Last night I was sitting in the temple thinking about my family. All of my family. The generations that have come before me and the meaning their lives give mine.
I have been very, very blessed.
One (or three) of the blessings is that I know three 4th cousins and their families. Well, okay, one of them, I've only "met" via email--he lives in Australia. Awesome! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I mean, who the heck knows their 4th cousins, besides me (and my family)?! Does that happen to normal people? Um. I didn't think so.
But I do. And I love it. And every time I have "discovered" one, it has been in the most random way.
Here, I'll explain.
Example 1: The first time.
Scene: 2003, age 19, Rexburg, Idaho.
About 1 month into my Sophomore year at BYU-Idaho. I was living with awesome roommates in a new apartment in the dorms. My new roommate's name was (is) Nicole (hi coley!!). We hit it off immediately and had a great time together.
One night she came bursting into our apartment with exciting news.
"Ohmygosh!ItotallyjustsawElderEyringintheMC!" (Because to Mormons, seeing General Authorities, especially the First Presidency or a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is like totally a "celebrity" sighting--but not really because we're much too respectful of them.) Anywhoo. We all conversed excitedly that she had just seen him and--oh my gosh--walked past him. [Deep breath.]
As we chatted, I happened to mention that my grandparents had known him WAY-back-when in the military and he liked stale marshmallows, according to my Nana. Somehow in relating the trivia, I mentioned my grandparents' last name of Bryson. Nicole dramatically gasped (okay, not really). "My grandparents' last name is Bryson!"
What?! All of us freaked out at the coincidence.
So naturally we HAD to find out how we were related. Turns out we are. I pulled out my giant pedigree chart (because that's how I roll) and she called her grandma. After some chatting, we are both descendants of Samuel Bryson, Sr. and Sarah Ann Conrey--our third great-grandparents.
The really sweet thing was that my family knew, and I was able to share, some family stories, particularly about Sam's mom, Margaret, that Nicole's family didn't know. That year, I spent Thanksgiving with Nicole and her family--well, my family. It has been wonderful to build those relationships. Nicole and I still stay in touch and last August we were able to visit and do a session at the Salt Lake Temple together--so wonderful!
Example 2: The second time.
Scene: 2012--driving back from San Francisco/Oakland, from my former roommate's wedding.
We (there were 4 of us in the car) had carpooled to the wedding and were driving home. I can't remember why it came it came up, but Tyson mentioned that his third great-grandfather was Francis de. St. Jeor.
I just about caused a car accident in my shock. Francis de St. Jeor is MY third great-grandfather!! OH MY GOSH. AGAIN?! What are the odds?!
"Dude, Francis de. St. Jeor is MY third great-grandfather, too," I calmly said. "TYSON--WE'RE 4th COUSINS--and all these years we didn't even know it!"
See, Tyson and I had been friends, and in the same singles ward, for several years by this point, and his aunt and uncle were are in my home ward and friends with my family.
(Later, my mom said she had already told me that they were actually our cousins, but I don't remember that.)
So that was pretty exciting.
And I just realized---Tyson's sister married a Sessions. These particular Sessions' she married into are my 2nd Cousins-once removed or something on my Bryson side. Another de St. Jeor married another Bryson--within the same stake I grew up.
Oh, that's weird. This is a small, small world people.
Okay. Third Example.
I have an account on Ancestry.com and about 2 years ago, I received any email from someone looking for information on McGraths. Well, as I happen to be one, they were hoping I would be able to clarify a few things. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to--I was really confused and had conflicting information about the people he was trying to research. Not helpful.
Then about 3-4 months ago, Graeme contacted me again to let me know he had found the right information and wanted to help me fix my records. So generous! Multiple emails later (as he lives in Australia), we figured out how we are related--and what the problem was in my family's records.
You guessed it, the ancestor we have in common is our fourth Great-grandparents--Peter and Anastasia McGrath. Because of some weird generation things, we're actually 4th cousins.
Through Graeme's generous sharing of information, I was able to add over 90 names to my pedigree chart and answer some really important questions (like someone who I thought was husband and wife was actually mother and son--kind of a big problem). INCREDIBLE!
This is also an example of patience and answering of prayers. I had been searching for this information for many years.
One of the interesting things I realized last night as I was pondering each of these experiences is that each of one them is from a line from each grandparent. The only grandparent that is missing is my paternal grandmother's line. Her maiden name is Peck--so if you are reading this (or know someone who is a Peck), based on the above, I'm going to guess we're 4th cousins. My third great-grandparents on that line are Joshua Peck and Nancy Andrus. Let me know!!
Moral of the story? It "pays" to know your family history. You'll never know where (or when) you'll find a distant cousin! And maybe you'll have answers for them, or they'll have answers for you!
Family History work is soooo totally awesome. :) Do it. You won't regret it!