Massive Crowdsourced Family Tree Links 13 Million People Together – Outer Places

Thanks to crowdfunding efforts, the world’s largest ancestral record has been compiled – a massive family tree that contains thirteen million names, and which shows just how interconnected we all are.

As much as people might sometimes like to pretend otherwise, we’re all related to each other in some way, shape, or form. Some of these connections will naturally be further back than others, but like it or not, if you do enough research, you can prove a family tie to just about anyone.

The new family tree, built by computer scientists at Columbia University using details from, details a staggering amount of data. Admittedly, the profiles used are primarily from North America and Europe, so only a small portion of the people who’ve lived on the Earth have been included, but even from this limited sample it’s easy to see patterns emerge.

For example, the data shows that the average distance a person would travel to meet their lifelong spouse in 1750 would be about 10 miles. By 1950, this distance had stretched to 60 miles. Yaniv Erlich, the senior author on the project, claims that this is evidence that “it became harder to find the love of your life” in the intervening years.

Because the tree covers migration, it’s possible to see the relative distances that many people’s ancestors traveled as they journeyed around the world. Since the 1700s, women have been more likely to actually bother migrating than men, but when they do have incentive to try moving, men tend to end up farther from home.

These insights are some of the easiest to spot from all of this combined data, but there’s clearly a lot more hiding under the surface. It’s exciting that all of this data is now in the hands of computer scientists and statisticians, who will be able to pick it apart to learn more about past generations.

It’s even possible, from this data, to spot the difference between families with a slightly longer average life expectancy, as indicated by successive generations of kids who live up to five years longer than their peers.

In theory, it’d also be possible for anyone interested in genealogy to use the map to instantly gain access to a lot of their family records. So long as everybody can find at least one relative that connects to this spider’s web, they instantly can start plucking out data that’s relevant to their family.

The tree is by no means a full comprehensive list of everyone that’s ever lived – in addition to only featuring a small fraction of data from a few specific parts of the world, it also only stretches back eleven generations. If instead the map could be stretched to hit seventy five generations back in time, it’s theorized that everybody on Earth would be connected to everybody else, which would be fun.

It’s a shame to a certain extent that this map is so Euro-centric, as other parts of the world, such as Hong Kong, have ancestral records going back many, many more generations, as part of longstanding traditions and religious beliefs focusing on respecting and remembering the dead. If ever these could be connected into a unified web, we could learn even more about the history of our species and how everyone links in together.

For now, it’s nice to know that this kind of project can be completed when we all pull together. Here’s hoping that eventually, this map can be expanded to cover other parts of the globe, and further generations into the past, so that we can all get a better understanding of how humanity has changed over time, and where we all come from.

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