Thursday, November 2, 2017
How Many Ancestors or Relatives Do You Actually Have?
This screenshot from MyHeritage.com showing a small segment of a list of "Smart Matches" is a good place to start thinking about the enormity of the task of discovering "all" of your ancestors and their descendants. In my recent post entitled, "Pedigree Collapse, Binary Progression, and DNA: Part One," I referred to the fact that our biological ancestors increase in number as a binary geometric progression. The actual number of ancestors is not a straight binary progression. The idea of pedigree collapse incorporates the concept that some of our ancestors will reproduce offspring with their own relatives. Ultimately, as supported by current research into ancestral DNA, the number of our ancestors collapses to 2 individuals.
The implication of this is that everyone shares a common ancestral heritage. In other words, we are all related if we go back far enough. By the way, as many scientists would loathe to admit, this view of our interrelatedness is reflected in most, if not all, the existing traditional creationists stories.
Realistically, the number of relatives and ancestors that we have is essentially the total number of humans who have lived on the earth. See "What does it mean to be human?" and many other similar articles. In fact, some of the genealogical DNA testing programs include percentages of Neanderthal DNA which are subject to a debate of whether or not these ancient people were humans.
Interestingly, the FamilySearch.org Family Tree incorporates the idea that we are all related. The Family Tree purports to be a family tree inclusive of all the people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Of course, that concept raises a philosophical issue as to whether or not we incorporate "traditional" and religiously based family lines that include, in a sense, going back to "Adam."
So, my previous illustration using a table of a binary progression is really the only a very small part of the problem facing genealogists. There is really no end to the number of people to whom you are related. I guess that answers the question posed in the title to this post.