Friday, October 9, 2015

Six Degrees of Seperation

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, 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 doubt that anyone who isn't interested in genealogy or family history reads my blog. But just in case, have you ever noticed someone on Facebook is friends with one of your friends and you have no idea how they know each other? If you haven't noticed, try lurking some of your friends list. You may be surprised at what you find.

Anyone over the age of 25 will tell you it is a different world than the one we were born into. Texting. Instagram. Bluetooth. Facebook. Technology connects us in a way that we never imagined. As much as it has connected us, it has changed us. The good, the bad and the ugly is instantly at our fingertips. We see posts asking for prayers, protesting one thing or another, touting political ideals. We laugh, we cry, and we get angry. Yet as connected as we are, we are disconnected from human conversation and contact. Rarely do we, I think, stop and look around and realize what a small world we live in.

Last week I got a text on my phone asking "how are you related to my husband?" In just a few minutes I found out that my charge nurse's husband is my fifth cousin. "Wow, isn't that weird" she said. "No, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to genealogy" I replied.

I have been corresponding on the computer via email, mail groups, message boards and now Facebook for the last 16 years. My genealogy buddies, family really, include people I have known for 16 years to people I "met" last week. Sometimes I have to ask, remind me again how we connect, because even before Facebook notifications flooded my inbox, I got a lot of email.

Here are just a few of those "six degrees" that have popped up. HF one of my long time maternal line correspondents was listed on the DNA matches of two of my Dad's Hardy cousins. HHA not only went to high school  with my father's older Barnes cousins, but tonight she discovered that her lifetime best friend is her second cousin, and that one of the other Hardy testers great grandma was her grandma's sister. SNV discovered not just her new cousins by DNA, but that one of our Pyburn cousins through her grandmother is also a cousin through her grandfather. The former archivist of the diocese of Mobile was related to two of the families that married into my line sharing mutual relatives with not just me and my father, but with my mother's cousins as well.

When I talk to anyone about my Panhandle family connections, it almost always ends up being a multiple connection. In an area that is not small by any accounts, I often say I am related to half the county. Which is why CRB and SFM went to high school together and never knew they were 3rd cousins, or why RFM a younger sister of SFM went to school with my cousins and never knew they were related. Deep roots make for deep connections. And don't even get me started on the Choctaw families.

My mother and daughter, heck, my family roll their eyes and I am sure think I am crazy when it comes to genealogy. They don't get it, it's just not their thing, and they think that I spend far too much time looking into the past. To the rest of the world, a second cousin isn't really a cousin, so why am I worried about third, fourth and fifth cousins, not to mention those removed.

Maybe they are right, but let me tell you what genealogy has taught me.

In a world that seems more dangerous, and sometimes frightening, finding connections whether on paper in genealogy or by identifying DNA lets me know how small the world is. It takes this big bad world and makes it smaller because it opens up the realization at how interconnected we are. C, T, A, G the abbreviations for four nucleotides that make up every cell arrange and they connect us. We carry bits and pieces of our past with us, and in us, and what is really cool, is our friend, our neighbor, our coworker just may carry that same bit in them.

Suddenly the world isn't so big and scary after all.

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