A rose is a rose, except when it's a Rosenburg. So often I read e-mails
from individuals who share a surname with someone famous and they immediately
jump to the conclusion that they are somehow related to that famous
person. For some, this is what gets them involved in genealogy in the
If you do discover a "famous" surname, don't jump to any
conclusions. Research that line just as you would any other surname
you are working on. Take the line back as far as you can. You need to
be familiar with your own branch of that surname before you can even
begin to figure out a connection to the famous person who shares the
surname. Oftentimes the connection will not be made until you get back
to the immigrant ancestor.
It is important that you research all of your lineage, don't just concentrate
on the famous surname. You may find that your connection to someone
famous comes through a totally unexpected side of the family.
By thoroughly researching your lineage, you are not only learning
about your history, but also becoming familiar with the surnames
you have hanging on your family tree, and taking your lineages
back through the generations. Generally it will be back in the
past generations that you will find your connection to the famous
individual. For instance, my connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder
is in the 1600s.
While you are working on your own family history, you will also want
to be investigating what exists for the famous individual you think
you are related to. There are many Web sites with famous individuals
on them, including our own Celebrity Trees.
And of course there are a number of published volumes and lineages found
Remember, though, that any research you come upon is a secondary source.
You need to spend some time looking into primary documents to verify
the accuracy of the research and conclusions you have discovered in
the other records. This also helps you become familiar with the lineage
of the famous person. And remember that you may need to go back a considerable
number of generations to find the connection.
Just because you have the same name as a famous person, don't assume
that you are related. However, there will be times when you discover
that you do connect to a famous individual. And for many, the search
is the real fun. You will not find the ancestry of every famous individual,
as many of them have either not been compiled, or are not available
online. Don't neglect offline resources those that have been
published may be available through your local Family History Center.
And those online you may find through one of the sites mentioned above.
While it is fun to think that you might have some familial connection
with a famous person or two, in all reality it does nothing to change
who you are. You are still the same person whether you descend from
a famous politician, a notorious gun fighter, or hard-working farmer.