Famous Cousins

AJ Cousin Connection: Patrick Swayze

by Eowyn Langholf

Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is actor Patrick Swayze, who was born on this day, August 18, in 1952, and is perhaps best known for his roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

Fun Facts About Patrick:

1. His first professional appearance was as a dancer. He played “Prince Charming” in “Disney on Parade”.

2. He received a Razzie Award for the Worst Actor for two movies: Road House and Next of Kin.

3. Patrick was known for saying “Good-looking people turn me off. Myself included.”

4. Ghost inserted him into modern hip-hop lyrics where the phrase “I’m Swayze” (means “I’m ghost,” which is in turn slang for “I’m leaving”).

5. Patrick became known in Hollywood as the King of Sleepers because two of his most successful movies – Dirty Dancing and Ghost – were both initially not expected to be big movies but eventually went on to become classics.

6. While still in grade school, Swayze developed a love for ballet and was often teased by fellow classmates. Throughout high school, he set aside his dance career to concentrate on athletics — juggling gymnastics, swimming, and football.

Patrick Swayze is A.J. Jacobs’ aunt’s 6th great aunt’s husband’s aunt’s husband’s niece’s husband’s 6th great nephew. 

Here’s what that looks like:

 Chart courtesy of Geni.com


1. https://www.channel24.co.za/Movies/Features/Patrick-Swayze-24-Facts-20090915 
2. https://www.biography.com/people/patrick-swayze-9542318#aspiring-dancer

AJ Cousin Connection: Napoelon Bonaparte

by Eowyn Langholf
Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter part of the French Revolution.

Here are some fun facts about Napoleon:

1. Often credited with originating the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” what Napoleon actually said was “A good sketch is better than a long speech.”

2. The former Emperor is still very much revered – it is illegal for anyone in France to name a pig “Napoleon”.

3. Napoleon enjoyed disguising as a bourgeois or wearing poor clothes to walk Paris, asking questions to people. This way, he could know how popular he was, and how people felt about him, and his policies. He actually had a lot of fun doing that.

4. It is said that he only slept minutes while he was in campaign. Usually he would take naps of between 5 and 10 minutes and wake up fully refreshed for battle.

5. Napoleon loved hats. During his reign, he bore 170 unique hats. 

6. He was deathly afraid of cats! 

A.J. Jacobs and Napoleon Bonaparte have 19 degrees of separation. 

Here’s what that looks like: 

Chart courtesy of WikiTree


1. https://www.readersdigest.com.au/15-facts-napoleon-bonaparte
2. https://www.discoverwalks.com/blog/top-5-fun-facts-about-napoleon/ 
3. https://historymayto.blogspot.com/2013/01/10-fun-facts-about-napoleon.html
 4. https://www.factspedia.org/history-facts/interesting-facts-about-napoleon-bonaparte/

AJ Cousin Connection: Halle Berry

 by Eowyn Langholf

Today’s Cousin Connection is Storm!  Okay, not exactly, but it is the lovely Halle Berry

Fun Facts About Halle:

1. She was originally named Maria Halle Berry but her parents changed her name to Halle Maria Berry when she was five years old.

2. Before becoming an actress, Halle participated in numerous beauty pageants and was even 1st runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant in 1986.

3. Her favorite actresses are Dorothy Dandridge, Jodie Foster and Whoopi Goldberg.

4. Halle’s dress for the 2002 Oscars ceremony was voted the most popular outfit from the first 75 years.

5. In high school, she was an honor society member, editor of the school paper, and class president. Halle was also crowned prom queen.

6. As of 2014, Halle remains the only African-American actress to have been awarded an Oscar for a leading role, which she won for her role in the 2002 film Monster’s Ball.
7. Halle appeared in the 2004 film Catwoman, for which she received a ‘worst actress’ Razzie award in 2005 for the superhero protagonist. Showing off her sense of humor, Halle became only the second actor to have ever appeared at the Razzie awards ceremony to accept the award in person! 
Halle Berry is A.J. Jacobs’ aunt’s ex-husband’s third great uncle’s wife’s first cousin twice removed’s wife’s 8th great niece.  

