My Wife and I Are Kissing Cousins
I'm proud of my family. No, we don't have any Nobel prize winners or brain surgeons or rocket scientists in our family tree (not that I know of anyway), and we have only one convicted murderer (a distant relative). The last few generations of my family were mostly educators, writers, musicians, artists, laborers and people-helpers. But we are of hearty stock, descendants of adventurous pioneers, valiant kings and courageous warriors.
I know all this thanks to my stepfather, who, for more than forty years traced my ancestry back through generations of Americans, as well as through Scottish, English, Russian, French and German history. In doing so, he came across some interesting finds, and created fascinating genealogical charts.
For example, I am a proud Texas native, made even more proud by the fact that there were a couple of Walkers who fought and died at the Alamo, distant relatives according to my stepdad, but relatives nevertheless. My forefathers fought in the Civil War and many of my ancestors also helped establish our nation during the Revolutionary War. On my mother’s side, George Washington was a distant cousin. I am a direct descendant of European royalty including William the Lion, King of the Scots (26th great grandfather), Anne of Russia (30th great grandmother), William the Conqueror (26th great grandfather), and Charlemagne, (41st great grandfather). Also in my direct line are at least six signers of the Magna Carta and an advisor to King John.
But I have discovered that I have very little reason to brag. Genealogists say that anyone who has European ancestry is probably related to Charlemagne, and that amounts to around a billion people. Most European royalty can trace their line to him, so that means a good portion of Americans have royal blood coursing through their veins. Maybe that’s why the musical Pippin about Charlemagne's son became so popular; we are all able to claim a little “corner of the sky” when it comes to a royal heritage.
But the best genealogy tidbit that my stepfather discovered was one that came about by accident. After working for years trying to document the ancestors of his kids and stepchildren, he started working on my wife’s family tree. As he sleuthed through tons of information online and from other genealogical sources related to her family, he came upon a name that he had seen in his searches before. The ancestor's name was Elizabeth Seaman, who lived during colonial times in New York. She was married twice, and my stepdad discovered that my wife is a descendant of Elizabeth's first marriage. After her first husband died, she married again and had at least one more child. I am a descendant of that second marriage. That means that for both my wife and I, Elizabeth Seaman is our great great great great great great great great grandmother. (That’s eight “greats,” in case you’re counting.)
Now lest you think my wife and I are living in something akin to an incestuous relationship, recognize that if you count how many combinations of grandparents there are in nine generations, you are reaching a number over one thousand. So I’m guessing the water in the gene pool is pretty diluted by the time it gets to us. In fact, Wikipedia says that ninth cousins have only a 0.06% chance of sharing any DNA at all.
What is particularly fascinating to me are the migratory patterns of the families of all those grandparents. How did my wife’s family end up in Washington State, and mine in Texas? It took some time, but one of Elizabeth Seaman’s children from her first marriage moved west from New York to Ohio. The kids and grandkids gradually migrated west through Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado and finally Washington. The descendants of Elizabeth’s second marriage migrated southward, first to Virginia, then to Tennessee, across Missouri, and after nine generations eventually settling in Texas.
Then this descendant from Texas got a job in Seattle, found a long-lost relative, and, not knowing there was any blood relation between them, married her. One part of me is a little squeamish about that. Another part of me thinks somehow it was meant to be.
Of course it’s going to be a puzzle to unravel for future generations of Walker genealogy buffs, because in addition to being siblings, my children are also tenth cousins to one another.
My stepdad never did try to put that one on a family tree chart.
© Nick Walker 2018
What about you? Are you related to anyone in history? Do you have an interesting family tree? Please scroll down to leave a comment below.