29. Seven Gateway Ancestors to Royalty

All of these lines are extensively traced and referenced in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

Recently researchers unveiled a reconstruction of the face of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329, reigned 1306-1329), having applied anthropological forensics techniques to a cast of his skull. The lifelike result can be seen at this link. It does not particularly resemble the much-reproduced, ahistorical portrait illustrated here, which was painted in 1633.


In my family, the reconstruction’s announcement led to a discussion of our relationship, if any, to King Robert. As it happens we do descend from him, and many times over, through one of our seven gateway ancestors to royalty. In this article, I describe some of Dugal McQueen’s royal descents as well as as those of our other six “gateway” ancestors. A gateway ancestor is an immigrant progenitor whose own ancestry traces to royalty — and all of whose descendants accordingly do as well.


The Gateway Ancestors

  1. Dugal McQueen

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Dugal McQueen (ca 1666?-1746) and his family have been the subject of several articles on this blog, especially 4. Dugal McQueen, Scottish Rebel and Gateway Ancestor to Royalty; and 26. A Visit to the Home of the McQueens of Pollochaig. In the listing of gateway ancestors, he has pride of place, because he descended from the most recent of all of our royal ancestors, King James II of Scotland (1430-1460, reigned 1437-1460). This makes the descent rarer, because in general, the later a king lived, the fewer descendants he has and the harder it is to find a line of descent from him.

Through James II, Dugal descended from Kings James I, Robert III, Robert II, and Robert II’s maternal grandfather Robert I, “the Bruce”. However, there are not just one but many descents from Robert the Bruce, because Dugal descended from multiple children of each of those kings. All but the most recent, that is. His one connection to James II was through James’ daughter Mary Stewart, who married Sir James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton.

Others of Dugal’s relatively recent royal ancestors include Jean II, “the Good”, King of France (1319-1364, reigned 1350-1364), through his son Philip II, “the Bold”, Duke of Burgundy; and King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377), through Edward’s son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine.

  1. Ralph Lewis

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Ralph Lewis (ca 1649-1712) was a Quaker of co. Glamorgan, Wales, who removed to Pennsylvania in 1683. He owned land in what is now Delaware county, and was the subject of a blog entry, 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania .

Ralph was technically the second most recently royally descended of our gateway ancestors, at least when reckoned by birth year. One of his ancestors was King Pedro, “the Cruel”, King of Castile and Leon (1334-1369, reigned 1350-1368). The line of descent is through Pedro’s daughter Isabel of Castile, who married Sir Edmund, of Langley, 1st Duke of York, son of King Edward III of England (who with a birthyear of 1312 was older than Pedro, and thus less recent). The descent is unusual because it comes through Edmund’s and Isabel’s daughter Constance Plantagenet by way of her scandalous live-in relationship as the unmarried “wife” of Sir Edmund de Holand, 4th Earl of Kent.

  1. Mary Need

An ancestor of my mother’s mother, Mary Need (1645-aft 1708) was the wife of Edmund Cartlidge, a Quaker immigrant to Philadelphia. Her grandfather, a member of the yeomanry of co. Nottingham, England, had converted to the Quaker faith in 1647. In turn he was a descendant of the Lords Clifford, of Shakespearian fame, and through them of King Edward III of England (1312-1377, reigned 1327-1377).

This descent is somewhat unusual because it passes through Edward’s son Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Ulster, who left relatively few progeny.

  1. Elizabeth Gerard

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Elizabeth Gerard (1630-1716) was a native of co. Lancaster, England, whose Catholic birth family immigrated to Maryland in 1638. She married as her first husband, Robert Ellyson, of James City county, Virginia.

Elizabeth was a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). The line runs through Edward’s daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet, who married as her second husband, Humphrey de Bohun VIII, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and Lord High Constable of England, and then down through the Fitz Alan and Goushill families.

  1. Susannah Gerard

An ancestor of my father’s mother, Susannah Gerard (ca 1632-1677) was like her sister Elizabeth (above) a descendant of King Edward I of England (1239-1307, reigned 1272-1307). She married as her first husband, Robert Slye, of St. Mary’s county, Maryland.

  1. George Yate

An ancestor of my father’s father, George Yate (aft 1636-1691) immigrated to Maryland sometime before 1666, where he became a large landowner of widespread properties in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, and Prince Georges counties. He was of an old Catholic family of Berkshire, England.

George was a descendant of King Henry III of England (1207-1272, reigned 1216-1272), through Henry’s son Edmund Plantagenet, called “Crouchback”, Earl of Lancaster and titular King of Sicily. From Edmund, the line runs down through the Beaumont and Botreaux families.

