a mega-family

I have had a burst on researching family history, which has been an occasional hobby of mine for many years. My first aim is to collate everything I have, but I keep finding new information. For example, I found the register for the ship on which two great-great-great-grandparents and a great-great-grandmother arrived, along with 4 other children/siblings I had not previously known about. 

Typing the information (or copying it from the web pages of distant relatives) I wondered how many relatives I might have. Assuming 30 years per generation, in 300 years I would have 2^10 = 1024 8great-grandparents (or kilo-parents). Then assuming that each generation has two children who survive to reproduce, each of those would have 2^10 descendants, meaning that I have 2^20 = 1 048 576 relatives around the world – a mega-family. (Obviously, the numbers aren’t that simple.)

My parents and other older relatives had more or less information about each ancestor who came to Australia (between 1848 and 1880), so I can take them as starting points. Of the eight families on my mother’s side, we have substantial information about five of them. Of the eight on my father’s side, one is huge (I’m related to half the population of the north coast of New South Wales), one we have substantial information on, and the other six we know almost nothing about. (Some families trace their origin to the first convict settlement in 1788, and others to time immemorial. I’m not in either of those categories.)

I find myself pondering the stories behind the basic information. One example, in outline, is:

male b north coast of NSW 1893 killed in action France 1917
m 1915
female b north coast of NSW 1897 d of rheumatic fever 1915

In the early days, many people were born, married and died in the same country town. More recently, we have moved around far more. My parents grew up in different states, then independently moved to a country town in one of those states. My siblings and I all live in different states than the one we were born in (and the four of us were born in three different towns), and three of us have married people born in other countries. 


2 thoughts on “a mega-family

  1. Of course, if you continue along purely mathematical lines, the farther back you go in time the more ancestors there will be, but we know that in actuality there were no humans if you go back far enough, and no living organisms at all if you go back even farther.

    The BIble resolves this conundrum by asserting that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. But one can even observe that, Biblically speaking, we are all descendants of Noah and his wife, right?

    Religious or not, there seems to be sufficient evidence of incestuous behavior somewhere along the historical line.


    • If I had started typing this post earlier in the evening, I would have digressed along those lines. Yes, mathematically, there comes a time when the number of our ancestors equalled the number of people in the world.
      Geneticists have measured variation within various populations. There’s more variation within sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world put together. I suspect that some populations, especially on peninsulas and islands, derive from a very small original population.


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