Saturday, November 15, 2008

Really Famous Cousins

If you have a paid account on and you have created a personal family tree, you can check to see if you are related to somebody famous. And I mean really famous. You have to go to your family tree, select an individual. On that page, on the right hand side, near the bottom is the link. I have been having trouble loading ancestry today so I'm relaying this from memory.

I am possibly related to even more famous people than the link shows, however, it isn't a coincidence that all the famous people come from my white ancestor line. This is the line that is most documented. All of the cousins below are related to me through Charles Featherston's grandmother Lucy Elmore and mother Sarah Vaughn.

According to, the Fred Warren family is related to First Ladies
Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, Mamie Eisenhower, and Frances F. Cleveland; presidents Woodrow Wilson and Jimmie Carter, writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Milton, Alexandre Dumas, Elizabeth Browning, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, George Orwell, Clement Moore, T. S Eliot, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Penn Warren, Jane Austen, Aldous Huxley, actors Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Audrey(Kathleen Ruston) Hepburn, and royalty, Empress of Russia, Anna and Queen Consort of Scotland Margaret I of Denmark, and one inventor, Eli Whitney, the cotton gin inventor. There were quite a few politicians but they are not as well known.

As you can see there is a preponderance of literary figures in my family. This makes me more excited and proud than being related to royalty and equally as proud as being related to presidents. Is this the reason why I have always wanted to be a writer. Is it in my genes?

Famous People in the Family

I think there is a large percentage of people that start researching their family tree in hopes of finding someone famous or even infamous. I'm no different. However, my rationale is that it is easier to find people who have been documented by other sources.

I am aware of a few relatives that have achieved a little bit of fame. The one that was probably the most well known is related through marriage. My great aunt Maude Alexander married the Reverend Joseph H. Jackson, once president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. This organization claimed 6 million members at one time. Jackson met with political leaders all over the world due to his position. Martin Luther King, Jr. was Jackson's vice president. Due to intense feuding between Jackson and King over the tactics of civil rights demonstrations, the group splintered off into another group, the Progressive National Baptist Convention. King joined this new group. I used to say that Jackson was my rich uncle even though he didn't know I existed. When his daughter Kenny got married, my father and mother went to the wedding. My parents talked about how fancy the reception was and how Mahalia Jackson, a famous gospel singer of the time, sang at the wedding.

Then there's my uncle Ernest who is actually in the Doo Wop Hall of Fame as part of the original "Spaniels." This group is known as one of the great R & B singing groups of the 50's. They're best known for the song "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" from the 50's. They are the original singers of that song not the "Sha Na Na." I remember their station wagon with the picture of a Spaniel. The car would be parked in front of my grandparents' home whenever Ernest was in town. I had to google the group to find out that they were on the same tour as the one that ended with the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. My uncle left that life behind in 60's and became a preacher and a pastor. He's not proud of that part of his life so he doesn't talk about it much but he still has that sweet tenor voice.

Those are the two relatives I knew about before I found the link on After finding the link, I discovered I'm related to royalty and presidents and writers and actors.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Three things I like about

So I was searching for information about Mosella Dodson, Solomon Koonce's and Amy's oldest daughter. I knew where Mosella lived in 1870 and 1880 because I had found it on the census transcribed on Tennessee's genweb page. That page's webmaster, Natalie Huntley, has done a fabulous job with Dyer and Crockett Counties. For some reasons, however, my great-great-great aunt has never surfaced in any of my searches on even though I narrowed and broadened the search parameters.

This was extremely frustrating but while I was tearing my hair out I discovered a few great tricks on It was a good thing too because I was nearly ready to give up on site.

First of all, let me acknowledge that is great for viewing the original documents--if you can locate your ancestors first, of course. It is easier on the eyes than actually looking at the microfilm.

Lately I have tried a new tact on locating relatives, a sort of sideways search. It has proved very fruitful, at least at finding living relatives. I clicked on the link that leads to other persons researching the same names that I am researching. So far it has yielded two cousins--one I knew and one I didn't. I've emailed them both and they responded. It is a wonderful tool because hopefully the other person may have data that I don't. Plus it is wonderful finding another cousin who is as addicted to genealogy as I am. Two heads better and all that.

The third thing I found on a whim. has a link that will tell you if you are related to somebody famous. I never expected to find anybody but lo and behold and I found several somebodies, the most exciting one being Audrey Hepburn! I have always been a fan of hers. I think she was the epitome of class. And now I find she was my distant cousin. In fact, I found so many famous ancestors that I will have to write about it in a separate blog.

Using these two new links have slowed down my hair-pulling. Both are definitely worth a look see.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


My great aunt turned 102 years old November 4th. She lived to see what many of her generation thought impossible. That implausibility was that America could elect someone president based on his ideals and his message and not the color of his skin. It gives me hope.

Last week I talked with my younger co-workers about the election. They found it exciting because they felt a part of history. It made me think back about how many historical moments I have witnessed in my life. Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," the invasion of the Beatles, Hippies, Martin Luther King's march on Washington, the civil rights struggle, the assassinations, the wars, 911. And now this.

I have no illusions about Obama's presidency. He has a very harsh world of problems to face. But I do feel as many that this is a transformational moment. Change is not just a noun or verb. It is a movement. And I am alive to experience. Hope and awe.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Newberry Library

Last weekend I finally made the trip to Newberry Library in Chicago. I usually go about once every two years. It is a great research library, houses many rare maps and hosts excellent exhibits. However, I have never been very successful at finding new data there. This trip was no exception. The time passed by fast, of course. I was able to find some data in the Mississippi Soundex for marriages before 1926. It gave me a few leads on possible ancestors on the Cotten side--leads but no answers.

What I did find out through surfing after I visited the library is that Newberry is a Family Research Center. That means I can have microfilm sent there from the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Although there are two centers closer to me -- one in Griffith and another in Valparaiso, Indiana --their hours are very limited and their staff is small. I am thinking of making another sojourn to Newberry sooner rather than later once I designate which records they have that are pertinent to my family.