Well, sorta

Sooner or later the number of positions on our family tree are filled with the same people over and over, until at some point all the branches coalesce. Everybody now is descended from everybody then. For Europe, that time is about a thousand years ago. All people of long-standing European descent have the same ancestors a thousand years ago.

On average this might well be true. Not necessarily for each and every one though.

19 comments on “Well, sorta

  1. “everybody now is descended from everybody then” is utter balls. Many of the “everybody then” left no descendants.

    And it’s worth noting that we are not descended in the same proportions from the everybody then. Otherwise we’d all be far more alike than we are. Plus, maybe I missed it on my quick scan, did he mention mutations?

    Though the article purports to be about science it’s actually about politics, isn’t it?

  2. As dearieme says, it is utter tripe. People who live in a small village will have the same distant ancestor multiple times but no ancestors from a corresponding village in the next-but-one country, let alone another continent. There has been a lot of movement *for a tiny fraction of the population* in the eras of great empires but that mostly affected royalty and the middle class, not the farm labourer.
    Western Europeans have a trace of Neanderthal DNA, Chinese have a trace of Denisovan DNA – so we do not share those ancestors, so we are not all descended from the same people 1000 years ago. QED

  3. It’s obvious bollocks. Europeans may share some of the same ancestors. But that doesn’t mean we all share all of our ancestors. For most of history, most people didn’t travel anywhere. It was just too difficult. Take where I am. The people up in the inland villages are probably much the same people who were here when it was Carthage. There’s some of them now never even been as far as Malaga & that’s only 60km. You only have to get off the modern road system to realise why. It’d take you a day to get to the next valley & there’s nothing to go there for. Or to put it another way, there’s not much reason to visit their valley. Most of Europe was like that, for most of history
    If you avoid the heads on coins version of history it looks different. The Romans winning the Punic Wars means Andulucia got some Roman military, administrators, traders & their hangers on. It really doesn’t take many people to rule a province. Don’t supposed most of the Andalus even noticed. They just got on with their farming. Same with the Visigoths. Few blokes on horses with big swords & their hangers on. Threw out the local big cheese & took over. There wasn’t a wholesale movement of people from Eastern Europe to Southwest Iberia because they didn’t have the agricultural toolkit to live here. Same when the Moors took over. Ferdinand & Isabella made it Spain & they got different coins & a few northerners. No doubt they got a small transfusion Of French blood when Napoleon’s army was raping & pillaging. Or in our case, Polish. Since the Poles seem to have been the local garrison. But only genes from the male lines because few froggies brought their women. Now a few of the more fortunate Andalus are getting a second Brit infusion, since we seem to be quietly taking over. First was from the British army fighting the frogs down Cadiz way.
    In the other direction, some of the more adventurous Andalus went to S. America. But there was no wholesale movement of population from Iberia across the Atlantic. In the same way as there’s no wholesale movement from S. America to here. Although we have gained some remarkably attractive ones. UK’s no doubt gained some Spanish waiters.
    Because of the heads-on-coins thing, most of Europe will have some time or other have received some foreign blood. Often from the same places. UK got some Vikings. So did France, Southern Italy & Russia. But not many & pretty well all men. So there’s genes from all over Europe turn up all over Europe. But that doesn’t mean we all share the same set of ancestors. Certainly not over a period of a thousand years.

  4. I guess that this is an attempt to explain why there are so many tall blonde blue-eyed men in the south of Europe while the north is populated by short, podgy swarthy types who have to shave every five minutes.

    It’s time to start culling crap academics

  5. “Same with the Visigoths. Few blokes on horses with big swords & their hangers on. Threw out the local big cheese & took over.”

    It’s my understanding that in fact there are parts of Spain where it’s clear that the Visigoths did arrive in large numbers – cartloads of women and children and household goods, that sort of thing. It really was part of a Volkerwanderung.

    The DNA makes it pretty clear that Germans did settle in Britannia in droves in the Dark Ages (forming about 30% of the ancestry of the English and Scots according to information that may be out of date by now). The mass settlement of Irish in Britain in the 19th and twentieth century is a matter of historical record.

    I don’t think anyone knows what became of the Britons who lived in Ireland in the Iron Age: expelled, killed, enslaved, assimilated? (I once saw a commenter on a blog argue that the existence of those Britons can’t have been real because Nornirish protestants believed in their existence. Oirish logic, eh?) Nor have I ever seen a stab at the numbers of Irish who converted much of what is now Scotland into a Gaelic-speaking kingdom. Thousands? Tens of thousands?
    A few hundred warriors and priests?

  6. I was impressed when a girl told me she was descended from Charlemagne.

    “We all are, Honey,” is what I would have said if I knew then what I know now.

