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Family tree - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010 12:00 am

It sounds like the old kid’s song about the ankle bone being connected to the shin bone and the shin bone being connected to the knee bone, etc.

Thanks to genealogists, we find out that President Obama and the Republican who captured Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and — in the process put a kink in the health care plans of Democrats — actually are distant relatives.

The Associated Press reported that the New England Historic Genealogical Society has determined that Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and Scott Brown’s mother, Judith Ann Rugg, both descend from Richard Singletary of Haverhill, Mass.

But it also is reported that the mutual ancestor died in 1687 at the ripe old age of 102. For the record, that makes the president and the new senator 10th cousins, hardly stuff of congenial family reunions.

But we Americans love such nostalgic and trivial stuff, even if it really doesn’t have any relevance in a political or even contemporary context. There’s nothing like a coincidence to tickle our soap opera inner selves.

"I think it’s a really interesting thing, where you have the separation between a Democrat and a Republican, but you have one link," said David Allen Lambert, the society genealogist who co-discovered the connection with colleague Chris Child.

Lambert said the work was aided by prior research about Obama, as well as Brown’s cooperation with the society when researchers first contacted him in December.

This family tree stuff really isn’t that new when it comes to Obama. In 2008, the society discovered that the current president is related to seven prior presidents, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman and James Madison.

And for some variety, they also discovered Obama and actor Brad Pitt are related.

This seems to bolster the six degrees of separation theory that is based on the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is, at most, six steps away from any other person. It was popularized in a play written by John Guare and has resulted in a trivia game called the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The idea is to link Bacon with any other actor or actress and his or her film roles within six steps.

OK, so it took 10 steps to link Obama and Brown.

Taking all this nonsense a step further, we don’t know how many steps it took, but apparently George Stephanopoulos, co-anchor of ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” is related to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Stephanopoulos underwent DNA testing to promote “Faces of America With Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” a four-part series on family histories making its premiere Feb. 10 on PBS. The TV anchor was told Friday by Gates on air that he’s probably a material cousin of Hillary.

All righty now … anybody want to bet where the new theory of relativity is headed?

Odessa, TX

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