In a time when there seems to be so much hate and sadness in the world (riots, vandalism, a very politically-charged climate)—I can’t watch the news often anymore. Anyone else?
If you want to see both sides of things right now, visit a Facebook post released by your governor (or Representative, Senator, the Prez, etc)—there’s an incredible amount of anger, disagreement, disrespect, ridiculous statements, although sometimes funny memes, jokes, and GIF’s, but ultimately, a huge division between “the sides.” It saddens me to see how polarized so many issues have become.
But don’t worry, this isn’t a political post at all. It’s a post about getting along… finding what unites us, instead of arguing about what divides us (Masks! Lockdown! The gyms are STILL closed?! I’m so over all of it… ) I wanted to take a break from all that, and a break from my usual run/hike/travel-related content.
I want to focus on what matters most: Family.
It’s going to be a weird post, but also a post that I hope resonates with each of us. Because we are all connected, all related, as part of this great human race.
Some geneticists believe that everybody on earth is at least a 50th cousin (or closer!) to everybody else. That means if we went back 50 generations, approximately 1200 years, you and I would have a shared ancestor. Think about that… we’re related to everyone we meet, either closely or distantly, or somewhere between.
An excerpt from a blog I love called Wait but Why explains it better than I can:
The simplest way to think about [our relation to others] is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are. The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor. For first cousins, you only have to go back two generations to hit your common grandparents. For second cousins, you have to go back three generations to your common great-grandparents. For fifth cousins, you’d have to go back six generations until you arrive at your common pair of great-great-great-great-grandparents.
Like it or not, we are one big (albeit dysfunctional) family.
Backstory on this post, and how I came to be interested in my ancestry:
When I had kids, I added to my family’s family tree… my parents became grandparents, my grandparents became great-greatparents. Unfortunately, I only met one of my eight great-grandparents (Mary Ghia Forbes, 1903-1992, in the photo below), when I was 5. I imagine she’d be delighted, if she was still alive, to become a great-great-grandparent. In fact, though she had just one child, she ended up with 7 grandkids, 9 great-grandkids, and 5 great-great-grandkids (and counting!) She and my great-grandfather, who we never knew, were not only responsible for adding one life to the world—my dear grandpa Frank—but all 21 (to date) of his descendants too. Pretty incredible!
A few years ago, I was nearly moved to tears as I set up my camera timer for this shot of my husband’s family.
Afterwards, I said to one of his nieces, “Your grandmother is the reason that nearly half of the people in this picture are here today.”
Indeed, she sat in the midst of 4 of her 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren (there are more family members, but they couldn’t make it to that celebration). She has since passed away, but what a beautiful memory we all have of that Thanksgiving together. Abuela Delia—creator of so many precious lives!
I did not know much about my family tree when I was younger—those great-grandparents felt like strangers that I’d never know, and without the stories of my parents and grandparents, indeed they would remain strangers. When all we know is dates of birth and death, and the number of kids one had, it can be a pretty bland story. We need pictures, documents/records, and stories from others to bridge the gaps, and fill in the details.
A year or so ago, I took a DNA test with Ancestry.com and found out there’s a wealth of information on there, from people who have done vast amounts of research and exploration on the topic of genealogy. And guess what? We have sooooooo many more cousins than I ever imagined.
If your family is anything like mine, we don’t know much past first and second cousins. But when you get to third cousins—with whom you share a great-great-grandparent—the number becomes huge. Currently, in my Ancestry.com account, it shows 3 of my first cousins who have a DNA match with me, 6 second cousins, 13 third cousins, and dozens upon DOZENS of 4th-6th cousins. Crazy to think that we share so much DNA with so many other people, most of whom we don’t even know!
Not sure if I’m the only weird one who thinks of these things, but think of this:
- We each have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, etc.
- If we go back ten generations, approximately 250 years, we have 1,024 great (x 8) grandparents (unless some cousins married each other, highly likely the further back we go, then we’d have slightly less)
- If we add the number of ancestors it took to make us for the last 250 years, or ten generations (2 parents + 4 grandparents…. + 1,024 great^8 grandparents) it’s 2,046 people—call it 2,000 for a nice even number, and to account for cousins marrying cousins. That’s 1,000 men and 1,000 women who found each other, established a romantic relationship, and (we hope) loved each other. All of those relationships created the miracle that is a baby, and all of those grown babies became our ancestors (I’m paraphrasing this source which is an excellent read–highly recommend reading all of it!)
- If my 2 children each have 2 children, and those children each have 2 children, and so on, in 200 years (8 generations / average of 25 years per generation) there will be 510 people alive that are direct descendants of me and Javi. Crazy, right?
I hope my ramblings made sense, and maybe intrigued you enough to check out your genealogy. Let me know if we are related 😉
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. ~Albert Einstein
Up next: my interview with friend and professional genealogist, Becky!