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In fact, Lewis has tracked her ancestry all the way back to her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.

16 (?) generations back. Aren’t we getting close to where we’re all related to each other?

Assuming no dupes that’s 65,000 ancestors at that point, isn’t it (my maths is really bad – 2 to the power of 16?). Obviously there are dupes in there but it’s not that much further down the line, another handful of generations, and we meet the population of England at the time, no?

Yes, yes, I know it doesn’t really work this way. But 16 to 20 generation back everyone’s got someone interesting, no? Especi8ally given that Greg Clark book (A Farewell to Alms) which points out that the upper classes outbred the lower over the centuries (it being child survival rates that mattered).

20 thoughts on “Hmm”

  1. That’s 500 years ago roughly that Edward Seymour was born.
    Go back 1000 years and its 2-Power-32, or 4 billion genetic ancestors, so we’ve overshot the population of England by a lot.
    Split the difference, and go back 700 years: we have about 6 million ancestors.

    Damn those Crusaders – I’m related to every one of them. that survived. probably.

  2. MC – look for my latest Guardian Big Read: “Soudan Is a Shithole, And It’s All YOUR Fault”

  3. You’ve made this mistake before, Tim. You’re trying to use mathematics to address a problem isn’t mathematical. Who your ancestors were depends on how far they travelled & how much the society they were part of mixed. And you only have to go back a handful of generations to when both those factors become very low for most people. No doubt Queen Camilla’s ancestry is full of important people. Chardonnay on the till at Lidl rather fewer.

  4. On class mixing, I think there are estimates of how many progeny are out of group, the Duke shagging the laundry girl, the plantation owner doing the tobacco drier, homo shagging the conquered neanderthal (obvs that wasn’t UK but it gives an estimate of how much went on). I think Jolyolyon is the product of a man taking advantage of his social status.
    Even if it’s around 3%, you just need to tack back 150 years further and we’re all related. I think.

  5. How weird. I just heard today that a friend of mine died suddenly. His name was ……………………………Edward Seymour.

  6. You’re back with mathematics, again, Bongo. Take your laundry girl. Occupations used to run in families. She may be the descendent of a string of washerwomen. A proportion of which got rogered by the aristocracy in their youth. The milkmaid however was at the end of a long line of inherited ugliness you wouldn’t shag with a bag over her head. So apportioning percentages doesn’t really prove anything.
    Basically, if your great-great grandfather was a farm labour it’s a high probability it’s farm labourers all the way back to the Conquest. And since 95% of people worked on the land…

  7. Take one of my closest friends here. Her ancestry is slaves taken to Brasil. So probably not later than the early C19th. But she’s almost 100% Afro. You could plonk her down anywhere in West Africa & she’d blend right in. You’d think Brasil is a big melting pot. But it isn’t really. There’s lots of separate threads don’t overlap much. Sometimes you can tell where people come from just by looking at them, with better than 50% accuracy.
    You can use math & statistics with inanimate objects & animals. But humans have agency. What you’re actually looking at is the result of a long series of choices. Or lack of choices.

  8. @Steve: He was 80, and at that age you can’t be too beat up about someone who spent the Coronation weekend doing something he enjoyed (he was involved organising and performing a 21 gun salute to the new King) and then died in his sleep.

    I just wish I didn’t have a sneaking feeling that the V word was involved somewhere, especially as I also heard today of a fit 40 something dropping dead in his office……

  9. You’re reminding me of bit of an argument I had with Leo. I pointed out that he was a wicked colonialist as his Italian ancestors conquered the poor savages of Britain.

    He wasn’t taking any bullshit from me, so he pointed out that this meant we were cousins. Since part of the family came from Sussex, I had to hold my hands up in surrender. While laughing my head off.

  10. Bloke in North Dorset


    I get your point but if the Lord of the Manor rapes a tenant farmer’s daughter and the off spring remain in farming for a number of generations that Lord of the Manor is still one of the ancestors even if not known about.

    How much of that happened is anyone’s guess, my guess is not that much so your argument holds up.

  11. @BiND
    One would have to ask what the outcome of bearing the Lord of the Manor’s by-blow, wouldn’t one? One may be talking about an era doesn’t look kindly on unmarried mothers. She may not marry well or at all & end up in poverty, so reducing the life expectancy of descendants. So that line may die out in couple of generations. Or maybe he acknowledges the child, makes provisions for her & she prospers. You could use mathematics to refute evolution. Since mathematically all offspring have equal chance of survival.

  12. I was once helping sort out some old Church registers at a small country church which had really been built for the local bigwig family (their Castle ,still lived in by the family that built it a 1000 years ago , was just a short walk away). I chanced upon the Register of Births ,Deaths and Marriages for the early 1800s.Reading through it to find some of the local names, I could not help but notice that a lot of the births were considerably less than nine months after the marriage of the parents and in a lot of cases predated the marriage. also a lot of the fathers were not locals.I was surprised as this is just a small West Cumbrian village not really near any of the mines which had attracted migrant workers .

  13. BiS: “Since mathematically all offspring have equal chance of survival.”

    No they don’t. In fact, there’s several quite intricate genetic mechanisms to ensure variety is created by expressing maternal or paternal traits exclusively for a given gene within a generation.
    It’s one of the “invisible” adaptations mammals, and to an extent birds, have to retain evolutionary flexibility with relatively low numbers of offspring: We Shake the Dice really, really hard in places.

    So we’re “designed” to be born unequal. To maximise flexibility as a species. At a cost to individuals, but Mother Gaia never has cared about individuals.

    This is, incidentally, one of the proofs that we’re still, or rather: have never stopped, evolving.
    It’s just that the various combinations of existing and “novel” traits don’t give any one group a clear advantage over the wide range of environments we can live in as generalists.

    As for mathematically calculating your ancestry and the chance there’s someone nobby/outstanding enough to have become History…
    You can, but it’s pretty useless. Partly because of the points you mentioned, but mostly because having Nobs somewhere in your ancestry isn’t dependent on the dance of generations.

    It is dependent on quite human laws of inheritance, not the natural ones. And within 16 generations, or 16thC onwards, those things are pretty much well-recorded.
    And really.. If you can’t find anyone ( or more) sufficiently Nobby enough within 3-4 generations, in male line, because Nobs are still pretty conservative about that…
    It’s the chicken claiming to be a Tyrannosaurus at that point, isn’t it?

  14. I could not help but notice that a lot of the births were considerably less than nine months after the marriage of the parents and in a lot of cases predated the marriage.

    That’s not at all surprising and wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows at the time.

    Before the Victorian era it was custom for couples to begin trying for children when they became engaged. Not conceiving within a reasonable time would be a good reason for calling off the engagement, in the belief that the two parties were just not compatible.

  15. Anyone who traces their ancestry back 16 generations must have a very rosy picture concerning infidelity and illegitimacy.

  16. @Grikath
    They do if you apply the same math as being used for ancestry. Because all the factors you mention are being ignored.
    With ancestry there are going to be factors will raise the possibility of have a nob in your inheritance. I’d imaging domestic service would be a strong one. And other’s reduce. Tim claims Irish Catholic descent. So you have the Protestant/Catholic divide plus a pretty sharp class barrier & geographical isolation.. That’s going to have a far bigger influence than raw numbers.

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