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Ancestry vs Lineage vs Pedigree

Ancestry, lineage and pedigree mean either one’s progenitors collectively or their quality or character as a whole. The words, however, are clearly distinguishable.

Ancestry in its most restricted use evokes the image of a family tree with its ramification by geometrical progression of branches or roots the further it is traced forward or backward.

  • only by the fusion of two parent cells can an offspring cell enjoy the advantages of joint heredity and pass on the traits of both ancestries
    La Barre

In broader use ancestry often suggests one’s progenitors in general, known or unknown, a cause of pride often, but sometimes of indifference or of shame.

  • no one is responsible for his ancestry, but his ancestry is to a certain extent responsible for his qualities

Lineage stresses descent in a line; it evokes therefore the image of a list of the persons who in order of generation are descended from a single ancestor.

  • the evangelist Matthew traced the lineage of Jesus by each step from Abraham down
  • lineage is reckoned through the mother; the Zuni are matrilineal

For this reason lineage is often used as the equivalent of race.

  • though of a lineage once abhorred

Pedigree is even more definite in its suggestions, for it implies a known and recorded ancestry that is typically distinguished or notable.

  • who proud of pedigree, is poor of purse
  • the deference due to a man of pedigree

The term is applied to the ancestry of persons, and to that of animals and plants propagated under controlled conditions.