I’m sure that most you have heard of the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, but in case you haven’t, it is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. I can’t say that I have ever doubted that idea, but I really never gave it much thought really. The idea was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized in an eponymous 1990 play written by John Guare. It is sometimes generalized to the average social distance being logarithmic in the size of the population. It is all about what a small world it is. That each person is connected to every other person by just 6 steps. It was something I never have given much thought to.
As I became interested in family history, I could see how that could work in the grand scheme of things, with relation. I came across people who were related to me, as well as, being related to my husband. Those relationships had meaning to me and it also made me think about the six degrees of separation that I had heard about years before.
But the reality is that the six degrees of separation never became so obvious to me as last Sunday when my husband had a heart attack. Instantly, we had a group of people around us. Of those people, all concerned for my husband, I knew no one. I only knew that the two women were nurses, and there was a young man who had seen my husband fall. Somewhere in the parking lot was also a woman who knew she needed to pray for him. When we left for the hospital in the ambulance, I thanked the man from across the distance between us in the parking lot, but I still didn’t know his name. I had no idea how I would ever find out who these people were. I knew they were all heroes, and I didn’t know them. Then the six degrees of separation came into play.
First, my husband was saved, and that was a miracle. It was because of 4 people I not only didn’t know, but had now way of finding. They did what they needed to do, and left expecting nothing in return. We owed them so much, and had no way to thank them. Enter the six degrees of separation. I told my husband’s nurse about what had happened, and when her relief came on the next day, she told her about it, and Stephanie, the day nurse already had the first connection for us. The first nurse to help, Ginger, was her sister. And Ginger had the second connection, because she knew the second nurse, Val. Within a few hours, 2 out of the 4 were now known to us. When when I posted about my husband’s miraculous recovery, our friend, Sierra Schamber tagged someone. It was Sean, the young man who helped him first. Then, a woman named Chelsea called her dad to pray. My boss called a prayer partner, who just happened to be on the wife of Chelsea’s dad. I know all those heroes. I think I fully understand the six degrees of separation.
As I was researching some of the latest Ancestry.com hints for my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s side of our family tree, I came across another name that sounded familiar to me. Having been all over the family tree countless number of times, I was pretty sure where I had heard the name before. After checking back in my side of the family, I found that Bob and I share a yet another set of great grandparents. John Collamore and Margery Hext are my 11th great grandparents on the Spencer side of my family, and they are also Bob’s 15th great grandparents on the Leary side of his family. I’ve heard it said of several family trees, including my own, that the owner was not looking for fame…they were just tripping over it. That is the case in my tree and in Bob’s. We are related to presidents, princes, pioneers, and other famous people, but in my case, I also keep tripping over my husband’s family.
I have found a connection on the Knox side of the family that makes Bob and I 10th cousins twice removed. Bob’s mother’s maiden name was Knox and since Bob and I are 10th cousins twice removed, his mother is my 10th cousin once removed. It’s odd to think of your mother-in-law also being your 10th cousin once removed. Nevertheless, that is exactly what we are. I suppose that many people would consider that relationship to be enough distant that it would make no difference on all reality, and they might be right in many ways. Still, I find that relationship very interesting. Family lines can be so complicated, and yet, they are undeniably relationships…however distant they may be.
As I said, in my research of my family history, I keep tripping not only over fame, but also over my husband’s family, and that has once again occurred…and I found it totally by accident. It has taken me a little bit of time, but if my calculations are correct, then this new relationship makes Bob and I, 12th cousins 4 times removed on the Leary side of the family. The Leary side of the family is Bob’s dad’s mother’s side of the family. So then, my father-in-law is also my 12th cousin 3 times removed. Once again, to many people, this relationship may seem unimportant, since they originated in the 1500s and beyond, but to me it is very interesting.
Finds like this one get the gears in my mind turning. I understand the relationships. I can put them down on paper. But that kind of a find is nevertheless, complicated to wrap your mind around. Things like the realization that I was related to my in-laws, before I was married to their son, and I was related to my husband before we were married too. The thought that my father-in-law is also my 12th cousin 3 times removed…is mind boggling.
Of course, when we think about it, we did all come from the same place ultimately, so I suppose we are all related in some, or even in many different ways. Nevertheless, it is really strange when you start stumbling upon so many different ways you are related to your husband…other than the fact that you are married. I am reminded of the time when my mom mentioned how much she thought Bob and I looked alike. I thought it a strange thing to say at the time, but maybe it isn’t so strange after all. It could be because of the different ways that we came from the same ancestors.
A while back I discovered, or should I say, connected the Susan Spencer in Bob’s family tree to my family tree, thereby confirming the cousinship that I suspected between Bob and me. Recently, as I was looking again at the beautiful family tree that Hattie Goodman, who was an ancestor of Bob’s mother’s family, put together and I had seen so many years ago, I started thinking about some of the other implications of that connection…specifically regarding my family, and more specifically my sisters, nieces, and nephews.
