My Friend Dave Turns Out To Be My (Sixth) Cousin #NaBloPoMo

Cousins
Dave, Ledcat and Sue on October 22, 2916 – a week before we learned that we are cousins. Photo credit: Erin Gill Ninehouser

The most exciting update to my genealogy hobby is the discovery that my actual friend, Dave Ninehouser, is in fact my sixth cousin.

Dave is an awesome guy. He’s very progressive, likes animals, treats his wife with respect and appreciation, works food drives into lots of his efforts and intentionally relocated from Pittsburgh to Ambridge, Beaver County, to directly try to provide different narratives to rural Western Pennsylvanians. He’s wicked smart, very laid-back and kind.

He’s the ideal guy you want in your family. My family is filled with very very conservative people. Very.

So here’s what happened – I was digging a little more deeply into my Butler County roots which are deep. Several of my maternal ancestors were the original European families that established Butler County communities (I need to point out that they displaced the Indigenous residents, so they did not discover anything; they stole it.)

So two of those families are the Gallaghers and the Bleichners. The Gallaghers are Irish and the Bleichners are German-speaking Alsatian Catholics. As I was checking up on distant cousins and looking at the new ‘hints’ provided by the Ancestry.com software, I saw that a Spohn female married a man named Adam Ninehauser.

Just for kicks, I reached out to Dave and asked him if his family was local. He said yes, but he didn’t have a lot of details. So I added Dave to my tree software and it generated a link to his father’s obituary and that gave me all I needed to figure out how he fit into my overall tree.

Our common ancestors are Johann Matthis Bleichner (1764-1826) and his wife, Margareta Koenig (1771-1818) who lived in Alsace-Lorraine (sometimes France, sometimes Germany). Their children were the ones who emigrated to the United States.

Marguerite Bleichner married Martin Spohn and emigrated around 1830. They are Dave’s direct ancestor.

Marguerite’s younger brother, Nicholas, also was born in Alsace and emigrated in 1830. He married Elizabeth Zins and they are my direct ancestors.

So here is where it gets really interesting. Dave and I have nine relationships, not just our pretty straightforward sixth cousin status.

Dave is also my

  • 3rd great grand nephew of my 1st cousin 5x removed
  • 2nd great grand nephew of my 2nd cousin 4x removed
  • 2nd great grand nephew of 2nd cousin 4x removed
  • 2nd great grand nephew of niece of 1st cousin 5x removed

So what’s up with that? These original European settlers (and colonizers to be fair) intermarried. If James married Elizabeth, his brother might end up marrying her sister. Or his uncle might marry her aunt. Or his widowed sister-in-law might marry her brother. The towns were small so socialization was often driven by family ties. Thus, while none of this violates civil or canon law, it does create a tangled web of a family tree. Factor in a time when second cousins marrying was not uncommon and the so called ‘double cousin’ scenario where a set of brothers marries a set of sisters (creating cousins on both sides) … shit gets real.

I’m very excited because if I had to pick ten people to whom I wanted to discover a relationship, Dave (and his wife Erin) would be on the list. I often feel very much an outcast from my family so finding new relatives that share my values and political beliefs is a genuine gift.

There’s added beauty when you consider the nonprofit Dave runs with his wife, Erin – HearYourSelfThink.org. They are dedicated to improving relationships, including family relationships.

“The Fox Effect” has divided the nation by poisoning hearts and minds with fear, rage, and misinformation. Its inflammatory and hateful propaganda is dividing families, pitting friends, neighbors and co-workers against one another, and weakening our ability to think critically and act rationally as citizens in a democracy. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we CAN break through ideology and tribalism to create the space for people to hear themselves think. 

We can reclaim America’s brain from “The Fox Effect” by helping our friends, neighbors, and family to see through the tricks, lies, and manipulations used by the likes of Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh.

We believe knowledge and understanding are true power, and that having real insights into how the right-wing media indoctrinates people and warps our public discourse will enable us to begin deprogramming America and bending the cultural curve back toward sanity.

By deprogram, we don’t mean convert to any one political point of view. We mean stopping this manipulative force and the damage it causes to individuals and in our culture.

Just to give you the sense of what Dave has dedicated his life to and how cool he remains in the face of vile and evil behavior, here’s a video they recorded in Ambridge a few weeks ago.

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