Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, March 9, 2020

Reinventing Genealogy

An old man, identified as the legendary Flavio Amalfitano, seated at his desk using a compass and reading a book; tools, books, and instruments are arranged around the richly furnished room; a dog is at his feet. A model of a ship hangs above and in front of him. Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus, Flemish, 1523–1605 Public Domain

Methodology is defined as a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity. Genealogical methodology goes back thousands of years to those compiled back in ancient times. Confucius' genealogy goes back 83 recorded generations for over 2,500 years. See "Confucius: Ancient family tree." There are other family genealogies that also go back thousands of years. See "8 Oldest Family Trees Ever." There is an old adage that says if it isn't broken don't try to fix it. But how do we know if a methodology is broken and how do we know if it still works?

Let's suppose that I was an actual descendant of someone in one of these old genealogies. What would that really mean? Well, if I were an actual descendant in a royal family such as the Grimaldis in Monaco, I probably wouldn't be living in obscurity in Provo, Utah. Many inexperienced genealogists equate royalty with nobility but there is a real difference. Here is a quote from a website called article called, "Difference Between Royalty and Nobility."
Royalty refers to the people who are members of the royal family. This includes the king, the queen, the princes, and the princesses. Nobility, on the other hand, is also of high breeding. However, not all nobles are royalty. Nobles can loosely be defined as those who belong to the aristocratic class in the society.
Here is another short description.
Royalty is not something that an individual can achieve. It is an ascribed status. A person has to be born to such a family in order to be royalty. This goes on from one generation to another.  
The short explanation is that if you are royalty you will know it. Nobility is nothing more than aristocracy. But can you be related to royalty? The simple answer is that mathematically speaking, we are all related to royalty because modern genetics trace everyone on earth back to a common ancestor known as the "mitochondrial eve" or the most recent common ancestor of all living humans. See "No, a Mitochondrial “Eve” Is Not the First Female in a Species."

So theoretically, we should be able to identify the relationship of every person on the face of the earth today. Let's assume that we had the DNA of every living person and then calculated the relationship of everyone to everyone else. In essence, we would have a universal family tree of all the humans on earth even if we did not know the identity of every ancestor. Let's further suppose that we took all these DNA relationships and overlaid that information on all the information that is known about historical relationships. The results would arguably establish everyone's relationships and give us a basis for constructing a universal family tree.

If it is theoretically possible to determine how every person alive is related, then it should also be possible to construct that single, universal pedigree of all of the humans on the earth. So far the largest verified family tree is the one created by MyHeritage. See "This May Be the World’s Largest Family Tree Using more than 86 million profiles from, researchers created a database that links 13 million people." But's Family Tree is specifically intended to be a universal family tree. There may be doubts about its accuracy and the number of duplicates, but there are parts of the FamilySearch Family Tree that are becoming as accurate as possible. If in the future, a way is found to verify the FamilySearch Family Tree with DNA data, it could become the best universal family tree in existence.

New tools require new methodologies. If a universal family tree is theoretically possible, then working with individual pedigrees and genealogies makes no sense. We should all be trying to identify those nodes in the universal family tree that fit our individual family history into the structure otherwise, we are really not doing any "original" family history research, we are just replicating what may already have been done by others. So, unless you start (and continue) your genealogical research with an active investigation of what is already been verified in a universal family tree, you are very likely duplicating the work of others. Once a universal family tree became possible, it became inevitable.

No comments:

Post a Comment