Knights Templar And The Holy Bloodline
Could One American Family’s
DNA Be Traced Back
By Jana Soeldner Danger
Like many people, Steve St. Clair wanted to trace his ancestry. But little did he know that his search would lead to solid evidence that his family is directly linked to the Knights Templar, a powerful ancient order mentioned in the popular novel The Da Vinci Code by best-selling author Dan Brown. Some people believe, as the novel intimates, that there is a connection between the Templars and a child born to Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
St. Clair’s search began soon after 9/11. The New York marketing executive had plans to go into the city that day, but something came up that changed his mind. Afterwards, he realized he probably would have been killed if not for that seemingly simple decision. “It brought me in touch with my own mortality,” he said.
“I decided I didn’t want to die without learning my own history.”
His first step was to send his grandfather a tape recorder. “He recorded hours of stories and family connections,” St. Clair said. “It taught me a lot about the decisions our family made and the mistakes they made.”
After listening to the tape, he couldn’t wait to search further into his family history. “I was hooked,” he said. He began a quest to track his genealogy that took him to French abbeys, castles in Scotland, and many other distant locations where he pieced together the history of the St. Clairs. Eventually, his story was featured in a two-part episode of “America
Unearthed,” a TV show hosted by forensic geologist Scott Wolter on the History Channel. The program disclosed evidence that some members of the Knights Templar may have come to
America as early as 1307, beating Columbus by almost two centuries, and told about sites in both the United States and Europe linking the Knights to cryptic symbols that Wolter suggests represent a connection to Jesus’ bloodline.
What is the connection? Some have claimed that Scotland’s first Grand Master Mason William St. Clair and his descendants were members of the Knights Templar. The idea was that not only were the St. Clairs the keepers of the Holy Grail, they were the Grail itself by virtue of supposedly being descendants from the bloodline of Jesus. Believers in this ideology came to this conclusion by way of Mary, Jesus’ mother, who was known as Santa Maria della rosa. With Jesus being called ‘the rose of Sharon,’ the followers link them to the Sinclairs of Roslin, which they have deciphered as the Rose line. These theorists believe that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene and that this would have created a family bloodline with a St. Clair surname. This is also the controversial plot line in Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code.
But, St. Clair hastens to say, there is no real evidence of a child fathered by Jesus. “There are those who are chasing that fantasy, but there’s nothing to support it,” he said. “I’m interested in fact, not fantasy. But just because I haven’t seen any evidence of a Jesus/Mary bloodline doesn’t keep me from being curious about it.”
Some people think the idea of the child might have started with the Masons (a fraternal organization that traces its roots to stone mason guilds in the 14th century), St. Clair said. Others believe it might have begun with the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was published in the 1980s.
While St. Clair was in France with Wolter, the two visited a sculpture done by a 15th century artist that stands in the St. Remi Basilica. It seems to suggest there was interest in the idea during that era, and St. Clair has a photo of the statue posted on his website. It depicts several people standing over the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. The central figure is Mary Magdalene, and her large belly suggests that she is pregnant. On the platform holding the body of Jesus is a Templar cross.
Separating Fact From Fantasy
But St. Clair was interested in his own personal genealogy, not the plot of a novel or the musings of medieval artists. He wanted to know where he came from, because his past is responsible for who he is now. “I became incredibly focused on getting it done, and it’s been quite a journey,” he said.
So like many others, he started hunting for connections and clues. “When I first began searching, I got back to the year 1822 and got stuck,” he said.
Looking for a way to move forward, he decided to do a DNA test using the website Family Tree DNA. He also persuaded a man named Stan St. Clair to do a DNA test as well. “I was simply trying to prove whether or not I was connected to Stan’s line, because he had a solid paper trail to a man named Alexander Sinkler, a 1698 immigrant from Scotland,” St. Clair said. “My own study had holes in it from the 1800s.”
The two were indeed connected. St. Clair then opened his DNA study to Sinclairs all over the world to try to understand family connections even to those who lived in the medieval era, including the Knights Templar.
“Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was actually bad for our family,” he said. “It furthered a myth which had zero supporting evidence. It put the focus on fantasy rather than the facts, which are, by themselves, quite interesting. I discovered that our family back in medieval England was quite powerful and influential. We moved in very important circles. We got into Scotland in 1162, and the same direct bloodline of our family still owns that land.”
The Order of the Knights Templar
Exactly who were the Knights Templar? Their history dates back to the 12th century, soon after the first Crusade. Backed by a powerful French family known as the Counts of Champagne, a French nobleman named Hugues de Payens began the order with eight of his knighted relatives. Their goal was to protect Christian pilgrims as they traveled to visit holy sites in Jerusalem.
In the year 1129, the Knights were sanctioned by the Church and, as a result, gained power and influence. They became very successful at raising funds, and they sought donations of money and land, as well as commitments from young men to join the Order. A donor’s reward was the assurance of a place in heaven.
New members of the Order took oaths of obedience, chastity, piety and poverty. They were also required to give all their earthly goods to the monastic brotherhood.
In 1139, the Church gave the Knights Templar even more power. They were allowed to pass freely across borders, paid no taxes, and were subject to no authority except the Pope. During the Crusades, the Templars were an elite fighting force, although not all the members were soldiers. Many took on a supporting role, raising funds for those who were engaged in battle.
The St. Clair Connection
By the time St. Clair began his research, there was already plenty of conjecture about the family’s connections to the Templars. But there was no real evidence, and he realized he might be able to use DNA to find some.
It turned out that DNA was indeed the key to the puzzle.
During the search, he found that the St. Clairs were directly related to a family named De Vaux, and that its members had been involved with the Templars. “It changed everything for me,” he said. “It crystalized the fact that we were connected to those families.”
He finally had the proof he had been seeking.
The De Vauxs and the St. Clairs had a common ancestor who lived in the 1100s, and the two families lived near to each other in Normandy during the 1200s. Both had donated money to St. Martins des Champs in Paris, a French abbey where the Order of Templar had strong influence. Wanting to see the site for himself, St. Clair flew to France, where he did further research using primary source documents from the era. “The Normans kept very precise written records,” he said.
During the 13th century, both the De Vauxs and the St. Clairs moved to the same area of Scotland, where the De Vauxs donated Fidra Island to Dryburgh Abbey, a place closely associated with the Sinclairs. Written records of the transaction exist, and the St. Clairs are listed as witnesses, also a definite sign that the families were related. “People back then changed their names according to the properties they lived on, but their DNA was the same,” he said.
Tracing genealogy has many rewards, and a DNA test is a good way to start, St. Clair said. “The results tell you actual people you match with, and you can contact them and continue your search.
“If you have a surname that goes back to Normandy, England or Scotland, you should look through the medieval records and see if you find your surname with other names together donating land to the same abbeys,” he continued. “If you find this, then chances are you are a direct descendant of those medieval people. Ancient records matches plus DNA matches are as good as it gets in extreme genealogy.”
He added, “DNA alone is just a string of numbers. But testing combined with records research tells you very precisely when you share common ancestors.”
Knowing the Connections
Knowing the truth about his family and separating it from myth has brought him a great deal of satisfaction. “It’s a real pleasure to know I connect to particular families and particular times, and to really know the history of those families,” he said. “The fact that I’m here today is the result of the things they did and the decisions they made. The search honors those ancestors.”
He’s glad he sent that tape recorder to his grandfather, the decision that started his genealogical journey. “Every generation should sit down and write their stories,” he said. “Sooner or later there’s going to be someone like me who wants them, and the stories should be there for them.”