FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Everybody’s Related to Royalty

 

This article was at the bottom of one of my file drawers. I don’t know who authored it or when, but thank them for their work and agree with their comments about all of us being related to royalty.

Finding a link to them is great because something is usually written about them. Is it always correct? Goodness NO! But, at least there is the possibility that the information is correct and it usually is more complete and extends farther back in time than almost any other knowledge about our ‘commoner’ ancestors.

“The Associated Press carried a story recently about a man from Maine who traced his ancestry to King Egbert of England as well as all of the royal houses of Europe. The article makes it sound like something rather unusual. My question is, “So what? Almost everyone else can do the same.”

We all have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. To determine the number of ancestors you have, all you have to do is grab a calculator and determine how many generations you wish to go back. That should easy. Or is it?

For instance, here is a simple chart showing the number of ancestors you have, assuming an average of one generation every twenty-five years:

 

Number of generations

Approximate years

Ancestors in this generation

Total ancestors

 

 

 

 

1

25

2

2

2

50

4

6

3

75

8

12

4

100

16

24

5

125

32

48

6

150

64

96

7

175

128

192

8

200

256

384

9

225

512

768

10

250

1,024

1,536

11

275

2,048

3,072

12

300

4,096

6,144

13

325

8,192

12,288

14

350

16,384

24,576

15

375

32,768

49,152

16

400

65,536

98,304

17

425

131,072

196,608

18

450

262,144

393,216

19

475

524,288

786,432

20

500

1,048,576

1,572,864

21

525

2,097,152

3,145,728

22

550

4,194,304

6,291,456

23

575

8,388,608

12,582,912

24

600

16,777,216

25,165,824

25

625

33,554,432

50,331,648

26

650

67,108,864

100,663,296

27

675

134,217,728

201,326,592

28

700

268,435,456

402,653,184

29

725

536,870,912

805,306,368

30

750

1,073,741,824

1,610,612,736

31

775

2,147,483,648

3,221,225,472

32

800

4,294,967,296

6,442,450,944

33

825

8,589,934,592

12,884,901,888

34

850

17,179,869,184

25,769,803,776

35

875

34,359,738,368

51,539,607,552

36

900

68,719,476,736

103,079,215,104

37

925

137,438,953,472

206,158,430,208

38

950

274,877,906,944

412,316,860,416

39

975

549,755,813,888

824,633,720,832

40

1,000

1,099,511,627,776

1,649,267,441,664

As you can see, in the last 1,000 years you have a bit more than one and a half trillion ancestors. There is only one problem with this: that number far exceeds the total number of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth!

In fact, there are duplicates in your family tree. If you were able to identify every single person in your family tree, you would find that many ancestors of a few hundred years ago would show up time and time again. This is inbreeding, and we all have it in our family trees. There are no exceptions; the mathematics involved makes it obvious that we are all the products of inbreeding.

With a theoretical (although impractical) one and a half trillion ancestors in the past 1,000 years, what are the odds that you have royal ancestry? About 99.9999% per cent. Many of the royals had large families with children, grandchildren, and further descendants who were sent far and wide to marry other nobility. In turn, their descendants married minor nobility and wealthy merchants and their children… so on and so forth. Once you can document one royal ancestor, you will probably find hundreds more, thanks to the excellent records kept of nobility marriages.

Now let’s go the other way: let’s look at a hypothetical individual from 750 years ago and identify the number of descendants he or she has. The numbers are not as mathematically precise since each person has a variable number of descendants. Sociologists tell us that families of many years ago were typically larger than those of today. Indeed, history books record that a few kings and other prominent men often had 50 or more children, thanks to multiple wives. Not everyone had children, however. Many people had zero children. For this exercise, I will pick an average number of five children per family:

 

