Genealogy Implications of Your Family

  • You have two parents, four grand-parents, eight great grand-parents, sixteen great great grand-parents, and, in general, 2generations for any previous generation of your personal ancestors.
  • Each generation is roughly 20 years.
  • Therefore, 200 years ago (or 1800 AD), means that you had exactly 210 or 1,024 distinct ancestors, 512 men and 512 women!
  • And, 400 years ago (or 1600 AD), means that YOU had exactly 220 or 1,048,576 distinct ancestors, 524,288 men and 524,288 women!
  • And even just 600 years ago (or 1400 AD), means that you had exactly 230 or over a billion direct ancestors!

Did you ever realize that you have around 1,000 direct ancestors from the year 1800?   And around 1,000,000 direct ancestors from the year 1600?   You are certainly a blood descendant of royalty!   (At least one of those million direct ancestors of 1600 AD or those billion direct ancestors of 1400 AD were of some Royal family!   )   There are a number of implications that people don't seem to often think about that are related to genealogical matters.

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In the following discussion, two assumptions will be used, just to more clearly present the situation.   The first is that you are a fairly young person, and the second is that parents have traditionally had children when they are roughly around 20 years old.   All of the points made are certainly true of every person, but the times will obviously vary for each of them.   And so, even if you are older, these conclusions are still true.

Around the year 1900, a hundred years ago, there were 32 different young adult people, 16 men and 16 women.   They may have been spread all over the earth, or they may have generally lived in the same community.   Those 32 people got married around 1900 to form 16 married couples, each of which soon had at least one child.

Around the year 1920, these 16 children (8 boys and 8 girls) had grown up.   Individual pairs of them found each other and got married, to form 8 married couples, each of which soon had at least one child.

Around the year 1940, this situation was repeated, for the eight specific children we have been following.   The four couples met, got married, and soon had children. One of the children from each of these marriages is your grandparent, four in all.

Around the year 1960, your four grandparents had grown to adulthood, the couples met, and got married.   Each of these two marriages had at least one child, whom you call father and mother.

Around the year 1980, your parents had grown to adulthood, met and got married.   They soon had you, and possibly other children.

All this is very obvious.   None of these facts can be disputed.   But this presentation brings to light several interesting implications!

What if any one of those original 32 people of a hundred years ago had not lived, or had died of a childhood illness?   POOF, you don't exist now!   What if any of those original 16 couples had never met, or that they didn't fall in love and get married.   POOF, you're gone again!   What if any of those original 16 couples didn't have any children, or, if they did have children, any of those 16 resulting children died from some childhood accident or illness.   POOF, again!

Do you see what a remarkable assortment of things had to have happened in order for you to exist today?   If any of the 62 people described here hadn't been interested in their future mate, the sequence of later events that resulted in you being born could never have happened!

We're only talking about 100 years or so, and we haven't even mentioned the other children that may have existed in those 31 marriages, but we have established the absolute necessity of 62 specific people,   each of which represents a separate (upward) branch of your personal ancestry, in order for you to now exist.   Since this is your own family, it seems like you (and other members of your family) will have very complete and accurate information on your direct descendents of these previous five generations.   Do you?

Can you list the adult height of all of the 16 women who were your great-great-great-grandmothers?   Do you have a thorough life history of each of them?   Do you even know their names and birthdates?   Do you even have a picture (painting or photograph) of all of the 62 people mentioned above?   After all, they should be pretty important to you, since, if even one hadn't existed, neither would you!

When people attempt to do genealogical research on their own families, going back two generations (grandparents) is easy, and even three generations (the eight great-grandparents) is often not too hard.   But, do you actually have documented evidence on all eight of them?   People seem to tend to get focused on a few who had seemed to be important or rich or famous back then, and few people seem to be able to well document all eight of their great-grandparents.

By the time we look back to even five generations ago, where there are 32 direct ancestors, we are starting to get back to a time when the photographic process was very new and expensive and fairly rare. In that era around 1900, most births were not in hospitals but at home, and far poorer records were kept for documenting people and their lives.

Earlier still, even worse records were kept.   For example, Black children born in America before around 1860 (as slaves) [before about 6 generations ago] were not even given last names and virtually all were born at home in slave quarters on a plantation.   Trying to document genealogy is nearly impossible under those conditions.   In that particular situation, a substantial portion of those children of women slaves were actually the children of the (white) plantation owner, which was socially unacceptable, which was another cause for the lack of birth documentation.

Even among American Caucasian people, similar problems of documentation exist.   Enormous numbers of immigrants have come to America, from all countries, but particularly from the poorer countries of Europe.   For the great majority of white Americans, at least half of those 32 direct ancestors were probably born (around 1880) in other countries.   Birth records from before 1900 from Poland or Bulgaria or many other countries often no longer exist, if they ever had.

Do you now see that exactly 32 great-great-great-grandparents had to have lived around 100 years ago in order for you to now exist?   Good!   Now, realize that that same fact has to have been true for every person who has ever lived!   In other words, each of those 32 g-g-g-gps of yours had 32 g-g-g-grandparents of their own!   That guarantees that exactly 1,024 (32 times 32) tenth-generation ancestors had to have lived about 200 years ago so that you now exist!

In mathematical terms, for any number of generations back, there had to have been exactly 2number ancestors of yours.   For ten generations back, about 200 years ago, around the year 1800, that is 210 (two to the tenth power) which confirms the 1,024 total.

