Researchers used interconnected online genealogy profiles to create the world’s biggest family tree that contains a whopping 13 million people spanning 11 generations. The dataset captured 500 years’ worth of European and North American ancestry including migration patterns and how people married each other in the past.
This family tree was made possible thanks to data taken from one of the largest online genealogical websites, Geni.com, containing 86 million public profiles as well as information regarding the birth and death of each individual.
Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University and lead author of the study, and a team of researchers downloaded the profiles and analyzed each one before creating the massive family tree.
According to the study, the tree covers births, death, and marriages. What’s even more noteworthy is that if the tree were to go back another 65 generations, it would all come down to one common ancestor.
“Through the hard work of many genealogists curious about their family history, we crowdsourced an enormous family tree and boom, came up with something unique,” said Erlich.
The new dataset could be extremely useful to scientists researching a range of other topics, the scientist added.
According to the researchers, nearly 85 percent of the people included in the family tree originated from either Europe or North America. The dataset shed light on some shifting patterns of migration and marriage.
One of the most interesting aspects of the family tree is that most Americans would marry someone within six miles from where they were born, a regular habit before 1750. However, this distance was widened to 60 miles after 1950.
More so, before 1850 a very common tradition was for people to marry close family members. Between 1800 and 1850, people traveled farther to find a partner but were still likelier to marry a fourth cousin.
According to the study, this habit of marrying close family members didn’t fade away because of accessibility or transportation, but because the practice became less socially acceptable.
The study was published in the journal, Science.
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