The world's longest family tree

I was fascinated to see the world's longest family tree has been updated. The tree is the descendants of Confucius. Since Confucius died about 10 years before Socrates was born, this is an incredibly long time ago, almost 2,500 years. There's nothing in the western world to match it. As far as I'm aware the oldest tree in the west is for the intimately connected European royal families, who can be traced back to the Dark Ages but no further. I'm pretty sure there's no Roman whose descendants can be traced, and certainly no Greek. The reason the Confucius tree is known is his descendants were honoured and ennobled by successive generations of Emperors for so long that there are good records.

Of course, after 83 generations the amount of Confucius DNA in each of those people is a tiny fraction: 1 part in 283 in fact. Since the number of base pairs in human DNA is "only" about 3 billion, which is a mere 232, that means the amount of surviving Confucius DNA is effectively zero for all but those of direct male lineage. They of course will have the same Y chromosome.

10 comments:

Philangelus said...

That's amazing! I don't even know the name of my great-great grandfather on my mother's side...nor, sadly, the birth name of my paternal grandfather. (He changed it in a fit of pique.)

Imagine having that kind of connection to your past. :-)

Gary Corby said...

Hi Jane! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I'd love to know my ancestry going back a few thousand years. Surely it would have to change someone's whole attitude to life.

There's an old SF story called Enemy Mine in which a human becomes close friends with an alien enemy. In the alien culture each individual memorizes his ancestry going back for ages and the human is astounded by it. The human eventually memorizes his enemy's ancestry so he can have a past.

Stephanie Thornton said...

This is really intriguing. I'm always astounded when I meet someone with a famous relative. I have my students do a genealogy project to figure out where they come from, but the furthest back I've seen is to the 1600's- Mary, Queen of Scots. I've also met people related to Theodore Roosevelt- he's my favorite historical character outside of Hatshepsut.

I like to think I'm related to someone super-cool, but the only supposedly famous people in my family tree are Bailey from Barnum and Bailey's Circus and Alister Crowley, the crazy weird occult guy.

So if I'm a little weird I guess I know why!

The Writer said...

I loved Enemy Mine. Great movie. Having this kind of info on where you come from must be staggering to say the least. Still, you wonder where you get that chin or your eye color when your parents/grandparents obviously don't possess the same characteristics.

Gary Corby said...

Stephanie, you're related to Aleister Crowley? And there I was thinking you were perfectly normal. I think Crowley probably counts in the super-cool-if-utterly-whacko category.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Carrie, I had no idea Enemy Mine was made into a movie. It started life as a short story and then turned into a novel.

SomedayAuthor said...

So interesting. I've always wanted to know more about mine but haven't ever been able to dig up much. My grandfather had a book that "disappeared" after he died about two years ago. I was dying to get my hands on it and start researching! Question - What about the Jews? I bet some of those families claim ancient bloodlines and with their penchant for record keeping...

Gary Corby said...

Hi Someday, I'm very far from being an expert, but I don't know of any ancestral line that comes close to matching this. There's probably a genealogy expert somewhere who could tell us more.

Thomas said...

Just an aside, both the X and Y chromosomes undergo several changes in order to generate variations amongst each individual's egg or sperm. For example, the chromosomes replicate and then the identical strands "cross-over" and exchange DNA. So even Confucius' son didn't have the same exact Y chromosome as his father.. more like a jumbled up version. This makes the amount of surviving Confucius DNA absolutely zero for anyone in the present generation.

Gary Corby said...

Okay Thomas, clearly you know this stuff far better than I do! I treated like a piece of pure mathematics.

So much for Confucius living on.