Day 112: Trace your roots.Posted: April 22, 2011
Shit, this is going to be easy.
I have two parents, a mother and a father. My parents have siblings; these are my aunts and uncles. Some of them have children; these are my first cousins. There are other degrees of cousin, but I don’t understand how they work.
My parents also each have parents of their own; these are my grandparents. There are four of them. My grandparents all had parents as well; these are my great-grandparents. There are eight of them. They had parents as well – my great-great-grandparents, of which there are sixteen – the pattern is fairly regular.
Some of these grandparents and great-grandparents and whatnots had other children; I’m not sure what to call those. The same goes for any siblings any of these people might have had. Somehow I’m related to them, I guess, but it all gets tangled and messy very quickly, and I never see any of these people anyway, so I’m not going to bother figuring it out.
The tree is not a good metaphor for thinking about family relationships: it only works, really, if you ruthlessly ignore everyone who isn’t parent or child. No siblings, anywhere, because then the tree gets really out of hand – it ceases to be a tree, and becomes a great big tangled web of how-the-fuck-are-we-supposed-to-read-this-thing?, and nobody wants that.
Even focusing on direct descent, things get out of hand pretty quickly: two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-greats, 32 3-greats, 64 4-greats, 128 5-greats, 256 6-greats – and pretty soon you’re related to everyone.
For my part, I can count Oliver Goldsmith, Francis Bacon (the really dead one, not the recently-dead one), Queen Elizabeth I, Voltaire, and King Æthelred the Unready among my ancestors. Also the dude who posed as Jesus in this painting – and the dude who painted it. And Jesus.
Seriously, the famous dead people? I’m related to all of them. All the good ones, anyway – if somebody did something questionable, I’m not related to that person. You can figure out on your own which are which.