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My Line Is Traced Back to Adam

Article Date: 
2 July, 2010 - 06:00

Over the years I have been doing family history I have occasionally heard someone claim they have their line traced back to Adam.  I have from a researcher hired by my grandma, a record which shows my Mecham line traced back to Adam.  Unfortunately, these claims are fantasy.
Most claims of records tracing back to Adam come from lines connected to royalty, many through William The Conqueror.  When a king or queen came to the throne, it was normal practice to do all he or she could to establish their right to the throne beyond a doubt.  Normally they represented that they were anointed by God to be monarch.  
To provide evidence of the right to rule, monarchs would often hire royal genealogists.  If the genealogist wanted to be paid, and in many cases keep their head, they were expected to show the proper evidence for the current king.  This made for some creative genealogies.  What could be better for a new king or queen than being a descendant of significant individuals in the Old Testament and having your line traced back to Adam?
These genealogies which were published in achived records have been the source of confusion and inaccuracy for many years.  If your family is one with record back to Adam, I am sorry to disabuse you of the notion that it is correct.
Nearly all of the pedigrees I have seen which show lines back to Adam have been with English Ancestors.  English parish records go back to the mid 1500s at the earliest.  Many stop in the mid 1600s or early 1700s.  The oldest record in the National Archives of the UK is the Domesday book.  It is a survey of land commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086.
After he conquered England he wanted a record of all of the land and who owned it.  He commissioned a survey of the land.  The result was the Domesday book.  It contains references to more than 13,000 places, many of which exist today.  There were fixed questions asked such as what the place was called, who owned it, how many men lived there, the size of the land, and its condition in 1066.
In the Domesday book there are names of individuals, primarily of landowners or those who were leasing lands.  There is also a report of the number of individuals living on the land, but the Domesday book is not an every household census.  It was primarily so that William would know what he owned, what the land was worth, and what he could get in taxes.
This is the earliest record in the UK.  It was written about 600 years after the last of the New Testament was penned. The intervening years have very few surviving records.  There really are no surviving links between modern records and scriptural records.  
If you are a Christian, then your beliefs likely contain the fact that you are descended from Adam, and Noah, but  the claims of documented evidence should be given no credence.  If your genealogist is providing these conclusions you should scrutinize their evidence carefully.  If they are using research from royalty you should approach these records with skepticism.  
It is fun sometimes to discover that our ancestral lines connect into royalty, but it is often more interesting to find that we are connected to ordinary people.  Most of my ancestors were ordinary people and yet there are some interesting stories about these ordinary folk. In my ancestors lives there are fascinating stories of spiritual experiences, and one death in a bathtub.  Not much royalty, but plenty of interesting and entertaining stories.    
Be sure to scrutinize records you receive from any source.  Review the conclusions reached and look for evidence to support these conclusions.  Genealogy is not a work of facts, but it is a work of evidence.  Understanding when a record was created, the purpose of the record, by whom it was recorded, and the motivation of the person who recorded it are key to evaluating its accuracy.
Being objective and thorough will more often lead to genealogical research results that stand the test of time.  The best legacy we can leave our family is not a pedigree chart from royalty or from Adam, but one that accurately represents our families as they are, warts and all.