Oldest Family Trees Ever

8 Oldest Family Trees Ever

Knowing about one’s history is deeply important to many people, which has led to the preservation and documentation of numerous family trees. While ordinary people may keep records of their family trees for fun, for royal families, proving their lineage and right to rule is a necessity. This is why most of the oldest known family trees belong to the world’s few remaining royal families.

These families can trace their lineage back several centuries and a few of the royal families even claim to be descended from Biblical figures. While the historical accuracy of some of these ties to these legendary figures may be hard to prove, these families were still included on this list because of the deep belief by themselves and others that they really are descended from these legends.

8. House of Grimaldi (Royal Family of Monaco)

Year Founded: 1160 CE
Founder:  Grimaldo Canella
Current Head of Family:  Albert II, Prince of Monaco
Country of Origin:  Republic of Genoa (Italy)

House of Grimaldiphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Mathieu CHAINE

The House of Grimaldi has ruled over Monaco since the 12th century and the current head of the family is Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco. While the family traces its lineage to the 12th century, the House of Grimaldi’s royal dynasty began in 1297 when Francesco Grimaldi took over the lordship of Monaco along with his soldiers dressed as Franciscan. Since then, descendants of the House of Grimaldi have ruled over Monaco.

Since Monaco is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the House of Grimaldi is one of the richest families ever. The family’s assets are estimated to be worth over $1 billion. The House of Grimaldi is distantly related to other prominent European families, including the House of Baden, House of Lorraine, House of Württemberg, House of Hannover, Polignac, Ducal House of Hamilton, House of Urach, House of Métrode-Westerloo, House of Bavaria, House of Liechtenstein, and many others.

Did You Know?

According to legend, the House of Grimaldi is cursed when it comes to love. The curse actually dates back to the early days of the family, when Francesco Grimaldi, drunk with power after taking over the lordship of Monaco, began killing heretics and witches, including his beloved. While being burned at the stake, she cursed the Grimaldi family, saying, “Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage.”

7. House of Oldenburg

Year Founded: 1101 CE
Founder:  Elimar I, Count of Oldenburg
Current Head of Family:  Christoph, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein
Country of Origin:  Northern Germany

House of Oldenburgphoto source: usefulcharts.com

Of all the royal family trees on this list, the House of Oldenburg still has many members of nobility across Europe, including Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harld V of Norway, Constantine II former King of Greece, Maria Vladimirovna Grand Duchess of Russia, Charles, Prince of Wales and Crown Prince of the British Royal Family, and Christoph, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein and the head of the House of Oldenburg. While the main branch (through male heirs) of the House of Oldenburg died out in the late 1800s, the House of Glücksburg (formerly known as House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) is now the main line for the House of Oldenburg.

The House of Oldenburg originated in the 12th century with Elimar I, the first Count of Oldenburg. However, the family did not rise to prominence until the 15th century when Christian I became King of Denmark. The family went on to spawn several Kings of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

Did You Know?

At one point the House of Oldenburg was in position to claim the British thrones through the marriage of Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark and Norway, but none of their kids survived and the line passed to a different house. However, through his father, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, the British Royal Family is technically a part of the House of Oldenburg.

6. House of Habsburg-Lorraine

Year Founded: 11th century CE
Founder:  Radbot, Count of Habsburg
Current Head of Family:  Karl von Habsburg
Country of Origin:  Swabia (modern-day Southwestern Germany)

House of Habsburg-Lorrainephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Austria no longer has a royal family, however, descendants of the country’s most prolific and powerful family, the House of Habsburg (now the House of Habsburg-Lorraine), still hold a prominent position in Austrian society and politics. While the main line of the family through male heirs is technically dead, the House of Habsburg’s line has not broken as the lineage continued through Maria Theresa, who was the Holy Roman Empress in the 18th century.

Maria Theresa married Franz Stephan of Lorraine and thus the House of Habsburg-Lorraine was established. The existing members of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine continue to use the Habsburg surname, for example Karl von Habsburg, the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine and Austrian politician.

Did You Know?

Not only did the House of Habsburg rule over Austria, it was one of the most powerful families ever in Europe and produced Holy Roman Emperors, kings and emperors of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal, and Spain. The family even spawned rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy.

5. British Royal Family

Year Founded: c.9th century CE
Founder:  Alfred the Great
Current Head of Family:  Queen Elizabeth II
Country of Origin:  England

British Royal Familyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Ben from London

No royal family on this list is more famous or popular than the British Royal Family, which despite having no real power, is adored and respected by millions of people around the world. All British monarchs, including the reigning Queen Elizabeth II, are descendants of Alfred the Great, who reigned in the 9th century and was the first true King of England.

