Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Small World Indeed!

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


Angela said...

It is amazing how someone you know would know someone that you know that you wouldn't think that they know. For the past 21 years I've been researching my family tree off and on. I go through spells with it. How neat to find someone related to you working with you. If you give her the old family heirloom be sure to take lots of pictures of it before you do. Sometimes a picture is just as good as having the real thing. I have a picture of my great grand father's gun and that to me is as good as having it. I don't have to worry about it.

And it is a small world after all! Years ago my family went to Disney for the first time. Would you believe that I ran into a former co-worker while we were there! And of all places it was at the It's a Small World ride! lol We didn't know the other was even going to be there either.

JaneofVirginia said...

Gorges, Yes, this never ceases to amaze. When my husband and I were on our way to Russia, the woman in the seat in back of us on the plane was headed to visit her family in a small town there. It turned out that she was a realtor, and recently had sold our very first house, in her home state in the US, which I had not lived in for twenty-years ! Many years prior, when I was doing a nurse-internship at a major medical center, I met a medical student who was about to get his MD. We became friends and eventually discovered that his grandmother and mine are cousins in England ! We actually FELT familiar to one another. I often wonder how people with whom I feel a kinship may actually be related to me. Sometimes we discover our connections, and other times we do not.

Ralph Goff said...

I've never been able to figure out that six degrees theory and not sure if I believe it. I and my family seem to be a small compact group that are not related to anybody else here. Have to go back to the U.K. to find the surviving distant relatives.

Linda said...

Very fascinating post, Gorges. Thanks for sharing.

sig94 said...

For a while I used to ask people I talked to long distance where they were from. I used t speak to people in Texas and Washington DC. Almost a third of them were originally from upstate NY. Shows how we lost two or three Congressional seats.

Gorges Smythe said...

You read my mind, Angela, I plan on taking pictures and doing a post on the spider, since a lot of folks may not know what I'm talking about.

One thing about it, Jane, if we take the story literally, we're ALL cousins after Noah's kids!

Distance would create problems, Ralph, but remember it's ANYONE, ANYWHERE. An extra link or two might be understandable!

Glad you liked it, Linda.

Well, I guess what sucks for you is good for Dixie, sig! ;-)

Pumice said...

So since we are related at some level, I need to talk to you about a loan.

Grace and peace.