Dick Eastman, a prominant face in genealogy, due to the fame of the genealogy newsletter he e-publishes, had an article today giving an interesting "factoid" (see the whole story). According to this story its estimated that everyone has 4 trillion 20th cousins. And since that's more than the amount of people who have ever lived, we are thereby related to everyone!
Now 20th cousins would actually mean you'd have to go back 22 generations to find the common ancestor. Many people consider a generation to be about 30 years, which would put the common ancestor living mid 1300's. I'd probably put the generation closer to 20 years, which would still put the ancestor back to mid 1500's. Which seems a whole lot closer than the other ancestors we all know we have in common...such as Adam...or Noah.
Not that long ago, I had a co-worker who had recently immigrated over from Africa. Now I haven't taken a look at his family history, but I have a hard time believing that my ancestors, who were all in Europe during the above estimated time periods, are related to his which I would guess are from Africa. Yes, I know that England had their big hurrah over there, so there is a chance, but still...
I would say its much more likely that in that so called 4 trillion 20th cousins, we would find the same people being repeated a few times over. While I have no doubt that we are all related, I do find it a stretch to think that if by some series of miracles, I was able to follow all of my lines back 22 generations, and that everyone else did the same, that I would be able to find the relation with every single person I met.
I am starting to believe my history professor though when he compared the state of Utah during pioneer-polygamious time, to that small town I mentioned, where everyone was either related by blood, by marriage, or might as well have been. So I am now considering an experiment of sorts, where I see if we can take any two people with "Utah" pioneer ancestory (could be expanded to the territory of 'Deseret' possibly) and see if we can prove the relationship 'within 6 degrees'.
What do you think?