Monday, October 17, 2011

How many kings are you descended from?

Mormon GenealogyImage by More Good Foundation via Flickr
I finally got into my genealogy, and quickly found my way back 72 generations into the BC period.  At first I was excited as I found names I recognized further back in history.  After a while though I seriously doubt the credibility of the record.  I'm sure the people that collected the genealogy were sincere enough, but I just don't think biblical figures, or their cousins, travelled to England, or Germany, and founded royal lineages. 

Among royalty a long time ago, it was a big deal who your ancestors were, and really what evidence do you have to show to prove that such and such long dead person was or wasn't your ancestor.  I'm sure to a certain extent the record is correct, but I think once you get into royalty, all bets are off.  A nonfamous person with nonfamous parents has nothing to lose or gain when registering the names and info of their parents.  Royals had a lot to lose by admitting to non royal ancestors, and a lot to gain by claiming other royals and the most famous historical figures. 

Genesis genealogyImage via Wikipedia

So I may be related to Charlemagne, Edward I Longshanks, and Charles Martel "The Hammer," just like probably the majority of people of European descent.  King Lear and old King Cole are questionable.  Are they really even historical?  But Attila the Hun?  Anna the cousin of the Virgin Mary?  Julius Caesar?  Joseph of Arimathea?  The whole of the Old Testament major players through Anna who showed up in Cornwall? 

Joseph of ArimatheaImage via Wikipedia

What seems really obvious to me is that when you're looking at your ancestors, they're pretty much innumerable.  2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great greats, 32 great great greats, etc.  After 10 generations you've got 1024 different people.  That's 1024 different last names (probably less because some of those people will be related to each other) that you can say "oh we might be related, because I have that same last name in my ancestry!"  I'm probably related to more than half of my graduating class in high school, although I moved there from across the country, and know of no actual relations to any of them.  Well before you get to 72 generations (like from 8 to 20) you start running into this thing where there weren't really that many people around in a community or country, so you end up having ancestors among almost all the recorded people, and those that weren't recorded just become dead ends.  Probably there will be a bunch of people where one person had multiple children, and some generations later, two of their descendants married each other, so the tree connects to itself.
Julius Caesar, accepting the surrender of Verc...Image via Wikipedia  This site mentions a study that theorizes that more than half of all English people are descendants of William the Conqueror. 

Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Li...Image by amyc500 (FamilyTrees) via Flickr

The largest web site of free genealogy is from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I'm guessing it's also the largest site to find genealogy as well. 

The biggest question about the genealogy of royalty as far as I'm concerned is also very basic.  As Americans, most of us believe that "all men were created equal," and if that's the case, who cares about it anyway.  I'm more interested in learning about the real people, that lived and loved and died, who worked and played and made hard decisions that affected their (my) family.  I see the generations and there's always the couple that started on another continent and came to these United States, and I want to hear their stories. 
18th-century depiction of King Lear mourning o...Image via Wikipedia
If any of my siblings are reading this and want to see the actual lineage, name by name, then I'll give you a hint.  It's up Nana Chris's lines.  For everybody that doesn't have any history of genealogy work to speak of, then good luck.  If you work at it, usually after a few generations you'll find yourself running into the lineages of others that have already done a lot of work on extending their lines, and it's like "free ancestors" for you!  Depending on your culture, you may be able to go back thousands of years, or as few as three or four generations before running into major barriers.  Good Luck!
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