Friday, September 5, 2008

6 Degrees of Separation

Growing up, one of the things that always fascinated me about genealogy was pouring over my family group sheets and seeing surnames appear that matched the surnames of my friends, or favorite teachers etc. and thinking of the possibility that my friend (or whoever) and I might be related! We all know that friends are the family we pick for ourselves, but then to find out that a friend was really family!!! It didn't matter that the name only showed up on one sheet, as a spouse to some distantly related aunt or uncle, that possibilty was there.

But of course, it never quite panned out that way. Not that there were that many other 10 year olds looking at their family's genealogy books so we could compare notes and see for sure, but nonetheless I would usually find out enough to lose even the remote hope that we were related, even via marriage. (of course the exception to this rule would occassionally show itself in the form of someone I would have rather NOT been related to, but you know...)

So as I got older, I stopped even looking. (which resulted in a few surprise "hey, I am related to that schoolmate, who would have thunk it?) So as I sat in a Genealogy-DNA lecture several years ago, when such technology was just making itself known, I was very skeptical when lecturer announced that in any given room, some extrememly high percentage of people were related, within x number of generations, and that at least I don't know, something like 1 in 5 people are related within just a few generations.

Recent events are starting to make me wonder though...

Submit evidence 1: Through various conversations, it has been discovered that while my parent's neighborhood is relatively new, there are many people in it who are all related to a settler of a nearby town, thus they are all related. (This includes my family)

Submit evidence 2: It was also discoverd that my family is realted to yet another of the neighborhood families through yet another relative.

Submit evidence 3: While in Washington, we stayed in this 'quaint little town' where it would seem "nearly everyone is either related by blood, or by marriage, or they might as well be". (I LOVE towns like that!) And due to the unfortunate passing of one of the town's senior members just before our arrival, we were witness to a great homecoming of sorts. During this homecoming, a man from North Dakota (we'll call him ND), was mentioning to my fil that he (ND) was a cousin to my fil's neighbor (mentioning the neighbor by name).

Keep in mind that my fil also lives in my parents' neighborhood. So it took me a few minutes to get my wits about it and remember that the neighbor he mentioned was one of the aforementioned families, related to me. Further discussion proved that his tie in to the neighbor, was in-deed a slightly more recent descendant of my tie-in to that neighbor. I too was a cousin to the man from North Dakota. Somewhere in the vicinity of fourth cousins. (to simplify it a bit).

Evidence 4:In contemplating the above fact, I began wondering more about just who I was related to, and was seriously considering turning my attention more from ancestral research to that that of descendancy research. And in the course of my wonderings, for some reason, it FINALLY hit me that my best friend that's stuck by me since 7th grade, and her family had lived in a 100+ year old farm house, part of her grandfather's ranchette, righ there in the town which was founded by this relative that ties me in to all those many people. What are the chances????

So, more research was done. Her family hadn't settled the area, but rather a line of them had settled a community two towns over. A line which shares a surname with my aunt's aunt and uncle, from that same small town...coincidence? Only more research will tell.

While not a direct blood relation, the world in deeds seems to shrink a bit.

Evidence 5:This comes from another visit with my in-laws. My hubby's stepmom was asking me where in the world she would find records for this tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Utah. I replied "You might be surprised I just found a wealth of records for my family from the neighboring...even tinier... settlement...

We tossed out surnames and found one in common. She pulled out the book and as we flipped through the pages, there, listed as a spouse to one of her relatives, was a name, unfamiliar to me, and yet strangely familiar. While it wasn't one that I recognized as a direct ancestor, there was little doubt he was related. Not only was the surname the same as my family's from that area, but his middle name matched the much more unusal maiden name of one of my grandmothers. (one that married my grandfather of that surname).

While this too was a relation by marriage (Her gg aunt married my gg uncle) The research into this connection provided me with yet another connection. Small towns, gotta love them! So the gg uncle in question, had married his cousin's wife's sister. Turns out the cousin and the sister are the direct ancestors of my hubby's stepmom. And of course the cousin was also the cousin of my direct ancestor, meaning that she (stepmom) and I are also cousins. :D Yeah!!!

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