Finding Ancestors Thrills: Arab Royalty With European Genes

The thrill of identifying an ancestor is always exciting in family history research. Sometimes it’s a predictable find (Norwegians finding Norwegians in their past), and sometimes unpredictable (Norwegians finding Africans in their past). Then there are truly “shocking” and yet totally appropriate finds.

One recent ancestor discovery in the news is a bit shocking, depending upon your perspective of the world around you. However, it is appropriate and not surprising when you have a better perspective on the world around you.

Discovery News announced “Mummy’s Mom Was European” (print version) based upon DNA and genealogy technology research by scientists recently on a child mummy child born between 30 BC and 130 AD in Egypt’s Roman period, about the same time of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

The baby mummy had a European mom, and likely came from a wealthy family. But where he lived and why he died — and at such a young age — remain a mystery. The mummy, exhibited for the first time Thursday at the Saint Louis Science Center, has been the year-long focus of an international team of investigators. The museum said it may be the most extensive research project ever undertaken on a child mummy.

…The challenge was boring into the mummy, which had petrified, to get three samples of degraded muscle, tissue and bone. She succeeded by inserting a thick needle into the chest and shoulder. After that, she extracted DNA using routine methods. Tests showed the boy’s mother was European. She plans more tests to determine his father’s ancestry.

Bowcock said it was amazing to get anything at all from 2,000-year-old DNA.

The surprising part is that they found enough DNA to make any determination. The not-so-surprising part is the parentage of the mummy child as European.

Many of today’s Arab royalty have “white” wives. Some are European and there are even a few Americans. Today’s King Abdullah II of Jordan had an English mother. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is married to Suzanne Saleh Sabet whose mother was Welsh. Former President Anwar al-Sadat’s second wife has an English mother. Another Egyptian ruler, Khedive Abbas Himi, who ruled from 1892-1914 married a Hungarian Countess. In ancient times, many of the Ottoman royalty married French, English, and other European women as part of agreements and pacts to maintain peace and economic trade, using women as property and bargaining chips.

According to Egyptian Consorts by Egy.com, Cairo’s Recollections and History:

Except for Queens Farida and Nariman all of the above consorts were of mixed or foreign ancestry.

In principal the intermarried members of the Mohammed Ali clan were of Turco-Balkan stock. Countess May on the other hand is up-and-down Hungarian. And while Queen Nazli is of French-Greek extraction through her maternal grandparents, both Ikbal Hanem and Sultana Melek were imports from the northern Ottoman provinces. Princess Neslishah meanwhile is the result of a six-century bloodline of imperial Sultans and Khans.

Of Egypt’s four post-monarchy First Ladies, Tahia Abdel Nasser is the daughter of a humble clerk of Iranian origin…On the other hand First Ladies Jehan Raouf and Suzanne Sabet came from educated middle class backgrounds. Both sets of parents were almost carbon copies of each other. Both their paternal grandfathers came from Upper Egypt and both Jehan and Suzanne’s respective fathers pursued medical studies in the United Kingdom while in their twenties opting for British brides.

With all the intermarriage of European women into Arab royalty, why is there so little history of European rulers marrying Arab women? They must have, but I can’t find much. Have you?

Still, why is it surprising that this child mummy had a European mother? Many of today’s Arab royalty come from such mixed blood families, it isn’t surprising that the trend started hundred’s of years ago.

The advancement in DNA to research our family’s ancestors brings with it a lot of surprises and a lot of “well, of course” with it. Aren’t you fascinated by all of it?

Most Recent Articles by Lorelle VanFossen


About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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One Response to Finding Ancestors Thrills: Arab Royalty With European Genes

  1. Kate says:

    “With all the intermarriage of European women into Arab royalty, why is there so little history of European rulers marrying Arab women? They must have, but I can’t find much. Have you?”

    Good question! I did read an article some time ago that suggested the mother of the (English) Black Prince had Arabic ancestry, but no evidence was given apart from the fact that she had very dark hair and brown eyes, so that may just have been conjecture.

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