I was talking with a young friend, a recent high school graduate, about the movie Gladiator. She said that while she was watching the movie, she wondered if she could have been related to anyone who would have been there at that time and place in history.

Although this question is probably typical of the one many viewers had, I was struck with how different this question was to the question I had. When I saw the scenes at the Coliseum, I wondered how few of the people there were not my ancestors.

I have come to believe from growing the A&E Family Forest, and seeing the patterns of human pathways over the course of many centuries, that most of the people in the Coliseum at that time were our ancestors (not just relatives, but people we are actually descended from).

Anyone there who eventually had grandchildren who had children most likely set in motion an ever-growing group of descendants that is now so large that it can now only be stopped by the extinction of the human race. It seems to me that a couple living at that time could easily be the ancestors of more than a billion people living today.

Looking at it from the reverse angle, if it were possible to know all of one’s ancestry back to the time setting of Gladiator, one would have to fill in more than one million times one trillion boxes (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) on a pedigree chart. The entire population of Rome at that time would only be a small blip on a chart that size.

4th Last Survivor

No, this log entry is not about the currently popular television show. It’s about the American Revolution, the Civil War, longevity, and the time frame of history.

I just entered Lemuel Cook, Sr. into the A&E Family Forest. On December 16, 1780 he enlisted as a private in Captain William Stanton’s Company, Colonel Elisha Sheldon’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, Connecticut Militia. When he died on May 20, 1866, he is said to have been the fourth last survivor of the American Revolution.

This made me pause to reflect. Of the many thousands of the Revolution veterans I have already entered into the A&E, most seem to have passed on by the 1820’s, and I can’t recall noticing any that made it past the 1840’s.

Here was someone who would have remembered for almost 40 years the particular 4th of July when two former US Presidents (Adams and Jefferson) died on the 50th anniversary of their signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Lemuel Cook, Sr. actually assisted in the successful birth of the United States. He saw our country defend that momentous birth in the War of 1812. He saw the expansion of the U.S. through the Louisiana Purchase, and the westward migration. And he lived to see our country survive the attempt to rip apart the great nation he had helped to create.

The way I was taught history in school left me with the impression that the American Revolution and the Civil War were lifetimes apart, and yet here is an actual person (an ancestor of Americans living today) who witnessed the evolution of the United States from before the Revolutionary War started until after the Civil War ended.

Admittedly, this particular individual did live a long time, but for me, it reinforces my growing realization that much of our history did not happen nearly as far in the distant past as it is often presented.

Opposite Sides

I was exploring some ancestral lines of a woman I know in Colorado, and I stopped to read about one of her ancestors. He was Major-General Thomas Harrison, and he was a judge at the trial of King Charles I of England who was executed in 1649.

But another one of this same woman’s ancestors was King Charles I of England. So at least two of her ancestors were very different participants in an important historical trial.

This is a recurring theme I see often when connecting so much ancestral history. The further one looks to the past, the more ancestors one will find on opposing sides of any issue or battle.

For instance, people who consider themselves to be of Scottish ancestry generally like cheering for William Wallace’s side when watching “Braveheart”. They assume all their ancestors were on the Scottish side on the field of battle.

Not true. I believe it is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, for anyone to have had ancestors on one side of the field without having ancestors on both sides of the field (even Prince Charles, try a 25 generation ancestor view, Presidential PIN 3575).

Although I haven’t zeroed in on the exact century, I believe there is a point in time when anyone with any European ancestry had ancestors on both sides of every battle fought in Europe. My estimate is that nine centuries ago is a very safe bet.