If you think you know your family tree, think again. It’s about to get a whole lot bigger, if author A.J. Jacobs has anything to say about it.
There are 7 billion – yes, billion – people on our planet and Jacobs says we are all related, albeit distantly.
Jacobs, the bestselling author of “The Year of Living Biblically,” in which he attempted to follow the literal words of the Bible for a year, and “Drop Dead Healthy,” where he tried out every diet plan and workout, has a new mission: to throw the world’s biggest family reunion next summer in New York.
It all began after Jacobs received an email from a fan in Israel, who informed Jacobs that he was a distant cousin of his wife, and was related to notables like Karl Marx and 80,000 more. The revelation sparked Jacob’s fascination with genealogy, and prompted him to start playing the connections game. So far, he has mapped out his family tree to include up to 77 million distant relatives.
“I’ve gotten some wonderful reactions from people who say they don't feel alone anymore. They feel connected,” Jacobs said. “You know, ‘no man is an island.’ I've had people quote that to me all the time.”
The list includes a host of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Radcliffe, former President George H.W. Bush, even Abe Lincoln, Albert Einstein and more. (He’s ironically related to the king of the connections game, Kevin Bacon. Bacon is Jacobs’ first cousins twice removed’s wife’s niece’s husband’s first cousin once removed’s niece’s husband).
ABC News’ Sarah Haines hit the streets of New York City with Jacobs to discover even more relatives, but first established their mutual connection. The two are related, a mere 31 steps away. Jacobs is Haines’ fourth-great-uncle’s great-uncle’s first-cousin’s daughter-in-law’s third-great-uncle’s fifth-great-granddaughter’s nephew. (Got that, straight?)
Jacobs is also connected to the “GMA” anchor team: 17 steps to Amy Robach and 32 connections to George Stephanopoulos.
Are you part of Jacob’s family?
Jacobs has teamed up with MyHeritage, Geni.com, and WikiTree, collaborative family tree websites, to power the reunion. All you have to do is put in the names of your relatives and the tool will search to see whether your relatives match with any of Jacob's. You can also email your ancestors to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacobs needs at least 4,514 relatives to attend the family reunion to beat the current record and score a spot in the Guinness World Records, so save the date for June 6, 2015, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York.