Explaining the Unbelievable

With over a million boxes to fill in on their pedigree charts for just their first 20 generations, over time all average everyday people are descended from a number of the same ancestors famous people are descended from.

On his 84th birthday I ran a Family Forest® kinship report for my Dad. How do I explain that amazing report? It shows results that a lifetime of learning has taught all of us to believe is impossible.

The software searched through the entire system of digital links I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours assembling. It was looking for every person in the Family Forest® who, according to recorded history, is related to my father through either birth or marriage.

It took 5,823 pages to display the results. The report shows that my father has family ties to over a quarter million different relatives over thousands of years, and they include most of the key people who were at most of the pivotal places and events in human history, as well as many of the Hollywood celebrities who have portrayed much of that history on film.

For instance, there are 27 signers of the Declaration of Independence on this report. That’s only one person short of half of the heroic men who signed. How can this be?

Well the simple explanation is that anyone who is connected into the Royal Channel in the Family Forest® is instantly networked through family ties to every other person who has already been connected into the Royal Channel.

Although my Dad is unique and very special to me, sociologically and genealogically speaking, he is an average everyday guy. With over a million boxes to fill in on their pedigree charts for just their first 20 generations, over time all average everyday people are descended from a number of the same ancestors famous people are descended from.

This is a message I have to deliver. It sounds simple, even though it runs contrary to common knowledge and it still seems unbelievable.

Texas Heroes and Google Books

We now know what the author A. W. Sowell could not know; a half century later, Grandma Berry would become an ancestor of at least one Hollywood actor, the most decorated American soldier in World War II.
How many of her descendants do not yet know of their own family ties to her, the Alamo, and Audie Murphy?

I’d like to share a fascinating ancestral history gem I discovered at Google Books this week. 

It involves early Texas heroes, and the essence of it has now been digitally lineage-linked in the Family Forest® to a more recent national hero from Texas. Literally millions of people, including probably you (I know I am one of them), relate to this story through their own family ties. 

Audie Murphy was a national hero from Texas, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. His biography, No Name on the Bullet, mentions that his family tree included such men as one of his great-grandfathers, John Berry, but gives no identifying details about John Berry or what he did. So I turned to Google Books in search of answers.

I found more than I was hoping for. It was hidden in a book from 1900 by A. W. Sowell titled Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas. 

Within a six-page section about John Berry’s wife (titled Mrs. Hannah Berry) are details about who he was, what he did, and in particular the noteworthy service he performed for Davy Crockett shortly before the Alamo. But it was a statement about his wife, also an ancestor of Audie Murphy, which caught my attention. 

While she was still alive, Grandma Berry is said to have had “seventy-four grandchildren that she knows of, and one hundred and twenty-four great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.” 

We now know what the author A. W. Sowell could not know; a half century later, Grandma Berry would become an ancestor of at least one Hollywood actor, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. 

How many thousands (tens of thousands?) of living descendants might Grandma Berry have now, a full century after she finished her historically eventful and productive life in Texas at the age of 91? How many of her descendants do not yet know of their own family ties to her, the Alamo, and Audie Murphy?

The National Treasure Hunt begins in Texas. See for yourself.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?

And there are other surprising family ties from “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” as well. Although Mary Steenburgen’s ancestry is not in the Family Forest® yet, the ancestry of her husband Ted Danson (subject of my favorite ancestral coincidences [or not?] story is. So through marriage, Mary is related to both Hugh and Sarah Jessica.

After enjoying watching Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in this movie, we tried one of the really cool features of our new Roots Magic program. We asked if it could create a Relationship Chart in the Family Forest® between the two co-stars. 

Almost instantly a chart appeared showing generation-by-generation exactly how Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant are distant cousins. They share ancestors in the Family Forest®. Who would have guessed? (Well, maybe those who read our last Sarah Jessica Parker blog.

And there are other surprising family ties from “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” as well. Although Mary Steenburgen’s ancestry is not in the Family Forest® yet, the ancestry of her husband Ted Danson (subject of my favorite ancestral coincidences [or not?] story is. So through marriage, Mary is related to both Hugh and Sarah Jessica.  

But the bigger and better story than how these three stars are related is about how so many individual fans are related to one or more of them through their own family ties. 

We’re looking forward to sharing these fun connections with more Family Forest® customers personally.

Independence Day 2010

That is why the American Revolution has continued to be one of the top five focus areas of Family Forest® growth during the last 15 years.

