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An ancestor, also known as a forefather, fore-elder or a forebear, [1] is a parent or (recursively) the parent of an antecedent (i.e., a grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent and so forth). Ancestor is "any person from whom one is descended. In law the person from whom an estate has been inherited." [2]


Two individuals have a genetic relationship if one is the ancestor of the other or if they share a common ancestor. In evolutionary theory, species which share an evolutionary ancestor are said to be of common descent. However, this concept of ancestry does not apply to some bacteria and other organisms capable of horizontal gene transfer. Some research suggests that the average person has twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors. This might have been due to the past prevalence of polygynous relations and female hypergamy. [3]

Assuming that all of an individual's ancestors are otherwise unrelated to each other, that individual has 2n ancestors in the nth generation before him and a total of 2g+1  2 ancestors in the g generations before him. In practice, however, it is clear that most ancestors of humans (and any other species) are multiply related (see pedigree collapse). Consider n = 40: the human species is more than 40 generations old, yet the number 240, approximately 1012 or one trillion, dwarfs the number of humans who have ever lived.

Some cultures confer reverence to ancestors, both living and dead; in contrast, some more youth-oriented cultural contexts display less veneration of elders. In other cultural contexts, some people seek providence from their deceased ancestors; this practice is sometimes known as ancestor worship or, more accurately, ancestor veneration .

See also


  1. "Thesaurus results for FOREFATHER". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  2. Websters New World Dictionary. Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company.
  3. Tierney, John (5 September 2007). "The Missing Men in Your Family Tree". The New York Times . Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.

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Parent progenitor or caregiver of the offspring in their own species

A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child. A biological parent is a person whose gamete resulted in a child, a male through the sperm, and a female through the ovum. Biological parents are first-degree relatives and have 50% genetic meet. A female can also become a parent through surrogacy. Some parents may be adoptive parents, who nurture and raise an offspring, but are not biologically related to the child. Orphans without adoptive parents can be raised by their grandparents or other family members.

Family tree chart representing family relationships in a conventional tree structure

A family tree, or pedigree chart, is a chart representing family relationships in a conventional tree structure. The more detailed family trees used in medicine and social work are known as genograms.

In human genetics, the Y-chromosomal most recent common ancestor is the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) from whom all currently living males are descended patrilineally. The term Y-MRCA reflects the fact that the Y chromosomes of all currently living human males are directly derived from the Y chromosome of this remote ancestor. The analogous concept of the matrilineal most recent common ancestor is known as "Mitochondrial Eve", the most recent woman from whom all living humans are descended matrilineally. As with "Mitochondrial Eve", the title of "Y-chromosomal Adam" is not permanently fixed to a single individual, but can advance over the course of human history as paternal lineages become extinct.

Kinship Human relationship term; web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies; form of social connection

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Consanguinity Property of being from the same kinship as another person

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<i>River Out of Eden</i> Book by Richard Dawkins

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Haplotype Group of genes from one parent

A haplotype is a group of alleles in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent. However, there are other uses of this term. First, it is used to mean a collection of specific alleles in a cluster of tightly linked genes on a chromosome that are likely to be inherited together—that is, they are likely to be conserved as a sequence that survives the descent of many generations of reproduction. A second use is to mean a set of linked single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) alleles that tend to always occur together. It is thought that identifying these statistical associations and a few alleles of a specific haplotype sequence can facilitate identifying all other such polymorphic sites that are nearby on the chromosome. Such information is critical for investigating the genetics of common diseases; which in fact have been investigated in humans by the International HapMap Project. Thirdly, many human genetic testing companies use the term in a third way: to refer to an individual collection of specific mutations within a given genetic segment;.

The coefficient of relationship is a measure of the degree of consanguinity between two individuals. The term coefficient of relationship was defined by Sewall Wright in 1922, and was derived from his definition of the coefficient of inbreeding of 1921. The measure is most commonly used in genetics and genealogy. A coefficient of inbreeding can be calculated for an individual, and is typically one-half the coefficient of relationship between the parents.

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Genetic genealogy is the use of Genealogical DNA tests, i.e. DNA profiling and DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods, to infer biological relationships between individuals. Genetic genealogy involves the use of genealogical DNA testing to determine the level and type of the genetic relationship between individuals. This application of genetics became to be used by family historians in the 21st century, as tests became affordable. The tests have been promoted by amateur groups, such as surname study groups, or regional genealogical groups, as well as research projects such as the Genographic Project.

In genealogy, pedigree collapse describes how reproduction between two individuals who share an ancestor causes the number of distinct ancestors in the family tree of their offspring to be smaller than it could otherwise be. Robert C. Gunderson coined the term; synonyms include implex and the German Ahnenschwund.

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A haplotype is a group of alleles in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent, and a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a single-nucleotide polymorphism mutation. More specifically, a haplogroup is a combination of alleles at different chromosomal regions that are closely linked and that tend to be inherited together. As a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, it is usually possible to predict a haplogroup from haplotypes. Haplogroups pertain to a single line of descent. As such, membership of a haplogroup, by any individual, relies on a relatively small proportion of the genetic material possessed by that individual.

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