Streams

Are You Related to A.J. Jacobs?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Are you related to A.J. Jacobs, Esquire editor at large and author of Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically? Probably! In his latest project, A.J. is trying to create the world's biggest family tree, connecting him to everyone else on the planet. He discusses the project, the revolution in online genealogy, and the huge family reunion he's planning -- you're invited.

Add Yourself to A.J.'s Family Tree

On today's show, we're going to try and map part of A.J.'s tree live on the radio. Below is a list of famous people A.J. has already discovered he's related to. If you see someone on the list you know you're related to, call 212-433-9692 or post below. It means you're related to A.J. (our condolences) and you've earned a branch on his family tree.

  • Gwyneth Paltrow 
  • Albert Einstein 
  • Sir Paul McCartney 
  • Norman Mailer 
  • Gabrielle Giffords 
  • Albert Brooks 
  • Michael Bloomberg 
  • Quincy Jones 
  • Tony Kushner 
  • Judge Judy 
  • John Quincy Adams 
  • Leonard Nimoy 
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Even if you don't see a relative of yours on the list above, you can still help A.J.'s project by connecting your family tree to his -- here's how.

Guests:

A.J. Jacobs

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Comments [35]

David from Ringwood NewJersey

On Geni.com I entered about 50,000 ancestors but started only with Family than moved on to town where I grew up figuring we must all be related since 1630. What was interesting was that those people traveled 20+ miles to find mates,walking, horseback and not just hanging out secure in their hometown.
Got new data where owner of sugar plantation,(bought right before the civil war...probably failed)links all the black relatives back to this Mayflower passenger.Giles Hopkins, "Mayflower" Passenger is your fourth great aunt's second great grandfather. Neat.

Feb. 21 2014 01:20 PM
Amy from Manhattan

When I was in college, an English-as-a foreign-language from Syria asked if I had any relatives there. He said he knew a girl there who looked just like me. I'm Jewish, & it was the 1st time I ever thought of my ancestry as going beyond Eastern Europe. With all the violence going on in Syria now, it only recently occurred to me to wonder about what might have happened to her (& to him).

Feb. 21 2014 12:16 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

the reason your white a$$ is related to an African-American is likely due to their ancestor being RAPED by a slave owner. Not much of a reason to celebrate THAT, huh?

Feb. 21 2014 12:02 PM
nyer

are there any resources for immigrants grandkids whose names were changed at Ellis Island to find out their original family names to be able to trace back?

Feb. 21 2014 11:59 AM
john from office.

Wow no one is related to a black person?

Like channeling past lives, we were all kings and queens in the past, not to manure collecting guy.

Feb. 21 2014 11:59 AM
diane allison from location

Not to prick the balloon, but to give a Christian viewpoint, Jesus said, "Call no man your father on earth, for one is your Father, which is in heaven." God is not a grandfather. We're brothers and sisters, not second-cousins three times removed, and its up to us to make the most of our life!
diane

Feb. 21 2014 11:59 AM
John A.

This "I think we're related" stuff sounds so naiive.
How can we not all be related? "The Invaders"?

Feb. 21 2014 11:58 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Stan -
"Knowing your immediate descendants can be medically helpful, but that you're the 84th cousin of Cookie Monster?"

ME am first COUSIN of COOKIE MONSTER! Now me KNOW, and me get MORE! COOKIE!! RAH!

Feb. 21 2014 11:57 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

In the final analysis, this is all just liberal "one world" and "borderless nation" stuff. Internationalist cosmopolitan stuff run amok. It's nice to know that our species is one species and interrelated, but besides that, I don't see the point.

Feb. 21 2014 11:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

oscar, if you're taking the Torah literally, on the one hand, Cain had other brothers besides Abel, starting w/Seth. On the other hand, because of the Flood, we're all descended from Noah & his wife.

Feb. 21 2014 11:57 AM
Rachel

Tell aj please but the event is on Shabbat!

Feb. 21 2014 11:56 AM
Tom Crisp from UWS

Huh? Your lineage does not include your cousin's in-laws. Nor your own in-laws, obviously, though your children's lineage does.

Feb. 21 2014 11:56 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

So you find some more relatives. Does that mean that your life will change, that you'll have some helpful connections? Not likely.

Most people roll their eyes at those who claim relations with famous people, it sounds desperate and attention-starved.

Feb. 21 2014 11:54 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Lothar Brieger, the caller said she couldn't get the *male* side of her family traced from her own DNA. The Y chromosome is passed down only from males to males, so whatever genetic info is in her father's Y chromosome (not the rest of his DNA) isn't in hers, or in her female relatives'. The DNA in her mitochondria come only from her mother's mother's (etc.) side & can't be used to trace her father's side. These sources are so sex-specific they can't even show you're related to your maternal grandfather or paternal grandmother.

Feb. 21 2014 11:49 AM
Stan

Why does anyone want to know his or her genealogy? What good will it do you to learn that you're a distant relation of the 17th century king of Serbia? How will that change your life? Knowing your immediate descendants can be medically helpful, but that you're the 84th cousin of Cookie Monster? , , , , A person will never be anything other than he or she is, and a cousin's fame, distant or immediate, will not rub off on the person. Besides,isn't all humanity one big family.? Didn't human life begin in Africa?

Feb. 21 2014 11:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

By the end of the century we'll be producing babies in factories so none of this "family" stuff will matter in any case. We are all born alone and die alone and all of this family stuff is just clutter in between anyhow. We all have our own destinies and nobody should have to be tied to, nor obligated to anyone else. No, I'm not my brother's keeper, nor seek to be kept.