The Fourth of July always triggers many fun memories from childhood and later years that I cherish.

Yet I can’t help but wonder how much better those memories might have been, and how much more I would have paid attention in school, if it hadn’t taken more than 40 years to discover that I am personally connected through generation-by-generation family ties to the original Fourth of July and the struggle for American independence.

My wish is that our future leaders experience this enriching discovery while they are still in school, that this knowledge is given to them early enough in their life to make a meaningful impact in their lives and the lives of their families.

That is why the American Revolution has continued to be one of the top five focus areas of Family Forest® growth during the last 15 years.

It is also why we say that the Family Forest® National Treasure Edition can connect more people through family ties to more of the people, places, and events in American history than any other digital resource, either online or offline.

Happy Fourth of July!

Early Long Island Ancestors of Celebrities in the National Treasure

Are you surprised that Long Island’s early settlers fathered offspring who would leave their marks so deeply etched in America’s culture and our history?

A friend of ours is going to be exploring Long Island for the first time, and he asked if there was anything he could do to help spread the word about the Family Forest® Project while he was there. Some of you may enjoy knowing what I found when I explored in the National Treasure Edition for early Long Island ancestors and some of their notable descendants. You can see Ancestors-at-a-glanceÔ for many of those descendants listed below.

Samuel Blakeman PIN 107577: Matthew Fox, Jodie Foster  

Richard Borden PIN 284620: Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie Borden, Lana Turner, Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Christopher Van Hollen, Jr.  

William Bowne PIN 26736: President Abraham Lincoln, Senator Gary Hart

Alan Breed PIN 290857: David Hyde Pierce, Paul Giamatti, Vice President Dick Cheney  

Ensign Thomas Cornell PIN 246157: President Jimmy Carter, President Richard Nixon, Senator Bob Graham, Richard Henry Dana, Kyra Sedgwick, Edie Sedgwick, Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie Borden, Bill Gates, Senator John Kerry, Betty Grable  

John Hand PIN 502015: Frank Lloyd Wright, Anne Baxter, Ron Howard, Julie Bowen  

Barnabas Horton PIN 46455: Senator John Kerry, Jane Wyman, Patrick and Don Swayze, William Holden  

Thomas Lawrence PIN 331577: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt  

Captain William Lawrence PIN 98130: Christopher Reeve  

Judge Matthias Nicholls PIN 129015: Michael Douglas, Governor William Weld  

Louris Jansen Op Dyke PIN 504326: Shirley Maclaine, Warren Beatty  

Thomas Sayre PIN 43327: Jane, Peter, and Bridget Fonda, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Admiral Dennis Blair, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Dina Merrill, Winston Churchill, Howard Dean  

Captain John Seaman PIN 327807: Clint Eastwood  

Lawrence Southwick PIN 281365: Winston Churchill, President Richard Nixon 

Lieutenant Nicholas Stillwell PIN 257162: Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, Howard Hughes, Sonny Whitney (financier of Gone with the Wind), Anderson Cooper  

Dr. John Stites PIN 267240: Howard Hughes  

Thomas Talmadge PIN 62628: Dwayne Shattuck, Ernest Hemingway, Mariel Hemingway, Archibald Cox  

Captain Thomas Tappin PIN 119700: Cole Porter  

John Thompson PIN 284749: Lee Remick 

William Thorne PIN 43859: Sonny Whitney, Anderson Cooper, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator John Kerry, Betty Grable  

Robert Titus PIN 307171: Senator John Kerry 

Thomas Tobey PIN 274652: Raquel and Tahnee Welch 

Edward Treadwell or Tredwell PIN 43924: Steve Forbes  

Henry Tuthill PIN 17075: President Jimmy Carter, Elvis 

Captain Jan Thomasse Van Dyke PIN 43769: Vice President Hobart, Garry Trudeau, Oliver Platt, Maude Adams, Molly Ringwald, Paris and Nicky Hilton 

William Washburne PIN 523573: Senator Bob Dole, Ron Howard, Kevin Bacon, Senator John Kerry, President Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Walter P. Chrysler, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, Edwin Hubble 

Hon. Edward Howell PIN 46500: Jane, Peter, and Bridget Fonda, Howard Dean, Dick Clark, J.P. Morgan, Governor John D. Rockefeller IV

