Coat of Arms, Royal Lineage

How to Trace Royal Lineage – Basics for Your Research

Editor’s note: In this formerly archived post by the late Carolyn Barkley, the basics of how to trace royal lineage, including how to get started in your royal lineage research and what key resources you may need, are discussed. 

I have often viewed royal lineage research with more than a little skepticism. As a newly-elected genealogical society president, I can remember inviting visitors to a society monthly meeting to introduce themselves and tell a bit about the focus of their research. A man stood up, identified himself, and told us that he had researched his line back to Julius Caesar. This event was followed not long after by a woman in the society’s creative writing class who informed the group that she had done all her research back to David in the Bible – by way of Stonewall Jackson. I, perhaps wisely, did not ask to see her documentation. Despite my skepticism, however, I am aware that members of royal families, and to an even greater extent members of noble families, have documented offspring, and that for many of these offspring, lineages can be tracked through successive generations to modern-day individuals.

Given my interest in Barclay genealogy, I always search for that surname in royal/noble lineage publications. Almost invariably the Barclay included is John Barclay who was born in Scotland in 1659 and died in Perth Amboy, East New Jersey, ca. 1731. He was the brother of Robert Barclay of Urie, the “Quaker Apologist,” whose line extends back to Robert the Bruce. My research in the Barclay-Allardice Papers” some years ago in Edinburgh documented John’s grandchildren in New Jersey as John (b.1725), David (b.1727), Anne (b.1729), John (b.1731), Charles (b.1733), Peter (b. 1735), Robert (b.1737), Lydia (b.1739), Katherine (b.1742) and Richard (b.1745). While I have not done further research myself, thus far the Barclay Genealogical database does not include any descendants of these children. Despite a lack of documentation, many correspondents to the database are convinced that they descend from either Robert or John Barclay of Urie.

For many individuals, finding familial connection to an important person, preferably with noble or royal roots, is a much-desired research goal. Several motives prompt this desire, including the desire to qualify for any one of a variety of hereditary societies. Royal and noble lineage research, however, requires skill and perseverance; it is not easy.

Royal and noble research is no different than any other. You must start with yourself and move backward through time, documenting the details of each generation. Continue reading…

genealogy research trip planning

What to Bring on your Genealogy Research Trip

Planning a genealogy research trip takes a lot of foresight. Even when done quite carefully, things happen that weren’t anticipated.

Have you gone to a record hall only to discover you left the magnifying glass you use to read old handwriting at home? Then even after you borrow another researcher’s magnifier, you find yourself thwarted again because you cannot make sense of the ancient terminology employed by the person who created the record. If only you had brought your glossary of terms!

Genealogists cannot anticipate all the books and tools they might need on a genealogy research trip; otherwise, they would have to bring an entire library with them. So what should they bring? If not exactly a textbook or how-to book – though consulting a quality resources should be on the to-do list prior to venturing out – but the perfect book to rescue them after they have embarked? Such a book is the new second edition of Judy Jacobson’s Field Guide for Genealogists, a wonderful tool for anticipating potential stumbling blocks once you’re on the road.

Field Guide for Genealogists is designed to remove not only the foregoing stumbling blocks but also to answer thousands of other practical questions, which quite naturally arise during the course of research. For example, there are glossaries of genealogical terms, nicknames, surnames, place names, and occupations. The author has prepared a section on problems to anticipate at the county courthouse, offers hints for deciphering old handwriting, discusses different types of calendars, and has incorporated time lines of American history, migration, and transportation. The Field Guide also includes sections on the basics of dating photographs and identifying historical eras from hairstyles or clothing. Legal terms found in genealogical records are identified in one of the several glossaries compiled by Mrs. Jacobson. Other lists cover antiquated names of diseases and calamities, as well as units of measurement used in bygone day.

The author Mrs. Jacobson has written another resource to help genealogical researchers. Her book History for Genealogists. Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors contains a vast array of historical time lines that are guaranteed to inform your family history. The bulk this latest volume consists of specific historical time lines that answer fundamental questions about our forebears. History for Genealogists concludes with a helpful bibliography and an index of people and places, wars and battles. It is the one history book all genealogists should own when they are searching for fresh clues or hoping to understand what made their ancestors tick.

What essentials do you not leave home without for your genealogy research trip?

Image credit: By Anna (Flickr: records) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

castle garden, before Ellis Island

Before Ellis Island: Passenger Arrivals at Castle Garden, New York

Editor’s note: The late Carolyn L. Barkley discusses the changing conditions for immigrants arriving in the United States before Ellis Island was the main point of entry. Information includes the challenges one may face trying to locate an ancestor who arrived before 1892, how you may find them, and valuable resources to make your search easier. The history of Castle Garden is extremely relevant, and information related to searching those records is included for convenience.  

