Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ancestry's We're Related - at 100 celebrities

Ancestry’s We’re Related app has now told me about 100 possible relatives. This is a good place to discuss some statistics.

Occupations (my categories)
  • Actors - 25
  • Presidents - 19
  • Entertainers - 13
  • Authors - 13
  • Politicians - 9
  • Athletes - 4
  • Science - 4
  • Business - 3
  • Military - 4
  • Activists - 2
  • Artists - 2
  • Vice Presidents - 1
  • First Ladies - 1
Note: The meaningful of this is is of course slightly dependent on the breakdown of the individuals they have in the database.

Furthest confirmed ancestor on my chart
  • Betts, Capt. Richard - 7
  • Chamberlain, Joanna - 2
  • Chamberlain, Robert - 3
  • Clark, Abigail - 52
  • Horton, Barnabas - 1
  • Horton, Penelope - 1
  • Meyer, Elizabeth - 2
  • Pitney, Mary - 16
  • Schauer, Michael - 2
  • Swazey, Joseph - 3
  • Van Tock, Hannah - 8
  • Wines, Sarah - 3
Note: Abigail Clark is definitely my 'gateway ancestor' to the most alleged celebrity kin. Mary Pitney a distant second.

Individuals for whom my research confirms my alleged ancestry (8/100)
  • John Kerry
  • Mark Twain
  • Jim Varney
  • Johnny Depp
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Tom Hanks
  • Stephen King
  • Theodore Roosevelt
I could say these are individuals for whom the relationship is very likely...if I trusted the research for the celebrities. But...

Individuals for whom my research confirms my alleged ancestry, and other research I trust confirms the celebrity’s ancestry (1/100)
  • John Kerry
Note: I haven't actively tried to research any of the celebrity ancestries. However, with the advent of Who Do You Think You Are and other genealogy shows, many celebrities have had some professional research done. And even without the shows, many politicians have had their genealogies well-researched.

Out of the 19 Presidents I'm allegedly related to – those for whom the alleged President’s ancestry is confirmed through Ancestors of American Presidents by Gary Boyd Roberts, 2009 edition. – 2/19
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
Note: There are 4 generations in my own ancestry I'd have to confirm to prove this relationship.
  • Barack Obama
Note: There are only 2 generations in my own ancestry I  have to confirm. I'll step out on a limb and say this relationship is the likeliest of all the Presidents the app has generated. If anyone can find sources for me to back up the ancestry on WikiTree linking Mary Pitney to Samuel Smith, that would be helpful. (Sources other than WikiTree, that is.) I discussed this possibility back in October.
For the other 17 Presidents, the number of extra generations that are extended unto Gary Boyd Roberts' research

George Washington - 1
John Adams - 1
James Madison - 2
William Taft - 2
Richard Nixon - 2/3 *
Calvin Coolidge - 3
Theodore Roosevelt - 3
Harry Truman - 3
James Carter - 3
Thomas Jefferson - 4
Franklin Pierce - 4
Zachary Taylor - 4
George HW Bush - 4
George W Bush - 4
Abraham Lincoln - 5
William Clinton - 6
Ronald Reagan - 7

*App provides a different 6th great grandfather for Nixon, and then goes 2 more generations.

Note: Washington and Adams would appear to be the easiest for me to research to confirm/disprove. However, the number of unconfirmed generations in my tree are 7.
Celebrities whose alleged ancestry goes through an ancestor’s adopted parent (I'd have no problem with this if the app made it clear.) - At least 1/100
  • Robin Williams (his mother was adopted)
In Summary

The app is very entertaining. However, without sources to back up the ancestor charts, that's all it is. The percentage of alleged matches where I have been able to confirm the ancestry back to the shared ancestor for either myself, or the celebrity, is quite small.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Defining a Person by their Occupation

Most genealogy databases have a category field for Occupation, which can be entered similar to an Event with a date and place. And if someone was faithful in entering data into the field, and used consistent terms, it could be used to search the database. You could find all the tailors, or all the famers.

However, some tailors are called furriers, and some blacksmiths are called farriers, and there are subtle differences between musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters. It's difficult to be consistent with occupation titles without running into individuals who don't quite fit into your categories. And since the choices can be subjective, decisions will vary.


I wrote about how Ancestry's We're Related App categorized Richard Nixon as "Politician" rather than "President." While that was an obvious error, their simple decision to sort the results into occupational categories, and only allow one occupation per individual, means many of their choices are going to be debatable.

A simple example: William Howard Taft.

Sure, his primary categorization is easy - President.

However, the app's listing of categories (see right) currently tells me that I have no relatives who were U.S. Supreme Court Justices. And I know that isn't true. (And a good percentage of the Politicians and Presidents are/were also Lawyers.)

Below are all the "Possible Relatives" the app has currently suggested to me for whom I would categorize differently. [All my suggestions are used for other individuals by the app.]

