Saturday, March 29, 2008

The magnitude is amazing

I haven't posted much this week because we have been busy catching up from conferences and I have been working on finishing a large descendancy project. We have done several huge descendancy projects, last summer and then recently. Every time I am overwhelmed by the realization of how one life affects so many. I think most people don't realize how many descendants you can have in a few short generations--even if your family isn't very big. And we have no idea how the way we live our day to day life changes the lives of those around us.

In one project we worked on last year, which was actually on some ancestors of my own, in 7 short generations, there was over 30,000 posterity--numbers that you can't appreciate until you try to put it out on paper. I spent a couple of weeks working on that project, and thinking about how so many people looked up to those same ancestors, and were effected by the examples they set for us. I think I get some of my overbearing nature (good when applied correctly, right?), some of my sense of humor and some of my love of scholarship from that ancestor. And many other positive and somewhat negative characteristics from others.

Kim and I were just talking this morning about how our parent's marriages have affected ours, for better and for worse. I think there are so many things ingrained in me that I don't realize come from this ancestor or that. Our self-esteem, our world outlook, all sorts of things come from ancestors--possibly many generations up. And on the other side, you don't realize how quickly the way you use your life will affect so many descendants that come from you.

To illustrate my point, look at how many ancestors you have:
2 parents
4 grandparents
8 great-grandparents
16 great great grandparents
32 great great great grandparents
64 great great great great grandparents
128 great great great great great grandparents
256 great great great great great great grandparents
512 great great great great great great great grandparents
1024 great great great great great great great great grandparents.
2048 great great great great great great great great great grandparents.
4096 in the 13th generation
8192 in the 14th generation
16,184 in the 15th generation
32,768 in the 16th generaton
65,536 in the 17th generation
131,072 in the 18th generation
262,144 in the 19th generation
524,288 in the 20th generation
1,048,576 in the 21st generation
2,097,152 in the 22nd generation.

You can flip that upside down and, if everyone only had two children, see how many descendants you would have.

Every once in a while, we have someone call and want a blank chart for 20 generations or so. If you give each person in that last generation 1/2 inch, you can see that such a chart would be about 22,000 feet tall or 4.137 miles or 6.658 kilometers. You just don't realize how expansive it goes until you try to put it out on paper.  If you were to go out 160 generations and it was completely filled out (which it never could be, you would run into a lack of documents and collapsible lines) and we gave each person an 1/8th of an inch, the chart would be 2.6 billion billion times the diameter of the observable universe or 2.452x10 to the 29th light year, or 1,442,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles.  If you have a chart that big, we'd love to try it for you but you'll have to be patient while we work on finding a source for that much paper. 

More at and


Anonymous said...

There are some good ideas in this blog on the expansiveness of family. So good luck to anyone who thinks there genealogy is all done. There are so many people and we all just need to dig in and pray that we can find that missing
connection or whatever it might be to lead us on in our quest. It is a one step at a time process but can be accomplished.

Janet Hovorka said...

So if you have 1/2 inch for each person in the 20th generation, it actually comes out to about 4 miles long. WOW right?