It Runs in the Family

news3Local seventh grader discovers all U.S. presidents but one are related
Twelve-year-old BridgeAnne D’Avignon of Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville has created a family tree linking all U.S. presidents but one (Martin Van Buren) to a common ancestor: John Plantagenet, the fabled “King John” from the Robin Hood tales and signer of the Magna Carta.

While several reports of U.S. presidents sharing a common ancestry have been published before hers, D’Avignon’s work is the first to link them to a single and (genealogically speaking) recent relative. She began the project last summer as the result of personal curiosity.

“I got serious about my own line,” she says, “And I picked a president and I started researching their line, then I researched another one and another one and started seeing that they were meeting up.”

The difficulty, she says, was finding not only names but also verifiable birthdates for every link in the family tree. Using genealogy archives, databases, and resource books, she cross-referenced and checked sources for each member in the presidential line, an arduous process that took between three hours and five days for each president. Unlike previous efforts, she also traced both paternal and maternal lines—allowing for double the potential for shared ancestry.

Some websites have already cited her work as evidence of a conspiratorial, Illuminati-type machination to rule the world (or at least the United States). However, D’Avignon’s father, Brock D’Avignon, estimates that, “about one-third of all Americans would probably link up to Plantagenet” if they spent the time researching all possible lines of their own family, which suggests less of a vanguard of the elite influencing our presidents than a history of prejudice toward mostly Anglo-Saxon presidential candidates.

Chris Woodbridge, general manager of Borders Books in Santa Cruz, currently has the completed poster on display in the store and is organizing for its display—and appearances by D’Avignon—at other Borders as far as Oregon in the near future. “She brought the project to me and I thought it was just a wonderful project,” says Woodbridge. “I thought it was a very cool, intellectual poster she put together with a great story behind it.”

Copies of the poster can be purchased at participating Borders and from WeAreAllRelated.com for $20. Proceeds will go toward funding a trip for D’Avignon to Washington D.C. where she wishes to present her findings to President Barack Obama (her 18th cousin removed) and the Smithsonian, where she hopes that a special version of her poster, printed on archival paper, will be displayed or stored for the benefit of American cultural heritage.

“I think it would be nice to pass it along from generation to generation and keep it alive so they can know about this information and spread this information,” she says. “It’s important to know about your culture, where you’re from, and where your leaders are from.”

D’Avignon may have taken her interest in genealogy from her grandfather, a genealogist for 30 years, but her love of learning is all hers. She has already published a poem (appropriately about the importance of family) and taken two college classes in French (after completing the highest courses in her middle school). She is also studying Spanish, Mandarin and sign language, and when asked which is her favorite class, replies with a smile, “I love all of them.”

As for her future plans, D’Avignon’s ambitions reflect those of her recent project. “I might want to be a genealogist or the president of the United States,” she says. Considering her own relation to Plantagenet, perhaps in the not-so-distant future D’Avignon will be able to add her own likeness to her “U.S. Presidents Family Tree.”

For more information, to order a poster, or to check if you too are related to John Plantagenet, visit WeAreAllRelated.com.

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