when genealogy really mattered

by Pam Blaha

Many of us make our family genealogy a priority.  We research using various websites, we look at documents in court houses and libraries, we talk with the oldest relatives we know and hope they have items they have been keeping to help us understand who we are.  We even take DNA tests to see from where we originated.  Maybe, someone years ago did a family genealogy, accurate or not, it helps us with a starting point.  But did you realize there was a time in history when genealogy was vital to the lives of certain families in order to maintain their status in the world?  Yes, there was a time when that was particularly important!           

I am reading a book by Simon Winder, entitled Danubia – a History of Hapsburg Europe.  In a section called “The Heir of Hector”, Winder claims that the most horrible job in the Court of Maximillian was that of the Court Genealogist.  This person was charged with tracing and proving that Maximillian was a descendant of Noah.  (I will let you figure out – why Noah.)  But Maximillian decided it might be better to descend from the Trojan hero- Hector.

Loosely based on “The Aeneid”, Hector had three sons.  At the same time that Aeneas was founding Rome, his brother Francio, was heading north into central Europe to settle on the River Main.  There he founded the City of the Franks, or as we know it, Frankfurt.  This gave Frankfurt equal standing with Rome.  The family tree then continued upward to Clovis, King of the Franks.  Clovis’ children eventually led the path to Maximillian of the Hapsburg family.

A document called “Priviledgium Maius” (signed by Julius Caesar and Nero, the title of Archduke for the Hapsburg ruler put him on an equal status with the “Electors of the Holy Roman Empire”.  Questioning this lineage was viewed as treason!  The Hapsburg Era began in the mid-sixteenth century and lasted until the end of World War I.  This was the time when Genealogy really meant something!

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