Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was teaching morality, justice and philosophy in China. His teachings promoted ideas such as morality on a personal and societal level, and he was a champion for justice. He left a legacy behind called Confucianism, a way of living based on his beliefs.
He also left behind a legacy of descendants who were traced from his death at the age of about 71 in the year 479 B.C. all the way to the modern era. So honored was Confucius that his successors were given titles and rank through every dynasty until the Nationalist government took over China in 1935.
The family has now welcomed its 83rd lineal descendant. According to the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, there are 2 million known and registered descendants of Confucius. Another 1 million are estimated but not registered. Most live in China, but some are in Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere.
Other Big Trees
Of course, there are other big family trees. Anyone who follows British royalty enjoys guessing about the Plantagenets and the Tudors, but maybe it's England's Roy Blackmore who should be given a scepter for his work in uncovering his family. An orphan, Blackmore spent almost 30 years uncovering records that allowed him to trace his roots back 1,500 years to uncover more than 9,300 ancestors.
According to The Telegraph, Blackmore can trace his lineage back 37 generations to William the Conqueror and also 45 generations to Alfred the Great in 880 A.D. monks only began recording births in the 10th century in England, so he went back about as far as he could go without the aid of time travel.
Descendants of Confucius had recorded history on their side, with titles and lineage to back it up. His legacy was not only of a dynastic family, but a family that carried on and championed his ideas and philosophies through the generations. That's an amazing feat, and while there are other philosophers from antiquity that we honor and continue to learn from, none reach across time to us as directly as Confucius does.
Finding Meaning in the Mundane
Blackmore's family, like most of us, didn't have a reason to keep such formal records, and Blackmore did almost all of his research without the aid of the Internet. Imagine all that dust.
Fortunately, we have access to records of all kinds now. Many genealogy software programs can save us hours of work in libraries and dusty records halls. And as we all develop our own family trees, we add to the collective database, just like Blackmore and Confucius did.
You might only make your way into the 1800s, but remember that it's the journey to the past that can be so amazing. Coming from an orphanage, Blackmore found thousands of relatives that included farmers, cowboys and even a bit of nobility. You never know what you'll find once you start looking at your family tree.