HALLOWELL (AP) – After countless hours in libraries and on the Internet, painstaking searches through public records and a couple of trips overseas, Francis Harwood says his direct bloodline to England’s first king more than a millennium ago is confirmed.

Standing in his living room before a 4-foot framed diagram of his family line, authenticated by the venerable College of Arms in London, the 72-year-old Harwood smiled with satisfaction.

“I gave them a lot of information so they could connect the bloodline” to King Egbert as well as all of the royal houses of Europe, the white-haired Harwood said. That included copies of birth, marriage and death certificates and wills.

Many of the records are from archives in London, but Harwood was able to do much of his research in libraries of Maine’s private colleges and state university.

Along the way, he was gratified to draw information by meeting distant cousins but he also encountered frustrations of finding that some potentially useful records had been destroyed during World War II or otherwise disposed of.

As blessed by College of Arms heralds, the bloodline takes Harwood directly back to Egbert of Wessex, who is widely considered to be England’s first king and died around 838. Also known as Egbert the Saxon, he unified all of the kingdoms of England under his rule in the early 800s.

The research even highlights ties, through Egbert’s marriage, to the emperor Charlemagne, in whose court Egbert is believed to have lived during a period of exile from Britain.

Harwood said his direct tie to Egbert makes him a relative of the present Queen Elizabeth II and her son Charles, who will assume the throne.

“Many people have the pedigree, but they don’t have the bloodline,” he said.

Paul Milner, chairman of the British and Irish Forum for the National Genealogical Society, said royal connections are not so unusual, but it’s not easy to prove it.

“If he’s used the College of Arms, chances are he’s got good documentation, especially on the earlier generations,” said Milner, who was among more than 1,800 people attending a four-day Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Boston that concluded Saturday.

Milner said tens of thousands of people in America have royal English ancestors, but many who try to prove it find that it gets harder to make the connections the farther they go back.

To someone who’s had occasion to spend time in London, the name Harwood may have a familiar ring. Francis Harwood showed photos taken during his visit a decade ago to what was long known as the Harwood Estate in a section of the British capital that touches the Thames River.

Many of the hundreds of houses, shops, pubs and banks in the area were occupied under 99-year leases, some of which expired in the 1990s, then sold to lease holders, Harwood, a retired accountant, explained as he spread out an old map of the sector.

He said the family in the United States lost contact with the Harwood family heirs in 1910. But if they had stayed connected, the American Harwoods might have gotten a share of real estate Harwood says is now “priceless.”

A real estate agent told Harwood that a one-bedroom flat was going for 350,000 pounds, or about $750,000. But Harwood’s quest isn’t so much about money, it’s more about the intrigue.

“I’ve had a ball with this thing,” he said. “I love it.”

He recalled walking along Harwood and Tyrawley roads while visiting the former estate in London in 1996. The latter name corresponds with the middle name of the first Harwood to come to America, whose portrait hangs over the fireplace in Francis Harwood’s modest home.

Julian Tyrawley Harwood, Francis’ great grandfather, settled on an expansive farm that was something of a mini-estate itself in Augusta, Maine’s capital city which borders tiny Hallowell. The elder Harwood, bearded and gazing soberly in his portrait, lived comfortably there off the family estate.

“He never worked a day in his life,” his descendant said with a grin.

Also invigorating Harwood’s decades-long quest are still-unanswered questions about his lineage. His research has led Harwood to seek a DNA match with a German nobleman, Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, to see if Harwood’s roots go back to Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who was Queen Victoria’s father and the fourth son of King George III.

If so, it would prove that Harwood’s great, great grandfather, British Lt. Col. Edward Harwood, was the son of the Duke of Kent, said Harwood.

That father-son relationship has never been mentioned in family documentation, said Harwood, who sees the omission as a cover up of an illegitimate birth.

“It would have been a cover up for 198 years,” Harwood said.

That matter drew the attention of Hereward Davies in his 1985 book “Channel Crossing.” The book goes into considerable detail about the Edward Harwood and the London estate, while raising the question of how Harwood came into all of his money.

“What was the origin of his wealth?” Davies’ book asks. “If a deception actually took place, can it be that the Duke was gratified to have fathered an English son, would have him named Edward, would cherish him discreetly, and would make provision for silence, upbringing, and posterity?”

Some illegitimate births were openly documented centuries back, genealogists say. Paula Stuart-Warren of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and herself a genealogist, advises people who are learning to trace their lineages to be prepared to make uncomfortable discoveries.

“I tell people, if you’re afraid of finding a skeleton in your family tree, stop now,” she said.

On the Net:

College of Arms: http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/

Federation of Genealogical Societies: http://www.fgs.org

National Genealogical Society: http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/

AP-ES-09-03-06 1207EDT

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