Genealogy Research

How Many People?

Almost everyone I’ve come across (as far as genealogy is concerned) wants to know whether they might be related to someone famous, and especially, to the royal family.

If we could trace everyone’s tree as far back in time as possible, it is almost guaranteed that a connection would be made somewhere along that timeline to the royal line, whether directly (by blood) or indirectly (by marriage).

Unfortunately however, records to enable such a result to be confirmed do not exist for everyone – over the passage of time records can be lost or destroyed, or may have not existed at all, meaning that many such connections cannot be made, let alone proven.

But on paper, at least, we are all likely to be related.

As an example, what are the chances of you being related to William the Conqueror (1027-1087)?

William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror – is there a family likeness?

If he was a direct ancestor, dependent on your age, he would be your 28 times great grandfather – so there would be 30 generations between you. How many people are required to provide unique grandparents at generation 30?

The number of parents/grandparents doubles at each generation, so 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, etc. So to calculate the number of individual grandparents at generation 30 is just a matter of calculating 2 to the power of 30. And that number is 1,073,741,824 (equally split between males and females, of course!)

All well and good. However, the estimated total population of all of Europe in the year 1100 was about 62 million (thanks, Wikipedia). To put it simply – there were nowhere near enough people alive 30 generations ago for your ancestral line to originate with the number of separate individuals required. There would need to have been 17 times as many people to achieve uniqueness – and that’s just for your family tree!

This means that there will be very many instances where one individual will appear on multiple occasions as a grandparent in any given generation of your ancestry, as well as the ancestries of everyone else! In other words, we’re all related.

So we’re all the Queen’s cousin.



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