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“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors”*…

 

Your family tree might contain a few curious revelations. It might alert you to the existence of long-lost third cousins. It might tell you your 10-times-great-grandfather once bought a chunk of Brooklyn. It might reveal that you have royal blood. But when family trees includes millions of people—maybe even tens of millions of people—then we’re beyond the realm of individual stories.

When genealogies get so big, they’re not just the story of a family anymore; they contain the stories of whole countries and, at the risk of sounding grandiose, even all of humanity…

The story of the largest family tree so far found– 13 million people. (And yes, that includes Kevin Bacon.): “What Can You Do With the World’s Largest Family Tree?

* Edmund Burke

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As we ruminate on roots, we might spare a thought for Sara Josephine Baker; she died on this date in 1945. A physician and public health pioneer, she was active especially in the immigrant communities of New York City.  In 1917, she noted that babies born in the United States faced a higher mortality rate than soldiers fighting in World War I, and undertook her fight against the damage that widespread urban poverty and ignorance caused to children, especially newborns.  She founded the Bureau of Child Hygiene after visiting mothers on the lower east side, was appointed assistant to the Commissioner for Public Health of New York City, then headed the city’s Department of Health in Hell’s Kitchen for 25 years.  Among many other initiatives, she set up free milk clinics, licensed midwives, and taught the use of silver nitrate to prevent blindness in newborns.

She is also known for (twice) tracking down Mary Mallon, the infamous index case known as Typhoid Mary.

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