Tangling Up a Family Tree for Fun and Worldbuilding

I’m currently brainstorming for a story that will see both branches of my universe’s illustrious Reinhardt family combine into one bloodline, under the aegis of Amarantha’s romantic plotting amid the arrival of a great comet right after her mother’s term in political office ends. I first covered this in “Reinhardts after Rapunzel” and more recently in “Ready for Amaranth?” (yes, I changed her name from Amaranth to the prettier variant Amarantha).

I’ve added in the idea that the space habitat they go to the comet into could be a Bernal sphere with a big transparent window for seeing out into space, with the central valley (the equator of the sphere) being filled with water, their partying and living environment consisting of a really big sailing yacht. Yes, Amarantha will have built (or chartered) an entire spaceship just to provide water and wind for a super-yacht. When you’re a multi-billionaire in a universe with cheap spaceflight you can afford such things. Even in this setting it’ll be a rather unique home base to see a great rogue comet up close and personal.

The Story

Anyway, the basic plot is that Amarantha Rommel Reinhardt meets, falls in love with, and marries her fourth cousin, Draco Reinhardt von Gleichen, the heir to the Countship of Gleichen. At the wedding she sees how pretty and wholesome the other side of the family is, and sees that initial spark of attraction in all their eyes. Deliberately raised apart on instructions from long-disappeared cousin Menteith, and with vision-prone Rapunzel feeling a calling to bring the sixth generation of the family together for their shared future, Amarantha acts, giving both all the boys and all the girls makeovers, creating a much more glamorous and uniform look, the idea being to project an image and inculcate a mentality of a Reinhardt Man and Reinhardt Woman. At first she intimates it might be temporary, so they all go along with it, but they end up really liking it, particularly after the pairs of cousins fall in love with each other under Amarantha’s nigh-invisible matchmaking hand.

A little bit of a weird idea for a story, I will admit, but I think it might be sweet and cute, and be a way to more naturally incorporate my worldbuilding I’ve done for the Reinhardt Saga, much like I’ve done in my yet-to-be-released novel “Heart of Proxima” for Imogen of Thalassa’s family and my universe in the turn of the 22nd century.

Filling out the Reinhardt von Gleichen Family Tree

I already had basically built out Amarantha’s twig of the family tree, but aside from that past the fourth generation it was a blank page. So I’ve been brainstorming. Camillo Reinhardt is the brother of Menteith Reinhardt (he of “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”), and with his wife Ingrid Madsen has four children: Titania, Oberon, Ariadne, and Circe. Their mother was a singer, and the daughters take a very artistic bent, eschewing having any children (much like the Gleichen sisters did in their distant ancestry). Oberon Reinhardt, on the other hand, does get married, to a ballet dancer named Giselle Paramonova (the Giselle name comes from ballet, indicating she probably comes from one of those multi-generational ballet families), and has two daughters, identical twins named Violetta and Musetta.

Both Violetta and Musetta might ordinarily have pursued their ballet careers and not had any children, but they are well aware that they’re the entire fifth generation, and all that’s left of the heirs of the Countship of Gleichen. They love to do everything together, so starting from a very early age they intensively date around for suitable husbands, but finding after some time that there’s no one who truly satisfies them, they both become single mothers by choice, with each going through four successful pregnancies, Musetta’s last producing fraternal twins, meaning she ends up with five.

In the end, Musetta’s children are Electra, Pandora, Invictus, Draco, and Andromeda (the last two being fraternal twins); Violetta’s children are Amadeus, Fantasia, Thalassa, and Peregrine. Thus there are five sons and four daughters in the Gleichen branch’s sixth generation, providing safety in numbers for the continuity of the Gleichen bloodline.

It’s worth noting that Musetta’s children are first cousins of Violetta’s children, but they are more closely related than normal first cousins, because their parents were not just siblings (50% related) but identical twins (100% related). If both Musetta and Violetta used the same donor (or if, hypothetically, they married another pair of identical twins), that means the resulting first cousins would be as genetically related as full siblings! This is by virtue of their mothers and their fathers being genetically identical, so genetically it’s as if they all had the same parents. They may have used different donors, in which case each nuclear family would consist of half-siblings, and their first cousins would also be as genetically related as half-siblings.