Finding the original U.S. port of entry arrival record for ancestors can be a difficult process. For many years, I have searched for the passenger arrival record of my elusive great-great-grandmother Kate Duncan who arrived in the U.S. from Liverpool (assumed to be her departure site, not place of residence) with her father George, her brother George H., and step-mother, Mary in the early 1850s. Although I know they were living in New Haven by 1854, I have as yet been unable to determine a year and port of entry for the family, despite checking microfilm for likely ports such as Boston, Providence, and New Haven. My search has prompted me to learn more about passenger arrival records, ship manifests, and the legislation that governed them. One of the best resources about these records can be found in Mike Tepper’s American Passenger Arrival Records.

Immigration to the U.S. began to increase dramatically in the early 1820s. With the increase in passengers, came an increase in the diseases they carried to America as well as the number of deaths from natural causes, as well as shipboard conditions. In order to control these problems, Congress passed the Steerage Act of March 2, 1819 to help limit the number of passengers carried on each ship. This act required that passenger ships sailing to the U. S. from foreign ports provide lists of arriving passengers and that the Custom Service process these lists on arrival. Beginning in 1820, a ship’s captain prepared the list and filed it with the collector of customs at the port of arrival. These records have been microfilmed and are available in the Records of the U.S. Customs Services, 1820-ca. 1891. Ports included in this record group are Atlantic, Gulf and Great Lakes Ports (M334, M575); Baltimore (M326, M255, M596); Boston (M265, M277); New Orleans (T527, M259, M272); New York (M261, M237, M1066); and Philadelphia (M360, M425).  As the records are usually arranged chronologically by date of arrival (probably the very fact you don’t know), using the soundex indices for the actual lists is essential. The best source for microfilm information can be found in the National Archives publication Immigrant & Passenger Arrivals: a Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (1991) and can be ordered on the National Archives website. A big caveat is that the card file index images are some of the ugliest microfilm images known to man, with many totally unreadable. It takes a great deal of research stamina to use these records on microfilm. Continue reading…


What do We Know About Pocahontas and Her Descendants?

Pocahontas, the legendary Native American princess who saved the life of Captain John Smith, has been the subject of many forms of art and literature – from Colonial paintings to Disney movies. The reality of Pocahontas, and of her descendants, is a more complex topic generally colored by legends more than facts. It’s rare to find information that deals only with known facts without the pull of the colorful stories. The following post discusses the known facts and lineage of Pocahontas, as well as provides literary resources to help you learn more should Pocahontas and her descendants be part of your family history or research.

“She was of a ‘Coulour browne, or rather tawnye,’ and her age was somewhere between twelve and fourteen. She probably was round-faced, with the fore part of her ‘grosse’ and ‘thick’ black hair ‘shaven close,’ and the very long ‘thicker part’ being ‘tied in a pleate hanging down’ to her hips. Her hands almost certainly were ‘pretty.’ Her ‘handsome lymbes,’ breast, ‘slender armes’ and face may well have been cunningly tattooed. And she probably wore a headband or crownlet and copper-decorated beads and earrings, her head and shoulders being covered with red colored powder ‘mixed with the oyle of the walnut, or Beares grease.’ In winter this paint ‘armes (in some measure) against the Cold’ and ‘in Summer doth check the heat’ while helping to defend ‘from the stinging of Muskeetoes which here breed aboundantly, amongst the marish whorts, and fenburies.’

“Her name was Matoaka, but they called her Pocahontas, the appellation possibly being derived from the Algonkian adjective meaning ‘playful, sportive, frolicsome, mischievous, frisky.’

“She was a member of one of a confederacy of some thirty well-organized, thriving agricultural and fishing tribes, who lived in approximately 160 villages widely scattered over much of the lower section of the Chesapeake Bay, and had a total population in the neighborhood of 9,000. And she was one of the many children of Powhatan, the confederacy’s overlord or supreme ‘werowance.'”

Thus begins the late Stuart Brown’s diminutive biography of the legendary Native American princess who saved the life of Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame. Mr. Brown, an attorney and antiquarian bookman by day, devoted much of his spare time to recording everything that could be found out about Pocahontas and her progeny. His biography, entitled Pocahontas, which occupies a focused 36 pages, uses only contemporary or near-contemporary facts pertaining to Pocahontas’s appearance, words, and actions. It is fully documented and features a number of reproductions of engravings made of the princess, her father, and scenes from early 17th-century Virginia. Continue reading…

Runaway indentured servants

Runaway Indentured Servants in the Chesapeake Bay Region

Was your relative one of many runaway indentured servants in the Chesapeake Region? If so, you may have discovered that finding them, or their true identity, can be quite a challenge. This potentially colorful leaf on your family tree is absolutely worth exploring – maybe they came to the New World poor and working for a better life, or maybe as a hardened criminal seeking freedom.