Number of generations

Approximate years

Descendants in this generation

Total descendants

1

25

5

5

2

50

25

30

3

75

125

155

4

100

625

780

5

125

3,125

3,905

6

150

15,625

19,530

7

175

78,125

97,655

8

200

390,625

488,280

9

225

1,953,125

2,441,405

10

250

9,765,625

12,207,030

11

275

48,828,125

61,035,155

12

300

244,140,625

305,175,780

13

325

1,220,703,125

1,525,878,905

14

350

6,103,515,625

7,629,394,530

15

375

30,517,578,125

38,146,972,655

16

400

152,587,890,625

190,734,863,280

17

425

762,939,453,125

953,674,316,405

18

450

3,814,697,265,625

4,768,371,582,030

19

475

19,073,486,328,125

23,841,857,910,155

20

500

95,367,431,640,625

119,209,289,550,780

21

525

476,837,158,203,125

596,046,447,753,905

22

550

2,384,185,791,015,620

2,980,232,238,769,530

23

575

11,920,928,955,078,100

14,901,161,193,847,700

24

600

59,604,644,775,390,600

74,505,805,969,238,300

25

625

298,023,223,876,953,000

372,529,029,846,191,000

26

650

1,490,116,119,384,770,000

1,862,645,149,230,960,000

27

675

7,450,580,596,923,830,000

9,313,225,746,154,780,000

28

700

37,252,902,984,619,100,000

46,566,128,730,773,900,000

29

725

186,264,514,923,096,000,000

232,830,643,653,870,000,000

30

750

931,322,574,615,478,000,000

1,164,153,218,269,350,000,000

Your ancestor of 750 years ago had more than a sextillion descendants! Again, this will be true of each king and peasant alike. While this may be claimed as a mathematical “fact,” it is obviously impossible. Again, there have not been that many people in the world.

The challenge is to find your royal ancestors. Documentation of the royal families is plentiful, but finding your link back through many generations of commoners may be a challenge. While not every one of us will ever be able to prove descent from royalty, the odds are overwhelming that we all have such connections, documented or not. You just need to spend some time to find them!”

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29 March 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | | 1 Comment

How Much Is Enough?

Not all that long ago, or so it seems to me, I built the first computer available for home users. My IMSI 8080 was THE big thing among us technology nuts. We were no longer tied to using a terminal hooked to a mainframe. You flipped switches on the face plate to program it and it was heaven.

Then came more advanced computer components and power. I had to have them too. The storage memory was on cassette tapes and the onboard RAM was just enough to designate the three zeros in its number to “K”. Wow!

Here I am now, with more processing power in my personal workstation than mainframes used to enjoy. I have two plus terrabytes of hard drive storage and constantly worry about running out of storage space.

What kind of crazy am I? How does one person doing mainly family history research collect enough data to fill two terrabytes of disk space? Well, it has taken a me a while and I may be a little abnormal in the size of my data collection, but I was also the guy who built an IMSI 8080 and am only slightly ahead of most users today.

In short order, you’ll wonder how you survived with a only a terrabyte of storage on your computer. Because of the tools and toys now available, you’ll quickly morph into a new digital consumer and producer in the coming year or two. You’ll take digital photos at a prodigious rate. You’ll scan or receive digital copies of all of those family photos and documents that should be associated with your family history. Additionally, your family history data will grow rapidly now that so many researchers are collaborating on their research.

When thinking about your digital storage needs, don’t forget to include those great digital movies you are taking of your family, grandkids, trips and for us hard core types, tours of family headstones and homesteads all over the world.

One of my personal family history websites was disabled this week because the volume of viewers made it too busy for my host to handle. I’ll have to update to more efficient code to resolve the problem. How long will that fix last as I continue to add content and even more users from around the world visit my site to see if I have posted anything to help in their ancestral quest? Who knows, but I’ll probably cross the new ‘maximum’ line in the sand sooner rather than later. We are a digital society.

I know that I’ll soon be looking at my new holographic thumbnail-sized 100 terrabyte ‘thumb’ drive and will smile when I remember how backward I was when I only carried a 16 gig memory stick around in my pocket.

When you consider your next computer purchase, how much speed and storage is too much? My heart says that there is no upper end to either of these categories and so my wallet dictates the upper limits.

When you calculate your computing needs before buying your next computer, remember to include all the above factors in your decision. No matter how much digital content you create or store now, it will probably quadruple in the near future.

Fortunately, the life of a computer is only about three years before it becomes so ancient that it is only good for recycling. Thus you’ll have the chance to reconsider your speed and storage calculations again fairly soon if you mess up your next computing purchase.

27 March 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | | Leave a comment

Find Me on “The Wall”

The team at Footnote.com have been working on a very special project for the past few months. They’ve captured images of the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. and have added a tremendous amount of information to the names of every person listed on it.