Daniel Whitehead PIN 559319: Sonny Whitney, Anderson Cooper

Thomas Whitney PIN 328293: Norman Rockwell, Mike Huckabee, both Presidents Bush, Bill Gates

Robert Williams PIN 523617: Senator Bob Dole, Ron Howard, Kevin Bacon

Barnabas Wines, Jr. PIN 327229: Jane Wyman, Patrick and Don Swayze, President Gerald Ford

Joris/George Woolsey PIN 352095: Senator John Kerry, Bill Gates 

Peter Wright PIN 5134: Elvis, Howard Dean 

Are you surprised that Long Island’s early settlers fathered offspring who would leave their marks so deeply etched in America’s culture and our history? To us, it is not surprising at all. We have daily access to the world’s most interconnected family history research tool: the Family Forest National Treasure Edition which, incidentally, is available online as a download.  Also, some of your ancestors probably have celebrity descendants, and you may want to check our website for our hundreds of ancestral history eBook titles with prices starting as low as $5.95.

Virkus Clarification and Correction

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Virkus’ The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy (later The Compendium of American Genealogy) should know what it is and what it isn’t, what’s wrong with it, and if there are any redeeming qualities.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Virkus’ The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy (later The Compendium of American Genealogy) should know what it is and what it isn’t, what’s wrong with it, and if there are any redeeming qualities.

In short, you should know the truth about it, and far more importantly, what’s been done to it recently since it was published more than a half century ago. 

This massive work in seven volumes, published over a decade and a half between the 1920’s and the 1940’s, maps out verbally an enormously large swath of generation-by-generation American family history over basically a three century period. 

Despite the potential ancestral history value that promises, and the fact that it is the one genealogy resource that can be found in most libraries, conventional wisdom these days says that it should be avoided like the plague. 

It has been known for a long time that it contains many errors, but I’ve never seen anyone quantify that statement. Is it 30% errors? 40%? 50%? The much lower answer may surprise you. 

But what if the correct answer was that it contains 50% errors? That would mean that one out of every two statements or dates is wrong. 

The glass-half-empty thinkers will say this massive genealogy resource is useless. The glass-half-full thinkers will say “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we knew which half of this massive genealogy resource is correct?” 

Highly respected genealogist Donald Lines Jacobus said about it “because of the high proportion of known errors, conscientious genealogists do not use statements in this work without verification.” 

“It is often a useful reference work for those who know how to use it properly” he went on to say. 

Suppose a conscientious person with Mensa-level intelligence spent 15 years digitally indexing, in lineage-linked format, the Virkus collection along with hundreds of other books and periodicals, filtering out annoying and confusing duplication, error checking each entry against everything else that had been previously entered, and connecting them to each other wherever appropriate? 

There’s no need to imagine the enormous upgrade in quality and usability that has already happened to Virkus’ massive work (as well as to hundreds of other books and periodicals, including many from NEHGS and NYGBR). Just explore for yourself in the National Treasure.

Lost Cousin links to Ancestral Mother

I pulled up a 30-generation ancestor chart last night for my “Lost” cousin, Matthew Fox, to see if he has ancestral pathways into the new Robin Hood movie, and indeed he does.

I pulled up a 30-generation ancestor chart last night for my “Lost” cousin, Matthew Fox, to see if he has ancestral pathways into the new Robin Hood movie, and indeed he does. 

Right away I saw one of his ancestral pathways to one of my favorite ancestral mothers, who is portrayed in Robin Hood. Then I saw another, and another, and another. By the time I finished counting, I found that Matthew has at least 48 different ancestral pathways to Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Family Forest® National Treasure. 

There are 16 through King John (son of Eleanor by King Henry II), 30 through Eleanor (daughter of Eleanor by King Henry II), and two through Mary (daughter of Eleanor by King Louis VII of France). 

Seeing these types of connections all the time does not keep me from being surprised by new ones I am continually discovering in the Family Forest®. 

The Family Forest® Project is Networking Family History with Hollywood™, as well as with American and Old World history.

Civil War Hero to Receive Overdue Medal

Alonzo Hereford Cushing has finally been approved to receive the Medal of Honor, 147 years after he fell in battle at Gettysburg. It’s been known for a long time that his actions were worthy of praise.
I ran a Family Forest® kinship for Alonzo to see who he is known to be related to. There were over 37,000 people, including a very wide range of Americans, mostly everyday people, and some famous.

