The Many Ancestors Behind Us

I am an Celtic Anglo Australian-American.  My ancestral roots in England, Ireland and Wales.


In my healing work, I sometimes use a body of work called Family Constellations or Hellinger work (named for the primary developer).  Hellinger work looks to our ancestral roots for answers to perhaps vexing life questions and to put us back in touch with our resources and our strength.


An exercise that I do from time to time, especially when working with healing clients, is to imagine that behind me stand my parents, my father on the right and my mother on the left with my grandparents behind them.  I add my great grandparents and successive generations to as far as I can imagine in the moment.  It might sound strange to hear this, but I do feel benevolence, love and strength flow towards and through me and this is a great support to me in my work and in my life.


I was curious to know how many people stand behind me so I created a spreadsheet.  Going back through time, I calculated the number of people in each of the generations and related those numbers to the data I found online for estimated world population at various times in history and to the population of Britain and Ireland.  The numbers staggered me.  


Picture in your mind’s eye, your two parents; behind them your 4 grandparents; behind your grandparents are your 8 great grandparents.  Now place your 16 great great grandparents in the back there.  Bring in your 32 great great great grandparents.  Can you see that the number of individuals in each previous generation doubles?  


It gets crowded back there as you explore further back.  By the time you get to the tenth generation around let’s say, 1730, there are 2,046 people standing behind you.  At around 1500, there are there are over one million with a half million in that one generation born then.


Some things don’t add up though.  For example, 750 years ago, the number of my ancestors exceeded the estimated world population by 130 million.  Where did those extra people come from? Does that mean there was a lot of inbreeding back then?  There must have been a lot people mating with multiple partners to produce all those offspring thus comprising numerous family connections.  


When I look at Great Britain and Ireland, around 1430, the size of my past generation born then about equalled the entire estimated population of that region.  That’s 580 years ago.  Does that mean that each person in those countries at that time was directly related to each other?  Each person one passed on the street, familiar or not, was kin and closely so - a parent, offspring or sibling?


Are my data and reasoning flawed?  Or do I need another way to look at this data?  For now, I don’t have many other conclusions to draw other than that somewhere back in time we are all related.