Thursday, January 3, 2008

A President and a King

I've written posts before mocking some of the weird relationships Ancestry's OneWorldTree generates - probably the best example is how Catherine the Great is the 19th-great grandmother of Henry David Thoreau (with only 100 years separating them - generations averaging 5 years - the pedigree has to be seen to be believed.)

As Ancestry admits:
Keep in mind--The possible relationship information we show is only as accurate as the member-contributed family tree information found in OneWorldTree. We are unable to verify whether these results are in fact accurate. Of course, that's part of the fun of family history--digging into the research.
I won't argue with that. It is fun. When I first discovered that my maternal grandmother allegedly was related to such diverse individuals as Flannery OConnor, Werner Von Braun, George W. Bush, Ray Bradbury, Elvis Presley, Amelia Earhart, Shirley Temple, JP Morgan, and to top it off, a direct descendant of Geoffrey Chaucer, I didn't know quite how to respond. One relative, when I mentioned it, came up with a one-word colorful description of what he thought of it all - bullshit.

I wasn't quite ready to dismiss all of it. I knew her ancestry went back to 18th century New York, and once you're in that early colonial melting pot, a lot of families are intermingling. It's not impossible to imagine a handful of the proposed lineages were actually correct. The question was which ones were true, and which ones were like Thoreau and Catherine?

Since then I have discovered my connection with the Sweezey/Swayze clan is rather well documented. Tonight I returned to OneWorldTree and started going through the 35 famous people they list, and discovered that a couple of the descendancies come through the Sweezeys. I was able to "confirm" the connections at Browsing through the site, and seeing notes on various entries, they appear to be concerned with accuracy.

So I feel fairly certain that US President, Benjamin Harrison (through the wife of William Henry Harrison) is on my tree. Fifth cousins, three times removed. Elvis Presley may also be my cousin, but he doesn't appear at, and the Sweezeys don't appear on the Presley genealogy at There is one link in his OneWorldTree ancestral chain that is questionable. A recent unofficial genealogy that purports to go back fifty generations contains the missing link, but it's the only place I've found it (besides OneWorldTree) and it seems of questionable veracity.

So right now, with 35 data points, it seems OWT is somewhere between 2.8% and 5.7% accurate. Maybe over time I'll discover it has a better record.


Anonymous said...

Hello Cousin, welcome to the Sweezey – Swayze family tree. Any pictures? I recently started a Mystery Sweezey Photo’s website - Mystery photo’s for Sweezey genealogy enthusiasts looking for long-lost family, which can be found at "I wouldn't get too far under that tree if I were you. It might be shadier than you think".

Anonymous said...

Re: Catherine the Great to Thoreau link: There's a big problem in that Patricia Helen Windsor (b 1886) goes to Alexander Ramsey, which says born 1919. But he really Died in 1402, if he's the father of Agnes Ramsey (b 1372) featured below him. Why would the Tree go from 1729 (Catherine the Great) to 1372 (Agnes Ramsay) and then climb back up again to Thoreau? ???

Anonymous said...

Yes. OneWorldTree allows anyone to claim anyone is the parent of anyone. I've referred to it before as the Wikipedia of Ancestry. without the ability to correct the vandalism.

I could upload a genealogy that says I am the son of Barack Obama, and it wouldn't blink an eye. You could too. We would then be siblings!