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Monday, July 3, 2006

Your Family is Larger Than You Know

Did you know that if you went back in time to 3000 BCE, to any village on the planet, and approached a person of any race, that this person would probably be your personal ancestor? Did you know that 'every Palestinian suicide bomber has Jews in his past, every Sunni Muslim in Iraq is descended from at least one Shiite, and every Klansman's family has African roots'?

According to recent work by statisticians and researchers, you would only have to go back 2000 to 5000 years to find someone who could count everyone alive today as a descendant. If you go back 5000 to 7000 years, then everyone living today has exactly the same set of ancestors.

Click here to read the complete article.


  1. That really is a great article; thanks for posting!

  2. Quote from the article:

    "It's simple math. Every person has two parents, four grandparents and eight great-grandparents. Keep doubling back through the generations — 16, 32, 64, 128 — and within a few hundred years you have thousands of ancestors."

    This of course is totally wrong.

    The correct statement should be: "Every person has two parents, one-to-four grandparents and one-to eight great-grandparents, and so on."

    Think about it!

  3. How would you have only one grandparent?

  4. When your grandfather married your mother, or your father married your grandmother.

  5. Oh yes! I was thinking of your parent as holding the position of "grandparent" as well in such a case, but that wouldn't be true at all, and certainly not for the purposes expressed in this article. However, that would bring the number of generations in which we would all share an ancestor even closer would it not?

  6. Theoretically a completely inbred society could exist in an isolated situation (e.g. the Pitcairn Islanders) for a long time without contact with any outsiders.

    In some societies "keeping the blood line pure" was regarded as a way of not "weakening the race", but the modern view seems to be that inbreeding, at least within a very small population is likely to be weakening.

    Probably the best policy, to maintain diversity in the gene pool, is a between the two extremes.