Brick Walls Genealogy Research
We help you break down your brick walls

Blog Articles

Blog and News posts

Are we related to Charlemagne?


A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page a chart showing the number of people you would have in your tree if you went far enough back. If you go back to the year 1400, statistically you should have about 1,073,741,824 people! Which is not possible as population experts suggest that the world’s population at the time was only 450 million.


So how does that work?



Well the simple answer is inbreeding. Sure some of our ancestors knew they were marrying and breeding with their first or second cousins but many more had no idea they were marrying their five times twice removed cousin! The same person could be in your tree multiple times.


There have been many genetic surveys that show that all Europeans can be traced back to the same sets of people who were alive 1,000 years ago. Pretty much anyone who left descendants around 1000AD is related to every person with European ancestry.


So does that mean I’m related to Charlemagne?  Well, maybe is the answer. Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor around 800AD and many people are of the belief that all Europeans come from his loins.  Part of this comes from a study done by a statistician (note not a genealogist!) who published a statistical study in 1999 stating that by way of statistics, we all must be related to one man who lived around 1000 years ago. Basically he stated that we all have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grand parents and so it goes on. By the time you get to Charlemagne’s generation, you will have a trillion ancestors. Slight issue is that there were at the most 25 million people around at that time.


Due to our ancestors marrying their cousins (whether they knew it or not) we can narrow this pool of a trillion people right down to one person 1000 years ago. And because Charlemagne is the most well known person from that time, it has become some kind of folklore that all Europeans are related to him.


Since the original study was published in 1999, further studies using DNA have somewhat proved this theory to be somewhat accurate. Studies have shown that the DNA of Europeans can be linked back to people living in the Ninth century AD in Europe. The truth is, is that of those people, some were Vikings, some were Royalty but more were peasants. Those people are the ancestors of all of us who have some European DNA floating in our cells.


So is it likely that you’re related to Charlemagne? Maybe. Maybe not. If you are, he is just one of your many thousands of ancestors who make you what you are.



Resources I used in this article include:

Charlemagne’s DNA and our Universal Royalty National Geographic Published 7 July 2013

Geonomics recapitulates history in Europe Robin Matthews Published 7 May 2013

So you’re related to Charlemagne? You and every other living European Adam Rutherford Guardian Newspaper Published 24 May 2015

All Europeans are related if you go back 1000 years By Alan Boyle Published 7 May 2013

We are all related  You Tube video  (great video which explains the concepts I've clumsily tried to explain above!) 

The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry Across Europe Peter Ralph and Graham Coop Published 7 May 2013