Only in the Mormon Church

When we first moved to our current ward, for an initial stay of only a year, I was asked to serve as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency before I had attended a single sacrament meeting here. A year ago, we returned to the same ward, and yesterday we discovered that that previous elders quorum president and my wife are eighth cousins. And all this time we had assumed we were the exceptions in a ward and stake where everyone seems to be related to each other.

[It occurs to me that this paragraph might be a bit of a challenge for non-Mormon readers, since the specific contextual meaning and actual significance of some or all of the following could be unclear:

  • ward
  • stake
  • counselor
  • elder
  • elders quorum
  • elders quorum president/presidency
  • sacrament
  • sacrament meeting
  • and, most importantly, the significance of discovering a distant kinship with a co-religionist in a foreign country.
  • I’ve even overheard non-Mormons totally freak out over Mormons’ inquiring about and sharing of genealogical trivia with each other. But for some Mormons, discussing distant ancestors from obscure corners of faraway countries is something like exchanging business cards or air kisses, a ritual that can signify anything from greeting a stranger to welcoming him or her into the family.]

    96 comments for “Only in the Mormon Church

    1. Naismith
      September 10, 2007 at 7:53 am

      I don’t think this phenomenon is found “only in the Mormon church.” Of course Ivy Leage grads and those in fraternities do this all the time.

      And let’s be clear, it’s not “some Mormons,” it’s the elite minority of multi-generational Mormons who do this. The majority of church members who are first-generation members don’t expect to find a relative.

    2. Jonathan Green
      September 10, 2007 at 8:36 am

      Naismith, I think you’re wrong on the facts. Ivy League grads scan microfilm for fun so they can compare their family histories? No, they have other rituals for establishing identity and relationship (which may be the point you are making). The people comparing family history in my current stake outside the U.S. are first-generation converts. It’s a common trope of genealogical research for a first-generation member to find distant relatives who joined the church years ago.

    3. Kyle R
      September 10, 2007 at 8:39 am

      Genealogy swapping and wondering if you’ve just met a cousin is quite a popular Scottish past-time as well. Much like elderly Mormons, Scottish old folk make quite a hobby out of family history research.

    4. Julie M. Smith
      September 10, 2007 at 9:30 am

      “The majority of church members who are first-generation members don’t expect to find a relative.”

      Yeah–as far as I know, my only relatives in the church are the one I married and the ones I’ve birthed. I’ve also never attended BYU or gone on a mission, so I always fail the six degrees of separation test.


    5. September 10, 2007 at 9:35 am

      Funny, Jonathan! We had an illustration of that here on T&S only a few weeks ago when I casually referred to my distant relationship to Marje Conder by using the X cousins-X times removed formula. Ray came back with a remark about “you know you’re a Mormon when you can say that with a straight face” — he recognized the humor in such a stereotypical situation.

      It’s probably true that people compare genealogical notes most often in a setting where they expect the possibility of finding distant kinship, either because of geography/ethnicity or because you’re speaking with someone — often a church member, but also historians and biographers — who is probably familiar with genealogical relationships. “Elite” has absolutely nothing to do with it, unless you define “elite” as “aware of ancestry.”

      Someday soon I’m going to write a post about the converts I’ve known from England and the Midwest who have unexpectedly discovered Mormon pioneer ancestry, and about non-members and new converts who have played the “who do you know from 1810” game with surprising results.

    6. September 10, 2007 at 9:37 am

      Julie, do you have a digital file of some part of your own ancestry to send to me? If it goes back to 1850 in the U.S., I’ll bet it won’t take me long to find connections to any number of interesting people, Mormon and not. The farther back it goes, the faster the connections can be spotted.

    7. queuno
      September 10, 2007 at 9:43 am

      Reminds me of the time the wife of a stake presidency counselor was speaking at stake conference, and she talked at length about a recent family reunion she had attended. My wife nudged me and whispered, “hey, you got an invite to that same reunion a few months back…” Turns out the SPC’s wife (who we are good friends with) and my mother are third cousins.

    8. queuno
      September 10, 2007 at 9:46 am

      Funny story – my in-laws are both converts. Her family makes jokes about crossing the plains wit a (Ford) Pinto and a (Station) Wagon. One of my ancestors was one of JS’s bodyguards around the of the martyrdom, and my wife counters with the assertion that it’s likely that her relatives were actually the mob (given time and place).

      I agree with Ardis – it’s funny how many people have links to early LDS history, given time and place.

    9. Mike
      September 10, 2007 at 9:59 am

      I was at a professional meeting over a decade ago and I noticed these young rowdy Scottish guys having a good time. Since I am about 25% Scottish and my Scottish ancestors came to America only 150 years ago or more I felt a natural kinship with them. So I introduced myself to them as a fellow Scot and they got quite a laugh out of me. Among their number was a shy plain quite young woman who bore a very strange physical resemblance to some of my cousins. I was quite delighted to find she had the same last name as my mother’s maiden name and I also remembered the part of Scotland that these ancestors came from. She was from the same area. Furthermore she had an Aunt who did geneology as a hobby and had a website.

