A Legend, by definition is “a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated.“
Put your hand up if you’ve been told that you have an ancestor who arrived on the Mayflower? I’ve been told that my Mother’s side of the family did. How about someone in your family who married a Native American Princess? One of my Step-Mom’s ancestors apparently did, as well as one of my best friend’s ancestors. I’ve also been told before that on my Father’s side of the family, the family tree goes all the way back to King Arthur. On my Husband’s Mother’s side of the family we can trace his tree all the way back to Robert the Bruce’s right hand man, Sir James Douglas.
However, proving Family Legends can be quite difficult.
Take King Arthur for example. Was he even a real person? That alone is up for debate.
I do intend on investing some more time in tracing the path leading back to Sir James Douglas, however one must also be realistic here. That would be going back let’s say 22 generations to the year 1330. How many 22x Great Grandparents could you potentially have? Or how many descendants could there be from that one historical figure? The potential numbers are staggering. Starting with yourself and going back, each generation would double because you have 2 parents and they each have 2 parents, and so on and so on. The numbers grow exponentially going back even just a few generations, to the point when you are left with a number of potential ancestors that is so high, eventually even more than the population of the Earth at that particular time.
So how then is any of this possible?
AND if there are THAT many ancestors why do any of us even bother? For me, it’s a challenge and pure curiousity. I don’t give it much weight. Just for the fun of it all, here’s a website to check out, RelativeFinder.org It’s run by FamilySeach.org. So you’ll need to log in with your Family Search credentials (free site). Using information on a basic tree I had entered into FamilySearch.org I now “know” that I am related to Marilyn Monroe, and to Tom Cruise, and also many members of European Royalty, including James Charles Stuart VI of Scotland (he’s my 3rd cousin 12 times removed, just in case you were curious). James VI, I might add is a direct descendant of the formentioned Douglas family with whom my husband is related. So yes, that means my husband and I are in fact cousins. Very VERY distant cousins. So then, aren’t we all?
I digress. Going back to the previous question of the shear number of ancestors we all have being more than the population of the Earth itself…well, it can be explained with a term called pedigree collapse. You can Google it if you’d like, but essentially it just means that somewhere along the line two parents would have shared common ancestors. Putting it simply, cousins marrying cousins. Don’t panic, every family has it, it’s much more common than you may think. A couple of examples in my family come to mind, in my Mom’s adopted family, we have a Lippman marrying a Lippman. In my husband’s family, a Wright marrying a Wright.
I do think that finding someone famous or infamous in your family tree brings some excitement to the process. So, I’m all for tracking down these Family Legends. I intend to find that connection to the Mayflower, and find out more our connection to Sir James Douglas. I’m not sure how I would even go about proving or disproving a relation to King Arthur…but I’m up for the challenge!
I’m participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestor Challenge. This week the writing prompt is Family Legend. Her ideas to start us off were “Is there a tale that’s been passed down in your family? Have you proven (or maybe disproven) it? Perhaps you have an ancestor who was legendary (or should have been).“