Here’s what that looks like:

 Chart courtesy of Geni.com


1. https://factspage.blogspot.com/2010/01/18-interesting-facts-about-halle-berry.html
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halle_Berry
3. https://pop-culture.net/H/Halle-Berry.html
4. https://www.ndtv.com/photos/lifestyle/10-facts-you-didn-t-know-about-halle-berry-15738/slide/5
5. https://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/664/20140225/50-things-you-probably-didn-t-know-about-halle-berry.htm

AJ Cousin Connection: Annie Oakley

by Eowyn Langholf
Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is American sharpshooter Annie Oakley!

Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Mosey on this day, 13 August, in 1860. Annie’s sharpshooting skills led her to a starring role in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.  This timely rise to fame allowed her to become one of the first American women to be a superstar.

Her most famous trick?  With a .22 caliber rifle, Annie could repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it touched the ground.

Love at first shot:  On Thanksgiving Day in 1875, the Baughman and Butler shooting act performed in Cincinnai.  Frank Butler, an Irish immigrant, placed a $100 with Jack Frost, the hotel owner, that he, Frank, could beat any fancy local shooter.  Jack arranged the shooting match between 15 year old 5 feet tall Annie Oakley and Butler saying “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year old girl named Annie.”  After missing his 25th shot, Frank lost the match and the bet but won the heart of Annie as the two soon began courting and were married August 23, 1876.

“I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either. -” ― Annie Oakley

A.J. and Annie have 32 degrees of separation.  Here’s what that looks like:

Chart courtesy of WikiTree

Remembering Robin Williams

by Eowyn Langholf
Today’s post is to remember and honor actor and comedian Robin Williams, who, tragically, died yesterday 11 August 2014. Our hearts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Robin Williams, born 21 June 1951, was one of the best, making us laugh and touching our hearts as he entered our lives through the big screen and his stand-up routines.   He brought smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes with movies like The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, AladdinThe Birdcage, Good Will Hunting….the list goes on and on.

Throughout his career, Robin was the recipient of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as two Emmys, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy awards.

During his life, Robin and former wife Marsha, founded the Windfall Organization, a philanthropic organization that raised money for a variety of charities.   The actor devoted a lot of his energies to charity work including performing with the USO for troops and supporting St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

There don’t really seem to be the right words to honor his life, the laughter his brought us and the kindness he exhibited to those who crossed his path.  The words from the poem prevalent to his film Dead Poets Society, “O Captain, My Captain”, by Walt Whitman, seem to perhaps be the most fitting:

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
If you are hurting so much that you feel you have no way out – please call someone. Call anyone

AJ Cousin Connection: Andrew Carnegie

by Eowyn Langholf
Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is Scottish American industrialist Andrew Carnegie

The life of Andrew Carnegie has been called a true “rags to riches” story.  Born in Dunfermline, Ireland, in 1835, Andrew emigrated to America with his very poor parents in 1848.  He started off as a telegrapher and by 1860 had investments in railroads, bridges, oil derricks and railroad sleeping cars. He went on to also accumulate wealth as a bond salesman. He built the Carnegie Steel Company which he then sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for 480 million dollars.

The remainder of his life, Andrew dedicated to philanthropic endeavors on a large scale especially towards local libraries, scientific research, education and world peace. With his vast fortune he built Carnegie Hall, and founded, among other things, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Based on the dollar in 2007, Andrew Carnegie’s net worth was 298.3 billion dollars!

Mr. Carnegie died on this day, August 11, in 1919, from bronchial pneumonia.

Andrew Carnegie is A.J. Jacobs’ first cousin once removed’s ex-husband’s second cousin twice removed’s husband’s first cousin once removed’s wife’s second great uncle. 

Here’s what that looks like:

Chart courtesy of Geni.com

AJ Cousin Connection: Thomas Edison

Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is the one and only Thomas Edison, an American inventor and businessman.  Here’s five things you may or may not know about Thomas:

1. Thomas Edison was one of the first inventors to use mass production and large-scale teamwork to process his inventions. For this he was dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park”.