The work has been infectious to team members and others who have seen it. It is your turn now. Visit it at http://www.footnote.com/thewall

The entire wall has been masterfully photographed and is searchable by name. Who is represented by all of these names? They are the fallen heros of the Vietnam war.

The statistics listed are astounding. 58,322 names, 2,056 bodies not recovered and an average age of 22.8 years.

When you find your family member, friend or other name, click on their name and you are presented with their information, such as date of birth, date of death, branch of the service and other significant information.

Now that this page exists, you can add photos, written remembrances, histories and other details about them so today’s and tomorrow’s generations will not forget them, their bravery and their service to the nation.

Click here to watch the comments by one Vietnam Veteran about finding the name of his friend on the wall. You too will begin to feel the “infection” that seeing these names evokes in your heart. Watching the short video is time well spent.

The names represent real people, each with a unique story who died in service to their country.

Not only is the physical site of the wall sacred ground, but now its specific digital location becomes sacred ground.

There is no cost to view the wall or to add comments. Sit down and take a tour of the wall today.

Is it a historical presentation? Yes. A family history presentation? YES!

All of us hope that someone remembers us after we too have passed on. Now, you can remember your fallen family and friends by using “The Wall” and adding remembrances and photos of them.

21 March 2008 Posted by | Photos | , | Leave a comment

Finding Charlie Stone

Brick walls or other missing information in your ancestral research are common to all of us. Frequently, the information we need is fairly close to us in time, yet seems to be as elusive as the exact birth date of an ancestor born in 1582.

Our ancestor was born or died in a sparsely populated county or area and government and church records were never created for them for one reason or another. Therefore, their missing information is impossible to find. Right?

That may not be true in more cases than you’d think.

In 1985, my wife an I traveled to Calaveras County, California looking for information on my 2nd great grandparents and their family. The only information I had about them was that they lived and died in Copperopolis, a tiny mining town on the shoulder of the Sierra Nevada’s. The mines had long since closed and the population could be counted on the fingers of both hands (well, maybe you had to use some of your toes too).

Not finding anyone in the tiny store who knew anything about my family, I asked for directions to the cemetery. It was divided into four sections by rock walls and occupied by past residents who belonged to various faiths, organizations and the populace in general.

When we found the headstones and burial plot of my ancestors and some of their family, I was delighted. Finally, I’d seen and touched something tangible that proved their lives. I could see that someone cared about them, because of a few desert plants and bushes that had been planted around the plot. An old coffee can and quart Mason bottle were sitting against the California oak tree in the plot and were obviously used to carry water to the plantings.

Wondering how I could contact the ‘care taker’ of these plants, it came to me to write a note on the back of my business card and put it in the bottle and the bottle inside the coffee can asking them to please contact me. Who knew if they would or how long it would take? I had high hopes and they weren’t dashed. Several days later, I received a letter and family information from the distant cousin who cared for the cemetery plants. Gold was found in the old California Gold Country again!!

We made a second trip to Calaveras County and after talking to the good folks in the Calaveras County Historical Society were told that I needed to talk to Charlie Stone in Copperopolis. He was the unofficial town historian and may have some information to help me in my quest.

It didn’t take long to find Charlie and Rhoda Stone’s home in tiny Copperopolis. Rhoda opened the door to my knocking and invited us in. One whole wall of their living room was covered from floor to ceiling with stacks of paper, books and documents about early Copperopolis and Calaveras County. They were writing a book about the area and all of these records were part of their research.

Charlie came home a few minutes later and after we introduced ourselves to him and related our quest to find my ancestors, his face lit up and he said, “I have something for you …. right here”. Reaching into one of the towering stacks of paper he pulled a dozen pages out. I held my breath thinking the entire stack would soon be an avalanche hitting the floor but Charlie knew his stacking skills better than I.

He turned to me and said, “These are the records of your people”. “Here are their birth, marriage and death dates and places”. “Oh, and by the way, here is a photo of your great grandmother in her buggy when she was a young woman.” Time stopped. The grin on my face was permanent. He offered to make copies of all of it for me and off we went to the telephone company service trailer to make them.

I had in my hands something more precious than gold in my estimation.