      At the next lunch break we found a computer and visited the website. I was able to link us together using the ancestral file and her Aunt’s website and discover that we are cousins about 10 generations back. So the guys let me in as an honorary member of the Scottish delegation even though I refused to drink like a Scot. I had a good time hanging out with them every evening. I entertained them with stories about polygamy, salamander murders, Porter Rockwell, J. Golden Kimball, etc. Most of them promised to look the missionaries up when they got home, there was more to this religion than they expected. Several people gained additional respect and interest in geneology and an appreciation of our enormous ancestral files. I told her there had to be at least one Mormon church in Scotland with a geneology library and knowledgeable staff. I suggested she take her Aunt and plan to spend the day with her at one of them.

      I didn’t keep in touch with her because the last night of the meeting they were all drinking too much and she invited me to come to her room alone with her for some “pigging,” I believe is the term she used. I thought it best to avoid further contact with her under the circumstances.

      We pioneer stock Mormons take this interest in our family connections to a different level than most people. It can get us into trouble in more ways than one.

    10. BBELL
      September 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

      #1, And Julie,

      Its not in my Exp to unusual for a convert of Western European extraction in the US to do their genealogy and find they have blood relations who are LDS.

      I have several convert friends who have much to their surprise discovered living blood relatives who are LDS and/or LDS ancestory.

      Ardis is correct in #5.

    11. Julie M. Smith
      September 10, 2007 at 10:28 am

      OK, I’ll bite. Because I have genealogy that goes way back (if only they’d hung on to their 1/3 of Martha’s Vineyard!!).

      Ardis, I’ve got stuff in PAF–how do I send that to you?

    12. Mark B.
      September 10, 2007 at 10:28 am

      Eighth cousins fall into that class of people that lawyers used to call “laughing heirs”.

      I’d like to know how many people who write here are not my eighth (or nearer) cousins.

    13. September 10, 2007 at 10:31 am

      Julie, I’ll contact you off-blog.

    14. Kyle R
      September 10, 2007 at 10:32 am

      Scotland’s a great place to be from if you want to do genealogy. They have the best kept, most comprehensive and far-back-reaching records in the world, although the Mormons have taken over in terms of expertise. So Scots Mormons must have the field mastered.

      ‘Rowdy’ Scots are a feature of life here. You can almost scientifically calculate the exact distance your train has travelled from London to Edinburgh by the boisterousness of conversation and degree of stagger in the young Scots lads going up the aisle to and from the buffet bar.

    15. September 10, 2007 at 10:45 am

      I don’t think this phenomenon is found “only in the Mormon church.” Of course Ivy Leage grads and those in fraternities do this all the time.

      Aggies do this all the time. I was on jury duty with two of them.. They\’d never met each other before, instantly identified each other at the first break, bonded in about two seconds, formed a little clique of Aggies in three seconds and were able to make the rest of us feel (without actually saying anything) like we missed something rare and special by not attending A+M.

    16. lamonte
      September 10, 2007 at 11:01 am

      My sister-in-law lived in Ho Chi Minh City up until August of this year. Last year my wife and I rendevoused with her family and toured New Zealand for two weeks. On the trip we told them of some good friends of ours (in the church) who now live in Beijing where he works at the U.S. Embassy. On their way home, my sister-in-law and her family stopped in Honk Kong and went to the temple. While there, they met another couple who also live in Beijing and work at the embassy. Of course that couple knows our friends. While the folks now living in Beijing are not my blood relatives I feel connected to them as if they were. It is one of the great blessings of our membership in the church.

    17. September 10, 2007 at 11:39 am

      I used to think the same thing about being a transplant in southern Alberta (Canada’s Utah). However, in the last 9 years, my wife’s cousin married the niece of one of the stake presidency, and my mother-in-law remarried to the father of one of our high councillors. I guess it’s inevitable.

    18. Bob
      September 10, 2007 at 12:04 pm

      The first time I went to L.A. Temple basement, home of the Family Search Center, second only in size to Salt Lake. I asked a question of a worker and got a blank look. Then the light bulb above his head: “Oh, that’s a Mormon question, let me find someone to help you”. I asked the second worker “What gives?”. I was told about 80% of the people there were non-Mormon.

    19. Ray
      September 10, 2007 at 12:33 pm

      When I was waiting for my wife in the temple prior to getting married, I started talking to a man who was waiting for his son who was leaving on a mission. He was from Arizona, so, just to be polite, I asked where in Arizona. He was from the same town where my mother was born, and we soon discovered that we were third cousins, once removed. That was over 20 years ago, and it’s still as clear as if it were yesterday.

    20. Adam Greenwood
      September 10, 2007 at 12:39 pm

      Good post, cousin.

