A few of you know that I've been rather consumed with the research of my family tree recently. When I was just starting out, I was definitely standing on the shoulders of giants in terms of what had been researched before me. The whole reason I started doing this was because I saw that the Italian government will allow Italian descendants to become citizens if their emigrating relative never denounced their Italian citizenship. (I believe I have proven this and am very excited, but that is another story altogether.)
One branch of my tree is very English. Ancestry.com has a cool little tool that lets you click on a button that says, "Find famous relatives". I thought I would have none. I was very wrong! Because of the English side, my closest famous relative was Ralph Waldo Emerson, my 4th cousin (six times removed, since he was quite a bit older than me). I thought that was pretty sweet. I fancied this is where my literary bone comes from.
Then, I decided it was time to explore the Southern contingent. My paternal grandmother's family hails from the Southern parts of the United States since even before the states were united. I explored that branch of the family, and decided to click on "Find famous relatives" again, to see if anything had changed. We did have a Confederate Captain who died in the war on our side, after all.
Instead of dignitaries and former presidents, NOW my two closest famous relatives are Pretty Boy Floyd (I think they had his character in O Brother Where Art Thou...a caricature, at least), and Frank James (older brother of Jesse James). Floyd is my 5th cousin, three times removed (since he lived in the 30s) and James is 5th cousin, 4th times removed. I'm even related to the famous Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly (6th cousin, 4 times removed!
I don't know what there is to be said for all this, and I know it all just proves the whole Seven Degrees of Separation thing. What the heck is a 5th cousin anyway? How does that have anything to do with my daily life?
I've been pondering this, and I think there is something to be said about legacy in all of this. To be perfectly honest, I got more excited than anything that my great-great grandfather William C Opie listed himself on his World War I draft card as "Occupation: Minister of the Gospel". I think that is just so awesome. He didn't just write "minister" and try to get out of the service. The wording itself is a legacy to me. I get to read it ninety years later and think, "Yes, that is MY occupation, too." I feel a kinship with William C Opie that has to do with the fact that we are, in fact, related. But I feel a stronger kinship with him because of the shared place we have in the family of God. To me, the Kingdom family is just as important, if not MORESO than the family we were born into.
Although being 9th cousin of James Dean is pretty cool too.