“Guess what? We’re royalty!” announced my sister the other day. And she had, or thought she had, the research to prove it. A longtime amateur genealogist, she has traced our family roots on both sides back for generations. She started long before Geni and Ancestry came along, and has actually made the effort to contact and meet some of our more far-flung relatives, so she has some credibility.


Tracing my mother’s mother’s ancestry was fairly easy, as Quebec has kept relatively impeccable birth and death records since the first European settlers arrived in the early 1600’s. Thus we have 400 years of solid French, then French Canadian, farmers who settled on the north shore around Quebec City. My mother’s father’s people came to Quebec from Ireland pre-famine, in the early 1800’s, and settled in predominantly English communities in the same area. Interestingly, my grandparents grew up within 100 km of each other, but neither spoke the other’s language when they married. The most famous person from this side of the family is Beyonce Knowles, as I annoyingly mention as often as possible. Her 5th great grandfather, an Acadian leader named Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard, is my 7th great uncle. I know. The resemblance is uncanny.


My father’s lineage is a bit more troublesome, as they were tenant farmers in Tipperary up until the mid 19th century, and poor record keepers. They also changed the spelling of our last name: it was “Holway” for  quite some time, before someone pulled himself up by his bootstraps, managed to purchase some land, and added the extra syllable to be all fancy-like. My father’s mother’s people, the Crows, were more lace curtain, from what I can gather. One of the more remarkable things about that side of the family is that my grandparents had a close lady friend who never married, but lived and travelled with them for most of their lives. She and my grandmother wore trousers and smoked together and were inseparable. Interesting.


Anyway. As fascinating as these long dead people may be, none of them were blue bloods. However, following a hunch, Kate, my sister, stumbled across a connection on Geni. To make a long story a little shorter, in 1566, a French princess by name of Anna d’Este, Duchess of Guise, married, as her second husband, a French Duke named Jacques of Savoy. They had 3 children. Geni suggests that they had a fourth, a son named Robert, who took the last name De LaVoie, and it was his grandson, bearing the name Rene de la Voye, who found his way to New France and ultimately became my 9th great grandfather. Are you with me? Super cool, right? If this is true, I am directly descended from several kings and queens of England and France, including Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Bourbons, the Borgias, and Pope Alexander VI.


Anna d’Este, Duchess of Guise. Not my greatest grandmother.


Except it’s not true.


The problem is this Robert De LaVoie, born in 1577, presumably in France. He doesn’t seem to exist anywhere other than Geni, and in the hopes and dreams of the thousands of people who claim to be descended from him. Genealogy is like that: you go down a rabbit hole, reaching deeper and deeper, until you hit bedrock. The past doesn’t always give up its secrets. Furthermore, we all want to be connected to Somebody who did Something Important. But I will suggest to you (as Kate suggested to me) that it’s better to be related to sturdy French and Irish farming stock than crazy Norman inbred kings.


Besides, we still have Beyonce.


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