Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Our Presidents; Robin Hood would not approve
February 20, 2012 6:02 PM   Subscribe

It's a crazy ol' world: All Presidents (but one) are related; via King John, the foe of Robin Hood. And they said irony was dead.
posted by dejah420 (79 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
What irony? It totally proves the power of genetics.
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


wake up sheeple!
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is there any way to actually examine what this kid is claiming other than buying her poster? I'm not seeing it offhand. (And if anyone can address the "6,000,000 to 1 odds" claim, I'd love to see it. That sounds kind of fishy to me but I know I don't have the math.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did King John have relatives in Secret Muslim relatives in Kenya?
posted by wabbittwax at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


VAN BUREN!!!!
posted by briank at 6:11 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mmm. Time for the link to Dawkins' comment about common ancestors being exponentially more likely further back...

Also I believe what you mean is that they have the genes to repress the common folk or something? (I learn everything I know from the Telegraph).
posted by jaduncan at 6:12 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


This young lady is easily in the top five most adorable researchers I've ever been made aware of.

Thanks for a neat post!
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did King John have Secret Muslim relatives in Kenya?

Man, who doesn't these days?
posted by mhoye at 6:22 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Martin Van Buren: Vote for me! I'm NOT part of a secret alien lizard bloodline!
posted by KingEdRa at 6:22 PM on February 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


One of the secrets to BridgeAnne's work was to trace the genealogy of both parents.

I'm no genealogist, but that seems a bit... obvious.
posted by Auguris at 6:24 PM on February 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


And if anyone can address the "6,000,000 to 1 odds" claim, I'd love to see it. That sounds kind of fishy to me but I know I don't have the math.
I have no idea what (if anything) they used to calculate that, but no matter what it's almost certainly garbage, even if they didn't pull it out of thin air.

The real odds depend on what they mean by "in this EXACT manner", and can range from "virtually guaranteed" (i.e. "the odds that 42 random Americans with some European ancestry have a common ancestor if you look back a thousand years") to "way, way, way, way, way less than one in six million" (i.e. "the odds that the father's father's father's mother's mother's father's mother's... father of the first is the same as the mother's father's mother's mother's mother's mother's father's father's... mother's father of the second and the ... of the forty-second").

So somewhere in that range of odds, with results ranging all the way from virtually zero to virtually guaranteed, there might be some essentially meaningless statement whose odds work out to 1 in 6,000,000. But I'd bet they just pulled the number out of the air.
posted by Flunkie at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Pssssssst: Robin Hood? Made up.
posted by pompomtom at 6:27 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, but thanks to thatbig bottleneck in human population way back, we're all really related to each other.

Also, I just got back my 23 and me test results and I'm super jealous of people with African ancestry cause it's much more granular, like down to exact tribes, than any other ancestry out there cause humans started in Africa and the diversity is much richer and all I can get is "UH LIKE EUROPE" if it wasn't for the Viking genes I wouldn't even be able to tell what ocean they faced.
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


But I'd bet they just pulled the number out of the air.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought.

all I can get is "UH LIKE EUROPE"

I am, according to 23 and Me, part Germanic, part Norse, and part Celtic. I figure I had some really unfortunate ancestors who lived on a river mouth somewhere.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:30 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got "Most common type in Europe" maternal line and "Atlantic facing northern european" on paternal, so I am able to say yes, I am the whitest guy you know.

really the barrel-chested blondish freckly red-beard guy with the norman surname is CELTISH, how utterly fascinating
posted by The Whelk at 6:34 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I demand Dawkins apologize for this.
posted by mek at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


The surprise is not that 43 are provably related, but that Martin Van Buren is not.
posted by Jehan at 6:38 PM on February 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


She got second prize at the scientism faire.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:44 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, wow, I'd never paid any attention to 23 and Me, and that's kind of creepy. I'm pretty sure my ancestry would come back as "yup, you're really Jewish," but do I really want to know about my weird diabetes genes or that I'm destined to get toenail cancer or whatever?

But I really came here to say that BridgeAnne D'Avignon is perhaps the silliest name that anyone has ever been named. BridgeAnne herself seems totally lovely, but sadly she has a name out of a fifth-rate romance novel.
posted by craichead at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


but one -- Now see, here I thought it was going to be Obama, because he was immaculately conceived.
posted by crunchland at 6:50 PM on February 20, 2012


Which is funny cause my 23 And Me profile was like a big "Wow you should really breed" checklist and I'm not gonna.
posted by The Whelk at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2012


What I would like to see is the common guy (way more recent than Abraham) who gave paternal DNA down to Ariel Sharon and the Ayatollah Khomeni. The reason for all the hatred is at root a family feud. Hatfields & McCoys except they might soon both have nukes.
posted by bukvich at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course Martin Van Buren is the odd man out -- he was always a rebel. Why do you think there's that gang of street toughs named after him: the Van Buren Boys!
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:54 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


tunnel snakes rule.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


To note, quite a few UK prime ministers are also descended from John, including the current, David Cameron.
posted by Jehan at 6:57 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Turns out, we're all related.
posted by chasing at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can anyone speak to the claims in some of the comments on the OP that "this is nothing new" etc? It seems the data was all there, but have people made this argument or one substantially similar before?
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2012


Turns out, we're all related.

