Surname Longevity

How long do surnames live in memory?

With people, women’s average life expectancy is longer than men’s. With surnames, just the opposite is true.

Paternal surnames are often remembered for many generations, but maternal surnames are often forgotten after only two generations. It seems that most people, except those who have been bitten by the genealogy bug, do not know or remember the surnames of either of their grandmothers.

Why is this? Why do non-genealogists believe that genealogy is only about one’s own surname? Why does mainstream media continue to encourage this belief? Aren’t mothers’ genes important? Just as important? Why aren’t mothers railing against this unfair bias by the mainstream media?

The line of one’s father’s father’s father’s father’s etc. is but one thin thread from the large and undoubtedly very colorful tapestry of one’s ancestry. The law of averages says that most of the excitement is elsewhere; on one (or most probably both) of the paths that begin with either one’s mother or one’s father’s mother.

To know all of one’s ancestry for twenty generations (only about six centuries) means that one can fill in more than one million boxes on one’s ancestor chart. The line of one’s father’s father’s father’s father’s etc. represents only twenty (20) of those one million plus boxes.

I wonder when the mainstream media will begin exploring and reporting on all of the exciting and enriching possibilities on mothers’ ancestral pathways?


Who established the first steam laundry in California? Who ran the first regular steam ferry between San Francisco and Oakland, CA?

The answer to both questions is Hon. Henry Augustus Stearns, but it almost would have had to have been someone else.

In his early twenties, Henry Augustus Stearns was engaged in the manufacture of cotton-wadding in New England. But in 1850 he sailed for California via the Isthmus of Panama with machinery for a steam laundry.

Shortly after leaving Panama, Henry’s story could have easily ended. He could have been just another young man who embarked on an adventure, perished at sea, and never had a chance to make his mark on history.

The ship was not seaworthy. It floated about on the Pacific Ocean for four months. All on board were allowed only four ounces of bread and a pint of water each, per day.

But he survived to reach California and make his mark on history in the San Francisco Bay area. Later he returned to New England and became the first Superintendent of the Union Wadding Company in Pawtucket, RI, father of eight children, Lieutenant Governor of RI, the largest stockholder in the Kilby Manufacturing Company in Cleveland, OH, the owner of a cattle ranch in NM, and a member of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He also obtained a number of patents on cotton-gins, and patented the railway safety-gate.

How might one additional week adrift at sea have affected the subsequent chain of events?

The Crossing

After watching “The Crossing” last night on television, we looked in our new American & European Family Forest Millennium Edition for more information about Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River.
Of course the Founders & Patriots section of the A&E Family Forest contained soldiers who were there, but the two people I found of most interest were in the Mid-Atlantic section of the A&E Family Forest. They were Dr. Nathaniel Luff (PIN 2713) and Major John Hazzard (PIN 918).

According to volume III of “Delaware: A History of the First State” Major John Hazzard was a Revolutionary War hero who “piloted” Washington across the Delaware River. It might be that “piloted” is a bit of exaggeration, since Colonel John Glover’s Marblehead fishermen appeared to have had complete control of Washington’s crossing. But then again, Major Hazzard was from nearby Delaware, and could have been much more familiar with the territory and the river than those from Marblehead, MA.

Whatever the particulars, his descendants can be justly proud that he was there. Major Hazzard married three times, was the father of a Delaware governor, and had numerous other descendants. In addition to those named Hazzard, his descendants (and families they married into) who are included in the Mid-Atlantic section of the A&E Family Forest had surnames of Clark, Coates, Davis, Fisher, Hafleigh, McCurdy, Wolf, and Wolfe.

Dr. Nathaniel Luff, only twenty when he crossed the Delaware with General Washington, was a surgeon in the First Battalion of Philadelphia. Twenty-three years later, he was a founder of the Delaware Medical Society. He was married twice and had at least eight children. In addition to those named Luff, his descendants (and families they married into) who are included in the Mid-Atlantic section of the A&E Family Forest had surnames of Atkins, Buckingham, Camper, Clancey, Coverdale, Cohee, Elliott, Green, Harrington, Jarrell, Kruger, Lord, Miller, Reoch, Ross, Southard, Tucker, Valentine, Voshell, Warren, Warrington, Wassman, and Wharton.

After more than two centuries, there can be a very large number of descendants from those hundreds of young soldiers who crossed the Delaware River with Washington at that pivotal point in American history. I can’t help but wonder how many people who watched “The Crossing” had ancestors who were actually there in December 1776, but are unaware of the fact.

