The Genealogy Generation Gap

Growing up in a small town in the 1950’s, the generation gap meant that old folks didn’t understand teenagers.  When I became seriously involved in genealogy research, I realized that some researchers also misunderstand the ‘Genealogy Generation Gap’. I asked a genealogical society group this question.

“How many years are in a generation?”

Answers ranged from 20, 25 or 30 years.  The correct answer could be: some, all or none of the above. A generation is the number of years between the ages of a parent and child.

My maternal four-generation pedigree chart covers 170 years.  My paternal line is much closer, where four generations includes only 134 years!

My parents were already grandparents when I was born.  My father was almost 50 and my mother was 41.  They had four boys and five girls in 25 years. Three of my brothers were old enough to be fathers by the time I was born.   My oldest brother already had a son, making me an instant Auntie!   My twin and I called our parents Mama and Papa, because we grew up with their grandchildren, our nieces and nephews.    When we walked to town, the conversation usually included a comment to Mama about her adorable twin grandchildren.

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The saga continues in genealogy.  My maternal great great grandfather, the legendary Indian Billy Dragoo, had four children by his Indian wife, and six children by his second wife.  His youngest daughter was born when he was 69. That isn’t what made him legendary, although he might have thought so.  He was kidnapped by Indians in Monongalia County, Virginia in 1786 and lived with them for over 20 years before returning to his natural family.  He died in Licking County, Ohio where his legacy of facts and fables live on.

When you are trying to determine family relationships from a pre-1850 census which lists people in five to ten year age brackets, think about the twins who were raised by parents in the grandparent generation. Now that’s a real generation gap!


Image: The Arnao family of berry pickers in the fields of Truitt’s farm. This is an Italian family coming from Phildelphia and now ready to go to Carmel, N.J. to continue picking. The family consists of: 1 child 3 years of age, 1 child 6 years of age, 2 children 7 years of age, 1 child 9 years of age, 1 child 10 years of age, 1 child 11 years of age. All of whom pick. Location: Cannon, Delaware. | Library of Congress

4 thoughts on “The Genealogy Generation Gap”

  1. Vi, you make a great point. I find similar generations in my research and suspect I have overlooked a few, too. Thanks for the reminder to re-examine some of the data.

  2. Vi, I just found the announcement about the Family History Daily on GeneaBloggers today, and came over to take a look. Your article caught my eye. Interesting perspective–I totally relate, by the way, since my own dad was nearing 50 when I was born.

    Looks like a great concept here for keeping up with the latest in genealogy and family history. Best wishes to the team as you continue your work here!

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