  1. Lawrence Dameron

An ancestor of my mother’s father, Lawrence Dameron (1615-1660) was an immigrant from co. Suffolk, England, who became a large landowner in Northumberland county, Virginia. His Dameron ancestors held a manor in co. Suffolk as early as 1552, but his royal ancestry was through his grandmother Marjorie Clench. Her ancestor was Robert de Vere, 5th Earl of Oxford, whose most recent royal line of descent appears to be to Henry I, King of France (1006-1060, reigned 1031-1060) via the Quincy and Beaumont families. This is the most remote of the gateway ancestries.


Some Thoughts About Gateways

The fact that there are seven gateway ancestors in my family history does not mean that it’s easy to identify a royal descent. For many years from around 1950, when my father began genealogical research on our family, we discovered one “gateway” descent after another that proved not to be true. In part this was due to the tendency of amateur genealogists to insufficiently source their information — one big reason why I emphasize sourcing so much today in my book-length publications.

Another aspect of the difficulty traces to the long, serial nature of such descents. With so many generations lined up one after another to get back to a royal ancestor, and with every generation needing to be accurate, it is easy to make an error somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s as simple as attributing a child to one wife of a male ancestor, when the child was actually by a different wife. Sometimes there are confusions of similar names, so that evidence seeming to link an ancestor to a preceding generation actually concerned an entirely different person. Finally, for Americans there are particular difficulties associated with “hopping the pond”. Immigrant ancestors often left little or no evidence about their origins, and so mistakes are easily made when attempting to identify the correct individuals in European records.

There are nevertheless ways to improve your chances of tracing a royal line. One of the most important is to trace every ancestor possible. Every generation back doubles the number of ancestral lines, and you never know where a gateway will open up. Our first discovery of a gateway ancestor – I mean a real discovery, one that has thus far stood the test of time – was Ralph Lewis, and it didn’t occur until 1994, almost a half century after my father started his research. It occured only because I was determined to trace my mother’s Withers ancestors, opening up a host of Pennsylvania Quaker lines. Even then we got some details wrong, as I have written in 25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania.

All of these lines, and much more, are documented in my book The Omnibus Ancestry. The culmination of almost 70 years of effort, it contains nearly 600 interconnected ancestral lines. Many thousands of dollars went into its research. By investing in the book, you invest in the ongoing research that has made it possible, and that will continue to support updated editions going forward. For those who have made and are making the investment, I am truly grateful. For others considering it, here is the link to The Omnibus Ancestry.


Picture attribution: Public domain.


25. The True Parentage of Ralph Lewis, of Darby Township, Chester (now Delaware) County, Pennsylvania

The material below is treated at greater length, with full references, in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).

In 1683 Ralph Lewis emigrated from Wales to Pennsylvania. He took with him a Certificate of Removal from the Friends’ (Quaker) Men’s Meeting for Cardiff and Treverig, co. Glamorgan, stating that he was leaving with John ap Bevan (John Bevan). Shortly before, while in Wales, Ralph had purchased Pennsylvania land from John, at which time he was described as a resident of “Illan”; i.e., Eglwysilan parish. The removal certificate was signed by a man named Thomas Prichard, among others [1,2].

Footpath and Stream Near Eglwysilan

By 1691 Ralph had settled in Darby (now Upper Darby) township, then in Chester county but now part of Delaware county, Pennsylvania. He appeared in the records of the Quaker meeting in Haverford township, (now) Delaware county, and owned land there and in the townships of Upper Darby and Lower Merion (now in Montgomery county). His will was made in 1712 when he was still a resident of (Upper) Darby, and he died that same year. Ralph left many descendants through his large family of 9 children, 8 of whom lived to married adulthood [1,2].

The Contribution of Thomas Allen Glenn

The identity of Ralph Lewis’ parents has long tantalized genealogists, not least because of his known place of origin and his association with John Bevan, a Pennsylvania Quaker of known royal descent [3]. In the late 19th century, the genealogist Thomas Allen Glenn took up this problem, initially concluding that Ralph’s father was another Ralph Lewis, whose 1683 will indicated he was of Llanishen, co. Glamorgan [4]. Glenn’s rationale was unexplained, but because the will did not name sons, was probably based on nothing more than the testator’s name and the proximity of Llanishen to Eglwysilan.

