Thursday, August 29, 2013

Genealogy and memes

A recent WDYTYA highlighted part of Cindy Crawford's ancestry and showed her descent from Charlemagne. Someone estimated that 1000 hours of research had gone into this particular episode. These shows, and ads by sites like, have increased the interest in genealogy.

Of those 1000 hours, how many were related to backtracking from a dead-end? Humans have some type of reduction/closure operator that pares graphs in an ex-post-facto fashion so that the details (grunt work? - let's hear it for the Marines and soldiers who have their feet on the ground - and those who get themselves daily into the dirt for the collective well-being) get shuffled out. A look back then sees a glorified (dusted off) reality. Actually, if you look at the state-of-the-art of planning and controlling (it's under a general topic called, by some, earned value), it's too easy to miscalculate what is necessary going forward to accomplish some task (actually, we don't have 20-20 hindsight, either). To wit? Microsoft, Boeing, ... (it's a very long list, folks).


We had a similar increase in genealogical interest here around the turn of the century (the 1900 one). At that time, we had the 300th anniversary of Jamestown and New England. Too, it was a little past the 100th of the American Revolution. Now, we have seen, and are looking forward to, 400th anniversaries.

Aside: Our truth interests are several. Firstly, humans are directly involved with truth. We'll go into that further. Too, memes come into play when considering humans and their progress/regress.


For perspective, at the cohort level where some of Cindy's ancestor took the journey to this side of the pond (1600s), she would have 1000s of ancestors. What we see, or can retrieve, are single threads, sometimes twisted through inter-marriage. That means that there are holes in the tree; normal people don't have a filled in tree, say as compared to that of Princes William and Harry.

As a means to discriminate the unworthy, the upper crust had to be vigilant since they didn't want interlopers. Except, over here, people started to do data collecting, and analysis, early on (there are wonderful collections; yet, fires and other disasters have taken away lot -- even, to the current - the U.S. Army had a fire at its records site in Saint Louis, MO in the 1960s -- as you would guess, with losses).

So, being able to prove a lineage is more uncommon that we would like to consider. Most people have large holes in their trees. Or, some like to think of walls (solid material, like bricks) that keep one from venturing back. Trying to fill these in (or climb over the barrier) motivates a lot of work.

Aside: Any accumulation of genealogical knowledge resulted from prior work. It would be nice if it were like mathematics where later theorems, that are extensions, explicitly reference the former work. Not giving credit where due seems to be a norm in genealogy.

Aside: With Charlemagne, some still argue about the lines. Of course, Medievalist do more than just think of lineage. We need people to think of cohorts of Charlie or the state of the world when he was there (say, year of birth, 742).


Just as we see with genealogy, no problem/solution set is completely filled in. That idea, folks, is a panacea. The usual retort is that there ain't no silver bullet. But, we need to take it further (and will). A few comments, of late here, have involved the need to think of "singularities." Perhaps, that is an overused term (concept), so we'll need to coin something. The issue is partly mathematical, in scope.


03/03/2014 -- Example that will be the focus.

09/02/2013 -- Looking forward to future episodes.

09/01/2013 -- After seeing the Cindy episode in which she visits Charlie's grave, there is a guy (seen him before) who pompously says that Charlie was the father of Europe and Cindy ought to be proud (or something like that) about Charlie being her grandfather. Perhaps he was the father of Europe, as, after his son's death, they divided the kingdom amongst (some of) his grandsons. And, along with fighting the frequent raiders from outside (too numerous to name), there was fighting amongst cousins. Makes one wonder how these Christian countries adopted such practices as the Savior never condoned. Could there have been some type of united Europe back then? Well, the militaristic (aggressive) nature of some peoples, say Muslims, may argue against being too insular and defenseless. Or even the Vikings who found the monks and their property too easy to pilfer. So, are there lessons that we can learn from so long ago, 50+ generations?

08/30/2013 -- I browsed today a recent book on Charles II's ancestry. It has a recent publication date. Well, about the eighth generation, a hole appeared. Now, this would carry forward. And, one could probably find hole later one. Now, remember, eight generations is a couple of centuries. I don't think that anyone here would have a filled in tree going back 200 years. If there is someone who is close (say, as close as would be the Princes - see above - I would like to hear about it).

Modified: 03/03/2014

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