When is Royal Gateway Ancestor label appropriate?

+13 votes
The label "Royal Gateway Ancestor" seems to be increasingly affixed to profiles stating as fact descent from, for example, a fictional sister of a fictional King Aldorf and a currently linked descendant 19+ generations later in the American colonies. When you examine the lineage between these two people you find that 13 of 19+ generations are marked "unknown confidence" and some of those relationships would require additional research to state with certainty that someone is a Royal Gateway Ancestor.

I'm aware the "confidence" button may well have been added after any number of the involved profiles were created and marking many of these confident or otherwise requires, as it should, a pre-1500 certified person to review documentation.

Should not the research proving such a connection be completed according to WikiTree standards for each step of the lineage prior to affixing such a label? This issue appears with a number of similar labels -- which always heads back to someone ranging from minor nobles to royals.
in Genealogy Help by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (172k points)

4 Answers

+6 votes

One problem is that there currently is no official Royal Gateway Ancestor label or sticker. I think one should be created by the Euro Aristo Project and then they can create rules for its use.

I would assume that anyone who Richardson identifies as a royal gateway ancestor in his "Royal Ancestry" should be OK. I am less sure about Gary Boyd Roberts' "The Royal Descent of 900 Immigrants," although the intro suggests that he took his lineages from high quality sources (including Richardson).

Like everything else in a WT profile, a statement that someone is a Royal Gateway Ancestor should be supported with source citations. Here's an example of how I think it should be done until Euro Aristo or some other project comes up with rules: Mary (Lawrence) Burnham

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
If you look at the lineage from Mary Burnham to William the Conqueror's sister Alice, the significant majority of the connections are not marked confident. I'm sure some of those profiles were developed in the days before a confident button was around. I think it would help as a process is developed for gateway ancestors if those were all reviewed and marked confident before badges go up.

Looking at that confident marking is, for me, an indicator of where to start looking for issues or differing information when there are questions about lineage or conflicting info is seen.

I think Richards (and possibly Gary Boyd Roberts) should be presumed to be correct, so that, unless and until shown to be probably wrong, we could rely on them without going through the 15+ links in the chain on our own.

I don't think we should put too much weight on Certain v Uncertain v no selection. Lots of people mark something as Certain just because it conforms to the info they copy into their ancestry tree. Moreover, Certainty is not a binary determination, but a gradient. Even "Certain" connections are probably at best 95% certain. After 25 generations of 95% certain links (ie back to the Magna Carta Barons) that means there is less than a 28% chance that all the links in the chain is correct. I think this suggests that the whole concept of claiming a particular line of descent from a Magna Carta Baron or Charlemagne is silly. However, if people want to do it, I don't think we should get hung up on the Certain v Uncertain v no selection.

I like the sound of the gateway sticker, but one persons gateway is not necessarily your cousins gateway, if they join in another generation up. So you would need to have stickers proceeding down every generation from a royal. But it would become so common, you would really need to have the ability to state which royal the sticker is pointing too. But then you could end up with multiple stickers on a profile, so you would have to only include the most recent royal, unless they are coming from both parents, and almost everyone would end up with a sticker. Of course, why just royals, American and British politians, or significant historic figures would be relevant too. I like the idea, but it's starting to give me a headache thinking about it. You would have to establish clear rules, and how many generations down would you include?
+7 votes
One of the problems, I see with this idea, is that the concept of a Gateway ancestor is mainly from United States history.  Maybe Canada as well (?) but definitely not known in Australia where I'm from, and obviously not from people still living in Britain or other areas in Europe, even though they might be descendants of royal families.

So I guess my first question is - does this sticker/category just apply to American royal gateway ancestors?
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (439k points)
I don't think that is a problem; it's a feature. Lots of categories/stickers are country-specific. The "gateway" concept works best when a lot of/most people in a country who have any royal/noble ancestors have those ancestors through people who immigrated to the countries hundreds of years ago from Old World countries that had royals/nobles. I assume that would apply to Australia too, but I admit ignorance. Particular gateway ancestors would, of course, be country-specific and refer to certain immigrants to that country. I think Richardson only covers American immigrants; I believe Gary Boyd Roberts most recent edition also covers Canada.

No, if Australia has any concept of a gateway ancestor, it is more likely to be one of the convicts of the First Fleet in 1788, of whom very few, if any, would have royal ancestry.  Settlement of people who may have had royal ancestry occurred much later and by that time too many to be considered in any way a 'gateway'.

The other EuroAristo leaders may disagree, but personally I'm not in favour of having a sticker that is exclusive rather than inclusive, as I said previously not only excluding Australians but also those in Europe who might have royal ancestors but because they didn't leave can't be considered to be gateways.

Perhaps something like United States history is a better project if you just want it to be restricted to the United States.

While the notion of gateway ancestor appears to have originated between England and North America (and more specifically what is now the United States) -- largely because of the set of books researching this-- I see no reason that a gateway ancestor sticker couldn't be used by any country as long as the sticker clearly explained the gateway.

I'd like to see its use, though, confined to confirmed trails. That suggests monitoring by those projects that research royalty/nobility. If those projects don't want to or don't have the capacity to, then perhaps we toss the sticker entirely.

