I recently found a Facebook group dedicated to my paternal grandmother’s family. Everyone with that name is descended from my great grandfather. The one topic on the discussion board was “where did the name come from”. And I realised, to my surprise, that my great grandfather has already disappeared into mythology. The people in the group are probably in their 20s, probably a generation, if not two, removed from him. My grandmother was 15th of his 18 children. By the time I asked her about her father, she was one of only three children left. And she’s been dead for 25 years.
My great grandfather died over 60 years ago. In evolutionary terms, he was remarkably successful. His descendants must number in the hundreds (my grandmother alone has 40 living descendants). But his memory is already lost to most of them. And women fare far less well – I don’t know the name of his first wife, or anything other than the name of his second. It’s only this third wife, my great grandmother, who I know anything about.