I have been researching my family history for quite some years now. Something that has always fascinated me is how very many people it has taken for each of us to end up here. Some people find it impressive that I am related to King Henry I and to William the Conqueror. However a great number of us are.
Charlemagne is the cause of most of this. He begat a large percentage of European royal families by having lots of lots of children and grandchildren who were all poweful and influential figures and who’s lineage is traced by the account of many European households over many centuries. If you are not of Celtic origin and your parents are from western Europe, there’s a good bet that you’re related to Charlemagne too.
I also enjoy what I call ‘inbreeding numbers’. Three generations up from you (at the level of your great-grandparents) there are 2x2x2 people, i.e. you have 8 great-grandparents. Any the nth level of your ancestry you have 2n direct genetic ancestors. So go back 20 generations and you’ll find over 1 million ancestors. 30 generations and you’ll have more than a billion!
At 40 generations you have more than a trillion ancestors. That’s more people than have ever lived in all of human history. How long ago is 40 generations? Well it takes you to about the year 800 A.D.
This only means one thing, which you probably knew anyway, that cousins eventually marry cousins either directly or at some distance. However it also means we are all related at some level. Again, you kind of knew that already if you think about it.
Here are some notable people to whom I can trace a familial connection.
Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
Isaac Newton is regarded as one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians in history. Principally, he described 3 laws of motion that also govern the motions of the earth and the celestial bodies surrounding it.
Relationship: 1st Cousin 16 times removed
Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
Robert Boyle is regarded today as the first modern chemist. He was also an alchemist and a physicist.
Relationship: 11th Great Grand Uncle
Jane Seymour (1509 – 1537)
Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry VIII. She died of post-natal complications following the birth of her only child, Edward VI. She was also King Henry VIII’s fifth cousin three times removed.
Relationship: 15th Great Grand Aunt
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Florence Nightingale, sometimes called “The Lady with the Lamp”, was born in Italy in a wealthy British family. She instigated new ways of caring for soldiers during her work in the Crimean war and throughout her career.
Relationship: 7th Cousin 6 times removed
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Jane Austin was well educated and began writing at a young age. Though she wrote with a man’s alias, many of her novels, which include Pride and Prejudice and Emma, have become widely popular.
Relationship: 7th Cousin 7 times removed
Elizabeth II (1926-)
Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth Realm, took the throne upon the death of her father, George VI, in 1952. She is married to the Duke of Edinburgh and currently resides in Buckingham Palace in London.
Relationship: 8th Cousin 2 times removed
Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)
Emily Dickenson is considered one of the most influential poets in American history. During her lifetime she published only a few poems, though her writing career produced over 1700 poems (all published posthumously).
Relationship: 8th Cousin 4 times removed
Edward Jenner (1749-1823)
Edward Jenner was the first doctor to introduce and study the smallpox vaccine. He also contributed to the study of the heart and valvular disease.
Relationship: 9th Cousin 7 times removed
George Orwell (1903-1950)
Eric Arthur Blair is most commonly recognized by his pen name, George Orwell. His political commentary is a major theme in his most famous works: “1984”, “Animal Farm”, and “Down and Out in Paris and London”.
Relationship: 10th Cousin 5 times removed
Laura Welch Bush (1946-)
Present First lady Laura Bush has taken an interest in the effects of the September 11 attacks on children. She revived the more traditional role of First Lady back to the White House.
Relationship: 11th Cousin 1 times removed
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Virginia Woolf was one of the forerunners of the literary “Modernist” movement and is considered one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century. Besides her experimental writing style, Woolf is also remembered for her contributions to the feminist movement.
Relationship: 11th Cousin 3 times removed
Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Laurence Kerr Olivier was an Academy Award-winning actor, director, and producer. He acted in such films as Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Spartacus. Olivier also appeared in many plays throughout his career.
Relationship: 12th Cousin 1 times removed
Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
Audrey Kathleen Ruston (Audrey Hepburn), born in Belgium, continues to be a figure of iconic beauty and classic film. Her award-winning role in “Roman Holiday” marked the beginning of her long and successful movie career. Hepburn is also well-known for her humanitarian work with UNICEF.
Relationship: 12th Cousin 4 times removed
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
English author Aldous Huxley emigrated to England with his scientifically genius family. He was known for his novels, such as “Brave New World” and “Time Must Have a Stop”.
Relationship: 13th Cousin 2 times removed
Many of the people on this list were found via Ancestry.com’s ‘Find Famous Relatives’ feature. You’ll need to know an extensive family tree to have any success with it, but if you’re interested its great fun.