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The Pedigree Diamond
(a continuation of the Kinship of the World)

A pedigree chart traces a person's ancestors from his parents to his grandparents, great-grandparents, an so on, as far as research will let him go. Since the number of ancestors doubles every generation, it seems to the genealogist that his pedigree will increase to a huge number of ancestors in only a few generations.

If pedigrees actually worked that way, in only twenty generations every persons would have 2,091,150 ancestors, more people than there are in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around twice as many as there are in Birmingham, England or Johannesburg, South Africa, and almost as many as there are in Melbourne, Australia.

And to carry it even further, in thirty generations (about 1,000 years) a person would have over two billion ancestors, far more people than there were in the world in AD 1000.

Something must be wrong with the figures.

Not really. The simple answer is that somewhere along the line our ancestors were already related to each other. It happened more frequently than we suspect. Without knowing it, our ancestors have often married their fifth, sixth, or seventh cousins, and so instead of having more and more ancestors the further back we go, eventually we have fewer and fewer. It probably won't narrow down to just one couple until we come to Noah, but chances are good that all our recent ancestors are descended from a few hundred or few thousand people, not the millions or billions that the arithmetic shows. On a chart this looks like a diamond, the pedigree diamond.

If our ancestors were all related to each other, the same must be true of all of us; we don't have to go back to Noah to find a kinship with our neighbors. As we research our genealogies we find our pedigrees mingling with those of hundreds and thousands of others, until we are all traveling on the same broad road of ancestry back to the fathers of the human race.

We are part of an intricate set of relationships, one that often grows dim in the distance of time, but one that is vital to us. We know that it is through this great family we belong to that we will be exalted. And though there are few, if any genuine pedigrees that take us back to Noah, the pedigree diamond reminds us of the brotherhood of all mankind.