Who has the longest pedigree

Largest family tree connects 13 million people

New York (dpa) - Researchers have created the largest family tree in the world: 13 million people, mainly from Europe and North America, have been connected to one another for over 500 years. That is more family members than Belgium has residents.

To this end, the scientists working with Joanna Kaplanis from the New York Genome Center sifted through 86 million personal profiles that had been created on the Geni.com website, primarily by hobby genealogists from all over the world. Among other things, the team found that genes play a rather minor role in a person's longevity.

On average, the family network, which also includes emigration from Europe to America, extends over eleven generations, the researchers report in the journal Science. To get to a single common ancestor, they would have had to go back another 65 generations.

By structuring the dates and places of birth, marriage and death with the help of mathematical theories, the American-Israeli team came to interesting conclusions: It was shown that most Americans before 1750 found their spouse within ten kilometers - those born in 1950 mostly traveled 100 kilometers to find the love of their lives.

In addition, before 1850, people married more often within the family - on average a fourth cousin. In the past 300 years, more women than men have moved in Europe and North America. However, when men migrated, they traveled further than women.

With the help of a computer model - developed with data from three million relatives who were born between 1600 and 1910 and were more than 30 years old - the team also investigated the role of genes in longevity. Up until now, it was assumed that 15 to 30 percent of the genetic make-up is responsible for longevity. The family comparison showed, however, that only 16 percent of the cases make the difference. The researchers conclude that good genes could only extend life by an average of five years.

“That's not a lot,” sums up co-author Yaniv Erlich. “Other studies have shown that smoking can cost ten years of life. That means that some life decisions are more important than genes. "

"This is an exciting moment for Citizen Science," says population researcher Malinda Mills (University of Oxford), who was not involved in the study. "It shows how millions of perfectly normal people can make a difference as avid genealogists in science."

Website Geni.com