Tuesday, April 14, 2009


An interesting post by a guest blogger on our fascination with famous (and infamous) ancestors:

We’ve moved from large joint families to nuclear ones these days, some of which contain only a single parent. It seems that there’s little room in our lives for uncles, aunts, grandparents and others, at least on a regular basis. But with the advent of genealogy, there’s a new interest in discovering who our ancestors were, and more specifically, in finding out if we’re related to someone famous, even remotely so.

This is proved emphatically by the fact that the application We’re Related, a popular tool on the social networking site Facebook, recorded a gigantic jump in its traffic soon after their April Fools’ Day joke filled the inboxes of around 19 million people with the message that they were related to none other than Barack Obama. Never mind that the mail told them that the President had confirmed them to
be only his fourth cousin once removed: the news got hundreds of thousands of users excited (there were angry and confused ones, too), with many people getting ahead of themselves and dreaming of invitations to use the Lincoln bedroom at the White House.

What is this fixation we seem to have with connections to the rich and famous, either by blood or emotional ties? We love to be seen in the company of people who are perceived to be stars; we love to rub shoulders with those who are influential and loaded; and we are proud to throw around the names of people we’re barely connected to but who have powerful connections.

As long as this obsession is a part of human nature, people will be interested in genealogy, in discovering if they’re related to someone historically or currently famous. What they often don’t realize is that genealogy can also turn up some unwanted connections-- including relations that you don’t want to know and definitely don’t want publicized, like (for example) the fact that you are related to Adolf Hitler.

If you’re looking at genealogy as a genuine way of tracing your roots and discovering who your ancestors really were, it’s not going to be too much of a problem for you. But if you’re not prepared to make a discovery that could possibly boomerang on you, you may want to rethink your decision to explore your roots and just leave well enough alone.

This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes a blog about the cheapest online degrees. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 at gmail.com

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