    21. September 10, 2007 at 1:15 pm

      This is also going to play to Mitt Romney’s advantage in the coming election when everyone in the church figures out how they are related to him. Of course, you always want to vote for your relative don’t ya?

    22. September 10, 2007 at 1:26 pm

      The (Utah) State History meetings were held at the end of last week; the only mention of them in either Salt Lake paper, so far as I can find, is this article in the Deseret News focusing on Mitt Romney’s descent from Charles Henry Wilcken — a story which, I might add smugly, was covered here in an earlier Times and Seasons post.

      That’s the background. The payoff, which supports roland’s remark in #21, is that as I was going into the chapel yesterday, my bishop’s wife asked if I knew the man who spoke about Wilcken, because she and her husband would like to read the paper — my bishop is a Wilcken descendant who now, if he didn’t know before, knows he is also related to Mitt Romney.

    23. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 1:26 pm

      I’m hoping that someone here will take pity on an me answer a couple of elementary questions I have on this topic. Whenever people start talking about cousins “removed”, my eyes start to roll into the back of my head. Not because it’s boring, but because the formula for figuring it has always seemed beyond my comprehension (or maybe because it seems boring to me, I can’t say for sure).

      Well, this post has finally forced me to try and figure it out. I read the article on that explains how to calculate the cousins versus cousin’s removed, etc.. (see However, the formula still seems complicated enough that I would have to consult a chart each time to figure it out. Is there an easier way that people use as a shortcut to calculating this in your head? Or, is this just a formula you have to practice to get right?

      Also, does the formula in any way shift over to in-laws? My wife has a lot of cousins, uncles and aunts near where I live. They say I’m family, but, my understanding is that I’m not actually related to any of them, right?

    24. September 10, 2007 at 1:41 pm

      Dan, I just count how many generations there are between cousins and their nearest common ancestors: If there is only one generation (our parents) between you/me and our grandparents (our nearest common ancestors), then we are first cousins. If there are two generations (our parents and grandparents) between you/me and our great-grandparents (our nearest common ancestors), then we are second cousins. If there are three generations (our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents) between you/me and our great-great-grandparents (our nearest common ancestors), then we are third cousins. And so on.

      Sometimes there will be an uneven number of generations. If you and I are first cousins, then I’m also some kind of cousin to your children — but it takes them an extra generation to get back to our nearest common ancestors. That’s where the “removed” part comes in. They would be my first cousins once removed (because they need one additional generation to get back to our common ancestors). Their children would be my first cousins twice removed (because they need two additional generations to get back to our common ancestors).

      Cousinship: The number of generations between you/your cousin and your nearest common ancestors (not counting your own generation or the generation of those common ancestors)

      Removed: The number of generations “out of sync” in the lines between one person and the common ancestors, and between his distant cousin and the common ancestors.

      As for in-laws, calculate the blood relation to your wife and add “in-law.” Your wife’s brother is your brother-in-law. Your wife’s second cousin is your second cousin-in-law. Your wife’s fourth cousin five times removed is your fourth cousin-in-law five times removed. If you really care enough to calculate it, that is! :=)

      Clear as mud?

    25. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 1:49 pm

      Ardis, I think it’s just encouraging to know that you can calculate it in your head. Therefore, with some practice, I should be able to the eventually do the same (I hope.) Thanks.

    26. TMD
      September 10, 2007 at 2:01 pm

      Ardis, Wonderful explanation. What if a pair of brothers marry a pair of sisters? Does that mitigate distance at all? or are my second cousins (the pairs who married are my grandparents and my cousins’ grandparents)just bizarrely close second cousins?

    27. Ray
      September 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

      Not necessarily, Dan. Ardis has had a special genealogy chip implanted in her brain.

    28. September 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

      Dan, yeah, it helps to be able to visualize pedigree charts, so that you can easily count the number of intervening generations. The more familiar you are with your own ancestry, the easier that becomes.

    29. September 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm

      TMD — People often refer to that as “double cousins” but otherwise the relationship is the same: double first cousins, double second cousins, double third cousins once removed. As a practical matter, people generally don’t track that double-cousinship beyond double first cousins — that’s because many of us are related to each other through multiple paths. (My brother and his wife are husband and wife, of course, but also ninth cousins on one line and eighth cousins three times removed on still another line. There are probably more paths of relationship that we haven’t worked out yet.)

      Ray — Shhhh! Bill Gates isn’t ready to announce that new product yet!

    30. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 2:15 pm

      I’ll try and keep this from becoming an “Ask Ardis” marathon, but since you’re willing, I have to ask: am I in any way related to my wife’s in-laws? Specifically, I’ve been told that I’m not related to my wife’s sublings’ spouses, even though their children are my neices and nephews. That has always seemed kind of weird to me.

      -Befuddled In-law

    31. September 10, 2007 at 2:16 pm

      TMD, in other words, it doesn’t mean that you and your second cousins are any more closely related than any other set of second cousins — you still have to go back to your great-grandparents to find your nearest common ancestors. It’s just that you have two paths back to those great-grandparents.

