Before you achieve anything today, you are already a very successful 850 Centillion to one shot. Vikings, Pilgrims, Veterans and Vagabonds. Your odds of even existing are oh-so-slim.
That’s right, the odds of you existing right now are about 1 in 10^2685000. That’s a 10 with a couple of million zeros after it.
If we go back just 10 generations, the number is still far north of 1 in 100 Centillion. That’s 100 with 303 zeros after it.
Once you get past 100 Centrillion, there’s no need to keep counting the zeros unless you’re in a lab somewhere at MIT. Other folks were smart enough to crank these numbers for us. See infographic below.
Why did I bother to look this up? Over the years, various relatives have collected some interesting family tree information. A few years back, I took some time and put all of this info into ancestry.com. Ancestry.com is a great way to research and link your family history. Once you put in the basic data, grandparents great-grandparents etc. your family info is cross-referenced with millions of genealogy records worldwide.
Sometimes you get lucky. A distant cousin, or someone with similar records, put in additional information dating back many generations. Some family histories are already very well documented. You can now even submit your DNA to the database and match the location and ethnicity results against a global database. Talk about putting it all out there!
For example, my grandmother on my father’s side was a Horton. This side of the family is so well documented there are actually books written about them! I found well researched records allowing me to match siblings up with parents and birth records through the generations to provide matches on one side all the way back to a 9th Great Grandfather — William Million born in Middlesex, England in 1600.
I started thinking about all the things, wars, famines, plagues, and even low sperm counts over 10 generations since 1600 that could have precluded my existence. This is only one quarter of the picture, what about the Irish on the other side of the family or my grandfather’s family origins in Finland and Sweden, no doubt descendants of Vikings. The odds of me or my family being here just keep getting smaller and smaller.
I recommend everyone take some time to at least write down their family history. It’s pretty amazing when you think about what people have gone through, even over a couple of generations: famine, world wars, crossing the pond, depressions, influenza. I once saw a sad image of a young soldier washed up on the shores of Normandy at the end of the second world war. I think about him sometimes, what he sacrificed. How many grandchildren and generations may have followed him had he survived.
We are very rare birds indeed. Make the most of it.
If you don’t see the infographic below you can visit http://visual.ly/what-are-odds