Friday, May 6, 2016

Close Encounters of a Family Kind

How does one end up marrying a third cousin without knowing it? Apparently, sometimes these things happen. Those who keep diligent track of every branch of their family tree would spot the issue immediately. But how many people out there are smitten with the genealogy bug, as we are? Despite the current rankings for popular genealogy shows on television, not that many.

In the case of my husband's family, the route went something like this, all beginning with two half-siblings, both sons of William Gordon. The eldest, James, was son of William and his first wife, Mary Carroll. Before the family moved from Greene County, Pennsylvania, to their final home in Perry County, Ohio, James married a woman named Sarah Rinehart. Among their ten (and counting) children was their first-born daughter, Nancy Ann. She married Simon Flowers in Perry County and had, among many others, a son whom the couple named Joseph.

Joseph, in turn, married and also had many children, including John Ambrose Flowers, born in 1885. Still in Perry County by this point, John Ambrose took a wife of his own, the young Bertha Metzger, daughter of Joseph Metzger and Bertha Gordon.

Oh oh. There's that Gordon surname again. Perhaps the coupleand their parents, toodidn't realize that significance because the groom's family hadn't had a Gordon surname since John Ambrose's paternal grandmother, who died six years after he was born. Besides, the bride's connection to the Gordon name was through her mother's maiden name. But still.

The young bride, Bertha, owed her surname to her father, Joseph Metzger, true, but that Gordon line came through to her, too, thanks to her mother's father, Adam Gordon.

The name Adam plus the surname Gordon is enough to give me grief. There seem to be more than one Adam Gordonall born about the same timeso I've had to tread carefully through this branch of the family tree. Still, a Gordon is a Gordon, and it's likely Adam's father was William H. Gordon, who turns out to be son of none other than William B. Gordon and his second wife, Mary Cain.

And that, my friend, is the full circle between half-siblings James and William Gordon.



  1. Half siblings and 3d cousins seems like they should be okay marriage wise? very little "shared dna" at that point, if I did the math right... <1/32....

    1. Yes, you are right, Iggy. Since the relationship started with half siblings rather than full siblings, the marriage in question is actually a bit of a degree farther removed than third cousins. Still, I have this doubt that anyone at the time questioned the relationship--or even realized there was one!

  2. My cousin once asked me not to trace her husband's line because she feared they are cousins. Yep - 5th cousins. But that's safe enough. My grandparents are also 5th cousins.

    1. I remember you mentioning that once, Wendy. Yeah, fifth cousins should be just fine. I think there was quite a bit of that in those early American (or colonial) families, simply because of limitations of population. Just wandering around those far reaches of several branches of our trees, I've noticed cousin connections of much closer kinds, too. It happened. Probably more than we like to think.


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