In case you missed it, here’s the story about these seventh cousins, three times removed. You may also have missed the earlier news that President Obama also counts former president George W. Bush and ex-vice president Dick Cheney among his distant cousins.
To which, I say: So what? Theoretically, if you go back far enough we should all be related, right? Some people in this celebrity-biased culture are driven to know which famous people might be perched on another branch of their family tree, no matter how large the tree or how far removed the celebrity branch may be.
Personally, I’m much more interested in the three or four generations that I grew up hearing stories about, people who had a far greater influence on me and the loved ones I have known than the relatives who let some prime real estate in the blue grass country of Kentucky slip away in the 19th century.
Family history is much more than names and dates from a distant time. It’s a wondrous, ever-shifting work in progress that all living beings play a role in through their very existence. This is not to demean the past for there are important lessons to be gleaned from our ancestors, whether through our research or through their stories that have been passed on in some manner.
So, if you learn that I’m a seventh cousin, three times removed, to some famous person, I’ll accept that information with gratitude, interest and humility. But what I’d really like to know are the circumstances surrounding Jessie M. Breckenridge’s first marriage in the 1910s.
That’s much more relevant to me.
Writing prompt for the day: Who’s the most famous living person in your family tree? How has fame affected your own family history project?
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and legacy planner. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.