Paying for a family tree?
February 11, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Am I related to George Washington? I have a bet with my boyfriend but don't want to do the genealogical research myself.

While discussing this Barack Obama story with me, my boyfriend claimed that I was as closely related to George Washington due to my descent from Western European Christian stock. I don't have the time or inclination to research my family tree, but I'd be willing to pay a person or service to trace it for me. Is this available online?
posted by amber_dale to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever heard of the Daughters of the American Revolution? If you contact your local chapter, someone in the chapter can access the DAR database and find out if you're related to anyone who fought in the Revolutionary War. That's the only way someone can become a member. You must be able to trace your lineage to these battles. They're constantly recruiting new members so if you ask nicely they will do this for free. They will of course want you to be a member, but you don't have to do anything you don't want to! Mention G Dubs and see what comes up.
posted by JJ Jenkins at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2007

Best answer: There are professional genealogists who often charge by the hour. Here's a couple sites that come up on a simple google search: - Professional Services - A group which certifies genealogist and links to find folks to do research.

As for your wager, simply being Western European and Christian does not guarantee that you'll be related to George Washington (when its a shared patriarch that is 20 times Great, its kind of trying too hard as is). An important factor involves where your descendants came from in Europe and where they ended up settling in America. If you're of Dutch origin and settled in New York, and had no ancestors who married into the rich families, it becomes harder.

Myself, I have multiple ancestors from Western Europe who settled in America mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries, yet at least in terms of relations on the American continent I'm not related to Washington. Now, if I go back to 1408 in England and trace each and every maternal and paternal line, maybe it might be achieved due to simple statistics, but not necessarily.
posted by Atreides at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2007

The good (or bad? depends on your side of the bet) news is that you're related for sure. It is a long line of ancestors, but if you could trace as far as Noah or Eve you will eventually find that you're related, regardless of your cultural background. If you're really inclined to invest money in your family tree you should go with Atreides' suggestions, but otherwise I think it is rather pointless. Fun fact: Charlemagne seems to pop up in every family tree I've seen in Europe. If you can find a trace to him, you're related to every Royal House over the world!
posted by Psychnic at 9:25 AM on February 11, 2007

You are certainly NOT a direct descendant of George Washington. He had no children. So perhaps from a relative farther back in history.
posted by JayRwv at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2007

Do a google of "descendants of George Washington" and then have some fun figuring it out.
posted by JayRwv at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2007

The January 27 - February 2, 2007 issue of New Scientist has the following question asked by a reader, with several other readers' responses explaining what the flaw in reasoning is ;

I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. If I drew a family tree going back 10 generations, I would have to make space for a top line of 1024 ancestors. At 30 generations I would expect to see a line of over a billion ancestors. If I tried to research my family back 40 generations (only about 1000 years) I would be searching for the names of vastly more people than have ever lived. This is impossible, of course, but everyone has two parents, so what exactly is wrong with my reasoning?

Here is a link to the answers.
posted by white light at 10:29 AM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That sounds promising. I don't know much about my ancestry but I what I do know falls within their range of countries (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany).

The wager is not "am I related to GW," but "am I as closely related to GW as is Barack Obama"?
posted by amber_dale at 10:29 AM on February 11, 2007

Ask the Mormons.
posted by catseatcheese at 12:17 PM on February 11, 2007

You could do the research yourself, if you wanted: and are two places to start. With ancestors that aren't represented through prior research, free census listings, or through an archive with the Mormons, you can simply Google for that person's name, and you might get a hit one someone else doing the same as you.

If you're interested in shelling out the dough, I'd pick up a subscription to before hiring someone else to do your dirty work. Hell, for the first hour they bill you, I'm certain that's where they'll start.

I started doing this sort of thing on my own last year, and I've cataloged over 16,000 names in my tree. Just yesterday, I found out that I'm the 7th cousin, once removed, of Rudy Vallee. There's rumblings among my fellow researchers that I may also be related to both Madonna and Celene Dion as well, but I have absolutely no motivation to find out if that's true.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:34 PM on February 11, 2007

You are certainly NOT a direct descendant of George Washington. He had no children. So perhaps from a relative farther back in history.

This is true.

Contemporary relatives of President Washington include two nephews: Bushrod Washington who became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and Burwell Bassett who was a Virginia state congressman and later a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Tracing their descendants would be one avenue of research.
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2007

due to my descent from Western European Christian stock

Wasn't Obama's mother from Western European Christian stock? So why would your heritage make you at least as close as someone else from the same stock? (Or does it matter that both of your parents are presumably Western Europe/Christrian and his father was African?)
posted by Airhen at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2007 (mentioned above) has a feature where you can see if you are related to famous folks. You put in the name of ancestor, and it scans various family trees to determine whom you are related to. It works better if your ancestors have been in the US or England for several generations, and if you can trace your roots back beyond four generations.

It's also based on what other people have put into their family trees, so some of it might not be actually true (misinformation passed down, or court records misunderstood, or puffing up a family tree based on a wish or a dream), or may contain gaps (because someone didn't track back the women in the family trees, or because no one ever wrote down anything).
posted by julen at 3:57 PM on February 11, 2007

Yes, be careful because there is some misleading information floating around out there connecting certain branches of the Lawrence family with Washington's ancestors. (There are Lawrences in his legitimate genealogy, IIRC -- but there is at least one published book with a spurious connection between the Lawrences in my family tree and the Washington family. I ended up having to pull out a large chunk of data when I discovered this. So I can't prove any relation to George Washington at the moment -- but I am related to Thomas Jefferson, at least.) :)
posted by litlnemo at 6:08 PM on February 11, 2007

(thanotopsis, check your e-mail.)
posted by obloquy at 12:16 PM on February 12, 2007

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