The new We’re Related app by ancestry.com is a nifty free application that you install on an android or apple phone or tablet, and using your family tree, ancestry will match you to your famous cousins!
I have had the app installed for about a month now and can report on mixed success, with enough success that I can say, give it a shot. So far, my daughters have been matched to 39 famous cousins, with about 1 new match a day:
- 11 Actors & Actresses
- 5 Authors and Writers
- 7 Musicians and Composers
- 3 Politicians
- 2 Social Reformers
- 9 US Presidents & US First Ladies
- 1 Facebook Friend
- 1 Entertainer
While the app isn’t perfect there are upsides and connections to be made to cousins by using the application. We’re Related pointed me to a breakthrough on Charlie’s Woolman/Reeves line (unknown parents, a lot of cousin intermarrying, and very common first and last names in Burlington County, NJ post Revolution). By making a new cousin connection using the information in the We’re Related app, I was able to find court records to confirm a parentage relationship, and move past a brick wall. How often as genealogists do the floodgates open and we get to add 26 new “grandparents” over the span of 1 week? I do so love the Quaker records!
On the flip side, remember that ancestry is using a lot of the “published trees” on their website, so if there is pervasively “wrong” genealogy out there your matches will not be “good” hits. I offer 2 examples:
- Katherine Hepburn (actress, who wouldn’t want her as a cousin): Richard Wells (8th great-grandfather, abt 1694 Maryland – bef 24 Oct 1782, Harford Co, Md) is incorrectly identified as the son of one Col. George Wells and Blanche Goldsmith. Never mind that Col George’s will written on 20 Feb 1695 makes no mention of a son Richard and mother Blanche also wrote a will on 20 Apr 1704 and her will makes no mention of a son Richard! Because ancestry sees a parent/child relationship in almost every tree, a false match is generated.
- Randy Seaver (FB friend, blogger & genealogist). My match here is generated due to confusion in the parentage of “my” Elizabeth Barnhart. In the early 1800’s in Somerset County, Pa several Elizabeth Barnhart’s were born. My Elizabeth’s parents were David Barnhart and Anna Maria “Polly” Kocher. When I look at the lineage We’re Related displays, I notice Anna Margaret Spangler is listed as Elizabeth’s mother, and while Anna did have a daughter Elizabeth, but she wasn’t my Elizabeth. The parents of my Elizabeth Barnhart, who married Henry Faith, are David & Anna Maria Barnhart (proven with church & court records).
To help me keep track of the unverified matches and debunked matches (the app lets you hide these) I created a spreadsheet to prioritize my research:
The spreadsheet is sorted by the Odds of a Match column in descending order (odds are an off-the-cuff estimate I give each lineage of being accurate .. nothing scientific). The confirmed matches are first, followed by the matches that I believe have the highest odds of being correct, all the way down to the, yeah, no way this is a match section. My notes are in the Error Ancestor column: notes on research to confirm, the question that popped into my head while looking at the lineage, or why the lineage cited is wrong.
The one caveat to all of this: we are assuming that the lineage of the famous person is correct 🙂
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year ..