Monday, May 17, 2010

Famous Folks in the Family Tree

One of my hobbies is researching my family history. It started back in the 8th grade when our reading teacher, Mr. Keller, had our guidance counselor's mom come in and talk about genealogy. Then for an assignment we had to fill out an ancestry chart. I was hooked.

That was 1993. I used to write out everything by hand on notebook paper. Now I can store everything - including pictures - on the internet (I use Researching is easier now, too. I started out combing threw old newspaper clippings my Grandmas had and spent a few hours in the John McIntyre library researching. But now almost everything can be done over the internet. My favorite part is looking up old newspaper articles. It's a great way to learn about people from the past. I recently stumbled across an article about an accident my dad was 1965!

All together, I've probably added nearly 10,000 people to my family tree. It's fun to come across famous people you are related to. My closest one is actress Fay Bainter. She is most famous for being the first person nominated for more than one Oscar in a year. She was nominated for best actress and best supporting actress in 1938, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress for Jezebel. How cool is that? She's not the only Tinseltown relative...there's also Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Shirley Temple, Mae West and Joan "no wire hangers ever" Crawford.

My love for the White House is well-known. I think it goes hand-in-hand with my interest in American history and government. So imagine my glee when I found out I was related to a First Lady. I'm definitely a distant cousin of Grace Coolidge. I'm probably also related to Ellen Wilson, Lucy Hayes, Bess Truman and Julia Tyler.

The inventor of the modern television? Probably my 7th cousin twice removed. The Wright Brothers...just because they are distant cousins doesn't mean I'll be getting into a plane any time soon. I'm probably cousins with three signers of the Declaration of Independence.

I'm doublely related to artists Georgia O'Keeffe and Edward Hopper. Poet Elizabeth Barrett "How Do I Love Thee?" Browning is a cousin as well as author Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost and Helen Keller.

If all the research pans out, I am the direct descendant not once, but twice to King David. You know David & Goliath? Yes, that King David. Most of the families seem to have a royal connection to them. I'm related to the Oliver Cromwells and a couple English/Danish kings whom I can't recall off hand.

Oh, and Geoffrey Chaucer, the Canterbury Tales guy, is my 19th great-grandfather.

Researching your family can be lots of fun. Beware might just find a few outlaws like Jesse James and Ned Kelly. But cousins like Jane Austen can make up for the few bad apples you might find.