Could it be? Could I really be related to him? Does she really have a blood connection to me?
We all want to think that somewhere deep in our family's tree, there are famous relatives hiding, just waiting to be found. Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, the first President of the United States: think of the excitement you would feel should you stumble across a connection to a famous person in history!
If you are interested in your family's history, it is only natural to wonder whether you bear any relationship to a famous person from the past. Though sharing a surname with someone else does not guarantee that you are related to them, it certainly can be intriguing to consider the possibility that your family possesses famous relatives! However, to find out the truth, you must dig deeply into history - and that's where the fun begins.
Your family's surname is clearly a good place to start, as surnames are often descriptive. In fact, your surname typically indicates the geographical location where your distant relatives were born, and certainly the location of your earliest family roots. However, it is important to realize that a surname alone cannot guarantee a blood relationship to another individual, let alone a famous person throughout history. That's where good research and a keen eye come into play.
To determine whether you are related to a famous person, you may need to go back several generations prior to the time of that individual's birth. You might have a common ancestor who was this famous person's great-great grandfather, for example. To make this determination, you will need to follow the same steps you follow in other genealogical research.
It will take a considerable amount of patience and effort on your part to begin to put together the pieces of your family tree puzzle, but the results can be quite rewarding. You may start your search for a blood relationship with a famous person who shares the same name by reading biographies about the famous person and finding out details about the names of his or her family members. Then, you track those names in the same manner you do in other family histories. Luckily, thanks to the Internet, there are a number of online resources that can guide you in the right direction when seeking biographical material on a famous person.
When conducting your research, you should look at vital records (i.e. birth, death and marriage records). Many of these vital records can be accessed by the specific state's department of health and vital records. Depending upon where your relative was born, married, and died, you may need to look into different states to access all of the vital records. If the state search does not provide sufficient information, you can also look into the specific county clerk's office. It is important to know that most state and local offices have online resources that allow you access information without actually having to visit the office itself. A short application and a few dollars are all that's typically needed to request birth and/or death records. Be aware, however, that many state and local vital statistics offices will not release personal information unless it is over 100 years old.
To create the most interesting family histories, you need to mine the rich data resources available to you. Armed with vital records and census documents, you can begin to reveal all the information you could ever dream of finding about your ancestors. To make the family tree more interesting, include a smattering of information about the society and the time period in which your ancestors lived. And, if you have a famous person in your line, be sure to highlight that point and find out everything you can about them and their connection to your family.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - This comprehensive website provides resources to each state's records and how you can obtain vital records. There are direct links to each state's vital statistics office.
You may also want to look into divorce records, as well as court records. These documents can shed further light on your relatives, and you can check with the state or county's superior courts to access these documents. Depending on the state, you may also find this information at the county clerk's office.
National Archives - If you are looking for an ancestor from more than 70 years ago, census records are a great resource to provide you with untold information about your distant relative. Try the National Archives for this type of information; simply click on the "Genealogy" link to find more information.