  • Robert E. Lee - Military Figures
  • Ring Lardner - Authors
  • B.F. Skinner - Scientists 
  • Walt Disney - Artists
  • Britney Spears - Entertainers
  • Franklin Pierce - Presidents
  • Richard Nixon - Presidents
The last two are the most obvious mistakes. Classifying Ring Lardner as an entertainer also seems to be a mistake when he is known for his writing. Walt Disney was definitely entertaining, but I think not classifying him as an Artist is a slight against cartoons and animation. I'm not sure if B.F. Skinner's categorizing is a mistake or a slight against Psychology as a science. There are several people in the Musicians and Composers category that raised my eyebrows, but most of them have either played a musical instrument, or at least composed some of their songs. Britney Spears' name has appeared in conjunction with others in some of her song credits, but she is known for her performances.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

To A Lady
by Victor Hugo,
From Les Feuilles D'Automne

Child, were I king, I'd yield my royal rule,
My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
For a glance from you!

Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
Angels, the demons abject under me,
Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
Time, space, all would I give--aye, upper spheres,
For a kiss from thee!

translation by Thomas Hardy
photogravure by Goupil et Cie, from a drawing by Deveria, appears in a collection of Hugo's poetry published by Estes and Lauriat in the late 1800s.

Why is Valentine's Day on February 14th?

There is a theory that the only reason today is associated with Cupid is due to a poem Geoffrey Chaucer wrote.
In 1381, Chaucer was busy composing a poem in honor of the arranged marriage between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. This was a very big deal indeed, and Chaucer was looking for just the right saint to honor on May 3, the day Richard II signed the papers of engagement to his Bohemia beauty. 
His search ended, Kelly surmises, when Chaucer learned that a Saint Valentine of Genoa had an honorary feast day on May 3. Perfect! So he wrote the poem "The Parliament of Fowls" in the couple's honor. 
"The Parliament of Fowls" literally means "the meeting of birds," says Kelly. "Chaucer dreamed up the idea that all birds chose their mates on May 3rd," he says.

After Chaucer's death in 1400, Valentine's Day celebrations got pushed back to February.
Why exactly is unclear, however, if you forgot, and someone is upset, perhaps you can use this information to give yourself a few extra months.

Friday, February 10, 2017

We're Related App - Categorization Error

Apparently, Ancestry's We're Related app places Richard Nixon in the "Politicians" category and not the "U.S. Presidents & Vice Presidents" category.

I'm fairly certain this is a coding error and not a political statement. But it is humorous.
Almost makes up for the appearance of him as a possible relative.
I have informed Ancestry using the Feedback app.

Including Nixon, the app has now informed me of 17 Presidents to whom I may be related. I am unable to verify both halves of the ancestry on any of them.

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Barack Obama
  • Bill Clinton
  • Franklin Pierce
  • George H.W. Bush
  • George W. Bush
  • George Washington
  • Harry S Truman
  • James Earl Carter
  • James Madison
  • Richard Nixon
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • William H. Taft
  • Zachary Taylor

There are two other presidents - FDR and Grant - to whom I am fairly certain I am related, but the app, so far, hasn't found. For these connections, I am trusting the research done by Gary Boyd Roberts in Ancestors of American Presidents, and my own research for my own ancestors. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We Are Not a Nation of Immigrants

"A Nation of Immigrants"
implies all our ancestors
were immigrants.

Some were Native Americans,
some slaves,
and some indentured servants.
Others were refugees.
Those that voluntarily came prior to 1789 --
mostly colonists.

Words matter.
Grouping all migrants together
erases differences.

Were our ancestors fleeing oppression?
Were they seeking a better economic future?
Did they arrive here under duress?
Did their nationality change?

The different paths followed
led us to where we are.
By celebrating these differences,
we honor all of our ancestors.


Back in November, I stated, in part:

I have immigrant ancestors from the following geographies:

  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Great Britain
  • Canada
  • Lithuania
  • Transylvania
  • Volhynia.

That's not entirely true. I can't factually state that any ancestors immigrated from The Netherlands. My Vanevery ancestors traveled from The Netherlands to a Dutch colony (New Amsterdam). That's not immigration. Immigration requires movement from one nation to another nation. A colony is part of the mother-nation.

All the other countries in that list belong there. I have British ancestors who were colonists, and others who immigrated after 1791. All of my Canadian ancestors were descendants of Loyalists who fled to Canada during the Revolution.

Whether or not some of my ancestors were refugees is open to question. My Puritan and Mennonite ancestors might be classified as such, along with my Jewish ancestors. Though I think most of my Jewish ancestors were seeking better economic circumstances and weren't fleeing any particular pogrom. As I mentioned last week my Cruvant ancestors may have left Lithuania because their home was destroyed in a fire.