#34: Tails or Me?

34.1  Today, we spotlight George Washington. At left is his death mask…this practice was eventually replaced by photography, altho chronologically there was quite an overlap…there is a mask of Lincoln, and the last president I’m aware of who had one is McKinley, who died in 1901. And of course, the title refers to what old GW used to say when he flipped 2-bits…ha ha.

34.2  What got me going on this was the news that a young friend is expecting her second child, and she solicited name suggestions. You know how Rush Limbaugh has his “stacks-o-stuff”? Well, mine are in manila folders, and I must have hundreds. So I was flipping thru my “names” file, and came across an article about the surname Washington, and how 90% of those in the US who have it are black.

34.3  The interesting thing is, nobody is directly descended from GW, since he and Martha had no children. But he had plenty of siblings and half-siblings…as did his parents, grandparents, etc. Therefore, he has many living relatives, altho they are related to him collaterally, not directly…which is to say, they share genes with GW, but did not receive them from him.

34.4  Of course, everybody alive today is related to everybody else…the experts say no more distant that 50th cousins. It’s easy to see why that is…suppose Anne and Hope make lists of their direct ancestors only…their parents, grandparents, etc., no siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles. Compare their lists as they go along. Eventually, a name will appear on both lists…that is their nearest common ancestor, and Anne and Hope are thus related by blood thru that individual.

34.5  But couldn’t it happen that there are no overlaps between the 2 lists? Not possible…in that case, each list would eventually have a trillion names, all having been alive at the same point in the past…and that’s more people than have lived on earth since we arrived. So every 2 people alive today have a nearest common ancestor…hey, cuz! And more on that when we tackle the nifty concepts of Most Recent Common Ancestor and Identical Ancestors Point…add that to the Coming Attractions list.

34.6   So I’m surfing the net, and I come across the above claim on a genealogy blog at Geni.com. Wow! All the presidents related to GW…it’s the mother lode! Now there have been 44 presidents..not counting GW himself, Grover Cleveland who served 2 nonconsecutive terms, and the present POTUS (I’ll get to why in 34.16)…that leaves 41 links to GW. Looking down the list…oops, 4 are by marriage only…plus Ford, they don’t know yet.

“…and all the presidents”? Well, that’s par for the course in this hype-soaked world of ours. I suppose you could even get away with: How Every President is Related to GW: None Are. Like when you ask, you got money on you?…they say, yeah…you ask, how much?…they say $0. OK, fine…hopefully that doesn’t happen very often, or you need new friends.

34.7  So supposedly, GW is related to 36 presidents. Thing is, if you click on each of these relationships, you go to another page which actually tells you the relatives involved. Ballsy! Well, not quite. Despite what it says on the original page, 5 are now not related, and 6 more are only by marriage. Plus John Quincy Adams is a special case…they say he is, but you have to pay money to find out how. [!!]  Anyway, I reviewed the remaining 24, and they all checked out fine as blood relatives of GW.

34.8  Problem is, 12 of those 24 were by relationships, as stated on the 2nd page, that were different from the relationship stated on the 1st page! Now admittedly, this could be because President X and GW are related in more that one way, but still, WTF? At any event, Chart 117  spells it all out…sorry the writing is so small…left-click and it should get bigger. The number to the left of each name is times removed, = indicates straight numbered cousins.

34.9  Tale of the tape: of 41 presidents, 24 are blood relatives of GW…10 related by marriage, 5 not related, 1 they don’t know, and 1 they’re not saying. My confidence in the accuracy of Geni.com’s “big tree” just slid down a couple of notches, I can tell you that. In fact if you want the straight dope, I’d try this book…Ancestors of American Presidents  by Gary Boyd Roberts…no, I haven’t seen it yet, but compared to this, how bad could it be?

34.10  A couple of interesting points…you’ll notice that some Presidents are related to GW in the same exact way, both cousin # and removed #. Does this mean they are descended from the same person? Sometimes yes, other times no. For example, both Wilson and Truman are 11C 5R to GW…and sure enough, both are 14G grandsons of GW’s 9G grand aunt Margaret Holland. On the other hand, both Jefferson and Buchanan are 11th cousins of GW…but they are descended from different individuals…altho in Buchanan’s case, it’s that same Margaret Holland.

34.11 Also consider Presidents whom we already know are related to each other…why is Teddy Roosevelt related to GW, while his 5th cousin FDR is not? Likewise, Benjamin Harrison is, but his grandfather William Henry Harrison is not? While I haven’t bothered to check these specifically, it’s no doubt due to other families marrying into the line…remember, your son is related by blood to people that you are not, namely his mother’s side…ditto your grandson, your cousins, etc.

34.12 And just for the fun of it, I thought I’d sketch out 3 of GW’s closest…again, assuming all this data is bona fide …and this might be a good time to review how to verify these relationships. I’ll fire up the patented Stolf-o-strator, and sepia-ize Chart 118 for ease of viewing…

34.13  It’s a 3-step process: (1) Coordinate(2) Cousins(3) Removeds. As shown in Chart 119, (1) Coordinate means to find the older relative’s generation horizontally, the younger relative’s direct line vertically, and see where they intersect…

34.14  Next, (2) Cousins means to determine how that ancestor is related to the older relative, in this case GW…and of course it will be a straight numbered cousin, since we purposely stayed in the generation of the older relative.

34.15  Finally, (3) Removeds means to count down from that ancestor to the younger relative…and if we do that, all 3 check. Bravo.

34.16  Lastly, a word on Obama. I left him out of the calculations because of that discrepancy I mentioned. All of the 24 presidents related to GW have the connecting ancestors specified on the second page of the Geni.com blog (the one you click to)… but for half of them, that’s a different relationship than is stated on the 1st page (the one you clicked from.) Obama falls into this discrepancy category, but he is the only one where the lineages for both stated relationships are spelled out. And indeed, they both check (9C 6R and 2C 9R)…suggesting that these “mistakes” really are multiple relationships…and for each president there are probably others besides. I just don’t know what to make of it all, so I arbitrarily left BHO out of the tally…sue me. Till next time, flowers and beads…(like Chart 117?…)

Wicked Ballsy

So what was George Washington’s middle name? He didn’t have one, altho many middle schools are named after him. But neither did many of our other most prominent leaders, including Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Nevertheless, I did find the above in a 1956 newspaper….

Dunno what family bible they were looking at, because here’s the exact entry…”George Washington,” nothing else. BTW, if you find it odd they would use the Old Style/New Style notation…”1731/2″…referring to the Julian and Gregorian calendars…some 20 years before the switch took place in Britain and its colonies in 1752…it’s because both calendars had been in simultaneous use since the late 1500’s, that’s why. They called it “double dating”…seriously. Nice near catch, tho…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


One thought on “#34: Tails or Me?

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