OH GOD I HAVE COMMITTED SO MUCH INCEST THEN
posted by mightygodking at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


OH GOD I HAVE COMMITTED SO MUCH INCEST THEN

You and every other royal family member.

I'm actually kind of impressed at human genetic plasticity when it comes to inbreeding. You really have to work to concentrate defects and the like. Sometimes you get unlucky with hemophilia or whatever the hell was wrong with King Carlos, but you can keep the same 3-4 bloodlines in a village going in perpetuity without much effort.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2012


Tony Robinson has trotted out the "all the US Presidents are descended from the Plantagenets" thing in his various UK TV history programs since the early 2000s. Of course, according to Robinson, the rightful King of England is some car dealer in Australia, so.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2012


Martin van Buren is still the only US President who did not speak English as a first language, too. Van Buren was also one of the worst and most corrupt Presidents, so I am not sure that we've been doing so badly with the Plantagenets anyway.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As depicted in this highly accurate and educational video, my family is mostly from the Muunu Slipper Factory and the Land of Rap and Illiteracy.

Beat that, US presidents!
posted by cmyk at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The real point of comparison is -- if you pulled the same number of non-president English-lineage individuals from the same time points, how many of those random groups would also be related to King John? I'd assume it would be much closer to 100% than to 1/6M:
The idea that virtually anyone with a European ancestor descends from English royalty seems bizarre, but it accords perfectly with some recent research done by Joseph Chang, a statistician at Yale University. The mathematics of our ancestry is exceedingly complex, because the number of our ancestors increases exponentially, not linearly. These numbers are manageable in the first few generations -- two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great- grandparents -- but they quickly spiral out of control. Go back forty generations, or about a thousand years, and each of us theoretically has more than a trillion direct ancestors -- a figure that far exceeds the total number of human beings who have ever lived.

In a 1999 paper titled "Recent Common Ancestors of All Present-Day Individuals [pdf]," Chang showed how to reconcile the potentially huge number of our ancestors with the quantities of people who actually lived in the past. His model is a mathematical proof that relies on such abstractions as Poisson distributions and Markov chains, but it can readily be applied to the real world. Under the conditions laid out in his paper, the most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past only about six hundred years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang's model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today. - source
posted by benzenedream at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The surprise is not that 43 are provably related, but that Martin Van Buren is not.

Are you really all that surprised that the Fox of Kinderhook had something up his sleeve? They didn't call him "the little magician" for nothing.
posted by indubitable at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I created this unique chart showing President Obama surrounded by all his cousins.

this girl is the ultimate birther troll.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:21 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Va Buren belonged to a whole separate secret gang, which is still around. Their sign is crossing the hands, with one hand with all the fingers 'up' and spread out. The other hand has all but the thumb and pointer finger up, for a total of eight (cite)
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:23 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


BridgeAnne herself seems totally lovely, but sadly she has a name out of a fifth-rate romance novel.

She's probably Mormon.
posted by clarknova at 7:28 PM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ooooh. That makes sense! I forgot about the Mormon name thing.
posted by craichead at 7:31 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: "I'm actually kind of impressed at human genetic plasticity when it comes to inbreeding. You really have to work to concentrate defects and the like. Sometimes you get unlucky with hemophilia or whatever the hell was wrong with King Carlos, but you can keep the same 3-4 bloodlines in a village going in perpetuity without much effort."

Assuming you mean Charles II of Spain, he was so inbred it was if his parents were more closely related than siblings.
posted by deborah at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2012


What is "the Mormon name thing"?
posted by Flunkie at 7:34 PM on February 20, 2012


Like the Utah Baby Namer.
posted by craichead at 7:36 PM on February 20, 2012


Assuming you mean Charles II of Spain, he was so inbred it was if his parents were more closely related than siblings.

When put like that, it becomes a whole new disturbing thought. My brain really does not want to compute that.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:36 PM on February 20, 2012


BridgeAnne herself seems totally lovely, but sadly she has a name out of a fifth-rate romance novel.

She's probably Mormon.

Or French.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The surprise is not that 43 are provably related, but that Martin Van Buren is not.

His family was ultra-snooty about the whole Dutch patroon thing. They would never have sullied their line with low-class Mayflower arrivistes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:52 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assuming you mean Charles II of Spain, he was so inbred it was if his parents were more closely related than siblings.

