Genghis Khan famously united the Mongol clans in 1206, which would go on to start his legacy of the Mongol Empire. But what about his familial legacy?
Genghis Khan had four sons by his first wife who would serve as his heirs according to Mongolian law. He also had at least six other Mongolian wives and hundreds of concubines, making it impossible to say for sure how many sons he had but an estimated 1 in 200 men are descendants of his.
To find out more about Genghis Khan’s sons through his first wife and the many, many others he had, read on.
Genghis Khan’s Golden Family
The inheritance of the Mongol Empire was passed down from father to son and Mongolian law dictated that Mongolian rulers would need to be part of the so-called Golden Family. This referred to sons who had been born as a result of the union between Genghis Khan and his first wife Börte, the daughter of a tribal leader who had been arranged to marry Genghis Khan to unify their tribes.
This was a common practice in Mongol tribes and Genghis Khan had another five Mongolian wives, with the marriages being made for Mongolian unity, as well as over 500 concubines.
Genghis Khan had four sons with Börte: Jochi, Chagatai, Ögedei, and Tolui (born in that order). They also had five daughters together, named Kua Ujin Bekhi, Alakhai Bekhi, Tümelün, Checheikhen, and Alaltun.
While Genghis Khan always regarded Jochi as his son, there is some dispute as to whether he was Jochi’s true father as Börte was kidnapped shortly after their wedding by a rival tribe. She was rescued by Genghis Khan and gave birth to Jochi shortly afterward.
As the Mongol conquests continued, Jochi and Chagatai fought over the succession of the empire in a sign of the dynastic rifts that would eventually help cause the empire to collapse. Ögedei, however, was seen as being of a calmer disposition and, in 1229, he was named the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire two years after Genghis Khan’s death.
Control over the empire was split into administrative regions called khanates that were divided between the four sons. Jochi inherited the lands in much of the western Eurasian Steppe, founding the Golden Horde, Chagatai founded the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia, Tolui’s descendants would found the Ilkhanate based around Iran, and Ögedei had control over the lands in East Asia, as well as control over the entire empire.
Ögedei’s reign from 1229 until his death in 1241 was generally one of unity, following which the empire started to fracture with conflicts over succession as the various khanates of the empire came to be run as more independent empires.
In 1251, the Mongol Empire passed into the control of Tolui’s descendants, with Möngke Khan (Genghis Khan’s grandson) becoming Great Khan, his death in 1259 leading to a period of great conflict called the Toluid Civil War. Möngke’s brother Kublai succeeded him as Great Khan as the Mongol Empire fractured into its smaller yet still significant administrative divisions.
Kublai Khan conquered all of China and founded the Yuan dynasty in 1271, while the Mongol Empire began to disintegrate. However, Genghis Khan’s descendants through the Golden Family now controlled the Yuan dynasty in much of East Asia, the Golden Horde in much of the western Eurasian Steppe, the Ilkhanate around Iran, and the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia, all of which would be troubled and collapse due to internal disputes.
While we can trace the lives of Genghis Khan’s descendants through the Golden Family with relative ease, the same cannot be said for the many, many children he likely had with other women.
Genghis Khan has a huge number of descendants, leaving a lasting notable imprint on people’s DNA to this day. It is believed that one in 200 men in the world are descendants of Genghis Khan, with 35% of men in Mongolia alone sharing his Y chromosome pattern (which is only detectable in men so we do not know how many women are his descendants).
In 2003, a geneticist discovered that 8% of men in 16 different Asian ethnic groups had the same Y chromosome patterns, coming from a common ancestor around 1,000 years ago. It is thought that Genghis Khan used forced marriages, either with himself or with his followers, to unite clans and continued this practice with his conquests throughout Eurasia, leading to him having many children.
As Genghis Khan’s descendants, including his Golden Family, continued in their conquests, they would have likely continued this practice, with a huge number of descendants of Genghis Khan today.