The oldest continuous active and believable genealogy?
October 24, 2007 6:36 PM   Subscribe

What's the oldest believable continuous genealogy for a live person?

Lots of people can believably trace their genealogy back to, say, Charlemagne and his forefathers (Charles Martel and so forth). And I'm aware that there are claimed lines of descent back from Charlemagne (and pretty much every other European king, count, and local bandit warlord with a sense of the value of pretension) all the way back to Adam and Eve. However, this latter part is, shall we say, dubious at best, on several levels.

What live person or people can trace their genealogy (at least a strand of it) continuously back the furthest in history, in a believable way? Where by "believable", I guess I mean something stronger: backed by generally accepted historical fact.

I'm guessing it might be the Japanese emperor and his family. The claimed line of descent from the first emperor goes back to at least 660 BC; a lot of this is legendary, though, so not believable, but they've still got to be able to go a long way back, I would imagine.

To be clear, of course the farther that you go back in a genealogy, even one that's "believable" in the above sense, the more likely you are to have a link from father to son where the father wasn't really biologically the father. I understand this, and am not concerned with it with respect to my curiosity regarding this question, so please don't worry about that fact when answering. As long as it can be historically shown that the guy was, at that time, generally accepted to be the father, that's good enough for the purposes of this question.
posted by Flunkie to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This wikipedia article might be of interest to you.
posted by stereo at 7:03 PM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

You'd probably need to look at royalty--they're much more invested in keeping track of bloodlines than the common folk. Check out Elizabeth's--I believe it's on Wikipedia. Should give you a good launching point.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:04 PM on October 24, 2007

The history of Kongo Gumi incorporates in passing the genealogy of the Kongo family, which goes back to 578 AD. Wikipedia link.
posted by jet_silver at 8:21 PM on October 24, 2007

(Then again, royalty are a lot more interested in faking it, too.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:01 PM on October 24, 2007

The Malay royal family traces their lineage back to Alexander the Great, who conquered parts of India around 300 BC. He married an Indian princess and one of her descendants was shipped off to marry a Malay sultan.
posted by Quietgal at 9:01 PM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: Woah... from poking around the Wikipedia link that stereo provided:
K'ung Te-ch'eng is a 77th generation descendant of Confucius
This is apparently a fairly believable claim.

That's 2500 years or so.
posted by Flunkie at 9:26 PM on October 24, 2007

Do you want a proveable line of decent or are happy to go with the standard begats? For example, part of my family tree can be traced back to the early 1600's via birth, death and marriage records from a variety of sources. However, if you go beyond the documentation, we can (supposedly) trace the same family tree back to about 1000AD (via some Viking kings and then a little further back to Harold the Black, King of Iceland) whereupon it all gets a little misty.

If you want actual records then the British aristocracy might be what you're after. Many archives contain deeds and wills that go back to at least as far as the Domesday Book. If you want just a direct line, then the Japanese royal family and the others above (great links, btw) are perfect.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:17 PM on October 24, 2007

If K'ung Te-ch'eng is a 77th generation descendant of Confuscius, then Confucius is just one of his 151,115,727,451,828,646,838,272 great-great-great-great-(...x70)-grandparents.

Actually, upon reflection, Confucius must be many of his great-great-great-great-(...x70)-grandparents. There's clearly been a bit of interfamilial breeding along the way.

I wonder if any of us couldn't count Confucius amongst our forebears, if only we had the means to trace our genealogy.
posted by puffmoike at 3:51 AM on October 25, 2007

puffmoike: Probably. My lines of ancestry (Irish, Cherokee) have little to no immigration and mixing from china, so it's likely that I have 0% Confucius. Inside a mixing population, someone very quickly either becomes nobody's ancestor or everybody's.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:03 AM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster:
My lines of ancestry (Irish, Cherokee) have little to no immigration and mixing from china, so it's likely that I have 0% Confucius.
Actually, you probably are descended from Confucius.

As you point out, "inside a mixing population, someone very quickly either becomes nobody's ancestor or everybody's". And it doesn't take that long: The reason that lots and lots of armchair genealogists of European descent who put the time into it wind up discovering that they're descended from Charlemagne is because everyone of European descent is descended from Charlemagne, many times, along many lines. They're also descended from Charlemagne's pissboy, many times, along many lines, but it doesn't excite people to know this, nor can it be documented.

Now, Charlemagne was about 1200 years ago. Confucius was about 1300 years before that. By Charlemagne's time, everyone in China - and lots of people beyond it, due to trade, migration, invasions, and so forth - was descended from Confucius.

If one guy in Europe at the time of Charlemagne was descended from Confucius, and he had kids and they had kids, then everyone of European descent alive today is descended from Confucius. And from Confucius' pissboy.

And this is almost certainly the case: China and Europe were distant, not isolated. There was (and had been for millenia) continuous and large scale interaction (though not of course direct) in the form of trade along the Silk Road. One Chinese trader fucks an Afghan whose great-great-great-granddaughter fucks a Turk whose grandson fucks a Bulgarian, and you and every other Irish guy out there is descended from Confucius. And his pissboy.

I'm well aware of this, and it's interesting, but I am not interested in it with respect to this question. Rather, this question is about historically provable lines of descent, not mathmatically inducible lines of descent.
posted by Flunkie at 6:44 AM on October 25, 2007 [5 favorites]

Not nearly as long as the genealogies listed here, but I think this is the longest run family business handed down a direct line.
posted by Doohickie at 8:02 AM on October 25, 2007

Doohickie: "Not nearly as long as the genealogies listed here, but I think this is the longest run family business handed down a direct line."

This MeFi thread tends to suggest otherwise.
posted by JMOZ at 1:56 PM on October 25, 2007

Family business.... The link you provided discusses continuously-run businesses, but doesn't address the family-owned aspect.
posted by Doohickie at 4:47 PM on October 25, 2007

Doohickie, if you look at the articles, it does. The temple builders were family run (but are sadly now a subsidiary of a large corporation)

Amongst the dozens of businesses which predate Zildjian, some are described as family-run. Still, yours was an interesting link and it's great to see such a well-known name on the list.
posted by JMOZ at 6:17 AM on October 26, 2007

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