Shocking Truths About Your Medieval Ancestry

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A. Your surname is virtually irrelevant to your ancestry

B. You’re descended from royalty

C. You’re Jewish.

Here’s how and why …. All of us have four grandparents, and most of us have eight great grandparents, and sixteen great-great grandparents. This doubling of “great” grandparents usually happens with every generation as you go back in time. I say “usually” because things can get complicated if cousins or even distant cousins marry, in which case the married couple will share at least one common grandparent and/or some common great grandparents. Every century there can be anything between two to five generations in any given family tree, but for arguments sake, we will call it three generations per century here. Going by that estimate, to arrive in the 12th century AD, you would have to go back 26 generations, by which time you potentially have over sixty million great x25 grandparents. If in doubt, grab a calculator and do the mathematics. Because of the convergence of family trees, and generations getting mixed up, I do not pretend that you had tens of millions of direct ancestors walking around in the 12th century, but it would have certainly amounted to several millions. The population of Europe was so low at the time, that several million people, selected almost randomly, would have been a very wide and well-represented cross-section of medieval society, of which at least one would have been a king, a prince or princess of some description. Also, at least one of these millions would have (almost certainly) been a Jewess by birth. According to Jewish law and custom, Jewishness is never diluted, can never be repudiated and is passed down the female line. So, in the last millennium, if any one of your millions of female ancestors (on your mother's side) was born a Jewess, then (according to Jewish law) you’re Jewish too. As far as our much-cherished surnames go, if you went back to around 1700 AD when you had a mere five hundred great x9 grandfathers, probably only one of those individuals bore your surname, and that individual was as genetically relevant to who you are as all your other great x9 grandfathers. Indeed, more than 99% of your direct ancestors over the last five hundred years, did not share your surname.

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