~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~
Have you ever started to talk with someone about their family history and they enthusiastically report that their grandmother traced their family back to Adam? Sigh. I have, too. If only that were possible!
Let’s give our fellow genealogists the benefit of the doubt. They probably did find something that showed a lineage back to at least Noah. And from there we can practically assume Adam, right? But here’s the thing. What was the lineage they found based on? Where did THAT compiler find the several-thousand-year-old documentation to Adam? (Personally, I’d be very curious what languages that was in. Greek? Hebrew? Sanskrit? Aramaic? Egyptian?)
The sad, but true answer is that they didn’t. It is improbable that people less important historically than rulers would have been documented and had that documentation preserved. And even then, every culture I can think of has at least one dynasty started by a bastard child, orphan, or complete unknown – so tapping into rulers’ lines doesn’t guarantee anything.
Genealogy was important in the middle ages to strengthen (or fabricate) claims for lands, titles, and wealth. Enter the ambitious and free-and-easy-with-details ancestor, and you get the “documented” lineage back to Noah or another Biblical figure. (Remember that the Pope was actually the supreme political power in Europe until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, so connection to a Biblical figure seriously strengthened claims.) We know those lineages were invented because they do not match up with the contemporary visitation records. (I learned this thanks to the tutelage of Douglas Richardson – gracias!)
But can we get back to B.C.? Rarely. There are two groups of which I am aware (there may be others in geographic areas I have yet to explore genealogically). Irish and Welsh records do go back to B.C. for their rulers. So if you tap into them, woot! Keep in mind that the Irish tribes did not pass the chiefdom from father to son – they rotated rule among the tribes! So even there, you can’t assume father-to-son or even other in-family transfers of power. It may also be possible through Roman and Greek nobles. Even so, anything before 600 A.D. should be taken with extreme caution. That really is the realm of myth…and mythstakes.