A couple of things have gotten me thinking about my ancestors recently...
During his talk, Stephen Fry mentioned that he'd participated in the UK version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" (which I already knew), but he also mentioned how crazy it was to just focus on, in particular, the male "name" line due to the numbers of people involved.
Just doing some quick math I have to agree with him... going back 20 generations (at 25 years per generation) for a person roughly my age it means that your ancestors stretch back to around the year 1475... and there are 1,048,576 of them (or, in essence, a megabyte of ancestors).
Which is interesting when you consider that it's possible that the entire population of Europe was around 350 million in 1400... if Wikipedia is to be believed... which would mean that 350 modern individuals are related to the entirety of medieval Europe...
So, yes... picking out one ancestor who happens to share the surname with one of your parents seems a little narrow minded... and you may very well be missing out on some very interesting history.
But at the same time I guess it's only natural to want to connect with people who actually share the surname you have now.
I also find it slightly interesting that both my paternal and maternal surnames exist as place names in England (and are about 160km apart)... especially since my paternal surname (which I stopped using when I was 16) is not a particularly common name. But it does make me wonder whether those branches of my family can be traced back to those particular locations.
When I was in Year 8 or Year 9 we had to do a family tree for (I'm guessing) history class... and while I know next to nothing about my father's side of the tree, I did dig up a surprisingly large amount of information about Ma's side just from conversations with my Nanna.
Sadly I don't know where all of that information ended up... I know I did create a very primitive database at some point after handing in my project, and there were both print-outs and some fairly basic hand drawn trees. I'd hope that I never threw it all away...
The other thing that regularly gets me thinking about the ancestors is watching the aforementioned "Who Do You Think You Are?"... and at one point I did sign up for Ancestry.com.au and started to construct a family tree, but there's only so much you can do on a freebie membership.
I must look into that again though!
But there is one particular leaf on the family tree that I would love to know more about.
And that is my mother's father's mother. Emily.
She's definitely an enigma.
The story goes that Emily was never married, and had my maternal grandfather out of wedlock. She then left him to be raised by (from memory) her cousins and disappeared (at least as far as I'm aware).
I always wonder what her story was, who the father was and where her branch of the family goes. And what happened to her afterwards... did she have another family, when and where did she die, that kind of thing. But also where the family tree goes beyond her... there does that branch go...
Maybe I need to track Emily down...