In Baltimore City, Maryland, my father owned two 20-foot refrigerated displays in a store that sold meat. His five children learned how to develop a strong moral character from him. As an example of hard work and good business practices, he led us by example. As we age, we still adhere to those principles despite being in our 70s. This legacy he left his five children reminded me of the 5 Generation Legacy Rule.

The Five-Generation Rule

What some call the “five-generation rule” refers to the effect of how a parent raises their child on future generations. The love they give, the values they teach, the emotional environment they offer, and the education they provide. This can all influence not only their children but the four generations to follow, either for good or evil.

Furthermore, in an article by Larry Ballard, he discusses how radically different generational outcomes can be depending on the parents’ actions. He describes how American educator A.E. Winship traced the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death. Alternatively, his findings are remarkable, especially when compared to the ancestors of another man from the same time period known as Max Jukes.

Multi-Generational Success

Jonathan Edwards a puritan preacher, in the 1700s, was one of the most respected preachers of his day. He attended Yale University at the age of thirteen and later went on to become the president of Princeton College.

Further, Edwards’ 5 Generational Legacy includes 1 U.S. vice-president, 1 dean of a law school, 1 dean of a medical school, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 65 professors, 75 Military officers, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, 100 clergymen, and 285 college graduates.

Multi-Generational Dysfunction

In contrast, Max Jukes’ legacy came to people’s attention when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system were traced back to him. He lived in New York at about the same time as Edwards. The Jukes family originally was studied by sociologist Richard L. Dugdale in 1877.

In addition, Jukes’ 5 generations of descendants included: 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 190 prostitutes, 150 other convicts, 310 paupers, and 440 who were physically wrecked by addiction to alcohol. Of the 1,200 descendants that were studied, 300 died prematurely.

The Legacy You Leave

Lastly, Ballard concludes his discussion by asking — If someone studied your descendants four generations later, what would you want them to discover?  The life you live will determine the legacy you leave. In both your personal and professional life, lead by a good example and create a path to success for 5 generations.

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