Scaling Mt. Everest

I have been excitedly testing the new American & European Family Forest Millennium Edition, which will be manufactured next week. While trying to discover its limits, I found that it literally reaches new heights.
A 25 generation Ancestor View (without siblings, and with Cousin Smart de-selected) for Prince Andrew of Greece (pin# 5608) reached the first major peak.

According to the counters within the new version 3.0 of Family Explorer, it filled in 975,750 boxes on the chart with ancestors of Prince Andrew, and the space required to print this chart would be 4 pages wide by 29,259 pages high. At 11 inches high per page, the height of this chart would reach from sea level to more than 6,500 feet above the highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley!

Prince Andrew’s wife is lineage-linked to a similar size pedigree in this Family Forest, so a 25 generation Ancestor View (without siblings, and with Cousin Smart de-selected) for their son, Prince Philip (pin# 3574) produces an even larger chart.

According to the counters, it filled in almost 1.09 million boxes on the chart with ancestors of Prince Philip, and the space required to print this chart would be 4 pages wide by 33,110 pages high. This chart would reach from sea level to more than 1,300 feet above the highest peak on the planet, Mt. Everest!

So, for the first time ever, it is now possible to calculate and display pedigree charts that are more than five miles high. What should one expect to find on pedigree charts with more than one million boxes filled in?

Who’s That Girl?

We just watched the Dreamworks movie “Amistad”, and then used the Presidential Family Forest to gain additional perspective on some of the key characters. Of course U.S. Presidents Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams were there, as well as U.S. Vice President John Caldwell Calhoun, but we were interested in the 11 year old girl who fanned the flames of this controversy, Queen Isabella II of Spain.

Marie Isabella Louise, who became Queen of Spain as Isabella II, was born on October 10, 1830 and died on April 9, 1904. As long ago as the time frame of Amistad seemed to be, Queen Isabella II was actually living during the lifetimes of people who are still living today.

Queen Isabella II was not included in the first edition of the Presidential Family Forest, but is included in the new edition that is about to be published within the American & European Family Forest. It is fascinating to see all of the European history that lead up to this 11 year old girl being the Queen of Spain at the point in time of the Amistad incident.

A ten generation ancestor view of Queen Isabella II, which reaches back about three centuries, in the Presidential Family Forest has 432 of the possible 512 boxes in the tenth column filled in. Some of the names in those tenth generation boxes are:

King Christian IV of Denmark & Norway, Emperor Ferdinand II, Duke Albert Friedrich of Prussia, King Charles I of England, King Louis XIII of France, King Anthony of Navarre, Queen Joan III of Navarre, Grand Duke Francis Medici of Tuscany, King Philip II of Spain & Portugal, Anne of Austria, Archbishop Karl of Steiermark, Marie of Bavaria, Duke Francois I of Lorraine, Princess Anne of Denmark, Elector Wilhelm II the Religious of Bavaria, Duke Emanuele Filliberto of Savoy, Duke Alessando Farnese of Parma, Marie of Portugal, King Henry IV the Great of Navarre & France, Grand Duke Fernando I of Tuscany, Duke Caesare I d’Este of Modena & Ferrara, Duke Karlo Emanuele I the Great of Savoy, Princess Anne of Denmark, King James I of England, Duke Caesar of Vendome, Duchess Anne of Aumale, Duke Henrico I of Nemours, Elector Christian I of Saxony, Elector Johann Georg I of Brandenburg, Landgrave Georg I of Hessen-Darmstadt, Wilhelm V of Cleve-Julich & Berg, Pfalzgr. Wolfgang of Pfalz-Zweibrucken, Duke Georg I of Hanover, Duke Christian of Baireuth, Markgrave Joachim Ernst of Ansbach, Duke Johann Friedrich of Wurtemberg, Johan Casimir of Pfalz-Zweibrucken, Princess Henrietta Maria of France,Count Victor Amadeus I of Savoy, Elector Maximilian I the Great of Bavaria, King Philip IV of Spain, King Philip II (III) of Spain & Portugal, Duke Charles of Mantua & Nevers, King Frederick V of Bohemia, Princess Elizabeth Stuart of England, Princess Marie Anne Eleanore of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Duke William of Brunswick-Luneburg.

What Were They Thinking?

Comments from a Captain’s Log subscriber brought back thoughts from a springtime drive in Delaware when we were living and working there several years ago.

Kristine and I were making one of our many frequent drives from Sussex County to the Delaware Hall of Records in Dover for the day. The trip took about an hour as we zipped along at a mile per minute. During that hour we heard many voices (via radio) from various points on the planet, and were subjected to hundreds (thousands?) of roadside advertisements and commercial messages. Later in the same day, we would repeat this high-stimuli experience, and sleep in the same bed we had slept in the previous night.