We need a definition of what a 'gateway ancestor' is before we use the label.  Is it just related to early American immigrants? What about those who emigrated to America or elsewhere  in later centuries and  can be  linked to a gateway ancestor with an established pedigree leading to  Royalty?

What about those whose descendants never emigrated?

I'll admit I had never heard of the term prior to joining wiki-tree (I'd rather find a descendance from Robert Kett or Wat Tyler but i'm contrary).

The  definition used on a number of UK websites seems to be "an ancestor who provides a link to a Royal lineage" This doesn't specify country or period,


The term was used for this man https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Gosnold-59  who was , linked to Danny Dyer and through his wife to the Seymours, the Tudors and Magna Carta Barons https://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/featuredarticles/2016/who-do-you-think-you-are/danny-dyers-cockney-and-royal-roots-371/


Its also used in the article with this one which links to other European Royal Families (bit too current sorry) http://www.bbc.co.uk/whodoyouthinkyouare/new-stories/boris-johnson/how-we-did-it_2.shtml

We're told that all of us who can trace our ancestry back a few generations in the UK are in someway descended from Edward 111 and those in  other parts of Europe  may link similarly to the Charlemagne. We just have to find the ancestor who links to an already established with a proven pedigree.There are potentially a lot of them.

The American difference is population explosion.  Robert Abell's 5-generation descendancy chart goes on for ever, and they all share all the same ancestry.


This creates a market for books and articles and professional research.

There were attempts at English royal descent books, eg.


but not enough people would find anything relevant in any given book.

Browning's books didn't talk about gateways as such.  They just listed the royal descents of living Americans.


But often he'd show a single line from a royal to a dead American and then branch out to several living descendants.

Even so, the books got very repetitious.  So to add variety, he'd give somebody an obscure and broken descent from King Alfred when they had a clear line to Edward III.  Luckily, the punters thought Alfred was better than Edward III.

If you studied the book carefully and did a lot of cross-referencing, you could figure out that the punters had many royal lines each, not just the one shown directly.  But you didn't get any help with that.

So the gateways became the essential organizational principle.

(Before anybody goes mad with these "sources", I should mention that a lot of the lines in them are broken.  And a lot of colonial dames were priding themselves on ancestry they didn't have.)

The problem in Australia, is that being established long after America, more people have had a chance to mix, and attain royal lines. So rather than having a relatively short list of gateways, if Australia were to have a gateway list, it would be 10 or 100 times larger.
+3 votes
I find the whole history of the term very understandable and reasonable, as per John's explanation. But if Wikitree were to start a tradition of adding an adjective like "American gateway ancestor" I am thinking it might set a trend and the benefits would likely outweigh any small confusions.
by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (104k points)
+1 vote
A gateway ancestor?  I am pretty sure that I have never seen this term or even a similar one outside of a USA context.  And no where else on the American continent, Canada, Mexico, Central and South...or any other place in the world

In the latter areas, there are aboriginal populations mingled with Europeans, the Mestizo.  Some of them know their routes back to Spain or Portugal.  And then are among those who have come later, who know well from where and who they came, but may or may not want to advertise.

Canada is extremely diverse but overall records at port seem to have been quite accurate and the French Catholic and Huguenot influence has easily allowed sheer uninterupted continuity of records

To my mind, it relates to situations where continuity has been lost in terms of records, relationship, hand down names largely due to a chasm creating migration.

At this point, it becomes the job to to work retroactively back from current to create trees that were never recorded or completely lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes this is quite difficult.

Some places had excellent records and contingency plans to preserve it in response to a variety of emergency challenges. Other places strike out on all three and even error rates of the records themselves are higher than normal.

However, if the chasm was not great, records were maintained and simply added in real time.  They are just there.  

Forgotten again as the accumulation got larger, that some children and their lines might disappear, sometimes to be recalled later as significant people emerge downstream.  

It is important to read all these records with this context and all of history and watch with an eye to form criticism as to how it may have been written, where additions have been made, how and why  I have actually discovered how this works in the Adels by seeing it from beginning to end.

Additionally, there was an acceptance that birth dates etc were unimportant, it was when you emerged, ie walked on the pages of history and then departed.

Then there is fiction.  But to what end.  People don't change and always hope that there is something of substance "back there."

Often forgotten is that fiction may be cultivated for the opposite reason.  We know how this has worked in modern times.

 About 100 years ago, thousands of people plunged over the cliff of their past, took on assumed names and stories simply to save their lives.  Some may have kept the flicker but others may have lost it temporarily, or forever.

The past was no different.  We can see in some situations where two arms of the same family emerged quickly with different trees with those who stayed being careful not to show connection to a family however noble or of historic interest because of religious persecution which could lead to ruin or death.  The one that left might have a different and correct one.  

In conclusion, you do your best to establish continuity and context, for which a historical background needs to be part of the collaborative process.  

And returning to our premise, I guess my dad was a gateway ancestor for his paternal pedigree as I am the first generation of that line to be born in North America - representing his Eastern and Western European and British and Irish gentry and nobility.

And what couple brings that all together - surprisingly Yaroslov the Wise and Ingegard Olafstdottor - perhaps they are the most pervasive Adam and Eve of the Northern Hemisphere

I imagine in this generation that I am in the majority.  And then that will change the nature of the discussion all over again
by Lloyd de Vere Hunt G2G6 Mach 2 (21.3k points)

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