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Counting the Generations

Feb 25, 2012 at 01:43:26 PM

Here's an interesting tidbit that caught my attention: two grandchildren of John Tyler ― America's 10th president who was born in 1790 ― are still alive.

How is this possible? Here's the math:

At age 63, John Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler. Then, in his 70s, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered the two sons who are still alive today - now both in their 80s, living in Virginia and Tennessee.

This got me thinking about the Jewish historical chain. We often regard the seminal Jewish event ― the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago ― as impossibly far in the distant past.

But if we consider that the average "generational span" - from parent to child - is 35 years, the number of generations from us back to Moses is less than a hundred. That's pretty amazing, and makes the whole idea of an unbroken chain of transmission much more fathomable.

Bonus info for U.S. history buffs: John Tyler was William Henry Harrison's vice president ("Tippecanoe and Tyler too"), and took office a month into the term when Harrison caught pneumonia and died. Tyler's main presidential achievement is pushing through the annexation of Texas. But his political career ended ignobly; he later joined the South's secession efforts and was even elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. Because of his Confederate ties, Tyler's is the only presidential death not officially mourned.

February 25, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 5

(3) Esp20, March 15, 2012 4:36 PM

John Tyler was a president of the United States that yielded good fruit and works in behalf of his country. He should be celebrated for his positive contributions toward this nation, just like all the other presidents before him and after.

(2) Ilan, February 29, 2012 4:07 PM


All I know for sure about someone who traces his genealogy back to Moses is that he's not descended from Moses. Not a dig at Doron, who's a good guy, but not of the Moses family.

(1) Jack, February 26, 2012 8:31 AM


The chain of tradition is not only fathomable but absolutely true. In his book "Why Be Jewish" Rabbin Doron Kornbluth traces his tradition person by person back to Moses (about 130 generations).

MIRIAM, February 28, 2012 7:29 PM

WOW! WOW! WOW! If I hadn't read that myself I don't think I could have been convinced :-) WHAT A TOTALLY AWESOME INDESCRIBABLE G-D WE HAVE AND LOVE!

AlbertE., February 29, 2012 2:31 AM


On this date in 1844 Tyler narrowly escaped death when the cannon on the USS Princeton exploded. Gardiner was the father of Tyler's fiancee. This is all a synchronicity?

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