Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Two Degrees of Separation

For this week's Fun, Randy Seaver challenges us to see how far back in time we can go with two degrees of separation. For those less familiar with the concept as relates to the game using Kevin Bacon and six degrees of separation, Randy describes this as, "you knew an ancestor, who knew another ancestor."

I decided to examine my four grandparents.

The first (and easiest) scenario that came to mind was the first:

Scenario 1. Me - I knew my maternal grandmother, Mae Gouverneur Cadwalader (1923-2000). I remember my grandmother telling me stories about visiting "Bonnemama," her maternal grandmother, Sarah Drexel Fell Van Rensselaer (1860-1929).

So that takes me back to the 1860's. My maternal grandmother was the youngest of my four grandparents. I wondered if I could go any farther back with any of the others.

Scenario 2. Me - I knew my paternal grandfather, Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1917-2000). By the time Richard was born in 1917, his two grandfathers and all of his great-grandparents has passed away. I presume he would have at least met either of his grandmothers - Adeline Emma Stone Greenleaf (1849-1936) or Helen Coolidge Adams (1848-1929). But I don't know this for certain - I don't think I have anything (evidence or oral tradition) that proves he ever met them. But since they all lived in geographic regions not too far separated, Albany and New York City, I surmise he probably knew both women.

This presumably takes me back to the 1840's. But it's conjecture. And a similar conjecture scenario occurs with my maternal grandfather.

Scenario 3. Me - I knew my maternal grandfather, Joseph Harrison Worrall (1913-1979). My grandfather died when I was quite young, and at the moment I'm not recalling any stories I know about which ancestors he'd known. For this one, I used Reunion's timeline software to map out some possibilities.

The farthest back I could possibly go here is 1830 - birth date of his maternal great-grandmother, Margaret Wilen Sharpless Delany (1830-1924).

My final grandparent scenario is, for lack of a better word, frustrating. This is the line with the only one of my great-grandparents I knew. But it's also the line I know the least about. So how far back I go (at the moment) is limited by my research.

Scenario 4. Me - I knew my great-grandmother, Irene Gillespie McCormick (1891-1976). Irene knew her father, Henry Edward Gillespie (1854-1933) and her mother-in-law, Margaret Gilligan McCormick (1851-1927). The results would be the same for my grandmother, Irene's daughter, Ann McCormick (1919-1992). The difference here is I'm certain Irene knew her father, and fairly certain she knew her mother-in-law who was still living at the time of Irene's marriage in 1916. This cluster of family all lived in Albany, so I'm fairly certain Irene would have met her mother-in-law on several occasions at the very least.

From what research I've done about the McCormick family tracing their migration patterns, Irene would not likely have known older McCormick relations. But there were probably older Gillespie family ancestors Irene did know - I just need to find them.

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