Barry's Relatively Speaking: Genealogy By The Numbers
Posted on Oct 14, 2012
Barry's Relatively Speaking shares the personal experiences and stories of genealogists found in the Everton Genealogical Helper Magazine collection on MyGenShare.com. Charles shares the following experience.
Using a five generation pedigree chart and simple arithmetic, one can determine to what extent each ancestor is responsible for his or her genetic makeup. In other words, from the total of thirty ancestors listed on the chart, each one represents 3.3% of the credit or responsibility for your characteristics. The surprise in this approach comes from the fact that each parent is only 3.3% responsible for their children. In fact both parents collectively get only 6.6% of the credit for who you are and why you are the way you are.
There is more truth in this approach than meets the eye at first. Since each successive generation serves only as a "pipeline" for transferring genetic traits to later generations, and the further back one works on a pedigree chart the greater the number of individuals involved, the cumulative responsibility for our genetic makeup increases correspondingly. By extending this rationale far enough into the past, one eventually concludes that our parents had practically nothing to do with our own personal traits, compared to all the other ancestors combined.
For an effective visual demonstration of this approach, complete a five generation pedigree chart, drawn to scale on translucent paper, superimpose it over a full length photo of yourself and run it through a copy machine. The chart and this formula shows that our great grandparents and our great-great grandparents (people we never even knew) gave
us fully 80% of our traits while our parents and grandparents contributed only 20% to our genetic makeup. One can adjust many old attitudes with this approach. For example, if your child is a brat, you are only 3.3% responsible but alas, if your grandchild is a brat, you along with his other ancestors, are 93.3% responsible for the little demon.
It seems strange then that we spend so much time and money in educating our children, planning our estates to insure their economic futures and other activities designed to benefit and protect them, while so little effort and interest is devoted to the subject that primarily determines their destiny, namely genealogy. So if you have heretofore been turned off on genealogy, pull out the old calculator and take another look.