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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Like a great many other people, I am interested in family genealogy.
I have not, as some people do, gone to the lengths of visiting churchyards or town halls in England or Germany, but I have spent a good deal of time with historical records, including Census records, in an attempt to identify as many of my ancestors as possible, including at least three who fought with Confederate regiments in the Civil War and at least three who fought in the American Revolution.
When my granddaughter married a couple of years ago, my wedding present to her was a framed family tree, with pictures, going back to her great-great grandparents.
But I have also learned that what most of us can hope to do in identifying our ancestors can amount to only a miniscule fraction of the real numbers.
Consider this: A mere 10 generations back, any individual has, in that 10th generation alone, 1,024 direct ancestors. And when you include the additional 1,022 individuals who are your direct ancestors in the more recent first through ninth generations back, the total is 2,046 direct ancestors just in the last 250 years or so alone.
This total might be reduced a little depending on whether some first or second cousins married each other somewhere along your line; but the total — and the thought — is still somewhat staggering. And go further back to a mere 500 or 600 years ago, and the total number of your direct ancestors begins to be counted in the millions.
Perhaps, then, before getting too worked up over our pedigrees, we ought to reflect that, if we go back a few generations, they probably look a lot like everybody else’s.
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