When we walked back into his home, he stopped and thought for a minute and then said, “That isn’t all of the information I’m supposed to give you”. Moving several inches of papers around on his desk, he retrieved a slip of paper with a name and address on it. “This is the name and address of your cousin”. “He stopped here to talk to me last summer, riding his Harley and looking for information about any surviving family.” “There aren’t any of them still here, but he gave me his address just in case any ever showed up”.

As soon as we got home, I wrote my cousin a letter and sent copies of all of our common ancestry that I’d found in my life long ancestral quest. Three days later, I received a telephone call. He asked if I was the person who had sent the letter and information. When I said yes, he asked how I’d gotten his address. I told him the story about visiting Charlie Stone and that Charlie, true to his word, had passed on his name and address to a family member looking for our common ancestry.

The line was silent for almost a minute. When he started to speak again he was still suspicious of me. Due to problems in his life, none of their accounts, ownerships or other records listed him. Everything was in his wife’s maiden name. He said it was “Impossible for Charlie Stone to give you my address.” “I’ve never heard of Charlie Stone.” “I haven’t been in Copperopolis for over 40 years.” “I don’t have a motorcycle!” “We only moved into our current home less than nine months ago, long after the date Charlie said I’d visited him.”

We talked for a little while about our families and ancestry and I discovered that he’d lost all contact with his family and close ancestors over the years. Tender moments and comments ensued and he had to hang up because he couldn’t control his emotions any longer.

Brick walls came down both in my ancestral quest and in my family search in general due to my visit with Charlie Stone. Was I guided by an unseen force? You bet I was and I’m extremely grateful for it.

Charlie wrote his book (I own one) and is gone now. My cousin has also passed on, but the experience of meeting this old unofficial town historian and then ‘meeting’ my cousin on a telephone call will always be with me.

Great grandpa and grandma, thanks for helping me find you and your family.

So, when you are trying to knock down your own ancestral ‘brick walls’ or fill in information about your extended families, don’t forget to look for the Charlie Stone in the area where your family lived. You never know what will turn up and who you’ll meet.

15 March 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | , , | 2 Comments

What If I Have Black Sheep In My Ancestry?

I often hear concern in peoples comments about doing family history research. They are afraid they will find that some of their ancestors had difficulties in life and that their actions may taint the respectability of their living descendants.

My response is, “Great”. “Now you’ll have a better chance of finding a record of them!” As we search for ancestors a little farther back in time, we are usually limited to church records of births, marriages and deaths and often have little other information about their lives. That is ‘unless’ they were in trouble with the law, government or society. Then their misdeeds are usually recorded in records that still exist today.

In my own lineage, my 10th great grandfather was hung for murder. Another was banned from his colony for getting his girl friend ‘with child’. Others fought against the British Crown in Scotland and in early America. Several were given some of their inheritance and told to not return home again because of their wicked ways. Three of my ancient grandfathers were drawn and quartered by the British after loosing battles with them in Scotland. Many, many of my ancestors were forced to leave their native countries because of their religious beliefs.

A large number of my ancestors were hero’s in battle, in statesmanship and in leadership rolls. Do I honor them above my “Black Sheep ancestors?” No, I don’t. They are all people, who lived their lives and for better or worse impacted the lives of their families and many other people around them. I am proud of those who did their best, exhibited their bravery, wisdom and honesty and I often refer to them when teaching youth and others about making the right choices for the right reasons.

The actions of my “Black Sheep” ancestors actually allow me to find information about them that I’d never find otherwise. Without their ‘nefarious’ crimes and actions, I wouldn’t have any details about them other than a name, some dates and some places. Except for the murderer, few of the crimes they committed would even rise above the norm in our society today …. but that is another topic.

Don’t be afraid to research your family tree because you may find someone who didn’t conduct their lives like you do, because invariably you are going to find them. Everyone has them in their ancestral tree. Learn from their mistakes and remember that strictly from a research standpoint, the ’rounders’ in your family may have left you the greatest set of tracks to aid in your research for their entire branch of the family.

You may even consider joining the International Blacksheep Society of Genealogists to see if other researchers have found information on your ancestors as well as sharing the information you’ve discovered about them.

If we don’t keep our own noses clean, one day we may be one of the Black Sheep in the ancestral tree of our descendants or conversely, we could be the ones with ‘gold stars’ by our names because of our exemplary lives.

