I got a kick out of the post, Everybody cousin, on the Gardener’s Footprint blog, because it described something I believe is true—anywhere you look, anybody could be your cousin. Perhaps a distant cousin, but a cousin nevertheless. In fact, my cousin Maurice joked that people are going to have to add DNA tests to their prenup agreements to make sure their future spouse is a distant enough cousin to make it okay to be kissin’ cousins. (He didn’t say that exactly, but you get my drift).
Once you take a DNA test, you begin to realize just how many people are cousins. I have almost 1000 cousins in my “Extended DNA Family” on 23andme.com.
And these cousins are literally everywhere, from South Africa to South America to South Carolina. Well, I don’t have any cousins that I know of in South Dakota, but that may just be because they haven’t tested yet.
|My 23andme.com relative list|
One thing I have cherished in my genealogy journey is getting to know some of my DNA cousins through Facebook. Even though many of us are pretty distant cousins, and others are actually cousins of cousins, we have joined together to form a community, Primos Geneticos (Cousins Genetic). Just like the AAGSAR community (which, of course, includes many cousins and cousins of cousins), we support one another, pray for one another, share stories both funny and sad, laugh at each other’s jokes, and importantly, help each other in the never-ending quest to trace our family histories.
As we trace our histories together in these virtual communities, we have discovered many so-called coincidences. For example, Andrea, one of the AAGSAR family, writes a post about her Shinault family and happens to mention someone named Gamble who traveled with the family from Virginia to New York. I commented that my godfather's Gamble line has links to Virginia. Later, when I post about Charles Henry Gamble, who was born in Norfolk, Andrea is sure there is a connection. I can’t wait to see if we can trace it. When another member of AAGSAR, Xzanthia, helped me to search for military records for Charles Henry, it led to the discovery that he had ties to her hometown, Chattanooga. (According to gedmatch.com, Xzanthia and I are—you guessed it—distant cousins).
My cousin Maurice, mentioned above, figures that our family links originate in South Carolina, and gedmatch.com indicates the connection may be as long ago as 7 generations back. But I have closer DNA cousins with links to the Gaddy's of Wadesboro, North Carolina, where Maurice’s great grandmother was born (read all about her in his two-part post). So our relatives were neighbors in one state not so very long ago while kin in another in the more distant past. Speaking of neighbors, the wildest so-called coincidence is one I share with my cousin, Teresa. So far, she’s the only DNA cousin that I have a paper trail connection to as well. But in turns out we have another connection: we lived in the very same building in New York City though at different times. Not just in the same small town, like my relatives and Maurice’s; not in the same neighborhood. But in the same building, on the same floor! In a city as big as New York, how could that be? Please, don’t tell me it’s just a coincidence.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I have no doubt that just as our ancestors moved in circles with one another, finding strength in community, so too are they bringing us together to do this work of telling their stories. They leave little signposts to help us find one another, and in doing so, help us to find them.