Feb. 21 2014 11:47 AM
Dan from Richmond County

Same goes for me, regarding Giles Hopkins.
I already have an extensive tree built on Geni, so I'll contact AJ tonight

Feb. 21 2014 11:46 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

By the end of the century we'll be producing babies in factories so none of this "family" stuff will matter in any case. We are all born alone and die alone and all of this family stuff is just clutter in between anyhow. We all have our own destinies and nobody should have to be tied to, nor obligated to anyone else. No, I'm not my brother's keeper, nor seek to be kept.

Feb. 21 2014 11:45 AM
oscar from ny

Humans are all descended of Cain

Feb. 21 2014 11:42 AM
Ellen Forman from Englewood NJ


I have two amazing family trees The one on my mothers side dates back to 1760 and the one of my father side expect to 1790. We could have a very big party in New York City next summer. From a friend, Adam Brown, I just confirmed that I am related to AJ!
Yes!!!!   Arnold S. Jacobs, Sr. is Ellen Forman's fourth cousin's husband's first cousin's wife's second cousin's husband's father.
Ellen Forman
   →  Janice Epstein
her mother →  Jesse Block
her father →  Abraham Block Razumny
his father →  Jehuda Leb Razumny
his father → Moshe Klikoler Bagg
his brother →  David Bagg
his son →  Louis Bagg
his son →  Leo Bagg
his son →  Gillian Bagg
his daughter →  Kenneth Katz
her husband →  Shirley Katz
his mother →  David Schachter
her brother →  Jonathan Fuchs Schachter
his son →  Carol Sara Schoenberg
his wife →  Franklyn Schoenberg
her father → Abraham Joseph Schoenberg
his father →  Samuel Schoenberg
his brother →  Lawrence Joseph Schoenberg
his son →  Julie Ruth Jacobs
his daughter → Arnold Stephen Jacobs, Jr.
her husband →  Arnold S. Jacobs, Sr.
his father

Feb. 21 2014 11:42 AM
Jennifer Tait from New Jersey

You mentioned Giles Hopkins of the Mayflower. I'm a cousin-in-law of your guest--my husband is also descended from Giles Hopkins.

Feb. 21 2014 11:41 AM
Lothar Brieger from Manhattan

A caller said she is disappointed that DNA will not trace the female line. Your guest did not really answer her question. Newer methods of DNA testing now trace both the male and female lines of families.

Feb. 21 2014 11:39 AM
Bob from Westchester

I think Mr. Jacobs should take the privacy issues more seriously. The more info you disclose, the easier it is to have your identity stolen (e.g., common password recovery questions include "mother's maiden name" and "father's city of birth", which you are now posting openly on line.) Could you discuss this issue more?

Feb. 21 2014 11:38 AM
John A.

Wow, the BioInformatics Challenge.
Don't stop until everyone is connected.
I think it's Iceland that already finished it for their country.
There Will be some surprises however,
to the tune of who someones Real father will be, etc.

Feb. 21 2014 11:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

So we're all related from Adam and Eve through Noah, so what's the point? We're all "out of Africa."

And your guests talking about their problems due to adoption only buttresses my opposition to adoption just as long as any biological parents remain alive. Adoption should be only for true homeless orphans and not to serve the interests of childless couples or neer-do-wells acting as "do-gooders" scooping up third world kids to "save them from poverty."

Feb. 21 2014 11:36 AM
Lothar Brieger from Manhattan

A caller said she is disappointed that DNA will not trace the female line. Your guest did not really answer her question. Newer methods of DNA testing now trace both the male and female lines of families.

Feb. 21 2014 11:35 AM

Please list some resources on how the family tree was obtained.I would like to explore my background as well. That said it is conceivable that we are related.

Feb. 21 2014 11:33 AM
Kirsten from Manhattan

Giant family trees can lead to some interesting social situations. While chatting with some very snooty family friends of an ex-boyfriend, they bragged about being Mayflower descendants of John and Priscilla Alden. Thanks to my Grandma's genealogy hobby I was able to say, "Hey, we're related!" They changed the subject.

Feb. 21 2014 11:33 AM
Fishmael from NYC


Hi Cousins,

Can your guest comment on "Mitochondrial Eve"? and the idea that, in fact, all modern humans descend from one couple? (in a scientific, not religious, sense)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

Feb. 21 2014 11:33 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

As an Ashkenazi Jew, I'm probably related to Einstein, Mr. Spock and Gwyneth, too.
So what?
It's not like that novel knowledge will change my life.

Feb. 21 2014 11:31 AM
Hadassah Gielchinsky from Bergenfield, NJ

I also have a relative 0 my third cousin- in Israel who has a huge family tree. Maybe I'm also a long lost cousin of AJ.

Feb. 21 2014 11:31 AM
K Hatch from nyc

I'm related to John Quincy Adams. I think George Bush is too.

Feb. 21 2014 11:30 AM
Clif from Manhattan

Yes, I take issue with paying for access to my family tree. We know that we are descendants of slaves and since our history was systematically denied us, it is insulting to have to pay for access to this information. If we are not to get reparations for slavery, then giving us our family history at no cost to us would be the least that could be done.

Feb. 21 2014 11:29 AM
James from Brooklyn

Please ask your guest about the influence of the Mormon church on the genealogy movement and their ulterior motive to baptize all the world's people present and past.

Feb. 21 2014 11:29 AM
larry dell from East Orange, NJ

I can't determine if I'm related to A.J. Jacobs because I was adopted in NYS and I'm legally prevented from knowing who my birth parents were. There are hundreds of thousands of NYS adoptees and birth parents in the same boat. Does A.J. support opening up the secret files so that everyone can connect with parents, siblings and relatives.

Feb. 21 2014 11:16 AM

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