The Magic Number 16

Many genealogists talk about “their 16.”

When I started in the field, I was amazed how often this number appeared.  And, although I was pretty good at math in school, it took a while for me to “put 2 and 2 together,” so to speak.

Let me review the basics.  Please, I have no intention of insulting your intelligence, dear reader, because, unlike myself, you’ll probably grasp this concept right off the bat!  I am a visual learner, however.  I needed to see what everyone seemed to intuitively know about the “magic 16.”  So, I broke it down. Now, I get it.

I was born of two parents.

Each parent had two parents.  Therefore, I have four grandparents.

My paternal grandfather, Stanley Bovitz (sitting) on his wedding day. He died about 11 years before I was born.

As an aside, perhaps part of the problem for me arose because I never had the opportunity to meet either of my grandfathers.  My paternal grandfather (my father’s father), was tragically killed in a farming accident about 11 years before I was born.  My maternal grandfather (my mother’s father) was never a part of my life.  He and my grandmother divorced in the 1940s, after WWII.  To be honest, I didn’t even know my grandfathers’ full names when I started my genealogy quest, so this may account for my disconnect.

Back to the growing tree…

Each of my four grandparents had two parents, right?  Thus, I have eight great-grandparents.

Wow!  See how quickly our family trees expand?

Now, of course, you see the pattern.  Each of my eight great-grandparents had two parents, as well.

So, every person, myself included, has sixteen great-great-grandparents.

For many genealogists, this is the magic number.  That would be four generations into your ancestry:

You –>

2 Parents –>

4 Grandparents –>

8 Great-Grandparents –>

16 Great-Great-Grandparents

People say every generation is about 25 years, but this number varies greatly in my experience.  For an excellent article on “generations and genealogy” check out this link.

When working on your tree, you may want to find your “16” as a milestone.  It’s a good goal to aim for, but, it will take time and determination.  Yet, the treasures you’ll find along the way will be worth every brick wall you must endure.

Finding my 16 was difficult for me as my paternal side of my tree (my father’s side) immigrated from Slovenia around 1900.  I was very fortunate, however, to discover a distant cousin via Facebook.  Yes, you read it correctly.  I have such a rare surname that I emailed most everyone on Facebook with the surname “Bavec.”  Turns out I found a woman who was related to me.  There’s a lot more to the story, but that’s for a different day…  Let’s just say, she was one of the precious treasures I found along the way while trying to uncover my own “magic 16.”

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