My wife and I did 23 & Me DNA tests, and I ended up connecting with a 2nd cousin, which got me talking about genealogy. In the process of that, I was googling and came across a branch of the family that I wasn’t aware of, a line of ancestry back through my great-great grandmother that’s been traced back way into the 1600s in Germany, which was kind of cool. I’ve known for years about the ancestors that carry my surname back into the the 1500s or 1600s. And there were a few other lines of the family tree that have been traced back a decent way. It was neat to see this other line going back into the early colonial days.
But it got me thinking. Getting back to these ancestors who came to North America in the early 1700s-ish is about 10 generations. That’s relatively recent, and it’s history that we’ve been over and over as students, which also makes it seem like not that long ago.
But doing the math, it occurred to me that I have something like 1000 ancestors alive 10 generations back. There were 1024 people alive at the same time whose genes would ultimately combined into me. Even though I only have a few of their names and basic information about them, their genes live on in me and have some influence on me. The way they patented their children shaped then into the people who would parent their children down through the generations to finally result in my parents raising me. Their temperaments, their ideas, have likewise come down in sims indirect, fragmentary, recombined way, just as their genes have. It’s kind of amazing to contemplate and impossible to totally wrap your mind around.