I get addicted to genealogy. It’s odd. Even as I immerse myself, once every few months, I still think people who are interested in genealogy are strange. But my brain is made to love this stuff.
Today I found www.familysearch.org, the free genealogy website maintained by the Church of Latter-Day Saints. I plugged in a few generations of information I already knew, and after cross-checking a few details, I feel confident the website is reliable (at least as much as all the others). So there’s my endorsement. You connect to your family tree, which hopefully your 5th cousin has already worked on, and together you connect to others, and so on it goes.
And then… then you keep pressing the “Expand Tree” tab, going back in time. You hit a lot of dead ends. The records are sparse. But your ancestors double in number every generation back, and so your chances are good. Back up, try again, down another road. When I got to the 1500s, I was so excited. And I kept clicking.
Then… it gets a little wild. I get back so far that certain ancestors are on Wikipedia. Charles “the Bald,” who was… oh heavens… the grandson of Charlemagne. At this point in the search, I decide that we all must be descended from Charlemagne. Another road takes me to… Maximinus Thrax? Roman Emperor from 235 to 238? He sounds like a villain in a Transformers movie. His parents are unknown. A dead end with a short-lived Roman Emperor, whose individual “dead end” is not one to emulate.
At this point, the historians are doing all the heavy lifting. I back up, keep clicking, move through the Kings of the Franks, stumble upon the Sicambrians (who?), and finally land at King Laomedon of Troy (1176-1235 BC), who, according to Greek legend, was the great-great-great grandson of Zeus. So there’s that.
Surely there are leaps and conjecture once we pass through the Dark Ages, but today’s jaunt through my ancestry leaves me grateful. I have such good records of the past two hundred years in my family. Not everyone is so fortunate. And though I’m not proud of what some of these ancestors did (specifically when it comes to owning slaves), I’m inspired by the connections in which I’m immersed.
The human population dwindles as we go back in time, but our ancestors double every generation back. This means that we start overlapping quite quickly, and if the records were kept, you’d begin noticing a few people on both sides of your family tree. I once read a report saying that, statistically, it’s almost certain that all humans currently alive share a common ancestor who lived as recently as two thousand years ago. There’s one single person in everyone’s family tree. And they may have lived during the time of Jesus.
The Lord brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them… This is how many children you will have.”
So, to all my cousins out there, I say hello.