Onto the Seventh Generation


Wondering about family history and gathering information since the late 1980's, each little bit of new information is exciting as it helps build a stronger picture of the people and their families. The piece of information that provided a lot incentive to find out more was a copy of an O'Sullivan descendant list compiled by Peter Crawford, which included Patrick O'Sullivan and John Connell, which at the time were the only two known ancestors of a potential 64 direct ancestors seven generations prior to myself.


Genealogy and Sustainability

With an interest in sustainability and ecological systems I became aware of what had become known as 'the seventh generation' principle. This was initially made, widely known via a famous speech given by Chief Seattle of the Squamish and Duwamish Native American tribes, delivered in response to a Government offer to purchase the remaining Salish lands in 1854.

Oren Lyons, a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Chief observes that the first mandate of traditional Haudenosaunee chiefs is “to ensure that their decision-making is guided by consideration of the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come”:

  • What about the seventh generation?
  • Where are you taking them?
  • What will they have?

"The seventh generation principle applies to the ancestors as well. In honouring the ancestors, one expresses gratitude to them as the seventh generation, which they kept foremost in their decision making and for whom they sacrificed.”

Respecting your Ancestors

Some cultures throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East have traditions of obligation and respect where they know or recite the names of their at least seven direct blood ancestors such as father, grandfather, great grandfather and great-great-grandfather etc. This process often has been taught to the generations (the sons and daughters) from early in their childhoods by their parents. In some cases this is lineal and includes only patriarchal or matriarchal lines and in other cases it is all ancestors onto the the seventh generation.

In some cases the reason for knowing their seven generation ancestors is that they are not allowed to have marriage relations within seven generations, so in order to determine marriage relations, the ancestors of the male and female sides must be above the seven ancestors on both the fathers and mothers lineages. The second reason is that this tradition is regarded as a helpful means to know and remember the historical background within families and regions and to be able to learn from the family.

Family Legacy

The impact of ancestors is also described as a family legacy. Family legacy is more than a mere grant or inheritance of name, money, or personal property handed down through the family; and far more than a static family tree of past births, deaths, and marriages. It is, “the sum of valued accomplishments, traditions, assets, histories, experiences, lives, places, and memories that flow from the past through the present and into the future” encompassing financial resources, and also family capital manifesting itself in many complementary forms such as family harmony, physical well being, and a broader sense of legacy and reputation, integrity.

The extent of influence is described as:

  • The influence or impact of ancestors of the past three generations is maximum i.e. up to the generation of our great grand parents.
  • The ancestors of up to the last seven generations have some sizeable influence.
  • The ancestors beyond the seventh generation do not affect us much.
  • The above pertains to how far we are affected by our lineage (i.e. the vertical family tree). If we look at it horizontally (or laterally), we are affected by our ancestors up to our second cousins.

Living Knowledge

Looking at seven generation ancestry charts, at the fourth generation are the starting persons great grandparents who may have still been alive at the time of their birth and if not then they certainly feature in family stories told by their children and grandchildren. These same people were themselves recipients of the stories about their great grandparents who are located at the seventh generation.

Seventh generation genealogy

The seventh generation project is something I would encourage others to consider because;

  • I like the seventh generation principle.
  • Most of the historical records that make family history research easier were implemented throughout the UK, parts of Europe and elsewhere during the early 1800's. (About the time of the sixth and seventh generation for many people alive today).
  • The largest, readable pedigree chart which I can fit on a standard A4 or Letter, page fits seven generations.
  • Somewhere throughout the journey family history becomes genealogy.
  • It is rewarding and it can provide a focus for your genealogical research.

What is a seventh generation project?

A seventh generation genealogy project can be;

  • As simple as filling out the names on a seven generation pedigree chart.
  • Following that up with with sources and information that paint a picture of your ancestors can be even more rewarding.
  • Completing the information for all members of their family not only reveals information about your ancestors but often results in further clues and connections with distant relatives.
  • Other seventh generation projects include tracing all descendants of a given person down to the seventh generation. A search for "seventh generation" on WeRelate shows a number of source documents which indicate that this is being done a bit.