Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1996-10 > 0846439697

From: "Todd A. Farmerie" <>
Subject: Re: Oldest male line?
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 13:08:17 -0500

Wally Jansen wrote:
> In <54mmof$> (bryan
> tinlin) writes:
> >
> >What is the oldest traceable European straight male line from someone who
> >is alive today? Are there any male line descendants of Charlemagne in the
> >present day or, if not, who was the last one?
> >
> >Bryan
> >
> I think that this question should be opened up a little. Why not make
> it the oldest straight male line or the oldest straight female line?
> Presumably this ng isn't only for European men.
> For longest continuously documented male line I nominate the current
> generation of Confucius (551-479BC) descendants. I remember an article
> in the National Geogrphic magazine abot 15 to 25 years ago even showing
> a photo of the 77th generation oldest son an a middle aged man.

These chinese lines are deceptive. While I am not familiar with this
particular Confucian (as apposed to confusion, which my chinese friend
could never quite distinguish) line, I am with the chinese genealogical
tradition. In their system of genealogies, individuals took a back seat
to family and generations. Thus, my friend could recite a list of names
from himself back 15 generations to the founder of his village (he could
also recite the names from the founder back in his village of origin
another 20 or so generations to the founder of that village).
Importantly, though, he could also recite the next 12 generations in his
village. The reason he could do this is that the names are not personal
names, but generational names, and the founder of his village had
written a poem of what the first 28 generations of his descendant would
be named. Every male descendant of the founder of a particular
generation bears that generation's name as part of their own, which they
adopt at adulthood (usually marriage) in place of (but sometimes
incorporating part of) the name given them by their parents. (Take, for
instance, the last emperor of China. His generational name was Pu. He
was Pu Yi, his brother Pu Chin, his cousins Pu (something else), but the
previous generation shared a different name. This was not their
surname, which being imperial, they did not use, but when forced to
under the communist regime was something like Aisin-Giaro.)

I suspect then that this 77 generation descendant of Confucius, when
asked to provide the 76 intervening generations, would recite off the
generation names, rather than the personal names of the descent. This
pedigree would thus be identical for every male-line descendant of
Confucius of the 77th generation, even if their closest common ancestor
was Confucius himself. (Actually, this is a bit of an overstatement.
The pedigree would probably only be shared for those from the same
village, since when a descendant of Confucius established a new village,
he would have developed a new scheme, just as in the case of my friend's

When asked for the personal names of his ancestors, my friend could not
quite understand what I wanted, but when I explained it to him, he could
only go back to his grandfather or great-grandfather, and I suspect that
this is not uncommon (in fact, if I had to guess, my friend is a rare
exception among todays chinese in knowing what he does about his
history, considering the disruptions over the past century in the stable
village society that preserved such traditions). This individuality is
not something of particular importance in the chinese tradition when
compared to family. In this context it is not surprising that in their
nomenclatural system, the family name is given the position of
preeminance, while in ours, some cultures (Welsh, for instance) did not
even use family names until quite recently.


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