Six Degrees of Separation in the Unexpected Places

Around Thanksgiving, I settled in to watch an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are.”  I’m a little addicted to the show for the genealogy searches and the wonderful stories that are told about family members.  They typically do searches for stars or important people in the world who want to know more about their roots.  This episode was for Cindy Crawford, who is originally from just south of where I live now in Illinois.

As they got started, I liked how they tied in her grandmother’s story to Cindy.  These were people that Cindy knew and had history with in her life.  It’s always warm to show a family history.  That’s not always the case in families though.

They jumped ahead to where Cindy’s family started in the new world.  Her family traced back to the Trowbridges of New Haven, Connecticut.  How interesting.  I had recently traced my family line to the Trowbridges back to New Haven, Connecticut.  It got better though.  The next name jumped out at me right away.  That guy is in my family tree!

From here, my interest was definitely riveted to the next part of the program.  They were also talking about MY 8th great grandfather, Thomas Trowbridge.  He brought his family to Massachuettes in 1636.  They later moved to New Haven when they didn’t agree with the doctrine of the community in their town.

Thomas’ wife died in 1641, leaving him and their children on their own, including my 7th great-grandfather, William.  In the next few years, Thomas made a trip back to England at the request of the merchant company.  While there, he left his children in the care of a servant, who was to look after them.

While Thomas was in England, the English civil war broke out.  Thomas was called upon to defend his hometown of Taunton against the Royalist army.  He was appointed the Captain of the town forces and prepared the town for a siege.  Through his efforts and the luck that the Royalist army was not able to continue the siege, the town survived.  He was awarded honors for his service.

In the meantime, the servant left in charge of the children took the money and ran.  Luckily, the town of New Haven looked after Thomas’ children.  They grew up and became prominent citizens of the town.  The servant was eventually arrested and sued for the money he stole.

Thomas stayed in England and remarried.  One of his other sons had returned with him and also stayed.  My family continued to thrive in the new world and served their new country as well as their ancestors served the old.  My 6th great grandfather moved his family to Kentucky, where many of my family still lives.

Cindy’s story didn’t stop with the tale of Thomas Trowbridge.  They were able to trace her line through a maternal ancestor in the Trowbridge line back to Charlemagne, the great ruler who united all of Europe together in a vast empire in the 700s.  Wait, this is still my line!  That means I can trace my roots back to Charlemagne also!  How cool is that!

I continue to work on my genealogy to fill out the limbs as well as to push the tree higher to as far back as I believe I can take it.  This gives me more cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, even if they are many, many times removed.  It’s still fun to see the names and read the stories that people provide from their lives.

It struck me the other day that I am possibly related to most everyone who lives on the East Coast, if they have family roots that stretch back that far.  I saw that Sarah Jessica Parker is in the family tree as well as the story I saw for Cindy Crawford.  I’ve seen other recognizable names along the way.

I always thought that genealogy is a form of Six Degrees of Separation.  You can tie your family to so many people in history and other lines.  I haven’t tied myself to Kevin Bacon yet, but I’m sure that my New England lineage will eventually put me in the ballpark.

One of the many connections that I’ve known about for many years is to the original settlers of Kentucky.  My 5th great grandmother, Phoebe Bryan, is a sister to Rebecca Bryan Boone, wife of Daniel Boone.  One of my ancestors, William Butler, was a member of the Long Hunters. who came to Kentucky to hunt and take back the meat and furs to Virginia and the Carolinas.  William and another hunter were some of the earliest white men to live in Kentucky to try and establish an outpost for others coming to the area.  My family still lives around the area where William and the Long Hunters came each year for their hunting trips.

Recently, a Zurek who works in the Krakow office came to Schaumburg to help support testing efforts.  I had emailed with him in the past and he was aware that we were here.  We arranged to met him for lunch one afternoon through some common friends.  Our tag line for the next few weeks was, “All the Zureks are in Schaumbug.”

Matheusz and his family live just south of Rudy Rysie, the home village of Rich’s great grandfather.  We speculated that somewhere in history, they probably came from similar roots.  On a map, he was able to draw out where most of the Zureks live in Poland.  This area is within 25 miles of Rudy Rysie and Matheusz’s town.  Having a common ancestor probably isn’t much of a stretch then.

Anyway, the point of this ramble was that you are related to all kinds of people.  It’s hard to image that you have anything in common with someone who is famous or lives in an entirely different part of the country that where you grew up.   But through common names, goals, and shared ancestors, you are more alike in wanting to know your family than you can image.

It would be so cool to find a branch or leaves that tie me to my favorite people.  Since they already feel like family, it would just pull it altogether nicely to have the same genes and smiles in common.