I grew up in a relatively small family with only 1 cousin (a second cousin) my age. It felt normal to me, because it’s what I knew. It wasn’t until I married my husband – who has a plethora of cousins (like, 85 FIRST COUSINS) – that I realized how much I missed out on cousins growing up. For many of his siblings, their cousins are their best friends that will remain throughout their life. In many ways I am sad I don’t have relationships like that, and have made it a point to ensure my kids get to have that kind of relationship with their cousins.
While I didn’t have close cousin relationships, I am lucky enough to have some great friendships. One of those great friendships is with Tiffany. Her husband and mine served together on their missions for our church and she and I met when my husband and I were dating. Despite the fact that we live in different states, she’s become one of my best friends – the kind of friend you call on both your best and worst days knowing they’ll be there to cry with you, laugh with you or cheer you on.
A couple years ago we decided to take a trip together – Tiff and I and our husbands – to get some kid-free time to hang out and catch up. We decided where to go (we’d fly into Boston and travel a bit around New England) and started planning our trip. As we were planning where exactly to go and what to see I mentioned visiting First Parish Church in Plymouth since I had ancestors that came on the Mayflower. She mentioned she had family on the Mayflower as well. We thought it would be SO COOL if it was a common ancestor and we would be, like, 13th cousins or something. Well, we checked our records and it WAS a common ancestor!
“Let’s keep going down the line and see where it splits” I said. So we texted names back and forth as we moved down our family lines:
“Elizabeth White is my next relative down”
“Then Obadiah Wheeler…”
“Then Peregrine Wheeler…”
By this time we’re thinking this is amazing, and getting really tired because it’s super late. The next morning I wake up to a text from Tiff, “Who is your closest Wheeler ancestor?” We’re dying to know how close our lines are at this point and going generation by generation is taking too long so working back from where we’re at seems like the best bet.
“My grandpa, John Wheeler” I answer.
“THIS JOHN WHEELER?!” She texts back, along with a picture of my grandpa.
I called her immediately with a million questions. “How did you get this picture? Do you know my grandpa?! HOW ARE WE RELATED?!”
It turns out that we are second cousins once removed. Her mom and I are second cousins. My mom and her grandma are FIRST COUSINS. Her great-grandma and my grandpa are brother and sister. I knew her great grandma as a young girl. TEN YEARS we’d been best friends at this point, across different states, only meeting because our husbands served together on their missions – and we didn’t even know we were cousins.
Now, completely unexpectedly, I find myself with that close cousin relationship I’d wanted. We didn’t grow up together but we share so many common ancestral traits and stories, and we’re still close as can be.
Mine surely isn’t the only story like this. Nearly every time I’ve connected with someone on Family Search or Relative Finder, we’ve been related in some way. Even finding out someone is my 10th cousin feels so exciting and makes me feel more connected to them.
When we realize just how close we are, how interconnected we are to those around us, we start to see the world a little bit differently. We feel, more tangibly, part of something larger. We are reminded that, “[We are] not forgotten or alone because we are all part of a larger family.” -Neil L. Andersen