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GREEN VALLEY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY

"Genealogy Today", by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
From the Green Valley News, Sunday 18 August 2013, page B2


Finally, Proof That We Are All Related

A British computational biologist recently confirmed that everyone living on earth today is related to everyone else on the planet, much more closely than previously thought.

Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor of all of Europe lived from 742 to 814 AD. He had five wives (one at a time), several concubines and about twenty children. In 1999 Joseph Chang, a Yale University mathematician proposed that Charlemagne was the common ancestor of all of us now alive.

Chang realized the further you went back in history the more lines crossed. Then he found a very interesting thing happened:

"He wrote, 'All individuals who have any descendants among the present-day individuals are actually ancestors of all present-day individuals.' He discovered all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang's model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today."

Two geneticists, Peter Ralph at the University of Southern California and Graham Coop at the University of California (Davis), studied a compilation of ancestral information of 2257 people from across Europe. Half a million sites in each person's DNA were used to create a distinctive list of genetic markers for each of them.

They found some chunks of DNA identical in two persons, and the more closely related the bigger the chunks were. Using the length of the shared DNA segments they could determine how far back their common ancestor was.

Twenty generations ago, approximately 1400 AD, it is estimated that the world population was about 10,000,000 people. Going back another four generations, we find each person alive today has 16,777,216 direct line ancestors, or over ½ million more ancestors than there were people in the world.

Not only are we all related to each other, but we have many of the same ancestors appearing more than once in our background. However, a particular individual is not related to everyone equally. Some individuals will be cousins many times over, while others will be repeat cousins just a few times.

DNA governs all the unique factors that make each of us unique—personality, appearance, intelligence, talents, etc. Despite siblings having the same genetic heritage, each has inherited various elements of DNA in different combinations that preclude their all being identical.

While DNA is inherited from all ancestors it is not equally inherited, and each generation inherits most of its DNA from the nearest ancestors, less and less from previous generations. While we are all descended from Charlemagne, after 40 generations and 1200 years his DNA is not influencing any of us; but if you've always wanted to have a famous ancestor, here is your man, shared by all of mankind.


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