  7. It’s my understanding that in fact there are parts of Spain where it’s clear that the Visigoths did arrive in large numbers – cartloads of women and children and household goods, that sort of thing. It really was part of a Volkerwanderung.
    How many over what period, dearieme? Europe really is an enormous piece of real estate. You try travelling through it the way they would have, without using modern road networks, you’ll, get some idea. An individual on foot, unencumbered, might walk at 3 mph. Carts? That means oxen. They didn’t use horses as draught animals back then. You might make 2mph. More likely 1mph. Over a relatively short travelling day, for most of the year. You can only move in daylight. You have to graze your animals, set up & break camp. It’s 600 miles from one end of France to the other. Close on 2 years How do you feed yourselves along the way? Pillaging? Might work for the first bunch of Visigoths tried it. Second bunch’ll be fighting their way through or finding there’s nothing to pillage.
    Cultural dispersion over lengthy period I’ll buy. In which case, who turns up at the other end? Are they the same people who left several generations before?
    The settlement of the American West isn’t a good analogy for how this works. They had a large technological advantage over the people they were displacing & the logistic weight of the East Coast backing them. As the Romans had before them but the Romans weren’t colonising.

  8. The fruitcakes and Hollywood starlets who believe they are reincarnated royalty may be closer to the truth than the loony Buddhists who believe they are reincarnated monks. More rape and pillaging, innit.

  9. BiS: “You try travelling through it the way they would have, without using modern road networks”

    They had a Roman road network. And of course they lived by pillaging. And no doubt different mobs of them used somewhat different routes. And they seem to have settled for a while in what is now Southern France before pushing on into Spain. I can’t see for the life of me why you’d want to guess they did it all in one hop, 600 miles in two years. That’s not how the Germans conquered what is now England. It took them two or three centuries (and no sooner had they finished than they started losing half of it to the Danes). Your model is more like the Norman Conquest of England – one afternoon and a few years of mopping up.

    You can make an estimate of the speed the Goths could move at, I’d think, by assuming they’d be comparable to Caesar’s armies in Gaul, with the advantage of having Roman Roads already in place and the disadvantage of its perhaps being slower to move carts of people than carts of war materiel.

    Caesar made such good time that you might guess that the Gauls had a network of roads and bridges before the Romans arrived in which case you might guess that the advantage to the Goths of Roman roads might not be all that great. Since I’m guessing, I’d guess that Roman Roads would be superior to Gaulish roads in wet seasons so that the Goths might have managed something like Roman speeds, except for the time involved in extortion and pillage.

  10. @ bis
    You can probably confirm – or correct – my impression that the Basques are racially different to other Europeans over the past two (at least) millennia. It is reported that this is demonstrated by the (almost total – due to the occasional intermarriage, otherwise it would be total) absence of Blood Groups B and AB.
    If correct, it kind of refutes Rutherford

  11. I remember reading about the Germanic tribes’ movement across Europe around 100BC, and it was a mass movement, the tribes got together and abandonded their homeland – climate change or some nonsense – and they were a thorn in the Roman Republic’s side for some decades as they chugged their way through Gaul looking for somewhere to live. Think Battlestar Galactica more than American West.

  12. “All people of long-standing European descent have the same ancestors a thousand years ago”

    Is the same as

    “All people with the same ancestors a thousand years ago are of long-standing European descent”

    or even

    “All people with the same ancestors a thousand years ago are of long-standing descent”

    No sh*t, Sherlock ?

  13. “my impression that the Basques are racially different to other Europeans over the past two (at least) millennia.” I’ve read that there’s little sign of it. In Western Europe the odd men out are the Sardinians. So the speakers of the odd language are genetically not very distinct, and the speakers of a Romance dialect are. Such is life.

  14. @bis November 12, 2019 at 11:19 am

    +1

    A school friend’s great, great grandfather was a fisherman and shipwrecked here 220 miles from home in early 1800s, he stayed and (illegally) remarried.

    .
    @Diogenes November 12, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Agree

    .
    @bis November 12, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Yes. Once, only once, I decided walking long side of triangle across pasture fields was shorter = would be quicker than along the two short side roads. Big mistake.

  15. “Sooner or later the number of positions on our family tree are filled with the same people over and over, until at some point all the branches coalesce ……. All people of long-standing European descent have the same ancestors a thousand years ago.“

    Surely the first sentence contradicts the last? If our family trees a few generations back include the same people several times, that makes it less likely that we are all related, not more?

    If we have distinct ancestors twenty generations back, that gives us over a million (if my mental arithmetic is correct) ancestors then, with a small population size, so it would be pretty likely that most of us would be related to each other because there just aren’t enough ancestors to go round.

    But if my million ancestors from twenty years back are actually only 2,000 people, with them all appearing may times, that makes it far more likely that my ancestors are completely different to someone’s from fifty miles away. But he seems to say that it makes it more likely we’re all related – that doesn’t make sense.

  16. I must say that in my wanderings around Northern Spain, I have never noticed the distinctness of the Basques. Maybe our man in Bilbao could opine

  17. Some members of our family are very proud of the fact that we can trace our ancestry (through my paternal grandmother) back to Billy the Conk. This is due solely to our genealogy being on record back that far. Most of the English-speaking population of the world carry Billy’s genes, albeit not always on the right side of the blanket.

  18. Your family should have applied for Auberon Waugh’s prize. He offered it to anyone who could demonstrate (demonstrate, mind, not claim) descent from anyone who came over with the Conq. I’m sure the Conq himself would count.

    Maybe Waugh demanded male descent: my memory is not up to getting that detail right.

    Anyhoo, as I’ve said here before, we once had lunch in Argyll with a chap who had a 7th century family gravestone nearby. As he said, why concern yourself with a johnny-come-lately like the Conq?

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