Toddicus Fastius, 26 CE

My parents have been spending the last several years doing a huge amount of geneological research in their spare time. I'm not really suited to the task of doing such research, but I love to hear the results. In contrast to simply cybersleuthing online using sites like Ancestry.com, they've been researching in meatspace, scouring various documents, tax records, receipts, and church legers in rural parts of the Midwest, as well as conducting interviews with aged relatives and scanning tintypes and photos of people whose likenesses had been presumed lost. It's pretty remarkable to see photos of relatives many times removed. I'm sure it will be even more remarkable for our distant descendents who will have access to video, documents, email (perhaps even the V i @ G r A spam I get every day—will they even know what it was for?), and all sorts of other digital detritus we shed as a byproduct of our technology-infused lives. Merely considering the incalculable possibilities for insight my Thunderbird address book might present in a hundred years is mind-boggling.

While conducting research recently, my parents unearthed something I thought was even more amazing, however. They had been researching my grandmother six degrees removed on my mother's side, which to me was already pretty remarkable; it's hard to imagine that they could trace back that far given the number of undocumented children, multiple marriages, premature deaths, and other glitches that often bring geneological research to a standstill. Despite the odds of just getting that far, they were able to connect this gggggggrandmother to research someone that else had published on Ancestry.com. Remarkably, this research went back nearly 2,000 years to a citizen of the Roman Empire in 26 CE! I've yet to get the full scoop from my parents, but according to them, this improbable genetic journey wound through places like the Near East, Northern Asia, and Western Europe, and included at least one pass through Norwegian royalty.

Now, I'm the first to admit that it's extraordinarily hard to believe that such research could be supported by rigorous evidence...but, if by some astronomical chance it is valid, it means that I had a Roman relative that lived in the Near East as a contemporary of Jesus. I say this not because it's at all special in itself—we all have relatives that were contemporaries of Jesus (or Siddhartha, or Mohammed, or Zoroaster, or any great historical figure), not to mention I'm probably related to a statistically significant percentage of you reading this right now—but the fact that this person's name could be known 1,979 years later bakes my noodle. Regardless of its veracity, I consider it a good story, and especially for an American, a lesson on our often tenuous connection to the past before 1776.

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