    32. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 2:16 pm

      sorry “wife’s siblings’ spouses”

    33. September 10, 2007 at 2:23 pm

      Befuddled Dan — You aren’t related by blood to your wife’s family (at least, not that we know — maybe you and your wife are 7th cousins, as well as spouses). You are related by marriage (by the legal act of marriage, which is what “in-law” means). So whether or not you or anybody else considers you “family” depends on your definition of “family.”

      Read your question again, though. Maybe it was a typo, but in case it was a trick question, here’s my answer: You ask if you are related to your wife’s IN-LAWS. Your wife has multiple sets of in-laws. One set of her in-laws are your blood family, so yes, you’re related to them. But if she has a sister, her sister’s husband is her brother-in-law — but you aren’t related to him, either by blood or in law. If your wife has a brother, her brother’s wife is her sister-in-law — but you aren’t related to her, either.

      [Edited: You cleared that up by your second note. No, you are not related by either blood or law to your wife’s siblings’ spouses. Not unless there is some other blood relationship that we haven’t discovered, like maybe you and they share distant ancestors.]

      So shall we now tackle our step-half-cousins-in-law-twice-removed? :=)

    34. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 2:30 pm

      Ardis – no trick question here. The only trick is why I haven’t learned how to type and think at the same time ; ) I think I might be the first person to get banned from T&S for sloppy commenting. I vow to improve!

    35. Bob
      September 10, 2007 at 2:32 pm

      #23: I never get into that. I just say Joan is a distant cousin and let it go at that. Or Joan and I share Jane Smith. She is my Grand Grandmother, and Joan’s Grandmother. We have a very open or weak lineage system. Most Culture define cousins more clearly, are they on Mothers side or Father’s? The same with aunts and uncles. And most importantly, there is NO question as to what you call your Mother-in-law.

    36. Marjorie Conder
      September 10, 2007 at 2:33 pm

      And when all else fails I just figure we “all came over on the ark togehter”, Julie’s post notwithstanding. :-)

    37. September 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm

      Bob and Marjorie — funny, both of you! I don’t usually get into it, either — there’s nothing more boring than listening to someone figure out whether Suzy is her third cousin twice removed, or her second cousin three times removed, when it doesn’t have a thing to do with the story! That’s what phrases like “kissing cousins” and “shirt-tail relatives” were invented for.

      On the other hand, when the whole point of a story is to be technical or boring (and yeah, that is sometimes, on specialized occasions, the entire point for my telling a story), it’s fun to be able to calculate the relationship.

    38. Ray
      September 10, 2007 at 2:39 pm

      #35 – whatever she wants to be called?

    39. Bob
      September 10, 2007 at 3:06 pm

      #38You are very right with our Culture. But others are not so open, like the army: even if the Officer said it was Ok to call him ‘sport’, I am sure you would still use ‘sir’. (He can call you whatever he wants, and will )

    40. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 3:09 pm

      #4 – I’m second generation on both sides, so my direct ascendents, as far as I know, fail the six degrees of Mormondom as well. That’s why I’m asking all these questions about in-laws – I need an in! My wife has a ton of colorful Mormon connections, including direct ascendency from the Mormon colonies in Mexico, (where apparently Mitt Romney does too), from Jacob Hamblin, from Daniel Wood, etc. When I go to reunions, I feel like the the odd-man out.

      #38 – I try to call her as little as often.

    41. DavidH
      September 10, 2007 at 3:18 pm

      With all respect to Ardis, I have always referred to my wife’s siblings-in-law as my siblings “in-law-in-law” (or alternatively “second in-laws”, “in-laws once removed”, “double in-laws” or “in-laws squared”).

    42. Ray
      September 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

      Perhaps not “only in the Mormon Church” and definitely a threadjack alert needed, but it deals with reunions and mothers-in-law and the Mormon mentality in general, so I think I have justified the next comment:

      My father-in-law has done uber-copious amounts of genealogical research. (Perhaps, Ardis-esque. Truly inspiring, daunting, sickening – whatever your view.) My first exposure to the very extended (hundreds and hundreds and hundreds) family reunions his side holds annually was as a teenager dating his daughter (now my wife). We were playing softball; I bent down to field a grounder; my pants split – and I mean SPLIT. Luckily, Aunt Whatever had her trusty sewing kit handy at the park at the reunion, so I went into a public park restroom, handed out my pants to my now mother-in-law, waited while Aunt Whatever sewed them up – then split as quickly as possible. My wife’s extended family still knows me to this day, nearly 25 years later, as The Boy Who Split His Pants. Eat your heart out, Harry Potter!

      So, perhaps I have been embarrassed in front of more cousins- and others-in-law than most.

    43. Ana
      September 10, 2007 at 4:38 pm

      I have found the subject of family connections comes up most often when I talk with people about where they’re from – that is, if they happen to be from Bountiful, Logan, Heber, Bear Lake or Star Valley. Since Mormons were the initial white settlers of those very small areas there’s a pretty strong likelihood that other Mormons whose families were there for a long time connected with my ancestors in some way.

      People ask me all the time about my married name – apparently there are some prominent Mormons in the region whose moniker we are usurping as fairly new move-ins – but my husband’s parents are both converts and we have yet to find a Mormon connection there except for the “Mormons stole my daddy’s land” stories from the 19th-century Midwest.

      My own parents are third cousins once removed from longtime Utah families. I always used to say I had to marry my husband to broaden the gene pool. Little did we know how far we’d take that (adopting kids). I wonder what my kids will say when people ask them about their Mormon family history?

    44. Mark B.
      September 10, 2007 at 5:06 pm


      Your wife’s tie to Jacob Hamblin makes her my cousin (unless she’s my mother or grandmother or daughter or sister or aunt, which I think unlikely–I had an Uncle Dan but he had no S in his name and he’s deceased), since Jacob Hamblin’s daughter was my great-great grandfather’s wife (3rd) and mother of my great grandfather.

    45. Bob
      September 10, 2007 at 5:56 pm

      #40 & 43: Important in Mormon history was what Clan you came from and/or what Mormon Village. My Grandfather was a Swede from the Sanpete Valley inUtah He married into the Large Draper Clan. All children of the marriage (my father) were considered ‘Darpers’. My mother came from the stronger “Tolman’ Clan. I was raised a Tolman. When visiting the ‘Clans’, I was declared ‘another Leo’ or ‘there a lot of George in him’. Any young girl that married into the Clan (Polygamy), became a part of the Clan. Her children were full Clan Members. You also had Clan marring Clan.

    46. Dan S.
      September 10, 2007 at 6:03 pm

      Mark B.,

      Yeah, you’re right, I’m not your uncle, as far as I know. But, all “Dans” are brothers at heart, so that makes me and your uncle brothers at heart, and therefore you my nephew at heart. (disclaimer – no intestacy connection implied).

      Given that Jacob Hamblin had four wives and 24 biological children, people have often made a connection with my wife to one of the Hamblin lines. My wife descended from Sarah Priscilla Leavitt, Jacob Vernon Hamblin’s third wife. More specifically, she descended from one of their children, Jacob Hamblin, born March 1865, who was my wife’s great, great grandfather on her grandmother’s side. So, if I compare that to what you said, then if my calculations are correct, I think that makes you and my wife fourth cousins and not any of this “removed” nonsense. (Ardis?) Although, I don’t know how the plural wives element interfere’s with the calculation. Maybe you and my wife should be called fourth-half cousin’s if you didn’t both come from Sarah Leavitt (hmm. . .would that make you all 1/8th cousins?)

    47. mmiles
      September 10, 2007 at 11:54 pm

      Here’s and interesting relation.
      My sister was dating a guy once (and they really liked each other) and she describes sitting out on a trampoline, having a great conversation, talking about families and blah blah blah, when they stumble upon the fact that they both have the same great grandfather-and that our grandmothers are half-sisters (product of polygamy). They both just looked at each other and got really quiet. They never called each other again. A little too close for comfort.

    48. Mark B.
      September 11, 2007 at 12:06 am

      Maybe too close for comfort, but not too close for the laws that bar consanguinous marriages. Your sister and her friend would be second cousins, and the laws of most states allow marriages of second cousins. A good friend of mine married his second cousin–it seemed a great match 35 years ago, and time hasn’t changed that.

    49. Ray
      September 11, 2007 at 12:09 am

      mmiles, I hadn’t thought of that aspect, but it’s so obvious with my parents. They dated; she rejected proposals from two other guys in order to wait for him on his mission; they were planning their wedding when they discovered they were third cousins, twice removed. Opposite of your sister, the relationship was just far enough apart not to wreck the relationship.

      Another one: My oldest son’s best friend’s grandfather (second marriage of her grandmother) is 1 year younger than I. He had dated her mother, then married her grandmother. So, I am considered quite young to have a son in college (even in standard Mormon circles) and am *at least* 4 years away from becoming a grandfather, but a man who is younger than I just became a great-grandfather (without teenage pregnancies involved) – and nobody bats an eye. That isn’t genealogy related, but it just might be an “only in the Mormon Church.”

    50. Mark B.
      September 11, 2007 at 12:16 am


      You’re right about the relationship–your wife is my fourth cousin, although my relationship is through Jacob Hamblin’s first wife, Lucinda Taylor, and their daughter Maryetta Magdeline Hamblin, who married my great-great grandfather.

      Because we’re the same number of generations removed from our first common ancestor (at least on this line–who knows but what there are others!), there are no “removeds” in the relation between your wife and me.

    51. dangermom
      September 11, 2007 at 12:40 am

      My parents are converts and I have no family in the Church, but I am constantly finding connections anyway; they just aren’t blood ties. When I went to college, one of the first girls I met was the niece of the bishop I’d had when I lived abroad for a year–I knew her cousins. Then I went to visit my friend and discovered that her neighbor was my roommate’s ex’s ex’s ex. It happens all the time, familial relationships or not.

      But I can claim lots of ties through my husband, who is descended from Patty Sessions. I’m sure I have plenty of cousins-in-law here.

    52. queuno
      September 11, 2007 at 12:44 am

      Get thee all to your ward’s family history class, please! Learn how to use PAF, and GEDCOM files, and how to match and merge.

      The bloggernacle would be so much more interesting…

    53. mmiles
      September 11, 2007 at 1:22 am

      Once I went to a Mormon wedding reception in the cutural hall where as you entered to sign the guest book there were pictures of the marrying couples common ancestor displayed, and a very large pedigree (large poster size) displaying where their familial lines converged. I don’t think that would happen anywhere but a Mormon wedding.
      It’s even funnier that it turned out that I had the same common ancestor.

    54. September 11, 2007 at 2:28 am

      gggggf = Lewis Barney
      ggggf = Walter Turner Barney
      gggm = Cynthia Delilah B. Barney
      ggm = Frances Delilah Barney

    55. Kaimi Wenger
      September 11, 2007 at 3:08 am


      And what about the one where a blogger learns that a relatively new commenter on the blog is the wife of one of his high school classmates? :)

    56. BBELL
      September 11, 2007 at 10:42 am

      I have some relatives who showed up at a wedding in Idaho for a family member (niece)

      Went to meet the grooms family and about passed out for shock. It turns out that the bride and groom without knowing it had the same great grandfather. Making them second cousins? Apparently nobody said anything the the happy couple for a few weeks.

      I also have a LDS friend here locally who is a distant cousin of my wife who’s parents are 3rd cousins.

      Only in the LDS Church amongst multi-generational families and in Appalachia……………………

    57. September 11, 2007 at 11:06 am

      … and virtually everywhere among all European/American peoples *of the recent past,* to be fair.

      Julie took me up on the challenge to find a connection between her genealogy and some other interesting people. I’m still looking, but in the course of looking I’ve discovered I share distant ancestry with these new and interesting cousins: Lorenzo Snow, Porter Rockwell, Daniel H. Wells, and the Huntingtons (Zina, Oliver, Dimick, William).

    58. BBELL
      September 11, 2007 at 11:49 am

      Uh Oh Ardis. You are now related to my wife thru DH Wells. He is her gggrandfather

      Welcome cousin

    59. Adam Greenwood
      September 11, 2007 at 11:53 am

      When we were dating my wife and I discovered that our ancestors were from the same small Mormon town. We were relieved that we were probably the only people ever to come from there to not be related. We did discover, though, that our great grandmothers had been bosom buddies and that my grandpa had married her great-aunt or first cousin twice removed or something when they were both young, though they got divorced before there was issue.

    60. Ardis Parshall
      September 11, 2007 at 12:09 pm

      Welcome cousin

      I’ll try to clean up my blogging act, BBell, so as not to bring further shame to the family.

    61. Ana
      September 11, 2007 at 12:16 pm

      Dangermom, I’m a Sessions descendant. Perregrine was a pretty prolific polygamist, I guess. I love that, considering Patty’s heartbreak over David’s departure from the Saints with his younger wife and her other children not being close around her. She will be in lots of good company in the eternities, I think.

    62. mmiles
      September 11, 2007 at 12:32 pm

      I know Jonathan Green too, only he doesn’t know it yet.

    63. JA Benson
      September 11, 2007 at 1:16 pm

      Great Post,

      Mike and I were (are still) married for twenty years with four kids when I discovered that we were 4th cousins. There was a divorce on his side and a name change. When we were early dating I checked our genealogy on the recommendation of a roommate who said that with all those pioneers it was entirely possible that Mike and I could be related. Because of the name change I missed the close relationship. We have told our children to marry converts.

      I have a cousin that married a third cousin and found out at the reception.

      Hey Chinco #54 you and DH Mike are related thru Lewis Barney.

    64. Ray
      September 11, 2007 at 1:36 pm

      I’m sure I am related to many of you multiple generation folk. Anybody with Utah pioneer Hudson, Westover or Terry lines, especially probably has a direct connection.

    65. Adam Greenwood
      September 11, 2007 at 1:54 pm

      I’m not sure what the problem is with marrying second, third, or fourth cousins. It seems to me that if you didn’t know about the relationship before you started dating, you’re fine. As far as I know, its only first cousins and closer that create a heightened risk of genetic problems.

    66. Bob
      September 11, 2007 at 2:16 pm

      “Only in the Mormon Church”. I am not sure that is true. I believe in Iraq, over 50% are married to a first cousin. As I said in #45, Clan marriages have always been important in most Cultures. In doing Family History, I not only look at family Trees, but also Family Forests. Example: Ana in #61 says she is a “Sessions”. I have one ‘Family Forest’ of Tolmans, Calls, Lovelands, Harpers, and Sessions. You can see them founding towns, living, working, and wedding together. Look at Europe’s Royal Families,tons of intermarriages.

