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

“I Am A Cousin” – Meet Matt!

by Eowyn Langholf

Hi Cousins!  I’d love to introduce you to cousin Matt.  He was nice enough to be my first victim volunteer to answer some questions so the world could get to know him a little better.   Without further ado, meet Matt:

Me: You’re 15.  When did you first get into researching your family history and what sparked your interest?

Matt:  As far as I can remember, I’ve always been into family history.  My earliest memory of it though is talking to my paternal grandfather about his maternal grandfather, Lee Ward Lindow.  I wouldn’t ask him questions, I would overhear things and write them down on random sheets of paper I had and I put them all in a black binder.  Even now I refer to that black binder and every time I look in there I see something I wrote down as a five year old which puts my puzzle pieces together even today!!!

Me: You have some big goals for your future!  Tell us about some of them.

Matt: Well, after high school, I’d like to go Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, majoring in Law and Theology, and minoring in Political Science.  I’d love to move to Kitty Hawk, NC and start my own law firm and my own church, and a genealogy firm on the side.  I’d love to coordinate a family reunion from the descendants of my maternal great-grandfather one day!

Me: Share with us an interesting story you’ve discovered about one of your ancestors.

Matt: My paternal great-great grandfather who I mentioned before was Lee W. Lindow.  His grandfather was a veteran of the United States Civil War named Frederick J. Lindow.  Frederick settled in North Collins, New York and built a lumber mill industry that was worth millions of dollars – in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.  Later after Fred’s death, Lee’s uncle Raymond inherited the lumber mill but sold it before his death in 1969.  When he passed away, he must have given Lee’s sister Florence some of the money because when she died, also in the 1960s, she left a huge donation worth millions to a local church.  

Me: Do you have a favorite ancestor? Who? Why?

Matt: My absolute favorite ancestor would have to be Charles W. Goodier, Sr., my maternal great grandfather.  He passed away in November of 2013 after a battle of Alzheimer’s, so I never really got a chance to talk with him.  But after his death I learned about what an amazing life he had.  He served our country in the Air Force and in the process met the Queen Mother and married a model from Ohio, my great grandma Rita, who passed in 1976.  After his service, he became Mayor of Blasdell, New York, a small 1,000 person village outside of Buffalo and served one term, but he stayed very active in Village politics.  He has currently as of August 2014 157 descendants. 

John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Me: If you could be related to anyone in history, who would you want it to be and why?

Matt: If I could be related to anyone in history, I would want to be related to John D. Rockefeller, Sr.  My reasoning for this is because he was a self made man who founded a dynasty of brilliant minded men who went on to become elected Government officials all over the country.  John Sr. lived my dream life!!!

Me: What are your thoughts about the Global Family Reunion?  Will you be attending?

Matt: I think AJ Jacobs is brilliant by coming up with this idea for a Global Family Reunion.  I think everyone is related, and if I had my way, the entire population of Earth would there!!! I will not be able to attend, BUT I plan on watching it live on your “Live Stream” option.

Me:  Do you come from a big family? Small family?   Do you guys have family reunions and do you have any good family reunion stories?

Matt: My paternal family is very small, and it’s like a reunion every holiday!!! There’s usually 7 of us. My paternal grandpa has many first cousins but he never really got the chance to actually meet them.  I have contacted one of them and according to her information, there are a lot more of my paternal family out there than I thought there was!!! On the other hand, my maternal family is gigantic.  My grandma has 47 first cousins, my mom has 39, and I have 25.  The numbers of first cousins are high like that all the way back until the 1600’s!!!  Most of those cousins had 1-10 kids.  That means there’s a lot of relatives out there!!!  Now, the descendants of my maternal great-great grandparents had one family reunion in Cincinnati but I did not go.  Even if I did, I would have been too young to remember. 

Me: Where have you found your ancestors come from?  Would you want to visit the lands they hail from?

Matt:On both sides of my family, my great grandpas’ families come from England and my great grandmas’ families come from Germany.  On my maternal side, in Sale, England, there is a road called Goodier Street after my great-great grandfather, Joseph Goodier, and I’d love to go there and see it!!!

Me: What sort of activities do you participate in at your school?

Matt: In school I stick to more academic extra curricular activities.  I’m the Vice President of the Class of 2017 and I am involved in numerous history related activities.  I’m looking I join the golf team this year…

Me: Favorite color? Favorite food? Left-handed or right-handed? Do you like to have breakfast for dinner? Favorite book? Movie? TV show? Song/band?

Matt: I’ve always liked the color blue, it’s like the only color I ever wear!!!  I’m right handed and I never really got into TV.  I’m one of those kids that read an encyclopedia and if I do watch TV I watch the History Channel or C-SPAN.  I really like classical orchestra / piano music.  I’m a pianist myself!

Me: Do you have any funny quirks that you’ve inherited from your family?

Matt:  Everyone in my family has a certain laugh.  It’s really hard to explain but it’s on my dad’s side. It follows us everywhere!!!

Me: If you could share one message with your 7 billion cousins what would it be?

Matt: My message to my 7 billion cousins would be that Adam and Eve started us out and that we should take time to get to know people better starting with the family that we know, such as first cousins or your siblings.  Treat everyone with severe kindness, because you don’t want your family to have a bad opinion of you! Always stay happy.

AJ and Matt connect through Henry Cook, Matt’s 12 great grandfather and one of the first settlers of Connecticut. 

(If you would like to be featured in an “I Am A Cousin” post please contact me at gfrcousincoordinator@gmail.com!) 

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/

Cousin Connection Tip #4: Collaborate!

Post by Abby Glann

Hello Cousins!
So far, we’ve interviewed our family, put together a pedigree chart so we can easily see our tree, and we’ve started on those family group sheets which help keep track of all the little details associated with our various families. I hope you’ve got a binder or something for all this-it starts to add up with time!
So, what next? 
In my own research I always get excited when I can get a little help from a friend…or a cousin, right?!!!? How do we go about doing that? Well, though there are still a lot of things we can do on our journey to finding our cousin connection, a great place to start looking for help and to share/store our family tree is on a collaborative family history site. Two sites in particular are helping AJ in his quest to connect the world in a giant Kum-By-Ya circle, and those are WikiTree.com and Geni.com. Both are fantastic places where you can add your family and then work with others to get some help in connecting you to the big old family tree. 

WikiTree is a collaborative site, 100% free, that focuses on working together on our shared ancestry using tools like their G2G forum where people can ask for help on research, merging shared ancestors to meet the site goal of one profile for each person, and connecting cousins via Projects and Categories.
Geni is a collaborative site, with two levels of membership, a free one where you can add your tree and start looking for connections, and a paid membership that allows you to get more involved in merging and making connections. Members can work with other cousins to find connections, and join one of their projects. They have great resources in their Projects and Message boards . 
There are so many things on each site to help with your research, and we’ll make sure to cover those tips as we come to them. For now, just join-that’s it. Pick a site, and set up your account, add your parents if you get the time. 

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

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