Friday, June 10, 2011

How Many Times Removed?

Not long ago I had an email from a stranger. No, not the usual spam, but an email with serious and personal content. He claimed to be my relative, but I had no idea of his existence.

When I had read the whole message I concluded that he was indeed right. We were related.

It turned out that this man was researching his ancestry, digging into data archives. I have my family tree on a website called Geni, where you easily can build your family tree and get a good overview, so it took me only minutes to confirm this man’s claim.

He comes from the same part of Sweden as I do, and just like me he had moved abroad, so he was researching mostly on the internet. Long gone are the days when you needed to find old dusty documents in parish archives and physically hold them in your hands. Nowadays your computer mouse is your best friend.

Not only was this distant relative of mine doing research, he was also writing a book about some aspects of his findings. He does his work like a proper genealogist, and the reason he had contacted me was to possibly get some input, data and perhaps even photographs. As it happened, I did have on my PC some photos of interest, including a wedding photograph from 1878.

So, what about how we are related? First of all you could say that all humans are related, going all the way back to our earliest ancestors in Africa, or to Adam and Eve, if you believe in that sort of thing. But that would be to stretch the concept somewhat. We had to go back only seven (7) generations to find where our family trees interconnected, 309 years ago! A man who was born in 1702 was our joint ancestor, my great great great great great grandfather.

So, what does that make him, my newly-found relative? Not my cousin exactly, and how many times removed? My mind boggles!


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