Who’s Your Cousin?

What do the Wright brothers, Mark Twain, and John Wayne possibly have in common? You. That’s right. Find out which historical figures– and even members of your ward– you are related to by checking out Relative Finder.

The Relative Finder project was started by two BYU professors who wanted to help people get excited about family history. Thus the creation of Relative Finder. I learned about Relative Finder from our ward family history consultant. One Sunday afternoon I decided to check it out myself to see what it was about.

I went to www.relativefinder.org and registered for a free account. I then was linked to FamilySearch where I signed in with my LDS username and password. After signing in, Relative Finder opened up and asked for my name as it appears on FamilyTree. With that information a search of my records began, and in only a moment a list of historical figures appeared. The list was divided into categories such as presidents, scientists, Declaration of Independence signers, and numerous others. Rather than scrolling through the entire list of over a 1,000 names, I clicked on some of the categories and found that I am distantly related to the Wright Brothers, Jesse James, Elvis Presley and Marion Robert Morrison (John Wayne).

LDS historical figures were broken into subcategories, such as Eight Witnesses, Mormon Battalion, pioneers, handcart companies and several others. Since I am a convert, I was amazed to see how many Church historical figures both living and dead I am related to. It appears that my all my relationships can be traced through my paternal grandmother’s line, which carries back further than the 1600s. In going through the different LDS categories, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was a convert rather than being born into the Church. Trying to answer that question would be a project all its own.

The column next to a name shows our relationship. The middle column shows the source information. Several of my sources were the Salem witch trials. When I hovered over and clicked the name of a grandmother who is mentioned in the witch trials a box popped up that gave some additional information including a link to a Wikipedia article about the trials. I clicked on the “view” button of any given name to see a pedigree chart beginning with the common ancestor. Included is a photo of each ancestor who has one on FamilyTree. I also found that by clicking on a name on the pedigree chart, I could go directly to that person’s page on FamilyTree– where I saw more information about photos, stories, or documents added as well as any temple work that has been done.

Our ward family history consultant created a group for our ward. By signing into that I learned that I have many distant cousins in my ward. My closest relative is the bishop, who is a fifth cousin once removed. My most distant relative in the ward is a 14th cousin. I also learned that my husband is my eighth cousin once removed.

I suggest checking Relative Finder periodically as changes do happen. It’s only been within the last couple of months that photos have been added to the pedigree view. And I’ve found my ward cousin list has grown as ward members have joined. Using Relative Finder is a great family activity, and an exciting way for the kids or grandkids to connect to historical figures and learn more about them.

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