Number of Ancestors over the Generations

You may or may not have started to figure how many ancestors you have as you go back one-two-three generations. The number of ancestors is simple to calculate as it is a mathematical progression: start with every person (generation 1) has two parents, (generation 2) four grandparents, (generation 3) eight great-grandparents, (generation 4) sixteen great-great-grandparents and so on. The number doubles with each generation. As you go back in years, the numbers soon become very large.

A generation can figure from 25 to 35 years. So two generations would be 50 to 70 years and so on. As you increase the generations you do need to add all the individuals. So at the 4th generation – the great-great grandparents, you add those 16, plus the earlier 8 of great grandparents, then the 4 of grandparents and the 2 for parents and 1 for yourself. Grand total of ancestors counting yourself. This does not figure in step-parents, only your biological ancestors.

Double the number of generations to 8—roughly 200 to 250 years since your birth. That places the date about the early 1700s, which many people can trace their ancestors that far back. Now there are about 256 ancestors in that 8th generation and a total of the cumulative would be 510 counting all the generations. That would take you to your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.

You might think you could never locate all those ancestors, but don’t be surprised, it is possible.

Photos: Generations Charts and Family Tree for royal German family.

Related Blogs:

Direct Descendants

Family Theme

How Far Back Should You Research?

< Return To Blog Alice, thank you for a fascinating look at the numbers!
John Meng-Frecker 31/01/20

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