I was! I blanked on his name, but yes, you really have to WORK to do that to a person and then whoops, biggest empire in the world lost in a generation. Isn't monarchy fun.
posted by The Whelk at 7:55 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


'Van Buren' is surprisingly difficult to rhyme. That lead to this little gem:

Who never did a noble deed?
Who of the people took no heed?
Who is the worst of tyrant's breed?
Van Buren!


A great political song, because you can introduce practically anyone's name. Verse 2:

Who would his friend, his country sell?
Do other deeds too base to tell -
Deserves the lowest place in hell?


See, I bet you're all thinking of someone right now...

Shamelessly cribbed from the USNA Men's Glee Club
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting observation but wretchedly presented. It would be useful first of all to know the likelihood of any given American being a descendent of King John, particularly among the racial and social groups who might have reasonably aspired to the presidency during the relevant period. At which point you'd be able to make a start on quantifying how improbable this really is. Glib "we're all related" observations are a little pointless.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:06 PM on February 20, 2012


Martin Van Buren should stop demurin':
He knows, I'd bet, he's a Plantagenet
posted by Flunkie at 8:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


His family was ultra-snooty about the whole Dutch patroon thing. They would never have sullied their line with low-class Mayflower arrivistes.

It does seem that Van Buren inherited a "pure" Dutch line, however it happened. But then, I thought John F Kennedy had all Irish ancestors, and wonder how he's provably connected to King John. I'm sure the bloodline is there, but the records for Irish genealogy aren't always that great.
posted by Jehan at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2012


These claims about ancestor relations always sound a little suspect to me. The records weren't always complete or clear, and wasn't there a lot of extra-marital carrying-on amongst the royals?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2012


He knows, I'd bet, he's a Plantagenet

That doesn't rhyme.
posted by goethean at 8:26 PM on February 20, 2012


He knows, I'd bet, he's a Plantagenet
That doesn't rhyme.
Sure it does. Are you perhaps under the impression that it's pronounced in a French-like manner, i.e. "Plantagenay"?

See here for audio of the pronunciation from Merriam-Webster's.
posted by Flunkie at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2012


so logically this should be our new national anthem then, right?
posted by elizardbits at 8:46 PM on February 20, 2012


Is there an image of a family tree somewhere I can look at? With the branches and such? I find I understand information best when it's sort of visualish.
posted by KChasm at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2012


My 'secret Muslim relatives' are Turks and Bosnians, and a few Tatars. ( Scratch a Russian, find a Tatar!)
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:07 PM on February 20, 2012


Oh, I'm related to King John. ( Mom's side) Ivan The Terrible (Dad's side) and Rurk the Great was a common ancestor of my mom and dad.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:09 PM on February 20, 2012


The Royal We
The mathematical study of genealogy indicates that everyone in the world is descended from Nefertiti and Confucius, and everyone of European ancestry is descended from Muhammad and Charlemagne
posted by stbalbach at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


so logically this should be our new national anthem then, right?

I thought for sure you were going to link to this song.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:21 PM on February 20, 2012


Yeah, I recently read two related (see what I did there) things that I'm still wondering about. One was the notion that we're all 50th cousins or closer. Even people at Rational Skepticism couldn't seem to disprove it.

The other, which I did see proved, was that we have twice as many female ancestors as male.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2012


ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT VAN BUREN. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE.
posted by erniepan at 9:49 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ron: You're a parselmouth! Why didn't you tell us?
Harry: I'm a what?
Hermione: You can talk to snakes!
Harry: I know. I mean, I accidentally set a python on my cousin Dudley at the zoo once. Once. But so what? I bet loads of people here can do it.
Hermione: No, they can't! It's not a very common gift, Harry. This is bad.
Harry: What's bad? If I hadn't told that snake not to attack Justin...
Ron: Oh, that's what you said to it?
Harry: You were there! You heard me!
Ron: I head you speaking parseltongue. Snake language.
Harry: I spoke a different language? But I didn't realize... how can speak a language without knowing I can?
Hermione: I don't know, Harry, but it sounded like you were egging the snake on or something. Harry, listen to me. There's a reason the symbol of Slytherin house is a serpent. Salazar Slytherin was a parselmouth, he could talk to snakes too.
Ron: Exactly! Now the whole school is gonna think you're his great-great-great-grandson or something.
Harry: But I'm not! I can't be.
Hermione: He lived a thousand years ago. For all we know, you could be.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:56 PM on February 20, 2012


ALL YOUR PRESIDENT ARE BELONG TO KING JOHN
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:57 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I envy you guys with family trees. Great-great-grandma Koger had Great-Grandma Koger a couple of years after Great-great-grandpa Koger died. 23 and me is the closest I'll ever come to knowing if I'm Merovingian, Melungeon or Magyar.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:30 PM on February 20, 2012


Yeah, I hear you. I'm adopted, so my genetic analysis conclusion (Your ancestors went a-viking! A lot!) is as close as I'm going to get, too.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:47 PM on February 20, 2012


Of course irony is dead by now, but if you trace its bloodlines you will find that, in fact, every Metafilter member except one (not the one you think) is a not-so-distant relative.
posted by Bokononist at 10:50 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did King John have Secret Muslim relatives in Kenya

Well, I believe as a matter of fact he did reportedly offer to convert to Islam and form an alliance with Moorish rulers.

Chances are that this was a joke when he was having problems with the Pope ("Excommunicate me, would you? Well maybe I'll join the other sidem huh?") which got picked up by Matthew Parris or someone and turned into another addition to the legend of Evil King John. But it is taken seriously by some British Muslims, who also consider King Offa to have been a Muslim on the strength of a coin he issued with an Islamic inscription.
posted by Segundus at 1:12 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Piffle. I'm descended from Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye (mythical stuff aside, always wondered if it were central heterochromia, probably completely tangential in reality, just I have it so it came to mind), Gorm the Old and Thyra. Somewhere down the line there was an illegitimate daughter of a Danish king who was deposed, and she escaped to Norway, where her descendants eventually led to my Norwegian ancestors. (Distant genealogically-minded Norwegian relatives and I have joked about it all, considering the weirdos in the family.)

Don't futz with me, Odin's my great-grandpa.

John's probably in there somewhere though, one of my great-grandmas (non-mythical ;-) ) came from a Dutch family. And all the rest were Irish.
posted by fraula at 1:31 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assuming you mean Charles II of Spain, he was so inbred it was if his parents were more closely related than siblings

I couldn't really grasp how that could be possible, until I got to this line in the Wikipedia entry:

Joanna was two of Charles' 16 great-great-great-grandmothers, six of his 32 great-great-great-great-grandmothers, and six of his 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers.

Amazing.
posted by jack_mo at 2:50 AM on February 21, 2012


Look at the paintings of him and remember that portrait artists usually de-emphasized flaws. It's hard to imagine that they made him king.
posted by crunchland at 3:48 AM on February 21, 2012


The family tree on Charles II's Wikipedia article is just… wow.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:12 AM on February 21, 2012


Uh, I hate to poke a hole in this girl's research, but Andrew Jackson has no proven connection to most anyone.

Everything you may have read about Jackson's father's lineage or his mother's lineage is a lot of hand-waving with circumstantial evidence only. If you see any honest biographical work on him, you'll find the author using words like "His father and mother probably immigrated to Philadelphia, and most likely settled in a particular area in South Carolina/North Carolina."

In fact, the "Andrew Jackson Home", when it was first assigned, met with controversy as others claimed that Jackson rightly lived and/or was born in a different location.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:55 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scientists believe that all life shares a common ancestor, except Martin van Buren, who underwent spontaneous generation in 1782
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:55 AM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I keep thinking the Van Buren references mean this Van Buren. Though many of the references also work in that context.
posted by orange swan at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2012


I'm skeptical too. It used to be very popular to claim important people were descended from the Plantagenets. See for example this old biography of obscure founding father Jacob Broom which spends several pages carrying on about the Plantagenets even though the only evidence they provide is that Plantagenent means Broom and his name is Broom, so it must be true!
posted by interplanetjanet at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2012


'Van Buren' is surprisingly difficult to rhyme.

I've got "urine" and "Shroud of Turin," but I'll be damned if I know how to make that something to sing about.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:58 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even more fun is the fact that they can thence be related back to Charlemagne.

King John "Lackland" of England>King Henry II of England>Empress Matilda of England>King Henry I "Beauclerc" of England>William I "The Conqueror" of England>Duke Robert I of Normandy>Judith of Brittany>Ermengarde of Anjou>Count Fulk III of Anjou>Adele of Vermandois>Count Robert of Vermandois>Count Herbert II of Vermandois>Count Herbert I of Vermandois>Count Pepin of Vermandois>King Bernard of Italy>Pepin, King of Italy & The Lombards>Charles I "The Great, King of The Franks & Emperor of The West

Inbred parasites that they all are...
posted by snottydick at 2:39 PM on February 21, 2012


I'm changing my name to Count Fulk III.
posted by Summer at 2:44 PM on February 21, 2012


Scientists believe that all life shares a common ancestor, except Martin van Buren, who underwent spontaneous generation in 1782

This has been disputed recently. Isolates from van Buren contained modified nucleotides, specifically 7,9-dimethylguanine. This compound is usually found in the phylum Porifera, indicating a marine origin of the van Buren.
posted by benzenedream at 2:50 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Count Fulk II: Electric Boog-a-loo
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:03 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older Mr. George said in a telephone interview that his ...  |  To do something well you have ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments