Are All Americans and Europeans Descended From Charlemagne?

The Mullins family is able to prove that we are direct lineal descendants of Charlemagne through at least three different ancestral families, including the Wyatt and Ferris families (Mullins side) and the Bates family (Bonner side). How unique is our family in this regard?

Not many families are able to prove their descent from Charlemagne, so we are unusual in being able to document a lineage to him. However, the fact is that all families with any ancestral roots in Europe are descended from Charlemagne. In fact, each such family probably has thousands of ancestral lines that trace back to Charlemagne. How can this be?

The short explanation is that 2 raised to the 40th power is an enormous number!

For a more complete explanation, consider the following exercise: Let's fill in the boxes in our family tree with the names of our ancestors. We need a single name (our own) for the first generation. We need two names to fill in the boxes for our parents' names. We need four names to fill in the boxes for our grandparents' names, 8 names to fill in our great grandparents' boxes, 16 names to fill in our great-great grandparents boxes, and so on.

Depending which lineage we trace back, Charlemagne is somewhere around our 38th great grandparent. To fill in every one of the boxes in the family tree corresponding to all of our 38th great grandparents, we need 2 raised to the 40th names, or about one trillion names.

The problem is that the entire population of Europe in 800 A.D., when Charlemagne ruled, was about 30-50 million. How can we fill in one trillion names in our family tree if there were at most 50 million people to draw from for names? It means that on average, each European alive in 800 A.D. appears in our family tree 20,000 times. In other words, on average we can follow 20,000 different branches of our family back to each European who lived in 800 A.D. The same is true for any family with ancestral roots in Europe.

Further, if some lineages from 800 A.D. died out over time, Charlemagne would be expected to appear more like 50,000 to 100,000 times in our tree, especially considering the fact that Charlemagne had many, many children.

Therefore, anyone with any European roots can assume she or he will find Charlemagne in their family tree (in many, many places!)