Ancestry has just released an app called “We’re Related” and it’s kind of fun – possibly highly inaccurate but fun, as long as you take its findings with a pinch of salt.
How it works isn’t especially transparent. I downloaded the app and was asked to connect to my tree on Ancestry and identify which person I was within the tree. Once I did this it produced a series of “insights” for me about famous people I’m related to. My results were a veritable array of hunks and geniuses including Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Robert Pattinson. Well, when I say a veritable array I mean it gave me precisely 5 connections – the 3 above named “hunks” plus Steven Hawking and Peyton Manning.
The app claims that Matt Damon and I are (possibly) 7th cousins and here is the chart that shows the possible connection:
(Can you see the resemblance?)
If you click on the number just above each person’s face (in the app) it shows the line of descent for both of us from our suggested common ancestor, Agnes Brown, to the present day. There are names and dates for each person in the line of descent but no further information.
Matt (I think I can call him that now, right?) is a descendant of Agnes Brown through one of her daughters called Mary Wight. I supposedly descend from Agnes Brown through her son Robert Wight. A search on Ancestry showed various family trees recording an Agnes Brown born in Roxburghshire, Scotland around 1710 and that she married a William Wight. The Wight surname is certainly one that I have in my ancestry on my mum’s side but I’d have to do more digging to see if we connect to this Wight line. I really don’t know how Ancestry calculated the connection between Agnes Brown and Matt Damon and that’s where we have to be skeptical. Which is unfortunate because most people with an interest in genealogy and family history work very hard to prove connections between families using existing documents rather than hearsay or smoke and mirrors. I wonder how many celebrity ancestries are in their app to compare against? Is Matt Damon going to connect with me any day now on Facebook and suggest a family get together?
If you do have a tree on Ancestry and you’d like to download the app it’s in the App Store or Google Play. I’d love to hear how many of us it suggests are actually related to Matt, Brad or any of my other new family!