Imagine having absolutely no idea that you’re a descendant of royalty. MyHeritage.com user Jennifer Pelot Rysewyk, like many people, had little knowledge her family’s past.
Her Grandparents were rural farmers and her parents were factory workers, hence Jennifer presumed that her roots were working class. Jennifer, from Wisconsin, began researching her family history last year, and can now lay claim to being related to some of the most infamous royals in history.
Jennifer began building her family tree on MyHeritage.com, primarily in an attempt to trace her father’s family originating from Germany and Poland. However the most fascinating discoveries were to be found on her mother’s side of the family.
Having made a living by farming for several generations, Jennifer discovered some surprising connections on this side of the family to many members of European royalty.
One of Jennifer’s most recent discoveries was her great-grandfather 8 generations back, General Thomas Gage, who influenced life a little closer to home for her. General Thomas Gage was the English red coat best known as a military commander during the early days of the American War of Independence. It is widely believed that his wife Margaret Kimble spied against him for the Patriots contributing to the outcome of the war.
Digging even further into the past revealed the fate of Jennifer’s family during the reign of Henry VIII. Welsh nobleman, Rhys ap Griffith (1449 -1525), her great-grandfather 15 generations back, was beheaded by Henry VIII at the Tower of London for treason, following rumors of an affair with one of his wives. This is the same Rhys ap Griffith who supposedly delivered the death blow to King Richard at Bosworth with his poll axe, giving rise to the reign of Henry VII.
During the same era, Jennifer discovered that her 14th generation grandmother was Lady Margaret Bouchier Bryan, Governess to King Henry VIII’s four acknowledged children, Mary, Elizabeth, Edward and his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. She also had another daughter, Elizabeth Carew, who became King Henry VIII’s alleged first mistress.
A few centuries prior to this, Jennifer unearthed information on her 25th generation grandmother, Maud Vavasour, heiress and the wife of Fulk FitzWarin, a medieval landed gentleman who was forced to become an outlaw in the early 13th century. The legend of Robin Hood is allegedly based on him, which would make Maud Vavasour no other than “Maid Marian”. Many accounts of Maid Marion refer to her father as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Her actual father was Robert Le Vavasour (1150-1234), deputy Sheriff of Lancashire - possibly the legendary villain.
Jennifer has even traced her family history as far back as 35 generations, claiming ties to Henry 1st, King of France and his wife, Anne of Kiev. Not only was Anne the Queen of France, but her parents were Bilibin the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev and Ingegerd Olaffson – making Anne the grand-daughter of the very first official King of United Sweden, in addition to being Russian Nobility.
Descendent of an infamous English Red Coat, related to Henry VIII’s mistress and French Royalty, and with blood ties to the legendary Robin Hood, Jennifer has uncovered incredible facts about her family’s rebellious past in an astonishingly short time. At home her family joke about her recent discoveries – they occasionally order each other about for a giggle!
It’s a reminder to all not to give up on researching family history. Just one discovery can open the door to a whole world of interesting people who have changed the course of history. We thank Jennifer for sharing her remarkable family tree with us.
So who’s in your family tree?
Search for your ancestors: