I’m My Own Grandpa

A couple of weeks ago when I was on vacation at my parents’ house in Virginia, my mom approached me with a notebook. “I want to show you something interesting,” she said. What she showed me was not only interesting, but very enlightening, embarrassing, and well, hysterical. It was a chart she had made – a family tree actually – detailing exactly how it is that Emily and I (and our siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.) are related. And then related again. As in, inbred.

That’s right folks, the tree doesn’t branch too far in some places. As a matter of fact, Emily and I are not only first cousins, we’re also FIFTH cousins. My brothers aren’t just my brothers, they’re also my FIFTH cousins. Same goes for Emily and her sister. And my mom? She’s my fourth cousin once removed! Just like Emily’s dad is also her fourth cousin once removed. Here’s the chart my mom made to explain it to me:


So. Let me walk you through my mom’s little piece of family history. When you see people’s names starting to appear multiple times you know something’s a little out of the ordinary! It all starts with William Burns, Sr. He came out of the hollers of Eastern Kentucky and fought in the Revolutionary War. Thanks to him, my mom just got inducted into the Daughters of the American Revolution. (BOO-YAH! We may be inbred but we’re still THE awesome!) Then he went back to the holler and had a son, Andrew. We’re going to skip forward a little bit and concern ourselves with three of Andrew’s great-grandchildren, Ambrose, Florida, and Taylor. These folks grew up in the holler as second cousins. Things start to get a little sticky when Ambrose and Florida get hitched and have several children, one of whom is a handsome boy named Laton. Meanwhile, Taylor (second cousin to Ambrose and Florida) marries someone who is not his cousin (thankfully) and has a beautiful daughter named Kathleen. When they are teenagers, Laton and Kathleen meet at boarding school in Eastern Kentucky and fall in love. Never mind that they are third cousins. They didn’t meet until high school so that should negate their shared DNA, right??? They get married after World War II and have two children, Diane (my mom) and Dan (Emily’s dad). Although Diane and Dan are siblings, they are also fourth cousins due to the fact that their parents share the same great-great-grandfather.

Still with me?

This love story leads us to the aforementioned fact that Emily and I are not only first cousins but fifth cousins, and all that other freaky stuff I already told you.

The other conclusion that can be made from this is that a small amount of inbreeding is a good thing. After all, Emily and I are both geniuses who graduated early from college, are hilariously funny and talented writers, and have beautiful children. Right??

Try not to be jealous, people.

I’m just sayin’, the next time you go to a family reunion, you should totally scope out your kid’s future spouse. Just make sure they’re at least third cousins. You don’t want your grandchildren to have two noses, do you?

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21 Replies to “I’m My Own Grandpa”

  1. Oh that is too funny! It reminds me of when we first moved here 5 years ago and met the family across the street. We got to know them fairly well – and Ron thought that their last name sounded somewhat familiar. So he dug into his family tree (he’s the family historian) and found out that he and our neighbor are related – something like 4th or 5th cousins. šŸ™‚

  2. How fabulous! I love geneology stuff – have always harbored a desire to do our family tree (still harboring the desire, it’s just that the harbor is fresh out of time!).

    [ps – thanks for the replies re: breastfeeding tips. Your answers were discouraging – but misery loves company & they made me laugh šŸ™‚ ]

  3. Yours is like mine… it’s not a family tree… it’s a family stick.

    Oh wait… yours IS mine… somehow we’re related, right?

    Let me know if I can hop on your mom’s DAR ride.

  4. I just love that stuff. I recently researched some genealogy for someone interested in joining DAR (I am one of our group’s researchers) and found out that her ancestor nearly sunk the Mayflower before leaving port in England. He was a child and shot off a gun in the gunpowder room on the ship. Oops. Too funny about your multiple relationships!

  5. Great explanation, JENNY. Only correction- William,Sr. left the wilds of VA to join the Continental Army.

    Lori, I haven’t looked into the Roberts line for a lurking Rev. War soldier, but chances are there is one. That may be my next project. It is true that your mom and I share ancestors.The Roberts in my line were inbred,too. My great-grandfather Roberts married his sister’s granddaughter. More good news, Jenny and Emily.

  6. Yes, the Roberts family has a family stick too. It always makes the discussions at family reunions rather interesting.

  7. Awesome! I love this post and these kinds of stories. The chart really helps. My husband and I are also fifth cousins (we met randomly in college–turns out it really is a small world). We figure that connection is pretty dilute. And our children are so far gorgeous and lacking extra heads.

    Loving the blog!

  8. Haha, I love the term “family stick” – so funny! And from what I’ve heard, as long as it’s not like, FIRST cousins or brothers & sisters or something close like that hooking up, you’re pretty much ok šŸ™‚ Still crazy to think about though!

  9. Is that THE U.S. Grant? If so, we might be related by marriage. Though the rumor in our family now is that U.S. Grant wasn’t really married into the family, so to say, and that my great great grandfather’s mother was just his mistriss. Lots of family secrets went to the grave on that one, I think!

  10. Nope, not THE U.S. Grant. He was named after U.S. Grant. I GUESS those were his first and middle names. His last name was Burns. They were pretty patriotic back in the holler!

  11. Don’t worry… one of my hobbies is genealogy and this is incredibly common! In fact, it would be weird if it didn’t happen since people regularly married first cousins until about 150 years ago. I’m related to myself and my mom in the same way. The farther back you go, the more common relations you will find since family trees are exponential. If both of your families have been in the same area for a long time, you will probably find a distant relation to your husband as well.

    Another thing… the majority of US states will allow first cousins to marry and nearly all will allow 2nd cousins to marry. So get the family reunion all you single ladies, lol! Hey, it works for the royals…

  12. Ok, have here do your dad’s side…you are related to him as father and 4th cousin once removed…Grandma Brads’ grandmother is Grandpa Brads’ Great Aunt. Grandma and Grandpa Brads are 3rd cousins once removed. Your dad and I are 4th cousins once removed on one side and 5th cousins once removed on the other. Again, smart, funny, pretty kids…what more could you ask for….Now about the British Royal Family…I don’t think it’s workin’ so well there!!

  13. We call that a Family Stump where I come from. Does anything weird happen to you during a full moon or the Winter Solstice or something?

  14. I get so confused when people start talking about 3, 4, or 5th cousins. And then when you start “once removed”, I’m totally lost. Maybe I should read up on this.

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