Tag Archives: Family history

It’s All Relative

August 2007

I have an ancestor, Anne Hutchinson, who was quite infamous in her day, and she should be still, but I hadn’t heard of her until Mom told me to read a book called American Jezebel, by Eve LaPlante. As I finished the book, I wondered from which of her children I was descended. She had 15, and only four reproduced that I know of. Turns out, the Presidents Bush and Franklin Roosevelt are all descended from Edward. I was lucky enough to draw the interesting child, the one who was captured by Indians and held captive for several years, Susanna.

I found out on some (reliable?) conspiracy website which of the children the presidents were related to, and the guy had traced the lineage all the way to Charlemagne, Ptolemy and Caesar and so on. It seems a little speculative. He had something going about how all the world’s leaders are all related to each other through this line. It seems that Edward Hutchinson’s wife, Catherine was of that line, so the tendency toward world domination is not in my “bloodline.” (Phew)

Then I read an article in Smithsonian magazine, by Richard Conniff. He is kind of anti-genealogy because he thinks people are hoping that the genetics of famous ancestors will affect them. I had never thought about that, but was mostly interested to see what kind of people I came from. Turns out my Dad’s side weren’t very exciting, at least as far back as he has researched. They were broke when they immigrated from England after the Civil War. Mom’s side goes back to the Mayflower, and most Mayflower descendants are related to each other, because there weren’t many people to choose from in marriage.

Conniff pointed out that 10% of people have “misassigned” paternity, or looking at 10 generations, one daddy snuck into the family tree. I guess that seems possible. I am sure that many rulers expected “favors” from their subjects, not to mention your basic indiscretions. He maintains that:

“ no family lineage is a single thread. It’s more like a broad fan of a thousand, or a million threads coming together from all over the world to weave the fragile patch of material representing the generations of family immediately around us.

And here’s the curious thing about this ancestral fan: it doesn’t follow the simple mathematical rule of doubling with each generation back in time. If it did, we would have between 4 billion and 17 billion ancestors at the time of Charlemagne, in A.D. 800, when there were only a few hundred million people alive on the earth. Instead, because of intermarriage the same ancestors start turning up in any lineage over and over.”

The author then goes on to explain that Edward III, king of England in the 1300s appears 2,000 times in Prince Charles’ line. Kinda sounds like line breeding to me. Conniff said, (unrelated to the Windsor line), that scientists researched “overlapping ancestry in both … paternal and maternal lines, [and] they concluded that everyone on earth today shares a common ancestor who lived just 2,000 to 3,500 years ago.” And from there on back, we are pretty much all related. Well, that is a relief. Can you imagine trying to research serfs who had no last name? I certainly had no aspirations that I was related to royalty, and here I find out I am probably related to Julius Caesar.