27 July 2016



by Donald Harman Akenson  C 2007
Published by McGill-Queen's University Press - Montreal and Kingston

Pages13-14  Excerpt

"Where historical geneticist and Mormon genealogists completely lose touch with each other is in their notion of who are First Parents were and how we find them.  IN this regard, historical geneticists are humble, in the sense that they were aware that they are making a set of approximations and that they will never have a final answer. ... In contrast, the Mormons are confident to the point of arrogance (quiet arrogance, but never the less cocksure).  They know that humanity came into existence as described in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew scriptures.  This was in the year 4004BCE, or thereabouts, according to the now-classical chronology of Archbiship James Ussher, the seventeenth century Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh...

Page 88

...The conflicting forces are th4e Mormons, genealogists in general, historical geneticists, historical demographers, and anthropologists.  (I am lumping together anthropologists, ethnographers, and ethnologists, while being fully aware that over the generations they have fought with each other over the job specifications for each category.)  All the various forces are produced by individuals who are good-faith practitioners of their own discipline or sub-field within their discipline.  but if they cannot agree on something so basic as what to call the human adult  pair bond- then we are in trouble let alone when they begin developing their own terms for various family members and for generational interconnections.

...the Mormon use of "pedigree" to refer to human genealogical lines is to be voided.  The demographers, geneticists, and anthropologists are here correct: thoroughbred horses and show dogs have pedigrees,  but humans are not the product of controlled breeding programs.  In human society we have "lines: or "lineages,"  never pedigrees.

A set of words that also is to be avoided, except under very narrow circumstances, is "patriarchal" and "matriarchal".  These are perfectly good words, but not here.  They carry connotations of power relationships that can be confusing...

Page 110

If you enter any aspect of the Mormon genealogical system - from blank genealogy forms to computer-generated lineages - you will discover that it runs on the Standard Double system.  Is this ethnocentric imperialism?  Probably, but there is a potential intellectual justif8ication for the practice.  This is the very clear argument that all human beings have biological mother and a biological father and that, therefore, humans should be traced in the same way traces the breed roots of Secretariat or Red Rum.  .... one cannot retroactively impose the Standard Double system on cultures that did not employ it.

16 July 2016



by Donald Harman Akenson  C 2007
Published by McGill-Queen's University Press - Montreal and Kingston

A fascinating book which asks the question, is the Latter Day Saint's religious view of family that so inspires their genealogical research and world effort to collect data on humans who once lived.

As a genealogist, I've become aware that some of the records one find have been previously submitted by Latter Day Saints have not been proofed, that there are errors. However, as I understand it, most people only go back to their great grandparents, and frankly, for most people going back much further can be extremely taxing if not impossible, depending on exactly where those people were living.  (For instance if your heritage is from Jewish London you may be able to go much further back.  If your ancestry is English or German you may also be able to go much further back.)

So here are some excerpts from this boom that I found quite telling.

page 7-8) On the dimensions of the collective project LDS members are working on (For which they have already collected 2 billion names.)

"The world records for fecundity are the more than 1,400 progeny sired by Moulay Ismail, an eighteenth-century emperor of Morocco, and on the female side, the 69 children of Fedora Vassilyex, an eighteenth century Russian woman.)  This if the Mormons are going to make a world pedigree, it would seem they have their work cut out for them....What saves their task from being completely inconceivable is the simple fact that human beings interbreed quite promiscuously.  Not just third cousins, or second, but first cousins, uncles and nieces, brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, nephews and aunts, wives and brothers in law, and on and on.  Most of the closest inbreeding are covered up by social convention and by skilled lying.  Unless your parents come from totally separate populations (say from Africa and from China), you would not have to go back many generations to find some of your mother's people procreating with your father's - would not, that is, if the records were compete and accurate, which they are not.... Whether or not one likes this basic fact of frequent human inbreeding, it provides a valuable set of advantages for genealogists and geneticists.  It means, first, that nay individual will have a lot fewer distinct genealogical lines to trace than if there had been no inbreeding.... the limited original population from which we all stem means that we are all interrelated;  and, if there were a full genealogy of every human being, we would discover that not only are we all related, but that our ancestors intersected with each other several times in a great genetic tangle.

More excerpts coming...

By the way,  I think most genealogists know this.  After all this is what is behind all the web sites you see in which some celebrity is connected through some line (could be one of 64 or more) to a royal personage.

12 July 2016


Interested in learning a bit more about American History this summer?  I just learned a lot I didn't know about Buffalo Bill and his Wild West shows.

First this PBS HOME VIDEO:

Actual moving pictures of Buffalo Bill's show - in Europe!

I had no idea that the show went on for decades or that the troop toured Europe, with American's cowboys and Indians (i.e. Native Americans, not just people acting as) there to do dramatic renditions of American History, such as Custors Last Stand, or how well regarded William F. Cody was.

To Europeans America was considered quite strange.  Though in the shows the White man usually won over the Native Americans, the Indian Horse Riders and others who toured with Buffalo Bill liked him. 

After being entertained, ticket holders could go visit them in their show-side encampments, which brought them a little closer to understanding Native Americans as people.

Bill's personal life was in shambles but in the end he retired with the original wife he had married in his youth, a woman who still loved him though she'd threatened divorce since he had been so rarely at home.  In his later years Bill wasn't much interested in show business but his years of being Buffalo Bill was so much part of his life and fame and reputation, he could never really separate himself.

PBS : BUFFALO BILL - WILLIAM F. CODY Read more about him.

AUTRY MUSEUM of THE AMERICAN WEST  A great place to learn more about our American Western Heritage, Native Americans, and showman like Bill. (Artifacts from his shows in a gallery.)