How does everyone know that you have a famous ancestor?
It’s not like we figured this out on our own. Your surnames are different. You don’t look anything like him. His picture doesn’t hang on your wall. He lived so long ago, your name isn’t in any of his biographies. And, by the way, I’ve never seen any of those biographies in your house.
Yet everyone knows. How? I suppose someone in your family could’ve told us, if we knew anyone in your family, but we don’t, so that’s not it. No, it must’ve been you. You must have told us.
But why? Do you think your connection is the sort of thing we’d find interesting? I suppose it is interesting, in a trivial way, and I can understand reluctantly divulging it to a close friend or a committed partner, sharing it with an embarrassed shrug designed to convey your deep indifference to the connection, your abhorrence at the notion that anyone would think more (or less) of you just because you happen to be descended from a famous ancestor. That is a limited disclosure, a secret among friends, the sort that binds the recipient to an oath of silence, the last sort of disclosure one would expect to lead to everyone knowing that you have a famous ancestor.
No, it’s hard to conclude from the evidence that you’ve done anything other than spread the word of your connection far and wide, shouting it from the rooftops for all to hear, determined that no one who knows you will fail to know that you have a famous ancestor.
You puzzle me. What do you hope to gain by this? Are you under the impression that having a famous ancestor, by itself, entitles you to our esteem and elevates you over those of us with lowlier ancestry? Exactly how does that hereditary principle work? Does it decline over time, as lowlier genes intervene to dilute your famous ancestor’s genes? Come to think of it, what exactly did you inherit from that famous ancestor, other than the fact of your descent? Help me with this, I’m having a hard time understanding the significance of this whole ancestry thing once we stop talking about kings and queens and thoroughbred horses and pure breed dogs, but I’m just the seed of a bunch of forgotten nobodies so what do I know.
Here’s a question that’s really bugging me. Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m genuinely curious, don’t mean to imply anything negative about you personally – but don’t you fear being dwarfed by your famous ancestor? It’s hard to avoid the comparison and, well, let’s be frank, it doesn’t flatter you. And how could it? I mean, he is a famous ancestor after all and it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be a famous ancestor, let alone a known ancestor. That sounded harsh, and I didn't mean for it to sound that way, but it's the first thing I thought after learning of your connection with your famous ancestor. Let’s face it, you have “descended” from the famous ancestor in both senses of that word.
So do you really want everyone to know that you have a famous ancestor?