My Ancestry – We Are All Related

A lot of people are doing ancestry research. Some find they are from “royal” descent in England. Others find relations that they didn’t know they had. This prompted me to think about ancestry and statistics.

I am fortunate that both of my parents are still alive, but all my grandparents have long passed away. I knew three of my four grandparents and I have good memories about them. My maternal grandmother died after childbirth ten years before I was born, so I never knew her. From ancestry research conducted by one of my sisters I also know the names of all eight of my great-grand parents, but it stops there.

This made me think about putting a chart together, showing how many ancestors I have as we go back through the generations. Here is the chart:


To make it simple, I assigned 25 years for a generation. This assumes that our parents and ancestors waited until they were about 25 to have their offspring. This leads to stunning insights:

Going back only 17 generations or about 400 years, my ancestors fill up a football stadium. In other words, if I collected all the people whose eggs and sperms were necessary to make me around the year 1600, I’d need a football stadium to seat them all.

Going back 20 generations, it’s a million people.

There is a magic crossover point at 28 generations, highlighted in the chart. The estimated world population 675 years ago was about 450 million and the corresponding European and North American population then was 130 million (highlighted in yellow in the chart).  Also, my ancestor count is about 130 million at that time. Since I happen to be Caucasian and don’t show any obvious African or Asian traits, I would presume that most of the people that made me were European. That means that it took every single European in the world alive in the year 1325 to make me.

Statistically speaking, if you are a white North American or European right now, you and I are fully related. Your ancestors (all Europeans) are also my ancestors. All of them.

It is worth pointing out that the numbers in the ancestors column are not cumulative. Each row counts just the ancestors necessary to create me at that generation. To count all of them, I’d have to add up all the columns down to the target generation, so the total number is about double that given row.

Of course, going down to only generation 34, not even a thousand years ago, it takes more than all the people in the world today to contribute, no matter what race or continent we are talking about.

So, yes, King Henry II was my grand-daddy.


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