“Where’s this road go?”

“Don’t go nowhere. Stays right here.”

You’ve heard dozens of these quips. That one by the proverbial farmer beside the road.

Every person in every profession hears the same question hundreds of times. Most have shopworn replies, like my cousin Truman, who deals in all things old: “Do you buy antiques?”

“Gosh, I have to. I can’t steal enough to stay in business.”

And the woman who worried about her recent operation: “Oh, Doctor. Will the scar show?”


“That’s entirely up to you.”

The line I liked was “I heard that you people here on the Maine coast don’t like new people who move in.”

“Not true, not true. Although the Tolman family didn’t get here until 1757, we still go out of our way to make them feel welcome.”

I don’t throw that one around as much as I used to, as it raises embarrassing questions about the previous inhabitants.

The only reason I know anything about my ancestors who moved to Waldoboro and Thomaston (before the Tolmans got here) is that my brother, Jim, has been a local history and genealogy buff since he could walk. When he was in grade school, he had our family plotted out on a large stiff piece of white cardboard that I saw in our bedroom every day. So I took it for granted that everyone knows all that has been written about their ancestors for at least the past 400 years.

Fast forward 75 years and there came a day when I spit in a bottle and sent it away to be analyzed to learn where I came from. And just last week I found Familysearch.org, an online genealogical program that trolled me in because – surprise – it really is free.


Another surprise was reading in Time Magazine that genealogy is our second most popular hobby, next to gardening, and the second most visited category of websites, after porn.

Knowing that many of us are interested in genealogy prompts me to ask you what you know about Familysearch, because the first day I followed one of my family lines back, back, back, I came to Attila the Hun. And his wife’s line took me back to my ancestors who drank wine in Rome around 230 BC. Other lines took me to Rollo, the first ruler of Normandy; Christian I, who was king in too many countries to warrant mention; Pepin II, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, ancestor of Harald Fairhair. So tell me. How much of this can I believe and how much was fudged here and there by someone with an agenda – just so several million of us could say that we’re descended from Attila the Hun?

Easier to believe was a line of Faunces that ran on for 15 or so generations. Checking with Wikipedia to verify what I’d read, I learned that members of the Faunce family spent 50 years digging through worm-eaten books in musty castles to put that together.

When working with Familysearch, you are often given several options. You can search back on the male or female side. So if you made 30 arbitrary choices to get back to Attila the Hun, unless you left a trail of bread crumbs, it is not likely you’d ever be able to find that line again.

Being a quantitative person, I wondered how many grandparents I had with 30 greats by their name. There were only 25 million people in Europe in 780 and I thought I  might have needed more than that just to provide me with ancestors.

Getting the answer is easy if time consuming. I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 and so on. I think it has to do with raising some number to the 30th power, but no web page would explain the process in language other than algebraic symbols, so I was stumped there.


From my brother’s simple family chart of only seven generations, I know that there was a time here when most people married second, third and fourth cousins. Some go back to Moses Robinson on 13 or so different lines. So if you go back 30 or 40 generations, we must all be related several times over. Intermarriage keeps the number of ancestors from outnumbering the population.

And that’s what I then read: “New research by Peter Ralph of USC Dornsife has confirmed that everyone on Earth is related to everyone else on the planet.”

Now that we know that, the only thing left is to print out a wall-size chart of our family just for the fun of seeing where you and I fit in.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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