2. Edison held 1,093 patents in his name!

3. Edison only attended school for 3 months.  His mind would wander, his teacher called him “addled” and so his mother taught him from home.  Thomas later said, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”

4.  At the age of 24, on Christmas Eve 1971, Thomas married 16-year-old Mary Stillwell, an employee from one of his shops. They had 3 children. Mary died in 1884.  In 1886, 39-year-old Thomas Edison married 20-year-old Mina Miller, with whom he had three more children. (Bonus: Edison’s two oldest children were nicknamed “Dot” and “Dash”.

5. Edison’s last breath is reportedly contained in a test tube at the Henry Ford Museum. Ford reportedly convinced Charles Edison to seal a test tube of air in the inventor’s room shortly after his death, as a memento. [1]

Thomas Alva Edison and AJ Jacobs have 25 degrees of separation. 

Here’s what that looks like:

Chart courtesy of WikiTree

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Edison

AJ Cousin Connection: David Duchovny

Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is actor, writer and director David Duchovny, best known for his roles as Fox Mulder on The X-Files and as Hank Moody on Californication, both roles that won him Golden Globe Awards.

Coincidentally, today also happens to be David’s birthday! He was born August 7, 1960 in New York City.  David’s father was Jewish, his parents having come from what’s now part of the Ukraine and from Poland.  His mother is a Lutheran emigrant from Scotland.

Fun fact: David received a Master of Arts in English Literature from Yale University.

Fun fact #2:  David is a former vegetarian and current pescetarian.

In March of this year, NBC announced that a new series starring David called Aquarius has been ordered! He will play a 1960s police sergeant investigating budding cult leader Charles Manson. 

A.J. Jacobs is David William Duchovny’s first cousin once removed’s wife’s sister’s husband’s nephew’s wife’s uncle’s wife’s great nephew’s ex-wife’s second cousin.

Here’s what that looks like:

 Chart courtesy of Geni.com

AJ Cousin Connection: Anne Hathaway

Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is Anne Hathaway, the wife of playwright William Shakespeare

Anne Hathaway was born in 1555/6 and died on this day, August 6, in 1623.  Not much is known about Anne beyond references in legal documents and many historians and creative writers have speculated about her personality and her relationship with William Shakespeare. 

Anne was 26 when she married the then 18 year old William in November of 1582.  She was pregnant with the child she would give birth to six months later.  Because of the age difference, there are some historians who postulate that this was a “shotgun” wedding forced onto the young Shakespeare by the Hathaway family.

Anne and William would have three children – Susanna, born in 1583 and twins, Judith and Hamnet, born in 1585.  Hamnet died at the age of 11. 

Anne died August 6, 1623.  On her tombstone is an inscription in Latin which reads as “Breasts, O mother, milk and life thou didst give. Woe is me – for how great a boon shall I give stones? How much rather would I pray that the good angel should move the stone so that, like Christ’s body, thine image might come forth! But my prayers are unavailing. Come quickly, Christ, that my mother, though shut within this tomb may rise again and reach the stars.”

This may have been written by John Hall, on behalf of his wife Susanna, for her mother.[1]

A.J. Jacobs is Anne Hathaway‘s husband’s first cousin 13 times removed’s husband’s nephew.

Here’s what that looks like: 

 Chart courtesy of WikiTree.com

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hathaway_%28Shakespeare%27s_wife%29

AJ Cousin Connection: Marilyn Monroe

Today’s AJ Cousin Connection is American actress, singer and model Marilyn Monroe, who, sadly, died on this day 5 August in 1962.  Can you believe she’d be 88 if she had lived?!

Marilyn spent most of her childhood in foster homes then went on to start a career in modeling.  By 1946 she landed a contract with Twentieth Century-Fox.  She starred in numerous commercially successful films in the 50s and 60s.  Marilyn won a Golden Globe award for her performance in Some Like It Hot.  Regrettably, her later years were plagued with illness and personal problems.  It is debated whether her death was a probably suicide or accidental overdoes but either way the world lost a brilliant diamond on this day 52 years ago.

“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”  – Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is AJ’s second great aunt’s aunt’s husband’s first cousin twice removed’s wife’s great niece’s husband’s great nephew’s wife’s father’s ex-wife.

Here’s what that looks like:

 Chart courtesy of Geni.com

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