What a contrast! As I study the lives of thousands of people who lived just a relatively few generations earlier, I try imagining what they thought about, and how life on this planet may have appeared to them.

For them, a one way trip from Sussex County to Dover was a real journey. It would take all day. It would unfold at the soothing pace of nature. They would spend the night, or two or three, enjoying the warm hospitality of good friends or relatives.

During the journey, auditory stimuli would be limited(?) to the sounds of nature, and thoughtful conversation with companions and/or people they met along the way. Although they could not enjoy the auditory delights of Vivaldi or Mozart, what they avoided was certainly well worth the loss.

People then were not subjected every half hour to sensationalized bad news and dirt about people they didn’t know. They were not subjected to a heavy and seemingly constant barrage of voices of barkers and hucksters trying to make a sale. And as hard as it is for us to imagine, they never heard the obnoxious rumblings of engines or the high-speed whine of motors.

What price have we paid for giving up long hours of uninterrupted quiet times to explore and examine our own thoughts, and those of our friends? Reading some of the writings of people from centuries ago makes me feel woefully inadequate, and makes me realize that the price may have been far too high.

Where Do They Come From?

Many people believe that all of their ancestors originally came from one particular country. Even though they may be 100% correct about some of their ancestors, they are unaware of the bigger picture.

When viewed within a 2,000 year time frame, it appears impossible to have ancestors from Ireland and not have ancestors from Italy, or to have ancestors from Scotland and not have ancestors from Turkey, or to have ancestors from Portugal and not have ancestors from Russia, etc.

For instance look back just 1,000 years to the family of Jaroslaw I Vlasimirowitsch, Grand Duke of Kiev. In 1009 he married Ingegard of Sweden. Without looking further back, we at least know that all nine or so of his children have both Russian and Swedish ancestry.

Within just a couple of centuries, his six sons had descendants scattered throughout all points of Europe, and probably well into Asia. But let’s look at just the three daughters.

One daughter married Andreas I, King of Hungaria. Their daughter married a king of Bohemia, and had children. So in just a few generations their children have at least Russian, Swedish, Hungarian, and Bohemian ancestry.

Another daughter married Harald Hardrada, King of Norway. Before 1400, she had descendants in Alencon, Anhalt, Aragon, Athens, Austria, Bar, Bavaria, Bohemia, Bourbon, Brabant, Brandenburg, Brittany, Brunswick, Burgundy, Calabria, Castile, Constantinople, Cracow, Cyprus, Denmark, Durazzo, England, Estonia, Exorica, Flanders, France, Galacia, Gandia, Germany, Gravina, Grubenhagen, Hainault, Hapsburg, Hessen, Holland, Holstein, Homberg, Hungary, Ingolstadt, Kalisz, Lorraine, Luxemburg, Majorca, Mecklenburg, Molina, Moncada, Monferrat, Monthemer, Morea, Naples, Narbonne, Nassau, Navarre, Norway, Novgorod, Orleans, Palatine of Rhine, Perche, Perigord, Poland, Pommern, Poznan, Provence, Ribagorza, Rugen, Russia, St. Pol, Savoy, Saxony, Schleswig, Scotland, Serbia, Sicily, Slavonia, Sweden, Taranto, Thessalonica, Toledo, Tortosa, Toulouse, Urgel, Valencia, Valois, Vienna, Waldeck, Wroclaw, and many other places.

But by comparison, a much larger high-probability intersection was created by the other sister. She married Henri I, King of France. The probability of passing through this one intersection multiple times if you follow your ancestral trails long enough must be amazingly close to 100%.

As a rule of thumb, it’s usually true that kings begat kings. But quite often, it’s equally true that kings begat many other children, who begat many other children, who begat many other children, etc. The royal genes spread profusely throughout the general populations of many countries within several centuries.

At the time the small number of Mayflower families began creating their estimated 30,000,000 descendants living today, how many families throughout Europe were creating descendants of Russian couple Jaroslaw I Vlasimirowitsch, Grand Duke of Kiev, and Ingegard of Sweden? Tens of Thousands? Hundreds of Thousands? More?

While traveling along all of your own ancestral trails that will lead you back to Jaroslaw I Vlasimirowitsch, Grand Duke of Kiev, and Ingegard of Sweden, it seems inevitable that you will pass through every country in Europe.


I just entered “Ratpod (Radeboton)” of Habsburg, Count of Altenburg and Duke of Alsace from 990 to 1027, into the Presidential Family Forest. In many ways, he is not very different from thousands of others from his time period who have already been entered into the database.

