The Instant Tree

Week 30: #52 Ancestors – Easy

By Eilene Lyon


Decades ago my paternal grandmother, Reatha Halse, gave me some ancestry information. It included a Halse-Drake-Murphy collection of family trees. Cousin Earl Drake compiled all these descendants from our immigrant ancestors for several generations. Handy dandy!


Her bundle also included a pedigree for her Crandall line, back to Elder John Crandall of Westerly, Rhode Island. An additional sheet went back from Elder John to Charlemagne. Wowsa! I’m descended from royalty. Way cool!

Emperor Charlemagne. Artist: Albrecht Dürer. Location: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg, Germany. (Wikimedia Commons)

My maternal grandmother got in on the act, too. Clare “Bobby” Smith gifted me with her handwritten pedigree charts and other materials. They didn’t go back all that far. Ho hum. She included a fat typewritten transcript of letters from the California gold rush – extremely tedious reading, all those “thees” “thous” and names of people I’d never heard of.


But at least none of this required any work on my part. Right?

When I got more serious about my family tree, I made contact with a distant second cousin of my mom’s. “Distant” in the sense that no one ever heard of this branch of the family – heck, Mom doesn’t really know her first cousins hardly.

Forest sent me a floppy disk with 750 people on my maternal tree – Bonanza! What could be easier than dropping a GED file into Family Tree Maker? Add Daddy’s tree from Earl’s paperwork et víolà!! So simple. Child’s play, really.


Then along came Hey! All these other people have trees I can steal copy from and now I’ve got thousands of ancestors and relatives. Ain’t. It. Grand?? My work here is done. Ta da! Easy peasy.

As I was basking in the glory of my brilliant, shiny new family tree, I started exploring. Ya know, just to learn a bit about all these fab new ancestors of mine. Wait a minute…this whole Charlemagne thing was debunked years ago?!

Um. Are all these people really related to me?? Maybe I’d better start taking a closer look at all this information…


Feature image: Austin D on Unsplash

Floppy disk image: Fredy Jacob on Unsplash

46 thoughts on “The Instant Tree

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  1. You’re not the first person to tell me that they descended from Charlemagne. It’s not that I don’t want to believe you, and it is possible, but what are the odds of so many Charlemagne cousins knowing me, but not each other?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My husband is descended from that same Crandall line…I’m still working on that one. My father-in-law passed along their “official 100% correct” (and unsourced) family tree…it looks a lot like what you’ve shared here! I’ve tried to explain that it has errors, but you know how that goes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. How did I know that punch line was coming 😂😂😂. And …. once again WordPress seems to have “unfollowed” you on my behalf, will their bugs never get squashed? I’ve refollowed, apologies for the silence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The big problem in genealogy is the “they say”s. Charlemagne undoubtedly has many descendants, and it is true that family trees begin compacting as you go back in time, but this does not lead to convergence on “one” (more likely two😉) person unless you go back many millennia. Charlemagne is too recent for that kind of gene spread. Some confusion may come about because he has been called “The Father of Europe” meaning that he unites much of it politically. Also, most royal families in Europe can trace their trees back to him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the link. It does explain some technical things well. He also makes some tortured constructions like “everyone alive in the ninth century who left descendants is the ancestor of every living European today,” which just adds confusion, not clarification. Not every person who was alive and had children in 1000 AD is my ancestor. As the author points out, it’s a numbers game. The reality of descendancy is that many populations were somewhat isolated and “breeding” went on in a closed fashion for a very long time. The same couple can be my 20th great-grandparents in 50 different ways. That’s a more probable scenario. If the other is true, I want to collect on my piece of the estate. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

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