So how many direct ancestors do I have? It seems the answer would be an almost indeterminate number stretching back thousands of year. A more practical question is, how many ancestors have I correctly identified?
Let’s take a look at the numbers. I’ll leave the names for another time, but be assured there is a researched and documented person for each number I’ll use in this article.
I have two parents (second generation); four grandparents (third generation); eight great-grandparents (fourth generation); sixteen 2nd great-grandparents (fifth generation); thirty-two 3rd great-grandparents (sixth generation); sixty-four 4th great-grandparents (seventh generation) and one-hundred twenty-eight fifth great-grandparent (eight generation). With the number doubling each generation, the ninth generation would have 512 ancestors, and the tenth generation 1024 persons.
Well, theoretically those are the numbers … but a little pedigree collapse crept in along the way.
By that I mean the same persons occupied not one, but two, spaces in my direct lineage. Egidius Nipp (1765-1846) and his wife Theresa Willi (1771-1807) are my 4th great grandparents on two lines of my family.
My maternal grandparents, John Schaefers and Leona Ernster, both share a common set of second great-grandparents, that being Egidius Nipp and Theresa Willi. (Any, yes, that means my grandparents were third cousins to each other.)
But getting back to the numbers: I have calculated the per cent of direct ancestors that I’ve identified so far to the 8th generation. Here is how it breaks down:
2nd great-grandparents 100%
3rd great-grandparents 100%
4th great-grandparents 93.75%
5th great-grandparents 29.6%
It seems that just like housework, genealogy research is never really “done.” Time to pursue some of those missing fifth great-grandparents.