Filling out the Rommel Reinhardt Family Tree: enter the Morgenstern Family

Confused yet? I’m just getting started. I’ve decided that Rapunzel Reinhardt should have gotten her visionary mystic traits and wild nature from somewhere, and so I’ve decided that her father, Gandalf Reinhardt, the heir to management of the family’s semiconductor firm Reinhardt Industries (aunt Emma picks him out to be her successor since he has the most interest and aptitude of the immediate family), will fall hands-over-heels in love with a certain Cassandra Morgenstern, a drop-dead gorgeous girl who has the same sort of feminine Rasputin energy that Rapunzel inherits. Cassandra is the daughter of Polaris Morgenstern, a hardcore occultist and something of a high priestess of the New Age counterculture, who made her fame and fortune in spaceflight (think a much more New-Age-y version of those National Geographic private jet expeditions that go to the trackless corners of the solar system far beyond the usual path).

Turns out Cassandra Morgenstern has a whole bunch of siblings who are just as irresistible as Cassandra, and after being introduced the Reinhardt-Rommel cousins fall like dominoes. Gandalf’s sister Araminta Anemone Valkyrie marries Cassandra’s brother Altair Morgenstern. Gandalf’s brother Viggo marries Cassandra’s sister Solandis. Cassandra’s brother Solitude marries Gandalf’s double first cousin, Freya Gardenia; Cassandra’s brother Falconer Morgenstern marries Freya Gardenia’s sister Adela Amidala.

It’s not an exact match, though. Wolfgang Reinhardt Rommel and his brother Siegfried Reinhardt Rommel (brothers of Adela Amidala and Freya Gardenia, cousin to Gandalf) aren’t interested in taking a wife or having kids. On the Morgenstern side, Cassiopeia Morgenstern, another daughter of Polaris and the sister of all these other Morgensterns, is committed to following in her mother’s footsteps and becomes a single mother by choice. I can’t help but wonder if the Morgensterns’ beauty and charm is so irresistible that after some hot action with Cassiopeia Wolfgang and Siegfried lose all interest in starting a family with anyone else, but Cassiopeia is not interested in having any children by them. Having all your kids by sperm donor while spending many a hot night with your brothers-in-law is already grading toward Ptolemaic-tier, but we’re not finished yet!

Double First Cousins marrying their First Cousins

Cassiopeia has five children: Sirius, Delphinius, Psyche, Thelema, and Loki. When the fifth generation of Rommel-Reinhardts, i.e. the children of Gandalf’s and Freya Gardenia’s generation, come of age and start looking for a hot, rich, and fun boy or girl, lying in wait will be none other than their first cousins, namely Cassiopeia’s children, who all inherited the Morgenstern touch. The dominoes fall once again.

Let’s hit the brakes and keep track of where we are. Cassandra and Gandalf have one child: Edelweiss “Rapunzel”. Solitude and Freya Gardenia have three children: Dido, Vespera, and Sanguine. Falconer and Adela Amidala have two children: Vela and Triton. Solandis and Viggo have one child: Hesperus. Altair and Araminta Anemone Valkyrie have one child: Gottfried.

Sirius marries Dido, Delphinius marries Vela, Psyche marries Hesperus, Thelema marries Gottfried, and Loki marries Edelweiss. This accounts for all of Polaris Morgenstern’s grandchildren. This does not account for all of August Reinhardt’s great-grandchildren (i.e. the fifth generation), however. Out of them, Sanguine, Vespera, and Triton never have children, possibly for the same reason as their fourth-generation counterparts: nobody available who can live up to the standard set by their siblings-in-law.

Now we come to the members of the sixth generation. Sirius and Dido have three children: Eomer, Eowyn, and Earendil. Delphinius and Vela have three children: Vortigern, Sappho, and Echo. Psyche and Hesperus have one child: Revelstoke. Thelema and Gottfried have one child: Godric. And Loki and Edelweiss have one child: Amarantha.

“Uh…just what kind of cousins are we, anyway?”

This leads to some rather interesting relationships. Thank goodness I have the whole family tree in Gramps (free-and-open-source genealogy software!) to keep track of it all. For example, Eowyn is first cousin to Amarantha through Cassopeia, but they are also triple second cousins through Polaris Morgenstern (triple because there are three paths that make them second cousins through her), and they are also double third cousins through August Reinhardt/Alta Auer and Manfred Rommel (two paths, hence the double). The total coefficient of relationship is 12.5%+9.38%+1.56%=23.44%. This extra degree of consanguinity makes them almost more akin to double first cousins or half-siblings (25%) than normal first cousins (12.5%).