More importantly to the possibility of royal descent, however, Glenn concluded that the immigrant Ralph’s mother was a Prichard:

She must have been Ann Prichard, as Thomas Prichard is called Uncle, by William [Lewis] in letter to Ralph, and for a number of minor reasons all of which make me consider this as proved and beyond question. [4]

It is through a Prichard connection that John Bevan has a traceable royal descent. He was the son of Evan John, of Treverig, co. Glamorgan, and his wife Jane Prichard, the sister of Ann and Thomas Prichard. The Prichards were the children of Richard ab Evan, of Collenna, co. Glamorgan, and his wife Catharine Bassett [1,2,4]. Then, by tracing a number of additional generations, they are found to be descendants of Edward III, King of England [1,2,3].

In subsequent years Glenn changed his mind about the father of Ralph Lewis. In 1913, as part of a much larger work, he published a brief account of the family in which he stated that there was “evidence amounting almost to a certainty” that Ralph Lewis of Pennsylvania was the son of one David Lewis, of Eglwysilan [5]. To my knowledge, however, Glenn never reported the nature of that evidence.

The Publication of Withers-Davis Ancestry

Leading up to the publication of the Withers-Davis Ancestry in 1998, which included a treatment of the Lewis family, I was intensely concerned with acquiring whatever evidence was to be had on the subject of Ralph Lewis’ ancestry. For a time I maintained a round-robin mail discussion among Lewis researchers that unearthed a number of publications and manuscripts.

In retrospect, the most important document found in this discovery process was the letter alluded to by Glenn. It was found transcribed in three different sources, two in unpublished form (one manuscript and one typescript) and one in published typeset form. The letter was written in 1684 “from Ilan” by William Lewis to his “Dear Brother” Ralph Lewis. It mentioned “thy t[w]o sisters” and that “Thy Brother David doth Remember himselfe to thee” [6].

The critical passage that Glenn had noticed was transcribed most clearly by the highly-regarded local historian and genealogist Gilbert Cope, working from a photograph of the original, and had been published in 1887 [6]:

Remember me to my Loveing frind John ab Evan, for his Chilldren were Sike and now they are well. youre unkel thomas prichard were ded and mary william. [6,8]

Based on this letter and a number of other records, including (a) a substantial list of associations of Ralph Lewis with John Bevan, and (b) evidence that Thomas Prichard had married an heiress, I concluded that Ralph was a blood nephew of Thomas, and accordingly that Glenn was right in concluding that his mother was Thomas’ sister [2]. Furthermore, because previous pedigrees of the Prichard family named only one sister whose marriage was not given:

It is likely that her given name was Anne, although this seems somewhat less certain in that it is unclear whether the known list of siblings … is exhaustive in nature. [2]

The question of Ralph’s father, however, seemed even less certain given that Glenn had not named his sources or even stated the basis of his opinion that his father was named David. After equivocating on how best to represent this situation, I named his father as David, citing Glenn as the source, but noted that:

… evidence that the father was David Lewis is weaker than evidence that the mother was a sister of Thomas Prichard. [2]

The volume then traced the extensive noble and royal ancestry of the Prichard family.

Residual Doubt

I was reasonably certain that a sister of Thomas Prichard was the mother of Ralph Lewis, but a small residual doubt remained in my mind following publication. It was triggered by the ordering of the statements in the critical paragraph of the William Lewis letter. Specifically, “Remember me to my Loveing frind John ab Evan” preceded “youre unkel thomas prichard were ded”. There seemed to me a small possibility that when William used the term “youre unkel”, he was addressing himself to John ab Evan (John Bevan). Bevan, of course, was indeed the nephew of Thomas Prichard, his mother Jane having been Thomas’ sister.

To be sure, taking this alternate interpretation would involve accepting some syntactic gymnastics within the paragraph. Between the statements “Remember me to my Loveing frind John ab Evan” and “youre unkel thomas prichard were ded” was inserted the wording “his Chilldren were Sike and now they are well”, so if a change occurred in mid-paragraph in who was being addressed, the transition between “his Children” and “youre unkel” was jarring. Although the alternate interpretation was judged unlikely, it nevertheless remained within the realm of possibility.

The True Father of Ralph Lewis

While preparing to publish the Omnibus Ancestry, I revisited the issue of Ralph Lewis’ parentage, concentrating my efforts on wills. Initial searches using the Lewis surname were fruitless, replicating Glenn’s unsuccessful search.

But then I hit on the possibility that Lewis may not have been a true surname as Glenn had assumed, but rather a patronymic, a name based on the name of his father. In 17th-century Wales, a process was underway in which patronymics were being converted to permanent surnames. Thus the Prichards derived their permanent surname from “ap Richard” (i.e., “son of Richard”, as borne by the children of Richard ab Evan). But the process had just begun. In some families it would not be completed until the 19th century [7]. I reasoned, therefore, that Ralph Lewis might have been the son of a man with Lewis as given name rather than surname.

