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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 biology, offspring are the young born of living organism, organisms, produced either by a single organism or, in the case of sexual reproduction, two organisms. Collective offspring may be known as a ...

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 biology, offspring are the young born of living organism, organisms, produced either by a single organism or, in the case of sexual reproduction, two organisms. Collecti ...
, 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 that studies the evolution, evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, speciation) that produced the Biodiversity, diversity ...
. However, this concept of ancestry does not apply to some
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a Bacte ...
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 and/or multicellular organisms other than by the ("vertical") transmission of DNA from parent to offspring ( reproduction). ...
. 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 Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary tra ...
. 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 Genealogy (from el, γενεαλογία ' "the making of a pedigree") is the study of Family, families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, an ...
). 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 history. In summary, estimates for the progression of world population since the late medieval period are in the following ranges: Estimates for pre-modern times are necessarily frau ...
. 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 U ...
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 of the dead, including one's ancestors, is based on love and respect for the deceased. In some cultures, it is related to belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some propositi ...
''.


See also

*
Archaic humans A number of varieties of ''Homo ''Homo'' () is the genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classifi ...
*
Collateral descendant A lineal descendant, in legal usage, is a blood relative in the direct line of descent – the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. of a person. In a legal procedure sense, lineal descent refers to the acquisition of estate by inher ...
*
Consanguinity Consanguinity ("blood relation", from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through ...
*
DNA The structure of part of a DNA double helix 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 ...
**
Lysosomal DNA A lysosome () is a membrane-bound organelle In cell biology, an organelle is a specialized subunit, usually within a cell (biology), cell, that has a specific function. The name ''organelle'' comes from the idea that these structures are parts o ...
**
Mitochondrial DNA File:Electron microscopy reveals mitochondrial DNA in discrete foci.jpg, Electron microscopy reveals mitochondrial DNA in discrete foci. Bars: 200 nm. (A) Cytoplasmic section after immunogold labelling with anti-DNA; gold particles marking mtD ...

Mitochondrial DNA
*
Ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancest ...
*
Family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same Politics, ...

Family
*
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, and other records t ...

Genealogy
*
Genetic genealogy 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 genea ...
*
Kinship In anthropology, 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 Robin Fox states th ...

Kinship
*
Lineage (anthropology) A lineage is a unilineal descent group that can demonstrate their common descent from a known apical ancestor. Unilineal lineages can be matrilineal or patrilineal, depending on whether they are traced through mothers or fathers, respectively ...
*
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 b ...
*
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 mechanisms ...
*
Progenitor In genealogy, the progenitor (rarer: primogenitor; german: Stammvater or ''Ahnherr'') is the – sometimes legendary progenitor, legendary – founder of a family, Kinship, line of descent, clan or tribe, Nobility, noble house or an ethnic group ...

Progenitor


Citations


External links


United States Census Bureau
{{Authority control Kinship and descent