Monday, April 4, 2011

Being From New England, One Expects This Sort of Thing

Sunday morning I took a book off of my shelf and perused. "Cloak and Gown" is about the Yale graduates who, disproportionately, populated the CIA and its World War II predecessor, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). The book consists largely of a series biographies of Yalies.

My eye fell on one about Norman H. Pearson. I was quickly more interested by the account of Pearson's early years. He was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1909. This is not far from Worcester where I grew up. My father often drove around Worcester County as part of his work, and I remember that he often went to Gardner. Then I noticed that Pearson's mother's maiden name was Fanny Kittredge. I thought, wait, I am descended from Kittredges if you go back far enough (five generations, it turns out); so I spent the rest of Sunday--until I had to go to work--trying to work out whether Pearson and I are related.

We are indeed related. Seventh cousins, twice removed. That means that if you go back, my eighth great-grandparents are the same as his sixth great-grandparents. It also happens to mean that my grandmother (born 1903) was in the same generation as Pearson; so they were seventh cousins, period, not removed. BTW, Norman Pearson's uncle on his mother Fanny's side was Alfred B. Kittredge who, though born in the same New Hampshire town as Fanny, became a U.S. Senator from South Dakota. (And I thought I could write a post without reference to politics.)

The migration from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that occurred during 1630-1640 was only large in comparison to the smaller but more famous arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. Over the next several generations, this relatively small population burgeoned into millions largely through intermarriage among the members of the first families. The result is that if you are related to one of these families, you are related to several of them. If you are willing to go out to seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth cousins, everybody whose ancestors arrived in New England before 1700 is related to everybody else.

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