So it was that I found the true father of Ralph Lewis. In his will, Lewis William named, among other sons, Raulph Lewis, David Lewis, and William Lewis — all known from the 1684 letter. Two daughters Gwenllian Lewis and Elizabeth Lewis were also named — the 1684 letter, of course, mentioning to Ralph “thy t[w]o sisters”. The final proof of identity was the naming by Lewis of “Mary William my wife”. As William Lewis had indicated in his 1684 letter, “youre unkel thomas prichard were ded and mary william” [1]. Without a doubt, Lewis William was the father of Ralph Lewis of Darby township.

The True Mother of Ralph Lewis

How William Lewis chose to convey news of the death of Mary William is of central importance to this story. He didn’t lead off his letter by saying “our dear mother is dead”. Indeed, Mary’s death was almost an afterthought, inserted as a postscript at the end of a letter that began by describing the good health of Ralph Lewis’ brothers and sisters and their families. Even John Bevan’s children and uncle Thomas Prichard’s death received priority over poor Mary William.

Because no son would announce the death of his mother so offhandedly, there can be very little question that Mary was the stepmother, not mother, of both William and Ralph. As their stepmother, it could well be the case that neither brother felt a strong emotional attachment to her, particularly if she had married their father relatively late in life and he had long been deceased when the letter was written.

But Mary William’s mention at the end of the critical paragraph has another, rather profound implication. Because she had a relationship by marriage to Ralph Lewis, but none at all to John Bevan, her naming indicates that the entirety of the paragraph was addressed to Ralph. If syntactic gymnastics are required to assume a shift of address from Ralph to John Bevan, as suggested above, then the shift back to Ralph within a single sentence (“youre unkel thomas prichard were ded and mary william”) is simply impossible. Thus by William Lewis’ own testimony, Thomas Prichard had to have been Ralph Lewis’ uncle. Glenn was right in this.

But what was the given name of Ralph’s Prichard mother? As mentioned, Glenn and I had both assumed that her name was Anne, because she was the only Prichard sister in existing pedigrees whose marriage was not given.

Here, once again, Welsh wills proved to have something to say. The father of the family, Richard ab Evan, made his will naming among other relatives his daughters Anne, Katherin, Marie, and Flourance Prichard [1]. Because Anne was still alive in 1671/2, while Lewis William died previously, she obviously could not have been Lewis’ first wife. But the letter carries a further implication, because the previously-mentioned pedigrees naming the children of Richard ab Evan did not include daughters named Katherin or Flourance [1,2]. Neither of those could have been Lewis’ first wife for the same reason that Anne could not have been. But their existence raises the possibility that Richard ab Evan had one or more daughters, deceased and not named in the will, who also did not appear in the pedigrees.

That is how I prefer to leave it, with the mother of Ralph Lewis a Prichard of unknown given name, but certainly one of the daughters of Richard ab Evan and his wife Catharine Basset. Assuming that she was a daughter not yet identified, Ralph Lewis and John Bevan were first cousins.

Nevertheless, there is another intriguing possibility worth noting. As mentioned, John Bevan was the son of Evan John and his wife Jane Prichard. The dates of death of both parents are unknown. It is possible, therefore, that Jane was widowed by the death of Evan John, and married as her second husband Lewis William. In other words, Ralph Lewis may have been John Bevan’s half brother through a shared mother. That would certainly account for the known close associations between Ralph and John [2].

This speculative raw material, unfortunately, must be left to future workings of The Genealogist’s Craft. Until then descendants of Ralph Lewis may claim descent from King Edward III through his unknown Prichard mother.  That descent, and many others of Ralph Lewis, are given in the Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu).


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016). The Omnibus Ancestry: 589 Documented American and European Lines, 2nd ed. Available for download through Lulu.

[2] Boles, D.B., & Boles, H.W. (1998). Withers-Davis Ancestry. Decorah, Iowa: The Anundsen Publishing Co. Available for order from Bolesbooks.

[3] Richardson, D. (2011). Plantagenet Ancestry. Salt Lake City, Utah: private print.

[4] Glenn, T.A. (1899). Lewis. Typescript, Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.

[5] Glenn, T.A. (1913). Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania. Oxford: Fox, Jones and Co.

[6] Cope, G. (1887). Genealogy of the Sharpless Family. Philadelphia: Dando Printing and Publishing Co.

[7] Rowlands, S. (1994). The surnames of Wales. In J. Rowlands (Ed.), Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., pp. 57-72.

[8] The original letter, Cope indicated, had been in the possession of a Dr. George Smith, of Upper Darby, whose widow was a descendant of Ralph Lewis. Its present whereabouts is unknown, assuming it is extant at all.

Picture attribution:

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