Don’t know how true it is, but I’m sure we’ve all heard the claim that every American of European heritage is descended from Charlemagne. Do the African-American and Asian-American, and Hispanics for that matter, have an equivalent historical figure?
Genghis Khan, for much of Asia and even parts of Eastern Europe.
Thanks Andy. Due to slavery, and sloppy recordkeeping, I doubt the A-A equivalent is knowable.
Also Niall has lots of descendants. Genghis Khan, definitely. There’s even a page on Wikipedia. The Khans moved into the Middle East, the far North, etc. although I don’t know to what extent the genetics “settled.”
The Jewish equivalent is “Aaron.”
Something like 1/6 of African Americans have European ancestry. Most Hispanic people, being descended from Spaniards or other Europeans, are of course potentially descendants of the above. Many people in Latin America are of mixed ancestry, although Argentina and Uruguay have particularly European population, mostly Spanish and/or Italian.
The thing is, everyone with any European heritage is descended not just from Charlemagne,but every other person in Europe at the time who has descendants living today. So the historical figure aspect of this is irrelevant. You can substitute any other historical figure, or any random peasant, and they would also be your ancestor (if they have living descendants).
Charlemagne lived 1200 years ago. That many generations ago your family tree would have had more than one trillion slots. The population of the entire world at the time was maybe 200-300 million. So obviously there is a lot of redundancy among your ancestors at the time, with single individuals filling multiple slots (a phenomenon known as pedigree collapse).
For Africa, if you picked someone like Mayan Dyabe Cisse of Ghana, a contemporary of Charlemagne, there would be a good chance he was an ancestor of most Africans living today.
Mayan Cisse is not a name I’m familiar with. Thanks Colibri.
I just picked him as a named ruler of the Ghanan Empire who was a contemporary of Charlemagne. The main difference is that we don’t know how long his lineage persisted.
I think that’s the point though. A large number of people don’t end up having living descendants. Going back more than a thousand years, how many people provably have living descendants?
Nowadays, it’s fairly easy for many people of European descent to find all the supporting documents showing the exact descent from Charlemagne. For instance, it’s not too hard for French Canadians to trace their genealogy to Catherine de Baillon using Church records, and from there the work has already been done back to Charlemagne.
The question should be, then, not whether someone is likely a descendant of so-and-so, but rather are there people of African or Asian descent who can produce reliable genealogical records going back 40 generations?
As far as I can tell, there is no equivalent in Africa. I think there are genealogical lines in Ethiopia going back quite a bit, but I’m not sure. In Asia, however, the clear equivalent to Charlemagne is Confucius. Literally millions of people claim descent from him, and several of those do have genealogical records, although possible adoptions make claims of genetic descent difficult to support with certainty.
Not up to Charlemagne or Genghis Khan levels, but I’ve read that Thomas Jefferson has about six thousand living descendants. Which is pretty impressive for a guy who’s been dead less than two hundred years.
I was going to call this an unbelievably stupid question, but the more I ponder it, the more intriguing it gets. With the current state of the art in gene mapping, we should be able to identify an African ancestor or three, IF we can find their DNA somewhere. Good question, etv. this one might even get a few doctorates chugging.
From the Wiki page, it seems that the genealogy of the descendants of Genghis Khan is not well established. Many dynasties claimed descent on tenuous grounds.
Genetic evidence shows that about 8% of men in the former Mongol Empire have a Y-chromosome showing common descent from about 1,000 years ago, or several centuries before Genghis himself. It’s presumed, but not demonstrated, that this chromosome was so widely spread due to descent from Genghis and his offspring.
Important point, here: Charlemagne’s family tree isn’t at all remarkable. He’s had plenty of descendants, but so have most other people who were alive at his time. And yes, I say most: It’s really hard to kill off a family tree except really close to the roots. Many more people claim descent from Charlemagne than from Chuck the Farmer who worked Charlemagne’s fields, but that’s just because Charlemagne was famous, and has nothing to do with how prolific his line actually was.
On the other hand, Genghis really was uncommonly prolific. Hundreds of millions of people not only descend from him, but descend from him in the purely male line. That is to say, if you’re one of those hundreds of millions, then if you take your father, then his father, then his father, and so on, you will reach Genghis. Or put another way, if children all took the surname of their father in the relevant places and times, then those hundreds of millions of people would all share Genghis’ name.
I don’t think that’s true. I think that historically, the majority of people end up with no descendants. Obviously, historically a very large number of people didn’t make it to adulthood, but I think a large number of lineages go extinct rapidly even if someone has many children. Just as an example, JS Bach had 20 children but has no living descendants. I tried finding a better cite, but the papers on the bisexual Galton–Watson process I found were a bit heavy reading for a lunch-time break!