Everybody has a past dating
I don’t know you, but I can almost guarantee that you don’t ask your grandparents (or older parents) enough questions about their lives and the lives of their parents.
We’re all incredibly self-absorbed, and in being so, we forget to care about the know quite well—can only be accessed by asking questions.
Alright, I’m nervous about this, but I’m gonna take a crack at going back even further— Okay that got completely out of hand. Most of them were your age in the second half of the 1600s, just as the Enlightenment was getting going in Europe.
You can see why it’s not really that impressive when someone tells you they are descended from famous royalty who lived a few hundred years ago.
Look how many people you’re descended from only about 300 years back!
Within that top section, there’s probably some royalty, in addition to some peasants, scholars, warriors, painters, prostitutes, murderers, lunatics, and any other kind of person who existed back then.
During my visit, Nana referred to herself as “the last of the Mohicans,” meaning basically everyone she spent her life with is dead—her husband, siblings, cousins, and friends are all gone. But it only took a couple minutes for her to become absorbed in storytelling, and I spent the next three hours I learned more than I had ever known about her childhood.
Normally, I’d just go internet spiral about this on my own, but since Wait But Why exists, we’re gonna do it together— So let’s start with the past, and see what happens if we keep going up the family tree, or what I’ll call your Ancestor Cone: You can see that things get hectic pretty quickly when you start moving back generations.With a concept called , which is what happens when people end up with a mate who is somewhat or very closely related to them.So for example, if two cousins had a child, that child would only have six great-grandparents, not eight.The simplest way to think about it is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are.The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor.