That’s right. You may not know it, but you’re my cousin… maybe my 19th cousin twice removed but still, my cousin. And while it means you owe me 29 birthday presents and 28 Christmas presents, I’ll overlook it because, well, we’re family.
I actually only just realized that we’re cousins recently thanks to the Global Family Reunion. The event was organized by one of my favorite writers, A.J. Jacobs, after a man from Israel emailed him to say he’d discovered they were 12th cousins. Inspired, A.J. got researching and found out how he was connected to the world’s most famous and infamous figures. (He also found out that he was related to his wife.)
After this realization, he planned the Global Family Reunion and invited everyone in an effort to break the world record for the biggest family reunion, based on the premise that we’re all related. Before going, visitors gave the name and birth dates of their parents and grandparents so the organizers could figure out how everyone was connected. It was a genealogy nut’s dream.
So on Saturday, I grabbed my
boyfriend cousin Ryan and we headed to a park beside the Hall of Science in Corona, Queens to catch up with the fam.
The event was far bigger than I’d expected; there were food vendors selling snacks from all over the world, as well as genealogy companies, games and competitions. Musicians and comedians entertained the crowd from a main stage, while inside the museum, talks from famous faces – including Morgan Spurlock, Kevin Allison and ‘Rainbow Connection’ songwriter Paul Williams – continued throughout the day.
Ryan and I watched presentations about family by CNN’s Bill Weir and comedian Ophira Eisenberg before Dr Oz gave us tips on how to make sure our relatives stay healthy. There was also a video message from George W.H. Bush, a name you might recognize seeing as he’s your cousin.
There was also a giant poster that plotted all of A.J.’s high-profile ancestors and relatives, from Abraham Lincoln to Madonna.
Great music performances came courtesy of Tuelo and her Cousins – a brilliant band led by South African singer Tuelo Minah. I’ve seen them play at various smaller venues throughout the city and it was so exciting to see them shaking it up on a much bigger stage.
Between watching performances and listening to talks, it was so easy to get chatting to people. We met some great cousins visiting from Connecticut and one of the cutest moments was when a youngster named Charlie ran up to us and said, ‘Hi cousins! Can one of you play chess with us?’ (Sadly the answer was no. I have yet to complete ‘Today’s the day I learn how to play chess’.)
Oh, and we spoke to this guy too – although he wasn’t that chatty back. His card tricks were pretty decent though.
While the space was big, there weren’t really enough cousins to fill it, and I wasn’t convinced that we managed to break the world record for the biggest family reunion in one place. On last check, the Times Ledger says 3,700 people went – just a bit short of the 4,500 record.
Still, we hopefully managed to break a few others: the biggest hug, the most simultaneous connected reunions across the world (as many as 40!) and, most importantly, the largest number of people singing ‘We Are Family’ together. With Sister Sledge themselves.
As I bopped along in the crowd below – while admiring Ted Allen’s awkward dad dancing – it felt really, really good. While the event wasn’t as full as I’m sure they’d have liked, it was definitely brimming with lots of good feelings. Everyone was friendly, everyone was having fun and – I know it sounds hokey – but I had this overpowering feeling that we were all just the same. Just one big family.
Another highlight was meeting the organizer, A.J. Jacobs. Way back at the start of this blog’s lifetime – just as I had started my challenge of doing a new thing in the city every day – I met A.J. at a comedy night. As someone who’s spent extended periods of time throwing himself into a project (living the teachings of the bible for a year, reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover), A.J. was really inspiring to me at the time, and he continues to be, so it was such a treat to chat with him again. Now I’m looking forward to his next book – entitled ‘It’s All Relative’ and starring you, me and his seven billion other cousins.
You should go out and buy it when it’s out. Family are supposed to support each other, you know.
The first Global Family Reunion was held on Saturday June 6 in Corona, Queens, but A.J. plans on bringing it back next year so keep an eye on his website for updates. Tickets were $20 and all profits went to Alzheimer’s research.