Most of us have probably heard of the “six degrees of separation.” The basic idea is that you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, et cetera, who knows any other person in the world, all within six steps. Attempts to prove the idea seem to lean toward an even smaller number. That’s why I’m never surprised that, when I travel, I either run into people from my home town, or someone who knows someone in my hometown, sometimes even someone that I know. It helps, of course, that I’m the kind of guy who can start a conversation with nearly anyone but a complete and total snob.
Sometimes, though, things lay undiscovered for years. Several years ago, I was looking through some wedding and funeral announcements that my paternal grandmother had saved form decades ago and recognized a couple names. The next Sunday at church, I asked the young man who was raised next door if he was descended from those folks and he said “yes.” After a little figuring, it turned out that the guy who’d grown up next door was a fourth cousin on his mother’s and my father’s side of our families. I didn’t tell him, but my family and his in-laws are connected at six different points, though we aren’t actually related by blood.
The other day at work, I was talking to a woman who I’ve worked with ever since I’ve been there and discovered that we were related on our mother’s side of our families. A couple questions to my mother that evening and it became apparent that the lady and I are third cousins. I’ve always wondered why I saved so much family history when I have no-one to pass it on to. It turns out that she knows almost nothing about her ancestors, so I’ve got a ton of information for her. She may find it neat to know that we’re descended from scores of average Joes and a couple more interesting folks like Samuel Stalnaker and Henry William Stiegel. I’ll hate to part with it, but since she has kids and grandkids, she should have the big old cast-iron “spider” of our great-great grandmother’s that came here from Staunton, Virginia in some sort of covered wagon just after the Civil War. Like the song says, “It’s a small world after all!” © 2012