So often, we go through life separating, or keeping our families straight by catagorizing them as our family and our in-laws. Then we look at the families of our siblings, and catagorize them as friends or our sibling’s family. And most of the time that works well, but in my situation, and that of my family…on both sides, it ended up being a little different.
I have to wonder if my sisters have considered the fact, that if Bob is my 10th cousin twice removed, he is also their 10th cousin twice removed. Now, that is interesting enough, but go one step further. If Bob is our 10th cousin twice removed, then his sisters and brother are also our 10th cousins twice removed…and to top it off, our kids are 10th cousins 3 times removed to Bob and his siblings. Ok, if you find that to be a little odd, then consider this. My girls are 10th cousins 3 times removed…to their dad!!! Now, that is totally mind blowing, but truth nevertheless!!
People could let such relationships get to be more of a big deal than they really are, if they aren’t careful, as was the case, when it came out that Prince William and Princess Kate are actually cousins. If you think about it, since we all came from Adam and Eve, I suppose that we are all cousins or some other relationship, so we might just as well get over the stigma that we have attached to that. In reality, we are all just one big happy faimly.
As we have been visiting with my cousin, Shirley in Washington, the conversation has turned to her parents, and the many adventures and funny situations that they had in their lives. While it was hard in some ways, it was also a way to keep their memory alive in us. Since Aunt Ruth has been gone since 1992, and Uncle Jim’s funeral was yesterday, it seemed like a fitting time to reminisce about all they meant to all of us.
About 30 or 35 years ago, Shirley’s parents, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim, moved to the mountains of eastern Washington. For a time they had no electricity or water. It was rough living. They built cabins for them and their children’s families. Now, with the passing of my Uncle, there is only one of their families still living on the mountain. They still do not have electricity, but they have a generator, propane, Hughes Net, and telephone, which brings me to how the mountain got it’s name. When they were getting the telephone lines in, the homes had to have addresses. The mountain was named Wolfe Mountain, after my aunt and uncle, and the road was named Wolfe Mountain Road. Thus their addresses were established and they could have their phones. I thought to myself, what a nice tribute to my aunt and uncle. Not many people can say they have a mountain named after them. It is a lasting mark that remembers their lives.
My Uncle Jim’s funeral was the final chapter of our stay in Newport, Washington, and after spending time with all of our cousins who live there, and driving the area taking lots of pictures, we said goodbye to our Washington branch of the family. It was a bittersweet reunion. We were there for something very sad, and yet the trip was filled with renewed relationships, new stories and new pictures, as well as scans of some old ones. I felt a renewed excitement about the future stories I will be writing, because I have so much new material to write about. It is a great idea to re-connect with family once in a while. It puts new life into the relationships, and a renewed sense of our past, and who we really are.
A couple of years ago, when it was my family’s turn to host the annual family Christmas party, we decided to update the family phone book that we had made for everyone over ten years earlier. This was more than a phone book as it included names, addresses, phone numbers, names of children, and birthdays, anniversaries, and memorials for the family members who had gone home.
So much had changed in all those years, and we were faced with the monumental task of gathering all this information. We talked to the aunts and uncles, but there was still a lot of dates missing. The solution I found was to go out and friend every family member I could find on Facebook. So many wonderful relationships have come out of that single event.
One of those relationships was with Melodie and Brian Dobson. I love watching the comments that come from this lovely couple. They love God and their family. To me that says so much. Facebook is notorious for allowing the negative comments to prevail, and we have all done it, but when the majority of posts are loving, Christian, and beautiful, you have a friend that you want to follow. That is how this couple is.
Brian and Melodie were married seven years ago today. Their marriage has been blessed with 3 beautiful children, Parker Kinkade, Payton Kendall, and Pyper Kadence. I love that they can all go by PK, although my guess is that if that happens, it will be Parker who will do it, as it is more of a boy thing than a girl thing. Looking at the pictures taken of this beautiful family, I see a family that is full of love and laughter. The children are happy and secure in the love of their parents. A great way to live.
About a year and eight months ago, an event occurred that could have been a very sad moment in this marriage. Melodie lost her wedding rings, and with 3 children, there would not be money to replace it. They had splurged on the ring as a young couple, because they wanted it to be a lasting reminder of their unending love for each other. She mentioned the lost ring on Facebook, and the prayers began in earnest. Melodie and I spoke back and forth about the lost ring, and stood in faith together, and on March 29, 2011, Melodie and Brian got their miracle, when a woman found and returned her wedding rings to her. It was a blessed event, and I’m quite sure that their next anniversary was just a little bit more special, because of that miracle. Today is their 7th anniversary. Happy anniversary Melodie and Brian!! Have a wonderful day!!