My grandmother did geneology for our family. On my mom's side they go back to the Plantagenets in England, and there was an entire page of ancestors in the geneology book she made who had been beheaded at the Tower of London.
My dad's side is Portuguese, from the Azores, and the Portuguese are infamous for their lack of record keeping. It's been pretty impossible to trace it back past their immigration to America. To make things worse, one of my ancestors took his mother's maiden name when they got married.