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An ancestor, also known as a forefather, fore-elder or a forebear, is a
parent A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where "child" refers to offspring, not necessarily age). A ''biological parent'' is a person whose gamete resulted in a child, a male ...

parent
or (
recursively Recursion (adjective: ''recursive'') occurs when a thing is defined in terms of itself or of its type. Recursion is used in a variety of disciplines ranging from linguistics to logic. The most common application of recursion is in mathematics ...

recursively
) the parent of an antecedent (i.e., a
grandparent Grandparents are the parents of a person's father or mother – paternal or maternal. Every sexually-reproducing living organism who is not a genetic chimera has a maximum of four genetics, genetic grandparents, eight genetic great-grandparents ...
,
great-grandparent Grandparents are the parent A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where "child" refers to offspring, not necessarily age). A ''biological parent'' is a person whose game ...
, 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." Two individuals have a
genetic
genetic
relationship if one is the ancestor of the other or if they share a common ancestor. In
evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

evolution
ary theory, species which share an evolutionary ancestor are said to be of
common descent Common descent is a concept in evolutionary biology Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chem ...
. However, this concept of ancestry does not apply to some
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
and other organisms capable of
horizontal gene transfer Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) or lateral gene transfer (LGT) is the movement of genetic material between unicellular A unicellular organism, also known as a single-celled organism, is an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient G ...
. 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 Hypergamy (colloquially referred to as "marrying up") is a term used in social science for the act or practice of a person marrying a spouse of higher caste or social status than themselves. The antonym "hypogamy" refers to the inverse: marrying ...
. Assuming that all of an individual's ancestors are otherwise unrelated to each other, that individual has 2''n'' ancestors in the ''n''th generation before her/him and a total of 2''g''+1 − 2 ancestors in the ''g'' generations before him/her. In practice, however, it is clear that most ancestors of humans (and any other species) are multiply related (see
pedigree collapse 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 coi ...
). 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 This article lists current estimates of the world population In demographics Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical an ...
. 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 Providence often refers to: * Providentia, the divine personification of foresight in ancient Roman religion * Divine providence, divinely ordained events and outcomes in Christianity * Providence, Rhode Island, the capital of Rhode Island in the ...
from their deceased ancestors; this practice is sometimes known as ''
ancestor worship The veneration Veneration in Noto St Conrad of Piacenza (San Corrado) Veneration ( la, veneratio; el, τιμάω ), or veneration of saints, is the act of honoring a saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as havin ...
'' or, more accurately, ''
ancestor veneration The veneration Veneration in Noto St Conrad of Piacenza (San Corrado) Veneration ( la, veneratio; el, τιμάω ), or veneration of saints, is the act of honoring a saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as havi ...
''.


See also

*
Archaic humans A number of varieties of ''Homo ''Homo'' () is the genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classif ...
*
Collateral descendant A lineal descendant, in legal usage, is a blood relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by circumstances of birth, they are said to b ...
*
Consanguinity Consanguinity ("blood relation", from Latin '':wikt: consanguinitas, consanguinitas'') is the characteristic of having a kinship with another person (being descended from a common ancestor). Many jurisdictions have laws prohibiting people who ar ...

Consanguinity
*
DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A molecule is an electrically neutral gro ...

DNA
**
Lysosomal DNA A lysosome () is a membrane-bound organelle found in many animal cell Cell most often refers to: * Cell (biology), the functional basic unit of life Cell may also refer to: Closed spaces * Monastic cell, a small room, hut, or cave in which ...
**
Mitochondrial DNA Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA or mDNA) is the DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid (; DNA) is a molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five car ...

Mitochondrial DNA
*
Ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousn ...
*
Family In , family (from la, familia) is a of people related either by (by recognized birth) or (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would off ...

Family
*
Genealogy Genealogy (from el, γενεαλογία ' "study of family trees") is the study of , family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain inform ...

Genealogy
*
Genetic genealogy Genetic genealogy is the use of genealogical DNA test A genealogical DNA test is a DNA-based test which looks at specific locations of a person's genome, in order to find or verify ancestral genealogical relationships or (with lower reliabil ...
*
Kinship In , kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist states that "the study of kins ...

Kinship
*
Lineage (anthropology) A lineage is a unilineal descent Unilineality is a system of determining descent groups in which one belongs to one's father's or mother's line, whereby one's descent is traced either exclusively through male ancestors (patriline), or exclusivel ...
*
Lineal descendant A lineal descendant, in legal usage, is a blood relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by circumstances of birth, they are said to ...
*
Most recent common ancestor In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanis ...
*
Progenitor In genealogy Genealogy (from el, γενεαλογία ' "study of family trees") is the study of Family, families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, an ...

Progenitor


Citations


External links


United States Census Bureau
{{Authority control Kinship and descent