Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Think We Have the Same Eyes

Ancestry.com (ancestry.ca) has this neat feature where they combine all their family trees into a big "One World" tree. If you know your ancestors, you can access the "one world" tree and check to see who you're related to. It's especially fun to see which famous people are your distance cousins.

There's only one problem. You really have to know something about your ancestors before you trust the results. Most of the relationships are wrong because someone has entered the wrong data and it gets propagated to the "one world" tree. This is a problem with all such databases—including scientific ones.

Here's one of the reliable hits. It shows how Bette Davis is a distant cousin. She descends from my great10 grandparents Captain Richard Norman and his wife Margaret Alford. They were born in Orchard Portman, Somerset, England (midway between Exeter and Bristol) and came to Massachusetts Colony in 1626.


  1. Odd; when we met, I immediately thought of Bette Davis...

  2. Now, I could see how her eyes might cause earthquakes! :)

  3. John Pieret asks,

    You mean you're really a 'Merken?

    Nope. Some of my ancestors lived in Connecticut and New York in the 1600s and 1700s. You might recall from your history books that those places were British colonies back then. There were no "Americans" at that time. They were all British citizens.

    When the thirteen southern colonies turned into the United States of America in 1782, my ancestors left for the remaining British colonies in the north. They were United Empire Loyalists. They represent the large group of citizens in the Thirteen Colonies who opposed the revolution.

    They probably don't teach that in American schools, right? There wasn't a single American at the Boston Tea Party! Nobody on the Mayflower was an American! And all the democratic General Assemblies in the colonies were created in the 1750s by British citizens with the support of Great Britain.

  4. They probably don't teach that in American schools, right?
    They do, just usually not in a positive light.

  5. We humans are all cousins. Big whoop. I'm more fascinated by my cousins the trilobites that are sitting on my desk in front of me right now.

  6. They probably don't teach that in American schools, right?

    Of course they do. But you didn't originally say when they escaped over the border just ahead of the law.