A professor, genealogist, and author explores his royal female ancestors.
Researching the family tree of his maternal grandfather, William Henry Powers, Chylinski (Saints, Sinners, Scoundrels, and Some Ordinary People, 2015, etc.) takes the novel approach of tracing the matrilineal line, reasoning that humans are products of both their male and female ancestors. Of course, the author has traced his ancestry back far enough that the women he focuses on are all prominent—the eponymous medieval queens—and thus, researchable (unlike Great Aunt Millie Smith). Chylinski provides biographical sketches of 26 women associated with the Powers family line, many of them recognizable even to the nonhistorian—for example, St. Margaret of Scotland, Brunhilda of Austrasia, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. These biographies are followed by a lengthy list of references, a family chart for Powers, and a number of appendices providing additional information of interest to both genealogists and general readers. The 28 appendices cover varied topics, such as surname history, feudalism, saints and sainthood, the Crusades, and an explication of the Middle Ages. Perhaps most relevant to this work, in Appendix 3 (“The Founding Mothers of the Seven European Haplogroups”), Chylinski explains how the entire world population is descended from seven original women. Finally, he provides a surname index for his research. The appendices are intriguing but more suitable to the general reader than an academic researcher. As with the biographies, they provide a brief overview of various topics. The text is enriched immeasurably by the addition of photographs and images—primarily showing portraits, sculptures, and other artworks of the subjects or time period. There are also some reproductions of original texts. All of this material is helpfully listed in the table of contents. The biographies are prefaced by amusing quotes about women from such diverse sources as author Dave Barry (“You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she is pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment”) and Friedrich Nietzsche (“In revenge and in love, woman is more barbaric than man is”). Chylinski’s work is a vibrant introduction to world history and genealogy for both general readers and family-tree enthusiasts.
An engrossing work about a related group of medieval queens.