Exploring your ancestry, delving into your genealogy, and building your family tree are fascinating ways to uncover details about yourself and your family that you may not have otherwise known. But with so much information out there, you may feel overwhelmed about how to begin the process.
A great starting point is with one of the most popular tried-and-tested DNA testing kits. These at-home tests can give you insight into your full ethnicity, uncover details about your DNA, and help you trace your family history.
Taking one of these tests enables you to connect with distant relatives, discover unknown places that your family originated from, or—best of all—find out if you're distantly related to royalty! To help with your search, we’ve uncovered a list of 10 surnames that may indicate that you’ve got royal blood.
What better place to start than with the surname of the United Kingdom’s royal family?
According to Royal UK, the Windsor name was adopted by the royal family back in 1917, when King George V officially announced it would replace the existing historic surname of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The name was taken from Windsor Castle—one of the royal family’s properties—as the King wanted to change surnames due to anti-German attitudes at the start of World War I.
Although they don’t need one, Windsor currently still remains as the British royal family’s official surname. If you share this name, you could have a royal connection somewhere down the line.
Next up on the list are the Howards—the leading aristocratic family in the UK after the royals. While most prominent in the UK, the surname is also popular in the United States, too. The 2010 census showed that over 260,000 people share it, making it the 75th most common surname in the country.
Since 1483, the Howards have held a title of nobility as Dukes of Norfolk, though the surname is also associated with the Earl of Suffolk. The Surname Database states that the “highest heraldic rank in England is that of Earl Marshall.” This title is currently held by Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the 18th Duke of Norfolk, whose family members are descendants of Sir William Howard. There have also been 37 coats of arms bestowed upon families with the Howard surname—perhaps your ancestors were some of them?
What would a list of royal surnames be without mentioning the infamous Tudors?
While most commonly associated with King Henry VIII, the surname’s royal association began with Owen Tudor. Owen Tudor was a Welsh adventurer who served with Kings Henry V and Henry VI and later became the grandfather of King Henry VII of England.
Britannica states that the House of Tudor is known as “an English royal dynasty of Welsh origin, giving a total of five sovereigns to England: Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Henry VIII’s three children, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.” Plus, according to the House of Names, the surname Tudor is said to be the 5,044th most popular in the United States, with approximately 4,974 people having that name. One of them could just be your distant relative.
The Seymours are another family with long-held dukedom, having held the title of Duke of Somerset since 1547. But it’s probably the 1536 marriage of King Henry VIII to his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour, that you’re most familiar with. This is when the family rose to a much more prominent noble status.
The Seymour family, who originated from Saint-Maur in France, first came to England with William the Conqueror. Edward Seymour—Jane’s brother—held the office of Lord Protector during the reign of Edward VI. There have also been numerous coats of arms granted to the family throughout history, making the surname illustrious among modern-day family trees.
The Byron surname is associated with the Baron Byron title, which was created in 1643 and still continues in England today. Undoubtedly, it’s George Gordon Noel Byron, the 6th Baron Byron, who remains the most famous member of the family. Referred to as Lord Byron, he was the most famous Romantic poet of the 19th century.
Lord Byron also had a daughter, Ada Lovelace, who is now often referred to as the 1st computer programmer, after unleashing the potential of the Analytical Engine to compose music and interpret complicated mathematical formulas. If you have the surname Byron in your family heritage, you might be distantly related to her.
If you bear the surname Grosvenor, you might just be in luck—you could be related to Britain's youngest billionaire.
The Grosvenor family was initially known for holding the titles of Baronet of Eaton and Duke of Westminster since 1622 and 1874, respectively. But Hugh Grosvenor made headlines when he inherited his title of the 7th Duke of Westminster at the age of 25. He went on to become the richest aristocrat in England and the richest person in the world under the age of 30 at the time.
The Grosvenor wealth mainly comes from their hefty land ownership in the form of over 300 acres across Mayfair and Belgravia, two of the most expensive areas in London, plus estates in both Oxfordshire and Cheshire. Hugh is also godparent to Prince George, the great-grandson of Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe it’s worth doing that family tree after all…
The surname Fitzroy may hold noble connotations because of its Anglo-Norman definition: fitz meaning son of, and roy meaning king. The name literally translates to son of the king.
There are claims that noble links to this surname can be slightly more convoluted due to the name being bestowed upon royal children that were born out of wedlock, as explained by the History of Yesterday. The most notable of these children are Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and the only illegitimate son that King Henry VIII gave recognition to. But there’s also Henry Charles FitzRoy, the 3rd illegitimate child of King Charles II, who was titled the First Duke of Grafton in 1675. With this in mind, it’s still certainly a last name with strong links to royal blood.
The Hastings surname has strong noble connections dating back to 1065, thanks to its association with the Earl of Huntingdon. At the time, this title was linked with the ruling house of Scotland, though certain claims state that the Hastings surname is a Norse-Viking name dating back to before the 5th century. It’s said this name originally derived from the personal name Hastein, which translates to violent and could have come about due to the unwelcome arrival of a Viking tribe.
In the US today, the Hastings surname is the 1,119th most popular, with an estimated 27,357 people with that name. Chances are, if you trace this surname back far enough, one of those individuals might just be connected to royalty.
If the name Russell pops up on your family tree, you may well have notable English heritage. The Russell surname has been classified as “one of the most famous and noble names in British history since the Conquest of 1066, when it was a Norman introduction.”
This surname is associated with Baron de Clifford and boasts 60+ coats of arms granted to bearers of this name throughout the years. The 3rd Earl Russell is also a name you’ll likely recognize—he was better known as the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Last on the list is the Percys—an English family founded by William de Percy who were once Norman French followers of William the Conqueror.
The surname is renowned throughout history due to its prominent role in medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times. The Percys also held the title of Earl of Northumberland from 1377 and Duke of Northumberland from 1766. The Percy family owned Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, Northern England, from 1332 to 1922. The family has also held Alnwick Castle in Northern England for over 700 years. However, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy, has since turned it into a tourist attraction.
If your surname doesn’t appear on the list above, don’t be disheartened—having noble family connections is actually more likely than you may think.
According to MyHeritage, the number of ancestors you have doubles with each generation that you go back. If you look back over 10 generations, you’ll find 1,024 ancestors. Plus, according to Yale statistician Joseph Chang, “if you trace ancestral lines back far enough (for example, 32 generations), you’ll find that everyone alive today has at least one common ancestor.”
With that in mind, it’s pretty unlikely that you wouldn’t have at least 1 royal in your family tree. But if you’re looking for some closure, taking a DNA test can confirm your noble connections. Both MyHeritage and AncestryDNA come with brilliant reviews and could give you that royal flush you’re hoping for.