The demand for labor in the colonial period was such that by 1775 an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 indentured persons had been transported to America. The majority of these individuals were indigent, eager for a better life in the New World, and willing to work off the cost of their passage by reimbursing ships’ captains or others by the sweat of their brow. Other servants, especially after England’s Transportation Act of 1718 opened the floodgates for exiled criminals, were in America to work off their prison sentences. This combined labor pool was vital to the economic life of the Middle Colonies, including Pennsylvania, which received a significant population of German servants, also known as redemptioners.

Owing to the vicissitudes of 18th-century life, not all servants served out their full term of, typically, seven or fourteen years. Some “owners” were cruel. Working conditions could be demanding, especially in summer months, for Europeans unaccustomed to the hot, humid climate of the Chesapeake region. The countryside was also wide open, which made flight seem like a plausible option. And, of course, some of the servants were hardened criminals, to whom a labor contract would have seemed like a trifling affair.

Whatever the motivation, runaway servants were not an uncommon phenomenon in the 18th century. One source estimates that between 20-25% of indentured servants fled their masters. From the genealogist’s standpoint, this presents a methodological problem, since it was in the runaway’s best interest to conceal his/her identity after making a successful getaway. In other words, even if the runaway kept the same name, it is quite likely that the link to his original residence in America and to his country of origin would be lost. Lost, that is, unless one can uncover his/her identity in the thousands of runaway ads placed in colonial newspapers by disgruntled “owners.” And this is precisely where the research and publications of Joseph Lee Boyle come in.

Since 2009 Mr. Boyle has compiled four volumes of runaway servant ads for the Chesapeake region. In the process he has combed scores of 18th-century newspapers for references to missing servants. Following three collections of runaway servant ads pertaining to Maryland runaways from 1720 through 1774 (“Given to drinking and whoring”: White Maryland Runaways, 1720-1762, “When Drunk is Very Bold.” White Maryland Runaways, 1763-1769and the award-winning “Drinks hard, and swears much” White Maryland Runaways, 1770-1774), Mr. Boyle’s latest book contains more than a thousand runaway advertisements for the colony of Delaware. “Very impudent when drunk or sober.” Delaware Runaways, 1720-1783 includes descriptions of runaways and criminals living in Delaware, as well as those born or having contacts there. The ads contained references to the runaway’s age, sex, height, place of origin, clothing, occupation, speech, and physical imperfections. In compiling this work, Mr. Boyle consulted twenty-one colonial newspapers from Boston to Maryland, relying on Pennsylvania papers most heavily. In all, this book refers to 2,500 runaways and their masters.

Following are examples of the author’s Delaware runaway transcriptions for the year 1762:


RUN away, the 16th of this Instant, from the Subscriber, living in Dover, Kent County, on Delaware, a Mulattoe Servant Man, named Francis Miller, about 34 Years of Age, about 5 Feet 11 Inches high, slim built, walks loose in his Knees, pretty much pock-broken, and a large Beard: Had on when he went away, A blue Kersey Jacket, lined with ozenbrigs, old Check Shirt, old breeches, good Shoes, milled Stockings, and, it is believed, he stole, and took with him, two Great Coats, one old blue Cloth, the other light coloured. It is supposed he is gone up the Country to one Joseph Cookson’s, living in Lancaster County, near the Head of Pequea. Whoever takes up said Servant, and brings him Home to his Master, shall have the above Reward, and reasonable Charges; or if secured in any goal, so that he may be had again, shall have what the Law allows, paid by THOMAS PARKE.

N .B. All Persons are forbid harbouring or concealing him, as they will answer the fate at their Peril.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 28, 1762.

January 28. RUN-away from the Subscriber, living in Brandywine Hundred, New-Castle County, an English Man named John Jones, a thick set Fellow, about 50 Years of Age, long visag’d, wears his own hair of a brownish colour, he has on and carried with him, three brown Coats, one whereof is new, with carved mettle Buttons, likewise a red Jacket and old Buck-skin Breeches, and a good Beaver Hat, likewise three pair of blue Stockings, one pair worsted, the rest of his apparel unknown (and supposed to have taken a watch with him). Whoever takes up said Jones and secures him in any of his Majesty’s Goals in this Province, so that the subscriber man have him, shall be paid the sum of THREE POUNDS, by CALEB PERKINS.

The Pennsylvania Journal, and Weekly Advertiser, January 28, 1762; February 4, 1762. See The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 28. 1762.

Image Credit: Advertisements for runaway indentured servants, Maryland Gazette, May 22, 1755. This image belongs to the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Please visit the Gilder Lehrman Collection of American History here to see this image in its original context.