The Royal Ancestry of a Factory Worker’s Daughter

Comments10 user Jennifer Pelot Rysewyk (click to enlarge)

Imagine having absolutely no idea that you’re a descendant of royalty. 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, 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.

Thomas Gage (1719 or 1720 – 2 April 1787) (click to enlarge)

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.

The family's fate under the rule of Henry VIII (click to enlarge)

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.

Robin Hood statue in Nottingham, UK (click to enlarge)

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.

King of the Franks – Henry 1st (1008 – 4 August 1060). (click to enlarge)

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?

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  • len.langan

    March 2, 2011

    so what? We are all descended from royalty. No big deal, but the negative comments on William and Kate’s wedding are just plan envious and stupid. The negative thoughts come mostly from the United States and they have no idea on anything concerned with History or Tradition becuase they have none of their own. One can only feel sorry for them.

  • Sonja Williams

    March 2, 2011

    @ len.langan: Nice for Jennifer Pelot Rysewyk and her family, that they found out that part of their family history is intertwined with those well known historical figures.

    But as to your remark about the importance of history and tradition in the sense of so-called royalty, why should their life be so much more important? Why should a select group of individuals have such a special life, achieved wealth and possessions over the backs of, and with the blood and sweat of the rest of the inhabitants of a country?

    The phenomenon of Kings, Queens and so-called royalty should have been all behind us in this day and age we are living in. Those things should only exist in history books and fairy tales.

    All people are created equal and no one should be placed over others, just because you are born in, or get married into a certain family. William and Kate’s wedding should be just the wedding of any other young couple in the UK, and nothing more then that.

    The humongous bills to celebrate the wedding are, after all paid with taxpayers money, while so many people in that country (and the rest of the world for that matter) do not have enough to live a decent life.

    And as for the remark that people from the United States have no idea on anything concerned with history or tradition because they have none of their own, it is a very stupid remark, because every individual and every civilization has its own history and tradition, no matter where it started.

    The history and traditions of the United states started in the USA and on other continents and it all came together on the continent of the USA, and that is THEIR history and THEIR tradition; there is nothing to feel sorry for.

  • Anne Marie Cabrejos

    March 2, 2011

    Very happy for you Jennifer for finding your roots–no matter who they are or where they are from. This is the reason most of us have joined–to find our roots, where ever that might take us. Congrats!

  • Beverly Bryant

    March 2, 2011

    Royal ancestry is more common than most people realize. I was very surprised to find royal ancestry in my family, too, since my closest ancestors had humble lifestyles (sheep farmers!) That is why genealogy is so fascinating….you never know what you’ll find!

  • Stacy Arnold

    March 2, 2011

    As for Sonja Williams comment, it is true that God created us all equal. It is also true that throughout history life is very unequal, and some are the have’s and some are the have not. I find it very interesting to find out my ancestry, no matter who they were and what they did, they are a part of me and who I am.

    No we aren’t all famous, and I’m sure nobody on this site has ever heard of me, but most everybody can say they know who President Obama, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez are, so despite the fact that we are all created equal, some people are just better known.

    The few very wealthy people that I’ve known in life, couldn’t get me to trade places with them for all of the money in the world. Although they could buy anything they want and they have numerous (so called friends) I wouldn’t trade places with them, because they aren’t happy people. They go through life missing so much.

    I’ve actually found just as much pride in doing DNA ancestry testing at DNA Tribes, because much of the information about my origins were missing, as well as for two of the daughter’s we adopted. DNA Tribes test both paternal and maternal lineage. I found out that my past is much more colorful than just German, English and Irish. My biggest genetic link was Finland. There has been no information past down that includes this information plus so much more. It isn’t important that we have kings and queens in our ancestry, but that we find pride in our past ancestry and who we are.

    Jennifer Pelot Rysewyk is a lucky girl to have followed her ancestry back so far, and it will make a wonderful story to her children, grand children and great grand children one day.

  • Sonja Williams

    March 3, 2011

    @Stacy Arnold: I would just want to say this: My remarks has nothing to do with someone finding out his/her heritage being linked to royalty. It is your history and there is nothing that one can change about that, just like one cannot change his/her heritage being of so-called humble people.

    My remarks has however, everything to do with the, in my eyes, denigrating remarks of len.langan (Qoute: The negative thoughts come mostly from the United States and they have no idea on anything concerned with History or Tradition becuase they have none of their own. One can only feel sorry for them)

    I am not from the United States, but I think such remarks are snobbish. We are what we are in our own rights and no one has the right to put others down like he/she did in his/her remarks.

  • Jay

    March 3, 2011

    Hi Cousin Jennifer,

    Keep going! I was able to go back 62 generations, to the days of the Roman Empire. What I find interesting is how history is family history. It makes the textbooks not about some random names in distant lands, but about my family. I am using this as a tool to help the kids understand that what they are reading is really about them, so they might take a bit more of an interest and do well in school.

    Of course, mathematically speaking, most everyone of western European descent is likely from Charlemagne, Merovech, and Dogobert or such. Compare number of ancestors per generation to historical population of Europe and one will find the ancestors exceeding the population (35 generations is more than enough), meaning there are a lot of nth cousin marriages since then.

    The big deal is not that we are descended from royalty, but that we can find the connection at all to distant historical people and events a thousand or more years ago, thereby making that personal connection with the history that eventually brought us to today. For the ten or fifteen notables in a distant generation we know about, there may be a hundred million that are forever lost to history, with only their whispers to reside in our DNA

    When I first linked into the royals, I told my family, “I have bad news and good news about our family” The bad news is that we are not so much English like we thought, as we are French. The good news is that we used to own France.

    Gives a rather new perspective when touring castles.

  • Sharron

    March 4, 2011

    Hi Cousin Jenifer,
    How do you get your story told?
    I am so related to everybody and there have been so many cousin marriages I am related to myself.
    So right, thought we were English now discovered we are more French, but there is some of every Nationality I can think of.
    Related to every President of the United States that there has been since the beginning of time. They all go back to an English Crown.

  • Jack

    March 14, 2011

    I agree with Sharron, due to the great plague in europe that killed 1/4 to 1/2 the population at that time most of us are decended from those families and most of those families were the rich who could seperate themselves from the sick and dying in order to survive. Afterwards the survivors married and intermarried accross europe and later as they spread to other parts of the world that I believe at some point in our past ancestory we all share a link to each other.

  • Vaun Gage

    December 15, 2012

    I am Vaundalyn Judith Gage and General Thomas George Gage was also my ancestor. Nice to know more and thank you for going back so far for me. I am just beginning my journey.