Biggest Family Tree Ever
March 6, 2018 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Turns out the full article is freely available. I didn't read all that closely, but it looks like the link in the post more or less summarises, just with fewer statistical tests.
posted by hoyland at 5:39 PM on March 6

Families intertwine eventually. I love when I can connect the two different sides of my family together. Yesterday I turned a paternal 10th great-grandmother into a maternal 11th great grandmother. A maternal second great aunt is also a paternal 9th cousin 1x removed. It also doesn't help that my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather are both from the first and second round of MA settlers, so when I find anyone on either side from Billerica or Andover (one founded one and one founded the other), the families have probably intermarried somehow. And a lot of the stuff that I've been able to discover IS because people didn't move much back then, so you're often able to make leaps of faith due to family names and the tendency to stay in place, at least up until the great migration. But by then, you start having pretty good records...most of the time.

Yesterday I managed to finally find a Mayflower ancestor AND legitimately connect Laura Ingalls Wilder to my family tree (my 8th cousin 2x removed, whoopee).
posted by elsietheeel at 6:31 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]

I read some genealogical article once that said we're all descended from Charlemagne.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:04 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]

"We're all" actually means Europeans, which is still a very large group.
posted by saucysault at 7:16 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]

Although all of humanity is likely descended from, say, Nefertiti, or Rameses the Great, or Hammurabi, or Kushim (the earliest person whose name we know), assuming they left descendants (the most recent common ancestor for everyone on the planet is believed to be as recent as within 3000-5000 years or so).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:47 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]

Quite right; I should have said Europeans. Sorry.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:31 PM on March 6

Although all of humanity is likely descended from, say, Nefertiti, or Rameses the Great, or Hammurabi, or Kushim (the earliest person whose name we know), assuming they left descendants (the most recent common ancestor for everyone on the planet is believed to be as recent as within 3000-5000 years or so).

I have some aboriginal friends that would probably like to have a word with you.
posted by deadwax at 8:39 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]

Since my maternal ancestors are all from the same province of The Netherlands, I keep expecting to find one or more individuals on both sides, but so far, back into the early 1700s, I haven't found any.
posted by Altomentis at 8:41 PM on March 6

Genghis Khan (and a couple of other fellows) seem to have left a disproportionate number of descendants.
posted by Segundus at 8:42 PM on March 6

I've been thinking lately about democratization of genealogy and access to family history/data, especially after becoming aware of this genealogy project, started by the African-American descendents of some of my own ancestors. The misuse of narrow (and shifting) definitions of kinship to segregate families according to the demands of power and intergenerational wealth makes me so angry. Genealogy is fascinating, disturbing, revelatory, and weird, and I feel deeply that the time can't come soon enough when the nature and the number of the connections between us are brought completely into the open. Not for the purpose of claiming something for ourselves, bragging rights or a sense of superiority or membership in a group, but for hopefully expanding our sense of obligation to each other. We make our families so small except when we think we can claim a benefit from claiming a relationship.

That being said, this study is interesting to me as I had suspected my lines of descent were a bit unusual in that, apart from the Mennonites which make up a quarter of my recent (within 16 or so generations) ancestry, there are no identifiable cousin marriages. Which isn't to say there weren't such marriages in the families, but I'm not descended from them. And a large number of the same folks married people who were born in different states entirely. I suspect that, at least around the 16/17/18th centuries, we may have more than the average number of individual ancestors because of this. It probably bottlenecks a bit further back due to decreased mobility before the emigration period, and epidemics.
posted by notquitemaryann at 9:32 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]

I'm curious about this study and their data cleaning process because from what I've seen of "publicly-available online data shared by genealogy enthusiasts" is so far from reliable it may as well be fiction.

While researching my family history, I learned that genealogy files submitted to and the Latter-Day Saints website are accepted as-is/without question. Errors will stand unless corrected by the person who submitted the data—and good luck with that, given that the file may have been uploaded years ago by someone who is no longer active. In the meantime, those errors will be copied and shared by other researchers, who may not even review the entries before merging the file with their existing genealogy file. For example, the last time I looked, every single family tree that contains one of my gr-gr-gr-gr grandfathers and descendants (there were 16 files, all submitted by different researchers) were based on the same error-filled database, i.e., wrong dates, misspelled words identical in all the files.
posted by she's not there at 10:37 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]

I have some aboriginal friends that would probably like to have a word with you.

' It might seem that a remote tribe would have been isolated from others for centuries in, for example, the Amazon. But no one is isolated indefinitely, and it only takes a very small number of people to breed out with people from beyond their direct gene pool for that DNA to rapidly descend through the generations.'

Everyone is probably descended from Confucius (the oldest person with documented descendants today), too.
posted by plep at 2:37 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]

You have to be very careful with anything in the shared databases, yes. Back in the day there was some checking that went on, but it hasn't been the case for easily a decade now. I still rely on research done by a relative who worked for the national archives in Norway (he passed away a few years ago), which isn't published online for several reasons, privacy being the main one. I used to try to correct erroneous family connections on Ancestry and Geni, but it got to be a huge slog. I still get auto-updates about "new connections" who are connected to people I know are not, in fact, connected.

We do have unbroken written records that take our family back to the 11th century though, and that's pretty awesome. Having several scribes among ancestors did the trick.
posted by fraula at 4:47 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]

Really interesting, but I have to say I was disappointed that it was anonymized. I mean, I understand and agree with the reasons for it, but I would love to see if my (pretty uncommon) family name popped up in there.
posted by TedW at 5:07 AM on March 7

The Norwegians kept pretty good public records as well. My farfar's mother bedeviled me for years because all I knew was that her name was Annie Olsen from Trondheim.

Do you know how many immigrant Annie Olsens from Trondheim existed in 1890?

Finally I found her death record that labelled her as Annie Stineolsen that gave me bit of a clue. Eventually I fitted all of the puzzle pieces together and found her...Andrea Olsdatter Stene from Byneset outside of Trondheim.

And this can be why genealogy is so addictive for some people. There's a huge dopamine hit when you make a massive break...but each little clue adds up as well. The day I discovered my great-grandmother's ancestry? I felt like I was flying for two or three days. (But my addictive personality is well-documented around these parts...)
posted by elsietheeel at 7:26 PM on March 8

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