Let's go back even farther.   Around the year 1600, twenty generations ago, you definitely have exactly 220 or 1,048,576 direct ancestors!   Your personal family tree, not even counting the countless additional children of all those marriages, has exactly 1,048,576 upward pointing ancestral lines in it from around the year 1600!

If we go back to the year 1400, thirty generations ago, you definitely have exactly 230 ancestors, over a billion contributors to the DNA that makes up who you are!   I find that astounding!   But there can be no argument about it. Each child ever born (except for Jesus) has always had exactly two parents, and so all this is certainly an accurate description of the facts of each of our genealogy.

Now, in the year 1400, the entire population of the world was less than half a billion.   How could you have a billion ancestors from that time?   The answer to this confusion is that there has certainly been a substantial amount of "inbreeding" among those many genealogical paths down to you.   In the year 1400, a man with six children might have eventually resulted in all six eventually being direct ancestors of yours, along different genealogical paths.   Actually, if your ancestors spent their lives of some desolate place, like Easter Island, those billion upward branches of your direct descent family tree might even be massive repetitions of the same few hundred names of the island's few thousand inhabitants of that previous time.

This still confirms that if you draw out your (upward) family tree, not even counting siblings, there would be exactly 230 or over a billion branches around the year 1400. Even if many of the names are duplicates.

If you ancestors did not live on such a desolate island, then at least some of them (and probably many) did not live in a specific country or community. Think about it this way. We're considering many hundreds of millions of women as being your direct ancestors (of around 1400). At some point, when invading armies from other countries and other cultures invaded the towns they lived, it seems a certainty that at least some of those many millions of women were taken advantage of. This is not being said to offend or hurt you. The statement is certainly true of every single person now living, just because of the phenomenal number of women involved and the fact that mankind seems to like to regularly be at war.

So, even if your ancestors all seemed to be from a particular little town somewhere in Europe, in among the hundreds of millions of DNA contributions to you, there is a certainty that you and I and everyone else on earth is some combination of all nationalities on Earth. Even if you seem to be totally Caucasian, it is a statistical certainty that you also contain DNA contributions from Asian and Black and all other "races" and societies.

As we showed earlier, it is really rare when a family can document all 32 g-g-g-grandparents of a hundred years ago, and that was with modern birth records and an era that is very document-driven. During earlier ages, the chance of documenting all billion branches from your year 1400 ancestors is virtually zero, unless you happen to be the Queen of England, and even that family tree has some vague areas in it.

So, you now know that you had over a billion branches of your family tree around the year 1400, and that there is no possible way of ever documenting all of it. It is actually rather rare that a family can trace back even a single genealogical line to that era, and that would only be one-one-billionth of the job!

I choose to be optimistic about all this! For example, Leonardo da Vinci is a hero of mine. He was born in the early 1400s. It seems to me that since I can prove absolutely (as above) that I personally have over a billion upward branches in my family tree from his era, it just seems reasonably likely that I am a direct descendant of Leonardo! Can't prove it! But, statistically, the odds are incredibly good that that is a true statement. Of course, it is equally statistically true that I am also a descendant of EVERY royal house in Europe from that time! Wow! I am royalty! Well, maybe only one fifty-millionth royalty. But, still, royalty.

And you are royalty, too! It is a statistical certainty!

This is really rather interesting. You certainly know people who arrogantly brag about being related to some rich or powerful person of a hundred years ago. It turns out that you and that person can certainly both equally claim royal blood. What ancient king or warrior or statesman would you wish you were related to? If that person lived before about 1400 AD or so, and had any children, it is extremely likely (WAY over 99.99%) that you actually ARE a DIRECT descendant of theirs.

This situation is not true for more recent famous people. For example, there are probably a few million Americans today who could rightfully claim to be direct descendants of George Washington (actually, step-children who were of Martha Washington before she married George), of two hundred years ago. That's only around one percent of the population, and most of them would never be able to document that. But, 400 years from now, the mixing would have continued, and nearly everyone then living in America will very likely be direct descendants of Martha Washington (just not provably so).

As we go even farther back in time, the certainty of the foregoing argument is even more true. Specifically, from Biblical times, there is great likelihood that YOU and I are direct descendants of most of the people in the Bible who had children! Of course, some, like Jesus or John the Baptist, never had children, so you cannot be direct descendants of theirs. However, Jesus had some aunts and uncles who DID have children. Assuming that some of those children (and their descendants) avoided being exterminated by the Roman Empire and the Jews and others, YOU are pretty certainly a direct descendants of many of them, so you are certainly a very, very distant cousin of Jesus Himself! As before, remember there is no way to document any of this, and it is just a statistically based argument based on the staggering numbers of ancestors we each have from long ago.

Remember that YOU have 1030 or over a billion ancestors from around the year 1400 AD. Now consider a single one of them. The exact same logic would apply. In other words, that one person in 1400 AD had exactly 1030 ancestors from the year 800 AD. Now, considering that we have a billion separate branches from 1400 AD to EACH apply this to, statistically, you ARE a direct descendant of virtually every single human who lived on Earth in the year 800 AD! Isn't that amazing?

And, in case there was any person who lived who was NOT involved, by going back another 600 years, to 200 AD, we add another factor of a billion in your personal family tree! Do you see why it is a statistical certainty that you ARE a direct descendant of all of those many people from the Bible? Both the good people AND the bad people, by the way!

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