Saturday, February 8, 2014

Family History: More Mission Than Hobby

For me, family history research feels more like a noble mission than a hobby. Gardening is a hobby. Genealogy is serious detective work that uncovers stories, and restores to life people who have long been forgotten.

In my own research, as I discover the names and lives of previous generations, it's striking to think about how many direct ancestors preceded me and how each played a key genetic role in my existence.

So, yesterday, when I came across this post, Your Family: Past, Present, Future on the Wait But Why website, I was excited to see the point expressed so articulately.  

The article includes a diagram illustrating that we each have 128 5th great-grandparents. That's a lot of people in the past 200 years (estimating 25-30 years per generation) that made you! But when you turn your mind from the numeracy and focus on the human story aspect it's quite moving.

"The craziest thing to me is that this diagram, which only represents the last 200 years of your ancestry, contains 127 romantic relationships, each involving at least one critical sex moment and most of them probably involving deep love. You’re the product of 127 romances, just in the last 200 years alone."

The post also jabs at those researchers who claim they're descendants of royals (hey, I admit that when I started this mission, I also focused on those prestigious links). With 4,096 12th great-grandparents, it's a given that we're all probably related to royalty, but not just royalty.

"You can see why it’s not really that impressive when someone tells you they are descended from famous royalty who lived a few hundred years ago. Look how many people you’re descended from only about 300 years back! Within that top section, there’s probably some royalty, in addition to some peasants, scholars, warriors, painters, prostitutes, murderers, lunatics, and any other kind of person who existed back then."

Prostitutes, murderers, lunatics, and any other kind of person - indeed! So many exciting stories to uncover and so little time.


  1. Genealogy is definitely a "noble mission" and you really do have to wade through a lot of vital records bureaucracy. I smiled when I read that.

    I found your site through GeneaBloggers and wanted to welcome you and to wish you luck in your research. Even though this hobby/occupation of ours is really quite ancient, it's so great to see so many fresh ideas. I look forward to reading your blog and hope you enjoy the journey.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Sarah, and for the encouraging comments.