Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Family Resemblance?

Suppose I lived during the Civil War. What would I have looked like?
A friend of mine, Sherry Wead Lummis, who lives in Shenyang, China, has more than an idea. She has a picture:

To get that picture, she took a shot of Adam Schmidt, the oldest relative we have a photo for. He was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1831 and died in Miamisburg, Ohio in 1897. He would have been my great-great grandfather. That picture, below, was probably taken in the 1860's. He looks to be a man of about 30.

Sherry gave me his beard and his clothing. Of course I am substantially older than Adam was when his picture was taken.

So what would happen if Adam had my glasses? Sherry has also given him my mouth and nose.

Finally, here's the picture of me that was used to make the composites.

This is a pretty interesting experiment, I think. It's certainly one Adam could not have even imagined. Think of the genes bubbling up through the generations and now expressed on my face. Think of the various mixtures that made one feature more prominent and erased others. The DNA that courses through us all both gives and takes as it builds future generations, sharing this and that among disparate families.

The buck stops here. This branch of the Schmidt family ends with this generation. Neither my brother nor I have had children and my father is a lone child. So the family tree finds its branches lopped right here and now.

Is it the best and most important work of each generation to the produce the next? Does a life otherwise count?