Associated Press reported yesterday on an American heroism story that was 147 years in the making. It actually relates personally, literally, to many Americans. 

Alonzo Hereford Cushing has finally been approved to receive the Medal of Honor, 147 years after he fell in battle at Gettysburg. It’s been known for a long time that his actions were worthy of praise. 

Alonzo was the subject of a poem entitled “The Last Man At His Guns” that appeared in an 1895 book by Henry Stevenson Washburn called “The Vacant Chair and Other Poems.” 

I ran a Family Forest® kinship for Alonzo to see who he is known to be related to. There were over 37,000 people, including a very wide range of Americans, mostly everyday people, and some famous. 

They include President Abraham Lincoln (7C), Major-General John Sedgwick who was also at Gettysburg (6C), President U.S. Grant (6C2R), potential California governor Meg Whitman (6C3R), New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (5C6R), Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster (6C5R), baseball star Chase Utley (6C5R), Hollywood icon Raquel Welch (9C3R), astronaut Alan Shepard (6C4R), Admiral Dennis Blair (9C3R), Admiral George Dewey (7C2R), Vice President Aaron Burr (5C4R), both Presidents Bush (6C4R and 6C5R), President Grover Cleveland (6C), Vice President Charles Dawes (9C), President Millard Filmore (7C2R), President Gerald Ford (7C1R), President Herbert Hoover (6C3R), Orville and Wilbur Wright (6C2R), Admiral Richard Worsham Meade (6C), Samuel Holden Parsons who was a Major General in the American Revolution (Half 2C3R), other Revolutionary Generals Elisha Porter (3C5R) and Moses Porter (4C4R), and Civil War Generals Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (5C1R), Charles Edward Phelps (6C3R), Walter Cass Newberry (7C2R), Charles Jackson Paine (5C), Edward Porter Alexander (Half 5C), and William Tecumseh Sherman (6C1R). 

Kinship reports like these illustrate the fact that the Family Forest® can connect more families personally, through actual family ties, to more of the people, places, and events in American and Old World history than any other resource.

Getting to Robin Hood via eBay

So we’re announcing our Personal Connection Service to Hollywood this week and introducing it via an eBay auction.

The Family Forest® Project is, among other objectives, Networking Family History with Hollywood™, and

An old friend asked me to call a friend of his in Atlanta early last week. Something about frustration with his experience at Ancestry.com, and wondering if I could help him. 

Within two hours, I was able to email John a PIN of one of his ancestors in the National Treasure who has a generation-by-generation ancestral pathway to Katharine Hepburn’s character in The Lion in Winter. 

That same character, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is also portrayed in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood. So John can take his kids to the movies this week to see their own ancestors portrayed larger than life on the silver screen. Cool, huh? 

Maybe we don’t actually make joy, as BMW does, but we certainly enjoy spreading joy. So we’re announcing our Personal Connection Service to Hollywood this week and introducing it via an eBay auction.

The Family Forest® Project is, among other objectives, Networking Family History with Hollywood™, and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for you to connect your children personally to history, and to ignite their interest in life time learning.

Tom Berenger at the Big Island Film Festival

We were sitting front and center at a tropical paradise venue (The Shops at Mauna Lani) while Tom Berenger received the 2010 Golden Honu Award for Acting at the Big Island Film Festival.
I wanted to know about how it was for Tom to work with one of my top four Hollywood icons who have portrayed one of my ancestors. So I asked him “How was it to work with Charlton Heston?”

Kristine and I had an outstanding evening yesterday. We were sitting front and center at a tropical paradise venue (The Shops at Mauna Lani) while Tom Berenger received the 2010 Golden Honu Award for Acting at the Big Island Film Festival

We thoroughly enjoyed discovering that in addition to being a great actor, Tom is also a captivating storyteller. And I was fortunate enough to be able to ask him a question that I can only ask a relatively few people. In fact, I’ve never asked this question to anyone before, and actually, I’ve never asked a Hollywood star anything (other than my friend Leon Rippy, who I knew before he was a star). 

I wanted to know about how it was for Tom to work with one of my top four Hollywood icons who have portrayed one of my ancestors. So I asked him “How was it to work with Charlton Heston?” 

Tom gave a great answer. It confirmed my perception of Charlton Heston, pleased the crowd, and conveyed insights about why we always enjoy Tom’s performances. 

Life is great here in paradise!