Another example: Sappho and Echo are not only sisters, but also, through a different route, double second cousins. So instead of 50% related they’re 56.35% related. To Sappho Triton is not only uncle but also first cousin once removed, adding up to 31.25% consanguinity. Sappho’s mother Vela is also her first cousin once removed (again, 56.35% related).

Altair and Godric provide an example of perhaps the weirdest relationship complexity: to Godric Altair is not only his grandfather but also, through Polaris Morgenstern, his granduncle. Thus they are 37.5% related instead of the normal 25% for a grandfather/grandson.

Circling back to cousin relationships, Godric and Amarantha are first cousins, and also quadruple second cousins (through Polaris Morgenstern three times and Wolfram Reinhardt/Christina Rommel once). Coefficient of relationship: 25%, the same as normal half-siblings. And on and on and on. It will no doubt become even more complex when the sixth generation marry and have children with their fourth cousins.

The fourth-cousin matches are: (of course) Amarantha and Draco, Echo and Peregrine, Earendil and Electra, Eomer and Pandora, Revelstoke and Andromeda, Eowyn and Amadeus, Sappho and Invictus, Vortigern and Thalassa, and Godric and Fantasia. I’ve already got various interests, personalities, and appearances in mind for all of them; it was surprisingly easy to think of more than enough to fill out the whole mob. Originally I thought I might have up to 15 pairs of cousins, but it turns out all the people I wanted to have a nice-sized family can have one even with just 9 pairs of cousins, 9 chosen because it’s an important number in Norse mythology (3 groups of 3; this Norse connection, by the way, is the source of 9 rings of power, 9 companions in the fellowship, etc. in “The Lord of the Rings”).

That’s about all I have for the family tree, and probably about all I will have for the time being. It’s kind of interesting that consanguinity this complicated can be created without any unions closer than full first cousins.

Into the Future

The Rommel Reinhardt von Gleichen children, the seventh generation, will be the sole descendants of the Rommels, the Reinhardts, the Gleichens, and the Morgensterns. If any of the cousins among the seventh generation marry each other and have children the web would no doubt become even more tangled. That might not happen, though, if all the seventh generation are raised together as children (that tends to be a turn-off in adulthood). In any case it seems unrealistic for every single member of that generation to marry close as well. The close marriages the families in this tree did have are an accident of history, not a product of rigid tradition.

The End of the Reinhardt Saga?

I’m wondering whether to effectively bring the Reinhardt Saga to a close as the 21st century goes on, by having them make a decision as a family (remember: togetherness) to have many children as all their erotic souls yearn for, even if it means accepting the family wealth will be diluted back into the woodwork. I was thinking that as it was the fifth generation could barely restrain themselves.

On the other hand, perhaps the Morgensterns (and by extension the Reinhardts) are the type to have baby fever but also shower all their affections on one or at most a few children; quick to marry, hot for beloved, but not so desirous of a huge brood. That might be more interesting anyway. My romances are a bit one-note on the “get hitched and have many children” plot with regard to family formation; an attitude of “one and done” prevailing for childbearing is not really something I’ve explored yet in any of my stories, and it might make more sense in this context, considering the family history, the desire to avoid dilution of wealth, and the desire to keep the family a small enough group to be together.

It’s also a more typical attitude; my heroes and heroines tend to form big families, but a wildly disproportionate number of them come from nigh-cult-like frontier groups (think Space Amish) that are unusual. A huge population explosion isn’t part of my fictional universe; these cult-like groups burst on the scene with high fertility but they invariably go back into the woodwork after a short few centuries. Thus the human population spreads out thinner and thinner. Why not reflect that in my best-developed family saga?

Speaking of space expansion, if I go with the “have many children” option, eventually these branches of the family tree will, by dint of the difficulty of coordinating hundreds and thousands of people in a subsequent generation, necessarily split into separate groups, even if each group is tight-knit; this might even be part of a deliberate plan to send different branches off to different solar systems.

2045 itself is only 5 years after the Thalassa Expedition heads out for Proxima Centauri, and half a century after the first interstellar probes are dispatched, and the writing is on the wall: humanity will not be able to maintain remotely real-time communication with its entire remit in the very near future, so any family who wish for their progeny to be influential everywhere will have to accept that different branches will pass out of real-time contact permanently, and incorporate that into their long-term plan. Such a plan might even be hatched during the time the cousins first meet each other, and be incorporated into the story.

Hmm. That’s an interesting thought. The family tree as it radiates out rapidly would be absorbed into the general population, but in any case, for the nonce there’s plenty of fun to be had in these tangled webs of consanguinity. Hooray worldbuilding!

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