“I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve”

This is another bit of fiction that needs to be wiped out. I have often heard people (I won’t call them “genealogists”) at various times make the claim they have traced their family tree back to Adam and Eve. Of course, the “documentation” is always sketchy.

Robert C. Gunderson was a Senior Royalty Research Specialist, of the Church Genealogical Department, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He was an expert in medieval genealogy and started the Royalty Identification Unit in 1972. He passed away in 2003. However, before his death, Gunderson once was asked if such research was possible. He replied:

“The simplest answer is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. a.d. 450–a.d. 752).

“Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.”

François Weil, a director of studies (professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently the chancellor of the universities of Paris, is another expert in medieval pedigrees who agrees. Weil provides authoritative answers to these questions in his book Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America (2013) published by Harvard University Press.

Both Gunderson and Weil agreed: European royal pedigrees cannot be verified before the 500s A.D.

To learn more, read:

Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. By François Weil. Published by Harvard University Press, Online bookstore; 2013. ISBN 9780674045835. 320 pp. Indexes. Hardcover. $27.95 • £20.95 • €25.20. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674045835 or available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook or as in a hardcover book at http://goo.gl/12RlV4.

26 Comments

Thanks for posting this – it only stands to reason that documents were not kept of ordinary people and most documents of upper class or royalty disintegrated long ago.

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Thanks for spreading the word Dick!

Nathan W. Murphy, MA, Accredited Genealogist
Genealogist General | Baronial Order of Magna Charta | Military Order of the Crusades | National Society Americans of Royal Descent | Order of the Crown of Charlemagne | Order of the Three Crusades 1096-1192

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    Hi Nathan, I am just curious? Have you read The Bloodline of the Holly Grail by Laurence Gardner – it is interesting reading for sure! He uses the Bible genealogy, and makes cases for the gaps – not that I believe all of it.

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The fact that Adam and Eve didn’t exist might also be a factor, of course.

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    Totally agree Peter. Adam and Eve are a fabrication for convenience not something that can actually be proved. In my view, the fact that the relatively small number of different DNA haplogroups even exist is evidence for multiple origins.

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I’ve seen genealogies created by people who claim to be direct descendants of George Washington. Nice try, but….no.

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That’s because they were black look it up

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The earlier records were all lost in the flood.

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Dr Penelope Christensen April 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

Good article, Dick. It amuses me that my maternal grandmother was an EVES from a Surrey family and my father has ADAMS antecedents in Bedfordshire. That’s about as close I’ll get !

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I ran across a handwritten pedigree chart at Family History Library in Salt Lake City that “documented” the donor’s ancestry from before Adam and Eve – from God! I was impressed, but didn’t incorporate it with my family.

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Try searching on “Adam and Eve” in the Family History Library catalog on Family Search. There are so many family histories that say “… back to Adam and Eve.” It’s easy to see how beginning researchers could be misled. After all, these are real books in a prestigious library! I printed out a chart at the FHL last year, purely for entertainment value, that “showed” my ancestry going all the way back.

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David Paul Davenport April 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Tradition holds that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Documentation is, of course, wanting for most “proven” ancestry before about 1650-1700. People are free to believe their own “mythic origins” but attempting to gain membership in a heritage society is something entirely different.

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Terry L. Bible Strotman April 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm

I AM descended from Adam and Eve and their surname was Bible!

Well, actually I’m descended from Johann ADAM Bible and Maria EVA Margaretha Mueller who came to America from Alsace-Lorraine in 1750. In the old country their surname was Biebel but in America they always used the name “Adam and Eve Bible” and 99% of the male descendants use that surname. I love to tell people I’m descended from Adam and Eve, then I explain. LOL

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My Hall family genealogy has a Scottish section in the back which has 2 fanciful trees, one from Adam and Eve , and the other from Odin and Thor. Being of Danish, Norwegian and Yorkshire stock, I prefer the Odin and Thor genealogy. : )

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I remember many years ago, an entry on the IGI (the version on microfiche) had a submitted entry detailing the ancestor as Mr William Conqueror with his wife Mrs William Conqueror.

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The alleged descents from the Patriarchs (and, through them, to Adam and Eve) attached to the pedigrees of English and other Western European monarchs can, of course, be dismissed out of hand.
The only way such a descent could be established (not addressing the question of the historicity of Adam and Eve) would be through a demonstrable connection to someone mentioned in the Bible. To date, this has not appeared in the scholarly literature, which is not to say such a connection could not at some time be demonstrated, through the discovery of new manuscripts or inscriptions.
There is one possible exception that should be mentioned: the Jewish families who have traditions of descent from the Levites and the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem. Rabbi Tovia Singer, the anti-missionary author and speaker (www.outreachjudaism.org), refers to a document preserved in his family that lists the descent from the ancient priests. Considering the extreme religious importance of being a Levite or priest, it is not impossible that such records were privately kept. Nor would it be surprising, considering the rampant anti-Semitism of the last two millennia, that such records would be kept secret.
At this point, however, we can say conclusively that no proven, generation-by-generation descent from any person mentioned in the Bible have been proven by the standards of genealogical scholarship.

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I am saddened to hear of Bob’s death. He was a gentle man and good colleague at the Family History Library (then Genealogical Library) in Salt Lake City.

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I’m waiting for someone to establish a new lineage society… the Association of Descendants of Adam and Eve. 😉

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I am supposedly related to St. Gregory the Illuminator ca. 210 AD through Elizabeth Lewknor. How this could possibly be, I really don’t know, but I’m sure that there are no documents remaining for public viewing that would confirm this beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a nice thought, however…

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One of the things that got me started in Genealogy was a little lady that spoke at my son’s elementary school where she presented a beautiful scroll that “proved” her line to Adam and Eve. I thought, that can’t be real but I wonder how far I can go! Still working but no longer trying for Adam and Eve!

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Now, if you can trace your family back to just about any European royalty, that’s a good first step. Most of the royal families are recorded on available databases going back to Charlemagne, then to Adam and Eve. Sounds great, except that there are no source citations – perhaps because medieval genealogists were hired to trace family trees to Adam and Eve if they were paid enough (after all, who would want to tell the king that he was born out of wedlock). There is a saying – “Every king is descended from a thief, and every thief is descended from a king.”

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