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ANCESTRY
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[ Also see Age Antiquity Beginnings Birth Blood Character Childhood Courtiers Family Gentility Gentlemen Heirs Heredity Inheritance Nobility Parents Pedigree Posterity Race Rank ]

We are very fond of some families because they can be traced beyond the Conquest, whereas indeed the farther back, the worse, as being the nearer allied to a race of robbers and thieves.
      - Daniel Defoe

Great families of yesterday we show,
  And lords whose parents were the Lord knows who.
      - Daniel Defoe, The True-Born Englishman
         (part I, l. 372)

Breed is stronger than pasture.
      - George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans Cross)

Man is physically as well as metaphysically a thing of shreds and patches, borrowed unequally from good and bad ancestors, and a misfit from the start.
      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We sometimes see a change of expression in our companion, and say, his father or his mother comes to the windows of his eyes, and sometimes a remote relative. In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin,--seven or eight ancestors at least,--and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.
      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Born is a Cellar, . . . and living in a Garret.
      - Samuel Foote, The Author
         (act II, sc. 1, l. 375)

The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple and cast naked on the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank of society, without a hope of emerging from their obscurity.
      - Edward Gibbon

The nobility of the Spencers has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marlborough; but I exhort them to consider the "Faerie Queene," as the most priceless jewel of their coronet.
      - Edward Gibbon

When real nobleness accompanies that imaginary one of birth, the imaginary seems to mix with real, and becomes real too.
      - Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, Lord Brooke

Say, when the ground our father Adam till'd,
  And mother Eve the humble distaff held,
    Who then his pedigree presumed to trace,
      Or challenged the prerogative of place?
        [Lat., Primus Adam duro cum vertet arva ligone,
          Pensaque de vili deceret Eva colo:
            Ecquis in hoc poterat vir nobilis orbe videri?
              Et modo quisquam alios ante locandue erir?
      - Grobianus (F. Dedekind) bk. I, ch. IV,
        (1661 edition)

No, my friends, I go (always other things being equal) for the man that inherits family traditions and the cumulative humanities of at least four or five generations.
      - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,
        Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (ch. I)

Few sons attain the praise
  Of their great sires and most their sires disgrace.
      - Homer ("Smyrns of Chios"), The Odyssey
         (bk. II, l. 315), (Pope's translation)

It is of no consequence of what parents any man is born, so that he be a man of merit.
      - Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus)

The brave are born from the brave and good. In steers and in horses is to be found the excellence of their sire; nor do savage eagles produce a peaceful dove.
  [Lat., Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis;
    Est in juvenis, est in equibus patrum
      Virtus; nee imbellem feroces
        Progenerant aquilae columbam.]
      - Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Carmina
         (bk. IV, 4)

Everyone has something ancestral, even if it is nothing more than a disease.
      - Edgar Watson Howe

"My nobility," said he, "begins in me, but yours ends in you."
      - Iphicrates,
        Plutarch's Morals--Apothegms of Kings and Great Commander's--Iphicrates

I have no urns, no dusty monuments;
  No broken images of ancestors,
    Wanting an ear, or nose; no forged tales
      Of long descents, to boast false honors from.
      - Ben Jonson

The character of the reputed ancestors of some men has made it possible for their descendants to be vicious in the extreme, without being degenerate; and there are some hereditary strokes of character by which a family may be as clearly distinguished as by the blackest features of the human face.
      - Junius (pseudonym, possibly of Sir Philip Francis)

Faith, I know nothing about it; I am my own ancestor.
  [Fr., An, ma foi, je n'en sais rien; moi je suis mon ancetre.]
      - Andoche Junot (Duc d'Abrantes),
        when asked as to his ancestry

Of what advantage is it to you, Ponticus, to quote your remote ancestors and to exhibit their portraits?
  [Lat., Quid prodest, Pontice, longo
    Sanguine censeri pictosque ostendere vultus majorum?]
      - Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenal)

Of what use are pedigrees, or to be thought of noble blood, or the display of family portraits, O Ponticus?
  [Lat., Stemmata quid faciunt, quid prodest, Pontice, longo,
    Sanguine censeri pictosque ostendere vultus.]
      - Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenal), Satires
         (VIII, 1)

There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.
      - Helen Adams Keller

If it is fortunate to be of noble ancestry, it is not less so to be such as that people do not care to be informed whether you are noble or ignoble.
      - Jean de la Bruyere

She descended from a long line her mother listened to.
      - Gypsy Rose Lee

Pride of origin, whether high or low, springs from the same principle in human nature; one is but the positive, the other the negative, pole of a single weakness.
      - James Russell Lowell


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