Post by taf Post by email@example.com
I have researched in German records for 20 years. finding obscure links
back to German Royals by hunting through the records is extraordinarily
This has been my experience as well. None of my continental ancestry can be traced prior to the 16th century, and most not before the 17th, pretty much all of them being common tradesmen. Admittedly, there is not the same tradition of research and record availability in the respective German, French and Swiss archives, but in a few cases when someone has gone through the local property and other records in detail, it has just added one additional generation of tradesmen. In all of the German I have personally worked on, for myself and others, I have come across just one family of note, and they were a rising family of tradesmen-come-scientists, not one descended from prominent ancestors.
I think we have a distorted picture of how common this was in England too. I probably have just short of 100 New England immigrants identified in England, and only three of them connect to royalty, a frequency that is supposed to represent this being a 'common' phenomenon. I do think it was more common in England, but if it was just a little less common, it would look alot like my continental families. Certainly, the majority of my English families look just like the German ones, petering out among tradesmen or tenant farmers within a generation of the earliest preserved parish registers, if that.
That this was more common in England is perhaps largely due to the lack
of a virtual caste system of nobility as in much of continental Europe.
An interesting contrast can be seen in comparing the ancestries of the
queen's mother, née Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and her paternal
grandmother, née Princess May (Mary) of Teck.
In both cases there are distant royal ancestors and closer non-royal
antecedents (Mary, having been a great-granddaughter of George III
through her mother, had relatively closer royal ancestors). In the
Bowes-Lyon ancestry tradesmen appear not very far back, but in the Teck
ancestry they cannot be so readily found through the lowest-ranking
lines, which came from Hungarian nobility.
In England older gentry families by the 17th century were likely to have
royal or at least highly notable ancestors, but this didn't save a few
of them from ruin in the Civil War with their daughters marrying
"beneath" their former socio-economic level afterwards, whereas in
Europe the wars of religion did not cause a similar degree of downward
mobility nearly as frequently. Maybe ruined "noble" families were still
more prone to intermarry than to seek wealthier up-and-comer husbands
for their daughters.
But paradoxically, the English "aristocracy" from the 18th century on
became more disdainful of "trade" than some of their European
counterparts, especially Italian ones, despite still making some
mercenary unions with heiresses from these despised ranks. (Later,
"dollar princesses" from the USA popped up all over the continent but
the British probably bagged more of them than the French who were the
next-most avid hunters).
One path to downward social mobility everywhere was insanity. A mad
father could marry his daughter to any sort of riff-raff and she might
still have been better off than in her childhood home.