Although he is probably one of your ancestors, as well as an ancestor of most of the people in America and Europe, I don’t believe he would be considered famous. Maybe somewhere he is still mentioned in school, but probably not often.

What caught my attention, and caused my thoughts to wander, was the date of his death.

According to the source I’m working with, he died June 30, 1027. Not in the first half of the eleventh century. Not about 1027. It specifically says June 30, 1027.

Oftentimes, people today search in vain trying to find an ancestor’s death date from one century ago, and here is the exact month, day, and year of the death of an ancestor who lived a millennium ago. Doesn’t it seem amazing that this particular bit of detailed knowledge has endured for 1,000 years?

And today, after surviving almost ten centuries stored in paper, knowledge about “Ratpod (Radeboton)” of Habsburg, Count of Altenburg and Duke of Alsace, has now been placed into digital storage.

Will knowledge about this ancestor of ours survive until the year 3000? Or for that matter, will knowledge about many (or any) people living today survive until the year 3000?

High Probability Intersections

This is an analogy that helps me better understand the big picture concerning how each of us is descended.
When the results of the thousands of hours of historical connecting I do is displayed visually, I see maps. These are maps of paths leading to and from what I think of as intersections, and some of these paths can be followed in the same general direction through more than 70 intersections.

An intersection is a family group. Following along with the map analogy, each intersection has two paths leading in from the north; the mother’s line and the father’s line. Each intersection has as many paths leading out to the south as the number of children of that couple (which could range between zero and, according to Guinness, 69). The paths of unmarried children are dead-ends. The paths of married children lead to another intersection.

A family with ten children would create an intersection of 12 paths. Two of these lead to the north, or back into the past, and ten of these lead to the south, or toward the present time.

Every married child is located in two intersections (actually it could be more, considering multiple marriages, but we’ll skip that level of complexity for now). She or he appears in the intersection that contains her or his parents and siblings, and she or he also appears in the intersection that contains her or his spouse and children (if any).

So while I’m mapping out tens of thousands of intersections, I think of them in terms of probability. That is, the probability of a person of today passing through that particular intersection as she or he follows her or his pathways to the past through ancestors.

Although quantifying them is difficult, they fall somewhere within a range of zero to ten. The rating depends on the number of children and the period of time. In your search for ancestors, you will never pass though the intersection of a couple without children, so this is clearly a “0”. For me, of all the millions of intersections that have been created this century, I only pass through a maximum of three (my parents’ and both sets of grandparents’). Therefore, all intersections created this century are basically a “0” for me, as well as for most other people searching for ancestors.

But the possibility begins climbing in the previous century, and accelerates with each earlier century. Considering the number of intersections each of us passes through over time, the probability of passing through some specific intersections must reach very close to 100% at some point a number of centuries ago. These intersections would be rated “10”.

To gain perspective, consider Mayflower descendants. According to the Mayflower Society, the 26 Mayflower families (intersections) with known descendants account for 35 million people living today. On average, that would be 1.3 million people who pass through each of those intersections from just four centuries ago. What would the numbers increase to four or six centuries before then? Also, those 35 million Mayflower descendants pass through a very large number of additional intersections that were created during the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, it appears that a large number of intersections with a half dozen children, created before the end of the previous millennium, would be rated at least a “7” and maybe as much as a “9”.

If this is true, what does this suggest about intersections that were created B.C.? Could it be that most of them, or at least most of those with grandchildren, would rate very close to a “10” for all of us?

Before My Second Cup

Before I had finished my first cup of coffee this morning, I felt I had accomplished more than enough to justify taking the rest of the year off (even though my boss won’t even consider letting me take the rest of the day off).

I was working on the Dukes of Brunswick in the Presidential Family Forest. “Bruno I Unknown” was already in the first edition of the Presidential at the top of the line, but other than a death year and the name of his wife and son, I had no information about him.

But Brunon I, Count of Brunswick from 955 to 972, is responsible for a high-probability intersection (see “upcoming log entry” for an explanation of intersections) that I estimate at least twenties of millions of people living today will eventually pass through, if they follow their roots back thirty-five or so generations.

Brunon I’s parents were also in the first edition of the Presidential, but I had not yet come across the source that connected them to Brunon. With just a couple of mouse clicks, I connected Brunon to more than 120 ancestors stretching back 44 generations (fully-sourced, of course).

With just the addition of a few more people, and a couple more mouse clicks, I connected Brunon to a number of additional lines of descent that stretch throughout Europe and America and lead down to present day. It seems likely that the majority of people in America and Europe will connect into these lines at some point between here and Brunon, if they follow enough of their roots.

Immediately after all of that, I made another connection of equal magnitude. Doesn’t that sound like enough justification for taking a little time off?