The Maths of Family History

This is post has nothing to do with Welsh Politics - it is a response to Cherry and James' comments re family history.

Have you ever watched the programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

The premise of the programme is that for every correct answer given the prize amount doubles. It only takes 15 questions from a prize being worth £100 to a prize of £1,000,000.

The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo used a similar system!

Put 10p to win on the third favourite in the first race at a racecourse tomorrow. If it loses put 20p to win the next day on the third favourite. If it loses put 40p to win on the third favourite the following day and double up each time you lose.

If the odds are more than 2/1, when you win, you will be in profit over every other bet laid. But remember that it only takes 15 steps to double up from sod all to one million! Can you afford to bet a million to get all your money back and more?

The mathematics of family history are similar. I have 2 parents, 4 grand parents, 8 great grandparents etc. Every generation doubles, so playing the long terms odds game must eventually enable me to to hit pay dirt in proving that I am descended from importance, somewhere along the line - and it has!

The funny thing is though, the more one researches family history, the great and the good become less important. When one learns about the miner, the shepherd and the whore, the common folk who have fought adversity to enable me to be me, they become my real ancestral heroes. They are much more than the Kings, the Princes, the Lords or others from whom I can prove grand descent


  1. Isn't it a bit of inverted snobbery to value the gwerin over the kings? As it happens you soon find that your descended from certain individuals dozens of times and more often than not those "bottlenecks" are the kings and rulers, who after all supported the laws and culture of Wales.

    There's a big flaw in that betting system by the way .... it's called betting tax.

  2. Well put like that I see what you mean ;-)

    I agree the day to day details of our ancestors are fascinating. My paternal line is firmly routed in one town in Yorkshire where there is another family of the same name. We know the two lines must be connected, but we just can't find the missing link to connect us up.

    Genealogy is even more addictive than blogging!!!

  3. I am not an inverted snob anon, I am the real thing! I like boasting about the great and the good in my family tree. I love going past the statue of Llywelyn Fawr in Conwy, raising a hand and saying good morning hen daid, to him. My boys love doing the same thing too!

    When we go to Scotland we always show a bit of the MacBeth Tartan, with pride, to honour our Scottish royal ancestry! When Scotland becomes an independent Kingdom my BTM should be sat on the (suitably warmed) Stone of Destiny!

    When my great nieces stayed with me a few years back their teachers were flabbergasted by their holiday diaries which stated that they had been to see a castle and said hello to their many times great grandfather, who was king of Wales which made them princesses - they even insisted that the teacher phoned great uncle Alwyn to prove that their accounts were true!

    The point that I was trying to make was that one might start doing family history to try and connect to the great and the good, and its fantastic if and when you do swo, but that the meek and the lowly that one encounters on the journey are equally as fascinating.

    I believe that Tony Blair abolished horse racing tax as one of his first acts of government. Even if I am mistaken the 3/1 rule still works. The flaws in the system are the difficulty in financing multiple losses and the fact that you will be barred by most bookies if you are caught using a system.

    I agree with you Cherry, family history is an addictive and a fascinating hobby. The best bit is that whenever you find an elusive ancestor, you have another two (the ancestor's parents) to find next!