Whatever you find in your family history research, be grateful that you found a little more about lineage and that your perspective of how you fit into the weave of your ancestral quilt is enhanced with each discovery.

13 March 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | | Leave a comment

Grandpa Left Me What?

Over the past 10 years, I have worked with a doctor who is researching Huntington’s Disease (HD). This terrible malady causes the degradation and eventual failure of neurons in brain cells and almost always ends in death at a fairly early age.

He contacted me because I had traced the descendancy and lineage of my great aunt and her husband. His first contact asked if I had ever observed or exhibited a list of symptoms that he included in his letter. I hadn’t seen them in our branch of the family but did note that the profile of early deaths and other issues were frequently found in my great aunts branch of our family.

This confirmed his suspicions and I was able to put him in contact with several of my extended cousins from that branch. They knew that some members of the family had HD but had no idea of its extent and impact on the entire branch. In fact, it has devastated every family unit in that branch. Now that they know how it affects personalities and actions, they better understand why certain events occurred in the lives of some family members.

The HD gene was introduced into the family by the husband of my great aunt and thus none of the siblings of my great aunt have the problem.

Thinking about the implications of a ‘bad’ gene in my own genetic makeup, I started to document the cause of death of my own ancestors and their families. The results weren’t a total surprise, but the problem was much more prevalent than I would have ever dreamed. My father’s side of the family predominately died of heart diseases and / or heart attacks. My mother’s side of the family either lived long healthy lives or had heart and nervous problems.

When I created a graphical descendancy chart for my 2nd great grandparents and colored each box showing the cause of death, it was instantly apparent that my chance of dying with heart related problems is very high.

Scientists and other researchers have used genealogical data to track the proclivity of diseases in their patients for a number of years. With the now fairly common use of DNA mapping, science is able to predict inherited genetic weaknesses with surprising precision.

If you haven’t taken the time to research and study the cause of death or illnesses in your own ancestral families, you’ll probably want to do it soon. The knowledge could help save your life as you use it to work with your physician to find a lifestyle and preventative treatments that will at least partially mitigate your own genetic weaknesses.

11 March 2008 Posted by | DNA | | Leave a comment

Small Town Newspapers

Small town newspapers are always a family history researcher’s best friend. I’ve been looking through some old copies of one of these publications for any information on my ancestors.

Recently, I found my 2nd great grandfathers obituary published on the front page of a small town paper 80 miles and several large cities north of where he lived. I was extremely surprised to see it in a ‘foreign’ newspaper.

In days gone by, the population wasn’t as large as it is today and most of the communication was done through newspaper articles. There are numerous unique entries on the pages of these papers that you’d rarely see in print today.

Did someone in town have a birthday party? Yes? Well, she was wearing this dress and got these presents and this is the name and home town of everyone who came to her party. Not only that, but “these” visitors stayed with her overnight and the next day they visited “these” folks and then went to dinner with “these” folks.

Whew! The nitty gritty of their lives was published for review. When someone passed away, had an accident, served in the military, had a good crop or served pie at the church fair, the events were often recorded in the local paper in detail.

I love this type of information in my research. Not only does it give me many facts to add to my records, it also helps me find the married names of daughters and cities of residence of family members. They also provide the much coveted historical ‘color’ that we need to help us visualize our ancestors lives and environment. It is Good Stuff in my opinion.

I noticed that Footnote is putting a lot of small town newspapers on their website and I have spent some time perusing through the current postings. None of the locations have helped in my research this far, but I’m told that many, many more small town newspapers will soon be on the site. I’ll watch them closely over the next few months.

You have to love the uninhibited reporting of the reporters in these newspapers. I laughed at one photo showing a car that had missed turning on either fork of a road and had instead run straight into a big tree. It seems that a fellow was out a little late on Friday night and the ‘soda’ he was drinking with his friends was a little stronger than what he’d been telling his folks. I don’t suppose he was able to concoct a story to off-set the family’s totaled car that was shown in the article, still in its mangled glory.

Make sure you don’t overlook these wonderful newspapers in your own ancestral quest. Odds are you’ll find some information in them about your ancestral family that you’ve dearly hoped to find for years.

7 March 2008 Posted by | Digital Newspapers | , , | Leave a comment