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, or if you would like to share a royal discovery from your own family tree, I would love for you to join in the discussion below.

Thanks for stopping by and reading today!

Share the knowledge!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.