The current main line of the British Royal Family is the House of Windsor, who adopted the surname during World War II. Now all future descendants of Queen Elizabeth II have the last name Mountbatten-Windsor, combining her husband’s (Prince Philip) original family name. Besides the main  branch of the British Royal Family, there are numerous close and distant relatives, some royal/noble and some not, in this family tree.

Did You Know?

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning British monarch in history and she has been Queen for 67 years. She is also the world’s longest-serving female head of state, oldest living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.

4. Kong Family (Descendants of Confucius)

Year Founded: c.551 BCE
Founder:  Confucius
Current Head of Family:  Kong Tsui-chang (Northern Branch); Kong Xiangkai (Southern Branch); Gong Dae-sik (Branch in Korea, Gong Clan of Qufu)
Country of Origin:  China

Kong Familyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

While a few of the families on this list can supposedly trace their lineage back further, the Kong Family tree, or the descendants of Confucius, have the best documented family tree in history. For this reason, and the fact that Confucius was undoubtedly a real person (unlike some of the patriarchs of the older family trees who may just be legendary figures), the Kong Family tree is often considered the true oldest family tree in history. The Kong Family’s status as the world’s longest family tree was also verified by Guinness World Records.

The Kong Family and its various branches is so prolific that there are an estimated 3 million members registered with the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee. The direct line from Confucius, the Kong Family, is currently in its 83rd generation and the family’s lineage has been recorded since the death of Confucius. Every few decades, an updated volume of the Confucius genealogy is released.

Did You Know?

In the 14th century, a Confucius descendant moved to Korea and carried on the family tree there and changed the family’s name from Kong to Gong to make it Korean – currently there are over 34,000 Confucius descendants living in Korea.

3. Imperial House of Japan

Year Founded: 660 BCE
Founder:  Emperor Jimmu
Current Head of Family:  Emperor Naruhito
Country of Origin:  Japan

Imperial House of Japanphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Imperial House of Japan may not be the oldest family tree, but it is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world, stretching back to 660 BCE with the accession of the legendary Emperor Jimmu. While there is some dispute over whether or not the first 29 or so Emperors were real people, the Japanese Royal Family can definitively trace its lineage to at least the 6th century CE through Emperor Kinmei, the first Japanese Emperor whose history can be verified with actual documents.

Like many modern monarchies, the Imperial House of Japan doesn’t wield any real power over the country and the family’s role is mostly symbolic; they perform ceremonial and social duties, but have no role in military or government affairs.

Did You Know?

Due to budgetary concerns following World War II, the noble houses of Japan were cut down and there are now only 18 members left in the Imperial House of Japan. Unfortunately until the birth of Prince Hisahito in 2006, no male heirs had been born for several decades and due to succession laws, several of the imperial family’s female members had to leave the monarchy because they married commoners.

2. House of Solomon

Year Founded: c.900 BCE
Founder:  Menelik I
Current Head of Family:  Zera Yacob Amha Selassie
Country of Origin:  Ethiopia and Eritrea (used to be one kingdom)

House of Solomonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Tom Lemmens

While Ethiopia is no longer a monarchy and the imperial family has not ruled since 1974, the House of Solomon still exists today and traces its linage to Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Since the House of Solomon goes back to Menelik I, the family also technically goes back to King David (Solomon was David’s son), just like the Lurie Family.

Although the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, died under mysterious circumstances a year after the coup of 1974, his descendants still live on and Selassie’s grandson, Zera Yacob Amha Selassie is the Crown Prince of Ethiopia (in exile). The House of Solomon no longer has any real power in Ethiopia, but many members have returned to the country after being exiled.

Did You Know?

According to legend, the House of Solomon have been the keepers of the famed Ark of the Covenant since Menelik I, and that the Ark is supposedly hidden away at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia.

1. Lurie Family

Year Founded: c.1037 BCE
Founder:  King David
Current Head of Family:  N/A
Country of Origin:  Israel

Lurie Familyphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Jastrow

Depending on who you ask, the Lurie Family is a strong contender for being the oldest known family tree in the world. According to Dr. Neil Rosenstein, who wrote The Lurie Legacy, the Lurie Family can trace its lineage all the way back to the biblical King David. Like a few of the other families on this list, their founding member may not have necessarily been a real person.

There is some vague historical evidence that King David was a real historical figure, but regardless, the Lurie Family cites King David at the start of their family tree. Rosenstein’s book does provide lots of evidence for the age of the Lurie Family tree which does definitively trace the family’s current name to the 13th century CE in France.

Did You Know?

The Lurie Family is regarded as the most prominent Ashkenazi Jewish family in history and many notable historical figures come from the Lurie Family, including Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Felix Mendelssohn, Martin Buber, Rashi, and Hezekiah.


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