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The We’re Related App

The Legal Genealogist refused to trade her lederhosen for a kilt just because the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates might have said so.

And I refuse to add cousins to my family tree — even cousins I might like to be able to add — just because of some app from Ancestry either.

relatedYesterday, Ancestry released its We’re Related app. It’s available for the iOS devices via the Apple Store or for Android devices via Google Play. It’s free, and it’s definitely entertaining.

It’s a way to search through your family tree to determine who you might be related to who is famous somehow. A President of the United States. A musician or composer. An actor or actress. An author. Business magnate. Criminal. Lawyer.1 Educator. Historical figure. Military figure. Philanthropist. Religious figure, Royalty. Sports figure.

And more.

If you’ll just install the app, it promises you can:

Find the fame in the fam. Are you related to someone famous or one of your closest friends? We’re Related can show you the surprising, significant, or boast-worthy connections in your tree. Your coworker could be your cousin. Or your cousin could be an icon.2

It goes on:

It’s easy to discover who’s who. Start with your Facebook account and with just a few taps we’ll show you who—from a sports hero to your next door neighbor—you might be related to and how. You can also find nearby relatives who are on the app easily.3

Of course, you’re not supposed to keep it to yourself:

Sharing is the best part. Finding out you’re kin to a bigwig or your bestie is just too good to keep to yourself. Once you learn about your new relative, you can blast it on Facebook, Snapchat, or WhatsApp in seconds.4

And, not surprisingly, it toots it own horn:

When it comes to family history, we’re pretty famous ourselves. Brought to you by Ancestry, We’re Related taps into 70 million family trees, 8 billion connections, and 6 million profiles to expertly connect you to possible notable or nearby relations.5

How can anybody resist?

So I played along.

I don’t like, not even a little, that it requires me to sign it with my Facebook account, thus giving both Facebook and Ancestry a data point each didn’t have before (Facebook has no reason to know my Ancestry log-in, Ancestry has no reason to know my Facebook log-in). So keep that in mind before you try this.

Then you have to select the family tree you want to use, and identify who you are in that family tree. (You don’t have to choose yourself, but for some unexplained reason not everyone in your tree will be available as a choice. I am, but my mother isn’t, for example.)

So I picked my own tree, had to figure out how to turn the darned thing on and where I’d hidden myself among the realm of the living folks, and told it to go ahead and tell me all about my famous relatives.

And it did.

I am, the app informs me:

The ninth cousin of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, as we both descend from Richard York (1650-1784). Only one problem: the line of descent is utterly unproved and not in my tree data at all. I don’t list Susannah York as my 5th great grandmother, nor Joseph York as my 6th great grandfather, nor Jeremiah York as my 7th great grandfather nor Richard York as my 8th great grandfather — and as far as I know there’s not a shred of documentary evidence to support it.

And I am, according to the app:

The eighth cousin once removed of Johnny Depp, through our common ancestor Elizabeth Markham, whose daughter Mary Marshall was the mother of my 5th great grandfather William Wiseman. Only one hitch. Nobody has ever come up with a smidgeon of proof as to William’s parents. None.

And I am, the app tells me, also:

The seventh cousin once removed of William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States. Through that same utterly undocumented line of descent from this York family, this time through Jeremiah. As to whom Clinton may be a descendant. As far as I know, I’m not.

The other two are at least theoretically possible. I am, the app says:

The eighth cousin once removed of Demi Lovato, through my Pettypool line. The app, however, pegs the common ancestor as Martha Ragsdale, wife of Seth Pettypool, and the best minds in our Pettypool research say that there is no evidence whatsoever that Seth’s wife was a Ragsdale. But if she descends from Seth, then we are cousins, but not provably on a Ragsdale line.

I am also, the app says:

The eighth cousin twice removed of Kurt Cobain, through the Davenport family. The app says we both descend from Davis Davenport, the progenitor of the Virginia Davenports from the Pamunkey Neck region, but his line of descent — Davis to Ann to Eleanor to Polly and so on … well, let’s just say that more evidence is needed to link that line in to this group of Davenports. It’s not impossible; I do descend from Davis, and if Kurt does, well, hey… I like cousins.

So… do I buy this?

No.

Then again I didn’t have to.

It’s free.

And it’s entertainment.

Just don’t call it genealogy.

Because, for the most part, we’re NOT related. And an app doesn’t make us so.


SOURCES

  1. Stop with the “that’s the same, isn’t it?” comments already yet!
  2. Meet the We’re Related App,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 19 Oct 2016).
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
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