    67. Jonathan Green
      September 11, 2007 at 2:25 pm

      Scary, mmiles. And I thought my internet stalking skills were second to none!

    68. Jay
      September 11, 2007 at 2:30 pm

      All this discussion of cousins reminds me of this New Yorker cartoon.

    69. JA Benson
      September 11, 2007 at 3:01 pm

      Very true Adam #65, but when it happens it feels a little creepy; that and 4 of the 5 bio kids have ADD.

    70. Larry
      September 11, 2007 at 4:20 pm

      OK, try this one out for size: my mother, who is not a member, married my father (a convert) back in the early 1960s. Her maiden name was Mack, and her family was from New England. Care to guess who it turned out she was related to? :)

    71. mmiles
      September 11, 2007 at 4:41 pm

      My grandparents are in your parents ward–my grandpa gave you your patriarchal blessing the same summer I lived with them and we both worked at Little Ceaser’s.

    72. janeannechovy
      September 11, 2007 at 4:58 pm

      Ahem. I’m married to my second cousin. Unless the laws on consanguinity have changed significantly in the last 11 years, it is legal to marry your second cousin in every state. It is legal to marry your first cousin in several states, including New York and California (and not including the Appalachian states you might guess).

      Based upon our children, I’d highly recommend inbreeding. :)

      Oh, and although we knew about the second cousin connection (through our fathers) before we were married, we found out later (when we combined our PAF files) that we are also fifth cousins once removed (through our mothers), tenth cousins, and eleventh cousins once removed two separate ways. Oddly, neither set of our parents is related to each other in any way.

    73. Lurker Briarbud
      September 11, 2007 at 5:54 pm

      I worked with a girl for a year at BYU before we realized we had the same grandparents. Second marriage for both and the funny thing is they went apostate when they married and each side of the family blamed the opposite spouse! They live in Missouri. Enough said.

    74. Bob
      September 11, 2007 at 6:10 pm

      The relationships within the 12 & FP are far closer. I believe not many years back, you were not made an Apostle unless you were related to a Latter-Day Apostle(?)

    75. Ray
      September 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm

      Bob, not many years back it was almost impossible for someone to have been in the Church long enough (say an average of 50 years old, which is low) to be at least a stake leader and not be a traceable cousin of some apostle. Polygamy made just about everyone cousins of some sort.

    76. September 11, 2007 at 6:15 pm

      Bob, that is simply not true. While many of the General Authorities have been related by blood, many others have had no such known ties (David O. McKay, for instance, which takes us back a very long way).

    77. Ray
      September 11, 2007 at 6:49 pm

      and Ardis is correct when you imply “far closer” based on the discussion thus far. “Far closer” would imply 1st or 2nd cousins. That, as Ardis said, simply isn’t true.

    78. Bill MacKinnon
      September 11, 2007 at 7:12 pm

      This discussion of who is related to whom and how reminds me of a comment that Gov. Mike Leavitt made to me in 1997. Four or five of us connected with The Arthur H. Clark Co.’s new 20-volume series “KINGDOM IN THE WEST: The Mormons and the American Frontier” trekked up to the Kearns Mansion to take part in Will Bagley’s presentation to the governor of the first volume in the series. During the course of the chit-chat we got to talking about families and the governor commented that he was descended from the Dudley and Leavitt families of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I commented that the Dudleys were also represented in the Utah Expedition of 1857-1858 in the personnnage of 1st Lieut. N.A.M. Dudley of the Tenth U.S. Infantry. (I chose to reserve the information that Dudley was so insufferably pompous that his brother officers referred to him as The Great North American Dudley, as though he was some sort of spread-eagled winged creature.) The guv then remarked that he was thinking about organizing a family picnic-reunion for the next summer. When I asked sort of idley asked how many people might be there, he responded by saying that he believed that through the Leavitts he was related to 1,000,000 people in Utah and Idaho. I was staggered and gasped something like, “Gee, wouldn’t that be sort of unwieldy?” Politician that he was/is, Leavitt replied: “Oh, but think of the number of voters!” Aren’t genealogy and green Jello wonderful?

    79. September 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

      We live in a very small Midwest ward. My wife mentions that quite a few generations back she has relatives from Prince Edward Island. Another person perks up me too. A quick check and yeah, were related.

      Small, Small world.

    80. September 11, 2007 at 9:16 pm

      Cheers, JA Benson #63. Surprised more folks aren’t popping up here posting their air kisses aka favorite line(s) of descent …

      We have told our children to marry converts. Funny!

      Is DH ornery?

