11232014 Ancestry Is Serendipitous

Ancestry has taught me some strange lessons – in math, history, genetics and personal stories. It has defined the word “serendipity” for me. I’ve learned so many things that have nothing to do with who my great-grandparents might have been.

An example: 80% of all marriages in history have been between 2nd cousins or closer. This is because of the lack of suitable mates outside the 5-mile zone of a typical person’s reach for most of history. Without war or some similar disaster, people stayed put in their little worlds.

This results in pedigree collapse, a reduction in the number of ancestors due to duplication along bloodlines. 1200 AD is the widest point for our family trees; before that, the number of ancestors above us was drastically smaller to geographical limitations. (Today, you would have 128 5th Great-grandparents, spanning back an average of only around 200 years ago.) Think about it. Without pedigree collapse, going back a few thousand years would result in a # of ancestors greater than the entire world population by many factors.In a given group or ethnicity, it’s a certainty that we all are 15th cousins or less – and probably much less, without knowing it. We are much more connected that you probably realize. You have over a million 8th cousins.

I’ve found a lot of fascinating things along the way, including people’s missing birth fathers, birth certificates, and even ties to royalty. (For what it is worth, you are connected to royalty. It’s a certainty. Wealth contributed greatly to lineage and it also afforded people’s connections to be recorded, unlike most commoners.)