Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Probably NOT "the world's longest family tree"

An article titled "Two Germans Share World's Longest Family Tree" was written by Christel Kucharz in Passau, Germany today - one version is on ABC News site at There were several other articles written in the UK over the past few days with essentially the same information.

The opening paragraph:

"Two Germans share the longest proven family tree in the world. Manfred Huchthausen and Uwe Lange inside the cave where the skeletons of their Bronze Age ancestors were found. (pid-Göttingen) The men, Manfred Huchthausen, a 58-year-old teacher, and Uwe Lange, a 48-year-old surveyor, had known each other from living in the same village, about half a mile apart from each other."

And a bit later:

"Thanks to a DNA test on well-preserved Bronze Age bones found in the Lichtenstein cave in the foothills of the Harz Mountains in Germany's Lower Saxony, the men can now claim to have the longest family tree in the world.

"'Before the discovery, I could trace my family back by name to 1550,' Lange said. 'Now, I can go back 120 generations.'"

Really? This is a similar event to the famous Cheddar Man in England - test a person in the area where bones are found, and find that they have the same DNA (presumably, mtDNA). The twist here is that two men have the identical DNA as bones in a cave.

But they haven't really filled out an actual family tree - they're missing about 100 generations between the cave bones and the two guys in town. That's not a family tree - it's a family history hole.

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