    81. Bob
      September 11, 2007 at 9:38 pm

      #76 I believe Mckay was related by marriage? I believe as late as th 80s 96% or so of the Apostles by blood or marriage could trace their lines back to one of the original 12 Latter Day Apostles or Joseph Smith? I don’t have support other than my memory, and Ardis is at least 7% or more knowledgeable on these things than I am. Therefore I yield to her…yet again.

    82. Ray
      September 11, 2007 at 10:02 pm

      Bob, first, I’ll only believe a 96% *direct* descent of lineage when I see the names and their genealogy. If you claimed a 96% descent from polygamy, I would be less inclined to dispute it.

      More to the point, how many of the members of the Church who were born in or before 1920 (60 years old in 1980) could *not* claim to be related (especially if you add “by marriage) to one of the modern apostles? I think this is a non-starter, given how interwoven the polygamous families were at the time we are discussing.

    83. September 11, 2007 at 10:02 pm

      Bob, you’re kinda sorta half-remembering a study done by Michael Quinn, who identified relationships among 19th and early 20th century GAs. But the memory has become greatly distorted, and somehow the false idea that relationship was a *requirement* of GA service has crept in. That absolutely is not true.

      Think about the idea of GAs, any of them, tracing their lines back to Joseph Smith. Joseph’s family didn’t stay with the church and didn’t come west — until the 1950s, no one in the church at all could trace his line back to Joseph Smith. The GAs who were related to him descended from his brother Hyrum, or from his grandfather (Geo. A. Smith was Joseph’s cousin, and the progenitor of George Albert Smith).

      Emma Ray Riggs McKay had no GA connections until her marriage. Her parents were converts; her father left the family when Emma was a child and moved to Missouri where he became RLDS.

      The only office requiring any element of kinship is that of Church Patriarch.

    84. Bob
      September 11, 2007 at 10:31 pm

      #83: Ray at anytime, I think most members come into the Church by convention, not birth. I think very few have a line to the first 12.
      #84 Again, you caught me on one of my ‘don’t be stupid days’. But, I never said a ‘Requirement’, just a fact.
      Your right, I should not have started the line with JS Jr.
      If you say McKay had no line of any kind to the early 12, I accept, and am sorry I started any false rumors.

    85. Marjorie Conder
      September 11, 2007 at 10:54 pm

      I am absolutely delighted to call Ray a Terry cousin! I have thrown down the gauntlet of family names before (including the Terrys) to very little response–I thought there would be a lot of you out there. The Terrys are actually my favorite ancestors. All ancestors are not created equal according to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, stating the obvious.

    86. Jonathan Green
      September 12, 2007 at 3:23 am

      Mmiles, I just want to say that if I was to any degree responsible for your employment with Little Caesar’s, I humbly apologize. I still have nightmares.

    87. mmiles
      September 12, 2007 at 3:30 am

      Come on! My kids think it is the coolest thing ever that I worked there.

    88. makakona
      September 12, 2007 at 8:31 am

      i’m in julie’s boat… first generation american on mom’s side, michigander on my dad’s. if anyone found an lds connection, i’d be shocked. the closest i’ve found is mom’s sister’s husband’s brother’s ex-wife’s daughter from her first marriage, also a convert. no fun.

      my in-laws are pioneer stock, but the grandparents were each the black sheep in their family of twelve kids, so subsequent generations didn’t exactly “hold to the rod.” none of them really give two flips about their ancestry, whereas i’m insanely jealous because i have nothing to offer in conversations that align with this post.

    89. Bob
      September 12, 2007 at 11:26 am

      #89: All is not lost. We all have the about the same amount of ancestors: parents, Grandparents. G/Grandparents, etc. I have ‘black sheep’ breaks in my lines. They can be fixed. But more importantly, There may be someone out there trying to fix that same ‘black sheep line’. This has happened to me many times. It is a weird feeling, like walking into a room your think is empty, but is not. “What are you doing here?”, ” Answer: ” What are YOU doing here?”.

      True, you may not find LDS in your lines, but maybe a king or queen! I can safely say, most LDS will not be finding a King or Queen in their ancestors.

    90. Ray
      September 12, 2007 at 12:12 pm

      and all this time I thought Elvis was a third cousin.

    91. Bob
      September 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm

      #91: If you want, I’ll ask him…he’s just a few doors down from me.

    92. JA Benson
      September 12, 2007 at 2:59 pm

      #81 Chino Blanco- Is Mike onery? TOTALLY!!!

    93. Bob
      September 12, 2007 at 10:31 pm

      #92: He said no, but he’s trying to get the band back together and wonders if you are still available?

    94. Ray
      September 12, 2007 at 10:36 pm

      I’ll have to ask the boss (not the other musical cousin); she pretty much decides how I spend my free time.

    95. Bob
      September 13, 2007 at 1:58 pm

      #95: I had a Music teacher who said on Classical music, “If someone gave it a nick name, it is worth listening to”. I guess that counts on singers too: the king, the Boss, the Chairman, Lady Day, Satchmo, etc.

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