Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Pursuit of Castles and Crests

What is it about the concept of our ancestors having been titled nobility with castles and crests that appeals to us so much that it overrides our intellect? Modern Y-chromosome DNA testing is revolutionizing genealogy by confirming and/or contradicting previously held theories of relationships and lineages. Yet amazingly, countless online GEDCOMs and family trees are still filled with the incorrect assumptions of years past before DNA tests were performed on descendants from these family lines. A review of the first 5 pages of Google results searching for Robert Ryves of Dorset produced 10 sites that appear to be truly descended from Robert Ryves through the Rives family which is documented by DNA with 29 more sites purporting to be descendants through lineages which have proven to be of another Reeves lineage. Online Reeves' family lineages abound with such pedigrees which have been proven, over and over, to be incorrect.

Reportedly a coat of arms was conferred upon Robert Ryves, courtier of King Henry VIII, in the first few years of the 16th century. The ancestral home of that Ryves family was Damory Court in Blandford, Dorset of the United Kingdom.

Eleven years into the 21st century, do we not all understand the absoluteness of DNA - that Y-chromosome DNA is inherited by male descendants unchanged except for occasional random mutations which occur over many generations? Surely there can be no question that with fourteen different groups or lineages identified by the Reeves DNA Project plus countless other Reeves individuals whose DNA does not fall into any of those groups, that only ONE of those lineages can descend from the Reeves or Ryves family of Dorset. It is categorically impossible for the descendants of a Reeves/Rives/Ryves male who lived in the 16th century to include multiple different DNA haplogroups and combinations of markers.

If we do all understand the scientific conclusions of DNA testing, then the obvious question looms - why do all the copious and completely different Reeves' family lineages continue to list Robert Ryves of Dorset on their pedigrees and websites? Are they uninformed, unintelligent or just otherwise misguided? Maybe not. The continuation of the practice of multiple Reeves' families linking to Robert Ryves as their ancestor appears to be simply that the desire to be descended from royalty supersedes intelligence, scientific fact, historical documentation and everything else.

The majority of the immigrants to the new world were certainly not wealthy or titled. They came for a myriad of reasons - religious freedom, as indentured servants seeking a chance to prosper in this new world or simply out of a desire for adventure. Prisoners of the British government were transported to the colonies as punishment for their political differences such as Scottish prisoners after their loss at the battle of Culloden.

Ironically, three hundred years after the first successful English settlement at Jamestown was established, most of the great estates and much of the English aristocracy, who were land rich but cash poor and whose income dwindled every year were seeking wealthy American brides. In the early part of the 20th century, the fabulously rich daughters of American billionaires such as Consuelo Vanderbilt traveled to England looking for a title and married into the cash strapped aristocracy. In 1895 alone, nine American heiresses married members of the English aristocracy, and by the end of the century a quarter of the House of Lords had a transatlantic connection.

American genealogy would benefit greatly if the descendants of the early colonists could begin to embrace the bravery and spirit of their less than royal ancestors. It took great courage to make the dangerous journey and endure the generally perilous living conditions of colonial America which should be admired and celebrated. The fact that they survived and prospered may have far more merit than a crest or a castle.


  1. Thank you for this very wise presentation on the RYVES descendency that seems to be spreading like wild fire on the Ancestry trees and elsewhere. At Wikitree, I am presently conquering a profile we have for Robert Ryves (1490 - 1551)~ a profile in progress ~ to correct the facts on it. We are volunteers so it takes time. Thanks for your blog of research.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Magda and I'm glad you enjoyed the blog,

  3. This is a great site. I would like to find out my husbands' DNA. I have followed every generation of his using proven methods, back to France. The only proof left would be DNA. And hopefully then we will find out if the trail was accurate or if we need to look further.

  4. Finally I am able to find out a little more about the Ryves family and crest.

    My mother started doing research into family history a few years ago after I started looking into things on I initially just wanted to see what would happen if I took EVERY link it presented in my research and stopped when it eventually said my mother was related to Lady Godiva. lol

    Since then, she spent countless hours and several years following her father's line meticulously and unless something is wrong in what she did, traced the steps of the Ryves family from England, to their immigration to America where the name eventually morphed into Rives, and further into Reeves once descendants made their way inland to Tennessee and Kentucky.

    It makes me wonder if she truly is related to Sir Robert. I could only imagine how some of my friends would react to me being able to actually claim title in Britain as a result. lol

    1. As the post above states, most of the Reeves in this country DO NOT descend from Sr. Robert Ryves - only the Rives family who settled southern Virginia after immigrating, i.e. Surry, Sussex, Prince George, Brunswick, Isle of Wight and other counties, has links back to that family in England. Their DNA is completely different than most other Reeves in America. The Rives family is represented in DNA Group 8 of the Reeves Y Chromosome DNA Project. See in this blog for information on DNA Group 8.

      To find your mother's accurate Reeves' ancestor, you need to begin with your mother, not in England trying to trace forward. Begin with your mother, then find her parents, then theirs and so forth as far back as you can document.

      If you have any Reeves' males in your family to join the Reeves DNA Project and provide a sample for DNA testing you would be able find evidence of your actual Reeves' ancestor.

    2. Why does it have to be a Reeves male and not female Reeves?

    3. Kathy, it has to be a male because Y-DNA is passed from father to son unchanged except for random mutations that occur over a span of hundreds of years. Y-DNA tests immediately identify other Reeves families who are related. We have 19 different groups in the Reeves Y-DNA Project with totally different DNA.

      Autosomal DNA such as Family Finder and Ancestry DNA can take a very long time and lots of work mapping chromosomes to identify the source of a match. I have lots of autosomal matches where after 5 or 6 years I still don't which lineage they represent. Many people who do these tests don't bother to add a family tree on Ancestry or a GEDCOM to GEDmatch so unless you can find someone you both match to provide a clue as to which family the match is on, it's really not much help.

      My immediately family is out of Reeves' males so I paid for the Y-DNA test of a 3rd cousin from my Reeves' family.

  5. Very interesting. My Mother's maiden name is Reeves and my brother along with my Mother's cousin dug into our ancestry on my Mother's Dad's side. It appears we came from a William Rives who first settled in VA then his descendants trickled to TN. It was our understanding due to some people not being able to read or write, during census taking that the name, Rives, was spelled phonetically and most of the time the wrong spelling, thus the Reeves spelling for my line. According to My Mother's DNA we are largely English and northern European. I do agree, however, there are many who took the name and had no connection to the original Robert Ryves. Thank you for the enlightening article I will share it with my brother.